1 night, when Autumn & Edgar woke from troubled dreams, they found themselves transformed into cats. Don’t ask me how it happened: I had nothing to do with it. Everyone just assumes I’m responsible for every li’l problem that happens round here, & it isn’t true.
Anyway, they were pawing through the rainy streets o’ Boskeopolis after midnight in search o’ precious fish bones, as they did every night. Since the streetlamps were still on, they slunk near the walls o’ the brick buildings round the streetlamps to avoid its spotlight as much as possible.
Despite it being so late, she could hear a cacophony o’ cat hisses & dog barks surrounding her, muffled by the pattering rain; & though the moon was only a slivered crescent, laying down li’l light, the streetlights still seeped toward them, which troubled her.
“Meow meow meow meow,” Edgar murmured. However, translating that into English, he said, “D’you have any ideas for what we should do 1st?”
Autumn stopped. She glanced over to her left @ the shop ’cross the street. Its sign said, “Mel’s Archaic Deli.” Though its windows were impossible to see through due to the yellow light shining on them, Autumn knew there’d be a treasure trove o’ treasure inside.
She tilted her head @ the deli. “That way,” she whispered.
They looked down each side o’ the street to ensure a lone car wasn’t driving by @ that moment, & then bolted to the other side. Autumn stopped just in front o’ the deli & looked it up & down, examining it for any possible flaws. Then she paced round the deli, over the fence to its side, fading into the darkness from Edgar’s sights.
Meanwhile, Edgar stood in the middle o’ the sidewalk, shaking in the cold rain & sliding his eyes ’long the rest o’ the city for clue o’ cat or dog. Trying to forget these fears, Edgar licked his bony paws & started rubbing his face clean, only to be interrupted by Autumn’s voice:
“Psst! Edgar, over here!” she whispered.
Edgar stopped his bath & crouched for a jump, hesitant.
I hope I don’t mess this up as usual.
When he leapt, his upper body barely made it over the fence. He scrambled the rest o’ the way over, teetering ’long the leaf-thin fence top.
He looked up & saw Autumn on the roof, standing next to a boxy gray pipe, its yawning maw puffing smoke into the air like a cancerous toad. After a short struggle hopping onto the roof, he scampered over to her.
“I think this will lead us inside,” she whispered.
“Will it be safe?” Edgar asked.
“I don’t see why not. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Well, I mean, it’s blowing steam. Doesn’t that mean there’s probably something hot inside?”
Autumn flicked her paw. “Bah. I’m not letting a li’l temperature-based discomfort restrain me from my riches. Actually, though, perhaps you should stay here & guard.”
“You sure? I mean, I’ll go in if you want—”
“No. It’ll only be a minute,” Autumn said.
With that, Autumn sprung into the mouth o’ the metal monster, hitting the flimsy tin bottom ’bout a meter below. She tried to go forward, but hit a wall, forcing her to turn round to continue. ’Twas oil-black inside without light, so Autumn had to feel her way through.
Occasionally she would feel her paws trip over grated bars split by holes, opening her to somewhat fresher air than the cramped stale haze saturating the rest o’ the vent. The dim blue lamps below were just bright ’nough that a drop o’ light spilled in, granting her a vague gaze into the room below &, mo’ importantly, a glimpse @ the grate itself.
She could faintly see that ’twas screwed down tightly. She poked a claw in a screw & twisted hard till she felt it loosen. She did the same for the rest, causing her timeless, quiet void on the outside to suddenly awaken, slamming down gainst the ground without a beat. She backed ’way for a minute, just in case there was a witness. Not a shadow stirred—though some shook for a while.
She surveyed the place @ an ambling pace. Though the fridges were all shut, she could still sense the icy air permeating them. She went up to the nearest fridge, pressed her face gainst the fogged door, & gaped @ the honeyed hams, T-bone steaks, & woolly-mammoth burgers.
She hopped up, snatched the handle o’ the door, & kicked the frame o’ the door, pushing her & the door back. As it opened, it released a flurry o’ frigid air like a flood.
Then sirens blared.
“INTRUDER! INTRUDER!” buzzed a speaker she’d neglected to see ’bove.
