|Katniss, the author|
I’ve heard the Giant Ones tell the story to each other. It’s not the exact truth, but close enough: How the loud roar came, rumbling the earth beneath our nest, and the blades followed, making our golden canopy topple around us. We ran as fast as we could. I don’t know what happen to the others; I never saw our mother again. But the three of us escaped the blades, crossing the black road where the Giant Ones speed by in metal dragons. Their dwellings are on the other side.
That’s where we found ourselves one cold evening, just as the large mouth of one of those dwellings opened up to swallow whole a white metal dragon. We hid in the bushes, shocked when three Giant Ones stepped out of the metal dragon, unscathed. Two hurried in to the dwelling’s dark inner core, but the tallest of them circled around, passing within inches of our hiding place.
My two remaining siblings are cautious, but I accepted what they had not. We had been existing on mice for too long – and those tasty critters were beginning to hide deep within the ground, making successful hunts look bleak for the coming winter months. What would we do for food?
I had heard whispers back among the corn stalks when I was still nursing: stories of wonder claiming that some among our kind found permanent sources of support among the Giant Ones.
“What must they give in return?” asked one of my siblings, so softly that our mother could not scold her.
“Not much,” shrugged the storyteller, cleaning his paw. “I’ve heard that the Giant Ones can be virtually ignored and still, they will set out portions of food each and every day. The danger is that some among our number have gone inside their dwellings, and never come out again.”
I knew his story must be mostly exaggeration, but we were desperate for food. So when we saw the tallest Giant One so near, I mustered up my courage and, on trembling paws, led my siblings toward him.
“Meow,” I said, looking up so high to see his eyes, I almost fell over backward. My brother, the largest of us, astonished me by boldly pushing himself against the Giant One’s leg, eliciting a surprising smile.
The Giant One then did the strangest thing: he knocked rapidly on his own front door! A few minutes later, the two Giant Ones we had seen exiting the white metal dragon appeared, looking out a small pane of glass. Behind them was a fourth Giant One, with hair falling down around her head that was just the color of the dried corn husks we had left behind in the field.
All four of the Giant Ones were very animated about our presence. I soon became certain that they meant us no harm, though I’ll admit, it was frightening to follow the tallest Giant One around their dwelling in the dark grass. The pay-off was fine though – almost as good as my storytelling sibling had described. We reached a kind of hard plateau behind the dwelling, all lit up and surrounded by more shining panes of glass. The Giant Ones called it a “porch.” We were astonished when the largest of these glass panes swung open, revealing the husk-haired Giant One, who carried a box and several soft gray and white blankets, which she proceeded to fuss over in the warmest corner. After disappearing inside the dwelling again, she came back carrying dishes. An amazing aroma now wafted through the air and – and I couldn’t stop myself – I meowed like a mad cat and began to circle her legs. What was it? What was it?
“Okay, okay,” she said, softly laughing as she stooped to place a dish in front of me. “You like tuna?”
The pink meat in the dish glistened with oil and was so …clean! No tail, fur or claws to pick out of my teeth. I immediately dug in, barely noticing as she placed identical dishes in front of my siblings. Three dishes of milk followed, and as I filled my hollow tummy, I kept thinking: Could it be true? Everything my storytelling sibling spoke of among the corn?
That night, we bedded down together in the box on the corner of the porch. Amazingly, this very essential act of warmth seemed to please the Giant Ones. I was beginning to be able to distinguish between the male and females of their number (by much less humiliating means than they later employed on us, I must say!) and noticed that the females were especially vocal whenever we closed our eyes, moved closer to each other, cleaned our paws or yawned. The noises they made at those moments came so close to our own language, I could almost assign meaning to them!
We scouted a couple of other houses in the neighborhood over the following days, but these Giant Ones took care of our needs most consistently so, after a vote, we elected to stay with them. The younger female Giant One squealed one day when we caught a mouse, and the husk-haired female stopped giving us tuna, exchanging it for dried pellets that are not nearly as satisfying, but fill our stomachs nonetheless. I heard her tell the tallest Giant One about a local feed store where some meddlesome know-it-all forbade her giving us milk again. Now we have a water dish.
It is not really boastful, but simply truthful to say that I remain the bravest among us. Several times I have boldly entered the core of their dwelling, though it’s impossible to explore it sufficiently when the Giant Ones act so disagreeably – closing doors to every exciting corner and constantly picking me up. Sometimes their faces will twist up and a small explosion will follow with cries for “tissues” and talk of “allergies.” I don’t understand these words, but find them strangely offensive. I keep meowing, trying to get them to understand my language, but they remain dim witted.
My siblings have usually run away when the Giant Ones try to entice them inside, but one day they prevailed and we all enjoyed the warmth together until we realized that there was a strange energy in the air. The younger Giant Ones seemed sad and kept insisting on holding my sister, whom they had dubbed “Pumpkin.” Then a stranger entered the house and she also held Pumpkin and made noises of happiness that I could almost understand. None of this made me happy though. I tried to engage her in battle, but she seemed almost to enjoy it! I retreated with my brother (the Giant Ones had the most difficulty assigning him a name – it has been Coal and Smoky and Spooky, but recently they try very hard to stay consistently with “Link”), hiding behind a large tree that the Giant Ones had oddly placed inside their dwelling and strung with bright lights and baubles that I was scolded for examining. What happened next was too quick for me to really remember in detail. I just know that the stranger held Pumpkin and then she was gone through the door, and that was the last we ever saw of our sister.
That night, my brother and I huddled together for warmth in our box, missing our sister and wondering. He whispered to me softly, remembering the rumors the storyteller had spread about those who had disappeared forever inside their dwellings, never to be seen again. In the following days, we entered the Giant Ones’ dwelling boldly, again and again to search out Pumpkin. She was nowhere to be found, but the Giant Ones seemed to understand our concern. They held us more often, welcomed us inside despite those “allergies” and gave us special treats, which they insisted on feeding us from their hands.
One morning I left, determined to understand more about the world where we were now living. Link protested and insisted on staying near our Giant Ones. He told me later how the husk-haired Giant One had stood on the porch and called my name. How she and the smaller female had wandered through the neighborhood, calling to me, rattling a can of treats – how they had ventured to areas we previously believed to be only the domain of our kind. When he told me that their eyes had leaked water, I was truly curious. I’m still not sure what it means, but I do know that when I returned from my adventure, the younger male Giant One spotted me first before alerting the others. They immediately invited me inside and made such mewing sounds of joy, I believed for the first time that we might actually succeed in communicating one day.
So Link and I have decided to stay. One day this week while I was rolling around on the tall blocks of wonder they call “stairs,” I heard the husk-haired Giant One speak of Pumpkin. My ears perked up and I listened carefully. I heard phrases like “indoor cat” and “watching TV” and “queen of the house.” I did not understand it all, but I saw how they smiled and I knew that meant only good things.
The Giant Ones have recently spoken of a “New Year” and what it will bring for them. I know little of their cares – they seem complicated to me. For my part, I have great hopes for the New Year. I believe that, given enough time, the Giant Ones will learn to adore me even more than they do now. The other day they even gave me something very much like “tuna,” though they kept calling it “Fancy Feast.” I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I also reach this “queen of the house” status my sister has obtained. I will continue to sneak inside at every opportunity and chip away at their resolve to keep me as an “outdoor cat.” For now, I need to get off the computer before the husk-haired Giant One realizes I know how to type. I think I’m safe; she’s in the other room talking to the tallest Giant One about getting me fixed. But that can’t be a bad thing. Right?