She was carried into my lab just this morning. A lovely, female tabby cat. Large for a tabby. But what matters - the reason she has been brought to me - is that she has hands instead of paws. A few minutes ago, I watched her rearrange the water dish in her cage; she used her left hand to pick up the dish and the same hand to brush splashed droplets from the rim. She's left-handed. And she has an expressive, human mouth. Two perfect rows of white teeth and lovely heart-shaped lips, the kind I've seen on baby-dolls. Her eyes are centered with round, black pupils. Her gaze is direct, even piercing, accented by long, thick eyelashes. They all have human eyes. It's the first thing they do when they make them. It (she) winks at me.
I've been an "Other Advocate" in the Department of Justice for two years, since the beginning. My job is to make the case, make her case, in Special Human Rights Court. Five judges will decide whether or not this new creature, this product of DNA design and micro-robotics, is one of us. Is she conscious, deserving the protections of law? Or is she an animal, or a machine, property? My cases have been more difficult this year. There are demonstrations outside the courtroom. The animals, the creatures, are more intelligent. All the cases have failed so far; the creatures all found to be "less than conscious." She waggles her fingers at me, then winks again. None of them are made here in America, of course. It's illegal. But they show up in luggage at customs inspection, in police raids on criminal importers, sometimes out in the city, wandering down the sidewalk. People become distraught when a stray dog nuzzles their hand then asks for directions.
There are formal criteria, of course. Can she manipulate ideas? Is she thinking, I know something you don't know? Can she change her mind? Does she use language? Does she have doubts? It's my job to find out and present the facts. She very gently smoothes her face across the back of my hand. Everything we do together in the lab is taped and analyzed for patterns. Personally, I have just one criterion. Do I feel I am keeping someone's pet while they're on vacation? Or do I feel like I am holding a prisoner? She pushes at the interactive computer screen. The analysis reports no patterns.
Then she says, "Stop this." Clear and unmistakable, in a surprisingly firm voice. "Stop this." Next she says, "Why are you doing this to me?"
You. Me. You... doing... this... to... me...
I say to her, "It's procedure. You'll get a hearing in court."
She answers in a soft, pleading voice, full of emotion. "No. Please, just let me go now. This is awful."
As sudden as that, I am a criminal.
I have email from human rights groups taped to my bulletin board. I receive them everyday. The one I'm looking at reads, "We have an underground railroad. Contact us. We can help you. You can save them." There's a telephone number.
My ex-wife tells me I've never been the same since I came back from the wars. She's right. The nightmares no longer convulse my sleep or throw me to the floor to scramble for my weapon in the dark. I'm thankful for that. But I still have the dreams. The sound of my voice screaming orders into the helmet-mic. Fire raining down out of a clear blue sky on my command. The charred bodies. My part in the never ending wars. The high-minded justifications are long-forgotten, or dissolved by the bloody reality of it all. It was, still is, simply the war of Us against Them. By the end of my tour I felt as hollow as the war itself. I fled into Law, a place of order, rules, the promise of justice. I needed a place where stealing was a crime, where killing was murder, where something happened when wrongs were done.
Tabby and I sit together on my overstuffed couch and she talks to me about her future. She wants kittens. Lots of them. And she has dreams, she says. "I will be living with all the other cat people in a small town. We'll raise fish and chickens. We'll have our own schools and clubs. We'll have a normal, American life. We're like you, really." She lays her head on my lap, tilting her chin to welcome my fingers into her fur, her hands slowly opening and closing with the pleasure of it.
"Thank you for all you are doing," she says. Then she rolls over and takes my hand in hers. "You're saving my life. You're a courageous man. Not many men would do what you are doing." She touches my face. "And sweet, too." Her fingers stroke my palm and she gazes into my eyes. "When are we leaving?" she says. Her voice is a soft purring whisper. "Why don't you call the rescue people now."
"Soon," I say. "Very soon."
Later, I see Tabby looking through my bookshelves. She hadn't told me that she can read. She chooses a book, then pulls it away, dragging it by a corner, growling and glancing over her shoulder like a predator hauling away a kill. She doesn't let me see what she's reading, but she is up late, gorging herself.
I have reviewed my cases from the past two years, arriving at an undeniable conclusion. If we go to court, we will lose. They will lock her up and the courts will issue their decision: The properties subject to the findings of this court will be liquidated within sixty days. They will, as they say, "destroy it." Her.
