An Ending

Posted: March 20, 2017 in Panther, Sylvester, Tall Tales
Tags: , ,

It happened fast. The smell hit their noses and then the dog was between them, the grey and white cat caught in its mouth, the life being shaken out of him. The dog was larger than the cats, it was covered in brown matted hair. The smell of blood and feces emanated from the dog, punctuated by the pungent smell of death and decay. No sound was uttered by the dog as it shook and crushed the cat in its mouth.

I got this one,” Sylvester boasted.

Get it away from here. Lose it in the woods and get across the river.” Panther backed away slowly his eyes never leaving the dog. No sudden movements, no sense drawing the dog’s attention.

Sylvester took a different approach. His movements were quick and sharp. He puffed his fur out to make himself a more noticeable target. He spat, he hissed, he growled as he moved away from the hill, away from Panther and the river. The act worked as Sylvester moved the dog shuffled his body to keep his eyes fixed on the black and white cat.

Come on,” Sylvester snarled at the dog. “Come on, you know you want me.” Sylvester could see Panther backing away up the hillside. The dog’s back was to the other cats, the one hanging from its mouth had stopped moving and was no longer being shaken. The dog only had eyes for Sylvester.

The dog dropped the cat from its mouth and launched itself at Sylvester. The cat leapt backward, turned his body around, and hit the ground running. He sped away from the hill, dodging among the trees and the bushes, the dog fast on his heels. He hadn’t known how fast he would need to run to outpace the dog, but it seemed like he had gotten lucky and the dog didn’t have the speed he did. He stayed ahead of the dog, just enough to keep the dog interested in the chase. His goal was to pull the dog away from the Colony before he lost it and doubled back.

Panther turned as soon as the dog bolted after Sylvester. He ran to the collection of cats at the hill. They stood in that same group, their eyes wide and their feet frozen to the ground. They lacked the survival sense of a cat. They were in danger but seemed unable to make a simple decision: flee or fight.

Run,” Panther yelled as he reached them. “Run!”

He pushed and swatted at the cats around him. They ranged in age from the very young to the very old. There were a couple of elders from the ruling class in the mix but, thankfully to Panther’s mind, there was no sign of any of the kittens he had worked with.

They’ll be more dogs,” Panther yelled in the face of one of the councillors he remembered meeting almost a week ago. His only reply was a blank eyed stare.

Three more dogs burst out from the woods at the bottom of the hill. Panther noted the identical look of these dogs to the one that had chased Sylvester. Slightly larger than him, they were all covered in shaggy, matted brown hair. Even from the top of the hill he could smell the mix of corruption and decay that seemed to cling to them.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion. The dogs snapped their teeth at each other as they fought over the corpse of the cat at their feet. The sound of their jaws slamming shut was the only sound that could be heard from the trio. In an instant the fighting stopped and the dogs were still, their eyes were fastened on the hilltop.

Follow me,” Panther instructed as he sprang toward the woods and the river. It was time to retreat before the dogs got too close. Opal, Eve and the kittens should be across the river by the time he arrived. With a little luck Sylvester would be right behind him. He would have liked to save a few more cats but at this point they were on their own. They had no sense of survival, they’d either follow him or they wouldn’t. The more that stayed behind, the easier it would be to escape.

Panther was only vaguely aware of the chaos that erupted as he broke through the tree line. The dogs raced to the top of the Colony’s hill. The cats scattered; some went underground, a handful followed Panther, a few fled in various directions, a small number attempted to stand their ground. The dogs divided; two attempted to dig into the hill while the third pursued Panther and his trailing entourage.

Panther didn’t look back as he ran for the bridge. Once he had made up his mind to run he didn’t give another thought to those he left behind. Their survival was in their own paws now, his survival was his focus at the moment. He knew he was being followed by some cats, it sounded like there might be three, maybe four. He could also hear something larger crashing through the bushes behind him. Slowing to confirm his suspicions could be dangerous so it would have to wait until he hit the river.

Panther twisted his body around as he crossed onto the riverbank. He took a quick glance across the water where he could see Eve and Opal waiting on the opposite bank with the kittens peeking out over the ridge above the river. He could see no sign of Sylvester. He had no time to consider anything as the first cat following him burst onto the riverbank.

Move,” Panther yelled at the cat as it seemed on the verge of collapsing. “Over the log. Fast! To the other side.” He berated the cat into movement and pushed him to begin the crossing just as a second cat arrived on the bank.

Come on,” Panther urged the second cat. He glanced at the first cat, it still hadn’t even reached the halfway mark across the bridge. Eve and Opal were attempting to coax the first cat across but progress was slow.

As soon as he’s across you need to cross,” Panther instructed the second cat. The cat crouched behind Panther, its breath was ragged and its eyes wide with fear.

A third cat emerged from the trees, it moved slowly and avoided putting weight on its left front paw. The cat paused to get its bearings, noticed Panther and began to stumble in the black cat’s direction. The cat shambled three steps forward when the dog burst onto the riverbank and closed its mouth over the cat’s body. The dog jerked the cat into the air. There was a sickening crack as the cat’s body broke. The remains were tossed over the dog’s shoulder as it turned its attention to the remaining cats.

Go!” Panther ordered the second cat. The first cat hadn’t finished crossing but waiting was no longer an option. He moved his body between the dog and the cat, he kept his body low to the ground and bared his teeth.

The dog adopted an aggressive stance of its own. Its legs were spread slightly to the side, its front legs pushed forward to tilt its body toward the ground. Its mouth was opened slightly, the lips pulled back from its teeth. There was blood on its lips and teeth. Despite the absence of sound it looked very much like it was snarling a threat. It opened and closed its mouth multiple times in a silent mockery of a bark.

