A new breed of Alphan
The air was becoming hotter, the days perhaps just a bit longer, and Mreet wanted to find someplace cool to sleep. Her fur was becoming thinner and thinner, as was she… it was simply too warm to eat. Even the grey not-prey seemed to know there was change in the air as it kept to the cool, deep recesses under the sleeping place of the girl. Mreet thought fondly of the kind youngling with bright yellow fur on her head. Her girl. Of late, the girl and mother-queen had spent most of the days busy around the homeplace… it made it hard for a cat to sleep when there were so many interesting activities to supervise. And very hard to stay asleep when the big, LOUD, smelly, flying-machine things that fell from the sky came almost daily.
The days continued to grow hotter still, but the nights were yet cool, and in the coolth of the evening when the girl slept, Mreet would escape the confines of the walls to continue the hunt. Step, step, hop. Step, step, hop. She did not like these changes that were all around her. She found the plants smelling of death and decay. The waters from which she drank grew smaller and shallower. Even the rocks stayed hot under her paws until late into the night. She could not understand these things.
MeowwWWR! The girl had kept her locked up in the small room of sleeping and she had wanted OUT! And then when the girl had opened the door, she had been picked up and put in this small box… MeowwWWR! She did not want to go into the LOUD falling thing that smelled bad and she most certainly was not going to submit to this indignity graciously. MeowwWWR!
She quieted briefly when the noise started. It was a roaring, rending sound of threat and terror. She hunched very small in one corner of the box. And then…. something was very wrong. The ground was not staying flat. Her body slid within the box to the opposite side. She was falling! The noise seemed to get inside her very head and cause her bones to shake apart. Mreet felt sick, her insides were all twisty, and her head felt like she was still falling. Things were bad, bad, BAD. How could the girl bring her to this bad place? MeowwWWR! MeowwWWR! Suddenly, the lid to her box opened and the not-prey fell inside. Mreet was too sick to even bother with her usual hiss. The not-prey puffed its grey fur and then settled down in the corner and hummed its not-purr. Squinting her eyes at this familiar intruder, Mreet felt a little better, less sick. Her head stopped spinning, her bones stopped shaking and she curled up and was able to escape into sleep.
Better. Things were finally better. They had left the LOUD nasty thing. The girl let her out of the box into a room that smelled comfortingly of remembered things. For a day and a sleep she explored the room and rested, but soon the familiar urge exerted itself. She had to hunt. It was her duty. Her nose told her this place was different, enclosed, and that there were no green, growing plants outside. Everywhere she looked was white, white, white. How was she to hunt? She would need to explore her new domain and see where the prey might hide. Yes, she would have to go out and explore.
The girl and the not-prey had left earlier in the day. For the past few sleeps the girl had come back each evening smelling of different smells, good smells. Smells of plants and earth. Smells not so good, like the greasy, slippery place where Mreet had fallen and lost her leg as a kitten. Smells that smelled good enough to eat.
Mreet paced back and forth by the door. Maybe if she was fast, she could slip out when the girl came in. That had worked before in the homeplace. She stretched high against the door, balancing easily on her one back leg, stropping the door jam to sharpen her immaculate claws. Claws fit for a huntress. To her surprise, the door opened, and not one to miss an opportunity, she darted out the door. Her kind could not understand that the doors of this place were set with pressure pads to ease the comings and goings of young families, but she readily understood the concept of out. Sharpening her claws against the next door worked as well. Grumbling with pleasure deep in her chest, Mreet entered her new world.
Everything was white, white, white. The ground underfoot was slippery and treacherous. She had already slipped several times as she ran away from unfamiliar noises and smells. She stopped to lick a bruised area on her left hip where she had hit a wall as she careened around a corner. But such pain was of little regard. She was a mighty huntress and not so easily deterred. Had she not found the not-prey and brought it to the girl who had been pleased? Yes. Mreet looked up and around at this strange new world. Maybe this was the homeplace of the small things that skittered and scampered. Her kind knew patience. Step, step, hop.
