‘Incoming,’ someone screamed and I saw everyone run for cover under the bird places.
I looked for my human in the dust and debris left by the attack. Cries of loss and anguish tore at my heart as my friends and neighbours called for their humans.
‘Incoming,’ Fred called, then saw he pulled Frank under him, and protected him with his body.
A familiar whirring noise neared our positions, then an explosion of what I could only describe as violent lightning and thunder strikes but no there was rain.
‘A terrible mix for those in the suburbs,’ the window man on the nightlys had said before my human and I went to bed last night.
‘Quiet everyone,’ I whispered. ‘Make sure it’s safe before looking for your humans.’
‘Fred? Frank?’ I called as the dust began to settle.
At first, I thought the last incoming had taken more of my friends from me, but after a few more frightening moments, I heard young Franks groan of pain.
‘Fred? Fred?’ I heard him calling. He was panicking.
Fred gave his life to save young Frank. I put the search for my human on hold for a few moments and made my way to him.
‘It’s all right, young Frank,’ I said, and stroked the dust from his head. It hung low and his small tongue dragged a streak of dust away and I saw the black river of the cul-de-sac underneath. ‘Fred would’ve wanted you to carry on, to find your human young Frank. That’s what Fred would’ve wanted.’
Our friends and neighbors had gathered together and we all took a few moments to remember Fred’s courage.
‘Goodbye, Fred,’ young Frank said and wiped the dust, wet from his tears, from his little face.
‘Bye, Fred,’ I said. ‘You were the bravest of us all.’
After a brief pause, I knew we had to get back to digging if we had any hope of finding our humans before dinner.
‘Right young Frank, let’s get to it,’ I said. ‘There’re humans under that rubble somewhere and we have to find ‘em, or we’ll starve.’
As we neared the end of our brief, but heartfelt memorial, I heard the screams and cries of our friends, enemies and other side of the window acquaintances, in our once quiet street, as they too searched desperately for their humans.
‘I’ve got one,’ I heard someone call three houses down.
I watched as everyone ran to see, but knew I had to find my human. If I’ve any chance to maintain the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to, ‘I must dig deeper, faster and wider, than I ever had before.’
‘How you goin’, young Frank?’ I called as his little paws dug frantically into a small mound of dirt, not enough to hide a human, but young Frank needed to keep busy, so I said nothing.
‘I don’t know, Rocky, I don’t know if I’ll find my human before my dinner,’ he said, and a large tear fall from his eye splashing into the dust causing a crater like a asteroid hitting the earth.
The tear created the small crater in what was once my street. The tear rolled and beaded, refusing to be absorbed by the dirt, mocking him as he continued his search through the debris. My heart broke for young Frank, for Fred, but we had to keep going.
‘Keep digging, young Frank,’ I called. ‘I won’t stop until I find at least one of our humans. You’re small, and I’d be willing to share my food with you for a day or two if we find mine first.’
‘You would? Oh, thank you, Rocky,’ he said with a cheerier tone to his small voice.
A sudden silence filled the street, and I looked to see everyone was looking up at the sky.
‘What’s that?’ young Frank asked.
‘What’s wha—incoming!’ I called as an unfamiliar noise began to sound as everyone ran for cover.
The incoming sounded different to the others. It was silent, and just when I thought it wasn’t an incoming at all, a sudden explosion pierced the ears of everyone on the street, then everything became silent again. I saw dust and debris fill the air, but it still made no noise. I could see everyone trying to get to their bunkers beneath the bird places just as debris settled on the ground, but I heard nothing.
‘Am I deaf?’ I asked when I saw young Frank with his paw in his right ear digging around, looking for where his hearing went.
‘I’ll never hear my human call me for lunch again,’ I thought. My lips trembled, my eyes watered, then suddenly I heard the sound of muffled cries, the cries of my friends. The more I listened, the louder they became.
‘Oh, thank goodness,’ I said now satisfied I’d hear my humans voice, I dried my tears, picked up my lower lip, and stood tall to become the mighty warrior young Frank thought I was.
The day had been brutal. Wave after wave of aerial attacks had begun just before I got to have my breakfast. In fact, I’d just gone to the bathroom when it began. No-one knew why, where, or who the attacks were coming from, but I hadn’t seen or heard from my human since before I woke, no-one had seen their humans.
‘I’ve found something,’ Chi Chi called, and a pack of wild looking news hounds ran to her aid. I would’ve gone, but she’s not my type.