She heard metal scratch metal & rotated to see a door she’d also failed to see flip up, revealing a black room. A moment later, she watched a robot a foot taller than she was zoom toward her with its C-shaped pincers stretched straight in front o’ it. She couldn’t discern what color ’twas s’posed to be, for everything appeared cobalt in the dim tinted light; but she did know that ’twas sloppily constructed from what seemed to be objects its inventor happened to find @ the time: bent tin cans, vacuum tubes unseen since the 1960s, sewer pipes, microwaves, toasters, & old boxy gray heaters. Its head was an old cathode monitor with 2 beads glued @ the top for eyes. That which was not soldered together with screws & bolts was wrapped together in tin foil & black electrical tape.
Its eyes glowed red, but unmoving, as if unaware o’ Autumn. However, its legs tilted in her direction as she moved so that it always followed her, gliding forward like a vacuum.
When she realized it wasn’t going to stop by itself anytime soon, she decided her only choice was to halt it herself. As she aimed ’way from the corner in which she was headed, she stared @ the robot & analyzed it: she inferred by the strips o’ tape & foil hanging off, the shaking screws, & the way certain parts would wobble as it moved that the robot would not be difficult to break apart. She just needed to target the right parts.
She rushed @ the tumbling bot & snatched @ the piece o’ tape hanging off its right leg with her mouth, pulling it as tight as possible as she backed ’way. The tape caught, throwing Autumn & the bot into a tug-o-war battle the bot was likely unaware of.
Though the robot was fast in its forward motion, ’twas sluggish in rotation, & by the time it turned round, Autumn had already been pulling on its tape for a few seconds. It finally zoomed after Autumn ’gain, only for her to zip past it yet ’gain, yanking hard o’ the tape once mo’—so much that it flung off the object that ’twas attached to: the can that comprised the robot’s right calf. With it gone, the robot’s right leg fell into itself like a broken Jenga tower. Nonetheless, the robot was still able to propel itself just as well, just with its right side leaning in farther than its left.
As it ran after Autumn ’gain, she paced back & examined it once mo’, trying to decide where she should strike next. That was when she saw that the robot wobbled the most near the left side o’ where its head connected with its body.
She charged toward it & bounded @ the spot, only for the robot’s left mandible to reach up & grasp her round the stomach tightly. She clawed frantically & hissed, but its brass hand was much too hard to be damaged, & its ears were immune to hisses.
The robot skid toward the door & said in a monotone voice, “THE BAD INTRUDER SHALL NOW BE SENT AWAY FROM THE PREMESIS.”
It stopped @ the door & pressed the button next to it with its free hand to make the door flap open automatically. Then the robot lifted Autumn up to toss her out.
As it did, Autumn found her face rise right beside the robot’s head. She made as hard a swipe as she could gainst the wavering gap ’tween its head & body. The head rocked rightward with a crackle, revealing a nest o’ colored wires. Autumn quickly clutched them with both hands just as the robot was flinging its hand to throw her.
However, its throw turned out to be a flop: its hand stopped mid-swing, & only loosened ’nough for Autumn to struggle free. When she reached the ground ’gain, she looked up & saw that the robot was motionless, its beady eyes a dull red.
She scampered back inside & went straight for the fridges, opening them & nabbing as many steaks & hams as she could drag.
She returned to the door & called outside, “Psst! Edgar! You out there?”
She heard something plunk on metal, & then heard the creaking o’ wood. Seconds later Edgar was trotting toward her. He stopped just in front o’ her to catch his breath.
’Fore he could speak, Autumn whispered, “Grab some o’ this meat & let’s scram.”
After Autumn ate the heaviest piece o’ meat—since Edgar was a skeletal cat, he didn’t need to eat—they both dragged the rest o’ the meat with them down the lonely streets o’ Boskeopolis. Both o’ their ears drooped & their whiskers sagged—& Autumn’s fur flattened—under the pour o’ rain still harassing the city. Though she found its chill mildly annoying, what stressed Autumn the most was the risk o’ spoiling her treasure; so she tried to speed them ’long to their hideout as quickly as she could.
The streets were mute, save a few stray candy wrappers blowing in the storm. Not even a single car passed. This silence did not sooth Autumn, but in fact heightened her anxiety ’bout the dangers that were lurking in the shadows ’hind trash cans & in the wind-rustled bushes. Silence was eerie; silence was suspicious.
