Not quite understanding all of the ritual sniffing of his nether regions, Zay let the cat explore his small form. He had no intention of violating customs. Zay needed the cat creature’s help and he carefully pointed out his injuries. Sending his new feline friend to find a sturdy branch for a splint, Zay easily slipped out of what remained of his suit and rolled it into a nice neat ball.
As he waited for Sheldon to return, Zay examined the few things that had not been destroyed on impact. He had a small bag of rations, a squeeze packet of water, seven teleport discs and a pair of cherry red pants. His collection of songs and the fruit pastries, however, were utterly smashed beyond recognition. A sigh of relief escaped his small lips—it could have been much worse.
The damaged limb would heal quickly in this planet’s atmosphere. His biggest problem would be trying to insert himself into the local culture. So far he was unimpressed by Sheldon’s complexity. Perhaps, if he could study the ceremonial processes a bit longer, he could fit in.
When the cat bounded back into view, he danced nervously around Zay. “An old can is on his way here! We need to hide you!” Zay lay there confused by the cat’s distress not completely able to interpret the language.
“I need to be afraid of this can, you say?” Zay tried to gather all of his things but he stumbled on the bad leg and fell.
“No a man is coming!” the cat was filled with anxiety. He drew out the word man as if it would make Zay’s understanding more concrete. “A person! A human!” Zay could not translate the words, but he knew the feline was afraid and probably with good reason. Roughly tying the splint to his injured limb, Zay limped away.
“Can we hide somewhere?” the cat pointed to the hills and the two began the climb up the steep grade. Not far from the north-south trail the human could be seen picking its way toward Zay’s crash site. Zay stopped momentarily to look back toward this horrible fright and he scattered a few bits of shale downward with his shifting weight. The beast below him froze and turned a searching gaze toward the hill. Afraid to breathe the two remained motionless while the human scanned the slope, a hand to his forehead to block the bright mid-day sun.
Zay could hear the fast rhythm of the cat’s heart as he stood beside him staunchly taking up a defensive posture. However, the human seemed more interested in gathering rocks than chasing the fleeing pair. Only a few scant steps away from their position, it went back to sifting the rubble near the impact site with merely a cursory glance in their direction.
Opening a can of the choicest tuna, Jane called out loudly letting her voice tumble down the hill toward the redwoods. She knew all too well that the sound would be muffled as soon as it reached the trees, but her cat would be getting hungry as noon approached. Sometimes the cat would be right there within easy earshot, but today something had captured her feline’s attention and he did not respond. Knowing Sheldon all too well, she dropped the can inside the fence, hoping that the other wildlife would ignore it at least while she was outside. The cat would come home—when he was ready.
Jane had lived with cats for many years, but Sheldon had only been hers for three. They did most everything together and although she dearly missed each of her pets from years gone by, she lavished all of her attentions on Sheldon. He was the one with her now and he would very possibly out live her.
She tried one more time, calling out loudly. Jane smiled to see the stripped fur face popping up above the edge of the road and shouted again when her friend seemed to stop there as if waiting for something. As the second small form attained the top of the incline, Jane waved and whistled them both home.
“Seems like you brought a friend for lunch,” she squinted to make out the small grey cat that her Sheldon had befriended. “I’d better get another can…” Jane turned back toward the house wondering if she would soon be feeding all of the strays in the county. For just a moment she thought she heard Sheldon say “Hurry, I’m hungry” from behind her, and she shook her head to dust out any such strange ideas. Sheldon was many things to Jane –cat, partner, friend. Yet, no matter how much she wished it, the cat could not talk.
“Dang cats!” Cyrus cursed under his breath. The movement had made him almost jump out of his skin. He was nervous out in the wild at a potentially hazardous impact site. There was always the danger of wild animals or disgruntled people, unhappy that one had violated some unknown perimeter. He had returned his gaze to the ground and now pulled out a portable scanner. As if he needed more equipment to see the small crater, the scientist collected data from the strewn rocks.
A disappointed expression turned to near disgust as Cyrus kicked and measured and examined each stone in an ever-widening circle. The meteor evaded his detection. The crash site itself bore some unusual readings, but he needed the stone to prove his hastily advanced theory. This was no common rock he was after.
Taking his search out beyond the edges of the initial ring, Cyrus found a curious piece of fabric and what may have been the remains of a jelly donut. “Someone else has been here!” he scoffed tossing the cloth back to the ground. There would be no treasure returning from his hike.
Mind venturing to the woman he had seen on the roadside, Cyrus deliberately rubbed the grizzled whiskers at his chin. There was the possibility that she may know something. If she had not claimed his meteor for herself, she may have seen someone on the road or in the woods. Hope of finding it first now long lost, Cyrus packed up his gear, ate his lunch and prepared for the trek back to the van. He needed to hurry before he lost precious light.