Nine Lives, Ten Deaths? part four
Alisha walked along the riverbed, her toes slipping in to the coolness of the water. Tawnie walked behind her though she stayed away from the water’s edge. The trees that lined the river were as tall as the sky and thick as molasses. She could not see what lay beyond the trees but she often heard sounds as if someone were walking on the other side. She had long ago lost track of how long she had been in this realm. She had used most of her energies trying to escape and now she was little more than just a woman.
The realm was filled with beauty like no other place she had ever been before. Blue Spruce filled the forest and the streams and rivers that she encountered on her many walks were as clear as glass. Fish swam along the stones, free and vibrant with color. The stones were smooth and rounded with speckles of color adorning their shape. The grass, though longer and fuller and some places, never seemed to grow. It had been the same length since the moment she had arrived here. There were orchards of luscious fruit trees in the meadows and berries, red, blue, purple and orange colored the hillsides, making the hills look like Christmas tree lights. A soft breeze blew always and kissed her cheek with the feel of a warm gentle hand, caressing her like a lover might do. A lover… the thought made her think of Alexander, bringing tears to her eyes as she stopped to pick up a stone. Seeing her reflection in the water, she wondered if she had changed since they had last touched. She sat down on a rock beside the water, tossing the stone across the water, watching it skip three times before sinking to the bottom of the river.
“Oh Alex, do you even remember me? How long has it been since I was taken from you? I would die a thousand deaths just to have one life with you.” She looked at Tawny, the cat’s head cocked in that way only a cat can do. “Oh, I know, I know, we would have to get out of here before we could even imagine togetherness again.” She reached over and pulled Tawny on to her lap. “I can still dream and I can still close my eyes and wonder, you know.”
“I never said that you couldn’t, dear one. In fact, I never said a single word.”
“Not verbally but your eyes said a million things.”
It had not taken Alisha long after she entered this realm to find that cats could communicate with their human counterpart. This had often been her saving grace, keeping her sanity in check the many years she had been in the realm. The only other time they spoke with anyone or anything was when the Lions would come to check on them. Alisha caught glimpses of humans walking along the meadows edges with the lions but never enough to see their faces. She only knew that they were women. She would call out to them, hoping they might save her or at least give her company but none ever answered. The lions were unfriendly and only growl or swiped at her through the trees. She managed to stay out of harms reach but wondered if one day they would just kill her.
“I too think and close my eyes, Alisha. I miss Sebastian and his silly ways. He made me smile and purr so nicely. The sounds we heard earlier, coming from beyond the trees; it sounded terribly fierce. Do you think that the lions fight amongst themselves?”
“As nasty as they are, I am more than certain that they do. I still think I heard a human voice in all of the roars. Are you certain you didn’t hear anything else? You do after all, have a cat’s ears.”
“Thank you for noticing that but I did not hear any voices and certainly not that of a man.”
Alisha looked at Tawny and held her above the water’s edge. Tawny clawed her way back to Alisha’s lap, her heart beating rapidly. She pushed herself off of Alisha’s lap and moved as close to the tree line as she could. She would have rather faced the lions on the other side than the water.
“Why would you do something like that to me? You have never been so cruel in all of our years here.”
“I never said I heard a man’s voice. I said I heard a human but you said “certainly not a man.” Please tell me you heard it too. I don’t want to believe that I am losing my mind.”
“I did hear the fighting and yes, there was a man’s voice mixed in. It sounded like more than just lions fighting.”
Alisha stood up and walked towards the tree line. “Tawny, we have to find a way to the other side of the trees.”
“There is death on the other side, Alisha. Is that what you want?”
“Tell me the difference between death and this, Tawny!” Tears had begun to flow now. “After all this time, I am finding it hard to tell the difference. Our gifts have faded, yes, but maybe because we have not used them in so long.”
Tawny knew there was no stopping Alisha now. She would need to stay by her side through it all. She followed her along the trees, trying to push her way through anything that looked like she could. She could hear the big cats on the other side. She wished Sebastian were here with her.
