Who Wants to Live Fur Ever?
The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Rysher Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website. Please accept my apologies for the wandering formatting in this document. This particular Mid-Week Challenge took place at a time when the Forum was “migrating” between various different Forums, hence the different formats.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
The Memoirs of Theodesia J. Cat by HonorH
Vinnie the Wonder Rodent by vixen69
My Idol by Wildcard
Birds of a Feather by Chimera
There Can Be Only One… CHEEP by Jette
Mahtob by ehorizon
Fish Story by Snick
Red in Tooth and Claw by Ghost Cat
MID WEEK CHALLENGE: Who
Wants to Live Fur Ever?
Posted on 10/11/2000 at 11:58:08 AM by Leah CWPack
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short piece involving an Immortal of the NON-human species. Can be serious, humorous, wherever your inclination takes you. Good luck!
MWC: The Memoirs of
Theodesia J. Cat
Posted on 10/11/2000 at 02:40:32 PM by HonorH
The proverbial cat with nine lives has nothing on me. I've had twenty so far. It's a matter of no little pride to me; feline Immortals are vanishingly rare, after all, and feline Immortals with adopted human Immortals are even rarer.
My name, should it interest you (and it should) is Theodesia J. Cat. The J, by the by, stands for Jellicle. I do love T.S. Eliot. I'm not a terribly large cat, though I'm by no means small. My fur is the color of pewter, my eyes amber, and I'm remarkably beautiful. I've been told so many times.
I grew up in a royal Egyptian house. Those Egyptians--there was a people who knew how to treat cats! Nonetheless, I found myself in some awkward situations from time to time. One day, a rat-faced mongrel managed to find me. We fought, and though I like to think I gave as good as I got, there's not much you can do when one of those intelligence-impaired monsters crushes your ribcage.
When I awoke, I was laying in the warm arms of a Greek physician recently come to our court. I liked him. He had so many catlike ways about him that he seemed almost a person. I felt remarkably well, considering my fight with that ill-mannered cur, that I thought at first he'd simply cured me. then I realized I didn't have a mark on me. A good thing, of course--appearance matters so much in our world.
"Well, my beauty," the Greek said, "it seems that you're one of Us."
I do adore that man.
Over the next few millennia (at least, that's what humans call them--to a cat, time is a matter of supreme indifference), I would run afoul of death again and again. In Europe during a plague, someone clubbed me like a common rat. I lost another two lives to dogs, curse them. A venomous snake treated me to death #16--lucky for me my Greek physician (Methos, if you must know his name) was there to keep it from eating me. I honestly don't know what would have happened to me if it did.
A cat must be independent, of course, so I parted from my human for whole centuries. On the whole, it was a good life. I hunted as I wished, avoided areas with witchcraft scares and plagues, occasionally stayed with a human family (provided they pampered me enough and had no small children)--it was perfect.
It was sometime in the 8th century, human time, when I met Elke. She was a beautiful white cat with the bluest eyes you've ever seen. She'd also been alive far longer than me. Elke and her mate, an elegant Abyssinian who called himself Ameratu, were the ones who told me what I really was.
"You're an Immortal," Elke purred. "It's something that only humans or cats can be. You'll live forever, as a cat should."
"Humans," snorted Ameratu, bathing his tail. "They have this gift, too, but they also have this ridiculous idea that it's a good thing to go about chopping each other's heads off. Is that silly or is that silly?"
"Terribly," I agreed, hoping my beloved Methos wouldn't run afoul of any truly nasty humans.
"Imagine," said Elke. "They could live like us cats, hunting and playing forever, but instead they choose to wave around bright pointy things at each other and talk about There Can Be Only One. Sheer stupidity."
I've seen Elke and her mate a number of times since then, and I can't say that their opinions have changed a whit. That's as it should be, of course; a cat should never be of a changeable mind except about important things, like what kinds of food are acceptable.
I lived on. I was a fierce hunter of rats in a medieval castle until getting in an argument with the male human's pet mutt. I journeyed to Asia, living in Tibet for a time. The monks at the monastery I graced with my presence must have been brokenhearted when I left. I ran across my Methos while in China and accompanied him back to Europe and eventually to the New World.
The New World suited me--lots of space, people who generally weren't afraid of cats, lots of interesting small rodents. I drowned in a Louisiana bayou one fine day, nearly got eaten by an alligator, and decided to seek my fortune someplace less . . . wet. I caught a ride with a wagon train heading west. In Texas, I found another human Immortal riding with the Texas Rangers. He was, I fear to say, a distinct dog person. I had a constant itchy nose when he was near, so I left again and wound up heading west.
That's basically where I've remained. I found my Methos again and have stayed with him on and off, in spite of the fact that he keeps company with that Texas Ranger dog person (he still makes me sneeze). At the moment, my human has taken himself another mate. I suppose I approve of her in general terms; she bathes regularly and feeds my Methos well. Still, no human female has ever completely impressed me. I suspect she knows that. Fortunately, she's never tried to cuddle me.
So that's my life up to this point. I suppose I should conclude this with some sort of platitude that would enrich all your lives, but humans never get these things anyway. You want advice? Be more like a cat.
(These are the memoirs of Theodesia Jellicle Cat, as recorded by her faithful human, Methos.)
do love these.
Posted on 10/11/2000 at 09:07:32 PM by vixen69
But I was beaten to the punch by Genevieve. You're going to get sick of this woman. She said she wanted to write it. Brace yourselves--she's been known to tell some whoppers, and this certain smells like one.
Vinnie the Wonder Rodent: Or, Why I Should’ve Been a Lit. Major
By Genevieve Fowler
I was twelve years old and scared stupid when Sr. Timothy told me to go down to the principal’s office. I figured that they had finally connected the forged hall pass and the cherry bomb incident and I’d finally earned my ticket to public school. Instead, they had other news for me—congratulations, you’re a freak. Well, that’s how it came off. Actually, what they said was, the results from my second IQ test showed an irregularity—they more or less confirmed the first one. That was not expected. However, what it told them was that I’d be much better off if they fast-tracked me from there into some classes a bit more “appropriate” to my abilities. In the course of a half-hour, I went from “juvenile delinquent” to “misunderstood genius.” And that’s pretty much been the speed of things for me ever since.
