ALIVE

 by Anna-Karin Larsson AKA Ahdeya

 

Part 3: Restoring

Fire leaned his chin in his hand and poked at the golden corn flakes in the deep plate. Yawning wide he eyed the old newspaper, and with a sigh he turned to the family section. The cartoons always made him smile so... He felt very sleepy this early spring morning and yawned repeatedly. His eyes fell on a drawing of a cat and the poem next to it. His lips curled to a grin as he read it, first to himself and then out loud. His siblings and Jon sat chatting and discussing around him not paying much attention to the red-furred tabby .

"Hey. Listen," said Fire and started to read. " ‘The naming of cats is a difficult matter, it isn’t just one of your holiday games. You might think at first I’m as mad as a hatter, when I tell you a cat must have three different names.’ Three names? Why don’t we have three names?"

Nightshade shrugged, Dusk grinned and flicked a little strawberry jam at him and the girls, who looked rather confused by the question. Jon cleared his throat, glaring at Dusk as a warning, before he spoke up:

"Well, I couldn’t come up with anything good at the time but the names you have now. If you want to add two more names, go ahead. But keep one for yourself."

Fire nodded, "I know. It says here we have a third secret name that no one knows of..."

The others laughed at his smug expression. "I wonder what that is. And what about my Jellicle name? I never knew that one. Was never told that."

"Me neither," said Nightshade, "And I even have a mother who probably named me..."

Fire looked at the poem and frowned. "Yeah. She might have named you."

A silence thick enough to cut with a blunt knife came over the room. But Dusk was quick to break it and the talk started again, this time about where they might find Jellylorum and this Rumpus. But they never got further than to discuss if they were dead or alive.

***

"And that’s how you address a cat!"

The dancers stopped, holding their arms high as the music brought them to the end of the show, the spotlights bathing them in brilliant strong light. The crowds howled and applauded, shouting out their awe of the performance. The cats smiled and waved at them as the lights was turned out. But one cat had a forced smile on her lips, staring down at the first row. She could clearly make out the humans sitting there; two young children. Two lovely human children with dark brown thick hair, bright big eyes and happy smiles. She moved a little closer and waved at them with a sad smile. She knew she was risking punishment by staying on stage longer than her troupe mates by she couldn't resist. They reminded Jellylorum of her lost children.

***

Lucy started to pour the sparkling ginger ale into the glasses, keeping an eye on the triplets who had occupied the seats next to Fire. The others around her huge dinner table were close friends. Dirk and Anastasia were there. Anastasia was Dirk’s only child and she knew just as much about old antique stamps, paper bills and various valuable papers as her father. She’d been born partially lame in her left arm but people rarely notice that because of her sparkling open personality. Jon beamed Lucy a smile as served him the ginger ale. The rest of the girls were students at the local college and had disappeared on their spring holiday break. The triplets, father and motherless as they were, had stayed behind .

"So. Any of you have plans for the holidays?" asked Lucy.

"Not really, "said Dirk "But we might go to the Zion Council’s nature reserve up north of the town. Found a old tent and we thought it could be nice to live like that for a while..."

Jon nodded, "Could get interesting."

"You’re all invited if you want to. Could make for some interesting studies for you lot!" said Dirk with a grin as he waved at the cats, almost swiping Lucy’s big bottle out of her hands. She swatted his shoulder with pouting lips. Dirk just flashed her a grin.

"Why not? I’ve never been outside town, and besides, I want to use these to climb a tree rather then just comb my hair!" said Dusk holding up his hands, the claws shimmering in the light of the crystal chandelier above their heads. So the dinner’s subject became the planning of the trip.

***

To get out of the city was something the whole dinner party ended up agreeing on. Dirk invited the five plus Jon to come over to his shop and home the next day to go through the equipment and what they might bring with them. They had some strong backs who could carry a lot of material. So the following day the little troupe left the Blue Dragon once all shops and public places were closed to make their way over to Dirk's.

