The Perils of This and That

By: Remmerrid

 

 

It was that certain time of year in the sleepy Californian town of Santa Rosa when the grass was beginning to fade into a vibrant gold tint that commonly precedes the colds of summer. The term “colds”, it should be noted, is spoken from a biological standpoint, as the meteorological alternative would mean disaster for the rest of the planet.  You see, the transitional period between spring and summer functioned as Santa Rosa’s allergy season, plaguing the unwary populace with sporadic bouts of the sniffles.  This meant, naturally, that the lines for pharmacies were long, tissue sales were skyrocketed beyond recognizable proportions, and the majority of the town’s children were forced to bar themselves indoors to “keep their rest”.  Mothers of all varieties, despite their otherwise differing methods of raising their kids, seemed to unanimously agree that their children were meant to remain inside during the tyrannical rule of the mighty god of misery known commonly as the “flu”- and remain inside they did.

            One such unlucky teenager was Catherine Miaza.  At age 14 (“15 in two weeks!” she would proudly boast at every available opportunity), the girl had reached a point in her life where being in the company of her parents was considered agonizing torture. Normally, given these circumstances, being sick wouldn’t pose that big of an issue; one would expect a sick day to entail locking oneself in their room and watching tv until their eyes melted. Catherine’s case, however, was a bit different.

            Ever since her birth, her parents had made a point of keeping an obnoxiously close eye on her. This wasn’t to mean she was strapped to a chair and held under 24 hour surveillance, of course, but it was an uncomfortably tight supervision regardless. In part, Catherine (Cat, as she was known among her schoolmates) was made to endure the “eagle eye” treatment due to her own lust for mischief.  Her unrestrainable curiosity paired with her dangerously short attention span was often cause for worry among the people around her, and usually fetched at least $300 in damages.  The small-scale disasters Cat caused and the pranks she pulled were so closely spaced, in fact, that it seemed she spent around ninety-seven percent of the school year under the “Grounded” status. 

            This time, the cause for her parent’s obsessive surveillance was an incident involving her mother’s favorite vase and a handful of fireworks.  Leslie Berary, Famed Child Psychologist, concluded that it was a result of Cat’s subconscious proclaiming “I want attention”. Cat, however, concluded that it was a result of her subconscious proclaiming “I’m bored and breaking things is amusing”.  Needless to say, the Vase ascended to Pottery Heaven, and any trust Cat’s parents had in her ability to remain home by herself was dissolved. As a result, she was once again grounded (this time banned from partaking in anything outside of the menial functions of her body), and remained so even after she was attacked by the merciless wrath of the common cold.

            When Catherine came down with the illness, her parents began to discuss what should be done with her.  She’d OBVIOUSLY have to stay home, which was OBVIOUSLY a problem due to matters already transgressed. Both parents worked, which erected all sorts of complications- for the longest time, they considered just sending her to her grandmother’s, a prospect which Catherine was abhorrent of.  The girl’s objection to lodging at her grandmother’s was stirred by a number of reasons, each grotesque and each traumatizing.  The first thing that Catherine found distressing about her grandmother’s house was that during her last stay, the demands of her stomach had been nurtured almost exclusively by beans and rice.  For reasons Grandma Miaza wasn’t willing to reveal, she was certain no other varieties of food could be safely consumed by the human body. One of the other terrifying aspects of her grandmother’s place was that she owned at least one third of the world’s population in cats. It wasn’t that she didn’t LIKE cats (no pun intended), but rather the fact that since Grandma Miaza cleaned out their litter box once in a blue moon, they quickly made a routine of relieving themselves in Catherine’s shoes and other belongings.

            One of the most pressing reasons Cat was evasive of her grandmother was the woman’s insistence on driving.  At 86 years old, every human being capable of coherent thought agreed that allowing her to drive was like dropping an atomic bomb and expecting it not to detonate.  As far as Cat was concerned, anyone too senile to properly operate a refrigerator should be banned (by law) from ever so much as touching a steering wheel. Her parents, naturally, had made several attempts to persuade Grandma Miaza to either remain immobile or transfer into a “Home”, but each time their efforts were thwarted by the old woman violently brandishing her cane and screaming a trail of obscenities that one would never expect to hear from the mouth of a senior citizen.

            So, after much begging on Cat’s part, it was decided that she’d stay home after all.  Her parents managed to arrange their work schedule to accommodate this, and would stay home to watch their daughter in alternating intervals. After a few days (and countless hours of the “Puppy dog eyes” routine), Mr. and Mrs. Miaza took pity and allowed Cat to entertain herself with her electronics once more. And thus, this was how Catherine was found one fateful day in late spring when the doorbell sang from somewhere beyond her range of sight.

