July 21, 2014

Dodo the Guardian
by Anna Sykora (short, PG)
Cover image.
Image credit: Sand Pilarski. More info.

The invasion! Only one being could stop the annihilation of the world...

~~~

Hours before the bipeds peeled open their bed, and started stumbling and grumbling around, as they did every morning trying to wake up, without success -- our poor, bird-brained creatures, who frankly believe this Earth got created for their benefit -- Dodo waddled into her sleeping kitchen. Riblessly plump, with shadow-grey fur and round, green, owlish eyes, the old cat toddled towards her chicken kibble. Great paws of fire!

Twin flames flickered from the metal bowl, with a faint crackling, like an open bottle of Perrier. Her nostrils twitched: no trace of smoke. Were her bipeds playing some prank? No, from upstairs came the rhythmic snorting of Jean and Blake, deep in hibernation. Straightening her spine and stretching low, like a lioness stalking prey on the savanna, Dodo crept up on the flames ...

Holy Purrball, the burning eyes of a hideous, fat, transparent fly; its tube-like main heart pulsing frantically. This was a Nibbler, no mistake; the first she'd seen in her lives. She knew what to do, though; Dodo knew her duty as a guardian. Seizing the evil creature in her jaws, she flung it into the water bowl, where it struggled, hissing like a snake as the flames died away.

Not a bite of kibble remained for her; the Nibbler had devoured it all, whose corpse floated in her water now. How she yearned for a cool, fresh drink, to calm her nerves. Instead she groomed, licking her paw and polishing her face, and then continued on her nightly rounds.

Dodo checked every corner in the cluttered row house for spiders, and licked them up. Then she rearranged the carpet fringes, and sampled new growth on the plants (discreetly spitting up a fern frond in the hall). Climbing back onto the rumpled bed then, she purred to her bipeds, to give them sweet dreams.

Tonight she had destroyed a Nibbler. If only she could tell Jean and Blake -- not that the foolish creatures would understand.

"Honey, I found a fly in the cat's water." Grey-haired Jean sprinkled raisins on her yoghurt.

"What else is new?" Blake's blue eyes scanned a page of Fog Computing Magazine.

"I've never seen such a big one."

"I told you there's too many plants in here." He glanced at his watch and drained his coffee.

"When you leave cut apples in the fruit bowl, they attract flies." Jean tossed a wadded-up napkin at her mate, and he batted it back.

Dodo (who liked to join this game) eyed the green plastic pitcher in the kitchen, with the Nibbler floating in it. She had forgotten that Jean -- who saved the strings off teabags -- liked to use leftover cat bowl water for the plants. Rubbing against the watering can, Dodo yowled as if Jean had stepped on her tail.

"What does she want? I gave her more kibble." Blake thrust his arms into his blue parka.

Throw all this water away, Dodo warned, gazing up at him. Pour it down the toilet and flush it, quick.

Blake paid no attention. If Nibblers devoured this Earth our bipeds wouldn't notice; too busy quarrelling among themselves, like demented pigeons.

"I don't know, honey. I think she's trying to tell us something."

"Don't be ridiculous." Blake picked up his sample case.

"Maybe she lives in another world. She can sit and stare at nothing for an hour, or pace up and down like a cop on patrol. What is she watching for?"

"You need a check-up from the neck up." He pecked his wrinkled mate on the cheek. (More proof, as if we needed it, that our bipeds descend from the primitive birds. Somehow, maybe from illness or trauma, they have lost their feathers, and that is why they need us to warm them.) "Don't forget to meet me downtown. Now have a creative day."

"Oh, give me a kiss."

Then Jean picked up the watering can and gave the plants a soaking. She paid no mind to Dodo, who followed her, whimpering. Though cats have known for centuries how to cry in the megahertz of a biped baby, still the grownups cannot read our minds, even when they pick us up for a cuddle.

Dodo was dozing that afternoon when she heard a sudden rustling, like mice at play in a rotten wall. She opened one eye. Can it be? The sound emanated from downstairs, probably the living room. Lurching to her paws, she plunged off the bed, landing with a plop. Jean sat hunched at her computer nearby, tapping away at some new tale about cats and ignorant of the danger. (What can we expect? Reality's a foreign language to our bipeds, who never have a hamster's clue.)

Now Dodo wobbled down the wooden stairs at top speed, and waddled into the living room. Climbing up on the faded sofa, she studied the rubber plant beside it. Ugh. The glossy leaves bubbled with fat, transparent worms, whose pink eyes glowed like neon: more Nibblers -- about to turn into flies.

Rearing up, she beat at them with her forepaws, mashing them into gobs of glue. But as she squashed them, or slashed at them, more of the hideous worms crept forth. Oh, she couldn't reach them all. She toppled the plant over with a crash.

"What are you doing?" Jean grabbed her up. "I told you not to chew on that plant anymore." Hugging her, she marched up the stairs. "Don't we give you enough toys, baby? Corks and drinking straws, and balls of foil. And what about your new scratching post?" Releasing Dodo in Blake's home office, Jean squatted near the carpeted post: "See, you can play with this cute little bell: dingaling!"

Dodo swallowed her irritation like a clump of bitter leaves. Great Mother Purrball, grant me an extra helping of patience with this fool.