Dirk’s home was in what one might have called the international district. It was a place with a spicy aroma in the air and strange foreign music seeped out from little noodle shops, small restaurants with Indian food and an occasional middle east shop as well. Dirk’s house lay at the end of a small alley, safely nested in between two big laundry shops.. It’s entrance was almost shrouded in a luscious plant that grew around it. The two wide shop windows showed off books, coins and some strange knives. Dirk loved to collect whatever he could, and to be in his shop was like stepping many hundred years back in time, to the old markets of Marrakesh on Earth, or the tiny streets of Tokyo. The felines made themselves at home in no time, occupying the high saloon chairs around the shop. Anastaisa greeted them welcome and started to pull down the blinds of the shop. After that, the felines could safely take off their hooded jackets or sweaters and be like anyone else.

"Welcome, my dear, dear friends!" exclaimed a happy Dirk as he emerged from the backroom and their living quarters. He wore a brown and red robe with golden embroidery and an old battered fez on his head. He greeted Jon with a good handshake and each of the girls with a kiss on the cheek while the toms just nodded at him. Dirk was an original man and they all loved his sometimes bizarre taste in clothing.

"Thanks," said Nightshade and looked around, "Anything new since last week?"

"Well," Dirk looked around and frowned, "Ah! Here we are. Six new knives, seventeen old bills, five books, "Jon leaned closer and peeked over to see them, "And some newspapers from other parts of the world."

The treasures were received with great curiosity. Jon was for obvious reasons, quite curious about the books. And that one of them, medical reference form the mid 1990’s, was even better. He started haggling with, and more or less harassing, Dirk to give him a decent price for it. Anastasia and the girls were leafing thorough a magazine from South Pyros when they heard a thump from where Fire sat. They gaped as they saw a chair roll across the floor and come to a halt against a a glass cabinet, fortunately not shattering it’s glass doors. Fire sat on the floor, mumbling and muttering while rubbing his head..

"Sorry about that..." said the cat man and got up, holding a wrinkled newspaper in his hand. "But I just got so surprised. I think you all ought to look at this!"

He held up the page he wanted them to see, pointing a reddish-yellow finger at an ad. It was in black and white, but the design - two animal eyes whose pupils were shaped as dancing cats - made them all stare.

"Listen to this: CATS, one of the most phenomenal shows you’ll ever see! Originally staged in 1981 on Earth, it is based on TS Eliot's spellbinding poems about how a cat thinks and feels. Now, we are on our 16th year and still, we keep going! Playing three times a week at the Amphora Theatre!" And below that they could see a long list of phone numbers to ticket offices and to the theatre itself. The others looked interested, but that was all. They didn’t understand, was Fire’s conclusion. He dove into the shelves of the old bookstore, pulling out a plastic encased flat object.

"Check this out..." he said and pulled it out of its protective plastic pocket. Dirk was planning on giving it to the cats as a gift sooner or later. Fire gently placed it on the counter, opening it to reveal human dancers in catlike costumes and makeup.

"This is the show!" said Fire with a enthusiastic grin, "This is a book about it from the 1980’s. It’s dead old but sooo good. Look, the show is the same. CATS. And when I read the poem in the paper the other day, I remembered the name here. Look, "Jellylorum..." "

The other four flinched at the mentioning of the name. Jon saw their sudden reaction, but before he could say anything, Dusk spoke up.

"Jellylorum? Didn’t Jon say that she performed in a musical show? Perhaps this is the show? Perhaps they know if she’s still there?"

"We could try and call, but this paper is almost a year old" said Fire as he looked at the front page of it and noted the date.

The others nodded and a low voiced discussion took place. Jon soon heard where it was heading, and he flinched when Nightshade looked at him and asked "How much money do we have?"

"Stop it right there my dears." said the rounded man as he held up a hand and smiled, "We do not have the funds for such a trip! It’s halfway across the Zion and we cannot do that, no matter how much we’d like to."

