The orange stripe stared at her and began to laugh. He did not remove his paw from Buddha's neck. "Nice work, girly. Couldn't have done better myself," he said with a deep guffaw. "Reinforcements should be here any second now."
His fur was thick and very long. The undercoat was white while the topcoat was black lending him a smoky appearance as if a fire smoldered just beneath the surface of his fur. The asymmetrical markings on his face added to his bizarre looks. He swaggered past the kittens to take his place beside the orange and white bruiser.
"You're a Rogue Feral," Rue Shadow said moving shoulder to shoulder with Red Pearl. Fawn Doll slithered up and crouched behind them.
"Very observant," something hissed behind them.
The kittens swung their heads in the direction of the voice.
A large, full-furred, black and white cat with huge paws stepped out of the shadows.
What you've missed: Two talkative, rebellious kittens, from a royal family of vocal, rambunctious cats, connive, plan and then descend into the cellars and caverns below Aspabibia, one seeking milk, glorious milk, the other seeking adventure, glorious adventure but disaster occurs and one misadventure leads to another and another.
"I heard that, girly," the orange bruiser said leaning closer to her face. "In case you're interested, there ain't nothing wrong with us." "Yeah," concurred the black and white. "We don't carry no diseases." "Sorry," she said pulling back. "But how would you know if you carried disease?" "We'd be sick," the orange responded with a growl.
"Now, little fellow," the orange bruiser went on, "promise you won't run off if we let you get up?"
"Pink Buddha's constricted throat produced a series of rough gurgles.
"I'll take that as a yes," the bruiser laughed. Very slowly he removed his paw from Buddha's neck.
"Choking and hacking, Buddha scurried over to join his siblings.
"Are you all right?" Red Pearl asked, licking his face.
"Fine," he managed to squeak.
"Rue Shadow had puffed himself up. "What do you want with us?" he demanded of the two Ferals.
"More to the point," the big orange retorted leaning down into Shadow's face, "what do you want with us?" His breath was hot and sour smelling.
"Yeah," the black and white hissed. "What are you doing down here?"
"The fur on Red Pearl's neck stood on end ringing her face with a thorny collar. "We came to..." she began.
"We came on a dare," Rue Shadow interjected stepping down hard on Pearl's paw. "You know, just for fun."
"Whaaat," she stammered.
"Pink Buddha gave Shadow a quizzical look. The Ferals appeared confused.
"It is so beautiful down here," gushed Fawn Doll picking up the cue. "Have you been here long?" She was switching her tail gently from side to side but ever more slightly to the right.
"Rue Shadow snuck a look in that direction. He thought he saw something moving just under the furled edge of the rim stone and quickly glanced back at the Rogues. They didn't seem to have noticed.
"Long enough," the black and white responded. He was sizing Fawn up with his gleaming yellow eyes. "Okay, now it's your turn. What are you doing down here?"
"I told you. We came down on a dare," Rue Shadow insisted.
"A dare?" the orange bruiser sneered.
"You know, we did it because they said we couldn't," Shadow replied reaching to nudge the black and white in the ribs.
The feral cat jerked away as if from a hot poker. "Keep your paws to yourself," he spat.
"Probably a good idea," Red Pearl murmured.
"I heard that, girly," the orange bruiser said leaning closer to her face. "In case you're interested, there ain't nothing wrong with us."
"Yeah," concurred the black and white. "We don't carry no diseases."
"Sorry," she said pulling back. "But how would you know if you carried disease?"
"We'd be sick," the orange responded with a growl.
"Not necessarily," Pearl went on. "Sometimes you can transmit disease without getting sick yourself. Dr. Bondo says … "
"Dogwash," the bruiser interrupted with an air of finality.
"Let it go," Rue Shadow whispered. "We have bigger fish to fry."
"What was that, sonny?" the black and white asked suspiciously. "What about fish?"
"No, no." Rue Shadow cocked his head to the side and twitched his ears, stalling for time. "Wish," he said. "Not fish."
Now the Rogue Ferals looked very confused. "What do you talking about, 'wish'?" the bruiser asked slashing his tail.
"Wish to try," Rouge answered with authority. "We wished to try coming down here. An adventure. Like I said, a dare."
The bruiser craned his thick neck and stuck his nose right in Shadow's face. "Don't mess with us," he snarled. His breath stank of old fish.
Straightening up, he jerked a thumb at the black and white and said in a jaunty tone, "This one here happens to be known as The Paws Of Death."
TAILS OF ASPABIBIA
by Linda Towne