Chi Chi lived four houses down and always had a pack of no hopers sniffing.
‘Usually she snubs them,’ I thought. ‘But my human says a lot, you’ve got to pick your batt—oh dear. I missed all the signs. My human warned about such an event in my street. Oh, why didn’t I listen?’
My epiphany devastated me and I fell to the ground and cried into the dust. It was soft and felt nice against my tummy. I rolled over and watched the dust float all around me like tiny fairies and I tried to catch them with my long claws.
‘Are you all right?’ young Frank asked, and stroked my head.
‘Yes, yes, young Frank. I’m all right,’ I said and tried to claw back some dignity. ‘Did Chi Chi find her human?’
‘She found the mailbag, but it had no food in it. If we can’t find our humans,’ he said, ‘I’m frightened Rocky. Those news hounds over there might eat us if we can’t find our humans.’
‘I know young Frank, things look bad, but we’ve gotta keep looking. If we can’t find our humans, then you and I, we’ll leave when the others aren’t looking, find Marely—’
‘Where is Marley, Rocky,’ young Frank asked. ‘Do you think…’
‘She’s a mouse, young Frank. She lives in a hole and only usually comes out at night.’
‘Bet she can feel what’s going on,’ young Frank said.
‘Yeah… maybe Marley will know of somewhere safe, where we can go for the night, then can get back to it tomorrow… if we can’t find our humans that is… all right?’
‘Okay, if you say so, Rocky,’ he said. ‘We can come back tomorrow… if we can’t find…’
Young Frank’s words trailed away and he moved closer to my side. We frantically dug together, but the deeper we dug, more incomings came in and filled our holes again.
‘Shush,’ I called. ‘Pass it on young Frank.’
‘Shush,’ young Frank said, and it went down the street.
‘What is it?’ he asked.
‘Humans, not our humans. Hide! Everyone hide, now!’
Everyone just made it to their hiding places in timer. A group of humans walked into the middle of our street. They spoke a strange language, and I was frightened.
‘Shouldn’t someone warn them?’ young Frank whispered.
‘Shush. They may be the enemy.’
‘What—No. Really? The enemy? They have our humans?’
‘Yes, young Frank. Those—hang on. I understood that word—’
‘Lu—n—ch, lun—ch. Lunch!’ I whispered and felt very proud of myself.
‘What’s lunch?’ young Frank asked.
‘What’s lunch?’ I asked turning to look at him. I couldn’t believe he’d never heard of lunch before.
‘Lunch,’ I began, ‘is the meal that comes after breakfast, and morning treat, before afternoon snack, cuddles and dinner, nighttime cuddles and sleep. Your human sounds like a perfect heathen.’
‘What’s a heath—’
‘It does not matter Frank. All I’m saying is when we find our humans, and I will, I’ll let you come to visit so you can witness the wonder that is lunch. Now quiet—Oh come on! They’re gonna sit there and eat lunch right in front of us. What is happening to my world?’
Young Frank, Chi Chi, the news hounds and others, including me, stayed hidden. The humans sat in the middle of the debris, on top of our buried friends and possibly our humans, and ate lunch! The torture went on forever. Not only did I miss out on lunch, but those torturous humans were sitting on my dinner plans.
‘Finally,’ I said as they stood to leave.
As I watched them walk across the cul-de-sac to the outside world, I was certain they were our attackers, because I’m smarter than the rest.
I noticed there hadn’t been any incoming while they ate.
Rounding the bird places, several heads popped out of the bushes to make sure the coast was clear. I waved my left paw, and we began the long hard slog to dig up our humans. It worried me. My human didn’t like dirt.
‘Rocky! Look what you’ve done,’ my human says every time I come in from the outside with a present for her.
She’d get upset when I put the bird offering on the front mat. Tell me of and used the word deliberate a lot.
‘Of course it’s deliberate,’ I’d say, but hadn’t mastered the language of humanese, so it came out as a hiss and a spit, when I’m just saying, ‘It’s a pressie for you.’
Then there’s the soft white woolly stuff on the floor next to my bed.
Sometimes it’s got pictures of my paws on it, I don’t do it deliberately, but my human sure knows how to make it sound like I did.
‘I can’t help it if I’m a great drawer.’
I wouldn’t want to be the to bury mamma beneath all this dirt, she’s gonna be really angry with those lunch humans.
‘Lunch? Lunch! That’s right, lunch,’ I happily thought and ran to where they’d sat to see if there was any left. Then I was sad again when I saw there wasn’t even a crumb.