            Catherine jolted a bit from her slouched posture on the family-room couch as the electronic chime of the doorbell struck her ears. She was quick to pause her game and strip the sheets off of the couch as she attempted to lift herself into a standing position, and wasn’t able to make it even halfway up before grabbing for a Kleenex.

            “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it.” Came the voice of Mrs. Miaza as she stepped briskly through the family room en route to the front door.  She said this in a manner that conveyed a “let’s see what you’ve done now” sort of message. Cat pursed her lips and folded her arms across her chest, standing in a manner that gave every indication some form of protest was imminent.  However, none came, and after a second of two, she simply drifted back to her usual sarcastic demeanor with a roll of her eyes.

            “Right, can you tell me who it is, then?” Cat asked coolly as she settled back among the couch cushions. It was now her mother’s turn to roll her eyes, and with a bemused shake of her head, she replied, “Sure; if it’s the police, the getaway car is in the back.”       

            “Hilarious.” Cat retorted pithily as she continued to frown moodily.  If her goal was to appear menacing, however, her constant need to dab at her nose with a tissue prevented her success. As soon as her mom turned a corner and disappeared from sight, Catherine refocused her attention on the television screen and resumed play. Although most of her mind was still captivated by the swarms of aliens shooting rays of firey death at her in “Metroid Prime 2”,  she kept at least part of her attention on the noises issued from the front door. The sound of footsteps, the twisting of a doorknob, the creak of  the door itself swinging open, and then…two familiar voices that sent unpleasant chills down her spine.

            “Hey, Mrs. Miaza…er, is Cat still sick?” said a masculine, yet distinguishably adolescent voice.  Next came a giggle from her mother.

            “Alex, Mia! It’s good to see you again; How’s your mom’s cold coming?”

            “Well, she’s still coughing, but I think she’s getting better.” Said a girl, presumably of the same age as the boy whom had spoken before.

            “Ah, that’s too bad…well, here, come on inside and get out of the heat.”  The sounds of footsteps and the closing of the door followed this offer immediately.

            “And yes, she’s still got it. It’s a really nasty bug that’s been going around too….Is that her homework you’ve got there?”

            “Ah, yeah. We offered to take it in for her to save her to trouble of collecting it all later.” The male voice explained, his words wavering amidst the chorus of shoes clicking audibly against a hardwood floor.

            “Well that’s very sweet of you two.  She’s in the family room, playing games; why don’t you go on in and say hi while I find you something to drink?”

             “Thanks, Mrs. Miaza.”

            Cat stiffened.  This was precisely the thing she’d feared her mother would say, and she hadn’t conceived of a plan to escape whatever was to come next.  She bit her lip and quickly glanced downward towards the attire she was currently garbed it- a pink cotton nightie with a picture of an adorably juvenile kitten (curled into a ball and sleeping) on the front of it.  Although she’d never admit it outside of the sanctity of her home, she felt there was something inexplicably appealing about the childish-ness of the nightie, and despite her many efforts, couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it.  Whatever appeal the garment had before, though, had now disappeared- after all, her pride was at stake.

            “Hey Cat, you know Ms. Criddle? She gave us this absolutely RETARDED assignment where we have to memorize and perform something like three passages from Romeo and Julie-What the hell are you doing?” Two figures entered the family room, the first a boy of mid-height with lengthy brown hair, and the second a rather tall girl with long, unnaturally straight dirty blonde hair.   The two of them stood in silence for a few seconds as Catherine, frozen in the middle of the process of pulling the sheets over her nightie, stared back.  Her eyes were wide and horrified, akin to that of an owl that’s run into an electric fence.

            “Er….what are you wearing?” Mia queried, gesturing curiously towards the pink, be-kittened night dress.  Tones of pink and red flushed Cat’s cheeks as she let the sheets drop to her waist.

            “It’s called a nightie, smart one.” Catherine returned snidely, attempting to redeem her fall from grace (perpetuated by her night clothes) by professing her knack for sarcasm. Alex lifted an eyebrow, allowing his arm (carrying a school copy of “Romeo and Juliet”) to drop to his side.

            “I never knew nighties were supposed to look like…er….THAT.” Alex commented, motioning towards the kitten with one of his fingers. Cat’s blush intensified.

            “Shud up!” Catherine growled as she grabbed at the sheets, pulling them brusquely over her chest.  Her demand was cut off, however, by an on coming sneeze that turned out to be quite difficult to stifle. Alex simply rolled his eyes, while Mia found herself smiling.

            “…Right. Well, we brought your homework.” He explained as he stode over to the foot of the couch.  He bent down and piled a small stack of papers onto the coffee table, Cat following his every movement with a frown.