Not far in their long trek, she heard a creaky rattling ’hind her & swung 360°, ready but edgy for battle. ’Stead, she saw that ’twas Edgar’s shivering that caused the noise.
“You cold?” she whispered.
Edgar shook his head.
“I think we may not be the only ones round here.” Autumn could detect strain in his tone.
She scrutinized their surroundings &, sure ’nough, the shadows appeared to move on their own, without light’s guidance. She continued twirling round, looking @ everything, till she glimpsed a pair o’ yellow eyes gazing @ her from the void o’ a close alley. They neared till they entered the light, revealing a broad gray face ’hind them.
“I see you’re bold, trespassing on my property despite your past transgressions—& with riches, too!” the cat creaked in a meow that sounded like clamping bear trap.
Autumn didn’t reply in words, delivering only a hiss in his direction. Having done that, she continued her walk, ignoring the gray cat.
But as she feared, she soon witnessed cats o’ various colors, sizes, & species emerge from the gloom, pacing toward her slowly. She turned her head left & right to see that they were coming from every direction, circling them.
Edgar’s bone-chattering worsened. He leaned up to Autumn & whispered, “What do we do now?”
Autumn turned back to the gray cat, who was now lying front-paws forward on the opposite sidewalk with his face resting on the ground & a smug smile.
“So I s’pose you’re too much o’ a ‘fraidy, uh…” Autumn paused to better plan her words. “I s’pose you’re too much o’ a coward to fight us fairly, so you rely on a gang o’ thugs to do your work for you.”
The gray cat yawned, waving a paw in front o’ its widened mouth.
“Success is for those who play wise, not fair,” he said. “’Sides, it is by their own volition that they fight you—that is, if they want that food you’ve got there hanging from your mouths. I’m just glad to show them the opportunity in return for the sight o’ a transgressor finally getting her rightful punishment.”
Translation: too bad, eat a dick, Autumn mused. This will be a problem.
They were closing in, & Autumn was just beginning to get edgy, when she felt a pair o’ paws drill into her from her left in a diving charge, knocking her down on her other side.
“Autumn?” Edgar cried.
He was silenced by ’nother cat jumping into him & pushing him down. His assailant wasted no time digging into Edgar’s meat, while Edgar used the delay to slink ’way.
Meanwhile, 2 cats were scratching & biting @ Autumn while she tried to pull the meat ’way from them & claw them back @ the same time. The mo’ they fought, the harder she found it to keep this up.
Then, as her eyes flitted up @ her environment, she glanced a few cats surrounding Edgar, causing him to emit a low squeak. She scrambled to devise a way to protect him without losing her meat when she saw them all attack Edgar @ once. @ that she dropped the meat & bit her way out o’ her 2 assaulter’s trap, & then pounced @ the 3 attacking Edgar.
The rest o’ the cats joined—all save the gray cat, who began licking his paws as he watched the scene in amusement—& a brawl was sparked, leaving an unintelligible mess o’ wrangling fur & claws in the middle o’ the street. During the madness, Autumn felt tufts yanked out o’ her fur, the edge o’ 1 o’ her ears bitten off, & 1 o’ her eyes slashed.
She realized the tangle had a good side to it, too, though: ’twas so impossible for any cats to see anything that Autumn was able to drag Edgar—yanking him by 1 o’ his bony ears—out o’ the fight in secrecy & ’scape.
The 1st one to notice their flight was the big gray cat, whose eyes glazed ’way from the tumble @ the sight o’ movement in the corner o’ his eyes. However, by the time he called for the others to stop them, Autumn & Edgar had already disappeared.
“You idiots! How could you let them ’scape?” he shouted @ the others.
“Who cares? They left the steak ’hind,” 1 o’ them said as he started biting into the steak, only for ’nother cat to tackle him & start biting into the steak, too. ’Nother battle was soon lit.
The gray cat was ’bout to continue chiding them while they fought, lecture them on the importance o’ punishing those who mess with them, but soon gave up & lowered his head on his paws, drifting off to sleep.
The rain was so heavy now that Autumn could barely see in front o’ her, the city engulfed in an opaque gray mist; & with every step she committed, leftover water splashed straight into her face. They trudged so slow, they may as well have been swimming.
