SLIPPING OVER TO SADDLEWORTH
It is supposed to be cat and mouse, not man and cat.
But it was in this case. The time sitting hunched so Milo and Joshua could carry out their fucked up “experiment”-more like torture-had caused us a lot of pain in the legs we really didn’t need right now.
“Tabby, is there anywhere we can rest a little?”
“We were still all the time Milo’s machine were running.”
“Yes, but it hurts after a while, especially after those jolts!”
“Yeah, they’re a real pain in the brain, they are. We’ve only been running for a few moments. I thought you were harder than this.”
“There’s only so much pain I-not them two again!”
Milo and Joshua could see us and unlike them dogs they were clearly clever enough to know not to grab us by the tail. I couldn’t see what tricks they had that would catch us-nor did I want to know. I just wanted to get me and Tabby away from this horrible place, and away from the jolts and shocks.
Milo grabbed from his pocket a weird device that looked like a cuboid thing I once saw in that game humans play-Quadblock? Fourblock? What was it?
He pressed his finger on a large red button and a net, much like a spider’s web, shot out of the cuboid thing. It hurtled towards us just as we chose to crawl off-and it missed us by just a hair’s width.
“Just my timing!”
“Milo, you didn’t aim it properly either. Your angle was off by 1/20 pi radians.”
“Joshua, this net gun has a range of 10 metres. An angular error that low shouldn’t have mattered. Besides, how am I supposed to notice that?” He grumbled briefly. “My finger must have slipped.”
“It makes all the difference when you don’t take in the cosine factor.”
“I only had a second to aim and fire the net gun, just like when I was using it to round up Herbert after he’d gone AWOL from guard dog duty. To hell with the cosine factor!”
We continued to crawl, since neither me nor Tabby were ever going to work out what “cosine factor” even meant, for a start. We aren’t exactly good at maths, and we’ve never needed to be.
If there was one thing useful about this building, it was that the connecting corridors we crawled through had many doors we could dart into; not all of them were closed let alone locked. But we had not the foggiest idea where we were going and Milo and Joshua must have known. They worked there!
“Which door did they go into?”
“Well, at least that’s one useful secret we’ve learned from cats today, Joshua, despite the failure of today’s experiment. They can open doors somehow.”
“Cats haven’t got opposable thumbs, Milo. And they’re not nearly strong enough to push human-sized doors open. That’s why so many of my neighbours have scratches and cat hair or dog fur on the bottoms of their front doors.”
“They can push and pull things, you know. And cats always find a way to run rings around us.”
Really running rings around them would have just given them an opportunity to catch us, of course. Rings are just fancy circles. And diamond rings that humans sometimes wear are just fancy, overpriced, gaudy circles.
At least those kinds of rings don’t make us hiss and screech-the other kind of ring does!
The first door we pushed was in fact open; although only we could have noticed that the door was ajar at the speed we had to run. The room was not interesting at all; it was empty and contained only tables with a large screen in the middle. It must have been important to this place, Colne Valley University. Although when I tried to say its name, it still sounded like “Kolln Valley Oo-ni-ver-si-ty”, not the way Emily or Anna said it.
By running into this room, we right away realised our mistake-there was no exit except via the door we just came in! Tabby purred softly to get me to one side and whispered,
“Puss, do you even know where we are?”
I sighed at my foolishness. “No. We were just running to get away from those creepy chimps.”
“For fuck’s sake, Puss, we’re gonna get maimed or killed if you don’t get us out of here. I don’t want to get jolted again!”
“Okay, let’s just go back to the corridor.”
Tabby tapped me on the shoulder with her paws, but not in a mating way.
“I can hear those two outside! Stay put and be quiet for now!”
I didn’t hear a door opening that time, thank goodness. We’d have been as dead as mice if they had known we were in this room.
“Someone remembered to lock that door for once, so they couldn’t have gone into that room….”
“Now’s our chance, Tabby!” I whispered.
We creeped silently through the empty, hollow room, knowing that Milo and Joshua would be too distracted with their conversations to hear us. After a few jumps, we managed to get the door open again. The door chose that exact moment to make a stupid squeaking noise when we opened it.
Just as we walked out, Joshua shouted, “Puss and Tabby have just come from room 42!”
“After the kitties!”
We ran as fast as our paws would carry us towards the end of the long corridor. Our small legs really were becoming a problem-and most of the doors were locked. And running into an open one would just be another dead end; also those two had more energy than us. It really helped them only needing two limbs to walk, jog and run instead of four!