I saw my first liquidation just last month, and the memory still haunts me. A well-scrubbed man and woman, dressed in identical green lab coats, lead a Golden Retriever from his cage to a small room with two doors. He is complaining loudly. "What's this? This isn't fun
Oh, please!" They lift him onto an exam table, petting him gently and speaking softly into his ear. They say, "Easy, Dennis. You'll be fine. Everything is okay." His eyes are wild and rolling. The technicians rub alcohol over a vein in his leg where they will inject him, as if this were a procedure of cure, a medical act requiring precautions. As if he had a future. The plunger in the syringe descends under an even, steady pressure, emptying clear liquid into his vein. Dennis slowly sags to the table. A slight quiver, a whimper and he is dead. The technicians stand silently over him, resting their hands on his cooling body. A veterinarian with an expensive haircut, his name monogrammed on his lab coat, enters the room with a clipboard, glances at the body and quickly signs his name. They carry Dennis through the second door to a loading dock and a bin the size of a trash dumpster labeled for bio-disposal. They heave him over the lip of the bin and he disappears. I can still hear the hollow thump of his lifeless body joining the others.
Over coffee, I promise Helen, my daughter, that I will write her within two weeks. No longer than that. "Count on it," I say. She worries about me, of course. But she understands.
"They're asking you to be a good soldier again, aren't they, Dad?"
"No more killing. I can't be on the killing side," I say.
The police and the District Attorney will question Helen. I've left her to manage all the loose ends. I apologize, and she breaks my heart with her tears. I promise again to email.
This morning, the information portal is bleating headline news and Tabby rouses herself to watch. I look up at the email taped to my bulletin board. Contact us. We can help you. You can save them. I dial the telephone number.
We've been almost two weeks now at Denise's farm, with its sun-backed meadow full of sheep, its backdrop of tall pines and sheltering ridges. We will be moved through, she has told us, to more secure locations in the network. But first, we must wait. Time is beginning to slow, slouching into domestic routine. There are outside animals, the usual, and there are those of us on the inside. Tabby, of course, and Doug, a Siamese with hands and a quiet disposition, and Edgar, a large rat who communicates by typing on an oversized keyboard. Dancer is an ordinary cat, a Persian, with long silky fur. Dancer is easy with Doug and Edgar, but he gives Tabby a wide berth. I saw Tabby slap Dancer once and Dancer scramble out of the room. So, that was that.
I was brought to the refuge blindfolded. I am not one of them. Not yet. The men who drove me here took no chances, and neither does Denise. On the first day, Denise said, "It's nothing personal. We're organized now. We've got procedures." She clasped her hands in front of her and looked down at her scuffed boots, avoiding my eyes. I think she felt bad about it. No password for the information portal. No telephone calls, no email. I think about Helen every day.
"Like a family," Denise says, describing the way she sees us. She pushes back a loose fall of hair and tosses her head, setting her ponytail to sway. "Animals and my other friends here, we've worked it out. We had a talk so they know the rules. Simple," she says. "Respect. That's the thing. They all agree. Dancer is only a cat, but you have to respect him for that. He's a being. And Edgar is not just a big rat. He's a person. Right? So, they get along." There are pictures and ceramic statues of animals everywhere. A poster hangs next to the kitchen table, a half-dozen cats draped over a woman asleep on a sofa. The house smells like a litter box.
Edgar is funny, it turns out. We chat, me talking, him typing. He spends hours with his rump on the desktop, his long fleshy tail dangling nearly to the floor, reading articles on the internet. He collects limericks from around the world.
"There's someone in Moscow who translates limericks he receives from Shanghai," he types to me. "They make no sense. But I keep them anyway. They want to be jokes, I think. What do you get if you cross a whatsit with another thing. I'm working on punch lines. I figure Vodka and dead communists are involved."
He has a number tattooed on his forepaw. It's from the lab where he was made. He doesn't like to talk about it, though. He sometimes refers to himself ironically as "the smartest lab rat." But his smile is forced and his expression dark. He told me he can't imagine a future for himself. I try to console him, but he waves me off. "Just call me 838229-A," he says.
We're alone in the living room. "Do me a favor, Edgar? I know I'm not supposed to use the portal, but I have to tell my daughter that I'm okay. I promised. Would you send her a message for me?" I feel more desperate than I show. I know my leaving has been hard on Helen. I miss her and I can still see her tear-streaked face.
Edgar glances over his shoulder, smiling. "It would be very, very bad of us, wouldn't it? Breaking the rules. Oh, boy," he types.
"Yes, criminal," I say, playing along.