"I'm meeting Blake for egg fu yung and an Italian movie, so you have to play by yourself. I just changed your litter; don't complain." Then Jean closed the office door, trapping Dodo inside. She didn't forget to fetch her fresh food and water, though; despite her lack of intuition, Jean made a decent servant of cats.

Left alone, in familiar darkness, Dodo heard the Nibblers rustling downstairs. What were they doing, devouring Jean's precious collection of paper books? How Jean loved to laze in bed with them, squinting at the pages she fluttered to and fro. And what about Blake's wide screen downstairs, which made noise and showed busy pictures? What would he do if the Nibblers ate it, and he couldn't sit and lull himself?

Oh help me, Cat Mother of the World, Dodo cried. I'm shut in here, while my bipeds move at a 'movie,' whatever that may be. Oh how can I do my duty if I can't patrol the house? She sagged down on a cheap, beige rug from Iran; the rug she'd barfed on many a time, after gobbling too much garden grass; the one Jean had bleached the spots back out of, till Dodo's meditation area looked almost pristine.

Now the cat pulled her ribless old self together and, concentrating all the mystic powers of her brain of walnut size, she focused and distilled her love for comfort and kindness in this messy, uneasy world; and with purrings long and loud, and repetitious, she chanted a plea to Mome (rhymes with "home"), the Mistress Cat of the Multiverse:

Mome, Mome, Mome;
Help me in my moment of need;
Help me to save the House of the World ...

Nothing happened, nothing at all; and downstairs the multitudes of evil Nibblers rustled like the end of the world.

At least my bipeds can't blame me, Dodo thought, when they come bumbling home to a hole, since it's Jean who locked me up.

She soon felt tempted to give up. I really need a nap, and then a little rest from sleeping. How many lives do I still have? Holy Mother, I've lost track ... One of these days, I really need to learn how to count.

Still I will try once more to reach you, as our foremothers taught me. I may not know how to count, but I do know my duty as a guardian.

Mome, mome, mome ... Dodo chanted like a yogi. Mome ... till her tongue hung out of her jaws.

All of a sudden then, a pale blue light flowered in a corner of the darkness, inside Blake's wire wastepaper basket from IKEA.

"Mome," Dodo cried. "Oh life-giving purr, you have heard my purr-er." Mome's eyes -- magnificent emeralds, in a heart-shaped face of midnight satin -- twinkled like stars in the deserts of Egypt, our ancient homeland.

"My little kitten, what do you want?" she asked, her voice deep and pleasantly resonant.

"Great Mother, I found a Nibbler. I drowned it, but it multiplied."

"I know." Mome yawned, disclosing ivory fangs. "Tonight I have many worlds to shape with my paws, or smash. Be brief. You tell me something I need to know."

Dodo's tail tip traced a figure eight. "What can I know that you don't know?"

"What do you plan to do, if I grant you super-feline powers for the night?"

"Love and protect my precious home, for the sake of the helpless bipeds here. I feel a warm affection for them, even though the female trips over me and insists on brushing my healthy teeth."

"Dodo, your good intentions have proved your merit. Leap forth like a lion; destroy those Nibblers." Mome waved her silver-clawed paw, and the door to the office floated open.

"Oh thank you, Great Mother." As Dodo went bounding down the creaking stairs, Mome bellowed after her:

"Remember one root of this world's axis tree grows through the fruit bowl on your table. Don't let the Nibblers chew it up, or Earth will sink into chaos -- leaving no chicken kibble behind."

Indeed, dozens of Nibblers were feasting on the Granny Smith apple Blake had bitten into. Leaping up, Dodo grabbed the apple by the stem and tried to lift it out of the bowl of chipped crystal, while the Nibblers buzzed around her:

"You interloper!" "Fat puss!" "You spoiler of our luscious world destruction!"

The stem snapped off, and back the apple rolled into the bowl. Now Dodo tried to bat it out; she tried again, swept the bowl off the table and smashed it. Into the kitchen rolled the apple, with the Nibblers swarming after it. The dishwasher door lay open wide; Jean had forgotten to start the machine.

Was there soap in the chamber? Did it matter? Grabbing the apple between her front paws, Dodo shot it in like a basketball; and then, when the Nibblers had streamed inside, she reared up and knocked the heavy door with her head. Up it swung, and shut.

She leaped onto the counter. From inside the machine the Nibblers shrieked: "We'll make a black hole look like a package holiday. Your Earth won't be worth one whisker off a dog!"

"Go ahead; make my day." And Dodo pressed the button Start.

"I don't understand." Jean picked another shard of crystal out of the rug. "I thought I closed her in your office, after she wrecked my rubber plant."

Yawning, Blake fumbled into slippers: "I never liked that fussy bowl. Let's buy a pottery one from Mexico."

"Whatever." Jean emptied the dustpan. "I'm just happy she didn't hurt herself."

"Me too." Blake lifted purring Dodo off a cushiony chair. "Come on, old girl; you can purr us to sleep." Then up the stairs -- unconscious as all his kindred -- he carried the plump and smug guardian of the world.

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Article © Anna Sykora. All rights reserved.


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In This Week's Press:

Dodo the Guardian -- Anna Sykora
~ The invasion! Only one being could stop the annihilation of the world...

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One Doughnut at a Time Man -- Mikel K
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