She repeatedly looked ’hind her to ensure Edgar was following, & every time let out a sigh o’ relief when she saw his friendly black eyeholes stare back @ her.
1 time she turned to look @ him, he said with a voice hoarse from the cold, “So… Where are we going now?” just before a sneeze.
“@ 1st I was just trying to get ’way from those other cats as fast as possible; but now, I s’pose, would be the ample time to search for shelter.”
Such search was difficult when the whole city appeared to be painted in gray upon gray. They did, however, manage to find a grass patch in the back o’ an alley with a flat hole @ the end. She sniffed inside & discovered a tart odor similar to that she’d encounter in dumpsters or trash cans, but stronger & less varied.
It’s worth the risk, considering the situation we’re in.
She squeezed inside, hoping whatever was in that black abyss would be safe. Her paws hit concrete. She decided ’twas safe ’nough.
While calling Edgar to join her, she carefully moved closer to the hole till she found the wall. She curled up gainst it & whispered for Edgar ’gain. He answered & soon curled up next to her. Then they drifted off to sleep.
Autumn had hoped to sleep till deep in the night tomorrow, but awoke with light, albeit dim, still oozing in through the opening. With the new light, she could glimpse ’nough inside her hideout to see that ’twas a sewer, with opaque green-brown water slogging in the direction she faced.
She did not spend much though on that feature, for she soon saw a new portion o’ her environ much mo’ urgent: the cats she met last night were surrounding them, visible only by their tall, jagged shadows spread ’cross the ground before her.
There were many actions she could perform: run, wake Edgar, charge after them, run; but she did none. ’Stead, she found her body paralyzed, her yawning eyes staring straight @ the shadows. Oddly, they seemed to do the same; the shadows flickered due to wavering light coming in, but nothing else. She waited for them to spring, but they remained still; she waited for them to speak, but they said aught.
She stepped forward an centimeter. Then ’nother centimeter. & then ’nother. She concentrated on the shadows & detected that they appeared askew. @ 1st she figured ’twas just due to the way shadows were naturally distorted by light; but now that she was nearer, physically & attentively, she realized that they didn’t truly look much like cats @ all.
To be sure, she paced the remaining way, a li’l less cautious than before. When she reached the shadows, her body blocked all illumination from passing through, causing them all to merge into 1 puddle o’ darkness. What she felt there was a lump o’ concrete contorted into the form o’ many protruding points & plates that she couldn’t interpret.
But what she did understand was that this was the source o’ the shadows, & that she & Edgar were still alone. She let out a sigh o’ relief & returned to her spot next to Edgar.
She rested her head on her paws & pondered over where they should rob that night, knowing she’d never be able to get any sleep.
However, she had li’l time to ruminate, for Edgar woke soon, too.
“O, good morning, Autumn,” he meowed as he stretched. “What’re we doing tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Edgar: collect mo’ meat. We’ll have to wait till it gets darker, though.”
Edgar nodded & proceeded to lick his paws.
After a few licks, he stopped & turned to Autumn. “How’s your ear doing, by the way?”
“It’s fine,” she muttered. “You didn’t get seriously damaged, did you?”
“No. Just a li’l scuffed up.”
They waited a few hours, resting their eyes & bodies, but not their minds. Finally, when the light inside dimmed to the point o’ almost total darkness, Autumn rose & leapt for the hole out. Edgar easily heard this & followed right ’hind.
They wandered round the city ’gain, sniffing for ’nother shop to pilfer for precious meat.
Hopefully, this time we’ll actually be able to keep it, she thought.
She turned her head in every direction, looking over every sign: “Soulless Shoe Store,” “Barter’s Everything,” “Smokes 11 Cheap,” & “Clever Simon’s Signs.” It wasn’t till the end o’ the street that she saw the same deli she tried last time.
Figuring success was likelier in experienced areas than unfamiliar locales, she repeated the operation she used to get inside before, climbing the roof through the fence. Unfortunately, this time they didn’t make it that far: as Autumn scrambled up the fence, she heard a door slam open ’hind her & heard Edgar meow her a warning.
“What are you mangy cats doing round here? Were you the li’l bastards who broke in & stole my steaks last night?”
