𝓐𝓾𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓻'𝓼 𝓝𝓸𝓽𝓮: 𝓘 𝓭𝓸𝓷'𝓽 𝓱𝓪𝓿𝓮 𝓶𝓾𝓬𝓱 𝓽𝓸 𝓼𝓪𝔂 𝓪𝓫𝓸𝓾𝓽 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓼. 𝓘𝓽'𝓼 𝓹𝓻𝓮𝓽𝓽𝔂 𝓼𝓱𝓸𝓻𝓽 𝓫𝓾𝓽 𝓘 𝓯𝓮𝓮𝓵 𝓵𝓲𝓴𝓮 𝓲𝓽 𝓶𝓸𝓼𝓽𝓵𝔂 𝓯𝓲𝓽𝓼 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓹𝓻𝓸𝓶𝓹𝓽. 𝓘'𝓶 𝓱𝓸𝓷𝓮𝓼𝓽𝓵𝔂 𝓷𝓸𝓽 𝓼𝓾𝓻𝓮 𝓪𝓫𝓸𝓾𝓽 𝓲𝓽, 𝓼𝓸 𝓯𝓮𝓮𝓭𝓫𝓪𝓬𝓴 𝓲𝓼 𝓪𝓹𝓹𝓻𝓮𝓬𝓲𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓭. 𝓣𝓱𝓪𝓷𝓴𝓼 𝓯𝓸𝓻 𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓭𝓲𝓷𝓰!
That’s how long I spent on that ship, the ship that never seemed to go anywhere good. The wind took our sails from one bomb to another, one battle to another. Never anywhere good.
I didn’t have a purpose there, they could have survived this thing they call a “war” without me. A few extra rats don’t make the difference between life and death. But that didn’t matter to them, they kept me on the floating disaster as nothing more than a solution to their rodent problem. I didn’t have any choice but to kill one rat after another, to watch the blood stain the deck of the boat, to lose a part of myself with every passing day.
That ship took everything from me.
I’ll never forget the explosion, the one I wasn’t able to run from in time. The one that left me without a tail. I always loved having a tail, I could never understand how the Bipeds live without one. My tail was my balance, my best way to communicate, the way I expressed myself. Not anymore. Not after that bomb.
When I curled up in my hammock every night, the one Wyatt made me, my fur stood on end. When cold gusts of wind swept through the corridors in the middle of the night, smelling of death, my exposed nose seemed to freeze. But worst of all, when I lay awake freezing in the middle of the night, I couldn’t wrap my tail around my body to preserve my warmth. I could only stare at the stub of where it used to be.
As you might be able to tell, I hated the Bipeds. Well, all except for one. He’s gone now, though, and he isn’t coming back. The disgusting thing they call a “war” took him.
Wyatt made me less sure all Bipeds are appalling while he was with me on the endlessly sailing ship. All of them looked the same to me, with their identical uniforms and short, dark hair. All except Wyatt. It was something in his eyes that made me jump up into his waiting lap instead of retreating to the corner and hissing as I did around the other soldiers.
When Wyatt first found me, a stray having wandered onto the ship by mistake, he took me in. Feeding me scraps of food and convincing the captain to let me stay on as a “ship cat” as they called it. I was grateful then, now I wish I would never have stumbled upon this place. Back then I didn’t know the ship was a vessel of death.
Wyatt didn’t see us as two different species, he saw us as two souls fighting our way through the war together. He didn’t treat me as a lesser being, calling me “animal” in the condescending tone the other soldiers used, he called me Emmet. The name he gave me.
“We won’t be here forever, Emmet,” he would tell me, “Someday all of this will be over, and we’ll be free. You’ll be able to come home with me and get off this god darn ship for good. I promise you that.”
The thing they call a “war” made him break that promise.
He’s gone now, though. There’s no sense in talking about him anymore.
Ezra. Another crewmate on that cursed ship. I didn’t personally care for him, but Wyatt seemed to trust him so I didn’t run when he entered a room. Three days ago he told me he’s taking me home to his family. I heard he has a child, I’m not excited. But anywhere seems better than where I’ve been.
He shoves me into a metal crate, leaving me to peer powerlessly out at the passing sights as he walks. He swings the carrier from side to side, making me slide back and forth inside. But I’m not surprised, the Bipeds are never considerate.
When he walks us to the door and knocks, the door is immediately flung open by his tearful family. His wife, Hannah he calls her, looks so pale she might faint in the doorway. Their little girl, Mila watches. She’s only five years old, Ezra said. She hasn’t lived long enough to meet her father. Ever since she was born her dad was an imaginary figure, a superhero as her mother called him, never anyone she knew.
Ezra pulls her into a hug, leading her to the living room where he collapses onto the couch, letting Hannah cry into his shirt mumbling incoherent chopped-up sentences. Mila takes it in, standing beside my crate that has been left by the door.
She slowly approaches my crate, her bare feet slapping against the floor, and she reaches out one hand to let me sniff. She smells like peanut butter cookies and applesauce. Not blood or death.
“Here kitty kitty, come out and say hi,” she says, opening the crate door and beckoning me forward. I cautiously step out onto the slippery floor. It feels strange to be standing on the still ground after so long on the water.
Her hands are sticky, getting stuck in my ashy fur as she runs her fingers through it. The Bipeds never seemed to know how to clean themselves properly.
“Nice kitty,” she whispers softly as she pets me. I don’t hiss at her or run, she has an innocence to her that seems hard to come by these days.
They tell me this place is home.
I wonder, was the battleship home? I certainly wasn't happy there, but I’m not happy here either. Neither place makes me feel complete.
Every morning Mila pours kibble into a bowl on the floor and says, “Breakfast time, kitty kitty.”
I reluctantly eat the dry food while she strokes my fur gently. I don’t care for the Bipeds, but I can stand her.
Every night Mila picks me up, holding me close to her body as she walks into her room that is covered in daisy wallpaper. She sets me on her bed as she brushes her teeth then climbs under the covers next to me.
“Sweet dreams, kitty kitty,” she tells me.
I mew, then curl up in the puffy covers. The small blanket she drapes over me almost makes up for my lack of a tail.
As she slowly drifts off to sleep, her small wisps of her breathing evening out, I yawn and curl up to her side.
The thing they call a “war” scarred all of us; young and old, furry and hairless, innocent and guilty. Even though the war has ended, the pain stayed with all of us. My only hope is that we can learn to bear the memories eventually.