The Guardian Cats of New York City: Kodama’s Courage is still available for free download through Thursday! If you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:
Kodama could see the Bad Thing more clearly now. It was still a piece of night come alive, but at least it had a shape: it was smaller than a two-legs but much bigger than himself, long and narrow like a living tube, with no legs to be seen. Its head was an evil-looking triangle that swayed on the end of a long neck, and its eyes were two stars in the absolute black.
They stared at each other for a long moment, the Bad Thing swaying, Kodama crouched and hissing.
After that moment finally passed, the Bad Thing spoke in a soft, cold voice:
“What is your business here, little child of Bast?” It said.
It didn’t speak in sounds like the two-legs, or in bodies like a cat, but ideas put into Kodama’s mind. The Bad Thing’s body continued to sway and its mouth remained closed, but still he knew what it meant to say.
Startled, Kodama came out of his crouch for a moment and stared, his head tilted and his ears up with curiosity. Then he remembered that this was a Bad Thing, and he went back into his crouch.
He also remembered something else. Something from those old stories: Bast. That was the name of the greatest of cats, the mother of all cats. The one who had helped the Sun fight the darkness.
“Those are my two-legs in there,” Kodama squeaked. He tried to sound fierce, but he was still just a very young cat after all, little more than a kitten, and looking into the dark stars that were the Bad Thing’s eyes, he was very, very afraid. He tried again.
“Those are my two-legs in there,” he said. “And I know you want to hurt them! And I won’t let you!”
“Aaaahhhh.” The word was long and drawn out, a hiss and a sigh, and it would have sounded sad if it wasn’t so cold. “What a pity. For you see, little child of Bast, my own great mother Apep has commanded that I must bring darkness into these two humans’ lives. And as I am commanded, so it must be.”
“Why? Why doesn’t Apep like my two-legs?”
“Apep has no liking for any who live under the light of Ra, child of Bast. But as to why I was sent to trouble these two in particular? Why, no reason at all. And that is quite the point: pointless despair, random terror. A man too young for such things falls dead of a heart attack because that weakness comes to him from his fathers; a young woman finds herself back in the nightmare of cancer that she thought left behind many years ago. The venom of the great serpent kills a little more of the world’s light.”
Kodama had no idea what any of that meant. So he stuck to what he did know:
“Well, I won’t let you!”
The Bad Thing tilted its head in what seemed to be curiosity. “What do you owe these humans, little one?” it asked. “What have they given you, that you defend them so fiercely?”
For a moment, Kodama didn’t answer. Not because he had no answer to give, but because he had too many. Food, warmth, shelter, love…but he knew that the Bad Thing would just laugh at all of those, because Bad Things don’t understand them. Then, suddenly, he knew the one answer that the Bad Thing would respect.
“They gave me my name!” he squeaked.
“Ahhh,” the Bad Thing said, almost sadly. “I understand the debt that places upon you. Then I fear that must make us enemies. What a pity.”