“Run, Edgar!” Autumn shouted as she jumped down the fence.
They both bolted down the street, hearing the store owner’s shouts droning ’way in the distance. Neither considered where they were going; Autumn merely focused on getting ’way as quickly as possible, & Edgar only followed.
There seems to be a risk I failed to foresee, Autumn thought: obviously the lost meat would be conspicuous to whoever ran the deli, & thus the owner would be extra on-guard. How could I make such an idiotic mistake?
Confident that they’d ’scaped the irate owner by then, she slowed, returning her attention to the shop signs for signs o’ ’nother building that kept meat.
Fortunately, she saw a few fast food stores round that she thought ought to have a’least some meat, even if not the highest quality.
The only problem is they’ll probably have much stronger security than some guy’s local deli.
She hopped up the dumpster standing next to the 1st restaurant & shoved her face into the tiny hole ’tween the lid & the dumpster itself.
For some reason, this did not seem to help her lift the lid @ all.
Their scavenging was interrupted by ’nother human coming by & shooing them ’way with loud, stern whispers. Once ’gain, Autumn had to quickly surrender her operation, dashing ’way with Edgar to avoid a possibly worse form o’ retribution than a denial o’ service.
They stood in the road once mo’, Autumn turning her head left & right to find ’nother building to try, when they heard footsteps rising ’hind.
They turned round to see a woman in a white uniform with a vacuum nozzle in her hand & the pink vacuum pouch labeled, “Popstar,” held in the other by a handle.
“O, come on, now,” Autumn meowed as she smacked her face with 1 o’ her paws.
“Easy, kitties,” the uniformed woman said as she edged closer.
A second ’fore the cat catcher flicked the switch, Autumn & Edgar ran for the closest alley.
Such was an action o’ instinct—the desire to find the 1st place that seemed most concealing—& thus when Autumn finally did enter it, she realized she had no idea where to hide from there. The dumpster was still shut, & it’d take far too long to reopen ’fore the catcher caught up; the space under the dumpster was too small; & the buildings round them were far too tall to reach from the dumpster.
The best this alley had to offer were pieces o’ a soggy newspaper lying in the corner. Seeing no better option, Autumn led Edgar under it, slinking together tightly so that the newspaper would fall over them completely. Then they carried it as far back into the black corners they could.
That was when they felt the paper stir ’hind them, & then rise so that it wasn’t even touching them anymore. They glanced ’hind them to see the cat catcher’s face, her toothy smile dimly lit by dregs o’ the moon ’bove.
“So, you thought you could scape from me, kitty cats? That’s bitterly rude.”
But ’fore she could crank the motor o’ her old-fashioned vacuum, Autumn & Edgar had bolted ’gain.
The catcher raised a fist into the air. “Gosh it, that’s unfair. I caught you; the least you could do is wait for me to catch you.”
This time Autumn knew not to try ’nother alley, aiming ’stead for the park blocks ’way, which she hoped would create ’nough distance to lose the catcher completely.
They ran though the park in zigzags for a bit ’fore leaping into a bush, shrouding them in the dark corners ’tween its leaves.
Though they couldn’t keep from shivering in the many wet drops still covering the leaves from earlier rains, they were confident that they had finally lost the catcher.
& they truly did. No, truly. The catcher wandered round the block for ’bout a half hour mo’ &, when she still hadn’t uncovered them, went home & watched baldness-remover infomercials. Much later, when Autumn & Edgar were sure she was truly gone for good, they—
“Bad, sad, hairy cats,” they heard a syrupy voice say ’hind them.
Once mo’ they slowly glanced ’hind them; but this time, the darkness completely cloaked the catcher ’cept for her round white eyes shining on them like headlights.
Autumn’s hair stood up, as well as walking out the door with its suitcase & hat. They heard the clicks o’ the catcher touching a plastic touchscreen, followed by a droning beep.
They tried scaping ’gain, but the vacuum’s inhalation caused the leaves to tangle their direction, blocking their path long ’nough to trap them in the vacuum’s current.
Moments later, they were slurped inside.
Autumn was closed in on all sides by hard gray walls. Only 1 side was slightly open, through the holes ’tween the metal bars blocking her from freedom.
