Chapter 17:

The Kingdom of Cats (1)

A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing

The clouds were dyed red as the evening sun began its descent into the horizon. Cicadas cried loudly as the shadows of the tall trees became darker, making it easier to hide within the brush below. Strong winds rustled the tops of trees as the sound of thunder echoed, with the sight of lightning miles away. It was a matter of time before the storm clouds would obscure the entirety of the sky and bring about a massive downpour.

Scampering for their life was a small black and white striped American Shorthair cat named Marbles, along with a white Birman kitten not yet old enough to have a name of her own. A small patch of light brown fur covered her face like a mask.

They dashed through the bushes and trees as fast as they could.

“Come on!” yelled Marbles.

“You’re going too fast!” the kitten cried, her legs on the verge of giving out.

“We can’t risk slowing down!”

Behind them was a monstrous creature, ripping through the plant life like it was nothing. The legendary terrifying Diabolus Calico. It had set its sights on the kitten initially, who had ventured off to explore. If not for Marbles spotting the demon, the kitten would have surely been a goner.

“I just wanna talk!” Diabolus Calico yelled.

Marbles knew it was a trap. He had heard the tales that have spread around since the start of summer. Diabolus Calico would call for you, claiming to want to talk. But the moment you got close, it would snatch you and devour you whole. No stray cat was safe.

As the sightings of the demon increased, Boss had limited the strays from getting close to its territory, which covered most of the nearby town and the surrounding area. Only those tasked with collecting the weekly food donations were allowed. But it seems this action had caused Diabolus Calico to start venturing out further and further. It wasn’t just attacking those that got near its territory; it was actively searching for strays.

The kitten collapsed, having run out of stamina. “I can’t go on,” she said.

Marbles stopped and turned back, snatching the kitten by the back of her neck and running into a nearby bush to hide. He then covered both his and her mouths to obscure their heavy breathing to keep as quiet as possible.

“I know you’re around here somewhere!” the beast shouted with its deceptively cute and innocent voice.

The kitten tried to squeal in fear, but Marbles shushed her. “Keep quiet!” he hissed.

Its massive, armored paws snapped fallen branches in half as it came closer to the bush the two strays were hiding in. Marble’s life flashed before him, full of the numerous regrets he had. The stupid mistakes he made in life, those he wished he could see one more time to apologize. Dreams that will forever be unfulfilled. He was only five years old. There was still so much more he wanted to do. Alas, it seemed his life was to be cut short.

And the kitten crouching by his side had only begun her life. Not even old enough to have been named by Boss for her first birthday. Truly her short existence was much more pitiful than his. At least he lived long enough to have regrets.

Just then, the call of a normal human filled the air like a gentle melody.

“But I almost had it!” Diabolus Calico whined.

The human let out another indecipherable call.

“Good point,” it said, retreating from whence it came. “Wanna stay the night at my place and watch scary movies?” its voice trailed off.

Marbles listened carefully to the disappearing footsteps amidst the claps of thunder and rustling branches. He sighed in relief, having seemingly escaped his doomed fate.

He walked out of the forest and looked down the road. He saw Diabolus Calico and a large human carrying a massive parasol in the distance, heading towards the direction of the incoming lightning storm. The opposite direction of the Kingdom of Strays.

“Come on,” he told the kitten when he returned to the bush, where she continued to rest. “Let’s hurry home.”

The kitten nodded. “Okay,” she said between heavy pants.

They ran along an old dirt road that was being reclaimed by the elements. A human hasn’t traversed it in years, much less a car. The road led to an old single-story structure surrounded by trees, hidden out of sight. The shingled roof was littered with holes, while the wood making up the porch was rotting away, making it dangerous for any person to walk on. No human would find it acceptable to live any longer.

But for cats? It was their castle. The surrounding land was their kingdom. A place where strays could live without fear of being attacked. Where abandoned kittens could grow without having to worry about where their next meal might be.

