Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
That was where Gal, the naked Sphinx street cat lived. Where she now curled up sobbing, having watched her brother, Tony the red fox, be exiled by the kids who ruled the city. The rebellious children of Tedopolosis, being sick of bedtimes and rules, had evicted everyone over the age of eighteen. With super brains kids, such as Pizza Kid, they engineered contraptions to trap, disband and prevent any adults from returning.
The wall did its job, keeping intruders out but also left the occupants of the city cut off from new resources. Food supplies dwindled, and the fighting increased due to hunger. Pizza Kid disappeared and the city crumbled behind the reinforced walls. Kids in the city limits cried for help while adults outside city limits screamed for entrance. Birds couldn’t fly over, and moles couldn’t burrow under the wall. Everyone was suffering.
Gal blinked away tears silently, hiding while the exile team dissipated. They were forced to keep up the charade. There was no other option. But Tony had other ideas, he had been collecting trinkets left at their shrine of a home for information. He was putting together a resistance when he was captured. Smoke billowed from the spatula looking machine which had flung her brother over the wall.
He’d been caught with two aged out boys, whom had also been hiding. All three were sent out and over the wall. Gal remained hidden only because Tony demanded it. It was too easy for the kids of Tedopolosis to deem you an outsider and with Gal’s large bean pot colored spots, she looked too much like a forest animal.
Tony came from the forest, he had snuck in before the wall’s construction. They met while the machines were placed along the concrete. When Gal’s adults were evicted, Tony took her in. Her owners had only been preteens but they complained of not having school any longer. Citing they enjoyed the structure that adults brought, they were tossed out. Tony accepted her into his shrine covered abode and Gal was forever appreciative. She hunted for food in daylight hours, Tony took the evening shift, sleuthing the perimeters of the wall.
Tony had big ideas to find Pizza Kid, to force him into deconstructing the defensive machines. Gal was perfectly content cuddling with her furry brother in the evenings, she never needed more. His soft crushed berry colored coat was warm against the cold the concrete brought. He always wanted more. Gal was angry. But more so, she was sad. She sniffled back tears, trying not to imagine her brother being mauled by a hungry grizzly bear. Gal had fought with him to not get involved with those boys, but Tony was certain one had been Pizza Kid. How wrong he was.
And that’s where he left her. Gal curled into a ball. The only way to follow him was to be captured herself but she was so scared. Tony could already be dead for all she knew. The cat didn’t notice nightfall, she cried until the concrete beneath her was wet. She cried until the tears stung her cheeks. She cried because she was alone and she cried because she wasn’t. The scuffling sounds outside her small home told her the kids and city animals were moving about. Meaning not only danger but also the fact that no one bothered to see her. She missed her brother’s embrace, only Tony truly cared for her.
Sleep found her through quivering, wet tears, but it was how she woke up that came as a shock. Her home shook as if an earthquake rumbled below, but it was banging from overhead that was taking it down. Pebbles fell and bounced off her head. Gal crawled further under her shrine she called home. Her tail touched the back wall. She heard a yell, and air whoosh before her home broke apart more.
Gal could see a shadow of a boy through the crumbling exit, “Cat,” he yelled, “get out here.” Just before the sledgehammer he held fell once more, she shot out of her home. Finding herself defenseless and standing on the street in front of a tall boy. His arm already mid-swing, completed the destruction of her home.
“What are you doing?” Gal shrieked and lunged at the boy’s face. Her sharp claws out for maximum damage.
“There you are,” the tall boy dropped the hammer and caught Gal midair. “I know where your brother is,” he set her down when she retracted her miniature knives.
“My brother?” Gal didn’t understand, but there was no time. He was moving already, “we’re running out of time.”
Gal clambered to catch up to him, over the rubble that was her home and down the dark street. Distraught and confused, she came to a stop next to the tall boy. His hair was scruffy and long, his clothing tattered but clean. As if he had been to freshwater lately. He stood looking at the concrete wall. Clogs and wheels held bicycle chains and old car parts to build a defense along the concrete wall. Under the starry sky, the machines appeared almost benign.
“How?” Gal began, but the tall boy grabbed hold of two sprockets and his foot on a dismantled crossbow. She wasted no time, climbing in his footsteps behind him.
