Chapter 21:

The Kingdom of Cats (5)

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

Kat’s arrival at the decrepit house that was the “Kingdom of Cats” had blown apart the fantastical image she built up in her mind. She thought it could collapse at any moment. This thought only increased when her foot almost went through the porch just by walking on it.

She was escorted to the dank basement of the crumbling house. It was littered with various old junk from around the mid-20th century, judging by how ancient it looked to Kat. The haphazardly placed junk and furniture made it difficult for someone of Kat’s size to traverse, yet easy enough for the house’s current inhabitants.

The cats placed her inside an old rusty dog kennel that was partly covered by a damp rug, which had gotten wet from the rainstorm the night before. It was a tight squeeze, forcing her to hunch over while sitting.

Upstairs, she could hear the cheers and hollers of the other strays celebrating her capture.

“Is this some sort of dungeon?” Kat asked, gripping her fluffy tail with one hand as not to let it touch a discolored pool of water next to her. Her other hand pinched her nose in a vain effort to block out the sharp stench that seemed to float about within the confines of the mildew-laden walls.

Boss stood before her, along with a gray Himalayan cat, whose face looked like it was smacked with a book with how flat it was.

“It is where we put cats who attempt to stir trouble and steal food for a time as punishment. So yes, you could say it is a dungeon of sorts. Though I am proud to say it has been used sparingly.”

“You don’t say,” she replied. “What do you plan on doing to me?”

“I do not know, yet,” he answered truthfully. “It is true that stories of you devouring cats, killing humans, and other various feats have been spread far and wide. But I am also certain that many of them are exaggerated. When I looked into your eyes earlier, I did not see the soul of someone with ill intent.” He turned his back to her. “Nevertheless, it is true that you did chase numerous strays over the past several weeks.”

Kat pouted. “I guess… But it wasn’t like I was trying to hurt anyone! I just wanted to talk!”

“I will keep that in mind when I deliberate with the others as to what your fate will be. In the meantime, you will be forced to stay here. Do not worry, for we will feed you and give you water.”

“And how long is that gonna take!” she yelled. “Am I really supposed to sit inside this cramped cage this whole time?!”

“Raising your voice at me will not help you!” Boss barked.

Kat quieted down.

Boss turned to the other cat in the basement, who had stayed silent this whole time. “Frank?”

The gray cat supposedly named Frank snorted his stuffy nose. “Yeah, Boss?” he said with a gurgly voice as phlegm had seemingly permanently attached itself to his throat.

“Keep an eye on her.”

“You got it,” he answered.

Boss walked over to the rickety wooden stairs and climbed back up toward the house.

Without Boss looking over him, Frank stretched out his back. “Welp! Looks like it’s just gonna be the two of us,” he said, seemingly relaxed despite Kat, the Diabolus Calico, being right in front of him. “Sorry about the cramped conditions, but it is what it is.”

“You’re not terrified of me?” she asked.

Frank chuckled. “I might not look it, but I like to think I’ve got a good judge of character. Even better than Boss. One look at you and I knew immediately that you were nothing but a harmless kitten. I’m sure whatever crazy stories that were going around were blown way out of proportion.”

He hopped onto the old tattered cloth sofa and sat on his butt between two cushions. His tail dangled between his legs as his posture slouched downward.

Kat was unsure if she felt the need to be offended by the sight. Her ears twitched as she heard an uproar of praise and cheers, which she figured was caused by the arrival of Boss to whatever sort of party they had going on. “Aren’t you disappointed?”

Frank raised an eyebrow. “Hrm?”

“Everyone’s upstairs having a party it sounds like, yet you’re stuck down here in this dank basement with me.”

“Bah, I’ve never been one for crowds,” he said, licking a paw and cleaning some gunk out of the corner of his eyes. “I’m more of the ‘company of myself,’ kinda guy. And nobody likes coming down here, so most days I get the entire basement to myself.” He chuckled. “They all gotta share space with one ‘nother, meanwhile I get to live like royalty with all this space.”

“Uh-huh,” Kat replied. She figured none of the other cats could stand the disgusting condition of the basement. “Then what about me being here? Doesn’t that annoy you that I’m invading your personal space?”

“Nah. It’s fine. What’s mine is yours, as the saying goes. Well, anything within the confines of that kennel you’re in.” He let out a hearty laugh, ending it with another snort of phlegm, and a hack to clear his throat. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry. You want anything?”

Kat shook her head.

“Then you cool with me eating in front of you?”

“You’re the prison guard here.”

Frank let out another hearty laugh, followed by a snort, and a cough. “Yeah. Guess I am! Hehe!” He walked over to a metal gutter that sat on a table next to the sofa. It led upward through the floor above them into the house proper. “Hey! Can I get some grub down here?” he yelled into it, smacking the side a few times with a series of bangs.

