A Story About Animals Intro

January 9, 2018 at 9:27 pm (Uncategorized)

A Story About Animals

 

Intro

No one ever notices the cat. At least, not when it could save their lives. Traditionally, we’re considered more clever than other animals, more self-reliant, and overall more resilient than any other creature ever to have lived on this planet. What other animal supposedly has nine lives? A dog? I don’t think so. I’m still not convinced dogs even have one life, let alone nine.

Granted, I can tell you firsthand that cats don’t actually have some magical power that allows them to continue living after they die. They don’t even generally have better luck than other beasts, not counting the myths about the black ones. The only thing cats have over other animals is that they’re elevated to an almost mythical level in the minds of humans. Some ancient cultures even worshipped cats like they were gods, as crazy and wonderful as that sounds.

But the thing is, it doesn’t matter if society views cats as wonderful beings. Not if society has been wiped out. Without humans as a reference point, cats simply are. They aren’t smarter-than or more-clever-than, they’re just there. Just another creature in the world trying to stay alive. There are smart cats, just as there are moronic dogs or masochistic horses. Have you ever seen a masochistic horse? Good god, I hope you don’t have to encounter any.

This will probably sound like the ramblings of a mad man, delusional in his final moments, but I assure you, it isn’t. These are the ramblings of a mad cat, about to be snuffed out in a very unconventional and unfair finale to his life. I am that cat. You can call me, well, whatever you’d like because I’m a cat and I’m not going to respond to it either way. But for this story, you can think of me as…Finn.

Chapter 1 – Finn the Cat

 

For a cat, most days are uneventful. Even if you’ve got some human notion that something big is happening, we’ll probably disagree. Tuesdays are like any other day for a cat, and I was going to treat today’s with as much reverence. My only plans are to sleep, lick myself, knock something off of the counter at an inconvenient time, and maybe lick myself again if time allows. Beyond that, my day is wide open.

I have a good space and a good agreement with my owner. Way back when I was a kitten, my owner found me huddled in the gutter like a sad scrap of trash. He figured I needed a home, and he was right, but he also understood that I didn’t want to keep things exclusive. Just because you don’t want to sleep in storm drains doesn’t mean you want to spend your entire life in a box in the sky.

If I had to take a guess what my master’s name was, I’d probably get it wrong. Sure, that’s self-centered, but it never came up and I never found it useful to listen when his other human friends were over and talking loudly and obnoxiously. English is not my first language, and all things considered, I don’t know why people think I’d want it to be. So many grunts and slurs and generally incomprehensible sounds. I picked out “food” because it became extremely relevant to me, and “Finn” because I’m a cat and as such, my name was hurled at me in thousands of vain attempts to communicate.

The rest of my understanding of human language is pretty limited. I figured out that “cat” was the name for my people, “dog” was the name of the assholes in the sky boxes next to ours, “bath” was some bastardized form of cleaning humans delighted in, and “vet” was a funny joke my master and I had between one another where he’d accidentally say the word and I’d pretend to run around like I was a mouse and he was the cat. I guess I’m just sentimental like that.

Oddly, I also understood the word “zoo” since our sky box was just a few pounces from the city zoo, which was a local hangout of mine. I understood all the words associated with my friends living there, including “rhinoceros,” “leopard,” “bear,” and “crocodile.” A scattershot of fellow creatures, but what’s life if not a chance to meet interesting animals? Oh, I also knew the human word for “trumpet,” but I can’t for the life of me explain why and how that was ever relevant to my life.

My owner…maybe “Fronck” or “Patter” or “Grog” or something…he was one of those male versions of a human. Not overly dominant, but he knew how to groom himself to the point that he didn’t shed more than me and he didn’t turn away females. He kept our sky box tidy and was good enough to remember not to shut the skylight in the corner room since that was my door in to and out of the rest of the world, as per our agreement. The deal was, I snuggled with him when it felt convenient to both of us (I never asked him when was convenient for him but I assumed our schedules matched), and in return, he let me wander the city whenever I got bored.