            “Gee, thanks. I’m just THRILLED that I can now relieve my boredom by doing HOMEWORK.” Catherine complained huffily as she sank back into the pillows.

            “Hey, don’t blame us; Ms. Criddle said she wouldn’t give you extra time, even though you’re sick.  I don’t know why…” Mia mentioned as she took a seat at the end of the couch.

            “Because she’s Hitler reincarnated?” Catherine replied grumpily as she glared disapprovingly at the papers sitting on the table.

            “Ah, right, forgot about that.” Said Mia with a meek smile.  This managed to perk Cat’s spirits a little bit; if there was one quality she could honestly say she adored about Mia, it was the shy, coy manner she acted in whenever amused by something.  There were countless other redeeming qualities about both of her best friends, and as such, bringing her school work in a time when she was supposed to be free of it was a forgivable offense.

            Across from Cat and Mia, Alex settled into a leather chair over-looking the coffee table.  He took a momentary glance at the television, and then turned back to the girls.

            “So, you’re not grounded any more?” He asked with a hint of amazement present in his voice. Cat scoffed and crossed her arms.

            “Of course I am.  Don’t let the TV fool you; I’m not allowed to even go to my room alone until bed.”

            “Ouch.  But still- you can watch TV and stuff, so it can’t be THAT bad…” Alex reasoned.  Catherine cocked a brow, presenting the boy with her “Oh really?” expression.

            “Yes, Alex, becuase primetime with Dr. Phil is simply RIVETING. And in the morning, I have the privilege of choosing between c-span and Nick-Jr.” Cat grumbled snidely.  While talking, she’d taken to playing with her hair; utilizing the power of a scrunchie, she decided to put her slightly-longer-than-shoulder-length hair back into a pony-tail.   Alex gave Mia a quick smirk- the blonde girl frowned, as if encouraging him to forget about it.  Alex wasn’t swayed, though; he was going for it.

            “Well, given your choice in bed clothes, Pre-school programming might not be that bad of an option.” Alex had to quickly duck in order to escape the remote that’d been hurled his way.

            “You are coming VERY close to losing your balls.” Cat snarled, her arms crossed.  Her ire was only heightened by the fact that Alex was now laughing like a stoned Hyena.                      

            “Stop laughing! It’s not funny, I’m really going to kill you! AAARGH!” Cat roared in frustration as she pulled the sheets over her head, receding into them much like a turtle.

            “Always the mark of maturity…” Mia mused with a giggle. She didn’t USUALLY tease her friends, but this time it felt appropriate.  Sometimes, she realized, she felt more like a care taker than a friend.

 

 

Perils of This and That... Chapter 2

By Remmy

 

            Catherine screamed. And screamed…..and continued screaming until her voice became hoarse and she felt on the verge of collapse. In exasperation, she threw her hands (or, as they may well have been re-identified due to their new fuzzy coat, paws) to the ground, panting heavily while tears of shock and disbelief filled the edges of her eyes.

            In the midst of her explosive panic, Cat somehow managed to consciously note the way the tongue of her new body felt strangely rough, an attribute completely foreign to that entire section of her being. It’d be an awkward addition to accept- the idea that her body apparently intended for her to groom HERSELF was not a welcome prospect.

            Following this train of thought, she also discovered an ungraspable range of flexibility in her back, hips, limbs, and generally everywhere else where her reach had been limited as a human. That too, she figured, would take some getting used to, though she was still ceaselessly rigid on the idea this wasn’t a problem permanent enough to WARRANT “getting used-to”.

             As Cat finally began collecting herself, she rose to her legs and sub-conciously probed her new features. Her entire body felt a lot lighter, and her gait carried a dainty, ballerina-esque grace.  As she took a few steps further, she inwardly giggled (morbidly and reluctantly, it should be noted), amused by the way her new ears and tail were so reactive to her emotions. Without willing it, her tail had been tucked sheepishly between her legs, her ears timidly flattened against her head.

              Cat felt her face grow hot. Despite all of the other alien additions to herself and her surroundings, she still had space for a childish humiliation to bloom, based, she was certain, on the massive wet stain spreading over her crotch. She bit her lip and whimpered, trying to remember the last time she’d done something like this. Once in kindergarten, she bitterly remembered, and another time when a friend had made her laugh while she was in desperate need of the toilet. THAT was only a tiny accident though, leaving a spot no bigger than her thumb. THIS, however… She gloomily brooded over it, a swelling sense of shame joining the already prominent shock and fear.

               Catherine gave her hands another look, and the disbelief resurfaced. How was this POSSIBLE?  It went against every physical law she knew ( or, at the very least, drowsily picked up in class)  for someone to just wake up in another body. For a while, she came to the obvious conclusion: clearly, she was dreaming.  What other explanation was there? She was a fucking CAT!  

