Arrogance killed the cat
Even with my newfound resolve, there wasn’t much I could do right now. My plan, if you could call it that, required me to wait.
And so I waited, sitting on the green moss, looking at the ceiling of this massive underground cavern, imagining what was out there. How much further did it go on for? What other kind of lifeforms would one find here?
It occurred to me that a biologist would probably see this as a once in a life opportunity. Well, if the wildlife hadn’t tried to kill him that is. I could see the beauty in the landscape; it certainly was different than anything else I had seen before. But I wished I could go back in time, back to the normal earth mountains and valleys. Those were plenty beautiful enough for me.
The cat was beautiful in its own way too, all sleek and athletic. Danger always had a lure to it. But danger was also dangerous, and unfortunately I needed to deal with this particular danger.
Like a medieval swordsman before battle, I examined my weapon, the makeshift spear. I didn’t have a whetstone or anything like that to hone the blade, but it seemed sharp and pointy enough. It also was somewhat sticky, the yellow ichor of the spush having dried by now. Hopefully it was venomous, although I doubted it. It seemed like the spush relied on its spikes to defend itself against larger predators, and not some poisonous property of it’s blood.
But then again, I supposed it was possible, so I avoided touching the yellow substance too much. It was also kind of gross, but truth be told so was I. How long had it been since I had taken a shower?
Some uneventful hours passed in which I did little more than look at the landscape, trying to not do anything too exciting so the cat would grow bored. And, eventually, it did.
It probably had not slept in a good long while, and nature was calling. However, it still seemed fixated with me, and was loath to let me out of its sight. So it did the next best thing and laid its head between its paws, and eventually, after a long wait, closed its eyes.
And that is when I started to get nervous.
I had been alright before; knowing that the deed had to be done but that I still had plenty of time. But now my window of opportunity was rapidly closing in. The time to act would be very soon.
I waited a little while longer, cold sweat starting to form on palms. Really, this plan was crazy. It was simple, it was stupid, and it was the only chance I had. But it was still crazy. Nothing I had previously done in life had prepared me for this. I had studied, I had worked, I had even played some sports. I had never really done any ‘extreme’ things. But to jump (literally) into a situation that I was unlikely to survive? Deliberately?
My heart was beating in my chest, fast, but mostly loud. I could feel it pressing against my ribs, I could hear the blood pumping.
Really, I had never felt this anxious in my life. Some people experienced panic attacks; I supposed this is what I was having now.
And yet, there was no choice. Not really.
I had to do this.
Silently, I wiped my hands on the mossy floor and slowly stood up. I knew felines usually had a very light sleep. But I learned that, when my life was on the line, I too could be silent. The moss of course deserved some credit too; it muffled my footsteps quite well.
Slowly and silently, the way only a man whose life depended on it could be, I pushed the orb towards the biggest boulder on my plateau, and climbed after it. And then I gave one last look around me. At the valley before me; at the drop in between me and where I would jump to; at the ever-present moss that reached all the way to the ceiling.
In that moment I experienced some sense of serenity. Some kind of stoic equanimity. My panic receded, and my hands stopped trembling. If I died then so be it; I had given it my best.
I looked down at the cat. It was still sleeping, its chest rising in slow, deep breaths. Facing in my direction, but eyes closed. Was it pretending tp be asleep? To lure me into a false sense of security? Could it be that smart?
I did not know, and there was no way of finding out. Well, no way except for one. I had already chosen my path; I would see it through now. I grabbed the orb above my head, spear interlaced between my fingers.
And then I jumped.
I jumped with all my might, as high up and as far forward as I could. I jumped like a man that had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I jumped like a drowning man reaching out to grab the lifesaving rope.
The black monster was too deep asleep, or the moss muffled my hop from the boulder. Either way, as I sailed through the air clinging to the magical orb for dear life, my enemy stayed still. It stayed still as I reached the apex of my flight and started descending, and it stayed still as I was almost upon it.
In movies, when the hidden soldiers sprung their ambush and launched their attack, they yelled. I always thought this stupid. Why lose the element of surprise? Why give up that crucial advantage for which you had laid in ambush for so long?
