XVIII. King of Infinite Space

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All in all, Alan considered, it had been an eminently satisfactory day. He stretched luxuriously and thought back on the day's events.

The two oafs had left early, leaving him to his own devices. He had spent the morning staring at all the things outside. Some of the things outside were small and moved with uncertainty.

Alan liked to imagine what it would be like to jump down on those things from his vantage high above. He would build elaborate strategies in his head, how he would let anticipation build, waiting for the perfect moment, then he would leap forth lightning-fast to snag the thing between his paws and tear into it with his teeth. Bite down to feel bones crunching.

Alan was sure that was how it would happen. It was a pleasant thought in the pleasant solitude.

He had eaten then, his appetite stimulated by the thought. Once he had filled his stomach-- praise be to the One That Doesn't Smell As Good--he had lounged in contentment in the light of the setting sun for hours on the blanket that smelled like the One Who Doesn't Pet As Well.

Now, after the sun had set, different things moved outside. He could dimly see his extremely handsome reflection in the window; poofy white and black fur patterned like the tailor had been extremely confused while making the tuxedo.

The darkness would have made it easier to see prey darting around, but there were bright lights inside and outside that ruined his dark vision.

That wasn't too annoying a problem, though. Alan had plenty of food to occupy his attention in the blessedly silent apartment.

He sashayed to the kitchen and went to his bowl, where he discovered the most horrific conceivable circumstance.

The bowl was empty.

His tail stiffened in alarm. Those two useless lumps! Where were they? This was an outrage. He angrily began cleaning the fur on his side, choking on indignation. How could those monsters have abandoned him here?

How long had it been? An unthinkable, uncountable period.

He prowled, his claw muscles tingling with anger and destructive energy. Seething, he buried his claws in the fabric of the long-suffering couch, ripping at it and feeling the satisfaction tingling through his claws as he sharpened them.

He stalked through the single bedroom apartment, checking every room just in case one of the deadbeats was hiding in there somewhere.

He was considering using the litterbox when he heard clicking and rattling at the front door.

Like lightning, he darted out to intercept the two worthless cretins.

Meow! Meow! Meow!

The One Who Doesn't Smell As Good stupidly put her hands under Alan's stomach and presumptuously lifted him up to mutter into his face.

"Oh, Alan. We missed you babypie. How's our Allie? He's our kitty."

Alan complained again, loudly, in her face.

MEOW!

For good measure, Alan shoved his head against the idiotic creature's face. A little of his scent clung to her and she smelled incrementally better. But she still smelled worse than the other one.

She scratched him behind the ears the way he liked, and then under his chin. He closed his eyes and felt a moment of ecstasy as she scratched itches he hadn't realized were there and gave him the pets he was fundamentally entitled to whenever he wanted them.

The pets were the best ever and he never wanted her to stop. He involuntarily purred for a moment, awash in comfort and security.

And then, suddenly, the petting was superfluous, stupid, and unnecessary. He pushed himself away from the idiotic foul-smelling beast and leapt to the floor with disdain.

MEOW!!

The One Who Doesn't Pet As Well stooped to touch Alan and he evaded her attempt effortlessly. Then, he pushed toward her to rub against her legs.

It truly tested him sometimes, living with these irredeemable dolts. If one of them didn't feed him soon, he thought he might be able to escape. He was entirely certain he could live in self-sufficiency on his own. It was a solid plan.

"Okay. I'll start gathering up electronics. Start getting clothes packed?" The One Who Doesn't Pet As Well was wasting time speaking to the other one! Was she deaf?

"Okay. Turn on the news and turn it up so I can hear it?" Now the One Who Doesn't Smell As Good was replying to the other one! Alan fumed. There had to be some way to get the message across.

He leapt atop a comfortable, overstuffed red chair and began cleaning himself while he thought. Restlessly, he sank his claws into the cushion to express his displeasure with some claw-sharpening.

He jerked and spun as

SOUND

erupted from the suddenly flickering box in the corner.

He caught himself. The flickering box demanded too much of the worthless idiots' attention, but it wasn't dangerous.

He decided to try a new tack and jumped down, gliding to the One Who Doesn't Smell As Good. He modulated his voice differently, sometimes extending the vowels, sometimes truncating them. He repeatedly walked back and forth past her, rubbing his head and flanks against her legs. Meeeeow! Mew! Mow! Moooeooow!

The malodorous ogre shuffled in a closet roughly. Alan looked up uncertainly. What was she doing? This wasn't anything like her usual behaviors at this time of day.

"Can you hear it okay? Sounds like the Elder Pod is striking back." The one in the living room called. Alan felt a pit of dread in his stomach. Something was wrong.

"Turn it up more!"