            Regardless of her insistence on this theory, evidence married to the contrary consistently kept leaping in front of her. First, there was the vividness of the new world in which she dwelled; everything looked, sounded, and (much to Cat’s humiliation, given both the present state of her clothes and her elevated senses) SMELLED clear and noticeable. Besides that, she was bitterly reminded of the accuracy of her tactile senses by the cold sogginess of her panties.

            “My GOD am I happy no one’s here…” Catherine growled moodily as she kicked at a patch of sand. As she said this, however, she felt a crippling terror congeal in the pit of her stomach. Her friends were nowhere to be found.  Alex…Mia…were they here too? Were they okay? Could an animal or something have found them and…and…?

            ‘NO! This is just a dream. …An annoyingly realistic one, but still just a dream. When you wake up, Mia and Alex will be right there, and we’ll all just laugh about this and…

    Catherine suddenly felt her heart quicken. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of crunching leaves was drawing closer.  Cat’s knees started to shake and her breath became harsh and panicked. The worst part of it all was facing the unknown- In such an unusual place, she had no idea what to expect. What terrifying things might hide in this forest? Monsters? Aliens? Mormons?  Though there were many who would giggle in the face of Catherine’s “mormo-phoia”, Cat herself was well aware of the fact that there existed no more demonic The potential was chilling.

               “Just a dream…just a dream….” Cat repeated to herself in a high, trembly voice.  However, the more and more she assured herself of the idea, the less and less she believed it.

              “Oy! You finally woke up, I see!” Came a gravely, brusque voice from behind her. Cat shrieked and then proceeded to attempt two different panicked actions at once, the first spinning around to get a look at the invader, the second leaping forward and running as far away as possible. The end result was less than productive: Cat managed to twist her body halfway around, while attempting to jump simultaneously. The awkward body positioning caused her to trip, and she dropped to the sandy floor, landing on her side with an “oof!” forced from her stomach. Imediately upon her fall, she searched for the source of the voice, certain it belonged to some variety of talking monster that was interested only in making her into dinner.

              What she saw, however, was a squat, scowling middle-aged man riding an animal that resembled a giant beaver. The animal, Cat noted in baffled awe, was in no way fearsome. Rather, it was actually kind of cute. The man sitting atop its back, however, wasn’t someone she would have liked to encounter, even outside of this twisted new world she’d found herself in.  He looked something like Abraham Lincoln would if he had been punched in the face a lot, or hit by a truck.

                “Finally! Do you know how annoying it’s been, havin’ ta check up on ya, makin’ sure the wolven-berks didn’t carry ya off ‘er nothin’? Huh? HUH?” The man barked, drawing his face as close as he could to Cat’s (which wasn’t very close, given that he was riding on top of a six foot tall rodent and she was sitting on the ground.)

                “You…you’re not…afraid of me or anything?” Cat gasped in awe. This man, though strange-looking, still appeared to be an ordinary human being. The first thing she’d have expected from another person after discovering her bizarre new appearance would be mass hysteria. Cat then realized how silly this expectation was: obviously, this wasn’t earth any longer. ‘Note the beaver.’ She reminded herself glumly. The gruff man snorted indignantly.

                “’Fraid? Why the hell’d I be ‘fraid of you? Kids like you ‘re always comin’ through me woods from the Garden, getting’ drunk an’ passin’ out! Lord knows, how am I ‘sposed to “Fear” you when yer wearin’ sommin’ like dat, eh?” He jabbed a finger at Cat’s nightie, which, despite being noticeably wetter, had remained unchanged.

                 “’Sides, ya pissed yer knickers. That ‘ain’ ‘xactly in-timidatin’.” He growled.

               So much blood rushed to Cat’s face she feared her head would explode.. Imediately she threw her hands over the wet spot in a vain attempt to deny the accusation.

                 “H-HEY!” She protested, whimpering in mortification as her ears flattened.

                “Righ’. Ya know, if it weren’t required by law that ‘ah keep ye’ alive, I’da jus’ left ya. Now git- your spoilin’ mah sand!” The ugly little man demanded, directing a long, boney finger towards the woods. Catherine felt a quick pang of repulsion as she noticed that long, dirty, chipped finger nails protruding from the tip of it. Secretly, she felt a smug sense of relief that despite her new features (not to mention the condition of her underthings), there was still SOMEONE she could cosmetically outshine.

            “But..but I don’t know where I am, or how I got here, or who you are, or what THAT thing is, or what…who…where…he….HAIR!” Catherine shouted windedly, a brand new stroke of panic forcing tears into her eyes. The old man (apparently the owner of the land as well) seemed unimpressed by her hysterics.

