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FICTION: Tails of Aspabibia, Chapter 1, Part 11

"It's okay, Buddha." Shadow nudged his brother along the dim hall. "You'll be all right."

The door slammed firmly shut behind them as Rue Shadow melted away from the thick, ropey door-casing adornment, for now he knew what it really was.

"Please, try to walk," he pleaded but Pink Buddha was unresponsive.

"Oh Grace, what have I done?" Rue Shadow struggled back down the corridor towards the stairway hauling the dead weight of Pink Buddha's plump body.

How would he ever get him up the stairs?

Should he go for help?

What you've missed: Two talkative, rebellious kittens, from a family of vocal, rambunctious cats, descend into the cellars and caverns below Aspabibia, one seeking food, the other seeking adventure.

How had this happened? How had he done this to his own brother? And for what? For a dumb, dumb, stupid, dumb bottle of milk.

But the thought of leaving his brother alone down in this hideous basement did not seem like an option to him. And then he remembered the key. He would have to go back for the key.

"Good Grace, what happened?" a voice from the stairwell gasped.

It was their sister, Red Pearl. She scurried toward them and crouched next to Pink Buddha, staring into his contorted face. "What have you done?" she shrieked.

"I didn't do anything," Rue Shadow cried. "It was the serpent."

"The serpent?" echoed Red Pearl. Her eyes were wide with fear.

"What serpent?"

"Just help me!" implored Rue Shadow. "I'll tell you later."

"Oh no!" she wailed. "He's not breathing. He's dead! You've killed our brother."

"No. No. He can't be." Tears dripped down Rue Shadow's face. He pushed Red Pearl aside and began to pull on Pink Buddha with his teeth. Red Pearl joined him and together they hauled their brother back to the base of the steps where he lay on his stomach in a crumpled heap of fur. "Oh my Grace, he looks like road kill," Shadow groaned. "Is he...?"

"I don't know. Roll him over." Red Pearl leaned down and peered at Buddha's chest. Then, touching the side of his neck with a paw, she cried, "I think I feel a pulse." She glanced up and skewered Rue Shadow with a look Then she said, "We have to get him to the infirmary right away. I'll go for help."

"No," Rue Shadow commanded. "You can't do that! Please. Help me get him upstairs to bed. I can take care of him."

Red Pearl glared at him for a long, hard moment. Then her eyes narrowed.

"Please," Shadow begged. "I can take care of him myself. They'll kill me if they find out what we did!" he implored. "Don't you see?"

"See? I'll tell you what I see," Red Pearl spat. "I see a coward. I see my brother, the great Rue Shadow, Prince of Aspabibia, who can't stand up to the consequences of his actions. A complete and utter coward, that's what I see."

"You don't understand," Shadow responded in a small voice.

"Oh, I understand all right," snarled Red Pearl. "I understand that you are a feline who is utterly devoid of moral responsibility, that's what I understand," she finished angrily. The fur at the back of her coppery neck was standing on end. Her green eyes were ablaze.

"You're just going to have to tell them exactly what happened," she added with a disgusted shake of her head.

"I can't," he groaned. "You have no idea what they'll do to me."

"You should have thought about that before you pulled this stupid stunt," she responded with a hiss.

Rue Shadow lowered his head and stared down at the floor.

"It was the milk, wasn't it?" she went on. "You almost got our brother killed - and he may die yet - for what? For milk. Stupid Milk."

Her words hung in the air like smelly laundry. "Yes," Shadow responded weakly.

"I knew it. You idiot!" she screamed. "When I woke up and you two were gone I just knew it."

"I never meant....," Shadow whimpered.

Red Pearl cut him off. "Don't tell me that," she said, "This isn't the first time you've done something totally stupid."

"I know but..." began Rue Shadow.

"Don't 'but' me," she snarled. "This time you really blew it."

"I know," Shadow responded. His voice was shaking. "You're right.

I'm just scared of what they'll do to me."

Red Pearl let out a long sigh. "'Don't do the crime,'" she began.

"I know - 'if you can't do the time,'" Shadow finished. "I really messed up, didn't I?"

"Big time," his sister answered. Then her eyes softened for a moment and she rubbed once against Rue Shadow's shoulder before regaining her attitude. "Now you sit right here with Buddha. Massage his paws. Lap his face. Keep him with us," she commanded before bounding up the staircase. "Think about him for once. And get control of yourself." Her voice faded off into the distant reaches of the upper hall.

Rue Shadow sank to the cold stone floor beside the now convulsing body of Pink Buddha and began to sob. How had this happened? How had he done this to his own brother? And for what? For a dumb, dumb, stupid, dumb bottle of milk.

TAILS OF ASPABIBIA
by Linda Towne
Chapter 1, Part 11
The Adventure Gets Tough!

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