The Protector – Tom Howard

Smoky, Sir Reginald Immodeus Alexander and forty-seven other names from his long and illustrious lineage, sat on the kitchen table watching a flitzard taking shape.  The fibrous creatures couldn’t take form if they were watched, and this one struggled before it died a frustrated death. Flitzards affected human brains, making people fuzzy and distracted.  Smoky’s human charge, Charlie, acted fuzzy enough already.

“Listen, Smoky.”  Charlie peered over his newspaper.  “It says here domesticated cat brains are shrinking.  You have a walnut-sized brain.”

Smoky licked his paws to show how credible he found the newspaper article.  He wished Charlie would take his bike off the wall and leave. His twitching whiskers predicted something bad was coming through from the other side, and the sooner Charlie was out of the battle zone, the better.

Charlie folded his paper and took his cereal bowl to the sink.  “I don’t want to be late.” He poured his leftover milk into a saucer and placed it on the floor.  Charlie didn’t always remember to fill Smoky’s water and food bowls, but he tried to treat him well.  When Smoky had first been assigned to Charlie, he hadn’t been impressed with the young man, but as they grew to know one another, Smoky found him bearable.  

Smoky had a fight on his paws.  A fuzziness in the room’s corner showed a nefarious creature was already struggling to enter the real world.  

“I envy you.”  Charlie put on his backpack and lowered his bike from the rack on the wall in the hall.  “Lying around all day with your walnut-sized brain, enjoying the good life.”

Get out, and take your giant, one-dimension brain with you.  Smoky had been awake most of the night, stalking and eviscerating a sleep serpent.  He didn’t need a clueless human around to get in the way. From the amount of static in the air, Smoky wouldn’t have time to enjoy the good life today.

Charlie gave him a smile and left the apartment for work.

Smoky could ask Princess, the Persian next door, to help, but his Calico pride wouldn’t let him.  He was Charlie’s Protector. Charlie was destined for greatness.

Smoky took one last patrol around the apartment before lapping up the saucer of milk.  He also used the litter box. When the enemy broke through, he didn’t want to be caught off-guard.

The sunlight through the window highlighted Charlie’s unmade bed, and Smoky gave it a wistful glance before crushing a small snapperling peeking between the dust bunnies.  Although they appeared to be spiders, they were virus colonies targeting Charlie’s toothbrush. Smoky ingested it to nullify the forty-six million viruses it contained.

The distortion in the corner of the kitchen had become a wispy shadow.  The large creature was ready to break through. Smoky was ready, too. His claws were weapons, and his hypnotic stare unbreakable.  He didn’t need Princess. He could handle it on his own.

The pulsating shadow heralded an agnition’s arrival, although he’d never fought one so large and active.  They were electrical annoyances, constructed of scraps of junk. Around them, toasters produced charred slices of bread, ice machines quit making ice in the middle of a party, and ovens and thermostats lost or gained ten degrees.  Smoky had dealt with agnitions before. Overheated motors caused fires, and a large agnition could be dangerous.

Maybe he should use the litter box again.

When the agnition broke through, it happened fast.  One minute, a black pustule oozed out of the throbbing shadow, and the next, a large grey creature with wiry hair and red eyes squatted on the kitchen floor.

Smoky shot forward, but the agnition was quick and strong.  It clawed a cabinet door open and shoved pots and pans onto the floor.  A seldom-used waffle iron shot out and knocked Smoky across the floor. His head struck the wall, and he saw stars.  He jumped to his feet, ignoring the stabbing pain in his side where the waffle iron had struck him.

The agnition tried squeezing between the refrigerator and the wall but was too big.  Smoky dug his teeth and front claws into the creature’s rump. It turned, clawing Smoky’s head before shoving past him into the open.

Smoky howled from the pain.  Blood dripped from his torn ear, and his injured head throbbed.  His vision blurred. The agnition opened the dishwasher and slipped inside.  Charlie ran the dishwasher as often as he made his bed, and the agnition was impeded by spaghetti-covered plates and greasy pans.

Smoky hurt.  The creature’s waffle iron attack had broken something inside.  He struggled to breathe, and he regretted not asking for backup.  Still, he stood his ground, wiping the blood from his torn ear with his paw.  The agnition would have to leave the dishwasher sooner or later.

Or throw dirty dishes at Smoky.  A flying coffee mug sailed over his head.  He considered going into the dishwasher after the creature, but the agnition was waiting for him.  

Two could play that game.  Springing onto a chair and then onto the cabinet – uninjured, he could do it in one leap – Smoky pushed items from the cluttered countertop into the open dishwasher.  The agnition ducked and tried to crawl between two plates. When Smoky saw his enemy clamber over the end of a spatula, he pushed a canister down into the dishwasher and catapulted the agnition into a pasta strainer.  Not bad for a walnut-sized brain.

Smoky jumped down.  He cried out, but he had to make sure the creature was dead.

It wasn’t.

The snarling agnition sprang and landed on him.  The agnition’s talons clutched a wooden spoon. Smoky twisted and spat as the agnition forced the spoon handle across his neck.  He fought, but the agnition kept pressing. Smoky feared he might lose. When Charlie came home, he’d find his apartment a burnt-out husk and Smoky a lump of ashes on the kitchen floor.  Then the agnition would kill Charlie. Smoky would have failed as his protector.

“No!” a voice shouted from far away. Black clouds crowded Smoky’s vision.  A blow jarred Smoky and the agnition, still locked together. Pain shocked Smoky back to reality, and he crawled out from beneath the inert agnition.  Charlie stood over them, holding a cast-iron skillet like a baseball bat.  

“Get away from my cat.”  He smashed the agnition several more times with the skillet.  

Even in his condition, Smoky could see the agnition was dead.  He mewed and tried to stand but couldn’t.

“Damn rats!” Charlie exclaimed.  “They get bigger and bigger. I’m going to complain to the super.”

He removed his jacket and wrapped it around Smoky.  ““Don’t move, buddy. We’re going to the vet. She’ll fix you up.”

Smoky stifled a cry as Charlie gathered him in his arms.

“My rear tire went flat, and I forgot the pump,” Charlie said.  “I had to walk the bike back. It’s lucky I did.”

Smoky agreed as he slipped into recuperative sleep.  He’d never live it down, being rescued by his human. Charlie might have potential after all.


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Emerging Worlds is a Zealot Script Publication.

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