And yet when I released my grip on the rough surface of the orb, when I suddenly plummeted through the air towards the black ball of muscle, my newfound serenity abandoned me and I saw myself screaming at the top of my lungs.
The cat started waking up, of course, but it was too little too late. I fell through the air, wooden shaft gripped in both hands, and stabbed down as hard as I could the moment before impact. The sharp steel at the end made contact with black skin, and for a moment it seemed like it would not go through; the tough skin only bending and not breaking.
But in the end the combined momentum of me and the spear proved to be too much, and the skin broke, and the spear plunged deep into the cat. The cat who, understandably, did not like it at all. As my feet made contact with its back, it exploded into motion. I fell on its back the same moment it was attempting to stand up, and bounced off like a ragdoll, hitting the spear-shaft on my way through the air and accidentally twisting it inside the cat.
As I fell on the ground and rolled my way to a standstill on the mossy ground, the cat screamed. It was a deep, pained sound, but also full of rage.
That was my cue to run.
Originally, the plan had been to run away after my attack, hoping I had delivered a sufficiently serious wound, and wait until the animal bled out. The only place I could’ve run to was down the slope into the cavern, because fleeing into my small cave was fleeing into a dead end. Aptly named, as it would probably end in my death.
However, as I scrambled to stand up and started running in an attempt to flee from the obviously enraged beast, I forgot such thoughts. My panicking self didn’t choose the sensible option, and instead chose to flee into the treacherous “safety” of my cave. And so, I sprinted into the small tunnel, mad feline behind me.
As I rounded the first bend, the cat was chasing me madly and smashed sideways into the entrance. Apparently it was sufficiently enraged to not care about that, or it had lost its sense of balance. Regardless, it continued leaping after me, rapidly eating up the few dozen meters of lead that I had.
It followed me down the curvy path of the tunnel and had almost reached me, when the spear lodged in its side snagged on a piece of rock that jutted out of the wall. The the cat’s momentum was abruptly stopped, the durable wood buckled and bent but did not break, and the cat stumbled and smashed into the floor. It stayed there for a second yowling a long, high-pitched cry, before it got up again and continued its chase, not managing the same speed that it had reached before.
It’s black fur was glistening with blood, like a Spanish Bull nearing the end of its fight. As I ran through the green glowing tunnel, I could hear the tock-tock-tock of the spear shaft hitting the wall with the cats stride, over and over again. The cat should have taken it out; the wound was only getting worse and worse each time the spear moved. And yet the beast continued forward, delirious hate shining in its eyes.
I reached the end, the dead end, knowing that I would probably die here, once the cat reached me. I was honestly surprised it hadn’t overtaken me already. But then I looked back, and I saw my enemy. It was slow, walking ungainly, like a drunk. It’s six legs lacked the elegant rhythm that they had possessed before; now they seemed uncoordinated and klutzy. It’s back was dripping with blood, leaving red stains on the mossy carpet. It’s eyes were glassy, no longer filled with hate or arrogance, but tired.
And then it keeled over, and died.
After a while, after it had stopped breathing and blood had stopped gushing out in waves from its back, after I had recovered my breath, I was still staring at the dead monster.
This had been luck. Pure, dumb luck. The spush had been one thing, I had been more or less confident I could beat it. But this? This enormous pile of muscle? This monster?
I thought I would die, I really did. This had been a desperate gamble. And yet I had succeeded.
I laughed, a little shrill. I couldn’t hold it in; the tension that I was holding needed release, and so I laughed until my throat was raspy and I found myself coughing again.
I stood up, feeling a little better, and walked over to the dead animal. It truly was big, more so up close. Bigger than the lions or tigers I had seen at zoos. But brawn wasn’t everything, it seemed. Not even down here, in this gigantic underground jungle that I was stuck in.
As I stood there, staring at what I had done, a few motes of brilliant light began to emerge from the animal. Similar to the spush, they floated up slowly, then seemed to make up their minds, and flew directly at me. Out of instinct, I tried swatting them out of the air, to no avail. They just went straight through my hand, like they weren’t really there. I thought of a cat chasing a laser pointer.
Then the motes of light entered my body and something broke deep inside of me.