Alone. Day 63
Shortman finds me in the hot sun. My fur is dry and matted, and my leg looks bad. It is crooked and hurts. "Where is Mama, Shortman?"
"Okay, kitty, let's get you to the shelter." Shortman is careful and wraps me in a cool softie before he tucks me in a little cage.
I can't see much outside as Shortman brings me to Shelter. The sun disappears, and it is not as hot anymore. We arrive at Shelter, and Nicelady takes me from Shortman.
Nicelady wraps my leg.
Where is Mama? I don't know where she is. "Please, take me to Mama, Nicelady."
"Let's call you Mimi," says Nicelady as she cleans my dirty fur for a long time and then makes a place for me in a cage. It's warm here, but not too much. It smells weird though. Other cats and kittens live with Nicelady too, but I smell dogs in the other room. Ick! They smell weird and dirty. No other kittens live in my cage, but that's okay. I don't smell anyone familiar, anyway.
"Nicelady?" I paw at my cage door. "Nicelady?"
She comes over.
"What is it, Mimi? Is your leg okay, sweetie?" She taps my nose through the grate.
"Where is Mama, Nicelady?"
She opens my cage and gives me a pink pill. "Yuck, Nicelady! It tastes bad! I don't want it!"
"No, no. It's okay. This will help with that leg." Nicelady holds my mouth and blows on my nose.
Nicelady strokes my cheek. "Sorry, little girl." She holds me close for a while. She is warm and I purr. "Okay, you have to stay in here for now." She tucks me in my cage. "Someone will come and take you home soon."
I lick her finger.
"Aw. You're such a sweet baby."
She returns to her desk. I eat twice, and then I watch Nicelady bring some people to see me and the other cats and dogs.
"Daddy, what about this one?" a little boy points at me.
"No, son. She's not doing too good. Looks like her leg's broken. We don't have a lot of time or money to make sure she gets better. Let's pick a cat who's a little older."
"Okay…" the boy moves across the room and picks an orange kitty. "What about this one?"
"He's a good one," says the man. "Let's bring him to the nice lady at the desk."
The people take the cat with them as they leave.
I lay in my cage and curl beside my leg. It doesn't hurt as much now, so I sleep.
When I wake up more people look at me. A paw-full, and more pass, but they don't pick me.
"Where is Mama?" I ask them, but they don't reply. Why won't anyone take me home? The people eye my leg and move to the next cage.
I finish my food, and Nicelady gives me more. She fills my water too and cleans my litter pan.
"Good night, everyone," Nicelady says and heads toward the door. It opens before she reaches it.
"Sorry I'm so late," says the man. "Got held up at Central. A lot of broken bones and respiratory problems right now with everyone adjusting to life underground. It's been a hard transition. I'm glad you've kept this rescue shelter open."
"Take your time, Sado," says Nicelady. "I love spending time with these little ones. They're survivors, like me." She puts her bag on the floor, opens a cage, and pets another kitty while the man looks.
He isn't very nice-looking. His hair is five scraggles spread over his head. He is too short to reach the top cages, and his eyes are sad. He hides them behind funny glass circles.
Sad-man looks at the big cats on the other side of the room first, and then he comes to my side. He starts at the other end of the cages, and I hear all the kittens beg Sad-man to take them home.
He doesn't pick them.
My leg hurts again as he comes to my cage. He opens the latch.
"Careful, Sado!" Nicelady rushes over. "She broke her leg before they found her. I don't know what she's been through, but she must've been near a bomb site. She was matted so black I had to bathe her twice to get those tabby stripes showing again."
"I saw her leg," Sad-man says as he picks me up. He holds me and strokes my fur.
I rub his rough hand and bare chin.
He adjusts his glass circles and squints at me then tucks me closer as he studies my cage door. "Mimi?" Sad-man scratches my head. "Hello, Mi-kun. Want to come home with a grouchy old doc like me?"
"You know where Mama is, Sad-man?"
Nicelady strings a plain rope around my neck and Sad-man clicks another rope to it. He draws on a bright screen for Nicelady and we leave Shelter.
Sad-man gets in a funny floating box and sets me next to him. It's warm and comfy, so I sleep.
When I wake up, Sad-man picks me up and takes me into a tall building. I think it's a people house, but Sad-man only gets a small part of it. He lives alone. No wonder he is sad. No brothers and sisters to keep him company. He must be very lonely.
