The big black cat

04/16/2020

It was big, and fast. A black blur amongst the green. I couldn’t make out any details from up here, but I knew for certain that it would be much faster than me.

I stood there, frozen for a second.

Then I ran. I ran the only direction I could run, up. Killing the spush had been one thing, but this was completely different. This was a true predator. A big, black predator that had not liked me challenging it at all.

I scrambled up the slope, again. Significantly more panicked this time. Was it still coming for me? I couldn’t help but look back to confirm. Indeed it was. And it was much, much faster than the spush had been. Whereas the spush had short, stubby legs, this cat was endowed with much longer, muscular limbs. To be fair, I couldn’t quite see how muscular exactly its legs were from this distance. I just imagined they had to be, judging by its frighteningly fast leaps.

Or perhaps its speed was due to the fact that it had six legs. Six. Not four, like a normal feline. Or two, like I had. Six legs.

I ran faster.

Even in my panic I did not let go of my makeshift spear. I wasn’t delusional enough in thinking I could beat this thing with it, but abandoning my only weapon seemed even more ridiculous.

I reached the top, and stood there frozen for a second. What to do? There was nowhere to go.

I could go into the tunnel, but that lead to a dead end. The monster cat would catch up with me. And rip me to pieces.

Or, I could wait here for it. And get ripped to pieces.

Frantic, I looked around. The orb and tablet were where I had left them, but those were useless. I doubted it would get too hurt if I threw a stone tablet at it.

There was another, smaller, rocky outcrop a bit further along the cave wall, but that was way too far for me to jump to. Even if it hadn’t been, the cat was sure to jump much more than me.

I was trapped.

The cat had almost caught up to me, but slowed its pace when it saw me stop. It knew it had me now, had me driven into a corner with nowhere to escape.

I looked at it. It had green, almost iridescent eyes. Four short and thick legs attached at the shoulders, and two longer ones in the back. Two white lines that ran along its sides and ended in a bifurcated tail. And it was big.

It roared, and I peed myself. Like a little dog whose owner is yelling at him, I couldn’t help but pee myself a little. Some stupid remnant human instinct from the past, robbing me of my dignity in my final moments.

Still, I did not really care. My mind was in overdrive. Thinking, uselessly, of what I could do to escape this thing. Thinking again and again at how I could get rid of it, distract it, whatever. The bear spray would have been useful, but it lay back where I had fought the spush. Stupid of me. Stupid, stupid stupid stupid.

And then I had it. An idea so crazy it was actually slightly brilliant. The adrenaline coursing through my veins made it even seem like a good idea.

They key was the orb. The floating, round, melon-sized crystal orb. The magical orb. Technically called settlement core or whatever, I only wanted it because of one thing.

It floated.

I turned, and ran to it. The feline got startled at my sudden movement and then dashed after me. I was prey that was trying to escape.

When I reached the orb, I tucked my spear under my chin, laying it across my shoulders, and grabbed the mid-air orb. And then I kept running, towards the edge, pushing the orb in front of me. The orb had a weird combination of weight and weightlessness at the same time; it resisted being moved, but once I got it moving it retained its momentum for a time.

And then, just before I went over the edge, I bit down on my make-shift spear so I could hold it in my mouth, grabbed the orb with both hands, and jumped.

I jumped up as much as I could, giving the orb some additional upwards speed.

And then I held on for my dear life.

I held on as I felt a swish of air behind me; the cat had reached the edge and had tried to swipe me, not quite reaching me. I held on as I was sailing through the air, a hundred meters over the ground. I held on as my fingers cramped from gripping the orb so tight.

Our trajectory was parabolic. First a little bit up, then just sideways, and then finally whatever strange gravity governed this ball made us descend.

However, we were slowing down. Not our downward speed, that one was increasing, but our forward speed.

The other rocky outcrop, the one that I had dismissed as useless and was now my lifeline, was right in front of me. My legs were going to clip the edge.

I swung them up at the last moment, managing to get over it, and hit my ass against the rock-hard floor. The orb, still having some downwards momentum, bonked me in the head, left my grasp and went back up to lazily float at about head-height.

I lay there. Wincing at the pain, panting at the exertion. Exhausted, but relieved. Eventually, I turned over and looked back.

The beast was staring at me, it’s long split tail flicking in displeasure.

Really, it was quite the beautiful animal, if not for the fact that it clearly wanted to murder me. It started prancing around, probably unhappy that I had gotten away. It scratched at the cave wall, but the only thing that achieved was to get some of the glowing moss loose. Then it seemed to evaluate if it could jump over to me, but quickly gave that up after looking over the edge and seeing the long fall.

Could it make the jump and reach me? The prospect was terrifying. It seemed much too far, and yet…

I got up, and inspected my little island. There really wasn’t much here. Just a small outcrop of stone, perhaps twenty paces wide, jutting out of the cavern wall. A few boulders. And of course the ever-present glowing moss. It was a bit longer here, falling down the mostly flat wall like magical green strands of hair.

The feline started growling, frustrated. I gave it the finger. It was a stupid gesture, but then again it was the only thing I had. It started growling louder in response, somehow understanding I was mocking it, which only led me to give it the finger on both hands, which only made it angrier.

Then the reality of the situation set in, and I stopped behaving like a child. I was trapped here. There really were only two paths out: down to the cavern floor or back to the bigger plateau. The first one was ruled out; the fall was much too long. The orb operated under strange and slow physic rules, but it did eventually accelerate under free-fall. Especially with me hanging under it. And even if I did somehow survive the fall, and I somehow didn’t break a leg or at the very least twisted an ankle, then what? I’d be stuck in the middle of the alien forest. Where the cat had come from. Would it hunt me in there? Were there more like it? Other, worse things?

My alternative option of course was only a slightly better. I could jump back and die being eviscerated by the cat, instead of dying by excessive fall-speed.

I sighed and lay down again. The black monster was still protesting at the injustice of its prey escaping it. Or perhaps it was trying to insult me and goad me into coming back. Or perhaps it was trying to speak and saying that it hadn’t really wanted to eat me, just play some cards with me. It was all the same to me.

After a while, it finally shut up and also laid down and stared at me, its forearms dangling over the precipice.

I would just have to wait it out.