I’m giving you this little trip down my own personal memory lane to try and explain myself—I’ve always been a little restless. My mind doesn’t work like other people’s. If you can picture the Cherry Bomb Kid being thrown into her first college-level chem lab and being told that “Blow-ups happen”—well, I fell in love with the possibilities of the sciences. Somewhere in there, amidst the beakers and Bunsen burners, microscopes and methodologies, I found the kind of respect from adults I could only get from people my own age by kicking their butts in the playground. But, while all the encouragement I got was a good thing, there was a side effect: I think big. And when that unfortunate mishap occurred in an Alexandria hotel room to spark my Immortality, well, my two worlds (girl genius and hopeless wreck) unfortunately collided.
One of the things it led to was a very nasty virus—but I don’t want to tell that story. The other thing it led to was Vinnie the Wonder Rodent. That story, I don’t mind telling. He’s still out there—somewhere. Unless, I guess, he got his head caught in a trap…and…well, you know.
It was the summer of ’93. I was still so wet behind the ears, I hadn’t even been challenged yet. The only other person like me I’d even seen was Kronos—suffice it to say he told me jack about “Your Immortality and You.” But, I was a scientist (okay…that was what my all of twenty-one and brick-dumb ego told me), and I told myself I would figure out what I’d become. And so, the experiments began. At first, I only did a few experiments on myself to see what my threshold was like for taking a licking and continuing to tick. But once I realized how seriously high that threshold was—I started thinking about the possible benefits to others I could bring about if I could only figure out a way to make my condition communicable, so to speak.
Vinnie is what you could call one of your Rattus norvegicus, also known as a brown rat. I named him after a boyfriend I had in high school, to whom he bore a striking resemblance. He was the product of three generations of surprisingly long-lived Muridae who were specially bred for…well, their tendency to live a surprisingly long time. He was four when I appropriated him—which is no spring chick in rat years. But he was still doing all his favorite rat things. Eating. Sniffing at stuff. Making little baby rats—yep, unlike me, he had no troubles in that department. I, on the other hand, had found out in unorthodox fashion what my problem was when I did a little in vitro experiment. I may be the only Immortal who has ever found out that way. But what I did find, through reading some studies, checking out what had been recorded about Vinnie’s family and their interesting genes, and checking out my own chromosomes—was a few similar mutations (Sn P’s…or single nucleotide polymorphisms, mine in the twelfth chromosome pair, Vinnie’s…elsewhere. U of P actually holds the patent on Vinnie., so I can’t really go into detail, there. But I was able to confirm that the quirk was specific to Immortals when I checked it against blood samples from some of my…late Immortal acquaintances. Ghoulish, no?)
But despite a few cellular similarities, the actual results were different. He was merely long-lived. I, on the other hand, seemed just about indestructible. He had offspring (you bet I isolated those females). I wouldn’t. And I had made reasonably sure that a male Immortal probably couldn’t either (No, * that * is ghoulish.)
But that was about to change.
By now, some of you must know about my unfortunate brainstorm in re: gene therapy. It’s even a kind of tricky procedure when done by people who know what they’re doing—right now, for example, the method I used has been successfully utilized in the treatment of certain genetic diseases, with varying results. When it goes well, it can be miraculous—imagine a young child with progressive muscular dystrophy going into sudden remission. When it goes wrong—well, picture the same kid going into anaphylactic shock. Forget nuclear fission, people—you want some deadly stuff at your fingertips—check your fingertips. Fiddling around with DNA is some tricky business. But see if you internalize all that when you’re young and newly Immortal.
I didn’t. It seemed like a great idea after all, using my own RNA to inoculate humanity against mortality—very post-Modern Jonas Salk. So I took a sample of common rhinovirus and…
Well, very bad things happened. See, people don’t die of the common cold, or at least, not frequently. The virus was supposed to be relatively inert. It wasn’t like I was mixing it up with a little polio, you know? I didn’t decide on the spur of the moment that it would spread more quickly if I tried, oh hanta…hanta would have been good for that. Airborne. Respiratory. Short incubation period…the mind reels. The intention was to make the * host * stronger—not the bug.
I blew it.
What you might not realize is that every time you get sick, it changes you a little bit. Your immune system develops antibodies, for example. The way gene therapy ideally works is that the serum developed * changes * the body, giving it something it doesn’t have. I used my first sample on a group of white rabbits. It changed their immune system, all right. Long story short, those bunnies did not have to worry about catching anything, ever again. They had already caught the big one. It gave them something they didn’t have—a rather nasty death.
And I made another discovery—I really suck when it comes to keeping things sterile. One batch of my serum was * not * inert. Very not inert. As in…well…
The fire marshal still had his doubts about the accident that burned down the Byrd building. I have no doubts about what happened. I never looked back as I left the wreckage—I just hoped that I had kept my fingerprints off anything that could be used against me. And tried to look dazed and confused when I was questioned about it later. And tried to play it cool when one of my professors got unpleasant about it all (that’s another interesting story—but that’s for another day.)
I thought nothing could survive the explosion—after all, gasoline is messy but thorough. And yet, they did find a terribly battered cage in the wreckage. Dented, mangled, black with soot. But strangely enough, the rat inside was alive and unharmed. And bore a striking resemblance to my high school boyfriend.
Vinnie had survived.