It’d been a long time since I last heard the whirring noise and incomings, but it didn’t matter how far down we dug, we couldn’t find our humans.
‘Humans,’ young Frank called and pointed to those who’d eaten lunch. They were walking back down the street.
‘Hide,’ I yelled, took Frank by the paw and dragged him with me as we slid into, bushes and underneath the bird places.
Everyone hid, but the humans were doing something strange.
‘What are they doing Rocky?’
‘They wouldn’t,’ I said.
‘Wouldn’t what,’ young Frank asked.
‘Trip wires, they’re laying down trip wires—’
‘Not now, young Frank, this is bad, this is very very bad. I’ve seen this when the nightlies are on.’
‘Nightlies are on?’
‘Yeah, it’s the black thing on the wall inside my house,’ I said but kept my eyes on what the lunch humans were doing. ‘When my human says, the nightlies are on, it turns into a window, and oh—there’re all kinds of angry, nasty humans in that window young Frank. All kinds. We need to stop ‘em before we find our humans, and I mean now!’
Young Frank looked out between the leaves of the thick green bush we were hiding under. He saw the humans had a lengthy piece of trip wire they were burying. Chi Chi’s cried, and everyone looked from their hiding places. A huge yellow monster was reaching out into the air, then it dug down deep into the hole she’d been digging.
‘Poor Chi Chi,’ I said.
‘Why?’ young Frank asked. ‘What happened?’
‘If her human was there, she has perished.’
‘Perished?’ young Frank asked.
‘Chi Chi’s getting no dinner tonight, or any other night.’
‘Oh,’ young Frank said.
The news hounds stepped out from behind a row of bushes in a protective line, and Sally, Chi Chi’s next-door neighbour, comforted her.
‘Well, that’s just unfair,’ I said. ‘Now we have to go out there too. Damn news hounds are showing us up.’
‘What do you—Never mind,’ young Frank said as he watched me squeeze through the bush.
So, what do we do now?’
‘We stand,’ young Frank. ‘We stand!’
‘What, just here?’
‘Yes, and now we wait to see what the news hounds do, then we do something better. It’s a competition young Frank, and we need to win.’
The humans and their huge yellow monster stopped. They turned to see everyone watching them. The news hounds got snarly, but made no threatening moves. They held their ground. I was looking the other way, and young Frank ran back to hide under the bird places.
Young Frank had no time to say anything and guessed lunch was off.
‘Hello,’ said a big hairy human to me. Then he bent down and picked me up. ‘You’re a big fella, aren’t ya?’
‘Rocky,’ young Frank whispered, and I knew he thought he’d never see me again. I thought I’d never see me again.
‘Bend at the knees with that one,’ another human called, and it made all the other humans bark.
I knew they were barking because young Frank had told me his human says to her human, ‘Don’t bark at me like that.’
One day when young Frank and I were only window friends, before we were friends, I heard his human bark at the other, and it sounded the same as the humans barking in our street.
Young Frank watched the human walk away with me, defenseless, in his arms. I looked back. My eyes pleaded for help, then saw the moment young Frank decided not to be young Frank anymore. He bravely stepped from the bushes and bird places, cleared his throat, then made the sweetest, cutest noise anyone had ever heard. The human carrying me stopped and looked back. I knew once his eyes met Franks, the human wouldn’t stand a chance.
One look at Franks big sad eyes, drooping lower lip and his raised paw held in midair. Frank looked like he had been hurt, and the big hairy human had no will of his own. He had to go back to help him. I’ve seen this play before, and Franks very good at it. Works every time. We all have our own little attention grabbers, but Franks was by far the most efficient.
If the day turned out to be the disaster we thought it was, and we couldn’t find our humans, at least we’d learned to work together for a common cause.
‘Aren’t you a special baby?’ the hairy human who held me said.
He put me down and picked Frank up.
I choked up, fought back tears, and after I made it behind the bushes beneath the bird places, I looked to see Frank. He was being carried away, and knew I had to try something, anything to save him. I’d worked myself into a frenzy, was about to run out into the middle of the street and make like I was injured too, then to my surprise, I saw Franks human, and her vet carriage stop in his driveway.
My frenzy eased, the want to move into berserk mode stopped, and I knew his human would see him in time to save Frank.
‘Frank!’ I called and watched him squirm in the hairy humans’ arms until the human had no choice but to lean down so he didn’t drop him. I watched him run to his human and knew everything would be okay for young Frank.