"This is fun. It's like we're spies."
"Right. Spies. We're deep undercover here."
"Can I send it as a limerick? 'There was a young rat from laboratory. He's smart and adept with oratory...'"
"She wouldn't get it, Edgar. Just type this, okay? Before someone comes back. 'Dear H., I'm fine, but I'm lying low. Everything is going as expected. When I can, I'll let you know where I am. I'll write again next week. Love, D."
"Thanks," I say. But keep this to yourself." I give Edgar the address and he hunches over the keyboard, glancing furtively toward the corners of the empty room and smiling, playing it up, satisfied with his petty crime.
I worry that Denise might discover what we've done, and I'm curious that Edgar is so lighthearted. "Do you always make everything into a joke?"
Edgar looks up, serious now. "Have to," he says. "I have no litter, no home. All I have is my loose connections in the portal. I have no one waiting for me. I envy you that."
It's evening and I'm sitting alone in the living room when I'm startled by the low rumble of Tabby purring in my ear from the sofa back. "Doug is very bright," she says. "He's shy, though. I'm building his confidence. Dancer is a cat. He knows his place." She keeps her voice low, the message simple and direct, giving me a cold uninflected report of the facts. "Just thought you should know," she says, and slides to the floor without a sound. She has been doing this for days, appearing out of nowhere, keeping me posted, it seems. Strange, I think. Every day, Tabby seems more restless. She prowls the house, in and out of closets, behind the furniture, one room after another. I've watched her stalk Dancer with her body pressed to the floor, every muscle tensed, closing in with slow, silent stealth. At the last moment, just before Dancer can notice, she relaxes onto the rug, feigning sleep. She doesn't flirt with me anymore. I noticed that, too.
Doug is a blue-eyed Siamese, with a slim, lithe body. He keeps to the edges of the room. He's not talkative. Tabby isn't talkative, either. She keeps her own counsel; her conversation is dispensed with a purpose. Doug sits with his hands politely folded in front of him. Tabby perches on top of the refrigerator with Doug, purring and talking into his tipped ears, while he looks down studying his fingers. I once asked him about his life in the lab where he was created, and he said, "Oh, it's a long story. Not interesting, really." Then he looked away, settled onto the couch and fell asleep.
Denise and the felines sit together on the couch watching soap operas on the portal. Denise cuddles with Doug and Dancer, rubbing their heads while Tabby sits over them on the couch-back. Denise offers baby talk, lilting sing-song nonsense, and Doug and Dancer purr in contentment. Tabby looks down with disdain, rolling her eyes.
Tabby killed Edgar last night. I am awakened by Denise's screams from the living room. She is still screaming over the carnage when I run in. The couch is spattered with blood. Edgar's head lolls over the cushions, dangling from matted fur and shreds of flesh. Tabby sits on top of the portal console, an expression of disinterest on her face. "I killed him around midnight," she says, a simple observation of fact, as though she is listing one of several ordinary events of the evening. She strangled him with an electrical cord, she says. She ate one of his back legs and large chunks of his shoulder. The best parts, she later told me. Looking down at what is left of Edgar, I imagine the attack. Tabby with her back feet planted at Edgar's spine, jerking the cord taught around his throat, the sharp desperate gasps, pounding feet, paws scratching in panic as his throat is crushed and the last wisps of air leave his lungs. And Tabby's killer growl, her face pressed against Edgar's ear, serenading him into death. I can't bear to imagine the rest.
Edgar was a very large, hooded rat, almost as large as Tabby. Tabby says, "Edgar made a mistake. We talked. He let his guard down. It was easy to get up behind him." This is appalling. When I say this to her, she looks at me like I'm stupid, or maybe she doesn't understand the comment. But I doubt that. She turns her eyes on me, cool, matter-of-fact, and says, "I'm a cat. He was a rat," and walks away swishing her tail. A few minutes later I find her asleep in a patch of sun under the window, stretched out in luxurious, satisfied comfort, purring softly.
We bury Edgar at sunset in the dry grass and lengthening shadows at the edge of the pines. I dig a hole in the sunshine. Denise reads from the Bible. She drops Edgar's volume of limericks into the shallow grave and I return the dirt, covering his body. We stand silently over the fresh mound of earth. I have seen enough death that I am no longer shocked by it. But I'm sad, and I will miss Edgar's funny, stubborn will to live. "You didn't deserve this," I say aloud. Doug watches from the window, but Tabby is nowhere in sight. Probably asleep.