“Tawny, come here,” Alisha whispered. I think I found a place we can go through. It looks like it leads back in to a forest on the other side of the river. I can see movement in the trees over there.”
Tawny pushed herself into the small opening. An open meadow stood between them and the other side. She saw two lions disappearing into the trees. They were dragging another large lion that was covered in blood. Behind them walked a woman. She hid herself as the woman turned to look back into the meadow. Tawny slipped back slowly into the trees. Her hair ruffled and her heart pounded as she watched the woman go.
“Can we get out of here or not, Tawny?”
“We can, Alisha and after what I just saw, we probably should soon.” Tawny explained what she had seen and then shook her head.
“So, you saw a woman and some lions with a dead one. We know there will be danger when we try to run. What has got you so upset?”
“The lions were in armor as if they had come from or were going to a battle. We too will wear armor when we do battle. It was the woman that bothered me.”
“She is probably a prisoner like we are.”
“I doubt it, Alisha. She was leading these lions. It wasn’t just some woman I saw. That woman was… Samantha.”
Alisha stared at tawny for a moment. “Are you sure it was her?”
“It was her, alright. The same one that sent us here is out there.”
“We have to follow her, then. She put us here so that she could have Alex. She didn’t kill us because she knew our essence would flow to Alex and Sebastian and they would know she was the one that killed us. The only way to keep Alex from finding me was to trap us here. Show me, Tawny; show me where you saw her.”
Tawny walked to the tree line again. She saw no signs of movement. “There, across the meadow where the trees open up is where they went in. It is wide open, Alisha. We are sure to be seen and killed.”
“If we stay here, sooner or later they will decide we have no purpose and we will die anyways. I would rather die standing, fighting then die just because we gave up. Follow me and stay low to the ground. We still have gifts and we are going to use them.”
As they squeezed through the maze of trees, suddenly they found themselves in the meadow. The sun was not blocked by the trees here and as their bodies absorbed the warmth, both could feel their bodies come back to full power. They stood in the breeze and let the light wash through them. Tawny could feel her body grow and in less than an instant, she was the size of any great tiger. Looking at herself, she growled loudly.
“This is what I was before I got trapped in your world, Alisha. I am ready to do battle now!”
“You are absolutely stunning, Tawny. We will escape this place or die trying.
A voice rang out from just beyond the meadow. Alisha recognized it immediately.
“So, you decided to step out and fight, did you, Alisha? I have secretly hoped you would for six years. Too bad your zeal won’t be enough to free you. My friends will see to that. I have no need for you any more anyways. The last time I saw Alex; he kissed me deep and whispered how he loved me. Then, the poor soul died. As for you, Tawny, too bad you waited so long. Your boyfriend used up all of his pathetic lives trying to find you. Last I saw him, he was lying under the swing, quite dead, if I recall right. I guess I pushed him too fast for him to land on his feet. Poor old guy was really impressive when he became a Saber-toothed tiger. Guess he really did have just nine lives.”
Tawny’s gums rolled back to expose long sharp teeth that shined in the sun. Her hair stood straight as she displayed her talons, sharp as razors. Alisha felt the weight of armor covering her body. She could sense the power of the gifts returning to her, stronger than they had ever felt before.
As Lions appeared from the trees, Tawny and Alisha planted their feet firm.
“It isn’t us that will die here today, Samantha! You should have killed us while you had the chance. As for my Alex, if he were dead, I would have sensed it. The kiss you speak of is only in your wildest fantasy. I will find him and you will die today!”
The roar of lions could be heard throughout the realm. Waters rippled and trees swayed in their wake. Tawny roared in answer to their challenge. The sound of her roar, filled with anger and pain at the thought of Sebastian’s death was felt and heard far beyond the walls of the realm. It echoed on earth, like the sound of a two great thunderclouds coming together. Lightening reached the ground and the thunder shook the earth beneath the swing.
Under the swing, a small cat laid motionless. The lightening traced the lining of the huge tree and ran down into the Earth’s core. Lighting the entire yard, it found its way to Sebastian’s battered body.