‘He’s home, safe and sound,’ I thought, then something caught my eye.
Something was moving through the dust beneath the brush along the edge of the road, and crawling from beneath a line of bushes, was Fred. He wasn’t a casualty of war at all, but was in need of a good brush down and some water.
Suddenly I heard my humans voice and stuck my head out from under the bird places.
‘Rocky. What are you doing out here?’ she asked and leaned down and dug me out of the hole I’d dug and picked me up. ‘Oh, my sweet boy. Mamma’s lil boy. I bet you missed your breakfast—and lunch? You poor, poor baby. Now, mamma needs to ask the gentlemen something, then we can get you fed. What do you think about that?’
I was safe and snug in my human’s arms and Frank knew it. He was being smothered with kisses and hugs by his human.
‘Frank?’ I called, but he didn’t hear me. ‘Young Frank?’
‘What?’ he asked laying his head upside-down over his humans arm.
‘Lunch, Frank. Lunch!’ I said, and he smiled.
‘Do we have power yet?’ my human asked the hairy human who’d picked me up. ‘I hate to ask this, because I know it’s not really your department, but has the NBN been connected yet? I haven’t had telephone or Internet access for more than a week.’
‘The power should be back on in thirty minutes,’ the hairy human said. ‘But as for the NBN, I’m sorry. You’re right, we just work here. No-one knows when it’ll get finished. We’ve laid the fiber, just coverin’ it back in, but it’s up to the—well it’s in God’s hands now.’
‘I understand only too well,’ my human said, and she sounded sad. ‘Thank you.’
‘He’s a big boy,’ the man said and ran his hand over my head. ‘I picked him up because I thought he was hurt. My back won’t thank me for it later.’
My human shared a laugh with the human who led the incomings all day, then we went into the house. I knew she’d feel happier once she gave me food.
‘Somehow,’ I thought, ‘I’ll have to let her know about the trip wire, the incomings—what if she gets tangled—worse still, will she know she has to hide in the bushes beneath the bird places?’
‘Oh, my sweet Rocky, you’re such a brave boy,’ she said and pulled me in tight for a kiss and a hug. ‘You can have something special for an early dinner, late lunch.’
I meowed and sat at my bowl. I waited patiently for my human, but there was no light in the, Rocky cold food section, and I’d begun to panic again.
‘Here we are my sweet boy,’ my human said and I shuddered. Instead of the usual chicken and gravy in my bowl, was cool fresh red meat.
I moved it around with my paw for a minute and was scraping the floor in an attempt to bury it when my human knelt down next me… and it.
‘What’s the matter Rocky?’ she asked. ‘You don’t like it? Have you tried it yet? It’s something special.’
I moved my nose close to it and its tip touched the cool red meat. It wasn’t slimy like Salty the slug, and smelled yummy, so I picked a small piece up with my canines and took it into my mouth.
‘Mmmmmeeeooowwww,’ I said. I couldn’t help myself.
It was the yummiest thing since she started getting me my turkey and cranberry biscuits.
‘I love you mamma,’ I meowed between bites and my nose rubbed against the cool wet meaty goodness. ‘I’m a good boy.’
Once I’d eaten, I walked to the window and looked outside to see almost everyone’s humans were alive, and saw the mailman had to come to get his bag. I was there when he dropped it. No-one told him about the incomings either, so when the first one hit and dust flew into the air, so did his mail, and I never knew a human could run so fast on two legs.
When the dust settled, he’d disappeared. I thought he’d perished in the first attack, but now the lunch humans were helping him pick up the loose mail.
‘Oh dear, it doesn’t look good for the mailman,’ I thought when I saw the news hounds still hadn’t found their humans.
‘Bless ‘em,’ my human said when the Rocky cold food section light, turned on. ‘Nightlies are about to start, my baby boy. Come sit with mamma.’
She picked me up and tickled my tummy. I climbed up over to her shoulder and sat there while I cleaned myself. As mamma clicked that evil, bad window open, I forgot all about the trip wires.
‘I love you, mamma,’ I meowed and purred in her ear, kissed her cheek and she fed me treats. ‘Never leave me again, and I’ll not bring you an outside present… for one week.’
Everything felt as it should. My tummy was full, the gentle touch of my humans’ hand brushed away the stress of the day as she brushed back my thick white fur. I looked at her with my big green grateful eyes, then snuggled in against her neck and went to sleep.