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Bast's Chosen Ones & other cat adventures
- Dana Bell
Long ago in the land of the flooding Nile and sweeping sands, Bast created warriors called the Chosen Ones. They are her warriors. To them has been given the responsibility of protecting cats, whether on Earth or other worlds. Not always an easy task since often an ancient evil lurks, ready to pounce.
Not all felines walk in the goddess’s domain. Some live in the far reaches of space, battling beside their humans or walk in lands long thought legend. Others tell their own version of human stories, walk as envoys of the creator, or appear as ghosts.
These cats walk where others dare not and do not prefer the comfort of cuddly lap warmers. Rather, they wish adventure, in present day, the past, or the far future.
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My ears twitched slightly as a high-pitched squeak suddenly silenced invaded my hunt and play dreams. I lifted my head from where it rested on my black paws and listened for the sound again. Hearing nothing, I stretched my limber body, being careful not to wake my human companion. She’d had a hard day distributing the few supplies she’d gotten in from the last Earth supply ship. Most of the miners were understanding, but there’s always one or two who aren’t and they made my human’s life a bit more interesting.
I hopped down to the uneven stone floor and up on the narrow ledge of the ‘window’. It wasn’t really. It’s just a hole in the asteroid wall and my human, Leslie is what she calls herself, put up a cloth covered board for me. Sitting down I pushed aside the rough cloth and peered out into the hallway.
A faint stale breeze assaulted my nose smelling of unwashed bodies. Humans are such stinky creatures unlike we felines who instinctively keep ourselves clean. After all, we wouldn’t want our rightful prey catching our scent and scampering away.
I blinked my green eyes thankful I could see along the darkened way. No humans were up oddly enough, though there always seemed to be someone about, and the strange silence caught my attention. All I could hear was the usual ‘whopf, whopf’ of the air and water recycling pumps.
Glancing back, I knew it would be a long while before Leslie was up and about. She’d burrowed deep into her sleeping bag like a serpent in a blast hole. I jumped down and sniffed the outcrop under the window. There was blood, a few bits of skinny tail hair, and an odd scent that seemed both familiar and not. A burning started in my nose and I backed away, using my paw to try and clear the stench away.
I sneezed several times and finally the offensive odor cleared. My back arched and I hissed. A dead one was here. One of the long lifed ones touched with the ancient blessing of Bast. Or maybe it was more of a curse. Among my kind it was spoken of both ways.
Leslie groaned and I looked back up at the window. Maybe I should go back inside and lie beside her. When I did that, she’d settle down. You see, my human came out here after the terrible race and class wars. I don’t remember much about them since I was but a youngling and had more important things to think about, like using the zero G litter box correctly and keeping my dignity while floating in the air.
But my human, she lost her entire family in the war. Many living out here in the asteroids had. They’d settled among the twirling rocks to escape the terrible memories and try to scarp out a living by mining the minerals and precious stones, like the flashy politicians back on Earth said they could. Not that many have hit it rich. Most make just enough to pay the taxes on their claims and buy a few supplies.
My head popped up as a leathery sound snaked over the rock. The tunnel serpents were dangerous and deadly. They weren’t native but an odd variation contrived by some gene expert to keep down the population of the skinny tails. Not that it had worked. Instead, the creatures had escaped and liked to den close to the humans, sending many of our companions to the final sleep. And so, we felines hunt them and send the serpents to a swift and final end.
Well, as quick of an end as we allowed. What fun is food if we don’t get to play with it first?
I scrunched down and began to track the noise, rubbing my side against the smooth rock, trying to be silent as I slowly stalked my prey. Around a corner, the red, white, black and aqua snake coiled, its velvet tongue lashing out at another of my kind.
No, not my kind, I corrected myself as the rotting stench touched my sensitive brown nose. I sneezed and jumped back just as the serpent swung toward me and struck. I heard its head rattle against the unstable boulder barely missing me.
The stinking mass pounced, sinking deep canine like fangs into the scaly flesh. I watched in horror as the long body flopped, causing pebbles to skitter scatter over the floor. Finally, the snake stilled, its tongue slithering out of its mouth, a few green drops of its venom splattering on the stone.
“It’s dead,” the other told me. “You should take more care.”
“You shouldn’t be here,” I hissed back. My body trembled. Though I had heard the stories, none had prepared me for the true appearance of the creature. Short cropped tan fur scattered with black spots, towering above me by at least a full head, ebony claws extended making an ‘erch’ noise as it moved.
It lifted a giant paw and casually licked the serpent blood mixed with green venom away. When the necessary washing was done, it stared at me with round yellow-red eyes.
“I am nothing to fear.”
“You’re so…big.” I could think of nothing else to say.
“We are the first ones. Not contaminated by the touch of humans.”
It sounded almost condescending. As if by choosing to companion with Leslie, I was less than it was.
“I saved your life this night. Remember my favor well.” It bounded away and I stood staring after it. How could a feline so large, be gone so quick?