Humans are idiots and jerks a lot of the time, but they are adaptive when it suits them.
Joshua galloped like a horse to stop us reaching the double doors to escape. He was no Black Beauty though-far from it, and he nearly slipped over on the smooth floor on the third leap. Milo proved better with his standard cheetah-like sprints, though, and he was on the verge of recapturing us two. However, we ran hard enough to push on the floor below and activate the double doors ahead. They opened, but that didn’t solve our other problem, mainly us having no idea how to get out of the maze that stood before us.
We were at a crossroads, and in more ways than one, if not quite four ways. We hastily turned left hoping that at high speed they would not stop to see how we’d turned at the crossroads. It just led to another corridor, shorter than the previous one but with still no exit in sight. Just noticing Milo and Joshua behind us we turned right at the end of the corridor. It was then we heard a hissing voice-but where?
We realised it wasn’t a radiator, but another cat. How did another cat get lost in this maze?
The cat that prowled before us had a matted and streaked black and white coat of fur, and it were hard to tell at first whether the cat was a tom or a queen. The cat looked rather weary yet desperate to talk to us.
“Yeah?” I replied warily.
“I can find a way out of here.”
“How would you know?” Tabby asked. “And why should I trust you?”
“And who the ’eck are ye?”
The cat sighed. “I’m Missi. Missi Elliott.” She blushed at giving us her full name. “What stupid name-or names- did them humans give you?”
“They’re always trying to come up with something funny or clever to name us, even though I sure don’t find those names funny or clever at all.”
“Me neither. If it was up to us we wouldn’t name ourselves at all.”
“It were necessary for us to get or have names so they could tell us apart from other cats, and we need to know who’s who among the world of cats anyways. This is a case of if you can’t beat them, join them.”
“I suppose so.” I sighed.
Tabby asked Missi, “Were you in an experiment too?”
She replied, “Was that the experiment where you got shocked by humans so they could read our minds?”
“Yes it was, actually. Until the machine broke.”
“I’ll tell you why it broke.” Missi grinned cheekily. “I pulled the plug by prising it out with my teeth. Didn’t half give me a shock.”
“I can certainly see that. Look at the state of your fur!”
“Well, I would if I had a mirror. None to be found here, though.”
Tabby interrupted, “I keep breaking mirrors by mistake.”
“Big mirrors or little ones?”
“Those little ones female humans use to look at their lips.”
“Like most have them have lips worth looking at. My lips are better.”
“Come on, Puss, your kisses may be good but they’re not the best.”
“I do try though, Tabs.”
She winked in a nonplussed way. “Sure you do.” And sniggered.
Missi sighed. “Does anyone really care? Let’s talk about something else, like, getting the heck out of here before anyone from this “oo-ni-ver-si-ty” catches us.”
“Do you know the way out then?” I enquired.
“Yes, a little bit.”
“What do you mean a little bit?” Tabby asked crossly. “We need to get out of Huddersfield totally. Where do you come from?”
“Saddleworth, a few leagues west. We need to get out of this room and go north.”
“How far north?”
“Just come with me. Both of you.”
We’d never met Missi before but our lives were at stake, so we had to trust her. We exited the room cautiously and turned right, continuing north for a few doors when-oh shit-someone dressed in a lab coat similar to Milo’s opened the double doors and spotted us.
“How exactly did you three get in here? Cats aren’t allowed in this building without permission. And cats have no reason to be here-this leads to the Literature and Poetry Faculty.”
Looking up briefly, I realised with relief that whilst he looked so much like Milo, he wasn’t Milo. Milo didn’t have grey hair-not yet. As for “Litri-ture” and “Poetry”, they must have been yet more pointless things apes enjoyed for what they call “pleasure”.
“I don’t know you, so I’m not gonna tell you that. How do we get out of here?”
“Turn left, go 20 metres, then turn right into the Data Faculty, then a few doors along go left past the Fred Goodwin Room, then turn right into the Languages Faculty, then continue along a long corridor until you reach the big Student Finance Building, and then through two sets of double doors is outside, and then outside you go west then north to find the main entrance.”
Missi quipped, “And then where next to get to Saddleworth?”
“No idea. Ask someone in the Geography Faculty. I have to use Google Maps just to get to work on time.” He then just walked off.
“So many different directions...” I mused. I wanted him to repeat the mazelike directions he’d given me but he’d already gone. And as for the Geography Faculty, we wouldn’t know where to start.
