7) Feline Processing

In his restless sleep, snorting, drooling Kultaki were running what appeared to be a feline processing plant. Bloody alligators in white aprons, wielding knives and axes, were busy doing unspeakable things. Boots found himself on a long conveyor belt stretching like a winding highway into infinity. He went past Cobishandra who smiled sweetly and sprinkled him with a dash of salt and then past Anadia who did the same with pepper, then His Excellency happily tossed handfuls of chopped garlic and parsley into the air and a loud electric fan blew the herbs directly on him. He sneezed and started to lick himself but was startled as he looked up to see the conveyor belt carrying him past a fiery oven being stoked with coal by two muscular armed rattlesnakes in loin cloths. Each time they tossed in a shovel of coal they rattled and laughed maniacally. The whole area was now a steaming inferno with shadows of dancing flames against the walls. He shuddered and tried again to lick his paws, but they were bound together with tape. He found a loose corner and ripped the tape off with his teeth.

On and on he traveled, no end in sight, carried along on the winding conveyor belt, past the valleys and over the mountains, across the seas to distant shores, into the land of mirrors where he was surprised to find he no longer looked like himself but had transformed into a huge yellow lion, flicking off flies with his tail in the mid-day sun. Then, he snapped back. Once again anxiety stabbed him and loneliness brought pangs of sorrow. Pheledra! Pheledra! Phele …

He heard a sound, like something sliding, then a loud clunk.

“Here’s some ground up mouse, you fuzzy ball of meat,” a strange voice echoed from the void.

His eyes popped open. He was lying on his back with all four paws desperately clawing microbes out of the air. His heart was pounding like two Ehnala drums and he was soaked with sweat. He saw Cobishandra handing a bowl down into his glass cage. “You must have been having a nightmare.” She hissed between pointy teeth as she replaced the heavy glass lid and left the room.

In a micron, Boots was on his paws staring down at the bowl of ground mouse. What a mushy mess.

Dry food was his thing. He’d just lost his appetite. Nevertheless, he already felt better because even before he’d gotten up, he’d already made an important decision. The next redeyed snake that slid back that lid was in for a big nasty surprise.

He paced around the glass cage making his plans.

When he heard footsteps, he pretended to be asleep. This time it was Anadia who was coming in to retrieve his bowl. He waited for the sliding sound of the lid and the instant before she could set it back down, he sprung straight up, shrieking like an insane banshee and rototilled her face, launched himself off the top of her head, out the door, down a passageway, up a ladder, through an open hatch, up a pipe, through a hole, across a bundle of cables and into the upper bowels of the Kultaki starship. He came to rest panting furiously in a dimly lit crawl space behind numerous magical devices of highly advanced technology. He had escaped. Now, he would go find Pheledra.

CONTINUE: 8) Red Alert

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