~ * ~
When morning came, I wondered if I had indeed, encountered one of the favored ones of Bast. I awakened as was usual, lying beside my human. She smiled at me and rubbed behind my ear. My eyes half closed and I purred for her. Leslie fed me my breakfast of dried sea dweller and I lapped my water to rid myself of the salty tang.
As was normal, she went to the trading post to haggle with the few stragglers who would come in today to see if there was anything left. I think she said she had a case of unmarked soup, several boxes of crackers, and a package of cookies she was saving special for someone.
I again sat in the window watching the humans hurry by. Not that I cared what they did with their day. I just enjoyed the few who stopped to give me a friendly pet and sometimes sneak a treat they’d secreted in their pockets.
Old George always brought me a green sharp scented treat I loved to roll in. I heard him say he grew it for all the cats (I really don’t like that word) and he felt we deserved it for all the de-rodent work we did. Most of the humans just rolled their eyes, but he’d wink at me like he knew I understood.
Of course, several of us lived with him, so I suspect he knows we do.
He came by as was normal and pulled the cotton bag out of his pocket. I saw something hanging out of his other pocket and batted at it. When he turned, I flattened my ears against my head.
“Just a dead snake,” he reassured me, taking some of the scented stuff on his fingers and running them over my fur. “Found it down the hallway there. Quite peculiar.” He shrugged. “See ya later, Blackie.” He trotted away.
Blackie. He always called me that. Leslie called me Shadow. My true name is, no, I mustn’t even think it. The ancient one might hear, or so the legends say, and then have power over me. I can’t allow that.
I lost part of my day in a haze of pungent leafy enjoyment and took my normal nap on my human’s bed. Upon waking I bathed myself yet again, no self-respecting feline is ever dirty, ate a few bits of the dry stuff Leslie left for me, drank more water and prepared to go off exploring again.
Quickly I checked the small room for any unwelcome guests. Finding none, I padded out and down the rock hewn hallway. I had to dodge uncaring human feet several times. Many don’t watch out for us and I don’t remember how many times my tail or paws have been stepped on. They don’t even apologize and that is truly offensive.
Finally, I got to the trading post.
Old George was there and he had the snake spread out on the old board counter. Leslie was sitting on a barrel watching. I jumped up and batted at the dead serpent.
“Shadow, be careful!” Leslie warned as she tried to move me away from it.
“It’s quite dead,” George said. “Though, I don’t think any of the cats killed it.”
I wish he’d stop calling us cats.
“Why do you say that?”
“Normally, when a cat kills one, the neck is broken and it’s partially eaten.” He turned the intact snake over. “This one has a wound on it and when I tried to give it to Bossy,”
Bossy lives here in the post. She’s the oldest of us and tells us stories about Earth. It’s from her I heard about the ancient ones.
“She only hissed and tried to scratch me.”
“Shadow doesn’t seem to be afraid of it.”
“He ain’t claiming it neither.” George scratched his shaggy dirty hair and grimaced. Maybe he’d figured out he was dirty and needed to bathe. “Strange.”
“I just hope it doesn’t mean we have yet another pest to deal with.” Leslie shook her head. “I’m getting tired of us figuring out how to fight one problem only to have another crop up.”
“It’s called life, my dear girl.”
“If you say so.” She quickly ran a hand over my back. “What do you need, George?”
I ignored them as they discussed what he needed, what Leslie actually had, and all the details of the transaction they finally agreed upon. Old George put the serpent back in his pocket and ambled away.
~ * ~
Over the next few cycles, several tunnel serpents and skinny tails were found all over the asteroid. The other felines avoided the kill spots, but I found myself drawn to them, sniffing the odd scents and sneezing out the sharp hurt until I no longer needed to.
I’d told the others about my encounter with the ancient one. Bossy had stared at me with her one good eye. The other she’d lost in a fight with a skinny tail.
“You’ve been chosen,” she’d told me.
“Chosen?” I hadn’t understood.
“The stories say,” she’d continued, “the ancient ones select one of us.”
“I do not know. A chosen one has never come back and told us.”
Quite honestly, I didn’t know whether to be concerned or not. So, I continued my days of sleeping, eating, bathing, hunting, being pet and receiving treats from the humans. What else is there in the life a feline?
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to Bossy’s warning. Or perhaps, I should have known there was little to fear.
For when it happened, I had been hunting under the many metal moving parts of the air pump station. The skinny tails seem to like it in here. There’re so many places they can hide and we felines have a hard time catching them when they dart into the narrow places we cannot squeeze our flexible bodies into.
I had cornered a skinny tail and made ready to pounce, only to feel a sharp pain in my head. I shook it and my vision blurred as drops of heavy red fell over my muzzle. The tang of hot blood touched my tongue and I sensed it was my own.