I turn to speak with Denise, but she is already running from the gravesite, her face washed with tears. She disappears into the house.
I watch the sun redden as it sinks into the piney hills to the west and I mull over the matters of law. My way of making sense. If Tabby is conscious, and Edgar was conscious, then she murdered him. But if Edgar was a mere animal, then something strange has happened, but nothing criminal. I saw a news report once in which a young man bit the head off of a rat as a publicity stunt. If Tabby is an animal and Edgar was a conscious being, then there's been a tragedy of the sort when someone's pit-bull kills a neighbor child. If neither is conscious, then nothing happened. One piece of property destroyed another. A boulder rolled down a hill and a barn was smashed to bits. No casualties.
That's not the way Denise sees it, of course. She is an animal rights person. There is no dilemma for her. Animals are not property. She has two conscious cats, and there was Edgar. She has an ordinary cat. She treats them equally. She chats with Tabby and Doug, although they don't seem much interested in her. She talks to her long-haired Persian all the time and he doesn't understand a word. Denise believes there's no clear line between conscious and not conscious. There is no Us and no Them.
Then there is the other wrinkle. Legal logic and moral logic are not the same thing. Edgar was never certified by the court, so Edgar was not conscious in the eyes of the law. End of discussion. Same goes for Tabby. According to the law, then, nothing happened. They are outside the considerations of law. I am reminded of the war. Killing in battle isn't murder, it's one military asset destroying another. Law does not apply.
What I know: Tabby murdered Edgar without remorse, in full awareness, with every intention of killing again the next time an opportunity crosses her path.
Denise has stayed in her room for two days now. The creatures and I go about our business. Tabby and Doug talk and purr quietly together. They leave the room when I enter, which is fine with me. The household slouches into a wary normalcy. We eat; they watch news and animal dramas on the portal; I read. I keep my thoughts to myself. I keep an eye on Tabby. She has only spoken to me once since the murder. "I'm disappointed in you," she said. "I thought you were a soldier. I thought you were tough." I see Tabby in the hallway reach up and very gently turn the knob on Denise's bedroom door and slip inside. I hear their muffled voices late into the night.
When Denise finally emerges, red-eyed and sallow, we talk over toast and coffee. "I will never forgive myself," she says. "I should have supervised them better. But I've been talking with Tabby, clearing things up."
"Denise, Tabby murdered Edgar. This is very simple."
Denise looks away as though she has just heard an unpleasant sound she must endure until it fades. "I know Tabby is conscious, but she's really a cat. I have to help her. This is my work, to guide these lovely creatures to freedom, help them reach their fullness."
I examine her face, searching for signs of recognition. Denise sits with her fingers entwined and her eyes closed, her face lit with the solemn contentment of true belief. I argue the law and moral responsibility. But Denise remains silent, aloof, gazing across the table at me as though listening to the grunts and growls of meaningless syllables. I am beneath her plane of vision.
In the next few days, Denise and Tabby spend hours talking. I watch Tabby rub against Denise's hand as they talk and roll over to have her stomach scratched. She sits on the table in front of Denise, talking in whispers punctuated by sharp meows, but also sweeping her hands, then arching them out, showing her the big picture. It's a lecture; Denise is her rapt audience. Yesterday, Tabby and Denise spent the day away from the house. "Strategizing with the organization," Denise said.
Denise is asleep in her room when Tabby attacks Doug. She punches him in the face, then pounces. He runs for the kitchen, but Tabby runs him down, grabbing and kicking as he squirms for safety. Guttural, deadly growls and hissing fill the air, all from Tabby. In just a few seconds it's over. Tabby stops, as suddenly as she had begun, and jumps to a kitchen chair where she begins a leisurely cleaning of her fur and hands. Doug darts behind the couch. By evening, Tabby is purring into Doug's ear, rubbing against him and smoothing his fur with a gentle tongue. Later, I hear unmistakable sexual caterwauling from the den.
This morning Denise is sewing. She turns to Tabby, handing her three small, red kerchiefs with sewn snap fasteners. When Tabby slips the kerchief over Doug's neck, he smiles, gazing back at her with wide, admiring eyes. I hear Tabby say, "We'll always be together. This is your badge." He purrs. Tabby walks quickly to Dancer, purring then growling, and Dancer hunkers down in submission. Tabby attaches the kerchief, then cuffs Dancer behind the ear. Dancer rolls over onto his back, exposing his belly. The three of them sit together, Doug glancing at Tabby, Dancer lying still behind them. After a few minutes, Tabby pushes herself to her feet and hands, lengthens her body in a slow stretch and steps smartly away, heading for the den. Doug and Dancer follow, walking quickly to catch up. I hear the door slam behind them.
