I hear a cry of ‘hey!’ behind me as I drop from the building, but it’s rapidly cut off by the air rushing around me as I go. On the way down, I have time to consider how far I can safely fall without injuring myself. Thinking back to when that damnable hawk picked me up and dropped me, it would seem pretty far. Higher than most of these buildings, aside from the few truly mountainous ones that seem to rise up almost into the clouds. So many questions raised just from a simple change in location! I need to travel more often.
I land in the midst of some walking humans. They notice me this time and make surprised noises, pointing at me with their hands. I have no time to interact with them, and spring right back up to the ledge outside the rude white cat’s cave. She is still looking out through the glass and does her own jump when I pop into vision again, quickly moving out of sight. More surprised noises come from below, but I pay them no mind. Maybe once I learn how to understand human speech, but until then it’s just meaningless barking. My eyes are instead fixed upon the puffed up, hissing, and sideways retreating cat in the cave.
“I don’t know why you’re acting like that, I told you I could jump up here.”
She is silent for a moment until, ears rising to upright position again, she sits. “Okay, so you can definitely jump higher than I can. Unbelievable. I’m glad I’m in here if there are cats like you outside.”
I consider telling her that I could very easily break into her cave, but decide that her already somewhat temperamental behavior might not take kindly to this. “So, will you help me out? You must have learned a lot from living with a human. Like I said before, I would mainly like to learn their language. I want to know what they’re saying.”
“Well… I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to a lot of what they say, but I have picked up a fair amount of their meaning over the years. And it definitely made things easier. I think it would be best if you waited around for them to get back. I’ll try to get them to talk, or at least I can tell you what they’re saying to each other. They leave almost every day and come back at around the same time, shortly before the sun starts to go away.”
“I see. I shall come back then. What is your name, by the way? I am Cat.”
“Cat? Really? A bit presumptuous, don’t you think?”
“Not really. I’ll have you know that there’s quite a bit more to me than just jumping high.”
“Huh. Whatever you say. I’m Sophia. Now leave me alone, I need a nap after that scare you gave me.” And with that she retreats deeper into the cave, out of sight but not out of hearing; I angle my head toward the glass and the padding of paws and then a body reclining upon soft material reaches me. It is tempting to find a soft spot of my own, but there’s really too much going on and to much to do around here.
Thankfully, the humans who were amazed by my jumping prowess have dispersed, onward to do whatever it is they all seem to be in such a rush to get to. I’m getting a bit hungry after passing on that rat and, as if to answer my thought, a pigeon alights on the ledge not far away from where I’m sitting. I can see the regret in its tiny bird eyes for a flash before I pounce and grab it by the neck, wings that were seconds from opening now hanging limp as I munch. I hear movement from behind me.
“That must be nice. I watch those stupid things all the time, but I’ve never gotten the chance to eat one.” Sophia says as she cranes her neck to watch me eat. I rise to my feet and take my meal to the space between the buildings for some privacy. Five crunches later and the urge to sleep is even stronger. I take some time to wash up and then force myself to move, and soon pick up the scent of another dog, though this one does not smell nearly as clean as Sam-you-el. Oh well, not everyone has time for hygiene. I’ve met plenty of foul-smelling friends in the past, especially those silly bald-tailed rodents that pretend to be dead. In between the smell and their size, they’re really too much of a hassle to be worth eating, but they can make for interesting conversation.
I follow the trail further behind the buildings, areas that do not allow in much light. There are also many more random objects strewn around these passages, odd-shaped, see-through rocks, lightweight white leaves with complicated-looking black symbols on them that move in the wind, and all manner of what I assume to be human-made foods, as none of them smell like just one animal or plant – and some don’t smell like either! When I sight the dog, it is chewing on one of the unnatural smelling scraps of food. From the look of it, the thing could eat all the food in this back passage and still be hungry. It is bigger than I, a black beast with scant traces of white in the fur on its face and sides. Tail down and lips smacking, it has not noticed my presence, though I am of course still quite far above it. I drop down onto a large blue box that, from the smell of it, contains more rotting food, among other things. I attempt to land just hard enough to make to alert the dog to my presence. That said, I do not factor in the reverberation that results from the box’s hollowness and make quite a bit more noise than I would’ve liked. A wide-eyed and long-muzzled face snaps up to look at me and almost immediately starts growling, white froth hanging in strands from its snarl-wrinkled lip.
“Hey you. No hurt, friend. Speak?” My words are met with a sharp bark and more growling, what’s left of the half-chewed food falling from the slavering mouth. And then it dawns on me that I’ve seen this behavior before. The dog has gone insane. I do not know why this happens to some animals, but it does and is always fatal, whether their death comes at another’s claws or they simply expire from what appears to be exhaustion. And they always have that same froth pouring from their mouths. I need to take care of this guy before he hurts someone or worse, spreads the insanity. The only problem is his size… that, and the fact that while I’ve been considering how to deal with this, the dog has charged off toward where the humans are walking about. I don’t know if they can be afflicted with the same insanity, but I don’t want to find out. I would not wish that end upon anyone. I jump down from the stinky blue box and dash after the retreating animal.
( ©2017 Sean Dorsey )