Posted: February 6, 2017 in Panther, Sylvester, Tall Tales
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She thinks we’re feral,” Panther answered. He kept his voice low, tinged with just a hint of malice. He didn’t feel it, what he felt was curiosity, but he knew it would throw her off balance. It worked, both her and Sylvester jumped at the unexpected sound of his voice. Sylvester recovered fast and stood off to the side looking slightly embarrassed. The white cat had flattened herself as close to the ground as she was able. There was a look of terror in her eyes as Panther seemed to materialize out of nowhere.

You’re from the Colony,” Panther stated. He took a close look at her while he waited for her reply. The most notable characteristic was her size, she was no more than three quarters of the size of either of the males. Her fur was of a similar length to Sylvester, neither long nor short. It was a bright, flawless white broken only by a pink nose and a pair of blue eyes. She looked as if she had seen some rough times, there were tufts of fur torn off her body and a nasty looking gash across her face. She looked as if she hadn’t eaten in a while, her body was all bone and it made Sylvester’s lean form look gluttonous.

Y-yes, sir,” she eventually managed to get out. Her voice was quiet and unsteady.

What’s your name?” Panther asked, his tone more gentle. He could feel the fear radiating from her. She was afraid of him but there was a deeper terror as well. Whatever had her scared could be a threat to all of them.

My name is Eve, sir,” she answered.

Are you hungry, Eve?” asked Panther.

Absolutely famished, sir.”

Sylvester,” Panther directed to his partner, “see if you can catch a mouse or two.” He watched as his black and white friend slipped back into the clearing. Panther knew he’d catch a good meal, a full stomach would help calm her down.

Let’s get out of the cold. The den is close by,” he nudged her gently to her feet. Along with the scratch on her face and the missing fur she also had a limp. The rear leg on her left side seemed tender and she winced every time she put weight on it. He allowed her to lean against him as they made their way to shelter.

How did you get hurt, Eve?” He asked as they entered the den. He sat politely at the side of the entrance. He watched her settle herself gingerly down on he stomach, her body shook visibly. She closed her eyes and he watched as she brought her breathing under control.

She had still not answered when Sylvester entered the den. He had two lifeless mice that dangled by their tails from his mouth. He quietly dropped his catch in front of the white cat and backed away. They watched her pink nose start twitching as she caught the scent of the proffered food. Her eyes snapped open and focused on the dinner in front of her. She hesitated at first, then dove in and devoured the rodents in silence as her two hosts watched.

Why do you think we would eat you?” Sylvester asked after she had finished eating.

She has been taught all her life,” Panther answered, “that only feral cats live outside the bounds of the Colony. They teach that without the guiding hand of the Colony, cats will revert to their animal natures.” He waited for a response from Eve, an almost imperceptible nod was given.

The irony is that there hasn’t been a true feral in this area in generations,” Panther continued. “No one alive today in the Colony has ever met a feral. They raise their kittens to fear the spectre of the feral cat, telling the old stories over and over as they mature into adulthood. By then they are so convinced that every shadow hides a feral cat waiting to eat them. Most of them are so terrified to ever leave the safety of the community.”

But she did,” Sylvester pointed out.

Yes,” Panther agreed. His yellow eyes were locked on her blue eyes. She had been watching him since she had finished cleaning her face and paws. Her breathing had calmed, her attention was fixed on his words. “You’re part of a hunting party, aren’t you?” Panther asked her directly.

Yes, sir,” came the answer. She hesitated a bit before continuing, “there were four of us who set off in search of food. We were the third group to be sent out in as many days and more were scheduled to follow. Food has been hard to come by and people have become desperate. The Queen has sent out more hunters than ever before and we’ve had to range further afield.” She stopped speaking.

You ran into a feral,” Sylvester gasped.

She shook her head no. “The only cats I ran into were you,” she whispered.

You went into the human zone,” Panther was astonished.

We were desperate!” Her breathing sped up.

You were foolish. Suicidal,” Panther responded.

Wait,” Sylvester interrupted. He was confused, lost, he felt left out of the conversation. He had never heard of this human zone. Neither his mother nor Panther had mentioned such a place. His entire exposure to anything human had been the fairy tales his mother had told her litter. Those had been happy stories, the way his companions were reacting made this sound ominous. He asked the only question he could, “what are you talking about?”

The human zone,” Panther began, “is a large area filled with the remnants of man’s dens. It is the only remaining proof that humans are more than mythology and fairy tales. Cats avoid it, it’s one of the most dangerous places you could ever see. It is where the dogs have staked out their territory. Dogs are crazy, vicious killing machines. Few cats that enter into the zone ever return.”

Eve jumped in at this point, “As the legend goes, long ago when man disappeared suddenly the dogs were unable to cope. They lost their minds as a one and lashed out violently at whatever was nearby; cats, dogs, anything alive. The dogs drove us cats out of the human zone and claimed it for themselves. For generations they fought amongst themselves, living off each other and only rarely venturing out to prey on other animals.”

