On The Run
Robert is a fisher. Not a fisher cat. The inconsistency of human monikers is one of the things that irritates him, though he knows it shouldn’t. He is what he is, regardless of what the humans call him. Other things that irritate him include the spider webs across his morning browsing paths and human refuse clogging the streams and trails, especially if it’s empty.
Being a fisher means his presence around the village is tolerated, even expected, by the humans. His ability to gather information around the town is a thousand times that of the wolves, whose presence is wholly unwelcome. Even the jogger he encounters simply emits a quick yelp of surprise and tracks a path around him without slowing.
Robert emerges from the undergrowth behind a human restaurant. Its big metal box containing trash from the previous night’s visitors is commonly unguarded and easily breached. This morning, he sees a man standing near a truck and two rolling horses, with a firestick strapped to his back. There is another human, or maybe two, sitting inside the cabin.
The human looks in his direction, then back at the door to the building as another man walks out, himself bearing a similar tool. It looks a lot like the devices used by hunters, though the season for fearing them lies on the other side of several changes of the moon.
From what Robert can make of their bantering, they are about to head up to the ponds beyond Flat Mountain.
At that moment, the air is fractured as a huge metal beast shudders to life and climbs above the trees. It soars over the village and a voice begins to bellow from it. Robert can barely make out the words, but the humans can. The people by the rolling machines exchange a slap of the hands. Robert sees the jogger, now standing in the road just beyond the entrance to the building’s paved meadow. The men don’t notice him before he lunges into the woods nearby.
The men hear the rustling bushes, and look. Robert quickly pounces back into the bushes and takes a glance back at the humans. They’ve turned away and are climbing onto their machines.
What it is about these extraneous activities that interests the men, Robert can never figure out. Their hunting, traveling on rolling conveyances, and building of shelters makes sense. But the ludicrous snow-sliding, forest-walking, and running up and down the roads in the darkness bears no fruit. These endeavors lack any logical utility.
The people on their four-legged metal devices start up the things with a grating howl, and roll quickly into the forest beyond the open lot, where their carriages spin showers of mud into the air. Robert sees the jogger look out of the woods, and duck again as the truck rolls out onto the road and past him. The chopping, screaming bird overhead circles and continues to shout at the people now emerging from their buildings.
Some are starting their rolling boxes and careening out to the road before the truck can pull ahead to stop them. Robert can feel their frantic energy. Whatever is going on, the humans are aligning into clans. In times of crisis, the valley’s denizens have been known to do the same thing. It never goes well for one of the clans.
The spinning bird heads off in another direction, and there is a lull in the action. Robert sees the jogger skulk out of the woods and dart off toward a group of buildings, much faster than his earlier loping. Robert decides it’s time to follow suit. He would have liked to rifle through the garbage, but the sun has started to drench the hillsides. He heads off back to the den.