We went left, just like he said. We didn’t get much rest, so we weren’t able to run properly. And as luck would have it, the dreadful duo that were Milo and Joshua were coming right behind us…
“We’re going to get you two to help complete our experiment no matter what!” Joshua shouted with a mix of glee and lion-like fury.
He had the heart of a lion, all right, and the stomach of a lion, but luckily for us the weak slim body of an average chimp. We turned right into the “Data Faculty”, whatever the heck that even was, and he was able to catch up even on only two legs instead of four. If he’d been able to reload his “netgun” (as he called it) at the time we would have been dog food for sure.
Joshua fired it as he caught up behind us, passing the Bernard Madoff Room-but nothing happened.
“Shit! I must have mislaid the backup net!”
Milo seethed with anger and frustration. “Just overtake them, block the exit and then kick them down!”
“Cats are very hard to hit, Milo. That’s why we lure them in for our experiments rather than risk being scratched and chewed all over.”
“Just do it!”
Yet again their choice to waste a precious moment arguing gave us time to make up for our lack of pace. The arguing of humans amazed us as much as it annoyed us. And yet they’re the ones always saying “two heads are better than one!”
We got into the Languages Faculty knowing time was overall against us, and with each corridor more boring and dull than the last. We reached the end of the corridor expecting the doors to just swing open like that-but to our horror, the double doors at the end didn’t open or even budge!
Tabby scratched at them. They felt nothing.
I jumped at the doors. They felt nothing.
Tabby tried to jam the doors open with her whiskers. They felt nothing, but Tabby felt a whisker break off.
“How do they do it?” she wondered.
“Do what? Get locked doors open? With a key, most of the time.”
“I meant when you haven’t gorra key.”
“No idea. Only heard about it, never seen it, mind.”
I decided to kick the doors open. They felt nothing.
“I’m out of ideas, Tabby.”
I did feel something, though-quivering fear at the sound of footsteps.
“This might be it, Tabby.”
“Well, whose idea was it to go to Emily’s house and then get into her car having never met her before simply because she liked cats? That would be yours, Puss. Yours.”
“Maybe there’s a back way out.”
“This is the back way out.” Tabby hissed in despair and frustration.
The footsteps drew closer and closer. Tabby and I might as well’ve been dog food at this point.
“Found you at last!” Our worst fears confirmed. I just had to turn around to see who they were-who else but fucking Joshua and Milo!
“Fucking hell, that was a long run to catch these two.”
Milo sighed, even though he’d basically won the race. “Joshua, must you bicker every single time we collaborate on anything?”
“Maybe. Also, I’ve still got no nets in my netgun. What do we do here exactly?”
“Wait.” Milo turned to us. “Puss, Tabby, the doors ahead are locked and there’s no other exit, no way out. Come. With. Us. Now.”
“Never!” I growled.
“Over my dead body, bastards!” Tabby growled.
Joshua shouted, “I can just land on you and squash you flat if I very well wanted. Is that you want?”
“As if you were quick enough to land on top of me. You humans are all slow and cackhanded, whereas we’re graceful and what’s that other word?”
At that moment, Joshua jumped forwards, in his attempt to land on us, despite Milo shouting “What the hell?” at him. We were both exhausted, and thought at that very moment it would be all over for us….
But then, I managed to summon just enough energy to roll over into Tabby’s shoulders, in a desperate attempt to save my life from Joshua. I rolled sideways a split-second before Joshua landed…
“Owwww!” Joshua had mistimed his leap and landed flat on his face on the floor.
Milo was shocked for a moment-and that moment proved to be what we needed.
The doors ahead opened!
Joshua got himself standing again after another moment and grimaced, “Which idiot unlocked the doors ahead? The student finance building is supposed to be closed now!”
“No idea. Just run after them!”
We somehow summoned up enough energy to crawl through the double doors. Even crawling was tiring at this point, having spent ages dodging Joshua and Milo. We then also noticed a window had been opened-but by whom? I can’t open windows, that’s for sure, and pushing an unlocked window open is still rather difficult with paws.
A bit of wind rushed through, but sadly it couldn’t give us any more speed. And night was falling, as we could see through that window.
“Tabby, how long have we-”
“Shh. Just get out of here while you can.”
As we did, we noticed a strange human creep around as if he were just like us, except on two legs only. What were that human doing ’ere and why were they wearing a mask?
Whoever we saw must’ve opened the window for us, and somehow unlocked the double doors-but how? The bloke-equal chance it could’ve been a lady, though-took what appeared to be reams of paper from one of them drawers; we couldn’t see what those reams of paper said, however, as we crawled towards the window.