Ah, the city. The big place that humans call home. What a total wasteland of clutter and lights and things that assault the senses all hours of the day. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s full of distractions and excitement and all-around wonderful things if you’re the type of creature who prefers the thrill of the hunt to actually catching his prey. Some nights I’d just wander across the rooftops, ignoring anything lower than my upward gaze, and other nights I’d slum it on the streets, taking care to avoid the black smoke of the rolling monsters. You know, those “cars” that humans have to use.

I just remembered that I know what “cars” are in the human tongue. Generally there are two types of cats, with the first class being like me and understanding that a cursory knowledge of cars can be extremely beneficial, and the second class being ex-felines, as morbid as that may be. Despite navigating the streams the cars use, I figured out pretty quickly that they weren’t something to mess with. The stifling odor they belched was all the warning I needed, though seeing a handful of my friends rolled under the feet of the car solidified the image of “car equals bad.”

With my owner sufficiently busy for the day at his tap-click box, and with him so rudely coughing all morning, I figure it’s time to explore a bit. I know that as long as he’s sitting with his fingers moving, I’m not going to be much interest to him, and vice versa. This should give me about five hours, or roughly the time between lunch time and dinner time, so it feels best to do my afternoon rounds.

A quick hop down from the table, some light steps around the snack crumbs (not my favorite, honestly), and then a leisurely stroll into my room and past the delightfully large mirror. I’m not a self-centered cat, nor am I a stupid one. I know my reflection when I see it, and I like it, but not enough to linger for more than a minute. Three at tops. It’s important to check myself in the mirror, make sure all my white fur is where it should be, and if any black stripes decided to fall off. Then inspect my paws for irregularities–nope, all six toes on the paws in front and four on the paws in back—and I’m about ready to move on. I still have to turn my back to check my tail and see if the square kinks have straightened out, which they have not. I’m starting to wonder if cats are supposed to have so many kinks in their tails…but that’s not important. One last look at myself in the mirror, searching for any ways to free myself from that prison, and then I’m gone. I always try, but I fail. Again, I know what a mirror does; I’m not stupid. I’m just not able to perform miracles. Goodbye for now, mirror self.

I’m a fast climber, due in part to my strong front paws, so getting to my skylight window is simple. My owner knows not to move my seating pole, otherwise he’ll have to get a yowl-full before bed. No pole, no exit for me. Thankfully, he’s not being careless today, so I’m able to scurry up and out to enjoy some nice, cold, smoggy air.

Have you ever tried looking down from a tall structure at people below? It’s extremely exhilarating, let me tell you. Some of the neighbor cats told me stories about kittens getting stuck in trees because they climbed too high and were afraid to climb down, but I never quite bought into that story, on account of it either being something momma cats told their kittens to scare them, or just some misinformation. Cats are most comfortable when they’re high, and the higher they get, the more comfortable they become. It only stands to reason that I’d be most comfortable so dizzyingly high. Besides, cars can’t get up here, and while I’m not afraid of them, I’m also not really looking for something thought-intensive at the moment, hence why I’m going to see my friend, Cheese.

As cats go, Cheese would squarely land in that second category that I mentioned before, assuming he had the wherewithal to squeeze himself out of his sky box and learn how to climb down anywhere near the cars. For his sake, he’s too fat to bother more than a few plods around the roof before retreating back to his bowl.

It’s really difficult to judge other cats, especially because judging others is something humans do, not cats. We assess, and by my assessment, Cheese is a stupid, fluffy waste of a cat. However, he is great company. I don’t like competition when it comes to anything, and so Cheese, thankfully, will not be a problem in that regard. I can out run him, out think him, out climb him, and out claw him. The only thing he does better than me is eat, but as long as I have my own food bowl back home, I never have to worry about that.

Cheese lives only a few roofs away, which is nice because I can easily get to him within five short minutes traveling at a leisurely pace. Up a few storm drains, down into a flower box or two, and I even have time to stop of in that human kitten’s sandbox to take care of business before I’m looking down the clear ceiling into Cheese’s sky box.

“Hey! Cheese! Hoist your tail up here and come out!”