Unmeasured time passed. She really needed her sandbox. Mreet looked up and down the white, white, white tunnel. She could smell plants and good earth, but where? Step, step, hop. There. Around the corner. Step, step, hop. At first she did not recognize them as plants. Plants were tall and green and had many areas to hide beneath. These plant-smelling things were flat and growing right along the walls in the straight, flat lines the girl and mother-queen so seemed to like. Mreet sat puzzled and looked, and then tilted her head a bit to see if they looked better from that way. Not really. There was still no place to hide beneath. These plants were skinnier than she. But the smell was right, and when she jumped up into the low tubs of earth that ran the length of the wall, the feel of dirt beneath her paws was right. She gratefully tended to her needs and then carefully buried the smell. Walking the length of the earth, she looked up and saw round, orange balls. She stood up on her hind leg, front paws carefully balancing against the white, warm wall and reached out with her nose to sniff one of the orange fruit, for such was what they were. A-chew! Nasty citrus taste, nasty citrus smell. She jumped down to the white ground shaking the stench from her nose. Well. She took the moment to carefully groom her face and whiskers. She hungered. Now, it was time to find something to eat. Sniffing again, she detected something much more promising in the air. Step, step, hop. Step, step, hop. There.
Mreet carefully made herself very small behind the corner and very carefully tucked her tail by the side of her not-leg. She watched the people go in and out of the room of good smells. If only she could get on the other side of that door. She sat still, trapped by hunger and indecision, when she heard the laughter of small ones like the girl and her smaller littermates. They would usually open a door for her if she stood by it and asked. She risked walking around the corner and standing by the door of good smells. She chirruped up at these human kittens all dressed alike in blue fur and twined about their legs as they laughed and touched her soft black fur. The door opened and she left the kittens to dart into the room and hide in the corner behind proper fat, green, growing plants.
There was an ebb and flow to the goings on, but eventually the room emptied. A chair near her was shielded by a table, and peeking carefully through the leaves for any signs of danger and finding none, Mreet jumped from hiding spot to the chair’s seat to better see what was on the table. She knew the best of smells were on the table, and yes, good smells were just there. Carefully and surreptitiously, she looked over the edge up to the table proper, and found to her surprise there was one like the mother-queen seated in the other chair. Mreet ducked down trembling with fear. She had never known harm from the girl’s kind, but this place was wonderful and fearful and she felt it wisest to be cautious. As a good huntress should.
After a suitable wait with no threat, she again looked over the table edge. There was a most delicious smell just in front of the mother-queen who was not paying the least attention to it or her. The mother-queen faced away and was looking down at the small flat tablet that chirped and peeped and seemed so very important to the girl and her kind. Stealthily placing first one and then the other front paw on the table, carefully, carefully watching the strange mother-queen, Mreet slowly, ever so slowly r-e-a-c-h-e-d over the table, her sharp teeth at the ready, and…… grabbed that good smell and made a mad dash back to her plants of shelter. It was delicious.
She was full. She was content. For now. The hunt could be continued after a sleep. It was time to return to the girl for grooming and rest. She looked up and down the white, white, white tunnels all seemingly alike in their rigid conformity, and to her mild surprise, realized she was lost. This had never happened before. Step, step, hop. Step, step, hop. Ahhh, there were the flat green growing plants and right smelling earth. She again took care of her body’s needs and then finally finding a small concealed spot behind one of these oh-so-skinny plants, slipped away from prying eyes between safe greenery and warm wall. Considering what next to do, she sat herself down with front paws tucked under her chest and tail wrapped around her not-leg. She was warm and safe. Her head slowly started to droop low until her nose just touched the earth. She slept.
