Wednesday, February 27, 2013
For anyone who's been following the perils of my lost Cat...here's the next chapter.
“Whew, that was close,” said Hunter with a sigh of relief. “I really thought they were going to find me.”
“They would have, you know, if it hadn’t been for me.”
“Who and where are you? Are you the strange Prickler they were talking about?”
“Indeed I am, little friend. My name is Spike and I’m right here, one branch below you. You were so frightened and anxious to find a safe place that you didn’t notice me, climbin' up behind you.”
“You’re the reason that the Howlers went away, aren’t you? Are you dangerous?”
“Not to you, little one. If you come closer, we can have a proper introduction and share our stories. Just be sure that when you climb down, you don’t get TOO close to me. You’ll see why when you get here.”
“Well, Spike, I think I can trust you, so make way. I’m going to back down this tree. Please tell me when close is TOO close, OK?”
Hunter made his descent to the lower branch without any mishap and found himself face to face with yet another peculiar creature. There was a kindly furry face attached to a very unusual body. The front part was very nicely furred, but the back part and tail were covered in hair and long sharp-looking spines.
“Well, now I know why they called you a Prickler,” said Hunter. “What do you do with those things? Do they help you get food? Oh, Spike, excuse me. I haven’t even told you my name and here I go asking too many questions.”
“No harm done, uh…what did you say your name was?”
“I apologize again. My name is Hunter and I’m hunting for a home and family, among other things. My nerves must really be on edge because of that pack of Howlers. My Mother would think me most impolite, Spike.”
“Greetings, Hunter. I can tell you’ve never met a Prickler before. I think perhaps it’s time for a little lesson, in case of another chance meetin' with one o' my kind.”
“I’d appreciate that, Spike. If the Howlers don’t want a dispute with you, then neither do I.”
“Well, first of all, if you ever meet any Pricklers again, you need the passwords that let 'em know you’re a friend, not a foe. Come closer, I don’t want to say it too loud, in case there are any other curious ears around.”
Hunter came up to Spike until their noses were almost touching. “What are the passwords, please?” whispered Hunter.
“Now keep this to yourself, won’t you. Do you promise?”
“I promise to always keep the Prickler passwords private.”
“Okay, then, here they are. Whenever you come upon a Prickler, just ask this question…you really promise you won’t tell?”
“On my honor, Spike, I promise never, never to tell a soul.”
“All right then, here’s the question. ‘Does the ferocious FurMountain make brown logs in the forest?’”
“Oh, Spike, you don’t mean it!” Hunter began to laugh, the first laugh he’d had in a long, long time. He laughed so hard he could barely keep his perch on the tree branch. “I’m sorry. I think I might be a tiny bit silly. It must be from all the excitement. I’ve been in quite a few scrapes lately and this is such a relief. FurMountains in the forest… it’s just too funny for words.” Hunter began to laugh again until tears were rolling down his face. (If you’ve never heard a cat laugh, it’s somewhere between a cough and a purr. It comes out in short little bursts, sort of like hiccups, but closer together.)
“Now, Hunter, I don’t think it’s all THAT funny and you won’t either if you ever meet a FurMountain or an unfriendly Prickler. But we’ve gotten off the subject. You must pay attention! You don’t even know the answer yet. Please calm yerself down and listen. It could be important some day.”
“I’m sorry, Spike. I don’t mean to make fun of your passwords, but…. FurMountains! Okay, when I meet a Prickler, I ask him that question. I can’t even say it out loud. Krr, Krr, Krr.” (This is the sound of one cat laughing.) “What will the Prickler’s answer be?” asked Hunter, trying to keep a serious expression on his face.
“All right, settle down please, Hunter. After you ask, ‘Does the ferocious FurMountain make brown logs in the forest?’ The Prickler will answer, ‘One that would have the fruit, must climb the tree.’ Now repeat the passwords for me until I’m sure you have 'em right.”
“Repeat the passwords! Oh, Spike, I could never forget those passwords.” There were a few more laughs that finally turned into giggles and at last Hunter was able to turn to Spike and talk in a fairly normal voice. “Please believe me Spike, I really don’t mean any disrespect to you or any of the Pricklers. I think I just needed a release from all the tension I’ve been under. I’m so glad to have met you, that I would hug you, if I could.”
“That’s all right Hunter, no offense taken. Just remember what I told you. You never know when you might need a friend in a sticky situation, if you get my point…no pun intended.”
“Well, Spike, I’ll always be thankful for meeting you tonight. I think we should share our stories. You still haven’t told me about those spines of yours, although I have some pretty good ideas for using them. Maybe you could wade in the water and catch fish. How about picking berries, all you would have to do is walk through the bushes or roll on the ground.”