And you went there to hunt?” Sylvester asked.

We haven’t seen a dog in generations,” she explained. “Cats are hungry, we don’t have enough food. We are desperate. We thought the dogs might have died out. It could be a cornucopia of food just waiting to be discovered. We were wrong, so wrong…” Her voice trailed off and she closed her eyes.

Sylvester moved to her side and cautiously started grooming her. Very carefully he licked her from the top of her head to the base of her tail, he avoided the bare spots where her fur was missing. He tenderly worked his tongue against the knots in her pelt as he attempted to break them down. Panther recognized the act, he had been the recipient on many occasions. When thunder was crashing through the sky and Panther felt the entire world was going to collapse in on him, Sylvester would treat him to the same routine. The rhythmic stroking combined with Sylvester’s soft purring would ease his anxiety and make the storm almost bearable. It was having a similar effect on Eve, she was visibly more relaxed.

We hadn’t even reached the outskirts of the zone,” she continued her tale, her eyes remained shut. “We were excited. There were so many signs of life around us. We could hear the chatter of the birds. We could smell their scent on the wind, combined with mice and rats, rabbits and something else we couldn’t identify. We were cold and tired and hungry. We could see the remains of the humans’ dens beyond the trees but they were at least half a day’s journey away. We decided to attempt to hunt where we were, if we failed we could finish the trek to the zone the next day. It seemed promising and our spirits were high as we searched for prey.”

Her eyes snapped open and locked onto Panther. The blue eyes were wet as she began to talk once more.

They seemed to appear out of thin air,” she explained, “one minute there was just the four of us and the next there were two dogs facing us. They were large, at least double the size of our largest member. They were a dark brown colour with long shaggy hair. Their eyes were black and their teeth were large, sharp. But the most frightening thing about them was their silence. Legends always described dogs as vocal, loud and noisy, but these made no sounds.”

Run, Pacey the leader of our troops ordered. Him and Spot, the other male, jumped in front of the dogs to give us a chance to flee. I saw the dogs close with them as Cassie and I turned to flee. Suddenly I was bowled over and felt claws raking my face. If it wasn’t for my longer fur I would have been ripped open, instead I just lost a few tufts of hair. I slashed out with my claws and scrambled to my feet. I took off as fast as I could, the pain in my leg was immense and I wanted to fall down with every step. Cassie was not so lucky, the dog I fought off had joined with another dog to bring her down. I could hear the sounds of cats fighting but not once was there any sounds from the dogs.”

I ran and I ran. I tried to put as much distance between myself and the dogs as I could. I didn’t stop until the afternoon of the next day. I wandered for a week until I came upon this clearing. I need to warn the Colony that there are dogs alive in the zone so no one else makes the same mistake we did. I owe my friends that much considering their sacrifice for me.”

She stopped speaking. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks. Throughout her tale Sylvester didn’t stop his grooming of her.

You’re safe now,” Sylvester offered between licks.

You should get some sleep,” Panther agreed. He slipped out of the den and sat just inside the treeline and looked out onto the snowy ground. He took a few deep sniffs of the air, there were no scents he couldn’t identify. She did mention an unfamiliar scent. They seemed to be safe for the moment.

He felt Sylvester slip up beside him. He could hear the younger cat sniffing the air. It was going to have to be a more conscious effort for both of them to check on their safety.

She’s asleep,” Sylvester told him.

Panther nodded in acknowledgement. The story of the dogs bothered him. He had heard the legends and it was wrong that these were so different in behaviour. From what he knew of the wild canines, wolves and coyotes, they were loud. He had never run into any personally, but all the cats he had met that had run ins with them had possessed the same reports. Dogs were usually big, he didn’t like the idea of them being silent as well.

What are we going to do?” Sylvester asked.

Stay alert,” Panther said, “we need to be on the lookout for anything that might have followed her. She’s hurt, she’s hungry, she’d exhausted, she’s scared. We should be safe so we’ll give her some time to recover. We’ll figure out what to do after that. In the meantime, we need to extra careful.”

Do you want to finish your nap? I’ll watch over us.” Sylvester offered.

No,” Panther replied, “I can’t sleep. I’ll keep watch.”

Ok. I’m going to grab something to eat.” Sylvester moved out into the clearing. The sun had started to set, engulfing the landscape in an orange glow. There was a chill building in the air, a bad ending to the day.

Sylvester,” Panther stopped the other cat, “use caution. Don’t approach anything you aren’t sure of. Even small dogs can be dangerous.”

Sylvester nodded and continued on his way. Panther watched his friend pad away into the darkening light. Things had changed today, not for the better. Their days of hunting and relaxation had left them and survival was back as their number one priority.

Previous Episodes

  1. The Bird
  2. A Partnership Begins
  3. And Winter Makes Three

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