I was thrilled—and concerned. On one hand…his being alive was comforting. You know, rats can be very companionable. And he was smarter than your average rat. He could jump through a hoop. Of course, the hoop had to be held down really low. And you had to wave food at the other end of it, and push him from behind a little. But on the other hand, he was a potential carrier of the virus, and that would never do. So it was necessary for me to—re-appropriate him. You know, before lots of people died. See, the firefighter who had found him was in full gear—never really * touched * the little guy. And the poor lonely thing was being kept in virtual lock-down at a local veterinary hospital—apparently, surviving a major fire can even make a rat a celeb. But it struck me that he eventually would get in some degree of close contact with *someone *, and that could mean disaster.
And so, I found myself ready to don a cat-burglar-esque black outfit to rescue the world from a rat.
No, really. Stuff like that happens to me all the time.
It turned out, though, on second thought, that I really wouldn’t need to go that far. Which was a relief.
I’ve probably mentioned, at one time or another, that I have done some extra-legal things in my time. Sure, being Immortal and engaging in occasional duels to the death would tend to put killing at the top of that unsavory list. But I have also engaged in illegal behaviors ranging from solicitation to grand larceny, and of these bad things I have done—I would venture to say breaking and entering would be the one thing I’ve honestly liked the least. Mostly because I don’t think I’m any good at it. Sure, I can work my way into any automobile in an amount of time your professional auto thief would not find too shabby—but I’m in no way fit to take up the time-honored art of lifting residential booty. However, veterinary hospitals are not Fort Knox. People take sick animals to them all the time. So I checked amongst my relatives to see if I could find something to use as a “cover”.
(I mean, borrowing a pet, not actually employing one of my relatives. Although that makes an interesting picture. “Excuse me, but I’m really concerned about my Aunt Violet, over here. I think she needs wormed.” It’s funnier if you’ve actually * met * my Aunt Violet. She makes an impression.)
So I eventually acquired my cousin Lydia’s pet !#$@atoo, which she got from my Uncle Tony when he passed on, which, if you’re interested, is named “Beretta”. Cute, huh? But anyway, the bird really didn’t look so hot. It’s had this problem with biting off it’s own feathers since Uncle Tony went—I think it’s a nervous condition, actually, not that I’m an expert on avian psychology. But birds…for the record, are sensitive. They know things, that’s why they look at people the way they do. And this bird looked at me during the whole drive down to the veterinary hospital. I’d have felt guilty if I wasn’t trying to head off a plague.
In any case, I went in there with the bird, and tried to explain the loss of its feathers in as unsubtle a way as I could. I can * be * unsubtle, if I have to. The receptionist speculated that it looked like some kind of fungus—and I became incensed. A fungus! I keep a clean bird, mind you.
Now, I don’t want any bird owners to get me wrong about this. This is not a slight, this is merely an observation. I could be totally out of line for this—but I have the impression, mostly from knowing bird owners, that some people with birds are…eccentric. Well, my Uncle Tony was a complete eccentric. Most of the time, while he lived, he went around, and everything he said was a quote from a movie. And my cousin Lydia...well, this could just be in my family. But I played at being an eccentric bird owner. And it worked right up until I need to use the facilities—and to take my bird with me.
This met with some concern. With you. Into the lavatory. But I persisted, and made my escape down the hall, with the bird in its’ cage. I never actually used the facilities, having gone before I even started out. That was what counts with me as “devious subterfuge.” I left the building through a fire exit with the bald bird, the cage—and my little brown buddy in a black bag. I thought it was strange how I knew—just * knew *--what room he was in, but shrugged it off. And, in the interest of causing no problems to the nice people in my apartment building, I, after dropping the bird back with Lydia, took Vinnie to a motel.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Isn’t this always the way? You meet a rat. You give it a pet name. You experiment with it a little, and the next thing you know, you’re in a motel room with it. Story of my life.
Luckily, the rat was clean. I
found out when I gave it the opportunity to play with some other rats that I
brought, just to see if he was contagious. I think he enjoyed his homecoming
party, but something had changed with him. How did I know?
Number one—I could sense him. Not in a strong way—but in a little-bitty, “hmm, what Immortal where…oh it’s the rat” kind of way. And number two?
No baby rats. The thing with rats is—they are fertile. A female rat can drop five litters in the course of one year. I put him in with four females—nada. Zip. Not even after three months. When I finally caught up with what was going on and looked at his sperm under a microscope, I discovered that even his sex cells had changed. Something drastic had happened—but believe me, I knew this was the same rat. I mean, you get to know a rodent if you spend enough quality time with it. And the one of the changes seemed to be the result of being infected with the virus. That was the change in his cells. But something else had happened. Something peculiar.
I found out when I was letting him get a little exercise. Like I said, he was smart and could do tricks. I had him run a little makeshift maze that I built out of textbooks. You’d think lab animals wouldn’t like mazes, since they see them enough, but Vinnie enjoyed them well enough. I think it was the challenge he appreciated. Anyway, he was having a great time, just doing his maze thing, but then, he bumped into one of the books, and he got clobbered. One book fell, and, in some kind of “domino-theory-be-damned” kind of way, the book just on the other side fell “in” as well. He was smushed under two thick textbooks, and when I lifted them, I expected the worst. He survives a plague, an explosion, and bites it just because I’m a lousy maze architect? There was a thought I nearly couldn’t handle.
It was just about as bad as I expected. He was flat. I looked about for a shoe box or something I could put him in, my eyes forming hot little tears, but by the time I had one ready—he was back up.
Vinnie was Immortal.
I considered running some experiments on him, but realized he’d been through enough. For awhile, I simply kept him as a pet, thinking it was kind of cool—having a pet as Immortal as me—although I wondered who would take care of him if I shouldn’t come back some day. And I never did figure out why it worked—why the rabbits and a few other animals died from the virus, but Vinnie actually became Immortal. Maybe it was because he was already a bit mutated to begin with. Or maybe it was just because he was a rat. I’ve given up my experiments, so I may never find out. And I’ll never find out from Vinnie.