“Oh, Hunter, now it’s my turn to laugh. Why do you think those Howlers left me alone? My spines, as you called ‘em, are quills, and they’re my best defense. If someone thinks they can take a bite out of me, they end up with a face full of quills. They’re mighty hard to get rid of too, since they have a kind of hook on ‘em that goes right into my attacker’s skin. Some of the silly critters think I can even throw my quills at ‘em. Now that’s just not so, but if it keeps ‘em away from me, who am I to tell ‘em the truth? As for fish or berries, I’ve got no use for them. I get my food right up here in the trees. Nice fresh bark and tender branches. Yup, that’s a real satisfying meal, I must say.”
“Well, so far, I haven’t had to resort to eating trees, but I certainly wouldn’t mind some sort of meal right now. It’s been quite a while since I felt satisfied. Do you think there’s anything around here that a small Cat could eat?”
“Well, Hunter. Now that I get a good look at you, you do look a little worse for wear and mighty skinny too, if you don’t mind me sayin’ so. There are quite a few small critters livin’ around this water that would probably be wholesome to eat, if you can catch ‘em, that is. Now, you climb right down and have a go at it. If you don’t mind, I’ll stay up here and keep watch and have a bit of supper while I’m at it.”
Hunter made his way down the tree and started to explore. It wasn’t long before he came upon a small green creature sitting by the water’s edge. Hunter crouched down, waggled his rear till his position was just right, and pounced! To his immense surprise, the green one hopped into the water and disappeared.
“Wow, I really thought I had that one right where I wanted him. What a jump! Where did he go?” Hunter could hear Spike chuckling up in the tree. “It wouldn’t be so funny if you were the one with the empty tummy, Spike.” Hunter looked back in the water and saw the Green One floating right in the middle of the stream, well out of his reach. As Hunter was pondering his next move, he heard a strange twanging voice.
“You better go home, bug-yum. You better go home, bug-yum.” It was the Green One, now sitting on a large leaf in the middle of the water, looking straight at Hunter with his big solemn eyes.
Hunter was astonished. “Why, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” he marveled. “How did you know that, and what’s with the bug-yum thing?”
Spike started to chuckle again and called down to Hunter. “Ah, don’t pay any attention to that one. That’s all he can say, and the only thing he’s interested in is his ‘bug-yum’ because bugs are all he eats… a pretty dull fella to my way of thinkin’. You won’t catch ‘im either, and even if you did, he’d taste real bad, I bet, sort of muddy and slimy at the same time. But that’s only a guess, don’t ya know, with me bein’ a tree-a-tarian.”
“Well, I’ve got to find something to eat! I need to keep up my strength.” So Hunter stalked along the water’s edge until he spotted a hapless Squeaker, very preoccupied with eating some seeds. This time his waggle and pounce were perfect. After a tasty meal, a drink of the fresh cool water, and a satisfying wash-up, Hunter felt much better. It was only after he settled down for a nap that he realized that the song of the Green One was becoming a full chorus. Everywhere, he heard them singing; “You better go home. You better go home. You better go home.”
“Listen to them, Spike. It’s some kind of message, just for me. They know that I must find a safe place to call home. I guess I’ll have to start sooner than I planned. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you better, Spike. You really did save my life, you know. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Pricklers, especially if they’re all like you.”
“That’s a mighty nice thing to say, Hunter. I guess I’ll think better of you Cat Folk, too. If you’re lookin’ for the houses of the Big Ones, I do believe there’s one near the next forest, not too far from here. Promise me you’ll be more careful in your travels. I want to think of you, livin’ warm and comfy, with no worries in your little head. I won’t forget you either, Hunter. We could have been great pals, but Cat Folk are better off inside a house. Livin’ out here, they might end up inside somebody else’s insides, or just a splot in the hard path. Good journey to you, my little friend and don’t forget the passwords.”
“Don’t worry, Spike. That’s something I’ll always remember. Long life to you and all your kin.”
So Hunter again began his search, a little wiser and a little sadder, but determined to find a family of his own.
Monday, February 18, 2013
As you can see, I've posted the next chapter of Scat, Cat.
Hope you enjoy.
Chapter Four: Hide and Seek
Hunter traveled far that day, only stopping to eat and drink. He noticed that the houses of the Big Ones were nowhere to be seen and that the dark mysterious trees were closer and closer together. When it was time for sleep, Hunter wormed his way through the tangled grass until he found a cave-like space under some leafy bushes. He noticed that his fur was covered with little prickly seeds and his eye was beginning to itch and water. “I’d better catch up on my grooming, or no one will want to give me a home.” After a good wash-up, he settled down and tried to rest, but each little whisper of wind or rustle of grass made him startle and worry about who or what could be out there.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, for the next thing he knew there was daylight peeping into his shelter, along with a strange furry face. Hunter jumped up, arching his back. “Who and what are you?” he spat. “Leave me in peace, for I want no argument with a creature that smells like you!”