             “Well, first’ve all, ah’m Kurkins. This here is Bip.” Kurkins affectionately patted the beaver-creature’s head, inciting a loving “chee!” from it.

              “Secon’ly, yer in mah woods, which is dit-dang trespassin’. Thirdly, I don’ know how ye got here either. Ahm pretty sure yer jus’ some lyin’ runaway, which makes me regret lookin after you even more.”  Catherine blinked, absorbing this. She abandoned her shock and embarrassment for a moment and righted herself so that she was sitting delicately on her knees, her hands in her lap.

              “You…you looked after me?” She questioned in a voice a couple decuples above a whisper. “How long have I been here?” She asked, this time at a louder volume. Kurkins rubbed his chin in histrionic thoughtfulness.

             “Well, ‘bout four hours, by my count. ‘Which means ya’ now been trespassin’ fer four hours.” He growled poisonously. Cat repeated the words “four hours” soundlessly, her tail idely sweeping behind her while her eyes glossed over. Suddenly, the “bizarre dream” hypothesis began to fade away, for reasons she couldn’t quite place. Somehow, meeting another person, and holding an active discussion with said person, erased whatever doubt she’d previously held that her situation was a reality.

             “But…but…I shouldn’t be like this! I’m supposed to be sick in bed…I’m supposed to be bored at home with nothing to do…I’m supposed to be HUMAN!” Catherine sobbed, tears now rolling down her furry cheeks. Kurkins was unaffected by this show of emotion, however, and simply scrunched up his face in disgust.

             “The ‘ell ‘re you on about? Do ya even hear yerself when ya talk?  By god, that’s the looniest thing I’ve ever heard any’un say! Are you still drunk?” He persisted, asking each successive question with increasing intensity. “…do ya have any left?” He questioned in a noticeably more polite, collected tone.  Catherine ignored him, however, being too tightly wrapped in her own hysterics to pay much mind to anyone else. Kurkins blinked a few times, awaiting Catherine’s recovery and move to leave him in peace, but it never came.  In fact, her crying progressed in power, finally graduating from a terrified sob to a hopeless wail. Unlike the rest of the drunks he’d found on his property in the past, this one seemed genuinely disturbed, touched by something much heavier than soiling her clothes in her drunken stupor or wasting all of her parents money into a game of cards. Kurkins, who’d surmisably never touched a woman after sliding headfirst from his mother’s womb, found himself very uncomfortably in the presence of a female sobbing at such a powerful magnitude.

              “Ay…look…I dunno what’s goin’ on with ‘ya, but maybe if you go off in ‘at direction…” Kurkins nodded towards his left, which, as far as Cat could tell, led to the path she’d noticed upon re-achieving consciousness.  The fuzzy, hysterical girl blinked, her weeping (much to Kurkin’s relief) subsiding, if only temporarily.

              “Jes’ follow that road back to the ‘Garden, see if yeh’ can find yer parents ‘er sommat. They ‘ave telephones an all ‘at, so you can call ‘em if you were drunk enough to not remember goin’ there…” Kurkins continued, sardonically rolling his eyes with that final addition.  Cat sniffled, tilting her head sideways in bewilderment.

              “What’s…the Garden?” She queried, a discomfort prying at her innards. She was grateful that the man was finally trying to lend her his help, but there was some unspeakable aura of villainy surrounding the name. How was she to know he wasn’t sending her to a meat grinder or something?  Kurkins contorted his face, wrinkling his nose as though Catherine’s question was an unpleasant stench.

               “Yer kiddin’, right? Geeze you’re more hopeless ‘an I thought! Well, I’m sick’a ya! Git!” Kurkins ordered, throwing a hand towards the path. Cat opened her mouth to protest, but found the only vocation willing to emerge was a frightened squeak, as incited by Kurkins propelling what appeared to be a vodka bottle her way. She jumped aside just as the bottle was no further than an inch or so away from her face- with that bit of luck, the only harm inflicted was to the sand. The man’s generosity, apparently, was quite short-lived.

               “Fine!” Cat hissed irritably as she hopped to her feet, patting the sand out of her fur. She glared thin-lipped at Kurkins (and his giant beaver, though it wasn’t really at fault for having such a nasty owner), her ears flattened against her skull.

               “Can you AT LEAST give me some clothes to wear?” She requested, a faint hint of pink sprouting from under her furry white cheeks. The only response she was granted was a hot, irritated grunt.