Yeah, right, you’re thinking—he’ll never tell. Well, truth is, he never will. My cousin Lydia’s snot-nosed little brat got into the cage one day and let him lose. He ran away, and after all he’d seen, I can’t blame him. I’d have probably bolted, too.
But I just want any other Immortals to know—you want to talk about there being only One? Well, make it two. The last man—and Vinnie. Because I’m pretty sure he’s still out there. And he’s pretty smart.
Posted By: wildcard, Super-Genius <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, 12 October 2000, at 8:39 a.m.
In Response To: REPOST of MID WEEK CHALLENGE: Who Wants To Live Fur Ever? (Leah CWPack)
Today, will be the day. In the past I've been too eager. I've allowed my impatience and rage to overwhelm me, making me sloppy. Every trap I construct is effortlessly passed over in a jet stream of speed, leaving only me in it's wake, caught in my own web. How much pain and humiliation have I suffered? I've been run over by trucks, cast off cliffs, crushed by boulders, and blown into a charred cinder. But, each time I rise from death and defeat to plan again. Today, that persistence will pay off. Today, I have found the ultimate solution. Today, I will be victorious! There can be only one! Where is that stupid delivery truck?
Two hours later...
Instant service my furry bottom! This is an outrage! After all the money I've spent on them, they should be at my beck and call. They never follow through with their guarantees. Of course, they refuse to do service calls. It's a desert, so what? Hmmph, I'm going to stand right here, so that stupid truck can't pass me by.
What! You, how dare you sneak up behind me! I'll get you this tine! Wait, that's what you want. No, little one, I've learned to be patient. This time I'll get what I have coming to me. You can't trick me, I'm a super-geni-...? Where'd he go?
Oh, good. My delivery's here. Heh...
MWC - Birds of a
Posted on 10/14/2000 at 02:23:34 PM by Chimera
A harsh shadow cruised over the dry scrub, and small animals darted for cover. The huge bird banked and turned, having spied a lone lamb quaking on its spindly legs, bleating for its mother. The bird rose swiftly into the clear sky, then began a rapid descent upon its prey on the ground. Suddenly, the bird shook itself, turning its scrawny neck this way and that as it dove, searching for the source of that deadly sensation. Too late, the bird saw its challenger, another huge bird of its own kind, red and gold like an eagle. The challenger sunk its talons into the predator’s back. Bearing toward the earth at enormous speed, the two birds grappled and screamed. The challenger’s inexorable grip held fast as its beak clenched the other’s neck, snapping the slender cord and severing its head. The birds crashed onto the earth, raising a plume of red dust. The challenger still clung to its dead prey as a flame ignited from the lifeless body. The furious fire rose higher, engulfing both birds. The challenger shook its wings and the phoenix arose from the flames, emerging anew to reclaim its domain.
As an aside to this vignette, my family crest is the Phoenix in Flames.
MWC - "There Can Be
Only One - CHEEP!"
Posted on 10/13/2000 at 07:52:46 PM by Jette
My first time at this challenge - blame the tea break crowd for the image that inspired it.
"There can be only one - CHEEP!"
"Who's a pretty boy? CHEEP!"
"Who wants to live forever? Cheep!"
That's what I've had to listen to for the last half-century. Who would have guessed that a budgie could be Immortal just like us?
I know I wouldn't have if you'd asked me fifty-two years ago.
I've been alive for 305 years, Immortal for 299. I was at the peak of my feline powers when I was unfortunately run over by milady's carriage. Fortunately for me, milady was Immortal and knew what to do with me. She took me in, watched over me and told me all about Immortality.
Of course it doesn't _all_ apply. Us cats are not generally considered to be part of the Game. No one would try to take our heads - after all cats were once considered to be Gods, so we're like walking Holy Ground.
Anyway, until 52 years ago I (and milady) thought that only humans and cats could be Immortal. I've met other Immortal cats from time to time - you know when you've met another or your kind - all your fur stands on end and you find yourself hissing like crazy. We don't usually fight though, not like the human Immortals. Never met any other non-human, non-feline Immortals - no dogs, thank Bast!! No horses, though milady would like to meet one if one exists. She finds it heartbreaking having to break in a new mount every few decades. Yes, she still prefers a horse, even in these days of motorised transport. Takes a horse and cart to the market, rides horseback to the small local town. Only gets into one of those noisy smelly things when she has to go to the city, or if we're moving - which we do every few decades to avoid trouble or when some nasty human Immortal shows up looking for a fight. Milady is no coward, but she is also no swordswoman, so we move.
Anyway, back to my problem. About fifty years ago, as the humans count time, milady and I were in Australia. It was a fun time for me - lots of outdoors, lots of things to hunt. You have to watch out for the spiders and the reptiles, but they can't hurt an Immortal, even an Immortal cat, for long anyway. Lots and lots of brightly coloured noisy little birds. Budgeriegars, they call them. Like the sparrows back in Europe but nicer to look at and some of them quite talented mimics. They're a lot of fun to chase as they fly in panic.
I was scaring a whole flock of them out of milady's garden one morning when I caught the *buzz*. Couldn't quite believe what I'd heard/felt, so I went to find milady. Now for a human she's really quite clever but she doesn't speak =cat= very well and my =human= suffers from the fact that I'm a cat. Not built to make each other's languages, but we usually manage to communicate. Took me a while to persuade her to come with me to the garden, but eventually she did and soon she realised what I'd found.
"Oh, Min (Minou - that's me) - how lovely!" Milady has always been fond of birds. Over the centuries
she's kept many birds - singing thrushes, larks, canaries - and I've always respected that =these= birds were not to be hunted, not prey like the birds in the garden. I'm usually quite polite with those too - never let her see me kill them or catch me with the evidence. Maybe the odd feather caught between my teeth - but I'm a cat, I can't completely deny my instincts.
So an Immortal bird - she just had to add it to our household. Cage traps were baited, specialist hunters hired and eventually milady had her budgie. It took him some time to adjust to captivity, but the regular food supply and the lack of outside world danger helped.
