The rain somehow managed to drown out those noises as I lay there on the ground, helplessly watching the raindrops pelt my face.
I didn’t know how I ended up there, nor as of why I was unable to move from my spot. The scene around me was so blurry, and the only clear sight that I could glimpse at was the large moon which was almost covered by the thick black clouds. Despite everything, it was a pleasant sight.
That was probably the last thing I saw before everything faded to black.
“In this form, your name is Null.”
After countless hours of silence, that whisper near my ears made me open my eyes.
Still confused on what state I was in, I slowly sat up and then looked around the strange terrain around me.
What is... this place? I thought in confusion as I scanned the possibly endless scope of green grass, which made me assume that I was in a meadow of some sort. As I looked forward, I saw a hill untouched by grass. At the top of the hill were rows and columns of stones which loomed within the vicinity of the fences that guarded them; tombstones maybe?
Then, I looked to my left, at the large tree which wasn’t too far from me. At first, I thought that it was an ordinary oak tree that had sustained many decades of its life here, but as I saw the strange, yellowish fruit growing on its topmost branches, my mind went blank as I gave up trying to figure out what kind of a tree it was.
In fact, I was more concerned about where I was and what I was doing here.
My head reeled. My body was in pain, and the worst part was that I didn’t know why this was happening to me.
Take it easy, I calmed myself down. Baby steps; first, find out where the heck you are, search for a phone or a bus or car... anything! And go home, rest up, consult a therapist if necessary and get your life back in order.
But another part of my mind countered my own advice: That could’ve been easy if I’d remember my number or my address.
Then I paused, holding my breath as I had a horrible feeling of dread rushing through me.
My number... my name... What’s my name? Who am I?
Did I lose my memory?
Against my self-assurances, I started panicking, grasping my head with both hands in fear. What happened to me? Was I kidnapped? Drugged? Was I in an accident? This can’t be real, right?
As I tried to calm down, more feelings of dread kept rushing at me. It was logical for me to believe that I was in a bad situation. I wasn’t even sure that the people I would meet from here on could be trusted. By all suspicions, whoever I may meet, no matter how innocent they appeared, they were most likely those who were responsible for me being here.
After taking a few deep breaths, I started to feel relaxed. The best approach for me was to trust my instincts and go along with whoever I could meet. In any case, I had no choice but to rely on strangers, even enemies if given the situation, if I were to survive this.
Feeling a bit confident, I took another deep breath and began to survey the area.
Might as well fill my belly first, I thought, looking back up at the tree. I wonder if that fruit is edible.
I turned towards the tree and tried to get up, hoping by some crazy extent that I could climb up the tree and grab some food without breaking my neck in the process.
But before I could get up, I saw a cat staring at me from my left.
Startled by the cat’s sudden appearance, I gasped and fell backwards.
What’s a cat doing here? I thought after a few seconds of hesitation as I remained frozen while it, in turn kept gazing at me with its light-blue eyes which gleamed like sapphire jewels. Did it appear out of thin air or something?
This cat was smaller than an ordinary one, yet it still looked intimidating, regardless of its size. The way that it sat on all fours - not even flinching to my presence - almost made me realize that this cat actually lived here; meaning that its owner - if any - would too.
The soft wind kept ruffling the cat’s silvery fur while it continued its long stare at me, as if it was trying to ward me away from its home.
I sighed. Although I was glad to see a sign of life other than myself, a cat wasn’t exactly the best way out of this predicament.
“I suppose you’re a magical talking cat that can explain to me what’s going on here, right?” I murmured, trying not to feel too depressed on myself.
Then, the cat answered, “You’re not a very bright kid, are you?”
My eyes widened in shock.
“Whoa! You really can talk!” I gasped.
The cat scratched its right cheek with one pointy claw. “Try not to be too excited about that, kid. I suggest you to tell this not-so-magical talking cat what you’re doing in his territory, unless you prefer ending up as his meal.” He gave a hungry look at me, while speaking in a voice which is slightly high-pitched than that of a young boy.
I froze in fear and intimidation, realizing that the talking cat was really serious with what it said!
Uh, oh; a hungry talking cat with a sarcastic sense of humor, I thought. Not a good combination!
The cat put his paw down. “You can begin by explaining on what manner of transportation you got here with. Make a stupid move and I assure you, you’ll regret it.”
I raised both hands forward as means of surrendering. “Wait! Hold it! If you’re implying that I’m invading your home or something, I’m not! It’s that... I don’t know how I got here.”
I lowered my hands as I hesitated. “I think I lost my memory; I can’t seem to remember anything,” I added.
The cat observed me carefully. “You remember nothing at all? Not even your name?”
I nodded. “Except for some bits and pieces of stuff, but I can’t make sense of out any of them.”
“You better not be joking about this, kid. You have no idea how grouchy I can get towards uninvited visitors.” He narrowed his eyes at me.