               “The fuck with ‘at! Why’d I give sumthin to such a weepy li’l brat like you? ‘Sides, all ya’d do is piss ‘em.” He snarled, gently stroking his pet (any innuendo perceived at this point is purely the reader’s imagination). Again, the creature emitted a soft “Chee” while resuming its blank stare, gaggling stupidly at nothing in particular.   Catherine, understandably enraged by both Kurkins’ statement and his pet’s apparent inability to do anything besides squeal “chee” and look ridiculous, thrust her foot into the sandy ground beneath her, growling ferociously from the back of her throat. She found that in her new body, the effects of these action were far more pronounced.  Still, it wasn’t enough to sway the grubby, gnarled old man before her.

                “Yeh can scream and curse all ya want. Ain’t gonna change nothin’.” Kurkins stated simply. Cat pouted, folding her arms over her chest and sending the old man the darkest, most infuriated glare she could conjure. 

                 “Fine!” She growled, a level of her former sassiness returning to her voice. “Be a JERK!” She spat acidically before sticking her tongue out at him and moodily storming off. She mumbled curses under her breath as she crossed the ground leading to the path up ahead, occasionally throwing a glance back in Kurkins’ direction.  He kept watching her in a disquietingly contemplative manner, all of his initial spite apparently gone. Finding this more than a little creepy, Catherine picked up her pace, increasing her speed until she was at a full-out run. Once she’d rounded a corner and felt certain Kurkins was no longer able to track her with his eyes, she stopped her movement, sighing softly as she attempted to gather her thoughts.

                “Alright…so what are my options…” She muttered, biting her lip as she considered the possibilities. She supposed she could seek out Kurkins’ home and raid it, collecting all the clean clothes and food she’d need to camp out for a while, but this idea was quickly dashed. There was no telling how far away he lived, or in what direction his home resided. Besides, the LAST thing she needed at that point was to find herselfon the wrong side of the law, and facing Kurkins under THOSE circumstances was a horror too grotesque to fathom.

            Catherine knew the best choice was to follow Kurkins’ suggestion and investigate this “Garden” he spoke of…yet she felt some sort of sinking reluctance to go there. She considered this; from what she could interpret  from the scalding accusations she’d received, the Garden was a vendor of alcohol, and a popular one at that.  Perhaps she was afraid of the ruffians that might inhabit such a place? Apparently, in this terrifying new world, children her age weren’t barred from entry.  Catherine found her outlook perk a bit- The most interaction she’d ever had with alcohol was at her relatives’ birthdays and family gatherings- in the middle of Wine Country USA, it would be SIN for her parents to prevent her from even TASTING a bit of wine. As she recalled, she’d hated the stuff, but who knew, maybe it’d be better now that she was a year older. Besides, there had to be SOMETHING behind the craze the older teenagers and adults made over it.

            It was then decided that the Garden would be her best bet- she probably wouldn’t get the chance to drink anything, given her lack of finances, but she figured if she cleaned herself up and acted cute enough, they’d give her a place to stay.  She figured she’d be able to work there for a while, at least for the time it took to figure things out.

            So, that’s how Cat found herself sauntering down the dusty, well-trodden path towards what was guessed to be a tavern. The journey was by no means a comfortable one- her clothes had yet to dry, a fact alone that contributed to most of her discontent, and the climate of the area was thick and humid. To entertain herself, Catherine studied the scenery she passed by, discovering the place to be lush with plantlife more bizarre than anything Hollywood had managed to conceive of. Here, there was a tree with branches that ended in glowing, orb-like fruits, which must have looked similar to Christmas tree lights after sun-set. There, a plant with spire-like protrusions reaching towards the sky, disc-like flower buds interspersed throughout the length of the tree. Catherine was awed by the way they spun with the wind, creating something of a natural pin-wheel during a breeze.   Despite the zanyness of this new world, Catherine had to admit its beauty.

            As she traveled, Cat’s mind became more and more focused on how she’d been transported there in the first place. Obviously, the entire fiasco was stirred by the violin she’d found in her mother’s package; yet when she’d held it, seen it and listened to it, it’d never seemed like much more than an ostentatiously decorated musical instrument. Besides, how could VIOLIN transport you to another world?

            Catherine’s mind then wandered back to the note she’d found in the package- suddenly, she regretted being so impatient with it. She furrowed her brows in concentration, trying to discern Mia’s recital from the fog of her memory. She remembered a plea to her mother to take the instrument into her safe keeping, and a warning not to play it- a warning, she forlornely admitted, that’d been overlooked until it was far too late.   Aside from the information, she couldn’t remember much. Obviously, the note itself wasn’t much use- perhaps if she’d remembered the sender’s name, she’d have more luck.