Though the world immediately outside her cage appeared empty, ’twas full o’ the cacophony o’ 1,001 different meows, which made Autumn’s fur stand up & take a large shot o’ rum.
There’s only 1 cat I get ’long with; a thousand others could hardly be beneficial.
She’d hoped to find Edgar’s voice ’mong the thousands; but if his were present, ’twas drowned out.
Occasionally, a human would walk past. Sometimes they would stop by & go through all o’ the cages. When they opened hers, they slid in a bowl o’ brown mush & ’nother bowl o’ water. She could not comprehend why humans would have an interest in keeping her fed & watered, but partook in them both all the same.
With nothing to do in this compact cage & no evident way to ’scape, Autumn remained curled-up in the shade o’ a back corner with her eyes shut, either sleeping or devising possible methods o’ ’scape.
During this, she would also listen in to the humans’ conversations as they crossed.
Her ears perked up & 1 eye opened when she heard something she thought was particularly relevant:
“I think we’re going to have to euphemize him.”
“You mean euthenize?”
“Shhh! You want the cats to hear us & start a prison riot?”
“Don’t be zany. Cats don’t start prison riots; that’s rabbits.
“Anyway, I don’t know… He looks to be a rare breed—a’least, I’ve never seen a living skeletal cat before.”
“He’s half dead. He won’t eat, he won’t drink, & he sits huddled in the corner in fear all day.”
“So, you think he’s just some temporary freak accident, like that headless chicken in North America?”
“Yes. The fact is we need mo’ space & this cat’s living is almost certainly worse than dying. It’s the obvious choice.”
Autumn heard the loud click o’ a cage—she recognized it as the same sound made when hers was opened—& heard the humans coo, “Come here, li’l guy. It’s OK…”
As if a grenade going off, Autumn charged @ the bars o’ her cage, reaching her arms as far out the holes as she could, & barked loud, haggard meows.
The humans didn’t seem to notice.
They stood & walked in the other direction, past the cages. Just ’fore they left the edge o’ Autumn’s sight, she glimpsed Edgar curled in one o’ the humans’ arms, his face locked into terror. Then he disappeared, followed by the rusty squeak & heavy clatter o’ a metal door opening & closing.
Autumn resumed scrabbling out the cage bars & meowing. For some reason, it still had no effect.
After a half hour, it began to tire Autumn, so she grumpily returned to her corner in the back & curled up in her usual position, pondering what they might be doing to Edgar.
’Twas certainly not good. In her own experience, humans never helped her kind. Perhaps some would utterly ignore them; but most tried to get rid o’ them. ’Twas simple survival o’ the fittest: the mo’ food they ate, the less food the humans could eat, & vice-versa. These cages were obviously meant as a sophisticated way to restrain them so they could no longer pilfer the humans’ wares.
But then why were the humans feeding them, voluntarily giving ’way their food to the cats? ’Course, this food appeared radically different from what she’d mostly seen, so maybe ’twas specially made for cats & inedible for humans. But even then, the humans would have to put extra labor into making it or collecting it, an extra burden.
& that was when Autumn had discovered the answer: they were evidently fattening the cats up so that the humans could eat them later. It’d be the optimal way to use the otherwise useless cat food & still benefit themselves in the long run. It certainly wasn’t a stretch in her mind: if humans—as well as cats—could eat cows or pigs or iguanas, why couldn’t they eat cats, too? Indeed, it’d be a mo’ efficient way to eliminate cats then just continually shooing them ’way or keeping them in cages for eternity.
This also explains why they chose Edgar as their 1st victim: they knew they weren’t going to get any extra meat on him. Better get him out o’ the way quickly ’fore he wastes anymore resources needlessly. They even talked ’bout how he was bony & wouldn’t eat, too.
It all added up.
Well, I’m sure as hell not going to let them eat me without a fight 1st.
The urgency o’ her mental scramble for an exit only increased as she counted the minutes likely left till Edgar was stewing round in those vile humans’ digestive systems, having his amino acids just outright jacked as if he didn’t still need them. She hoped @ the very least that Edgar would give them indigestion as 1 last heroic form o’ protest.
Hours later, she heard the humans walking through ’gain. Must be mealtime. Autumn popped her ears up & kept 1 eye slightly open to whet her senses, but otherwise kept still so as not to attract suspicion ’fore she had a chance to pounce. Now she was grateful the humans had missed her protests earlier, for it’d likely make them suspect her already.