He's a pretty boy, that's for sure, as he likes to remind us. Bright blue of the sky with white flashes beneath his wings. A good 'talker' too - milady spent days, weeks, months, talking to him constantly until he could echo her greetings. Now he hardly ever shuts up!
"There can be only one! CHEEP!"
That's his favourite phrase. After fifty years of hearing it I'm inclined to agree.
Now, unlike human Immortals I don't carry a sword - but neither does he and I don't need one. One good CHOMP!! of my feline teeth and There Will Be Only One in this household!
Posted on 10/12/2000 at 01:42:44 AM by Ehorizon
She had lived for millennia, though she couldn't care less about time. The small charcoal gray mare sighed contentedly. The hot breeze blew over her and the rest of the herd that she roamed with. She shook the sand from her mane and bent to eat some hey that nice man kept leaving for them. She had lived in many places, but deserts were her favorite.
She had been born in a far off land; it was a desert, much like this, but far away. Her providers had been nomads, that was the life. She and her mother drank first when they found water, were cleaned everyday, and their manes and tails were kept from tangling into those annoying clumps that itched so much. These people even let them sleep in their tents! But they had a responsibility; she and the others had to alarm their providers when anything was amiss. She did her job well.
When she was five, her entire existence changed. While galloping through an oasis, she fell and broke her leg. The pain was unbearable, yet she stood up and tried to continue. She had to stay with the herd, that there was no question, but her rider felt differently. The provider looked at her leg, mumbling angrily, then stopped to stroke her neck. "Time for you to rest my friend," he said tearfully, "may the gods choose you as one of their steeds for you are truly worthy of that honor." With that, he slit her throat. The tribe waited for her to die, kept the other horses near to be of some comfort as her life left her, then they continued on, leaving her there.
When she came too, her lungs were on fire, she lunged to her feet, gasping for air, only to fall over as though she was a foal, not the adult she was. Eyes closed she lay there in the dark for a moment before trying again- success! She opened her eyes only to find a new terror, she was alone. Panic came in waves, first it felt like a pail of ice cold water hit her, trembling in the cold, she pranced a few steps darting her head around, sniffing at the air, eyes wide and worried. Then she let out a scream... and another. Waiting- another. She galloped in a circle, her herd, where did it go? She wanted to run, but something made her stay, thinking that they'd be back.
Night turned to day, and she was starting to get thirsty. She smelled the water under the ground of the oasis, but she had never needed to dig for water, it had always been brought to her. She had to find water, had to find her herd. She headed back from where they had come from; remembering there had been a settlement with a water trough, and other horses, maybe her herd went back there? If not at least there would be other horses.
After a few days of walking, and dying of thirst, she came at night upon the town she recalled, and collapsed. A young man ran over, running a cool moist rag over her to cool her heat exhausted body down. When she was stronger, he led her to water, only allowing her a few sips at a time. Smiling to himself at his new steed, he stroked her neck "I shall call you Mahtob," (Which means moonlight in Egyptian I think :-) "we shall be together for a long time."
So they were. As the years passed, he realized she was not graying out any more. As he grew older, she was staying young, but he kept her. Eventually, when he didn't have the strength to care for her anymore, he set her free near a herd of wild horses. "Go Mahtob, you must have been a gift from the Gods, return to be free. Stay with these horses, and they'll teach you how to survive."
Mahtob watched her provider walk away and tried to follow. Confused when he yelled at her, waving his arms. She stopped, looking at the other horses, back to him loyalty battling with instinct. As he walked farther away, instinct took over, and she ran to the herd.
Live was hard, but it was good. She lived with the herd for many life times, watching the others give birth, then watching the foals grow, have their own babies, then die. She loved foals, their smell, they way they played, discovering their world.
Her herd was captured eventually, and she was passed into the life of a workhorse, and being passed on from one provider to the next, if they could be called providers. Many mean men owned her. Each time, they whipped her and she healed, they would stone her to death, then burn her body. After a while, she'd revive, wonder off, get caught and the cycle would continue.
At last, after what seemed to
be an eternity, Mahtob finally found a kind family who took the time to prove
themselves to her, showed her she had nothing to fear. They reminded her of her
first herd, except they didn't let her in their "tents", but that was
alright with her since it had been so long since anyone let her in their homes.
It was with this family that she was brought over to the New World. What a horrid trip! She had been blindfolded and then dragged up into the air by a special kind of harness on to a ship. As the blindfold was taken off, she heard the shrill whiney of a horse, and looked in time to see him slip from his harness and fall into the sea. Upon seeing that, all the horses started to panic and they where roughly beaten into the bottom of the ship, where they wouldn't see the light of day for weeks.
On the other side of the pond, her family moved to a farm, where she lived for a few years. She was the only horse that the family owned, and when a herd of wild horses passed her field, the temptation was too much and she jumped the fence.
Once again she was free, this time in a much friendlier environment. Grass everywhere, plenty of water, but she was constantly coughing. Having had lived for a few thousand years in the desert, she was having difficulty adjusting to the humidity. Her sides had a constant ache, and she became short tempered, even with the foals she loved.
Then, once again, her life was changed. While grazing in a meadow, the herd was attacked by men wearing wolf skins. They reeled and spun away from the attackers, but, every time they tried to turn, there where more of them. They ran faster and faster- when they saw the cliff, it was too late and the whole herd went over. Lead stallion, mares, foals, every last one of them. As the women of the tribe started to gather the meat from the dead from below, a miracle happened.
Mahtob revived to find herself surrounded by death. Afraid to move, she stood while a man approached. Wanting to run, but needing to stay with her herd, even if it meant in death, she allowed him to place a rope around her neck. Stroking her neck, he spoke softly to her, calming her down, and started to lead her away. Her ground training was imbedded in her, so she followed behind him, prancing and skittish, but following.