Excitement to see the other side of the wall nearly bypassed her fear. Until she saw electricity sparkle and shoot through cut wires along the top of the wall. “Kid,” she tried to warn him, but his hand landed mere inches from the danger. Someone had pre-emptively cut through the defenses, giving them a narrow window of escape. She stepped beside a cooking pan looking thing at the top of the wall. An arch of threatening voltage jumped over her paw, zapping the tip of her nail, “oh,” she pulled her leg back.
“There’s no time for that, we have only seconds left.” He hollered from above her before throwing himself over the wall. Landing in a thick pile of cut branches obviously placed there on purpose.
Gal wasn’t concerned for the fall; cats always land on their feet. She wasn’t expecting the zap when she hunkered backward to prepare for her jump. Red hot pain stabbed through her, catapulting her far over the safety of the branches. The world went black before her lifeless body hit the ground.
The kid picked up the cat, “can’t say I didn’t try,” he murmured as he entered the shadowy forest. The stars blinked out behind ominous clouds. The cat stirred, “didn’t try what?” she asked.
“Aren’t you dead?” the tall boy queried.
“Haven’t you heard cats have nine lives?”
The kid chuckled, squeezed the sphinx cat tight and set her on the forest ground, leaves crunched under her paws. “Glad to have you back, Gal.”
“It’s Roxanne now,” the cat replied, “bad luck to keep the same name after you lose a life.”
The tall boy rolled his eyes, “like I would know.”
The forest grew thicker around them as if promising to swallow them whole. The tall boy pushed down thin trees and snapped branches off thicker ones to make a path for himself. Roxanne sleuthed beneath them, skirting around as if she hadn’t been electrocuted moments before.
The tall boy spoke as they hiked, “we need to get to Pizza Kid, there’s no time to waste.”
Roxanne stopped, hidden under a bush she said, “wait a minute, I thought you were taking me to my brother?” The kid walked into a low hanging branch.
“No, I need you for bribery to Pizza Kid. Then he’ll come back and dismantle the machines. Retake control of the city. It’s useless without him.” The kid shook off the leaves that had fallen onto his mangy hair. His face turned from a savior’s expression to a villain that wanted to kidnap Roxanne.
The cat wasted no to time, she dashed out from under the bush. She had to find her brother. She ran faster than long cat legs possible. Not stopping at the angry yells of the kid behind her or the piercing of sharp stones between the soft leaves. An invisible stick punctured her right leg, causing her to slow down enough that the kid grabbed her tail.
Roxanne howled in pain as the kid lifted her up and stuffed her into a musty potato sack. It smelt of rot and death.
“You tricked me! Let me go,” she thrashed against the scratchy material.
“It’s too late now, I need Pizza Kid. We’ll return to Tedopolosis in no time. It’s okay, kitty, maybe he even has your brother,” the kid replied, and Roxanne would have been put to ease if he hadn’t screamed out. The bag flew in the air, and she free fell, down a steep embankment. She was on the ride of her life, trapped in a potato sack, with a kid that wanted to trade her freedom. The world went black once more and the cat lost yet another life.
When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among some boxes in a garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of mature ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.
Rainbow was tired, she took whatever food and comfort she could. She had lost two cat lives, her brother and her freedom all before the sun crested the horizon. Rainbow rolled on her side; the sun’s face was full of promises. Her body hurt, muscle memory from the fall, but she could still hear Pizza Kid’s words as he lectured the mirror. The tall boy sat on an old wicker chair, rocking, next to Pizza Kid, stuffing his face with Italian sausage and canned banana peppers. Occasionally scooping marinara sauce from a jar to slab on top of sliced cheeses. The garage door was open, allowing streams of brilliant daylight in. The walls were lined with boxes and ingredients, even canned pineapple.
“So, this is your stronghold? An old rusted out garage?” The tall boy spoke through mouthfuls of food. Rainbow moaned; the food was warm in her belly but she ached in too many places to move. She needed to get away from the tall boy and yet still get help from Pizza Kid. She remained still, silent in her cave of a box. Pizza Kid didn’t answer the tall boy, he continued practicing his speech, “and one day, when everything is right, and back in order, we can have cookie bake offs and eating contests. There’ll be enough food for everyone once more. Forever, we, the kids, will compromise…” the tall boy jumped up, throwing his wicker chair to thump on the ground like a discarded carcass.