             Put-out by her lack of success, Catherine pouted throughout the rest of her travels, her eyes directed towards her feet as she shuffled along. After about a half-hour’s walk, the exotic flora had lost its novelty, the subtle varieties of plant-life beginning to blend together.  Even glowing, spinning flowers and scents so euphoric they nearly lifted the girl off her feet weren’t enough to hold her attention for long. At about that point, Cat’s longing for any sign of civilization became almost painful- a bottle, a can, even a discarded condom would have been an appreciated sight. It also seemed as though her anxiety over her friends’ lack of presence increased exponentially with every step.

            “Geeze, how far IS this place?!” Catherine voiced aloud, grumpily folding her arms over her chest. She was well aware of the futility of speaking without an audience, but hearing her own voice and feeling the tremble of her vocal cords brought her an indefinable comfort. One of her ears perked as she realized how much more…feline her voice sounded. There was some distant, almost ethereal ring to her voice that hadn’t ever been present before, an inflection that added a subtle sort of “mew” to the end of her speech. She’d noticed this during her argument with Kurkins, of course, but now that there were no pressing occurrences demanding her attention, she was able to fully absorb the enchanting strangeness of this new addition to her already massive list of bodily transformations.

            Catherine toyed with the idea of experimenting with her new voice, if only to pass the time. Though she figured it’d be plenty entertaining, she was worried the exercise might attract a number of hungry animals. Kurkins HAD mentioned something called a “Wolven-berks”, and from the sound of it, they weren’t all too friendly.

            Deciding to forgo caution, Catherine inhaled and began to speak.

            “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” Cat recited, tickled by the way her sub-vocal purr altered the sound. She was quick to try it again.

             “To be or not to be, that is the question.” The cat-girl proclaimed, forcing as much drama behind the phrase as she could.  Catherine giggled, a sound which bore a strange similarity to the sound of a jingling bell.

             “Oy, you kitten, over there!” Called a voice from beyond the wall of trees situated on eiher side of the road. Cat yelped and, utilizing the new leaping capabilities of her feline legs, practically achieved lift-off.  She clumsily spun around to face her confronter, eyes wide with terror. Her body urged her to take off and dash into the foliage, carrying herself as far away from the voice as humanly (or, in this case, cat-ly) possible. Her intuition, however, rationalized the fact that the speaker was quite clearly human…or, at least, a patron of the English language.      

            What Catherine found upon searching out the proprieter of the shout was hardly any less intimidating than a ferocious animal would have been. There, no less than a yard away, was a soldier clad in armor so heavy it was a notable achievement for the man wearing it to even walk.  The soldier carried a halberd crusted in a variety of jewels and precious stones, while the hilt appeared to be cast from solid gold. Cat’s jaw dropped- it was impossible to perceive such a beautiful object actually being employed as a WEAPON…anyone with enough expendable income to arm their guards with golden spears must have been incalculably wealthy.

             The guard appeared to have emerged from behind one of the trees, likely having been posted there to keep bandits and ruffians from entering the proximity. He brought a heavy, gauntlet-clad arm to his shoulder and brushed off a number of loose leaves his armor had collected during his trip through the woods.

             “Where in the bloody hell do you think you’re off to?” He demanded in a hot, thickly European accent. Cat blinked, her mouth uselessly flapping open and closed as she tried to vocalize something useful.

              “What, are you too inbred to talk? SPEAK!” He snarled, this time bringing the tip of his halberd to Catherine’s eye-level.  Cat squaked in panicked fright, stumbling backward as defensively lifted her hands before her. Had she not already emptied her bladder into her clothes, she’d likely have wet herself again, then and there.

                 “THE GARDEN!” She spat out between chattering teeth, her knees shaking.  “I need a place to stay…” She added, hoping it offered a worthy enough excuse. A painful sensation of forboding knotted in her stomach when, thereafter, the guard, contorted his facial muscles into an expression of disgust.

                  “There is NO place in the Garden for a ragmuffin like you!” He growled, jabbing his halberd uncomfortably close to Catherine’s chest. However, it seemed he was convinced that she was harmless enough, and brought his arm back into an idle stance, resting the butt of his halberd at his feet.

                   “Now, I’ll expect you to run off and keep away until you’ve found yourself enough money to afford some decent clothing. Now, away!” He demanded a second time, now with the addition of a hand gesture.

                   “But…but I can work!” The girl protested, gazing reproachfully up at the soldier.  He exuded no signs of honoring her proposal, however.

                   “We don’t need your help. Now GO!” He ordered, his patience obviously deteriorating with every growing second. Yet Catherine, never the genius as far as judgment was concerned, persisted.

                     “Please! I promise I can do anything you need! I won’t be a bother, I don’t take up to much space! I can-“ Finally, the guard’s boiling point had been breached, and it was decided that physical force was the best way to rid the fuzzy white nuisance from the premesis.

