A haughty woman festooned in heavy brass jewelry, the tacky kind, loud, banging and discordant, stands looking at a rhyming dragon who is gazing into a viewing pool with her.
The dragon is an unextraordinary member of his species. His scales are dull, coated in coal dust, his musculature, once mighty has the look of an athlete past his prime; a bit pudgy in the middle and soft overall. His wings, while still mighty from lifting his massive bulk, droop whenever he is on the ground too long and the flesh between the skeletal frame, flap loosely, like poorly hung drapes.
His countenance is one of supreme unhappiness, his fanged head hanging low, nearly dipping in the viewing pool. It would not take much imagination to see him drowning himself. Their hellish surrounds sizzle with fiery tendrils that rise up from the molten earth, a part of the Stygian underworld, rife with the screams of the damned, their cries an unending concerto adding to the misery flowing through the air; surely an unpleasant place, at best.
The woman’s mouth is tight and she speaks through clenched teeth, her displeasure evident as she points her finger directly into the dragon’s smoking visage. He winces and responds. “‘Where the sun touches the Earth.’ That was such a vague clue.” He whimpers. “How was I supposed to know the answer to the riddle was in the Arctic Circle and it meant the aurora borealis?”
Her answer sizzles like a hand on a griddle; a hand held there against its will. “You are supposed to be a Rhyming Dragon, one of the riddle-masters of Stygia. Supposedly one of the finest minds of daemon-kind. Answers are supposed to be your stock in trade.”
“We don’t get National Geographic in Hell. No auroras either. Until last month, we didn’t even get the Internet. Until I checked Wikipedia, I didn’t even know what an aurora was.” He turns his head away looking at an imaginary bit of lint on his tail.
“No matter, the Conjunction of Worlds is already taking place. Can you take me to where the Goddess will arrive?”
“Yes, I can, but we may already be too late.”
“Hope for your sake, we’re not.” She climbs onto the neck of the dragon and he wheels away into the Stygian sky. The Woman in Brass, gestures and a portal begins to form in the distance. The demon climbs before diving through the portal into the Harrowing, the voidway between worlds.
Semii jumps up onto the desk of the Man and surveys his work. With his tail waving back and forth, his posture spoke eloquently of impatience, hinting anxiety, his tail stiff with the very tip flickering back and forth.
The digital representation of the goddess Bas-Tet on the widescreen monitor is sublime perfection. Semii presses his cheek against the screen, basking in the bliss that is Bas-Tet. Meanwhile his brothers are outside standing watch, just in case the Evil is able to detect what they were doing before they were ready. Fat Boy positively glows with power and Big Red looks as menacing as Semii has ever seen him. The two of them are outside watching the Ways hoping to see anyone approaching. But the most dangerous task of freeing the goddess would still fall to him.
“Man, will this work? We don’t have much time.” The Man was a genius with computers, but revealing to him the secrets of magic may have been too much. The battle against the forces of Evil was supposed to remain part of the Secret Lives of Cats.
“You know I have a name?” The Man looks at the Cat he believed was HIS pet only to discover their roles were actually reversed and it was he who is being guarded and protected from an unknown threat, his cat does not deem him important enough to know about.
“Yes, you have a name and we are forbidden to use it. Names have power. We never use yours to prevent Evil from gaining control over you. Have you finished the task at hand?”
“Semii, this digital representation is an exact reproduction of the piece of wall at the museum. I have used over fifty high resolution images. If your magic is as good as you say, this image will be perfect.”
Walking across the keyboard as he had done so many times in the past, Semii stood and nuzzled the man under the chin. “You know I can’t let you remember any of this. She would never forgive me if she knew you were aware of our Secret.”
“If you erase my memory, how will I know if this works?”
“If you look up at sunrise and the chariot of the Sun God Ra does not appear, you will know something is wrong.”
“No pressure, huh?”
“No. Not a bit. You may pet me now. Mmmm. You will forget this when I am gone. Life will return to what it was before. My brothers will keep you safe while I am gone.”
“So you guys are doing things like this all the time? Saving the world and preventing Evil?”
“Yes. Of course. We have done this for your entire existence. Without Cats, Humanity would not even exist. You would have starved to death overcome by Rats, Ignorance or some other dreaded catastrophe. You may thank me with an extra treat from the special stash on the top of the refrigerator when I return.”
“Have I ever helped you before?”
“No. But if this works, I may call upon you again. But it will remain our secret.”
“Good luck, Cat.”
Semii jumps up into the lap of his Man and waves his tail creating the sigil of Horus in the air. “Thank you, Man.” With a bounding leap, he jumps directly toward the monitor and passes through the glass with only the tiniest of ripples. The Man smiles, shakes his head and falls asleep.
The cat lands on the tundra grass and flexes his toes into the tough permafrost. Nasty place. Glad I don’t live here. He looks up and sees the moon already deeply in eclipse. With his legs flashing in the fading moonlight he runs forward into the night. The aurora forms in the distance, first tiny wisps, growing stronger with each passing minute.
“Hurry, my champion, the time draws near, I need you to anchor my passage.”
“I am coming, my Goddess. As fast as my frozen body will allow. Was there no other point you could have come through? Someplace with a tropical climate? You do remember we are descended from desert dwellers.”
“Yes, my child, I do. Please forgive my imposition. If we escape, I promise we will go somewhere warm. Beware, two Stygians approach.”
“I sense them, but they will not stop me from arriving in time.” The night lit up as an explosion of fiery venom shook the ground near the running cat.
The dragon swooped out of the night sky, his passenger clinging tight to his neck. “You missed.”
“Mistress, I am a Rhymer, not a fighter. My venom glands don’t get much use.”
“Then perhaps you would make a better floor covering than Rhyming dragon.” A second and more accurate burst of venom flies from the dragon’s mouth. Only a split-second bound saves Semii from disintegration. The shockwave from the exploding venom sends him flying into the frozen grass, inert and still.
“Land there.” The dragon lands and his body glows with heat. His feet sink into the permafrost as he melts the ground around him. His passenger, wearing the skin of a human woman, rises from his prostrated neck and lightly floats just above the icy ground. As she walks across the ice, the aurora grows brighter and the sky sizzles with electrical energy.
She find Semii lying on the ground with smoke rising from his tiny body. “I found you, you little bastard. Your trick was good, but it wasn’t enough. I will stop your goddess and her kin from returning. This is the ascendancy of daemons, no gods need apply.”
She picked up his tiny body and looked into his one open eye as she began to squeeze his neck, choking him. She rejoices inwardly as his lifeforce slowly fades away. He spasms one last time and then hangs still in her hand. Curiosity overwhelms her and she brings his tiny body close to her face, amazed that something so tiny could be so much trouble.
Semii suddenly struck out, slashing the arm, face and the eye of the woman, flipping about and landing on his feet to streak away into the tundra grass. The woman screams and clutches her face with one hand. With the other she sends forth bolts of power that landed wildly onto the tundra.
“You don’t know much about Cats do you?” The dragon’s voice was quiet. “You know they have nine lives, right? Do they even brief you guys before they send you into the world anymore?”
“That’s a myth.”
“So are we. That’s gonna leave a nasty scar. Wounds from Cats never heal.”
A furious scream rises up from the tundra as the moon darkened completely and the aurora lit up the sky, swirling and crackling and off in the distance touches the Earth, just for a moment. Leaping into the arms of his goddess, a cat rejoices.
Where the Sun Touches the Earth (Cats versus Evil) © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved
The beautiful artwork of Bastet and Cat remains the copyright of the talented Italian artist Rita Micozzi (ritam on DeviantArt) used without permission.