Sad-man sits in a big chair.
I hobble to him. "Can I sit with you, Sad-man?"
He puts me in his lap and taps a small black thing. A screen on the other side of the room talks, but it says things I don't understand.
I curl up on Sad-man's big stomach. His heart beats slower than mine, and I go up and down as he breathes.
It is good not to be alone anymore.
With Sad-man. Day 1
When I wake up today, Sad-man eats something that smells very nice. "What is that, Sad-man?"
He holds out a small piece and I sniff it. I don't know what it is, but I think I like it. He gives it to me, and I eat it.
"That's all for now. You can have your cat food in a little while, Mi-kun."
"Okay, Sad-man." I sit at his feet and wait.
Sad-man eats while he watches the talking screen again. After a minute, I explore the room. I want to jump on the furniture, but my leg hurts too bad.
Sad-man's house smells a lot different from Shelter. I sniff everything. It smells new, but old too. I guess that's because Sad-man is old, but his house is new.
"Why are you so sad, Sad-man?" I rub against his legs.
He pets me and picks me up but puts me down a minute later as he tugs on white pants and a white shirt. As he puts on his shoes and ties a black rope around his waist, I notice the little red cross on his shirt. "What's that, Sad-man?"
He snaps on my colored rope. "You're coming to the hospital with me today, Mi-kun. You can eat breakfast there."
"What is Hospital?"
He puts me in the strange floating box again and takes me to Hospital. It is big—a lot bigger than Sad-man's house. There are a lot of rooms. I can't count them even using all four paws. And there are lots of people, but I can't smell any other cats.
Sad-man takes me to Office, and I lay on the little bed he makes for me in the corner.
"This bed is nice." I curl up and watch Sad-man as he sits and reads from a little screen.
"Here's your breakfast, Mi-kun." Sad-man fills my food bowl. "Stay here while I see my patients. I'll be back later."
"Okay." I paw my tail, but it is hard to catch, and my leg hurts, so I stop.
Sad-man comes back after a while and gives me another pink pill. It's icky, but my leg feels better afterward. He changes the white strips on my leg. It doesn't look as bad today, and Sad-man seems a little happier when he looks at it.
"We'll get a cast on this later," says Sad-man.
"What is Cast?"
"Dr. Sane, you're needed in surgery, now!" A pretty lady comes in and calls Sad-man. "It's Captain Avatar."
"Abraham, what've you done now?" mutters Sad-man as he hurries out of the room. "Be good, Mi-kun."
Sad-man is gone for a long time. I eat all my food and he is still gone. I sleep while I wait but keep an ear open for him.
It is late when he returns. He sweats and looks very tired, but he isn't too sad.
"Oh, Mi-kun…" He sighs and groans as he sinks onto a thin mat beside my bed, legs crossed. "What am I going to do with him? He won't stop until this is all over." He pets me.
"Who is Abraham, Sad-man?"
"First it was his wife, then Jen, and now Adam. The Gamilons took them all from him, but he won't stop fighting." Sad-man scratches my cheek. It is so nice I purr for the first time in a long time.
"Cursed aliens," Sad-man mutters. "Wish they'd fall into a black hole somewhere." He takes out a long-necked glass bottle and pops it open. "You won't catch me out there with them. My feet belong on Earth." He starts to pour a glass but gives up and drinks straight out of the bottle.
"What is that, Sad-man?" I paw at the bottle.
"You wouldn't like this," says Sad-man. "Sake isn't for cats."
"Oh, okay…" I look at my empty bowl.
"I'll get you some water." Sad-man staggers up and gets my bowl. He walks funny as he brings it back to me, but there is water now, and I drink it as he sits beside me again.
He drinks more of his sake, and his face turns red. I don't understand some of what he says as he laughs a lot and acts silly. He offers me some sake, despite what he said earlier. I sniff it, but it smells icky, so I refuse it.
He drinks the small portion.
Sad-man falls asleep on the floor. He snores a lot, but I don't mind. It is very good not to be alone any more.
With Sad-man. Day 10
My leg is better today. It doesn't hurt as much, and Sad-man doesn't give me any more pills. I am glad. Sad-man gave me Cast a few days ago, and my leg is hard and straight now.
