A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing
After the storm had passed, the stray cats returned to the ruins to salvage what they could. The rain had sadly ruined most of the supplies. Once they secured what they could, they set out to find a new place to call home, following the lead of Boss.
Over a week passed without much progress, however. They were incredibly fortunate to have found a fully furnished shelter the first time around, as weathered as it was. Attempts at finding anything even a fraction as good was proving difficult. Some cats were starting to think that they weren’t going to find another place to call home; that their efforts were in vain.
“Maybe it would be best to abandon the Kingdom of Cats.”
These words started to spread in hushed tones amongst some of the better-abled strays. They were tired of having to slow down to help the old, weak, and sick members of the kingdom, as it impeded efforts in finding a new home. Some didn’t even see the real need for a place to call “home” in the first place. They could easily manage themselves just fine by wandering around, scavenging, and hunting for food.
Despite that, they were willing to hold out in hopes that Boss would figure something out. Surely he of all cats could find a new place for them.
“Let’s leave it to Boss.”
“Yeah. Boss can handle this.”
“If anyone can straighten things out, it’s Boss.”
Everyone had put all their faith in Boss.
And Boss was also painfully aware of the pressure and burden that had been placed on his shoulders. Their safety and continued existence rested in his paws. If he were to fail, the stronger strays would abandon the weak, young, and old. Even he knew he couldn’t possibly take care of all of them on his own. He needed everyone’s cooperation to continue the success of the Kingdom of Cats.
Is my dream of a safe haven for every cat going to end in such an unceremonious way? Boss thought one night. He quickly shook his head, ignoring his doubts.
They had set up camp for the night in a small barn, after obtaining permission from the resident cats. However, they would have to vacate before dawn when their owners would wake up and arrive. There was a risk that they would see them as intruders and capture them. Or worse.
“Are you doing okay?”
Boss looked up at the young female cat, who appeared worried at his somber expression.
“I’m doing fine. Do not worry yourself on my behalf. Rest and take it easy, as we will need to head out before the sun rises.”
She nodded, then went back over to another group of cats huddled together on a pile of hay meant to feed the cows. The cows were unhappy with the intruders sleeping atop their food, but not enough to do anything about it.
Boss got up and stretched his legs, then headed for the front door, which was cracked open to allow the strays to slip in and out with ease. Resting outside was Marshmallow, who volunteered to keep watch. When he saw Boss walk by, he sat up.
“Is something the matter?” he asked.
“Just going out for a bit for fresh air. Keep watch of the others.”
Marshmallow nodded, then laid back down, eyeing Boss as he walked down the path towards the road. Moments later a small, white Birman kitten tiptoed out of the barn.
“Hold it!” he commanded.
The kitten froze in place like a deer caught in headlights.
“And just where do you think you’re going, little lady?”
“...Bathroom,” she lied.
“Then I’m coming with you. I can’t let you go wandering off alone. It’s dangerous.”
“Eeww!” she cringed, sticking out her tongue. “I don’t want an old man watching me pee!”
Marshmallow huffed, becoming flustered at the accusation. “I-I wasn’t going to… Fine,” he said, not wanting to complicate things further. “Then go with one of the older women.”
“But I gotta go noooow!” she cried.
Marshmallow started walking into the barn. “It will just take a few seconds to find someone.”
“I can’t hold it!”
“Just wait a—”
“I’m gonna blow!”
Marshmallow gave up. “Okay! Okay! Just go!”
The girl smiled, then scampered off around the corner of the barn.
Marshmallow laid back down, resting his head on his front paws. He grumbled softly about the kitten’s assertions. “I’m no pervert. Nor old!”
About a minute later, he saw a shadow run past from the opposite side of the barn from the corner of his eye. When he turned, he caught sight of the kitten scurrying in the direction that Boss had walked off to.
“That little…” he cursed. “She pulled a fast one on me!”
He quickly gave chase.
Boss exited the farm and started strolling down the gravel road under the moonlight. The night air was warm and still, causing an eerie calmness. Crickets chirped away seemingly without a care. One would hop out of the grass alongside the barbed wire fence, then leap across the road.
Finally alone, Boss felt he could relax. There was nobody he had to posture in front of, nor an image to maintain. He laid down on his back amidst the grass and looked up at the moon. That night it was incredibly bright. No clouds were in sight to block its glow.
“A full moon,” he said to himself softly. “How nice.”
He closed his eyes, losing himself in the darkness. “Am I doing the right thing?” he asked himself. “Are my efforts even worth it?”
Self-doubt clouded his mind as he fell into a spiral of depression. He hadn’t felt such despair since before he established the Kingdom of Cats. And now it seemed to be on the verge of disbanding. He wondered if he could hold it all together for much longer. It was becoming too much for him to handle.