The tribe let out a gasp as this horse followed their medicine man. They had horses to ride, but they would only eat them if they were really low on food, but this was a wild horse, so light of bone, and full of spirit that came back from the dead. It must be a sign.
She thoroughly enjoyed this life. She had been, once again taken as a gift from the Creator, and well cared for. They gave her medicine for her cough and she was able to relax for the first time in a while. She enjoyed these providers that rode without saddles, without a harsh piece of metal in her mouth, just a rope around her nose and behind her ears. She enjoyed running as fast as she could along the large brown creatures with the thick fur and the humps on their backs. While she wasn't the quickest horse from the start, or even in short bursts, she could outrun any of the other horses and was often used to deliver messages from hunting parties to camp and back again. The horses were kept loose, but they never strayed far- why would they want to leave?
But all good things come to an end. Wars broke out, and her tribe of providers were slaughtered. Her herd was split up, and she was used as a racehorse, but unfortunately, she was run against thoroughbreds and quarter horses and never stood a chance. Once again she found herself, hard at work, constantly changing hands, getting shot when she healed too quickly. Until one day she felt something she never felt before.
She was at an auction, having been sold to the killer's she was on her way to the train car, where she was going to live the last terrifying days of her life, when she felt it. It felt like a mass of hornets in her head. Her head came up; she snorted as she turned in a circle, prancing, worriedly.
"I want that
horse", a woman's voice commanded "at any cost." She quickly
paid what the man wanted, took hold of the line and led Mahtob away. When they
got far enough out of range, she turned to the mare, and looked into her eyes.
"Hmm, you know, you'd be an easy quickening." she said stroking her
neck. Mahtob relaxed, the buzzing was less noticeable now, or was it that she
was just getting used to it? She cautiously reached her slender nose towards
the woman's face and sniffed a few times. The woman laughed. "You're a
pretty thing, what's your name?"
Cassandra turned leading the horse away. I think I know a nice monastery run by a friend that would be able to let you stay there. You'd have to learn to put up with children, because it's also an orphanage, and it's in New Mexico so it's in the desert." She smiled and sarcastically commented, "I guess I won't take your head, besides, how long could you have possibly been around?"
Facts behind the
Mahtob was intended to be an Egyptian Arab. Arabs had been used by nomads. They were, allowed to live in the tents with the families, as well as getting first dibs on water. Okay, maybe second dibs, I think camels get first. They were used as watch dogs, alerting people to visitors.
Horses will continue to run on a broken leg in order to stay with the herd. On that note, they are able to remember, and return to the last place that they saw horses when they are lost.
There is no such thing as a white horse. A true white horse actually dies a few days after birth (recessive fatal genes for you interested in genetics :-) What we see as white horses are technically grays. Born a dark color, they "gray out" as they get older. If you have a horse that is a dark gray, it will lighten up with age, if it doesn't, you start thinking...
The boat accident to the new world I took from part of Christopher Columbus' journal he kept on the horses he brought with him. The ropes slipped and he fell in the water, breaking his neck. The journal was in some history of horse book I have somewhere, CC kept extensive records on the horses in his care.
Some Native American tribes used to run bison off cliffs, I think that there where a couple of times when they really needed food, they did hunt horses the same way.. I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere...
Horses sniff each other's noses as a form of greeting, of checking each other out, and to be able to identify the other at a later time.
I hope the story wasn't too choppy, It was pretty late when I wrote it, and I'm terrible at proof reading my own stuff- thank God for spell check-
Good night all
one more fact...
I have a mustang stallion that was caught in Nevada when he was young. He needs a special medicine to stop him from coughing all the time. This is because he's a desert mustang, and the humidity here in upstate NY tickles his lungs. I figure that an immortal horse that spent thousands of years in a desert would also have problems adjusting.
MWC -- Fish Story
Big Fish Don’t Die
“Some fish never die,” said the adjunct professor of marine biology. “They just seem to eat and get bigger, but don’t appear to age at all. Absent death by accident or disease, they appear to have a life expectancy well in excess of that of mankind. Take carp, for instance –“ The students in the front row frantically scribbled cryptic notes while the ones in the back seemed less – well, perhaps less focused is the best description for one or two of them.
“Carpe diem?” Adam Pierson whispered to his companion. It was a bilingual double-pun. The companion winced appropriately. That wasn't enough of a reaction for Pierson.
He started to sing softly into his friend’s ear, “Big fish … don’t die. They don’t die-ay-ay. They don’t die…”
“Shhh, Methos!” came the reply. “Will you please shut-up? I want to hear this. She’s saying that fish live forever.”
“MacLeod, you are such a worrier,” Pierson said, leaning back in his seat. “Knowing you, she’ll be grading you on your work in the bedroom rather than on this puerile undergrad experiment….” MacLeod gave Pierson a hard stare, and the smart-mouth student finally quieted.
The scientist in question was continuing her lecture, despite the commotion in the back. “—of course, the claim that the exact same carp introduced into the imperial pond in 1663 are still alive more than three hundred years later cannot be proven scientifically. It is purely anecdotal evidence. And I should mention that even a three or four hundred year life expectancy is not quite the same thing as absolute immortality – though it could be considered close enough for government work.”
She ventured a smile at that last bit, but nobody in the audience returned it, except the cute student in the second row from the back, the same one who had been making little asides to his more serious dark-haired companion throughout the lecture. The ones in front were too serious to smile, though no doubt several of them were wondering if “close enough for government work” was going to be on the midterm.
Professor Dottile sighed. Okay, let’s cut to the chase, she thought.
“Which brings us to our little experiment this semester. We would like you to adopt a pet and record certain of its physical characteristics each day. You will be graded not only on the thoroughness of your observations, but also on the health of your pet … Yes?”
A hand was waving in the first row.
