Introductory flash fiction from The Stars Fell On Blackmoor:
“Where has human Mummy gone?” Best Boy asked again, plaintively. Fierce Lord of the World shivered away the question, and the silly Dog who asked it, and went back to cleaning between his claws.
“She and the other apes have all gone,” Fierce Lord told his housemate. “When the blurs came.”
“Play with me!” Best Boy demanded of the Cat. “Come on come on come on!”
Then Best Boy remembered Mummy and whined, and was sad again.
Fierce Lord finished cleaning his claws and regarded Best Boy with contempt, but also a tiny fragment of sympathy. Like kittens, Fierce Lord thought. Dogs were all like kittens, but with none of the likeability. Dogs, he continued his thought, are a silly people. But then he remembered, and noticed that his memory had a new clarity, devoid of the overwhelming instinct-urges. Is this what the apes were like? He asked himself. Is this why they ruled all Prides, controlled all things? And Fierce Lord of the World remembered all the times that Best Boy had come to his defense, no matter the odds or the terrifying monster that had menaced them- even that time when a Mink had come running out of the Big Trees, run out and opened its jaws, ready to do to Cat what was Cat’s holy right to do to all others – to kill, to feed, to cause pain.
Best Boy was part of Fierce Lord’s Pride. A backward, silly, kitten-brained member of the Pride, but he belonged.
Just like the apes had been, Mummy chief amongst them. Giver of food, provider of cuddly warmth each time the Light went away, never striking like a real Queen of a Pride would have. Weak, naturally. It was well known by all Cats, and even lesser beings, how terribly weak in some ways all apes were. Not were. Had been. Natural cynic like all his race, Fierce Lord of the World knew a cold certainty. He knew that Mummy, and most of the apes, were Gone. No more warmth. No more Light. Just- Gone. Like Strongest Lady, Killer of Mice after the Dog from another place tore her. The blurs had come when the Light was away. The time when Cats enjoyed their rulership of the world and shared their stories, took each other, killed and feasted… This time the Cats had hidden, or stayed inside, or run off to the Pig land or the Duck water. And now, when the Light had come back, Fierce Lord could hear other Cats, foolish and silly Dog-like Cats, shaming themselves by calling out for their apes, telling their apes to feed them and in the process giving away their position.
There was an enemy loose in ape-place. Fierce Lord knew it, his whiskers told him strange stories in the sudden new silence. All the vibrations and the deafening row of the apes had ceased. One of their voices still bleated away, but Fierce Lord knew that it was coming from one of their cold boxes, the crackle inside not really alive, just as the little apes who ran around inside the edges weren’t really there to be caught and played with. Some sort of …reflection, the Cat thought with more new clarity. Not real, he struggled through a further thought. No warm blood, no fur, no death-squeals as the Cat proved its superiority and fed.
“We have to find Mummy!” Best Boy told him.
“Be quiet!” Fierce Lord of the World replied in one short low growling mew. “Enemies close, you fool. And don’t bark either. There are no apes to summon now. We are all that is left of the pride.”
“What?!? But what about Mummy! And Daddy! And Pup Who Is First Always?” Best Boy whined quietly to the weird little Dog (Cat) who led his pack. “We have to save our pack! Have to have to have to!”
“Our Pride,” corrected Fierce Lord, “Is broken. We have been smashed by a stronger Pride who have fed upon us and scattered us.”
“I want to be back inside the caves,” Best Boy whined. “I want warm best stink food and I want my blankie and I WANT MUMMY!” The Dog ended with a howl loud enough to make Fierce Lord jump and wince.
“You idiotic kitten!” Fierce Lord yowled back. “You will bring the enemy to us. And then what?”
Best Boy stopped his antics and turned suddenly, facing the ape land, a clutter of their odd rigid cold caves. He had Smelled Something, and now they both did, and the Cat saw it. Then the Dog saw it.
It did not belong. It had no place with apes, or Cat, or Dog. Not even with the Ducks, or the Pigs. No, not even with Swan or Goose. It had no place because it could not be, must not be, real. Nature had no place for it, not even as Food for Food’s Food, lowest of the low, to be fed on only in Worst Times.
It moved, but not on true legs. It had fed, fed on ape and on Dog and even –blasphemy! On Cat. Best Boy and Fierce Lord of the World could both smell it on the thing.
Things. There were others.
“It is hunting. Hunting us,” Best Boy said, not quite any more the perfect fool. “This is bringing me a blood memory. There is a blood memory telling me things. Bad things. We are as Chickens to this enemy. And they do not let you roll over, we are only food to them.”
One of them peeled away from the others that the Cat and Dog could now see. An ape had remained, hidden in its caves. But now one of them had sensed her, found her. Terrible ape screaming then, and the smell of ape blood. A lot of ape blood. And quiet sounds of ape meat being devoured.
“This is the end,” whined Best Boy.
And then they ran.