This was all thanks to Boss. A large, orange-and-white furred Maine Coon, he had become the leader of the stray cats in the area to give them a safe environment for cats to grow. Thrown away as a small kitten himself, he knew all too well the struggles for a pint-sized runt to survive in the wild. He swore that one day he would grow big and strong to help those in need, just as he desperately needed but never had. His dedication to helping others gave rise to the Kingdom of Cats.

Marbles and the kitten rushed to the front porch just as the first drops of rain began to fall from the sky. Shortly after climbing the steps, the kitten collapsed from exhaustion. Other cats trickled in from all around, arriving at the house to seek shelter from the storm.

“It’s gonna be a doozy,” one said, poking his head out to look up at the dark clouds. A drop of rain hitting his nose caused him to flinch with a small yelp.

Those around him laughed.

When one cat noticed the kitten’s labored breaths, they waltzed up to her in a playful manner. “The storm scared ya that much?” they joked.

Marbles shook his head, speaking on her behalf.

“Diabolus Calico.”

All the cats on the porch fell into silence from the sound of the name. Lightning flashed across the sky with a clap of thunder, shaking the structure.

They all began to quietly utter the name amongst themselves. Diabolus Calico. Diabolus Calico.

“You didn’t go into town, did you?” one asked, bringing up the recent law passed by Boss.

Again, Marbles shook his head. “The kitten was out playing near the soybean fields when Diabolus Calico caught her off guard. Thankfully I was nearby and was able to help her escape.”

“The soybean fields?!” one gasped.

“That far out?!” said another.

Marbles nodded.

A white-furred Ragdoll, with light brown fur that dyed its tail and face like a mask, quickly ran inside after hearing of Marbles’ dangerous run-in with Diabolus Calico. It made its way to the kitchen, where Boss was speaking with a pair of black cats named Wolfgang and Amadeus. The two had the important job of managing the food supply and collecting donations from house cats in town.

“Boss, I’ve come with news,” he said.

“Not now, Marshmallow. I’m currently in the middle of—”

“It’s Diabolus Calico,” Marshmallow said.

Boss looked over to Marshmallow with a stern expression.

“There has been a sighting near the soybean fields.”

“The soybean fields?” Boss asked, wanting a definite confirmation of the grave news.

Marshmallow nodded. “I fear it’s expanding its territory. With the rate things are going, it is only a matter of time before it finds us.”

Boss responded with a low “Hmm.”

“What should we do?”

“For the time being we do nothing,” Boss commanded.

Marshmallow was aghast. “Nothing?! Do nothing as it moves closer and closer by the day?! If it finds us, then all will be wiped out. Please, consider what I said the other day. We could find a new home to—”

“We will do nothing, Marshmallow,” Boss repeated in a way that ended all discussion on the matter.

Marshmallow wanted to object but understood that there was no going against Boss’ word. All he could do was nod and walk away. Even though he respected Boss’ word, he couldn’t help feeling uneasy, doing nothing while they were all at risk. The longer they stayed in the Kingdom of Cats, the longer they were a sitting duck for Diabolus Calico.

But Boss understood that there was nowhere else for them to go. This location was safe and secure. Out of the way from humans, especially those looking to take them away as he’d seen in the past. Snatched away, never to be seen again. It also acted as a constant location for cats to go to and spread the word to other strays in help of need.

He didn’t know what to do, but Boss felt he could not give up this bastion of hope for strays to this wandering devil. If it came time, he would fight Diabolus Calico head-on. Numerous times he’s had to defend this kingdom from threats. Dogs, coyotes, even wild pigs. Every time he managed to stave them off to protect his fellow cats and give them the better life they deserved.

“Diabolus Calico,” he murmured to himself.

Concerned over the situation, Wolfgang spoke up. “Boss.”

Boss snapped out of it.

“What about the food collection tomorrow?”

“If the weather clears by tomorrow morning, it will go as usual. But go in pairs, just in case.”

“And what about Diabolus Calico?” Amadeus asked.

“...If you come across it, run. Abandon the food if you must. We should have enough supplies to last us another week.”

Boss left the kitchen and made his way to the living room, where a large armchair was positioned facing a broken-out window. He sat down and watched the pouring rain, illuminated by flashes of lightning.

His claws gripped the cushion on the seat, piercing the fabric.