Chapter 13:

013 ┃ Cat-astrophe and Consequences

The Isle of the Forgotten

Dawn crashed into the window of a nearby house, shattering it upon impact. Spud held his breath.

“Dawn!” he cried out in desperation. The girl had fallen into the house, so he couldn't know if she was okay. What if she had hit her head and was unconscious? What would happen to him then?

The stalker let out a shriek that made him want to cover his ears. He couldn't stay still. Making sure the cat was safely tucked in his bag, Spud came out of his hiding place and ran full speed to the house where Dawn had crashed.

No, it wasn't just for her safety. If something happened to Dawn, of course, he would feel sad. After all, she had taken him in even when she knew nothing about him. She had given him a place to live and food and water. She had to be okay.

The beast quickly identified him. Amidst convulsions, it began to run with its six legs towards where he was.

Spud arrived in time to look through the glass that his companion had just gone through. Inside the house, lying motionless on the floor with red stains all over her body, was the girl.

"No! Dawn!” Spud shouted, bringing a hand to his mouth. She was dead. She had died because of him.

He didn't have time to stay and cry, as the stalker lunged at him in a matter of moments. Spud only had time to throw himself to the ground, trying to protect his bag with his body. The creature passed by and crashed into the ruins of the structure, causing what was left of it to collapse on it.

Taking advantage of those seconds, Spud stood up. His head was racing a mile a minute, and he couldn't think clearly. He could only see the image of Dawn lying on the floor.

Holding back tears, he started running towards the forest. If he could at least make it to Dawn's house…

But the stalker quickly recomposed itself. It shook the debris off of itself as if it were nothing and set identified Spud again. In less than a second, it was chasing him again.

The boy set his sights on the forest. Even if he managed to get there, his pursuer had already seen him. It was impossible that it would stop chasing him.

The screech became deafening as the stalker lunged at him again. Now that he hadn't seen it coming, it hit him full on. He abruptly hit the ground as the stalker immobilized his limbs and brought its face close to his. Spud got a detailed look at the humanoid grimace of horror of the stalker that was going to kill him. It roared so loud that Spud thought his head was going to explode. He felt his entire body tremble. He was going to die.

Suddenly, the stalker's head fell right next to him. A black fluid gushed from the wound, covering him completely. A strong leg pushed the stalker's body aside, freeing Spud from its grasp.

Before he could wonder what had happened, Dawn appeared in his field of vision. Half of her face was covered in blood, as was part of her clothes. Her previously icy expression now showed such deep anger that it made his blood run cold.

“Dawn!” Spud called out, unable to contain the smile that formed on his face. He got up as fast as he could while wiping the black fluid from his face. He couldn't help but notice the large amount of blood that covered his companion, “Are you okay? Your wounds…”

Dawn simply stared at him for a few seconds. It looked as if she were weighing whether or not to kill him.

“They're not deep.”

The girl's tone cut him like a knife.

“Listen, I know you're angry. And rightly so. But I can explain…” Spud began to justify himself, gesturing as he tried to think of an answer that wouldn't forever doom his relationship with the girl.

“Shut up!” she snapped, gripping her spear so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

Spud stopped talking immediately. He had disobeyed the girl enough already and had nearly killed them both. He lowered his gaze.

“You promised me you'd be back before dark. I told you it was dangerous to come here alone and you didn't want to listen. We could have died!” the girl spat out, her tone a mix of anger and pain, “And all because you were wasting time with those useless books.”

“It's not because of that. I can explain…”

“I said shut up,” she snapped aggressively, “I shouldn't have trusted you. Clearly, I made a mistake in letting you live with…”

A sharp noise interrupted the girl's scolding, leaving her confused. She was going to continue, but again the sound interrupted her. Spud rummaged in his bag nervously.

“Now's not the time, little one,” the boy whispered, trying to silence the sound.

“What was that?” asked Dawn, even more confused than before.

“I… I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to be late, I promise, but something unexpected happened on the way back…” Spud apologized as he took the tiny feline out of his bag.

Dawn watched him with a surprised expression. She seemed too astounded to speak.

“I saw him trapped high up on a beam and didn't know what to do,” Spud justified as the kitten played with his finger, “I was going to leave… but I remembered that you like cats and I thought you wouldn't abandon him. I didn't imagine something like this would happen. I'm sorry.”

Dawn looked at the cat and then at him. It seemed that she was not quite processing what had just happened.

“Let me see if I got this right. Are you saying that you broke your promise and we nearly died… because you stopped to rescue a cat?” the girl asked.

“Yes,” he summarized. Ready for her to continue scolding him. There was silence for a few seconds. He could already imagine the insults he was about to receive...

Instead, Dawn began to laugh. At first, it was a giggle, but in an instant, it turned into loud laughter.

Now it was Spud's turn to be confused. He would have understood any reaction except that one. The girl even had to lean on her spear to keep from falling to the ground from laughter.

“I don't get it. Why are you laughing?” he asked with confusion.

“I don't know…” she replied between laughs, “I just didn't expect you to be that kind of person.”

Spud and the kitten watched the girl laugh, not quite sure how to react.

"But I broke my promise. You got hurt because of me. Shouldn't you be angry?" the boy justified. The girl gradually stopped laughing.

"I should, but... I couldn't get mad at someone for rescuing a kitten," answered the girl. Her expression settled into a radiant smile that warmed Spud's heart.

The boy couldn't help but blush at his companion's expression.

"So, you let me keep living with you?" he asked, uncertain.

"Of course. Who else is going to take care of the garden?" she replied, now in good spirits. Her attitude was quite different from the cold and edgy Dawn he knew, although Spud couldn't say he disliked it.

"Thank you," he muttered, looking at the kitten he had in his hands, "And what will we do with him?"

"He’ll live with us, obviously. We can't leave him here after all we've been through because of him," argued Dawn, reaching out to stroke the small feline's head.

With a slight smile, Dawn gestured to Spud to follow her and began to head toward the forest.

"Let's go. We should go back if we don't want to get attacked again."

Spud remained still for a few seconds. He didn't know how, but everything had turned out well. He had escaped death and Dawn's reprimand and it even seemed that they were now a bit closer. He had gotten lucky.

"Are you coming or do I have to drag you?" the girl called out.

Spud hurried to put the kitten back in the bag and run to where Dawn was. He noticed that she didn't move away when he walked beside her.

"If it’s going to live with us, we'll have to think of a name," Spud commented, with a small smile.

"You really like names, don't you, potato boy?" the girl joked.

"Oh, no. Please, don't call me that."

"Why? I like it."

A. Hoshino