This morning, Sad-man takes me with him to Hospital again. After he puts me in my bed at Office, he leaves to see Abraham again. He comes back before my food bowl is empty.
He is crying, and I do not understand. He takes out his tall bottle again and drinks some of it before he sits beside my bed.
"I can't go, Mi-kun." He strokes my head.
"So many people are dying here on Earth. How can I leave on a mission like this? Abraham's a fool!" He takes another drink. "A resurrected battleship—even one so great as Yamato doesn't stand a chance against an alien fleet—much less their whole military force. And who had the crazy notion to space-fit a ship that old?" He takes another drink. "He'll die… just like everyone else…"
"It's okay, Sad-man." I tap his arm.
"I'm not going." He smacks the bottle hard against the floor and I jump. The echo fills Office.
"I'm sorry, Mi-kun." He rubs my ears. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay, Sad-man." I purr. He likes it when I purr.
His face blushes red as he drinks, and tears fall as he stops after each sip. He takes off his glass circles and sets them near me.
I tap them. They look strange. What are they for?
"Dr. Sane." Prettylady comes in but stops when she sees the bottle in Sad-man's hand.
"Yes, Nova…" says Sad-man as he closes the bottle and sets it aside. He picks up the glass circles and sets them on his nose.
"No, it's all right. I'll come back." Prettylady starts to leave.
"No!" Sad-man lurches up. "What is it?"
"You're drunk," says Prettylady.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Sad-man mutters. "Just tell me what's going on."
Prettylady sighs. "It's… Mariko. She's back in intensive care."
"Oba-san…" Sad-man rubs his balding head. "I told her to stay in her apartment!"
"I'm afraid the radiation sickness… isn't getting any better." Prettylady is sad. "Your aunt… doesn't have long."
"I'm going to see her." Sad-man staggers toward the door.
"No, you're not. Not like this." Prettylady grabs him and keeps him from leaving.
"I have to!" Sad-man starts to cry again. "She's the only one left!" He falls to the floor and holds his head in his hands.
I struggle onto three good legs and hobble to him. "It's okay, Sad-man. I'm here too. You aren't alone." I nuzzle his knee.
He sniffs and looks at me with teary eyes. "Mi-kun…" He holds me close.
I nuzzle his face and his glass circles tip, but he doesn't adjust them.
Prettylady kneels and touches his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Dr. Sane. I'd be devastated if my step-dad got worse. He's been in a care ward for almost six months already. I don't know if—when he'll get better."
Sad-man nods and pats Prettylady's hand. "Thank you, Nova. Let me know if she gets any worse before tomorrow morning."
"All right." Prettylady leaves, but not before she pets me.
I like Prettylady. She's nice.
With Sad-man. Day 11
Sad-man sleeps at Hospital, so I do too. There is not much to do here, but that's okay. I can't do a lot with my leg still stuck in Cast. It makes me walk funny, but my leg doesn't hurt this morning. Maybe Sad-man won't give me a pink pill again today.
Sad-man wakes up before I get hungry, and he gives me food.
"Hello, Sad-man." I rub his hand as he sets down my bowl.
"Good morning, Mi-kun." Sad-man pets me for a while before he dusts off his wrinkled clothes and sits in a chair. He stares at his small screen and then leaves.
When Sad-man returns, he is very sad again and finishes drinking the bottle he started yesterday. He sets it in a box at the back of the room. It clinks as it goes in and I think there are other bottles in it. He pulls out a full one and opens it. This time, he gets a little cup and pours a drink instead of chugging the bottle.
"Oba-san…" he says as he sits cross-legged on the mat beside my bed again.
I clean my fur as he sits.
"Mi-kun?" says Sad-man. "Do you ever wonder what you should do next?" He pats his leg.
My ears perk and I stop cleaning. "What is it, Sad-man?"
He pats his leg again. "Come on."
I get out of bed and hobble to him. He picks me up and puts me in his lap. He is warm.
"Dr. Sane!" Prettylady runs in. "Come to ICU now!"
Sad-man sets me down and rushes out. He forgets to close the bottle, and it tilts. The moment he is out the door, it tips over with a clank, and sake spills on the floor. I skitter to my bed and get out of the smelly wet.
With Sad-man. Day 12
Sad-man comes back very late—a long time after Office's lights turn down for the night. He slumps into his chair and is quiet.
