CΩT (Part 14)

Back to our regular schedule of at least one post a month – here’s part 1 for those just joining. Into the new year we go!

A few humans that pass by make noises at me as I emerge from the cavern below the road. I’m sure they think I’m dirty from being down there, and they’re not wrong. I will have to do some cleaning when I get the chance, especially if I’m going to go inside one of these buildings. From the way Chuck’s place was, I get the feeling some higher standards are in place. Speaking of higher, I look up at the buildings around me and concentrate a bit. Sounds of movement within become more distinguishable with time, but I cannot place all of them the way I could in the forest where I was familiar with the rustling of the leaves, the scuttering of insects, the soft and quick twitches of the birds – all of these gave me clear images of my surroundings. These buildings, on other hand, and in combination with the cars and humans… I’m going to need to do some research before I can pinpoint the sources of their sounds with any accuracy. In any case, I may as well start with the building in front of me. I set my sights on a ledge where the third row of windows are, build up balance by grinding my hind legs into the ground, and leap up, my jump taking me just a little higher than the outcrop and making for an easy landing. I look down at the humans at the sidewalk, two or three of which are stare at me with their mouths hanging open, but the majority continue their walks or talk into their hands. I stare back at those who noticed and whip my tail back and forth twice in acknowledgement of their attentiveness and then turn to start my window searching.

The first thing I notice is that, up close, there are definitely signs that these buildings were not a natural occurrence. They appear to be built up from smaller stones stacked on top of each other, with some gritty-looking substance holding them all together. And the stone upon which I stand is one long piece, a different shade than the others, lighter and smoother. The opening to the right of where I landed shows a dark interior, somewhat similar to Chuck’s cave, though I’m sure there’s a better word for these human-made residences. And as with the cars, there is a layer of see-through material that blocks entry to the cave. I walk forward along the ledge over to the next opening and come face to face with a small human, most likely a young one. It opens its mouth and talks at me and then waves its hand back and forth. I feel somewhat glad that it cannot touch me, its hand appears to be a bit dirty. After passing by a few more windows with similar results, I reach the edge of the building and a decision to make. Keep looking in this building, jump higher, or jump across to the next building? I must say, this would be a great way to travel the city, out of the way of all the humans and with the ability to look down at them with impunity.

As I pause and ponder my options I take some time to smell the surroundings. Pervasive is an unfamiliar smell, almost as though from fire burning, but not burning wood or grass. My experience with fire is somewhat limited, other than that which would occasionally be ignited by the streaks of light that fall from the sky during rainstorms. The trail of this burnt scent seems to center around the cars the humans ride, but also rises further up as well. It doesn’t feel very good to breathe, but it is tolerable. I wonder if it gets worse the higher you go? I’ve not ever had the chance or inclination to test what not breathing would do to me, though perhaps I should. I’d rather know a weakness than be surprised by it during a crisis.

Speculation about my nasal and respiratory functions aside, there is a very faint scent of cat from across the gap between the buildings, so I jump across. The ledge of this building is a bit narrower than the last, forcing me to walk paw in front of paw. After passing three windows, I arrive at the one from which the cat smell emanates, though it is still muffled by the smoke and also the glass in between us. I peer inside, but by all appearances the cave is empty. Time for some talking.

“Hello? Anyone in there?” I hear movement inside, the sound of claws being dragged across soft surface, then the rapid padding of paws upon the cave floor. A long-haired white cat appears from another section of the cave and looks up at me from across the way. It freezes and stares at me for a while then approaches, each step a slow process of lifting and lowering the pink-padded paws. “I just have some questions that I need help with. You needn’t be so cautious.” Two ears twitch but the cat’s pace remains the same, so I sit down and wait, my head turned to the right to watch the cautious progress of this anomaly of a cat. I mean, I know my fur does not particularly blend in or provide effective camouflage, but pure white? It doesn’t snow nearly enough to justify this color, but perhaps this cat does not leave the cave. One more question added to my ever-growing list. I have time to clean a paw until finally the cat has hopped onto the ledge on the opposite side of the window. I lower my paw and stare back into the light blue eyes of my fluffy counterpart. “Do you mind explaining some things to me? I’m new to the city and there is a lot I don’t understand.”

The cat waves its tail twice before responding. “Do you think I’m stupid?”

What? “What?” My tail rises up in confusion.

“I said, do you think I’m stupid? Not from around here, sure. I see all you stinky alley-cats wandering around at night, fighting and digging through the garbage. You’re just trying to come in here and take my place. You can stay out there with your squeaky voice and roughhousing friends and leave me alone.”
Oh wow. I can see it’s going to be tough to gain her trust. Well, here we go.

“I can understand your distrust of me, but I assure you that I do not associate with the cats of this city. I was brought here in car from beyond the city.”
This time, it is her tail that goes up. “What? Beyond the city? I really don’t know of much besides what I can see from here… I think you’re lying. How did you even get up here, anyway?”

“I jumped.”

“You’re truly full of stories! Are you trying to impress me? I bet I can jump higher than you. I can jump all the way to the top of the cold box in here.” She stands a bit taller at this.

Aha, something I can prove! “One moment.” I turn and drop from the ledge.

( ©2016 Sean Dorsey )



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