His mind drifted further and further into an abyss. A runaway train on a track leading into the Grand Canyon, soon to fall and crash spectacularly.
“Hah!” a high-pitched voice yelled.
A soft body fell on top of Boss’ underbelly, snapping him out of his daze. “Hm?”
“You left yourself exposed!” she said cheerfully. “That’s how strays get captured, you know!”
Boss let out a laugh. He was being disciplined by a child with the same warning he has given many times before. “You’re right,” he replied. “That I did.”
The kitten hopped off, leaving her back open to him.
“But so did you!” he said with a fake menacing tone as he captured the kitten.
She giggled. “Oh no! I’ve been caught!”
The two went back and forth for a minute, playing with one another. Shortly after, Marshmallow came running up, exhausted. “You… you get back here!” he said, before collapsing to get his breath. “Oh! Boss! Good… good thing you’re here!”
“Is something the matter?” Boss asked.
“She… she ran off!” he said, pointing at the kitten. “I was… coming to get her.”
Boss turned to the kitten, expressing concern. “Is what he said true?”
The kitten stuck her tongue out with a smile. But when she saw Boss’ glare, she dropped the act. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I saw you were sad and wanted to cheer you up!”
Marshmallow stood up. “That’s doesn’t give you a right to lie to me and—”
“It’s fine,” Boss said. “I’ll take it from here. Go back to the others.”
“Did you come running after her without finding someone to stand guard and watch the barn?”
Boss was right. Nobody was watching the front entrance anymore. A human could appear at any moment, or a wild coyote, and launch a surprise attack. “R-right. I’ll be heading back.” He glared at the kitten for making a fool of him, then turned and huffed back to the barn.
With Marshmallow gone, Boss turned his attention back to the kitten. “What you did was very reckless. You understand that?”
The kitten pouted, lowering her head. “I just wanted to cheer you up.”
“You’ll have to be punished for disobeying Marshmallow and leaving the group unsupervised.”
“But I…!” the kitten objected.
The kitten bit her lip, becoming frustrated. All she wanted to do was make Boss happy.
“Also,” Boss said.
The kitten felt a gentle pat on her head.
“Thank you,” Boss smiled.
The kitten looked up. Her frustration melted away and was replaced with her usual cheerful self. “You’re welcome!”
“How about the two of us go on a small walk before heading back?”
The kitten’s eyes grew big with excitement. “Okay!” she yelled, bursting with energy at the idea of getting to spend time with Boss, leader of the Kingdom of Cats.
Boss chuckled as the two set off into the night. It is worth it, he thought to himself.
The kitten periodically ran ahead of Boss, only to notice and run back, brushing up against him.
“So tell me, how do you feel about what happened to our home?” Boss asked.
“Hmm. At first I was upset, but traveling around with everyone has been a lot of fun! It’s like we’re going on a new trip! And in the end we’ll have a new home!”
Boss smiled. “I see. And what kind of place would you like for us to settle?”
“A farm!” she answered immediately.
The kitten nodded. “I like farms. Especially gardens! All the different colors are pretty! Though the humans then come and take them away, which is a bummer. Also! Those giant fields on farms are way easier to run around in! The area around the old house was a mess. There was a few times I got lost just walking around. But not on farms! I never get lost!”
Boss nodded his head as he listened. “I see,” he replied. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
The kitten’s eyes sparkled. “Really?! Yay!” she cheered, jumping for joy. “We’re gonna live on a farm!”
There was no way they’d be able to live on a farm. Not the entirety of the Kingdom of Cats, anyway. But he also didn’t feel the need to squash a young one’s dreams.
“Oh, right!” the kitten said, changing the subject. “My birthday’s coming up!”
“Is that so?” Boss asked, knowing full well it was another six days.
“I’m finally gonna get a name, right?!”
Boss laughed. “Yes, you will. And we’ll have a celebration as well! That is why we need to find a new home soon so we can prepare for it.”
The kitten hopped onto Boss’ back. “Have you decided on one for me?”
Boss stopped walking. “You know, I haven’t yet. What sort of name would you like to have?”
The kitten slid off Boss, plopping onto the ground. “Something amazing!” she said. “Also cute! But ferocious sounding! Ooh! And heroic! And and, inspiring!”
Boss couldn’t help but let out a huge laugh. “Ha! My, that sure is a lot of different types of names you’re asking for.”
“Yeah,” the kitten agreed. “In that case, I don’t care!”
“You don’t care?” Boss asked.
“Not like that,” the kitten quickly clarified. “I mean I don’t care what kind of name I get. Whatever one you give me will be great!”
“I’ll be sure to—”
A gust of wind suddenly whipped up the surrounding cornfield, cutting Boss off mid-sentence. A chill ran down his spine as he felt something was off in the atmosphere. He couldn’t pin down what exactly, but something lingered in the air that made him feel uneasy. But there didn’t seem to be anything nearby to warrant such wariness. Could something be lurking within the cornfields? A predator? No, that isn’t it, Boss thought.