“Dr. Dottile, will you be assigning a specific pet for us to adopt? Because I already have a cat, you see – and I don’t think I can take a dog for instance…”
The professor sighed. “Yes, we will be assigning a specific pet to each of you. But some of you might have drawn a connection between the topic of today’s lecture and what species of animal we might be interested in studying. Anybody want to venture a guess?”
Four or five hands were raised in the front row, including the hand of the cat lady. But the professor glanced beyond those hands toward the back of the auditorium, where Pierson’s hand had shot up, sending semaphoric signals of keen interest. That the professor noticed the hand in the back was hardly surprising, because it was waving back and forth about twice a second, leaving a distinct whooshing sound that could be heard from the lectern.
“Yes, Mr. … uh, Pierson?” she asked. “You have noticed a connection and wish to advance a theory?”
Pierson grinned a boyish smile and said, “Yes, professor. I would like to advance the theory that we are going to be watching over some carps, hoping they won’t turn into corpse.” He waited. The professor winced, much like MacLeod had so recently done. Then she shook her head, apparently in denial of the pun, or perhaps to clear her senses.
“Well, yes. There you have it,” she finally announced to the rest of the class. “You will each be given a carp that is guaranteed to be at least 75 years old.” Students looked at each other, wondering what they were going to be doing with 75 year-old fish.
Pierson jabbed an elbow into MacLeod’s ribs. “Ha! I thought so!” he whispered smugly. “I shall call ours Ishmael…” MacLeod’s reply was lost as the professor continued.
She announced, “These are special carp. They have been watched over by marine biology classes here at the Seacouver University since the early sixties. As part of this experiment, you will review all the prior logbooks, of course.” The class issued a collective moan at that.
Dr. Dottile looked around at each of the thirty students. She caught their eyes.
She said slowly and distinctly, “You will feed the carp, and watch it. You will record your observations.” She paused. “But remember this – you may not interfere with that carp. Ever. To do so would be to destroy the rigor of the scientific experiment we are conducting. For instance – no steroids.”
“Okay, that’s it for today,” Dr. Dottile announced. “Meet me at the lab tomorrow at ten o’clock to pick up your carp.” She paused. “Oh—and Mr. Pierson? See me after class.”
“Sure professor,” Pierson grinned. “We can discuss the size of carp. Tell some stories. You know, immortal fish tails. Right?”
MacLeod winced again.
My first MWC entry on this board: "Red in Tooth and Claw"
Red in Tooth and Claw
She was the guardian of the forest and the instrument of its justice. Her white fur shone like captured moonlight, for she needed no camouflage to survive. No prey could escape her hunting claws; no predator dared face her cutting fangs. Though she mated when the season came to her, she had no cubs. She needed none to continue her line, for she was eternal. She had always been, and always would be, the spirit of the jungle, the Ghost Cat.
§ § §
The man sat patiently in the village square, listening to the hushed tones of the storyteller as he told of the white tigress, the beast that could not die. Darien Kyle worked hard to suppress a sneer of contempt for these simpleminded, superstitious mortals. Yet the fear in their eyes was genuine, as they told of a cat that could shake off arrows and even spears as if they were insect bites. The village built spiked traps to protect their herds, only to watch the Ghost Cat leap out of the pit, its bloody wounds already closing, Even rifles, of which the tiny village had a precious few, could not stop the cattle thief.
Kyle sincerely doubted that the village had one decent marksman among them, yet the idea that a beast could be Immortal intrigued him: an entirely new definition of the term Big Game. Deeper in the forest, the primitive tribes had even older legends of the Spirit of the Forest. The tribesmen were in awe of the beast; some even revered it as a kind of vengeful Goddess. One of the more interesting rumours, the one that had brought Kyle to this backwater hell, was that men and women deemed Gifted or God-Touched were sent out into the forest as sacrifices for the Ghost Cat. Acceptance of the sacrifice was heralded by great displays of fire and light, as though the power of the thunderstorm had come down to earth.
§ § §
She remembered the coming of the Two-Legs; it was a hunter's flying tooth, piercing her more deeply than any fang or claw, which had changed her forever. The humans had gathered around with knife-claws and spears, retreating in terror as their prize arose to avenge its own death. She did not understand that she had been dead, only that the humans, until then dismissed or seen as potential prey, must now be considered as rival predators.
Since then, she had seen the rise of "civilisation": human ambition and the unending search for the power that Nature had not given them. She saw, and often personally experienced, the development of "technology": the spear, the spear-thrower, the bow and arrow, knives of stone and bronze and iron. These things made Man the peer of nature, and early man seemed to understand that there was a balance to be kept. It was only later that the Two-Legs, with their pride and their hunger for more, thought themselves to be above Nature, no longer a part of it.
Though the weapons of Man could not harm her, others of her kind were not as lucky. She watched as the Clan Feline was decimated: for food, out of fear; for the beauty of their pelts or for the glory of the hunters. First axes, then saws and machines, ate whole chunks of the forest; chasing away prey and forcing predators into smaller and smaller territories. Man had become more than merely a rival, he was a deadly enemy.
§ § §
Kyle made much ado about declaring he could rid the village of their monster cat. The primitives would never let any harm come to their sacred White Goddess, but these terrified ranchers would do anything for him. To Darien, the hunt was everything; over the centuries he had brought down almost every creature that runs, swims, crawls or flies. The excitement, without the danger, faded rapidly; short of hunting Immortals, as his friend Kanis boasted he would someday try, Kyle had despaired he'd lost the thrill forever. Until he heard the stories, of a devil cat, an animal that could not die. The challenge was impossible to resist.
The villagers accepted his authority without question. The hunt would be a small one: one guide, one driver, a couple of strong young men to assist him, and of course Kyle himself. One of the elders protested that the only safe way to hunt the tiger was on elephants, but Kyle liked to be on the same level as his prey. Besides, though he needed to reassure these weaklings, he himself had no interest in being "safe." No one dared ask why the great hunter carried, along with pistol, rifle and shotgun, a full sized long sword.