The skinny tail wiggled toward me its beady black eyes keenly watching. Its sharp little teeth plunged into my paw and I yowled in torment. I tried to swipe at it and break its neck, but my paw would not obey. Heavily I fell, my head smacking into something hard. I heard a ‘kkk’ and knew I would not rise nor be able to stop the nipping teeth tearing at my body.
That was the last I remembered.
When I awoke again, I found myself lying on a soft bed. I heard the ‘sprrrr, sprrr’ of water nearby and I suddenly found I longed for a drink. Shakily I got up, surprised to find my body intact and not in pain.
I blinked, raising my head to gaze around. Above a gauzy fabric waved in the wind attached to marble columns covered in bright colorful designs. All around I could smell the delightful pungent tang of my favorite green plant. Surrounding my furred bed was a soft, fine powder I had never seen before.
Carefully I extended my paw and touched the powder, quickly withdrawing it when the substance spread under my touch. I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I was so thirsty.
The powder was soft under my paws and though not easy to walk upon, it did not impede me to my destination. I lowered my head to lap at the clear water, feeling the liquid revive me in a way I could not express.
“So you’ve awakened, warrior.”
I had not heard the female approach. I jumped back and whirled to face her; my black hair puffed up along my spine.
“You’re in no danger here.” She sat down and blinked her green-yellow eyes at me, her bushy spotted tail draped over her paws.
She looked like the ancient one. She had the same tan fur and black spots, but she wasn’t as large as he had been.
“You are welcome in my temple.”
A deep amused purr rumbled from her chest. It was then I noticed the odd gold circle about her neck.
“I am Bast, warrior.”
Bast! I pushed my belly onto the powder and lowered my head. I must pay proper respect to the goddess.
“You died in honor, warrior. There is no need to crawl upon the sand as would an adder.”
She rose. “Come. There is a matter yet to be resolved.”
I got to my paws. The sand clung to my belly. I’d have to clean it off later. I followed Bast beyond the place where I had awakened to an open dwelling of many smooth stairs and golden columns. Standing on each side where humans in thin clothing, their heads bald and odd markings on their faces.
“My priests who have chosen to serve me in the afterlife,” she explained.
At the top I stopped. Bast strolled to pile of fur and took her place. All around her were other felines. A mass of browns, blacks, whites, and so many other colors, I could not sort them in my mind.
Bast’s head turned and the ancient one I had encountered joined us. My heart began to pound as if I had hunted well and now was the time of play.
“So, he has passed beyond,” the ancient one said.
“He has,” Bast agreed. “Yet, the debt has not been repaid.”
“It has not.” His yellow-red eyes looked at me. “Unfortunate.”
“Perhaps not. Warrior,” Bast summoned.
I dared to approach her.
“You owe a debt to this my favored one. Would you choose to repay? Or do you intend to dwell here with me?”
“I have already passed beyond.” I did not understand the choice offered.
Again her chest echoed the purring laugh. “Humans have legends of us.”
I still did not understand.
“My offer stands.”
“I can release him,” the ancient one offered.
“No. This one has always had great promise.”
“And if it was my wish to repay?” I almost feared her answer. I thought she would return me to my damaged and tortured body.
“That was burned by your human.”
“So how?” I did not understand how such a thing was possible nor how she’d known my thought.
“I bestow my favor on many.” Her tongue darted out and touched the muzzle of the ancient one. “Besides, humans need to be reminded of their proper place. And ours as well.”
“And that is?” I still didn’t truly understand.
“We were worshipped once, warrior. So we should be again. Now, is it truly your wish to repay, warrior?”
“So be it.” Bast came to me and stole my breath.
~ * ~
“Sure looks like Blackie,” Old George said as he rubbed my head. I nipped at his fingers. He had my favorite leafy smell on them.
“Well, we both know that’s not possible.” Leslie scratched behind my ear and turned away to shelf the new shipment of supplies.
“Poor ole boy.”
I saw Leslie wipe liquid from under her eye. “Well, at least you didn’t see the body.” She shuddered. “It was horrible.”
“Smart thing you did burning it.”
“It was the best thing.”
“Where’d you find this fella?” His hand ran the length of my back.
“Captain of the supply ship found him in the hold. Knew I’d lost mine and offered him to me.”
“Guess so.” She sighed. “I miss Shadow.”
I jumped down bored with the conversation. It was time to hunt and I had in my mind to find the skinny tail who had ended my first life. Bast had promised me my revenge and the goddess always kept her word.
Padding out on the familiar stone, I was joined by the ancient one. The other felines saw us coming and darted into hiding spots until they passed. They knew we were no longer like them.
“I found the skinny tail,” the ancient one told me.
“Good. I want to play with it for a long time before I kill it.”
“As is proper.”
“So, I have another debt to repay.”
“You will have a long time to do so. And I am patient, youngling.”
I knew his words to be true. For as Bast told me, humans have many legends of us and the one they scoff at even as they speak it, is truth. We do indeed have nine lives and I have another eight to repay the ancient one before I return to Bast and her temple.
I just didn’t know that I’d live them as a chosen one—as a vampire.