I scratch at the surface like I always do to attract his attention and then meow to annoy his human, just for the sport of it. But his owner doesn’t look up. It doesn’t even throw something in my direction like it usually does. It just sits there in a heap on the floor, looking like a lazy dog.

“Oh, hey, Finn. You don’t have to yell, I’m already out.”

“What’s up with your human?”

“Don’t know. It’s been like that all day. First I tried pawing it to make it get me some food, but it just coughed and pushed me away. Then when I meowed at it, it just sort of curled up in a ball on the floor and ignored me.”

“How long’s it been doing that?”

“Since breakfast. I haven’t eaten all day. I’m dying here!”

“All day? Who cares, you could miss breakfast all week and not feel anything.”

“You gotta help me! Please! I can’t reach the food bag!”

I look him up and down, then lick my own chops just to emphasize that I’ve eaten recently enough to warrant a cleaning.

“Why can’t you reach the food bag?”

“It’s on the top of the freezy food box.”

I push past him and trudge toward his owner’s room, where the ceiling opens up. I don’t have any trouble slinking through the opening, but Cheese’s fur fluffs up and barely allows him to squeeze in. After some clumps of yellow and orange hairs dislodge, Cheese comes flopping in after me.

“So if it’s on top of the freezy food box, can’t you just hop from the counter? It’s not that far.”

“Not for you, but I…”

I eye his gut scraping the carpet as he walks.

“I get it. No jumping for you.”

Bounding is fun. It just is. Sometimes I bound through our sky box just because it’s more fun to jump from one thing to another than it is to walk in a straight line. I’m almost hoping the counters will be taller than I remember just to give me a reason to try harder.

As we walk past the big room in the middle, I see Cheese’s owner still lying there.

“Why isn’t it moving? Did it eat as much as you did?”

“I don’t know. It might just be tired. I could hardly sleep all night with how much noise it was making. Must have had a hairball or something.”

“Humans don’t get hairballs. They just get sick.”

Once in the kitchen, it was pretty clear that the counter was, sadly, short and simple. One hop onto that, then a second hop onto the top of the freezy food box.

“I don’t see any food up here.”

“It’s in the little room up top.”

“Which one? Right or left?”

“They’re the same one. Just bat the doors open.”

Funny how humans always put their things in these little rooms. My owner stuffs his with food, bottles of sweet-smelling liquid, and little crackers that he keeps putting into his “TV” thing. Cheese’s owner seems to be content with just the food aspect.

“Hey, there’s no cat food up here. Just human stuff.”

“I know! It tastes better!”

“No it doesn’t. It’s no wonder you’re so useless as a cat; you keep trying to eat like a human.”

“Just knock it down here! I’m starving already!”

“Fine, fine.”

I slip behind the container and nudge it out over the edge, then give it a good shove. It topples onto the floor and explodes, popping dusty, salty scraps all over the place. Cheese doesn’t even remember to thank me. Instead, he’s already crunching the stuff between his jowls and forgetting I exist.

This is all his owner’s fault. If it had been doing its job, I wouldn’t have had to bother. I’m not Cheese’s mother and I don’t want to be. That owner is getting a stern talking to, so help me.

Hopping down to the floor is just as easy as getting up, solidifying my theory that scared little kittens in trees is a myth. Cheese still hasn’t looked up to notice me, so I walk around him, careful not to get crumbs on my paws, and make for his owner.

The thing is still there, unsurprisingly. “Hey!” I yell in its face. “Hey! You’ve got responsibilities! You think owning a cat means you get to just laze about?” I push at its face, and still it won’t respond. “I’m talking to you!” The claws pop out and in they go. It’s quick, just a light scratch on the face to get it to pay attention to me.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

“Hey, Cheese? Does your human bleed when you scratch it?”

After a moment, Cheese comes into the room, filthy with bits of food stuck in his fur. “I don’t know; I don’t have claws.”

“You don’t have claws? Seriously?”

He flexes his front paws to show me. Apparently he’s right.

“That explains a few things…” I turn back to the owner. “But your human knows how to bleed at least, right?”

“I guess so. Don’t they all?”