What was that? It was a most unusual sound. She opened her eyes and twitched her ears this was and that. It was coming closer. It sounded, perhaps, like the noises made by the small, flat tablets that the girl and her mother-queen, and even that strange mother-queen, carried about. But, many of them? And all on the ground? Mreet carefully poked her head through her shielding foliage and looked down.
She had a feline epiphany.
Coming down the hall were those which she had hunted for all her life.
They were very small, brown and white with thin, thin yellow legs. They ran this way and that. They would just be a mouthful, and they smelled… wonderful.
Mreet bunched herself up. She knew what to do. She needed to chase and bite and eat. Her front paws shifted back and forth preparing to leap, whiskers vibrating with excitement, green eyes dilated wide, when… a tall, loud one like the mate to mother-queen rounded the corner. Before Mreet’s disbelieving eyes HE caught the lawful prey and bore them away. Mreet sat down with a thump, numbingly disappointed. But… where there are some, there must be more. She jumped down to follow the scent of the man and the chicks that were hers. Step, step hop. Step, step, hop.
What was that? Something tickled deep in her head. Mreet shook her ears hard, but the feeling only got stronger. Something was wrong. Something was about to happen. Something bad, bad, BAD. She crouched low and looked all around. No, only endless white walls and the hard slippery ground underneath. She sat up, her tail tucked around her front paws, the tip twitching thoughtfully. She turned her ears this was and that, her whiskers standing fully at attention. She carefully looked back over her shoulder. Yes, whatever it was, it was that way. Going against all that her nature cried out for, she did not run away. She went toward the danger. To help.
There, on the other side of the door, that was where she needed to be. And whether it was to the touch of her outstretched paw or to some other trigger unknown to the small huntress, the door opened and she slipped around the corner… and immediately crouched into a defensive position. What she saw astounded her. High above her head was row upon row of boxes like the one that brought her to this strange white, white, white place. Each box had an opening and out of each opening stuck the head of a reddish living something jerking this way and that, making loud and agitated clucking sounds. They seemed the size of proper cats, but most definitely did not smell like proper cats. They smelled…delicious. But, the strange not-cats seemed to be no immediate threat for all the noise they produced, and so Mreet turned her attention to the next thing of interest and found herself staring in amazement. On the other side of a low wall was something big, bigger than she and of a deep shiny reddish-brown. It smelled like the small brown peepers, but was much bigger, much louder and much, much madder. It made an awful noise and was stalking something small on the far side of the room. Something about the size of a small cat. Something grey. It was a not-prey. HER not-prey!
Mreet’s growl started deep in her chest as her black fur bristled on its own accord. Her tail lashed in fury. She jumped over the wall and stalked the clucking, reddish not-cat, growling even louder to let this thing know its better had arrived. NOTHING that smelled like it was good to eat was going to stalk her not-prey!
With a ferocious hiss and a mighty jump, Mreet landed on the back of the bird and bit and clawed. The red rooster flapped its wings in surprise squawking loudly and reared up, knocking the equally started cat off its back. The bird ran squawking and flapping to the far side of the room while Mreet, still hissing and growling deep in her chest, paced over to the not-prey. It sat small and deflated, shaking ever so slightly and making a high pitched sound of distress. Mreet bent her head to sniff the grey ball. She gently batted at it with her paw, pleased to see that it yet lived. She picked it up as she would a hurt kitten and carried it over the wall to the corner where she crouched down with the not-prey between her front paws, growling at any bird that even looked her way. She would wait. The girl would come, as she always came when Mreet had need.
And so she did.
In the peaceful quiet of the girl’s sleeping place, Mreet was pleased. She had been praised and petted. She had been given many good things to eat. The not-prey nestled into the crook of the girl’s other arm and not-purred contentedly. Mreet felt warm and happy in her head. Maybe life in this place of white, white, white tunnels and peculiar flat plants would be interesting after all. The small, black, three-legged cat looked up into the happy face of her blond furred girl and felt contentment.
The mighty huntress purred.
5 January 2006