“I’m telling the truth. I just woke up and found myself... right here,” I protested.
“Well, that I’m aware of,” the cat muttered. “I waited here for about a minute. I was watching you. Heck, I thought that you were taking a nap! If you were dead, you’d just prove to be a nuisance!”
“You were just watching me? Why didn’t you do anything then?”
“I was doing something: guessing if you were appetizing or not!”
I turned away from the cat to look around the scenery again, hoping that this wasn’t a crazy dream. But it was more than obvious that I wasn’t; and pinching my arm in an attempt to wake up would only make the talking cat think of me as a lunatic.
Shaking my head in defeat, I looked back at the cat, anticipating a hint of mercy, or even a way on how to get out of here.
“I know it’s not my place to ask,” I started, “but is there anyone else, perhaps another human, who could help me?”
But to my surprise, the cat started snickering.
“You’re really clueless, I’ll give you that. Weak beings like humans entering here is like a walking buffet for us. I almost feel sorry for you,” he spoke while laughing. “Just consider yourself lucky, kid. I may still be rattled by you setting foot here. But you seem like a nice person; too weak to match up to me, but decent otherwise... and funny too.”
“Uh... thanks, I think,” I murmured, feeling almost glad that his animosity towards me had somewhat ceased.
The cat stopped laughing and looked straight at me with a serious expression.
“Before I get to the terms on you staying here under my permission, I’d like to disappoint you first by saying that there are no humans living here. If you must know, this isn’t a world of your kind.”
“So, this place is home to… what exactly?” I asked. “Talking animals?”
The cat shook his head. “No. Sorry to trample on your hopes, but this world is entirely inhabited by demons. I’ve heard that long ago, humans used to live here as well, but I don’t know what happened to them afterwards; they’ve probably gone extinct. But I do know that you humans are most likely to be food sources to us demons. And by the way, call us animals one more time and I’ll personally feed you to the villagers nearby! Got it?”
I let out a nervous gulp. “G-got it,” I stammered.
The cat sighed as he rested on his belly, practically hiding himself from view among the tall grass around him. “Just relax, kid. I’m too tired to mess with you anyway. Like I said, even if you had that weird aura with you, I don’t think you’re suitable for combat.”
“What weird aura?” I asked, pointing a finger at myself. “You mean from me?”
He nodded. “That’s how I detected you.”
Suddenly, my growling stomach interrupted our conversation. I looked down in embarrassment while the cat chuckled out another laugh.
“So that’s why you were looking at my tree!” He grinned and looked up at the tree. “Don’t tell me you were actually planning to climb it!”
I mumbled out a response, “I... was.”
“Clueless and dumb,” he scoffed, getting up from his resting spot. “Just stay put. I’ll get you some to eat.”
I remained in place as I watched the cat rush to the tree and swiftly hop up the thin branches on it.
“Until you know something about yourself, I’ll keep referring to you as ‘kid’,” he called out amidst the rustling of the leaves on the tree, as he hopped from one branch to another.
A few seconds later, he dropped down from the surprisingly tall height safely. I stared at him as he glanced back at me, while carrying three of the strange yellowish fruits by their stems in his jaws.
He slowly placed the fruits in front of me and added, “My name is Reo. As long as you’re staying in my home, you have to live by my rules. As I mentioned before, I’m not too comfortable when it comes to having strangers here.”
I reached out to the fruit on the right and hesitated. I was feeling grateful for Reo’s hospitality; but I was still cautious, having doubts on if the food here was safe for humans.
Reo sighed again. “It’s up to you if you want to eat it or not. Just peel them from the top and eat whatever is inside. Don’t eat the seeds unless you’re willing to choke on your food.”
“Thanks.” I gave a polite smile to the bored cat as I picked up the light fruit and easily peeled the outer skin. A faint whiff of citrus lingered through the air as my finger dug too deep into the fruit’s darker-colored, soft interior, making a thick, orange fluid seep out of it and on to my hand.
After fully peeling the fruit, I noticed that it closely resembled slices of oranges packed together. Hoping that the taste would be as similar, I bit on to it and chewed carefully. The sensational taste of both sweet and sour engulfed my tongue as I abruptly stopped chewing. The taste wasn’t bad, but it was too much to take in one bite.
“Do you eat this too?” I asked after swallowing my bite.
Reo glanced to a side. “Rarely,” he answered. “I prefer catching and eating the fishes down by the river.” Then, he looked back at me. “Just take your time to regain your memory and fill your stomach. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”
As I watched him run off to the direction where the hill was, I took another bite from the ‘orange’ Feeling the presence of a hard seed with my tongue, I picked it out of my mouth and continued chewing. Getting used to the overpowering taste, I was starting to enjoy the fruit.
A talking cat, I thought. Either I’ve gotten myself into some fairytale or I’m under a massive hallucination!