The stranger backed away with a mysterious little laugh. Hunter could see that it was black and white, just like him, but he knew it was not one of the People… definitely not.
“My name is DigsGrubs and you are certainly no danger to me, little Hisser. In fact, if I chose to, I could give you a painful little surprise.”
Hunter was amazed that he could understand the other’s speech. There was a curious lilt to it, but basically it was the same as that of the People.
“Sorry, Mr. Digsgrubs, but I was just startled, I guess. How is it that you and I speak the same language? You are not one of the People.”
“ Ah, little Hisser, I can see you haven’t been around the meadow, so to speak. All Nature’s children speak the same language. Sadly, there are some who have forgotten it, like the Big Ones and a few of the Swimmers and Slitherers. Yes, it is a tragic thing, I’m thinkin’.”
“How curious! Thank you for the information. It’s good to know that I’ll be able to speak with other creatures I might meet in my travels. But let me introduce myself. My name is Hunter and you shouldn’t have surprised me like that. I’m not familiar with this place and there are many enemies here.”
“Enemies! If you’re so afraid of enemies, you should have been more vigilant, my friend. I was able to find you with no trouble at all. In the future, you’d best be more alert.”
Hunter realized that this was certainly good advice and decided to see what else he might learn from his curious new acquaintance. “Greetings and apologies to you Digsgrubs. I must have fallen asleep. I’m glad it was you who found me and not someone more menacing. Uh, DigsGrubs, I don’t mean to be impolite, but you, um…well… um… you kind of smell funny.”
“That’s my surprise, Hunter. It’s my secret weapon, since I can’t run fast or climb trees like you can. Only last night I had to give some of the Howlers a good lesson with my spray.”
“Howlers! Are they still here? Where are they? I was warned about them. I’ve got to run away, if they’re still here.”
“Ah, don’t worry, they’re all asleep now and you can smell ‘em a field away, thanks to me. If you travel tonight, though, under the round White-Eye, you may run into ‘em. They love to run and howl and hunt poor, unfortunate, wee ones when the White-Eye is up. But Hunter, now that we’ve introduced ourselves, maybe you can fill me in on your story. I’m sure you have one. By the looks of you, you’re in the middle of some adventure, I’ll bet. Just where are you headed, if you don’t mind me askin’?”
“It’s a long story, DigsGrubs, are you sure you want to hear it?”
“Aye, that I do, little Hunter. I don’t get to speak with strangers very often and I like to hear their tales of the wide world when I get the chance.”
“Okay, DigsGrubs, but remember, you asked for it.” So Hunter again began his story and he could see DigsGrubs eyes getting bigger and bigger as his tale came to an end. “Well, that’s about it, I guess, but it all boils down to my search for a new home, I hope with some kindly Big Ones. Do you know if any live near here?”
“I’m the wrong one to ask about the Big Ones, kindly or otherwise. They want nothin’ to do with the likes of me and from the sound of em’, I want nothin’ to do with them either! Course I really don’t have much to do with any other kind of critter. We Stripers have to stick together, if you know what I mean. I do know that there’s a Big One’s house about three fields further down the path. There’s already a Hisser like you livin’ there, but they might take you in. At least you might find a good hidin’ place if the Howlers catch your scent.”
“Thank you, DigsGrubs. I might as well find myself something to eat and get started. Good hunting and long life to you.”
“I thank thee too, Hunter. You’re the most polite Hisser I’ve ever met, I must say. Keep your wits about you and have a safe journey. It was a pleasure meetin’ you. I must be off to the Missus. She’ll be wonderin’ where I’ve been, but at least I’ll have an interesting tale to tell when I get back to the burrow. Good huntin’ to you too, little Hisser.”
So Hunter began another leg of his journey, thinking of DigsGrubs and the others he had met. He was already missing their company and good advice but his education in the ways of the world was growing by leaps and bounds and for this he gave thanks to Bast and all his lucky stars.
“Well, the first order of business must be breakfast. It will have to be something quick. I want to get as far away from the Howlers as I can when it starts to get dark.”
So Hunter made his way through the meadow, till he found some tasty looking Crickets, hiding in the shade of an old tree limb. He was not very satisfied with his meal, but it would have to do. He made his way back to the path and started his search for the house that DigsGrubs had mentioned. Just when he thought he couldn’t walk a step farther, it came into view. It was a rambling white house, standing at the end of a long stony path, on the top of a small wooded hill.