You really can’t make noises can you?” Panther asked. There was no answer offered just more soundless snarling. Panther could hear the other cat scramble across the bridge, he could buy that cat some time to cross but there was no chance of his crossing without the dog grabbing him. He would have to fight or flee.

He dug the claws of his back paws into the ground to brace himself and launched his body at the dog. He drove his shoulder into the dog’s chest and pushed forward with all his strength and weight. The dog had a size advantage over him but it couldn’t effectively bite him while he was underneath it. He could hear the teeth gnashing at him while the dog moved backward away from him.

Panther wasn’t about to let that happen. He had already seen what these dogs could do with their jaws, staying in close was his best bet for survival. He grabbed the sides of the dog’s chest and sunk his front claws deep into its flesh. He felt lucky, he hadn’t been sure his claws could get through the dog’s matted fur. He could feel the dog twist and pull as it struggled to dislodge him. He had struck a blow, the dog was in pain and it was afraid. He needed to know the dog over so that he could use his stronger back paws.

The dog jerked back and Panther felt flesh tear off as his claws pulled free. Not a whimper was uttered by the dog as blood fell from its sides. Panther barely managed to roll away as the dog’s jaws snapped at him. The dog was faster than he had thought, Panther had barely regained his feet before he was dodging a swat from the dog’s paw. Its claws were cracked and broken, not razor sharp like Panther’s were, but there was no doubt in the cat’s mind that they would be lethal.

Panther jumped from right to left as he dodged blow after blow of the dog’s paws. The dog was relentless, paws and jaws flashed as Panther danced away from the attacks. He found himself on the defensive which didn’t work for him. Being on the defensive was the losing path, if he was going to get out of this he needed to either gain the advantage or escape. Should the dog connect with a blow he was done for.

Panther kept dodging the dog’s attacks, with each avoidance he managed to turn them just a little until the dog’s back was to the river. From this vantage point he could see that the other cats had made it across the trunk and were huddled together on the opposite bank of the river. They were safe, now it was time for him to accomplish the same.

He couldn’t just make a run for the bridge. Even if he made it, there was too good a chance that the dog would follow. There wasn’t a big enough size difference between them that would guarantee the bridge would collapse under the dog’s weight. Even if it did, dogs were good swimmers, as far as Panther was aware. Collapsing the bridge would trap Sylvester on the wrong side of the river and allow a dog onto the safe side. Above all, that could not happen, no dog could be allowed across the river.

It was time to put an end to this. He wanted to get at the dog’s throat or its underbelly. If he could get his teeth into its throat and the claws of his rear paws into its stomach he could end this. There was a good chance of it, they were evenly matched in strength all he needed was to get through those snapping teeth and smashing paws.

Panther pushed forward slashing out with his claws at the dog’s face. A scratch was all the damage that resulted but the unexpected lunge put the dog on the defensive. They went back and forth slashing at each other with neither one gaining an advantage. The effort of attacking and evading was taking a toll on both participants, both were breathing heavily.

Panther yowled in frustration as he failed once more to score a solid hit. Despite the blood drawn at the start of the melee the dog still managed to match him in battle. They seemed evenly matched and whoever managed to score a lucky hit would emerge the victor.

The dog reared back as a black and white cat landed on its back. Sylvester had arrived at the bridge moving at a quick pace. He had lost the dog that had been chasing him and raced to the agreed upon muster point. He saw the dog facing off against Panther and threw himself onto the beast’s back without even slowing. The claws of three of his paws were sunk into the dog while he used his free paw to scratch at its eyes. He tore at one of the dog’s eyes and felt the dog twist and rear in pain. Sylvester felt something hit the dog and jumped off the dog’s back just before it toppled. His back claws tore chunks out of the dog’s back.

Panther had taken advantage of the surprise attack on his opponent to throw himself bodily into the dog. His strength and weight knocked the dog onto its side. Panther’s movement continued to bring his body over top of the fallen dog. He sank his teeth into the dog’s throat and raked his back claws across its stomach. He could feel the flesh give way under his claws and smelled the blood that accompanied it. He used all his strength to pull his head back and was rewarded with the feel of the throat ripping apart in his teeth.

Sorry I was late,” Sylvester offered from Panther’s side. “They don’t give up very easily. Also, I picked up some stragglers.” He motioned with his head to four cats that had arrived on the riverbank: three adults and one kitten.

They don’t give up at all,” Panther agreed. They stood quietly as they watched the final twitching of the dog’s body. Its life fled its body and soaked into the ground. “Thanks for the assist.”

Anytime,” Sylvester answered.

Is that the queen?” Panther asked as he glanced at the four cats waiting by the river. There was the queen and one of her council, the other adult and the kitten he didn’t recognize.

Yep. She was hiding in the woods watching the dogs digging to get at the cats hiding in the tunnels. I thought she’d be better off with us.” Sylvester looked sympathetically at his charges.

We need to get them to the other side,” Panther said. “Fast. Before more dogs come. We need to push that tree into the river so they can’t follow us. At least not easily.”

You sure?” Sylvester asked. “There’s no going back for us if we do.”

I know,” Panther acknowledged, “our safety from known threats comes first. Just think of it as the start of a brand new chapter in your life.”

Sylvester nodded and turned to start the last of the cats over the river.

Previous Episodes:

  1. The Bird
  2. A Partnership Begins
  3. And Winter Makes Three
  4. Eve
  5. Panther
  6. On the Road
  7. The Colony
  8. Future Plans
  9. Best Laid Plans

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