Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Curiosity Killed the Cat( 10/10/13)
The Secret War
By Nancy Bucca
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"Stop letting your mind wander and relax a while with me," purred a stylish calico. She lay basking in a pool of yellow sun five leaps from the river's edge, where dragonflies with translucent wings darted to and fro among lofty bulrushes.
Chester stretched his legs and softly crept across the malleable fescue, puzzling over the discrepancy in height between grasses. He touched precocious noses with his mate, then looked up, diverted by a flash of green.
"What do you suppose prompts frogs to hop, Charisa?"
Her olive eyes narrowed, forming thin slits. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to know." He caught a glimpse of her bulging abdomen. "Are you getting fat?"
She chuckled. "No, silly. I'm expecting."
"Kittens. That's what the master's wife tells me. You and I are fruitfully multiplying."
Chester was so excited, he did a back flip. He landed gracefully on all four paws and began to prance about. "How many?"
"I don't know. Two, three. Maybe four."
"What do they look like?"
"Good question. A bit like you, maybe. A little like me."
"When will I see them?"
"I don't know. Ask the master. Maybe he can tell you."
"All right, I will," said Chester, setting off at once to find his owner. He hadn't gone far when his ears detected a faint rustling of leaves and a medley of muted whispers. His twitching whiskers told him the sounds originated behind a dense row of mulberry bushes.
A cold chill ran down his spine, from the nape of his neck to the tip of his tail. Why did it make him feel so strange? He must find out. Ignoring his growing sense of dread, he decided to investigate.
He couldn't explain why he crept so quietly toward the spot, or why the hushed words caused his skin to shiver so. He'd never felt fear before and his heart knew no horror. Yet he made sure his padded feet made no noise as he closed the gap between himself and the murmuring crowd of concealed creatures.
First he recognized the skunk, who could barely restrain his voice as he spoke of "needed choice." The goat soon butted in with calls for "individuality" and "termination of outdated decorum." The dog half-woofed, half-barked about his "long-held dream" of "bestial equality" and "self esteem." The badger and the bear compared brain capacities as they demanded empowerment for their fellow fur balls, the so-called "distinguished members of a most enlightened intelligentsia."
During the discussion, Chester felt something else he'd never felt before: a sick stomach, coupled with a powerful urge to bolt - to run, to hide, to head for home. However, a strong sense of intrigue overwhelmed his natural instincts. It tugged on his heart like a magnet.
Though he didn't understand half the conversation, he could tell they were planning a surprise for his master and the Mrs. - a picnic to be held beneath a most exotic tree. "But who will host it?" they asked themselves.
"Me, of course," thought Chester. "It's a no-brainer."
His hackles rose like porcupine quills when he heard they'd elected the lizard. "What? That scaly thing? It doesn't even have any hair. But I'm soft and cuddly. Why not pick me? It isn't fair. I HAVE to know why!"
Before the sly animals could set their plan in motion, Chester snuck toward the designated tree. He leapt upon the lowest branch and with sharp claws clambered up the trunk. Its fruit exuded an eerie glow, which made him dizzy as he climbed. He reached the topmost branch and peered down.
His heart did a flip-flop as he saw a flash of scales and realized that the lizard, "serpent" by name, had just curled itself around the tree's bottom-most branch.
Minutes later it struck up a conversation with the Mrs., who had seen her cat slink off and wondered if it might have come that way.
Chester's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he realized the terrible trap he'd accidentally helped set. Soon after the evil deed was done, he lost his grip, slipped, and fell.
Unsung tragedy of Eden's secret war.
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