"Are you okay, Sad-man?" I tiptoe around the spilled sake and tap his leg.
He picks me up and holds me. It is dark, but I see his face. He cries and makes my fur wet, but it is okay.
"Mi-kun," he chokes.
I wrap a paw around his neck and rub his cheek. Now he smells like me, and I smell nice. Maybe he will be happy now.
He holds me tighter.
"I've got to go with Abraham to get the cure for this radiation," says Sad-man. "He's a fool, but I can't just watch everyone die anymore."
"Go? Go where? I'll come too." I nuzzle his face again.
"His ship leaves in two weeks. Your leg will heal by then, so I'll take you with me. What do you think? A ship-full of people who'll pet you and give you treats?"
"Treats! I like treats, Sad-man! This will be fun!"
Sad-man half-chuckles, half-chokes. "I'll tell Abraham to expect us on launch day."
With Sad-man. Day 26
Sad-man packs my bed, food, and toys. We go to Ship. It is a big place—a lot bigger than Hospital, or Sad-man's house.
My leg is okay now, so I can walk by myself again. I like to be carried, but it is nice to be able to run and jump again.
At Ship, Sad-man sets me down.
There are lots of smells I don't recognize, and there is a lot of gray, and black, and white. The people are colorful. They wear blue and green and yellow and red and colors I don't know. I sniff all the people as they go by. "Oh! Prettylady!" I run to her.
"Mimi." Prettylady picks me up. "You're all better." She hugs me and I purr. I like Prettylady. She smells nice—like flowers.
"Nova." Sad-man comes over. "Glad to see your name on the roster."
"Of course," says Prettylady. "I was one of the first recruits. Turns out getting together a crew to save the world isn't as easy as they thought." Prettylady walks with Sad-man.
"Abraha—Captain Avatar has quite the task," says Sad-man. "We might not come back."
Prettylady smiles. "I think we will."
"Always the optimist," says Sad-man.
"I'll see you on the bridge." Prettylady hands me to Sad-man.
Sad-man takes me with him to Quarters. There is a bright thing he turns on. Sad-man calls it Lamp. He puts my bed in the corner and sets up a litter pan on the opposite side of the room. I jump on Sad-man's bed. It is much bigger than mine, and I like it. I curl up on the pillow and tuck in my nose.
I purr as Sad-man puts his things away.
I wake up later to a horrible shake. Sad-man is gone, and Ship shudders like a mad turtle. Is something wrong? Everything moves. "I do not like this! Stop, Ship! Stop moving!" I claw the pillow as Ship lurches. I hang on but put a couple holes in the pillowcase.
Ship lurches again and again. The pillow flies away so I grab the bed. My claws stick into it and I close my eyes. I am scared.
Ship steadies. I open my eyes.
Sad-man's room is messy, but I am okay. I relax and curl up where the pillow used to be.
Sad-man comes back, but now he is smiling.
"Sad-man?" I stand and stretch. "Is Ship okay?"
He sits on the bed and hugs me. "Mi-kun, this is going to be a long year, but if we make it back, we can save Earth. We can do this, Mi-kun!"
I tap Sad-man's arm. "I am glad you are happy Sad-man. What is Year?"
"This is home now, Mi-kun," says Sad-man. "I hope it isn't too different."
"I am with you, Sad-man, And Prettylady is here too. I like Ship as long as it isn't shaking." I sniff Sad-man's nose and my whiskers tickle his face.
He laughs. "You can go wherever you want." He sets me in front of Door. It hisses loudly.
My fur ruffles. Is Door mad?
"It's okay, Mi-kun. You can explore if you want. Just be back for dinner."
I sniff Door. It doesn't hiss again. I step outside. There is a long hall with more doors. Other people come into the hall.
"A kitty!" A lady I don't know kneels and pets me. "You're such a sweet kitty." She rubs my cheeks. I purr.
"Oh man, I haven't seen a cat in forever," says a man who stops and pets me too.
More people gather and everyone pets and pats me. I purr and rub all their legs so they can smell nice like me too. But I want to look around more, so I slip through them and trot down the hall, tail up.
"See you later, tabby cat," says the lady.
I trot faster. Ship is interesting. Ship is great!
More people stop to pet me.
Ship is home now, and if Sad-man is happy, I am happy.