The din from the loud box echoed everywhere now. "--ppears that now multiple jet fighters have been disabled or destroyed by the creature. It is unclear--"

Alan couldn't stand it any more. His rage crystallized into a blaze of energy that coursed through his muscles, and his body uncoiled like a spring, launching him at incredible speeds to tear through the doorway and bound off a wall.

Alan tore past The One Who Doesn't Pet As Well, darted into the kitchen, spared his empty bowl an indignant glare in passing, and launched himself once again to close the circuit from the other direction.

"ALAN! What's got into him?" The acceptable-smelling giver of lackluster pets made meaningless noises.

"He's a kitty! He's just like that!" The one with the acceptable petting techniques and the bad smells called back. Alan leapt onto the bed and stared her down. "Also, he knows we're going away. Close that closet so he doesn't hide in there?"

MEOW.

The hulking-but-warm-and-soft creature made a high, repetitive sound of melodically exhaled breaths. Several "hah"s in close succession. Alan hated that sound.

He moved his head the way that meant he required her to pet him on the head. She gave him the requested head scratches, but wouldn't. Stop. Talking.

Worse, she wasn't giving all of her attention to the head scratches. Alan couldn't believe what a terrible day this had turned out to be.

"Okay. I'll grab his carrier. Do you think we have time to, uh..."

"Danielle, come look." The head scratches stopped and Alan watched with indignant disbelief as she walked into the living room to stare at the flickering box.

"John, the jet fighters are backing off now. The creature is still spinning in the same-- wait-- the thing appears to be dropping down. It's dropping into the bay. It's--"

"Adam? Hello, Adam? ...Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have lost our live feed. Please bear with us while we..."

Alan could take no more. He eyed a fleshy ankle and bit.

"GAHYOUCH you little monster! What are you-- oh, you want food, huh?"

Finally, the human made one of the only sounds that mattered. He doubled his volume to get the point across.

MEOW. MEOW. MEOW.

Then the idiot looked back at the flickering box! "--presumed to be moving toward the city. The mayor is expected to speak shortly; please stay tuned for--"

"Okay. We have to go now. You grab his food, I'll put him in his carrier." Alan took a moment to look around. Things had been moved. There were bags sitting by the door.

He felt his neck prickle. No.

He whirled to see the One That Doesn't Pet As Well pulling the Torture Cell out of a closet. No!

Alan ran desperately. The other closet. If he could just get to--

He froze in front of the closed closet. It was too late. The backstabbers had cornered him.

He felt hands scoop under his belly and he did his best to slide out of his oppressor's grip. He was determined, flexible, and ready to use violence to get his way. He twisted to claw and bite--

But she had done this before and she was wise to his tricks. She twisted around, lifting the zippered Torture Cell past his ears before he could thrash out of the way.

A hand held his head down as the compartment closed with a ziiiiip.

The filthy double-crosser was still speaking! "The Bay Bridge will be garbage and so will Oakland. The mayor's totally about to call for shelter-in-place."

The other one wasn't even interested in the rank injustice Alan was being subjected to. This was beyond outrage.

"So roll the dice on the San Mateo and hope we don't run into any monsters or head south on 280 and hope we don't run into any monsters?"

After a few seconds of silence, her filthy, rotten captor spoke. "We'll figure it out. We have our own monster right here anyway. Come on, honey. Let's go. We have to go."

The One That Doesn't Smell As Good made a pathetic noise then and Alan looked up in alarm. When the smelly one made noises like that, it was usually Alan's job to improve her smells until she stopped making that noise. It was a sacrifice, but his noble sacrifice to make.

Or it would have been, if he wasn't trapped in a fabric box of emotions.

They were outside, now. Sounds and smells assaulted Alan. He hoped with every cell in his body that they weren't going to the white place that smelled like dogs with the horrible torturers with the needles.

A part of him wished he could run around on his own out here to find and kill the small creatures.

Right now, he would settle for killing one of the no-good monsters abducting him to parts unknown. His claws dug into the bottom of the fabric carrier as he contemplated murder.

His jailers put his prison into the back of the large loud scary box that usually took him to the white place that smelled like dogs with the horrible torturers with the needles.

It made the loud sound and everything rumbled. The two up front continued to make meaningless noises.

"Are we forgetting anything?"

"Danielle, we are leaving all of our earthly possessions behind. Yes, we're forgetting just about everything."

"Okay, okay! I just mean... I feel like there's something else important."

"Again, yes. Lots and lots of important things."

"I-- stop it! I'm..." The smelly one turned around and looked at Alan.

Alan reflected on how his day had gone so very wrong. He still hadn't had any dinner. And he hadn't used the litterbox earlier.

He emptied his bladder now with some satisfaction. The small act of defiance was worth any inconvenience.

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