Or had they heard her & only pretended they hadn’t to give her the false sense o’ an edge on them?
Well, there was nothing she could do ’bout it, either way. She’d just have to resume her plan & hope it went well.
After a few minutes, 1 o’ the humans finally stood in front o’ her door with 2 bowls o’ sustenance in-hand & a sunny smile on-face—as if she’d fall for such acting. Then 1 o’ its hands gripped the door handle & slid it upward with a creak. Autumn crouched back like a slingshot band pulled back as far as possible when she saw the hand open the door.
The millisecond the hand moved the bowls inside, she shot forward, sinking her fangs into the nearest hand as deep as possible. As the hand flew back, its owner shouting in agony, she zipped through the hole left open, & as she did when escaping through the city, ran 1st toward the area in the shadows.
“Where did she go?” 1 o’ the humans called out.
“She must be hiding,” ’nother said.
Autumn slunk back even further into the darkness, only her yellow eyes shining through. Unfortunately, this was not a mere graphical trope for the viewers, but some aberrant authentic behavior o’ her eyeballs, & so the other humans were also able to see them.
“O, there she is.”
“Do cats’ eyes normally glow like that?”
The human in charge o’ feeding her slowly stepped forward & said in a soothing voice, “Come here, Pumpkin. I’m not gonna hurt you. Shhh, it’s all right.”
But Autumn was wise ’nough to know a trap when she saw 1: humans would harass her even when unbothered; there was no way this 1 would want to do anything positive to her after she outright attacked it.
The appendages crept closer. Autumn responded to them with a serpentine hiss, though she knew this warning would go unheeded.
So she dashed ’way to the side not blocked by anything, only to soon reach ’nother wall. She began to realize that the prospect o’ ’scape was low; the prospect o’ finding a way for Edgar to ’scape with her had almost 0% probability.
But I must do it, nonetheless.
& though she knew she was physically weaker than the humans, she also knew that she was a’least faster than them & that that would be ’nough to keep them @ estuary for now.
Since she knew Edgar was ’hind the door left o’ the cages, she targeted it 1st. Unluckily, as she headed for it, she noticed ’twas closed. She knew ’nough ’bout human constructions that ’twas a door that could be opened—if she were able to reach the handle, which she also knew she couldn’t reach to save her life. Sadly, that was the very reason why she needed it open.
She leapt for the handle all the same, only to smack into the door a foot below.
’Fore she could move ’gain, she felt the rubbery palms wrap round her back.
To her surprise, however, the human wasn’t leading her back to her cage, but remained in front o’ the door. With her limbs all netted together in the human’s left arm, the human used its right hand to open the door. Inside, Autumn saw nothing but shadows.
I s’pose my time has come already.
The human carried her inside. Partway through, she heard a click & then blinked when she saw the room fill with the same white light as the previous room. She heard a thud & knew ’twas the door closing ’hind them.
Looking round the newly lit room, she saw the other human standing next to a table covered in white paper. ’Round it, ’long the walls, were desks full o’ closed drawers. Lying next to the other human was a black plastic bag.
“’Nother one?” the other human asked.
“This 1 just behaves so badly; nobody’s going to take it,” the human holding Autumn said as it panted. “& we’re running out o’ space.”
The other human nodded sadly.
She was pressed down gainst the table, the sandpaper hands still clasped round her. Glancing up, she could see the other human holding some needle-shaped object.
Was this how they were going to do me in? Stabbing me to death?
“This isn’t going to hurt a bit, OK, li’l guy?” the other human said as it moved the needle closer to Autumn.
Autumn rumbled with growls, shaking her limbs as hard as she could, & turned her head to bite 1 o’ the hands holding her.
It remained clasped, & movement was still possible.
Then she felt the needle penetrate her skin. However, as the human had promised, it didn’t hurt @ all—it didn’t feel like anything. In fact, Autumn felt the rest o’ her senses begin to melt ’way as well. Suddenly, she felt exhaustion take hold o’ her, her eyes drooping & her limbs quivering till she dipped down onto her stomach & her eyes closed, the outside world disappearing ’hind a black void.