Cat knew where to get fresh milk and take vengeance on Shaman. In the world of vertical people a mother was heavy with a vertical babe and heavy with milk. Like goes to like: The delicate scent of this gravid mother, Cat guessed, had attracted her to that house Shaman guarded in that strange world. She only had to remember the path as she ran through the jungle and rustled through a patch of grass. Silence gave way to need. She remembered the warm asphalt, the white picket fence, the stunted green grass. She pictured the den of the vertical people with her senses, smelled the grass, felt the hard cement walkway under her paws, heard the click of hard soled shoes. And the green jungle disappeared as the house rose from the fading trees.
Shaman was there, in front of the fence. He had shed his fear; it had been a trick. Her prey, still alive, annoyed her. She was certain he wanted her kits dead. She wanted to give him that mortal gift, but that fearsome gourd rattle dangled casually from his left hand. Besides, her kits’ need for milk spurred her, and he was only a man.
She walked through the fence, through the rear door of the house and padded silently up the steps to the bedroom. Vertical woman slept there, her belly swollen with a kit. Cat walked toward the bed; her two hundred pound frame eased itself onto the mattress without disturbing her sleeping donor. She paused and looked down at the naked face. The woman was so peaceful. Happy and secure in her den, the woman probably dreamed of her future vertical kit. But Cat stopped her unconscious purring. Her kits were starving. The choice was horrendously easy. Her forepaw scraped the cover off the bed, while her other paw unstrung the soft aquamarine night gown. She bent down her neck and gently clasped her long teeth against the woman’s left teat. The woman moaned and tossed in her sleep, but Cat kept milking her.
A lonely song drifted up the stairs and toward the bedroom. Cat stopped her task and turned her head toward the door. Her ears twitched, orienting on the voice. It pleased her to train her ears upon so soothing a beat. She felt as if the song made her both a part of the vertical people’s world and her own, which she had all but forgotten until Shaman had enraged her with that terrible gourd. Now, his song brought back so much more of her past in that gentle chanting. Shaman’s voice, rhythmic and monotonous, enveloped Cat.
This is what the shaman sang as he climbed the creaking stairs:
Bone cat, bone cat, where is your flesh?
Gone to dust in an empty creche.
Wail, growl, yowl for kits unborn.
You haunt far and evermore mourn.
Sleep, sleep. The dead should rest.
No, mother’s grief can never invest
true life. Your people’s time vanished.
Prowl ethereal to mourning banished,
to seeking bones long since stones.
This woman’s warm joy is not for you.
Her time is upon her; the babe is due.
Let life call to life and memory to memory.
Your mammoth jungle is long since gone: a cold salt sea,
cold, cold as your bones and your empire’s lost songs.
Only forgotten necropoleis crumbling to dust in past eons
under fathoms mark your feline dreams beyond the day’s light
Have mercy, I beg, for the next in turn, who cannot fight,
so young with soul infirmly imbued.
Avaunt sad shade, let life be renewed.
The shaman walked toward his wife’s bed. A cold wind buffeted him, the last affectation of a forgotten age. Before he climbed under the woolen covers, he gently laid a baby’s rattle in his wife’s open hand.