“Compromise? There’s no compromise!” he snapped, “we can never let the adults back in. That’s what we said, what YOU said. No more bedtimes, no curfews or rules. We don’t need them. Didn’t need them to build that wall and we don’t need them to ear.” His cheeks flushed, and his wild hair seemed to burst out like flames from his face.
“Maybe we do need them,” Pizza Kid turned to stand toe to toe. His pudgy demeanor came at least a foot shorter, but his voice boomed with authority, “people are starving! That wasn’t what we wanted. None of this is what we wanted.” Rainbow cowered further back into her old lady scented box, she needed to escape.
To stay with Pizza Kid was only a pipe dream, a passing comment the tall boy had mentioned. He may not even know Tony. She didn’t know what the deal was for her being brought to Pizza Kid, but she decided she didn’t want to stick around to find out. The tall boy threw the first punch and Pizza Kid’s cheek took the brunt of it. Landing him in a pile of discarded boxes.
“You lied to us,” the tall boy pounced on Pizza Kid and tried to pin his flailing hands down.
“Look what it’s done to us,” Pizza Kid shouted, kicking frantically, “do you truly want to eat canned beans the rest of your life? Until you get tossed over the damn wall too?”
The tall boy pulled his fist back for another shot, and Rainbow took her opportunity.
She winced as her sore paws came into contact with the cold cement floor. A tower of full pizza boxes had just gotten knocked over and was falling like a rainstorm onto the two fighting boys as she dashed to the exit.
If the tall boy was against Pizza Kid, she wanted nothing to do with either of them. The sun had risen during the time she had recuperated in the box and now her time was running out. She needed to find Tony and return to the city wall while they would still accept her back. The war between kids and adults had nothing to do with her and her brother.
Rainbow limped once she was out of the boy’s sight. Feeling a sharp stab in her side, she was sure a rib was broken. She knew the ghost town she was in. Had heard stories of the adults taking refuge here. Bowsly. Deserted, after the cliff overlooking it had slid half a tonne of dirt and trees down onto the town. Half the buildings were buried under the broken woods. Some were tarped and built into a lean-to. A dark toasted sesame smoke billowed from the center of an enormous clay pizza oven in the centre of town. There were no crops, nothing looked alive except for the rushing majestic river parallel the town. Something the kids of the city didn’t have: fresh water.
Rainbow figured the adults got their food from the robin egg blue stream. She licked her lips thinking of fire roasted fish and clams. The only food left in Tedopolosis was canned beans and boxed cereals. Some homes were lucky enough to have Spam. Most did not. The gas was shut off and the kids weren’t skilled in building fire meaning there was no longer warm food. She heard a holler, someone demanding the boys stop fighting. It was time to go.
Rainbow darted to the river; she couldn’t swim, but she could at least hide in the dense blackberry bushes lining the fast-moving water. The thorns scratched her skin, causing blood to bead and drip off her. She was tired, scared and unsure which direction to travel. In one way, she was cut off by the white-capped river. Behind her was the cliff, much too steep to climb and to her other side was Bowsley. Where Pizza kid and tall boy were and wanted nothing good from her.
The only option was the forest in front of her. Where the trees moaned and creaked in the invisible breeze. Threatening unknown deaths which her cat lives couldn’t possibly sustain. Rainbow shuddered but crept closer to the edge, ignoring the stab and pulls of the thorn bush. She didn’t stop her limping cat prance until she was far in the forest and couldn’t even smell the adult’s fire any longer. She was alone. Deathly alone. Too pained to walk any further, she collapsed next to a tree. Curled herself in a ball and slept, certain only death would wake her.
When she woke, it was nighttime. Her stomach was pinching in hunger, she needed dinner. She thought of the blackberry bushes behind her but wouldn’t risk running into the nomad boys again. Rainbow stretched her sore body in the near-frozen leaves. They crunched and echoed in the darkness.
But it wasn’t the leaf crunch causing the echo, it was a loud twig snapping surely under a heavy foot. She scurried up a tree and hid on top of the first branch. Her skin still dripping bright blood to the forest floor. Rainbow was not hidden well, at all. She could smell the filthy scent of a predator. An animal who kills others to eat. She shuddered in fear.
