Sunday, September 20, 2009

Through the Inches

She responded by instinct, naturally, when her body gave her those new, unexpected sensations. Heavy, focused, the young cat sought out the perfect corner. Somewhere quiet, dark, safe. She could not have explained why, and if she could have felt surprise at the sight of the kittens she would have, but she accepted it all with equanimity. It was instead the closure of the entrance, the theft of sunlight and fresh air that shocked her.

She had been so absorbed with her three new lives, blind, mewing and heart-wrenching, that she had not even noticed that the path by which she had entered her refuge was now closed. It was only when her body ached with hunger, when she was forced to leave her innocent, defenseless charges, that she realized. Anxious, she paced the perimeter of her space. It was large, but closed. Had she been human, she would have realized that the garage door had been closed, with only two inches of space remaining, leaving her in a concrete cube, without escape.

She hoped for mice - not rats, they might prey on her babies before she could prey upon them - but none entered. Soon, hunger terrorized her. Desperate, she cried out, sticking her nose out through the tiny bit of space that remained to her, her only reminder that the real, open, free world still existed. Food, release, help, she cried. Her belly, her pleading babies, drove her to distraction.

As she cried, a warm smell of meat, flesh and fat and blood, crept towards her. Then, miraculously, the meat itself appeared, slipped through the crack, glowing in the remaining sunlight. She snatched it and ran away, back to her nest in the corner.

But the meat only held her for a short time. Soon she was starving again, her kittens larger, their eyes open and looking to her for food. On black paws, she crept around the space again. No mice, no nothing. Hunger drove her, she cried. She cried and cried. The light disappeared, then, after the cool night, reappeared. Still she cried.

Inexplicably, the meat came again. She snatched it away, glimpsing bare fingertips and hearing whispers in foreign, human tones. Her hunger satiated, she calmed.

When the sunlight next returned, a rattling cacophony came with it. The cat mother blinked, startled, as the bright day slowly invaded her space. The door was opening.

She was too astonished to do anything for a moment. A man walked in, his face widening in surprise as he saw her. She cringed, waiting for the violence. He bent down.

And cooed. If she could have understood, she would have known he said, "Oh, aren't you darling! So sweet. Maria, come look at these kittens!"

He thrust a weathered, darkened hand at her. The cat laid back her ears, but was too tired, and too hopeful, to do anything more. She remembered the meat, proffered by similar hands, though smaller. He caressed her head.

"There there. We'll take care of you my love. Maria, can you get a box, blanket? We've got to move these kitties to somewhere better." He ran his hand down the cat's black fur, and extended a heavy finger to stroke the grey head of one of her kittens. "We'll take care of you," he promised.

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma