The Catalyst

By E.D. Wivens, December 2006

The cat rolled around in the sunshine. It was several hours since the last baby rabbit had foolishly emerged from the warren, and he was beginning to feel hungry again. He settled himself down into the bushes and, half closing his eyes, waited.

From this hill he could see right across the plain to the far hills that lay beyond the places where people lived. On the wind drifted the smell of burning and in the middle distance a smudge of smoke was drifting up into the otherwise blue sky.

He narrowed his eyes and concentrated on the smell. It was coming from the same place as the smoke and that made sense. He though about this for a moment and was pretty certain that it came from where he could see the fires burning at night. The fires that now burned in the places where the lights had been. The lights had gone now, but he didn't know why and it was too far beyond his territory for him to really care.

He settled back and looked across the deserted concrete area where the cars had once been. It was now completely empty and fresh grass was filling the cracks between the slabs. Small trees were also encroaching on the edges now that the people didn't bring their cars here any more.

At one time so many people had come up here on days like this that they had completely filled the space with their cars. They had brought food with them and sat down on the grass to eat it. The young people had eaten their food, climbed the trees and rolled down the grass banks. Then as the day had begun to cool the people would take away their cars and be replaced by other people who would wander off into the bushes in pairs. But nobody came now, not even on sunny days like today. He used to wander up here to enjoy both the attention and the leftover food, but now neither of these treats was on offer.

The only car here was the rusty one lying amongst the trees in which he had made his home. He'd once lived inside the compound that clung to the foot of the hill. He'd had a comfortable basket in one of the concrete huts that clustered inside its high fences. But he'd left when the dogs had taken over. He could still hear them barking and howling at night as they sorted out their complex hierarchies.

It had been nice living in the compound when the dogs had been restrained in their wire cage beside the striped pole that blocked the entrance. The people had been in charge then and the dogs had followed them around. That was when the people in the brown and grey clothes had walked up and down on the tarmac square. That was when the one with the red hat had shouted at them as they did so. They had ignored him just as he had ignored them. They had ignored him even when he had strolled between their legs as they walked.

His favourite people had been the ones in the white coats. These were the ones that lived in the rooms beneath the tarmac square. They had never ignored him. They would always pick him up and put him on their laps as they swivelled in their chairs. The other people would look and laugh and smile and make a fuss of him. No they had been his favourites.

Of course there had been times when they too had ignored him. Usually when the people in the grey suits had come and shouted at them. Then he'd be driven out into the corridor, the wedges would be removed from beneath the two heavy doors and they would close them, shutting him out.

This isolation didn't usually last for very long though. When the grey people had gone and the sun had come out, the room would again become too hot and airless. There were no windows, and the ventilators were too small, so the wooden wedges would come back, the doors would be fixed open again, and he'd go back to greet his friends.

He felt the warmth of the sun on his fur and it felt good. He found it strange that the people didn't want to come and enjoy the sunshine any more. They had loved it so much before, but now they didn't come. Nobody stroked him, or tickled him under the chin for that matter, and that was very disappointing. He stretched and turned over to warm his underbelly.

His thoughts drifted back to the last time a person had spoken to him. That had been on a lovely sunny day like this. That was when he'd walked into the room where the people in white coats lived. They'd not seen him come in so he'd leapt up onto the bench so they could stroke him and tickle him beneath his chin. They'd called out to him as he'd rubbed the side of his head on the metal cylinder standing there. They'd called out again when the cylinder fell to the floor and allowed all the white mist to escape.

They'd not spoken to him after that. They just lay on the floor with their eyes and mouths open. They didn't even get up when the day had gone cold and the night had begun. The same was true of the other people. They too just stared with their unseeing eyes and lay there ignoring him.

Then some other people had come, they had orange clothes and pointed faces with big round eyes. They had taken away all the other people. They had taken away the metal cylinder. They had climbed the hill and taken away the people and their cars. Then they had gone away as well.

There was a scraping sound to his left and all thoughts of people vanished. The rabbits were awake.

The author and owner of this work is E.D. Wivens. See http://www.katzphur.co.uk/ for more details.
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