Milo had spotted the other ’uman in question, distracting him from his desire to catch us both. “Hey!”
That other ’uman ran towards the open window, dropping the papers as he-or she-made their escape. We were equally determined to make our way out, and ran after them. Milo and Joshua gave chase once again, albeit slower this time. At least we weren’t running fast enough to slip on the papers the fool dropped.
Whoever it was got a bit stuck trying to climb too fast through the open window-and was blocking our only exit! Even with our lean bodies neither of us could fit through t’gap, and time was running out!
“Fuck!” we heard the bloke shout from just outside the window.
Milo edged towards us, eager to catch us and return to us to that ’orrible room. But then that other human got themselves free, pushing themselves out the window…
“Oof! Fucking hell!”
We got to the window, and jumped in the split second Milo tried to get his hands on us. We may always land on our feet, but we didn’t want those feet to land in the nasty-looking bush below. Going as fast as our tired bodies would push us, we jumped….
Tabby got clear of the bush easily, being more sprightly than I were. I jumped straight after her, spurred on by a need to avoid Milo’s sticky hands, but I slipped a bit-right into the bush that the same bloke had fallen into.
“The bush scratched my arse!” I howled in pain. In fact I was bleeding a bit-what the fuck did I just land on?!
Tabby sighed, “We’ll sort that out later. Let’s just get the fuck out of here and to the nearest town-wherever that is.”
“As long as it’s in the direction of Marple or Bramhall.” I turned to whoever that bloke was who was just walking left from the window we’d all just jumped out of. “Hey!”
“Yeah, what?” He clearly wasn’t pleased to see or hear us.
“Where are you going?”
“Saddleworth.” He kept on walking, to what presumably was his car. We instinctively followed him, as quiet as a cat should when prowling the night.
We were really tired and I had a scratched bum to boot. I was sure Milo or Joshua was still going after me-he would stop at nothing to get me to take part in his fucked-up experiment. I couldn’t hear footsteps behind me but I could still hear dripping. If only I knew how to tie up a bandage or plaster or whatever they called them-not that either of us had any, and I don’t think the bloke did either. What was he doing at the university anyway?
He couldn’t have been too far away, for just twenty paces later his car appeared. It was a dull black car, and we would never have spotted it in this darkness had we not followed him, and had I not left a little red drip road behind. We heard a strange click, and we saw him get into his car, and I purred, “Wait for us, won’t you?”
Tabby quickly quipped, “Uh, we’re going to Saddleworth too. It’s where we live.”
“Yes!” we purred, in unison this time.
“What colour’s Saddleworth’s rose then?”
“Um, white.” I’d seen a white rose just a moon ago on that sign outside Bradford.
“Come with me, then. In the back.”
The hatch of his car opened. We slumped right there, exhausted.
“I’m not fucking carrying you cats in!” he shouted from the driver’s door, and honked the horn loudly.
“Get in now!”
We climbed into the back slowly, just as we noticed a torch light coming up behind us. Ensuring no part of our tail could get caught in the door, the hatch closed right behind us and we rolled over, exhausted by that escape from Milo and Joshua. We could just hear the sound of a car moving off, and some chatter we couldn’t make out.
Some time later-we couldn’t tell how much ’cause we were that tired-the car arrived into what was presumably Saddleworth. As we woke up, a sign confirmed we had indeed passed into that place:
Welcome to Saddleworth
Please drive carefully
We also noticed some large black writing below the sign which had clearly been painted on:
“WE HAVEN’T BEEN IN YORKSHIRE FOR 74 YEARS. GET OVER IT ALREADY!”
The driver of the car noticed our rather loud yawning purr, and we heard it stop rather suddenly. The hatch opened, and he growled. “We’re here. Now get on yer way before I put you both in a cage. I’m gonna get nicked just sitting here. Go on, move your paws, and don’t tell anyone else you saw me!”
“Thanks for the free ride!” I retorted, ignoring his snide tone. We jumped out quickly, not wanting to know him but just glad to get out of Huddersfield, and away from Milo and Joshua.
Having had little rest by this point, with the car journey not being long enough for our liking, we headed over to a nearby park. It was locked, and the fence was too high and slippery for us to climb, but that were no matter-there was a hole in the fence we could squeeze through. Sensing no apes or dogs nearby, we crawled under a small wooden slide, to kip for the night, ready for carrying on our trip to Marple or Bramhall….
We were woken up the next morning by the kind of noise we hated more than any other…