§ § §
Eventually she learned that she was not alone. She learned to recognise the signs, a sensation that was neither sound nor smell, but something else entirely-- a quivering of the whiskers, electricity tingling through her fur like a change in the weather. Prey animals of this kind were exceedingly hard to kill, but provided a nearly addictive satisfaction that went beyond mere hunger. A Buzz from a fellow predator was the ultimate territorial signal: better to evade and survive than enter a combat that went beyond mere threats and posturing.
It was quite a surprise to discover that the Two-Legs also had hard-to-kills among them. Many understood the Balance more than most humans, killing only for food and sometimes even honouring her as they passed close. Others seemed to have an obsessive need to hunt and control anything weaker than themselves. All of them carried unusually large Claws and moved with a grace usually reserved for her Clan.
§ § §
Kyle had felt the Buzz at about the same time they were forced to abandon the Jeep. The sensation, so raw and wild, was like a drug; "She's close," he whispered. He gestured for two of them to stay with the vehicle, letting the guide move ahead. With luck the fool would get himself killed, allowing him to attack while the so-called Ghost Cat gorged itself silly.
Between the roar of their mechanical riding beast and the stench of steel and gunpowder, she scarcely needed the Buzz to know she was being hunted. Only one among them was eternal, the rest were barely worth her notice. She had taken Immortals before, and afterwards she knew things beyond the imaginings of her Clan. Thus she had learned about traps and snares, firearms and explosives.
She allowed a flash of white fur to be seen by the men at the Jeep, leading a Two-Leg fool straight into a rope snare. His cries brought the others running, but she had already faded into the shadows. By the time he was cut down, they discovered their tires pierced by inch-wide holes, the mark of her fangs. Even Kyle was getting spooked.
Again and again the cat led them on a merry chase, wasting ammunition while getting Kyle no closer to his prize. One of the cattlemen, foolishly confident, tracked the beast nearly a mile. A long echoing shriek announced that he himself had been herded-- off the edge of a cliff. With a touch of paranoia, Darien wondered if they were dealing with an animal at all. Not even a Ghost Cat should be able to outwit his skill and centuries of experience.
As the light filtering through the forest canopy began to fade, their guide announced nervously that even he wasn't sure where they were. The Jeep was useless, the village too far away, there was no choice but to stay overnight. Kyle and the guide chose to shelter in the vehicle, while the two ranchers set up a small tent. Darien looked on as the locals built up a bonfire, knowing that an animal so cunning would not be spooked by mere flame. For the first time, he truly feared for his life and, ironically, the thrill of that fear made him feel more alive than he had been in centuries. He slept with bare blade and loaded rifle nearby.
§ § §
Night had fallen and she knew that the hunter was still out there. The Buzz maddened her like a thorn just out of reach, urging her on to a hunt of her own. She could smell the cruelty and the bloodlust in him, a Two-Leg of the worst possible kind. The fact that he was Eternal only made her duty more crucial. It was the judgment of Nature, red in tooth and claw.
The smell and sight of their fire proclaimed the Two-Legs' presence for miles and most night creatures gave the camp a wide berth. The white tigress had no such fear, only a wise caution as she approached the sleeping humans. Her true prey would know of her coming no matter the skill of her stealth. Passing the flimsy cloth shelter, she saw the muzzle of a gun slowly part the tent flaps followed by a moon-pale hairless face.
§ § §
One of the men in the tent heard a noise and cowered under his blankets. His friend, sneering to conceal his own fear, reached for a nearby shotgun. Staying as far back as possible, he used the weapon to push open the tent flap. When nothing immediately leaped at him, he peered fearfully into the night. He is confronted by a pair of ice blue eyes and the deep rumble of a subdued growl. Those eyes held a message, clear as spoken words: "Do you want to live?" Slowly, he let the tent flap fall, praying to be already asleep and that this was only a nightmare.
Kyle could feel the cat creeping closer, knew at the same time that it could feel him. He emptied his mind, trying to play physically and psychically "dead," while one hand reached infinitely slowly for the hilt of his sword. His companion had other ideas.
The so-called guide panicked at the sound of a low growl; he let out a scream and fired blindly into the night. A triumphant roar turned into a yowl in mid-leap as momentum took the tigress over the Jeep. The big cat landed hard and did not move.
"Good shot!" Kyle shouted; the surprise was genuine: the fool had actually done something useful. Soon he would know this forest intimately, and then he wouldn't need a guide. He leaned close as if to congratulate the man further, cutting him down with a single stroke of his blade. It was a pity, since a sword cut looked completely different from an animal attack, but what did it matter? He had no intention of returning to this place.
Darien took his time walking over to the body, savouring every moment of his triumph. It was his biggest mistake. When an Immortal returns from death, there is a moment of hesitation, a split-second where the mind rejects what the body has done naturally. An animal suffers from no such denial; the instant those blue eyes opened a massive paw swung upward, knocking aside the blade and ripping off most of the hand that held it.
Like a perfectly tuned machine, the Ghost Cat pounced, crushing the Immortal hunter under nearly 500lbs of pure muscle. Lever-like jaws, more powerful than most jungle cats, found a soft, vulnerable throat. Her sharp white teeth, each a dagger in its own right, met with an audible 'snap.' A ghostly mist rose from the remains of the corpse; the cat inhaled the essence hungrily. Her roar mixed with the howl of the Quickening storm. Two men cowered in terror in a fragile tent as the Jeep exploded in a ball of flame. The Ghost Cat stood in the centre of the destruction, caressed by power yet seemingly untouched. At this moment she was more than mere flesh, she was Nature itself.
Somewhere deep in the forest, a scout pointed to an awesome blue glow on the horizon. A tribal elder smiled knowingly, and turns to reassure his people. There was no danger, the Spirit of the Forest has taken another soul. Justice had been served.