“Yeah. They do.”

“Then what?”

“Then why isn’t this one?”

Cheese’s eyes narrow as he looks intently on his owner’s face. He quietly, carefully inches up to inspect it, sniffing the spot where I scratched its face.

“You clawed my owner? Ooh, Finn, that’s a big no-no.”

“It isn’t moving though. And it isn’t bleeding.”

After another moment, Cheese shrugs and plods back to the kitchen.

“I don’t like this.”

That’s when I’m hit with a thought. It’s a crazy thought, but I can’t ignore it. I leave Cheese to his business and rush out of his sky box, past the sandbox, over the flower boxes, down the storm drains, and over to my home in time to see my owner…still at his tap-click box. Relief washes over me in a way that I hadn’t fully expected.

Suddenly I don’t really mind waiting until dinner to see him again. I slip back inside and nuzzle up to him, pushing my way into his arms and forcing him away from his work. It takes a bit more effort than I’m used to, but he finally relents and falls back to let me onto his lap.

He doesn’t say much except cough, but that’s OK. It’s actually somewhat soothing, feeling him vibrate against me. I vibrate back in a long, deep purr until we both fall asleep. When we wake up, any worry I might have will be gone.

One of us never wakes up.

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KNOCK KNOCK

January 9, 2018 at 9:23 pm (Uncategorized)

KNOCK-KNOCK

EXT. Shadowy Gotham Rooftop. Night.
Wind blows hazy fog around the cloudy night. The faint sound of fabric flapping in the breeze punctuates the stillness.

A faint metallic tapping begins tink-tinking.

BATMAN’S VOICE

What’s the first thing I taught you?

Robin (Tim Drake) hops down from a chimney, pole in hand.

ROBIN

Technically, I think the first thing you taught me was that the world isn’t fair. After that, probably the art of stealth.

Batman emerges from the shadow behind Robin.

BATMAN

And part of stealth is silence.

ROBIN

Silence is boring.

BATMAN

Silence is everything.

ROBIN

I thought justice was everything.

BATMAN

The first Robin didn’t see the need to make every metaphor literal.

ROBIN

Hey, fresh Robin, fresh perspective on life.

The two share an awkward silence. Robin turns away and looks out over the edge of the rooftop toward the city.

ROBIN

Sorry, I’m still getting used to this whole brooding thing.

BATMAN

That’s where the silence helps.

Robin checks his watch.

ROBIN

It’s almost 3 am.

BATMAN

I know.

ROBIN

I figured–I’m making conversation.

More silence. Robin lazily flips his pole around.

ROBIN

You think our guy’ll show up?

BATMAN

Yes.

ROBIN

He’s stayed on the east side for the past week. Why would he come west tonight?

BATMAN

Because we’re here.

ROBIN

You know the guy’s story at least?

BATMAN

Some new thug with a gimmick, same as all the other thugs with a gimmick.

ROBIN

What was the guy’s name?

BATMAN

I stopped keeping track. They’re all basically the same.

Robin stretches a bit.

ROBIN

I guess they can’t all be The Joker or Two-Face or some other guy with an original backstory.

Robin looks over at Batman.

ROBIN

Have you even moved in the last five minutes?

BATMAN

The fact that you aren’t sure means you’re not paying attention.

ROBIN

Or that you’re just that good.

Batman betrays a slight smirk.

ROBIN

Aha! I saw that at least. OK, how about we try a joke.

Batman’s smirk vanishes, as does he.

BATMAN’S VOICE

I don’t do jokes.

ROBIN

Aw c’mon, everyone does jokes. At least a knock-knock joke. You’ve GOT to know one of those.

BATMAN’S VOICE

No.

ROBIN

Knock-knock.

No response.

ROBIN

Just go with this. Knock-knock.

Still no response.

ROBIN

Can you please just say, ‘who’s there?’

BATMAN’S VOICE

No.

ROBIN

Why?

Batman appears over Robin’s shoulder.

BATMAN

Because I am the one who knocks.

Pause.

ROBIN

Was that a Breaking Bad reference? Did you just make a joke and reference pop culture at the same time?

