Previous Story: 29. The Daring Escape
Jane knew she had to leave.
It wasn’t just because she felt sure her owner, Howard, wasn’t coming back; something had changed and she felt different now. Though she’d spent much of the last few weeks inside the house, she had also patrolled along the walls, watching what was going on. She had seen many of the human craft with flashing lights; and many people wearing green and black carrying weapons. She had also seen others fighting and three different groups trying to get into the house. But Howard had always been careful to keep it very safe: the walls were high and the doors were strong.
Jane was sad at being left alone but she didn’t feel fearful about leaving. She felt stronger and more intelligent than she ever had; ready to face the noisy, chaotic world beyond the house’s walls. This Awakening reminded Jane of when she had woken up in her new body, surrounded by men and women in white coats who then tested her for days on end before delivering her back to Howard. He had cried that day. Jane knew why it had all happened; her real body was dying. She believed he had given her a tremendous gift; a second chance.
She felt there had to be a reason for this new change too; and she doubted she would find any answers by staying alone in the house.
In the kitchen she looked at her food bowl and her water bowl and wished she could take them. In Howard’s room, she looked at her lovely, comfortable basket and wished she could take that too. Jane walked through every room to give herself one last memory of the place. Then she went outside, leaped up onto the wall and dropped down the other side.
Jane had occasionally been on adventures before but she’d never stayed out for long. She didn’t really know which way to go so she just kept moving, surprised by how quiet the streets were. She passed a ginger cat that took one look at her then sprang into the nearest bush. Jane wasn’t very surprised by that; she knew her appearance could be frightening to normal cats. She was also on the receiving end of a fright from a passing woman. Jane thought the woman wanted to pet her but she bent over and grabbed Jane around the neck. Only by twisting and squirming did she get free.
There was no sign of Howard anywhere and, in truth, that wasn’t a great surprise. Jane knew that if he was alive and well he would have come back for her by now.
As the sun began to descend, she found herself near a row of small, dirty buildings where many of the human craft were kept. She padded along slowly, always on the lookout for danger. She came to one building where there was no craft – only a singing man. He was very tall and overweight and he wore a strange hat. He was sitting in a chair and when he wasn’t singing he was drinking from a can. There were many more cans on the floor beside him; and one of the weapons like the men in green carried.
Jane knew she should move on but she was curious about this strange man. She slipped inside the building and peered into the shadows behind him. She saw shapes there and she could smell something strong. Jane crept along the wall and then she realized what the smell was. Blood. And the strange shapes were bodies: the bodies of animals and humans just dumped in a heap.
Jane fled and, in her desperation, caught a front paw on one of the cans. She tripped and rolled over.
‘What the hell?’ yelled the big man. ‘A goddam cat. A goddam metal cat! Now I seen it all. Looks like my haul’s about to get bigger.’
The weapon roared and Jane felt something whizz past her as she scrambled to her feet and ran out of the building.
Jane heard more bangs from the weapon and she realized she needed somewhere to hide. Seeing one of the human craft nearby, she sped under it and sat there. Head low, she looked out and saw the strange man walking towards her.
‘Here, metal kitty, come to papa. Maybe I can sell you on. There’s all kind of weirdness going on in the world but a metal cat? That’s something else.’
Now he was whistling. He walked around the car then suddenly squatted down.
‘There you are!’ When he aimed the weapon, Jane knew she had to strike. Darting forward, she raked one claw across his hand then ran past him.
‘Ow! You’re dead, cat! You hear me? Dead!’
Jane thought about hiding inside one of the buildings but she didn’t want to risk getting trapped. She ran along the front of them but when a light came on, she veered away. Speeding across open ground, she spied a wall between two buildings up ahead. It was high; but still her best chance of getting away.
Jane accelerated and threw herself at the wall. She got her front paws over the edge but her rear paws didn’t have a good grip. Something exploded next to her right ear, showering her with bits of brick. The shock of it made her let go but suddenly something was holding her by the neck. All she could see was a dark shape on the wall and a horribly bizarre face.
I’m a friend. Can I help you?
Jane knew she didn’t have much choice.
Yes. Please help.
The strange creature lifted her easily then held her in both hands and jumped off the wall to safety. Jane knew she was agile and quick but this animal was incredible.
On the other side of the wall, the defeated man was still yelling.
Jane’s new companion walked up to a streetlight and she was astonished to see it was a chimp – just like the ones she had seen on that big noisy screen at Howard’s house. And this chimp was wearing a t-shirt!
You should be careful, he said in his calm, friendly voice. Lot of dangers around.
I can understand you, she replied. How?
We don’t know. But we can all communicate.
Me and my friends. We have a safe place to stay. Do you want to come and join us?
Next Story: 31. The Bunker