Rainbow lapped at the air, trying to place the animal. At first, she thought the smell was a bear, but as the footsteps grew nearer, she saw the bobcat. Pointed black ears were standing upright, telling the small cat (in comparison) he didn’t know she was hiding. His short tail swung as he walked, paws the size of Rainbows head and teeth stained red. Her heart thumped erratically in thin rib cage, threatening to give her location away. Behind the large cat, stalked a familiar red fox.
It was from Tony! Climbing down from her hiding spot, she yelled, “brother.” Rainbow bounded toward the duo but many more creatures appeared from the thick of the woods. It was a marching war party. Mixed with adults, kids, and teens. Wildlife creatures, Zoo animals and domestic dogs. A few birds flew overheard as lookouts and a fat old owl shot down at her, directed by her outcry. She shrieked for Tony again but her cries were drowned by the screech of the owl. His talons digging into her chest and stole another life from her.
Claire woke in horror to find the combat crew had marched right past the dead sphinx cat. Claire cursed the daylight-blinded owl and got up to follow their tracks. A heavy rain split the sky in two and drowned the footprints in the thick mud. Claire’s paws coated with the sleek heavy dirt and became heavier and heavier as she walked.
Claire scrambled to catch up. The rain poured down, making the forest in front of her blend into a blanket of darkness. She scratched to climb over a massive fallen log, but the moss was oily, and she fell back down. Fat raindrops mixing with her tears as she cried in defeat. The clouds parted for a snap of white lightning, and a nearby tree rattled with the following thunder. An angel appeared above her, or a demon, Claire couldn’t be sure anymore. The creature lifted the log and threw it away.
“Aww, poor kitty. Are you okay?” hands came toward Claire, but she went karate mode. Scratching and lashing at the stranger. It was an adult! Although he helped her, he was still the enemy. This guy was from the adults who the war was against. He wasn’t with Tony’s marching party. He must be the enemy.
“You bastard!” she screeched as she bolted her lean cat body from the glue-like mud and lunged for his soft center. Just as Tony had once taught her.
“What the hell?” he jumped back and narrowly tripped over the same log, “I just saved you, you’re a crazy cat.”
He turned to run but said log was the downfall of the heavy-set man.
The man shook his head, bewildered, “stupid…” but he had no time to finish his cuss, a large wasps nest fell from the tree and burst open between Claire and the confused man. She turned on her hind legs to bolt but stopped when she heard him mutter, “Tony will never believe this.” Her eyes went wide, he was with Tony. Possibly just separated from the sudden thunderstorm. Claire drove her claws into the back of his calves. Her eyes trained on the broken grey sheeting, spilling out hundreds of angry yellow jackets.
“Run!” she screamed through the growing buzz. The hoard of wasps washed over her, the pain was instantaneous, but through her swelling eyes, she saw him run and jump into the river. The wasps washed over her, a blanket of devilish pain from thousands of stabbing needles lined with poison. Claire laid down, reassured she saved the man who was helping her brother and lost another life.
Josey was moving but not by her own legs. Her tail was curled up beside her body, and she felt claustrophobic. Her body three sizes swollen and weeping. She was wrapped in a blanket which smelt of muskeg, grease, and Tony. She inhaled deeply, his scent was all she needed. Josey wailed in pain as the euphoria of her brother’s smell faded. She had one solid burst of energy but the man’s hold on the blanket remained tight. He pulled back a corner, his eyebrows larger than her tail was long. They strung together in the center, “cat? You’re alive?”
“Don’t hurt me,” she meowed, soft and sad.
“I won’t hurt you, how are you alive?”
“Cat’s have nine lives, well, five now, I guess.”
“Do you know the red fox?” Josey inquired, needing to know the answer. She needed Tony now more than any other time. She was exhausted, spent emotionally, and physically. She needed him four lives ago, but now, it was a genuine need.
“I do, and cat, I believe he might be looking for you too.” The man walked on in silence, and Josey peeked out between the folds of the blanket.
The terrain rolled and changed in front of them. The rain clouds, along with its nasty storm, had gone. The man hiked on a trail which wound back and forth up the side of the cliff she had once fallen down. Shrubs, wet with the fresh rain, were vivid green in the rays of sun broke through the dense Nahanni green trees. The trail was made from dazzling colors of emerald rock, silver stone, and brown shale.
