01 July 2005

Tortoise and Cat

The tortoise knew of the cats. There were many cats that roamed through the green lawns, but the suburb was in a desert, leaving very little other green. The tortoise cared about this because he ate anything green he could catch. He ate mostly plants, small cactus, assorted grasses, and the occasional suburban flowerbed. It had been hot, and he'd expended a great deal of energy looking for green away from the lawns, but could only find a lot of browns, which were far too dry and crunchy to make a decent meal. He didn't see another choice (partly because he was tired, hungry, and thirsty, and partly because his eyesight wasn't as good as it had never been), so he slowly headed for the suburbs.
There were many fences along the suburb lawns, more of an annoyance than a hindrance. It had, whenever the need arose, been easy for him to get to the green lawns without crossing the black rock. Many tortoises and other animals had died on the black rock, which stretched as far as his eyes could see. He had crossed the black rock before, but only at night, when the giant crushing monsters didn't roam around it, and almost every tortoise knew better than to try walking on it during the heat of the day.
So he had made his way, step by step, towards the green he couldn't see yet. He made his way across sand, gravel, and browns, and came to a fence. It was a fence he recognized as having a dog on the other side, so he turned and slowly plodded along down the fence-line until he found a dog-free fence. He pushed himself through a small hole, not being large enough to need a larger one, and found himself in a yard. It was a yard full of green, and he felt as happy as a tortoise can.
He didn't see the cat on the fence, but he did feel it land on his shell. There was searing pain in his leg as claws dug in. He tried to turn around and head back for the hole, but the cat had immobilized his leg. He was too occupied with whether or not to panic to realize the cat had released his leg. The leathery pads on the cat's feet pressing down on his snout grabbed his attention, and he retracted into his shell to consider his position.
He knew he couldn't outrun the cat. He couldn't out fight the cat. He was magical though, in the way that all tortoises are, and cats are not. Tortoise magic is not fancy, no bright lights or loud noises, no flying or fire. The tortoise just pulls his extremities back into his shell, says a few magic words, and takes a magic nap, and when he wakes up, everyone else has gone away. The tortoise was already tired and withdrawn into his shell, so he said his magic words, and took his magic nap.
When he woke up, it was dark out. He could see nothing at all. Slowly he pushed his head forward, but instead of seeing what was outside his shell, he got a face-full of fur. This didn't please him, so he bit at it. The fur moved away. He looked out of his shell at the cat that was looking back in. He said his magic words again and tried to take another magic nap.
The cat wouldn't let him nap though. It tried desperately to get him out of his shell. He watched as a foot kept poking in at his face, only to scratch the leathery skin that formed an inverse neck. Being a fairly clever tortoise, he opened his mouth and moved his head forward. When he felt a claw in his tongue, he bit down and tasted red for the first time. He didn't care much for red so he released the foot, watching it withdraw from his shell and vanish to one side as the face of another cat came into view. The first cat lunged at the second, and both scampered out of sight, leaving the tortoise to his green.

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