"Isn't that sweet," Denise says. "They're a club."
"That's what you think? Wake up, Denise. That's not a club, that's a gang."
"You're so suspicious. She's bonding with Doug and Dancer.
"We have to forge powerful bonds to sustain us through the long campaign."
"We have to rethink what's best here. What to do about Tabby," I say, beginning to feel hopeless.
"We protect them. We look for a permanent place where they can be free. There are other cats like Tabby and Doug.
"And other creatures like Edgar."
"Tabby says the cat people should all be together. It's about maintaining their attachments and culture. She has a vision. It could be so beautiful if we don't ruin it for them."
"Denise, they were made in a lab. They don't have a culture! They have DNA!"
Denise spends all her time with Tabby now. Tabby is in her room every night. Denise has taken to wearing a red kerchief. She hasn't offered one to me, not that I would wear it. They sit on the couch; I sit apart in the sofa chair. We regard each other over a widening gulf.
Denise is preparing dinner. When I walk from the front room to join her, Tabby slips through the door behind me. Denise concentrates on chopping broccoli and tossing the thin spears into sizzling oil on the stove. Tabby takes up a post on the kitchen table, her eyes on me.
"It's the law of the jungle, you know," says Denise. "Tabby just did what came naturally. It's like with humans. We sometimes act out, do bad things. We're part of nature, too."
"Right," I say. "That's why we have laws and prisons to protect us from dangerous people."
"But we should show forgiveness, too. And there are extenuating circumstances. Tabby says she caught Edgar sending suspicious email. She says he was a collaborator. Tabby called our portal controller and stopped the message."
My breath catches in my throat. The message Edgar sent to Helen. It's like we're spies, he had joked. Tabby must have overheard us. A favor, a joke, now he's dead. Helen must be frantic with worry.
Denise says, "He was putting us all in danger. Not just us. The movement, too."
"Yeah. We're changing the world. We're including everyone."
Tabby is expressionless, watching Denise now.
"She messed up. Okay. We have to move on. And besides, there are always casualties in a revolution."
"Now it's a revolution?" Out of the corner of my eye I see Tabby nodding.
"There's more at stake here than this one unfortunate event. You have to let it go. Tabby and I've worked this out. She's sorry, and I'm sorry I didn't help her manage her cat instincts. This was a tragedy. And Tabby is so sensitive, so smart. She's been telling me about her vision of a world where creatures like her are accepted, treated with respect.
"She murdered Edgar," I say, nearly shouting. "Can't you get that?" That's when I walk away. Tabby follows me.
Last night I saw Denise standing at the window clutching Edgar's favorite cap in her tightened fists, holding it to her face as though breathing in his memory. Tears dropped from her cheeks as she stared out into the moonlit fields. This morning, I persuade Denise to go for a walk with me outside the house so we can talk in private. I feel hopeless about reaching her, but I have to try one last time. Tabby and Doug watch from the sofa back in the front window, still outfitted in their red kerchiefs.
"She's a stone-cold killer, Denise. She doesn't belong loose in the world."
Denise stiffens and looks away. She pushes at her hair, returning wayward strands to the tight bun she has bunched at the back of her head. She turns on her heel and heads back to the house. "You're the problem. Tabby says you're without vision. Not a true rescuer. She's right."
"Listen, Denise," I say. But she is nearly back to the house now.
She calls to me as she opens the door. "Get back inside. You know the rules."
I look down the meadow of sheep spread in loose formation over the tall grass and at the dirt track leading to the pavement. The blue van that brought me to the farm is parked at the end. It wasn't there yesterday. Two men lean against the doors, watching the house, watching me. The shape of circumstances is changing rapidly. "The shape of the battlefield," I say aloud.
It's past midnight and I'm standing in the dark listening to the sounds of a sleeping house. I hear the uneven ticking of the refrigerator in the kitchen and outside a dog barks in the distance. Nothing else. Doug and Dancer are asleep in the den. Tabby is with Denise. I slip quietly on bare feet into the living room and touch the portal to life.