Moments later, Kat heard the sound of pellets being poured down the gutter like a chute. Dry cat food spat out the other end onto the table.

Frank smacked the gutter again. “Oh yeah. Send down a can of the wet stuff. Unopened.”

A short time later, a can of cat food clanged against the metal gutter on its way down. It rammed into the pile of dry cat food, firing off pellets in random directions. One managed to shoot its way into the kennel and bounce of Kat’s forehead to her annoyance.

“Here ya go,” Frank said, dropping the can of cat food in front of the kennel so Kat could reach it. “Just in case you get hungry later,” he winked.

Kat looked at the can. “Thank you,” she replied. Though she was uninterested in eating the offering, she did appreciate the gesture.

Frank hopped back onto the table and started eating. He munched on the pellets loudly, ignoring any and all manners. “This’s the good stuffs,” he said, his mouth full of food.

Every sloppy bite he chewed sent Kat’s fur standing on ends. She held her ears down to try and block him out.

Once he was finished eating, Frank hopped back onto to sofa and laid down on his back. “That was good,” he said, patting his stomach.

Not needing to hold her ears down anymore, Kat pulled out her phone. “Hey, is it cool if I use my phone?” she asked, holding it up.

Frank leaned up to look. “Oh, those bright rectangle thingamajiggers humans like to stare at?” He scratched his chin as he debated her request. “Hrmm. I don’t see why not. Just keep it quiet, is all.”

“Okay,” she responded as she unlocked her phone and muted it. She quickly got to texting her mom.

Mom! I need help!

After waiting ten minutes, her mom sent her a response. What’d you do?

Kat groaned. She instinctively tried to lean her head back in frustration, only to bump the top of the cage. I didn’t do anything! she replied. Well not intentionally anyway. I'm at the Kingdom of Cats that I mentioned earlier.

This time, the response was quicker. Oh good! Did they like the cat food that you brought?

Ludwig ripped the bag. Anyway, they think I’m a giant monster that’s been scaring them and they got me in a kennel in some nasty basement.

There was a much longer pause. In Kat’s mind, she thought maybe her mom was freaking out that her daughter was being held prisoner by a group of stray cats. Maybe she’s rushing out to get help at that very moment.

Finally, after much waiting, her mom replied: lol.

“It’s not funny!” Kat yelled into her phone.

Frank looked over. “Hm?”

Kat gave a forced laugh. “Oh! It’s nothing!” she said, not wanting to let him in on her escape plans. This is serious!!!! She texted back to her mom. I’m a literal prisoner right now!

If only you were as good in your schoolwork as you are in getting into trouble.

Kat pouted. Are you gonna help me or not????

I’ll be sure to stop by during visiting hours.

Kat desperately wanted to throw her phone across the room in frustration.

JK her mom texted back shortly after. Where you at?

Kat described the abandoned house.

Oh wow! That’s the old Frederikson house! Her mom replied. I wonder how their kids would take it knowing a bunch of cats are squatting on their property.

Are you coming? Kat texted.

Can it wait until after I close for the day? I’m pretty busy.

Once again, Kat restrained herself from throwing her phone. I have to stay here that long????

There was another long pause between messages. Kat figured someone came by the shop and needed help. While waiting, she hopped onto social media.

Sorry. Had to help someone, her mom finally texted. I’ll try to get things done as quickly as I can and text you when I’m heading your way. Okay?

The rescue effort seemed half-hearted at best, but Kat didn’t have much of a choice. She feared if she tried to make a dash for it herself, the cats would catch up to her and beat her up good for escaping. But if her mom shows up in her car, she’ll be able to get inside and out of harm’s way, then relax on the way home.

Fine, Kat texted.

Okay! Love you! her mom texted with a blowing kiss emoji.

Love you too, Kat responded.

Over the next two hours, she would browse the internet on her phone while awkwardly trying to change sitting positions to prevent herself from getting a cramp. Early on Frank would chitchat, but that ended when he wound up falling asleep while on duty. Not wanting to interrupt his slumber, Kat kept as quiet as possible.

Eventually, her phone started vibrating. Oh good! Mom’s finally coming, she thought.

What was displayed on her screen wasn’t a text message alert, but instead a severe storm warning, with potential flooding and strong winds. It was set to arrive in her county in half an hour.

“Oh crap,” Kat mumbled to herself in a hushed tone.

She looked up through the rusted metal bars of the kennel at the wooden first floor that hung above her. It creaked with every hint of motion. Bits of dust and wood particles would float down when a cat quickly scampered by or jumped down from something.