“Well, this must be the place. It looks inviting and there is a Big One right there in the path. He’s doing something to his Rumbler, but at least the Rumbler isn’t rumbling right now. I think I’ll take a chance.” Hunter started trotting up the stony path, trying his best to catch the Big One’s attention. “Mew? Mew? Prrrow?”
The Big One finally turned to Hunter, but instead of a kindly welcome; he shouted the familiar, “Get lost, Cat” and picked up what looked like a long green Slitherer. Hunter stopped dead in his tracks.
“What can the Big One possibly be doing with a Slitherer?” He didn’t have long to wait for his answer. The Big One pointed the Slitherer at Hunter and out poured a frigid stinging stream of water, thoroughly dousing the little Cat. Hunter turned and fled; too frightened to even watch where he was going. He dashed across the hard path just barely ahead of a speeding Rumbler. He finally came to a trembling halt at the edge of a gurgling stream.
“Oh no, not more water! That’s exactly what I don’t need.” He looked around and found himself in a small valley with lots of trees and bushes and small little hidey-holes bordering the banks of the stream.
“I’ve got to find a safe place and pull myself together. Then I must dry myself off before it gets dark and cold.” He spotted a half-broken tree branch, covered with wild grapevines. The vines were very thick and hung all the way to the ground. Inside it was dry and cozy, the perfect spot to gather his wits and tend to his fur.
“I hope that no one else likes to use this place,” he said shakily. “I don’t think I can travel one more step tonight.” So in he went and got to work trying to dry himself off. He noticed that he still had some sticky seeds in his fur and his eye was really starting to feel strange, sort of gummy and tingly. When his grooming was over, he curled up in the smallest little ball that he could possibly make and tried to console himself. “I’ve got to believe that DigsGrubs and Snow were right,” he whimpered. “THAT house certainly didn’t have any kindly Big Ones. I must keep trying. I must keep trying.” Hunter kept repeating this hopeful phrase until he finally dozed off. This night he dreamt of his Mother and again heard her sing about the brave and clever Cat. If anyone was watching, they would have noticed a tiny little smile on the small Cat’s face, but there was no one to see, save one careless moth that fluttered in and quickly fluttered out.
The moon was riding high in the sky when Hunter awoke to a sound that he had been dreading. From somewhere in the little valley came howls and yips and yaps that made his blood run cold. It was the sound of the Howlers and it seemed to be getting closer. As Hunter lay there, frozen with fear, he realized he could make out words in the frightful chorus.
“We howl and yowl. We’re on the prowl.
We pounce and tear, be it foul or fair.
We search for meat. We need to eat.
Beware. Beware. Beware!”
Hunter knew he needed to move, and fast! He scrambled out from his little nest and up the nearest tree. Up and up he went, until the branches and leaves were thick enough to hide him from view. He held himself as still as possible as the pack came closer and closer. Soon he could see them coming, running in a loose disorderly group, the moonlight reflecting in their yellow eyes. Just as Hunter thought they would pass right by him, the largest Howler yowled out in his rough voice.
“Halt, all of you! We will stop here to rest and drink.” The pack splashed around in the water, still yipping and growling at one another. “Silence, you foolish puppies! How do you expect to find prey if you continue your senseless noise?” The Howlers then began to settle down in twos and threes, while others drank and others kept watch.
Hunter was afraid to even move an eyelash and clung to his branch with all his might. After what seemed like hours, the pack below seemed to be getting ready to move on. The leader was just beginning to trot off with the others behind him, when he put his nose into the air and scented the wind.
“Wait, my friends. There is a delicious aroma drifting on the breeze. Can you smell it? Tender, juicy… my mouth is watering just thinking about it. It’s a Hisser…not too far away, either. Help me track it down.” The Howlers put their noses to the ground and thoroughly searched the glen. It didn’t take them long to find the place where Hunter had slept. “Here! Here! This is where it hid,” they yipped. The leader came over and gave the spot a thorough sniffing. “Yes, it was here, but someone else was here more recently. One of the Pricklers has visited here, not too long ago. His scent leads up into that tree. We want no arguments with one of them, do we? A few of you youngsters still have some sharp reminders of your last encounter with a Prickler. I know you’re all hungry, but let’s move on. There’ll be easier prey somewhere else. And keep your wits about you…no noise this time. My stomach needs filling tonight.”
So the pack drifted away like smoke, slowly disappearing into the night until the little valley was empty once more. Empty except for one frightened little Cat and a chance companion that had probably saved his life.