                     “ARE YOU DEAF CHILD?! I SAID LEAVE!” He roared, readying his weapon and lifting it over his head. Catherine shrieked, shielding her eyes as she awaited the heavy, cold, unimaginably expensive death that was sure to come crashing down on her skull at any second. However, the heavy, cold, unimaginably expensive death failed even meet Cat’s body.

                    “Hold it!” A femmenine voice shouted as the guard prepared his swing. By the time the command registered with the soldier’s brain, the halberd was already in motion, forcing him to alter the path of action so that the blade swung into the ground just a foot or two to Cat’s left.

                    “Cat, are you alright?!  You idiot! You almost hit her!” Cried an outraged, beautifully familiar voice. Catherine lifted her hand from her face, and turned her eyes toward Mia, whom was now hovering over her  while wearing a “frightened mother” sort of expression. Cat nodded meekly, still trembling as her friend took her hand into hers and gently lifted her to her feet.

                     “M-mia?” Cat whimpered, still shuddering from the excitement and adrenaline coursing through her body. The older girl smiled in a warm yet winded manner, as though her worry had exhausted her. Cat noticed that Mia was no longer garbed in the casual every-day attire she’d boasted when still in the real world; instead, she wore a long, flowing violet robe that fell roughly to her heels. It reminded her a bit of the kimonos Japanese women typically wore on festive occasions- the waist was tied by a large ribbon, that of which bloomed into an enormous bow at the back, and also sported a la pelle that seemed to overlap. The prominent difference she was able to spot, however, was the length of golden rings attached to the color and hem of the outfit. 

            Cat was in awe. Where could she have possibly found something like that in a place like this? Where’d she get the money to AFFORD it? And, most pressing of all, why wasn’t she at all freaked out by the fact that her best friend was no longer HUMAN?

                “Yep, as much as I ever was. Now, if you’ll excuse me for a minute, I’m not quite done chewing this moron out.” Mia smiled and ruffled Cat’s hair before straightening her posture and marching ominously toward the guard, whom seemed to wilt in her presence.

                 “Ah…so…I see you know this young girl, then.” He muttered. As Mia drew nearer and nearer, the soldier began shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, fidgeting as though he’d had something unpleasant jammed up his arse.
                  “Just you wait until I tell the management that YOU almost flayed one of my friends!” Mia snarled, placing her hands on her hips in a scolding, authoritative manner. Catherine had to admit the humor of watching a 14 year-old girl applying discipline to a soldier decked out in enough military equipment to make sausage links of both of them in a matter of seconds.

                 “I’m sorry, miss, I just-“

                 “NO apologies! What would have happened if I hadn’t been here and you’d gone ahead sliced Cat in two, hm? WHAT THEN?!” She screeched, rising to her toes as her face grew red with fury. The guard shrunk back, appearing positively petrified.

                  “Forgive me, I didn’t know-“
                  “ENOUGH! I’m sick of your excuses. Now, apologize!” Mia ordered. The guard immediately dipped into a quick nod, and hastily complied with her request, muttering a garbled “sorry” as he hurried back off to his post. Mia grinned and followed, the guard into the shrubbery with her eyes, satisfied by her work.  She then turned back to an ashen faced, profoundly dumbstruck cat-girl, her tired smile still plain on her face.

                  “Hey, Cat.” Mia attempted to hold a calm, unaffected expression for as long as she could, but her emotions betrayed her, and she very quickly found herself dragging Catherine into a strong, teary embrace.

                   “Oh god, we looked EVERYWHERE for you! We rented an entire party of guards just to search the forest! We were afraid an animal or something found you and dragged you off into the woods, or a group of bandits found you and…and…” Mia choked back her words apparently finding it too difficult to speak without completely dissolving into hysterics. She stepped back a few inches, regarding her friend with damp, glistening eyes.  “Well…I’m just glad you’re here.” Cat, throughout the entire moment, had remained silent, perhaps due to exhausting her air supply after gasping in disbelief so much.

            As Mia continued to survery her friend for any injuries, she came upon the sonpicuous wet spot surrounding Catherine’s crotch and butt. Cat yelped in humiliation, quickly yanking her tail over the stain to obscure it from view.

           “Cat, did you…?”

           “Can we NOT talk about that?” Cat insisted hotly, her

                  “Mia…what the hell is going on? Why are you wearing that? Where ARE we, and why am I a CAT?  Why the hell aren’t you BOTHERED by that?!” She queried windedly. Mia blinked, and then grinned in an exasperated manner.

                   “I guess I have a lot to explain…” She sighed, slipping her grasp over Cat’s soft, furry hands.