Bad Toys

The cat wakes by the sill with a gnawing in his gut. He stands, pushes his paws forward, arches his back and stretches out his muscles, one by one. He jumps down onto the soft carpet, listening for potential ambushes on either side of the long hallway. Sensing nothing, he moves ahead, shoulder blades piston-pumping through the soft fur of his back. His tail waves nonchalantly behind him.

All through the house, the carpet is filled with small toys: plastic prey holding tiny noisy metal prey, small furry birds that chirp, feather bunches holding feathery prey, prey inside yarn clumps. These toys, one by one, start waking up. They talk to him. They tell him what to do.

Find strength, they command in unison. They speak in cat sounds, only sounds he can understand, but the command is clear: You will need strength for the three feats.

He leans into the bowl, flicking out his tongue so rapidly that a steady stream of water courses down his gullet. When he is satisfied the gnawing has ceased, he moves to the pellets and picks a few up with his mouth. They make a satisfying crunch. At last, he feels ready.

His ears perk up. One of his sisters is awake. She's a blue russian with a feisty temper. She angles toward him and almost immediately lowers her face and hisses loudly. He backs away, more amused than scared. She can't do anything to stop him. She moves past him, annoyed, to the water bowl and begins to drink. He looks over and sees his other sister, squatting dumbly two feet from the litter box, relieving herself on the carpet, eyes glazed over. Neither of his sisters are a threat. They can't hear the toys or their commands. He is special.

Be a bad boy, they say. Wake the giant prey that do not move. Jump on their chests and smother their faces with your scent. When their orbs open, capture their face folds in your jaws and draw blood.

He does just that. He hears a horrible ruckus as swift hands swat him over the side of the bed. The blood is still in his mouth.

He heads back out into the hall. The bad toys speak again. They tell him to be ready for the next challenge.

Jump up on the highest point near the large prey, and assert your dominance with a proud yowl.

He does just that. He clamors to the top of a pile of boxes on a dresser, his soft pink paws clamoring to maintain balance.

Now yowl, the toys say, all in unison. Yowl as loudly as you can. The moment you see movement or hear noise, jump down and scurry out.

He complies. He scampers out. Agitated noises from the large prey. There seem to be more toys now, gathered together in massive clumps of plastic and string and cloth.

For your final task, they all say, start a swat fight with your sisters through the big door.

It doesn't take much for the fight to begin. He sees the sisters gathered together in the triangular space behind the large door, and he positions himself on the other side, his back haunches moving into position. He pounces, rat-tat-a-tatting his paws against the wood. He hears low growling.

Again. Rat-tat-a-tat.

A quick high growl and a hiss emits from the other side of the door. Two furry paws, one black, one grey, appear underneath the door frame. Soon, it's a tug of war as the door swings back and forth. A symphony of growls, hisses, chirps, lurches and claw taps wake the large prey yet again.

This time, they are not happy.

The big prey leaves the den and emerges into the cat's field of view. The cat scampers out and away across the battlefield, dodging some toys, hitting others with his paws until he finds a safe table to hide under.

You have done well, the toys cheer. Commit these three tasks to memory and perform them every morning. The prey are large, but can be broken down over time, if you persevere.


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