There’s no way this place is gonna hold up! she thought, seriously worrying for her life.

Kat took a screenshot of the severe thunderstorm warning and sent it to her mom, along with a plea for assistance ASAP. When there wasn’t a response in twenty seconds, she sent another text. And then another. It wasn’t long before she was rapidly firing texts.

Stop spamming my phone! Her mom responded. I already saw the warning and trying to close up so I can come get you. The more you keep sending me texts the longer it’ll take.

Kat ceased her attack.

Her mom sent another text. It’ll take about twenty minutes to get there, so I’ll be cutting it close. Be ready when I get there.

Okay, Kat responded, then put her phone away. She sat quietly in the kennel, counting the minutes. There was fear that if she tried escaping too early, the cats would chase her away from the house and her mom won’t be able to find her. Then she’d either get caught in the storm or get caught by the cats and subjected to a thousand scratches on top of getting caught in the storm. While one of the nearly identical outcomes was less punishing than the other, Kat didn’t want it either.

Besides, she understood that her mom would be pissed off if she drove all the way out here, only to not be around to be picked up. The talking to she’d get that night would be just as bad.

Instead of risking any of those outcomes, she decided to time her escape closer to when her mom would arrive.

I’ll just have to be careful when sneaking out of here, Kat thought to herself.

She played out her plan in her head, over and over: she would get out of the kennel and quietly sneak by Frank, who was still sleeping. The stairs were going to creak regardless of what she did, so she’ll move as quickly as possible to minimize the noise. Since she didn’t know who was where at the time, she’ll poke her head out from the door to the basement and look around. If the coast was clear, she’ll make a beeline for the door.

Sure, it wasn’t the greatest plan in the world, but it was the best Kat could think of under her current time crunch.

When there were three minutes until her mom’s supposed arrival, Kat undid the latch to the kennel, which she could’ve done all along, and stepped outside. She stretched her neck and back to help ease out some of the pain from sitting with terrible posture for so long.

Next came getting past Frank and heading up the stairwell that stood behind the sofa. Very carefully, Kat tiptoed her way across the basement so as not to bump into any of the junk and make noise. If not for her incredibly large tail, this task would have been much easier to execute.

Yes, she cheered to herself, making it to the stairwell.

Kat glanced down at Frank, who was loudly snoring away. She figured the best time to run up the stairs was at the apex of his snores. It would mask any of the creakings she’d make.

As she waited to figure out the pattern of his snoring, a loud rumble of thunder shook the house, spooking her.

“Eek!” she cried before grabbing her mouth with both hands. Her heart raced as it beat what felt like a hundred times a second.

Frank’s snoring ceased, as he mumbled something. Kat began to sweat, worried that her plan was already falling apart. But when Frank’s snoring resumed, she let out a heavy sigh of relief.

Once again, she studied the pattern, then ran halfway up the stairs. Each step on the stairs let out a sharp creaking noise. They were slightly louder than Frank’s snores, but with both sounds combined it wasn’t nearly as noticeable. During the next snore, she made her way to the top.

Success! She thought to herself. Now the tricky part.

Kat gripped the metal doorknob and gave it a twist, then slowly pushed the door open with a squeak of its hinges. A couple cats were resting on a counter, but she couldn’t see anyone that was awake.

She motioned to open the door further when she quickly stopped herself. Two cats strutted by with their tails up in the air just past the basement door. Luckily, it didn’t seem either of them noticed Kat’s presence.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door slightly more open and poked her head completely out of the basement. Other than the cats napping, the coast appeared clear.

Now’s my chance! Kat thought.

The doorway that she took when she arrived was wide open. All she had to do was dash as fast as she could, go through the living room, then out the front door.

She bolted.

Then the floor underneath her gave way, collapsing into the basement below her.

“Aaah!” she screamed at the top of her lungs as she fell. She clawed at the edge of the floor to pull herself up. This resulted in that chunk of the floor dropping down with her in tow.

The resulting crash and scream alerted every stray cat. A plume of dust shot up from the hole in the kitchen from the basement as the sound of piles of junk collapsed with a series of clanks and thuds.

Numerous cats approached the newly formed hole to investigate what had happened. When the dust settled, they saw Kat lying on the sofa, rubbing her head in pain.

“Diabolus Calico!” a cat cried.

“It attacked Frank!”

Kat sat up. “What’re you talking about?! I didn’t--”

Frank was in a daze, stuck underneath Kat’s butt.

“Ack!” she squeaked while scrambling to get off him.

“Now it’s trying to escape!” cried out a cat.

“Get it!”

Several cats leaped down into the basement, their claws extended as they launched an assault on Kat.

Kat’s eyes widened. “Oh crap!”

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