Glad you could join us for the next domesticated episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Low and halting, like a song overwhelmed by tears, Pristalwhisp’s melodious voice told them her tale.
“I had a family — sisters and brothers and a mother who cared for all of us with gentle discipline. She used to tell us we were destined for love if we would heed her counsel. We learned cleanliness, peacefulness, and the joy of being stroked. Then, one by one, we were taken away. I never saw any of them again.
“But my new home was all I could wish. There was food and water whenever I wanted, and amusing things to occupy my mind. I had plenty of room to explore, places to hide, and nothing to fear. And there was love.
“I even gave birth to four little ones, and like my own brothers and sisters, one by one, they were taken from me. Except for the smallest. My sweet Baby.”
Her breath shallow and light, she lay still for so long Cassandra thought she might not speak again. “Pristalwhisp?”
Arturo caught Cassandra’s eye. “Maybe we should help her back into the hollow where she can rest undisturbed.” With a tilt of his head, he indicated the arrival of the ants. Hundreds of them.
The cat rolled her head to one side, following his gaze. “No, please,” she implored him, “it’s so pleasant out here under the stars. It’s just that whenever I think of Baby… well… one day she slipped outside. I had told her it was dangerous out there, but she was too young to understand. So I ran out after her to bring her back. I wasn’t quick enough.”
Again she fell silent, but this time, Cassandra and Arturo sat silent, too. The ants waited, their number swelling.
“The monster that crushed her roared past without even slowing down. There were so many of them… their noise was deafening… it was horrifying. I was frightened and I just stopped thinking. I ran.
“When I finally stopped, I didn’t know where I was. There were trees and strange creatures and perils all around, and no matter which direction I went, things just got worse. Illness. Fighting for scraps. Battling over a place to sleep in the wilderness. Being assaulted…”
Pristalwhisp shuddered, but whether it was because of the growing chill or her memories, Cassandra couldn’t tell.
“I tried and tried, but I never found my way home. And now, here, at the end…”
“You’re not alone,” Cassandra whispered.
“Thank you. Thank you both…” Her voice dissolved into darkness. A sudden sharp gasp lifted her chin; an escaping soft breath lowered it.
Hovering near the cat’s face, Arturo listened for a moment. “She’s gone.” He flew to those who waited.
Cassandra bowed her head, tears rolling down her face as the sun pushed back night’s jeweled veil, and a song of praise and gratitude rose from the gathered foragers.
“I want to go home,” Cassandra said when Arturo returned. “I need to see Elliot.”
Looking over the rich, flowered land before them dappled with fresh morning sun, the handsome young wasp spoke with a newfound sense of authority. “We’re stopping up ahead, Cassandra.”
To be continued. . .