The hike was steep, and Josey was grateful for the rest in the man’s arms. When they came to a stop, she pulled back the muskeg smelling blanket to see a vast expanse of dead earth. The trees behind them swayed elegantly, but the ones ahead were burnt and broken from the fighting. She could see clementine orange fire with Saxon blue wild tips licking into the sun filled sky. The city was aflame and loud with war cries and screams. The battalion attacking fiercely. Pewter machines clung to the walls mightily and were firing black gunpowder pellets and wooden spears engulfed with flames. Intertwined chains pulled back as one to set catapults projectile free. The boulders wiping out long lines of troops easily. Machines are winning.
Forest animals reinforced with chainmail charged over the deadlands. The man holding Josey was cursing to himself. Miserably whining all hope was lost. Grizzly bears tossed back from the wall as if they were discarded old stuffed bears. Bull moose staggering away with broken palms, elk missing large patches of their mighty nutmeg shaded hair.
“We won’t lose!” a familiar voice, “we are stronger than those machines. We built those machines!” Pizza Kid yelled his speech to the troops with their heads hung low. A closer voice broke the man’s pity talk, “is that my sister you have?”
“You said it would be the only naked feisty cat around, and true to your word, she is. Or was, she sacrificed herself to save me.” the man explained and placed Josey, with the blanket, on the ground.
Tony’s sleek black nose pushed the blanket aside, Josey limped out and embraced her brother. Purring and pushing against him. Showing her love.
“I may have given up a life, or two to get back to you, but I will always find my way.” Josey looked to his eyes; they were full of gratitude. One proud ear was cut and bent over, but his bushy tail danced happily in the air.
“I thought I lost you forever,” he rasped.
Tony wrapped his tail around his sister, licking her wounds, “I’m so sorry.” They pushed against each other, until battered troops appeared, requesting direction.
“Sir, we’re losing ground.” A short woman with chain mail stated.
“The machines are fighting on their own, the kids have retreated and are putting up white flags.” Another woman offered up; her bow made of a twisted branch hung broken in her hands.
“Are you ready to end this war?” Pizza Kid wore the tall boys spiked jacket. A sign of his victory from the fistfight which seemed like cat lives ago.
“You!” Josey screamed and reared up to pounce him when Tony put a paw up to stop her.
“He’s on our side, and Josey, we need your stealthy help,” Tony explained the plan as the troops surrounded, readied and lined up for the final battle.
Bucks kicked at the gunpowder-stained dirt. Their antlers adorned strung with barbwire. Eagles tapped their talons on land grenades made of dismantled cherry bombs. Black bears held ladders tied with vines. Adults had clubs spiked with nails, spears sprouted with poisonous mushrooms and a few poorly crafted swords. Josey pictured the crocked edges being forged in the old clay pizza oven.
“Good luck brother, I’ll see you on the inside,” Josey nuzzled him one last time before taking off through the dead war zone. Her naked skin blended perfectly with scorched dirt and fallen trees. The land animals offered her a front shield; the sky creatures blocked any projectile from the machine’s wall. She bolted straight for ginormous magnet haphazardly hanging from the wall. It was the same spot tall boy had brought her over. Pizza Kid ran with heavy footfalls on her tail. He was leading the front line, wolves growling and snapping to distract the machines. Behind them were hundreds of Jack rabbits carrying the explosive charges. Colored an innocent straw yellow, the home-made flour bombs would be enough to ruin the machines.
The magnet hung as an ominous smile on the wall, a bicycle chain wrapped around it and hugged a significant clog. Screws sticking out from the concrete had star faces, making the wall mirror night sky’s constellations. Josey jumped at the magnet and pulled. Click, pop, and fury sounded from the wall. She closed her eyes waiting for the large metal cage-like mouse trap to slam down on her, but it never came. A sizzling as the charge was set and Josey laid down for her final death. When the smoke cleared, the wall was depilated, cheering all around. Pizza Kid bounced precariously in the mousetrap high above the ground.
“Hey cat, you think I’ll get fresh baked cookies again?”
Bright smiled, “I’m sure the adults would be more than happy to resume baking.”
Note from Author:
the paragraph numbers are because this was for a contest where they supplied certain paragraphs to write around. And then you were only allowed to have up to 50 paragraphs. Can you guess which two they supplied? 🙂 Comment below or email me direct, if someone is correct they will win my Anthology- Hot Moroccan Nights.