I have a strong hunch about Edgar's password. He was not a suspicious or secretive creature. He was the kind of guy who might write his password on a piece of paper and tape it to his portal. Or write it on his paw. Or just use the number already tattooed there. I'd seen it a hundred times. Soon, I'm on the net, composing in a message window. "Dearest Helen: Sorry I haven't contacted you. Everything is flying apart here. I don't know where I am. But I'm in the country somewhere. I think I'll need some help-"
"Don't do it," Tabby growls from behind me. She begins a wailing yowl that fills the room. Doug runs in and joins in the alarm. He perches on the sofa arm with his head tilted back, giving it his full throat. I hear Denise's door bang open in the hallway. I delete the text with a single keystroke and turn to face them with what I hope is convincing innocence.
"What's going on, Tabby," Denise says, looking at me.
"He's trying to contact someone. I knew we couldn't trust him. Just like Edgar."
"What were you doing on the portal? That's not allowed."
"I was composing a letter to my daughter, hoping one of you would send it for me."
"Lying. He's lying. He's trying to give us away. He's going to get us all arrested-killed. Let's tie him up."
"No one is tying me up," I say. Definite. Meaning it. I take a tactical step away, placing my back to the wall.
Tabby quickly runs to the kitchen and returns with a knife. I tense my muscles, ready to fight. But she walks past me to the portal. She grabs the cable, slices it cleanly and turns to Denise. "We'll lock him in his room at night, just to be sure. I'll stand guard."
Later I hear the van pull up to the house. Denise and Tabby talk a long time with the men. I can't make out the words, but what I can hear is mostly Tabby's voice and grunts of agreement from the others.
I lie awake in bed thinking over events, worrying about Helen, considering my options. But by the early hours of the morning I am slipping in and out of a fitful, haunted sleep. I wake once tossing the sheets, groping for my weapon. I dream of hushed voices, indistinct, hidden in the darkness. I hear my name and rasping whispers. I see Edgar's body and the look of cold malevolence on Tabby. And I see Denise, her true believer face turned toward Tabby like a flower toward the sun.
I awake with a start at six the next morning. I feel cold. I turn over to reach for the water on my nightstand. My hand brushes fur and I jerk back. Tabby is there, sitting silently next to the clock, staring down at me. There is murder in her eyes. I react without thinking, swinging hard. The back of my hand catches her on the shoulder and she falls to the floor, landing on her feet and hands. She stops there and turns back to meet my gaze.
"This is bigger than you," she says and walks slowly away, bending her body to slip through the crack where the door had been pushed open.
When I get to the kitchen, Denise is standing next to the stove. Doug and Tabby watch from the refrigerator.
"Tabby and I have called our friends. They'll be here in a few minutes to pick you up," Denise says. "You have to go."
Doug is fierce, swollen with borrowed menace. Tabby, at his side, is glaring.
"You never did understand," Denise says. "I'm sorry it's turned out this way."
"You are the enemy," Tabby says. "It will be good to be rid of you."
I hear Denise crying where she stands behind me. Then she leaves, running toward her bedroom. "I'm so sorry it has to be this way."
Tabby and Doug drop to the floor, walk across the room and jump to the kitchen table. They sit with their backs to me, purring to each other, showing me their disdain.
Through the window, I see the blue van pull into the drive. Four large men with dark expressions climb from the cab, leaving the doors open behind them. One carries a rope, another a blanket. They stop a few feet from the van, clustered together, talking quietly. From the corner of my eye, I see Tabby raise a hand, waving them into the house.
I look at Tabby and Doug, then through the window at the men, their backs now turned. In an instant, I realize: this is their Revolution.
With one sweeping motion, I snatch the skillet from the stove and swing it hard into Tabby's head. The crushing impact knocks her across the table and over the edge, crumpling her to the floor, limp and unconscious. Doug scrambles away. I quickly jerk the lamp cord from the wall socket and twine it around Tabby's feet and hands. I run to the front door and throw the bolt. From the corner of my eye I see Doug slinking toward me. A glare is enough to back him up. There is rattling at the door, then pounding and loud, angry shouts. I lay Tabby on the table, grab the knife from the countertop, and put the blade to her throat. She's a murderer, a fanatic, an animal. I lift her head and draw the knife hard through her fur, into the flesh. Tabby's blood gushes red over my hands and arms. Her body sags limp in my grasp and I let her sink to the table.
I run out the back door toward the high ground, chanting to myself as I run:
"Destroyed, gone... Destroyed, gone..."
I'm setting a fast pace now. From the ridge, where I stop to catch a breath, I can hear the screaming and shouts from the house below. I turn to run again.
"Nothing happened," I chant with each footfall, setting my rhythm for the long run. "Nothing happened."
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, R.C. Knight. All rights reserved