A loud shotgun blast rips through the moment, coming from a rooftop one building over.

ROBIN

There’s our guy.

Robin vaults over the ledge in pursuit while a bat-shaped blur whips past him. A thug dressed in a glowing yellow suit keeps firing a shotgun down at a roof hatch.

THUG

Come on! How hard is it to bust open a frickin’ lock with a shotgun?

The thug suddenly finds himself hurled to the floor and disarmed in one motion.

THUG

Oh crap! It’s you!

Batman allows his face to come into focus, looking down on the thug, boot planted firmly on the thug’s face.

Robin kneels down next to the guy, holding the shotgun.

ROBIN

So, glowing suit, but you use a shotgun? I don’t get what you’re supposed to be.

THUG

The gun’s just a tool, not everything’s gotta be part of the act.

ROBIN

So get to the reveal. Who’re you? Lightning Bug? Flashlight Man?

THUG

The name’s The Dynamo, and don’t you forget it!

ROBIN

The Dynamo? Why?

THUG

I’m still working on that part.

Batman reaches down and grabs the thug by the collar, lifting him up.

ROBIN

So tell us, why this building, why now?

THUG

Because I’ve been working the other side uh town. Who’s gonna suspect I’d suddenly strike the opposite end of Gotham?

Batman pulls the thug close to his face.

BATMAN

Me.

Robin dismantles the shotgun, letting the shells fall out the back of the gun.

ROBIN

This isn’t even a good model.

THUG

It’s a family heirloom, all right?

ROBIN

See, Heirloom would have been a better villain name then.

THUG

I told you, it’s just a tool.

ROBIN

Then how about The Toolmeister?

THUG

Because I’m named The Dynamo!

ROBIN

Why?

THUG

Because I–!

Pause.

THUG

Well I boosted this suit a month ago and I figured it’d do something cool.

ROBIN

Does it?

THUG

It glows. That cool enough?

ROBIN

Glowworm, gotcha.

THUG

Hey, is The Bat gonna just hold onto me, or is he gonna say something?

ROBIN

Up to him; I’m not the one in charge.

BATMAN

Tell me–

ROBIN

See? He speaks.

BATMAN

Where’s Riddler hiding?

THUG

Riddler? Hah, I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Robin walks over to the guy and pats his cheek.

ROBIN

See, the thing is, I think you do. And if I think that you do, it means my partner here knows that you do. Why else would he bother with some light-up crook?

THUG

OK, maybe Riddler hooked me up with this suit, and maybe he told me to start nabbin’ art pieces of old dudes on horses, but he never said why.

BATMAN

I already know why. I want to know where.

THUG

You know why? Dude, you gotta tell me, I’m dying to know!

ROBIN

You are easily the worst villain I’ve ever seen.

BATMAN

Tell me where Riddler is hiding.

THUG

I can’t do that, he’d totally take this suit back.

Batman starts walking while dragging the thug.

THUG

Hey, whoa! Not so rough!

Batman reaches the edge of the rooftop and slings the thug over it, still holding him tightly.

THUG

What are you doing?! Let me go!

ROBIN

Let you go? Sounds like poor word choice.

THUG

I don’t mean it like that! You wanna know where Riddler is?! Some warehouse on 72nd!

ROBIN

I don’t know, 72nd is awfully vague.

THUG

OK! OK! It’s the old Mathison Shipping Company warehouse! 72nd and Wilson! South part of town! SOUTH!

BATMAN

Knock-knock.

THUG

What? Huh–who’s there?

BATMAN

The Dynamo.

THUG

The Dynamo who?

BATMAN

Exactly.

The thug lets out a scream as Batman drops him from the building.

As the thug is about to hit the ground, his glowing yellow suit suddenly inflates, safely breaking his fall. The thug waddles around on his back like a tortoise that’s been flipped over.

THUG

HAH! HAH! So THAT’S what this thing does!

Camera looks up from the thug’s vantage point to see Batman’s fist cocked and ready.

BATMAN

Knock-knock.

Fade to black.

Sound of a knockout punch.

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