The five looked disappointed. But Fire tore out the newspaper clipping and folded it. He safely tucked it away in his back pocket, knowing that it some day might come in handy!

"We’ll talk about it more when we get back form the trip," promised Jon as the felines once again started to ask him about the possibility of a long journey. The answer seemed to satisfy them for the moment.

***

The first day out in the forest had been a whole new adventure. Silk had been a bit taken by feeling the green grass under her bare feet. Fire had climbed trees all day long and Dusk had scratched off so much tree bark that he looked more brown than gray! But the whole little expedition was very happy, because out here the felines didn’t have to hide their looks. But Jon had insisted that his dear "children" wore the hooded sweatshirt at all times, just in case. Grudgingly they’d agreed. Another thing they’d not expected to be "activated" was their predatory instincts. When a furry little squirrel came bouncing between the trees, the girls were away among the branches on the merry chase. The trio of toms stayed behind, following the chase from where they lay sprawled out on the sunny branches above the tents. The three humans looked thoroughly disgusted when Silk triumphantly threw down the squirrel in front of Jon. Anastasia and Dirk made some terrible faces, while Jon nodded at Silk, "Well, this is a nice gift, thank you, Silk."

She beamed him a smile before taking a graceful leap across to Nightshade. The past hours their mundane human sides had been shed and hidden in their minds. It felt good to just be themselves and not hide their faces, or tails! Having your tail confided into a pair of jeans was a terrible torture. After all, it was one of their most important means of communication.

"Wish we could live like this forever," said Dusk as he affectionately buried his nose in Brighteye’s hair.

"In a way, we could. But I don’t think Jon would let us... And think of the winter!" said Nightshade from where he lay on his belly, arms crossed under his chin and the long dark legs dangling down the sides of the wide branch. Silk sat behind him, holding his tail in her hands as she tried to playfully bite it. Now and then he glanced at her, swishing his tail out of her reach.

Jon sat in the shade of a old tree, making notes in the old black book. He wrote down a lot of observation about his "children’s" development. Right now, he just wrote that they all had become quite familiar with their instincts and feline side. His eyes narrowed as he thought of the things he’d come across on the discs. The most bizarre information, DNA charts, pictures and much more. He’d not shown it all, fearing that the five would be scared from their senses seeing those pictures. He stopped writing and looked up at the five again. They were happy now... And he felt relaxed too. Now they didn’t have to hide, or find shelter from people’s looks. The many citizens of Zion thought highly of themselves. The fact that the spaceport was there was the reason for their tolerance towards the many odd establishments found here. Jon had worked for the spaceport’s biggest travel agency for years, before his wife and daughter died in an accident caused by the technical staff’s incompetent check of a ferry. After that he’d hid himself in a small loft in a rackety building downtown. He’d been so into his books that he’d not seen life pass by. Not until Dirk asked him to come see the strange children down by the old Blue Dragon theatre. After that, it had all been made clear. He had a goal now; to raise and help these five to a good life. It had given him meaning and purpose in his life. He smiled as he saw Brighteye and Dusk retreated back among the leaves of the trees. They’d probably be gone for the rest of the day... Then he frowned at the thought. These couples better take it easy, considering that a feline usually came up with kittens pretty easily. That was another thing he had to investigate once they were back at the old theatre. How come niether of the females had became pregnant, considering how active they actually were? This thought would be in his mind for the remainder of their stay.