His ears twitched as he heard dogs barking mixed with what seemed like a young kitten crying. He swung his head left and right, trying to figure out where it was coming from.
“What is it?” the kitten asked.
“Get into the cornfield and hide,” he ordered before zooming down the road.
“Where are you going?!” the kitten yelled as Boss ran as fast as he could.
“Hang on!” he shouted, hoping the kitten in danger could hear him.
As he ran, he realized that the sound was coming from within the cornfield, and hopped over the barbed wire fence. Corn stalks zoomed past as he sped down the open path, kicking up dirt behind him. Perhaps the kitten was one of the Kingdom of Cats that had managed to slip by Marshmallow just as the other had. Or was it one that belonged to the farm? Maybe a new stray that had found itself in danger.
None of that made much of a difference, however. Boss was going to help them regardless. Even as the barking slowly became more and more distorted, rumbling the earth beneath him, Boss didn’t slow down. These monstrous dogs could be the size of mountains for all he cared. As long as he could breathe, he was gonna help any cat in need. No matter the circumstances.
“...What the?!” Boss said, skidding to a halt.
The dogs were as dark as night, mixing with the shadows of the corn stalks. Each bark sent a shockwave through his body. These were no ordinary wild dogs, he understood. They were not to be trifled with. But the moment he laid eyes on a small kitten with black and white fur, glowing from the small pocket of moonlight that managed to poke through the vegetation, he jumped into action.
Boss dove in front of the helpless kitten and hissed at the wild dogs that were four times his size. Their white, drool-dripping fangs shone brightly against the darkness of their fur like they were their own source of light.
“If you want to lay your teeth into this child, then you’re gonna have to go through me, first!” Boss barked back.
As commanded, the dogs struck at Boss, attempting to devour him, but he easily vaulted over them and began speeding back to the road. When he looked back and saw that every single dog was chasing him, he smiled. Good, he thought. Now’s your chance, little one. Escape while you can.
The dogs would manage to gain ground on Boss and attempt to attack him, but he was too slippery for them. Even when they tried to be clever and run on the opposite of the corn stalks then jump through them like specters, they were no match for Boss’ quick timing.
It wasn’t long before Boss managed to lead the pack of dogs out onto the road, where he had more ground to fight back. He stood in the middle of the road as one by one the dogs jumped over the barbed wire fence, then surrounded him.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves, ganging up on such a small, defenseless creature such as that! Where is your pride as dogs!” Boss chided.
The dogs did not reply with words, but with a biting lunge. They each attempted to clamp down onto Boss’ flesh. Despite their efforts, Boss always outmaneuvered them. He studied their movements, trying to figure out when would be the best time to strike back. It was going to have to be soon, as even he only had so much stamina.
“You think I haven’t fought against worse odds before?!” Boss taunted. “Why don’t you all come at me at once!”
Once again, the dogs circled him, seeming to take interest in his suggestion.
This is it, Boss thought. He prepared himself to finally strike back.
But then, popping out of the cornfield was a kitten. Not the one he was trying to rescue, but the one who had come out for a walk with him.
His eyes widened when he saw her small figure.
“Boss!” she yelled.
One of the dogs heard her call and immediately spun around to attack.
“No!!!” Boss cried out.
There wasn’t going to be enough time for him to reach the kitten, nor stop the dog. The child who was days away from her birthday was going to be ripped to shreds, and there was nothing he could do.
Even so, he ran. He kicked his feet as fast as he could in what was going to be a futile effort.
The dog jumped at the kitten, its jaws wide open.
“Eek!” the kitten cried, turning her head in fear and wildly swiping her claws before her.
Her tiny paw hit the dog’s nose, causing it to burst into an explosion of multi-colored confetti as the sound of a party blower went off.
The kitten jumped in surprise. Her heart raced as bits of paper surrounded her.
Boss stopped in his tracks, unsure of what he had just witnessed.
The kitten was startled but snapped out of it when she saw more dogs zoning in onto Boss. “Behind you!” she cried.
He turned around. The dogs were mid-flight, lunging at him. A battle cry bellowed out from the bottom of Boss’ gut as he slashed the dogs with his sharp-as-blades claws.
Again, an explosion of confetti and a party blower going off.
The dogs were no more, having been reduced bits of paper, before being blown away by the wind. A fanfare played for the victorious duo.
“Umm, Boss?” the kitten asked, her voice quivering in fear. “What’s going on?”
“Get closer,” he answered, pulling the kitten to his side. He had no answer to give, but he wasn’t sure if they were out of danger.“Well, well, well, well, WELL!” said a voice with the sound of a slow clap.