***

With the light and sunshine of the spring, it was evident that the old theatre needed a good cleanup. Not on the outside - the more abandoned it looked the better - but on the inside there was a lot of activities going on. Jon took upon himself to copy some hand-written documents for a friend and in exchange he was given a big load of old paint jars, brushes and cleaning material. Jon knew some of the documents he copied were probably illegal and false, but he had to survive and so had the felines. Mostly the felines scrounged the streets and alleys for valuable stuff at night and then at daytime, Jon could take it down to the pawnbrokers, selling a little here and a little there. None of them asked Jon about it, because they had all used his favors once or twice and he had a memory close to photographic. This sunny late spring day the old study was a war zone. All furniture, bookshelves and stuff had been shoved into the middle of the room, then covered with big sheets of old canvas. Silk and Brighteye had an argument over who was to paint with the small brush around the windows, while Nightshade and Dusk tore down old wallpapers as Fire blended the paint for the walls. Jon had been amused by being ordered around by Fire, who obviously had taken charged of it all. Silk gave up on Brighteye and walked away with her eyes to the ceiling and raised her hands with a "I give up" look on her face. Jon made sure she was kept busy with trying to soften some old stiff brushes. The turpentine like fluid smelled and reeked, so she carried it all downstairs to the backyard to get away from the strong smell.

The cleaning fluid smelled awful and she had to lean her head away from the smell of it. Her exceptional sense of smell seemed to get a ready knockout from it all and she stepped away from it, whining and complaining about the smell. She looked around as she took a deep breath of fresh air. But she stopped in mid step as she stared at a stranger. A face that was unfamiliar and just as surprised. She turned around on a dime and ran into the theatre and rushed up the old wide stair. Silk stumbled into the room and with a whimper she jumped into Nightshade’s arms. He looked baffled and stared down at her. She looked absolutely terrified. The others stopped their painting and looked in their direction as well.

"What is it, hon?" asked Nightshade and held her at arm's length , stroking her face with one hand.

"A-a stranger. Staring at me! He saw me!" gasped the startled catgirl. Her whole body shivered and her ears were pinned flat against her head. Her tail lashed back and forth behind her, threatening a can of paint. It took one look from Nightshade and the other two toms grabbed their hooded sweaters and disappeared out the door. They’d scrounge up whoever it was. Jon joined the two felines left behind and Silk sobbed when she cuddled up in his arms.

Nightshade hurried to one of the rooms that had windows overlooking the backyard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the intruder The front windows had since long been covered with planks and cardboard when they moved into the theatre. So no light could be seen outwards onto the street. "This is not good, " mumbled the dark catman and his ears slowly pinned down into his hair and the tail lashed back and forth. He saw his brothers dash off over the back wall and into the alleyways behind their home but nothing else moved.

Dusk and Fire jumped the wooden planks that led into the old restaurant’s backyard. The human tried to run out on the street, but tripped on some garbabe, skidding right into a couple of trashcans and slammed into the old green container by the alley entrance. Dusk took a leap up on the container, staring down at the human male from the higher position. Fire crouched next to the stunned human on the ground, growling at him. The bony creature squirmed and whined as he heard the two catmen growl at him, but he didn't dare try to rise. Their eyes and fangs looked mean and he’d never seen anything like them before.

"Sorry. Sorry. Sorry....I didn’t mean to..." started the thin man with a whiney voice.

"Shut up..:" growled Dusk and swatted at him, showing off his claws. The man gasped and out of fear tossed a old banana peel at Dusk. The cat man easily sneaked caught it and leered down at the man. "Good try. A banana peel is not enough."

Fire poked at the man, holding a clawed hand just a few inches from the mans face.

"If you want to stay alive, I suggest you forget that you ever saw her or us."

"W-what?"

Fire leaned closer, so close that the man could see the many shimmering colors of those splendid eyes. The beastly appearance was a beautiful one, but then again the large feline predators have always fascinated humans with their beauty and elegance paired with fearsome instincts and wild hearts.

"You heard us. Forget us."

Dusk dropped the banana peel and the man started as it landed on his head, giving off a "Eeekk!!" of surprise. The two flashed him a toothy grin each and disappeared in a few blinks of an eye. The garbage covered man realized he better get going. He never should have walked down the back streets of the Blue Dragon. The place looked haunted, and now he knew it was. But still, he thought he recognized their looks. He just couldn’t figure out where he’d seen them before?

 

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