It was a dark time, the great war was. Everyone was committed to their sides, there was little or no chance of anyone listening to reason. The world around us was on fire, and we had no choice but to watch as the fever ran its course. Then that fateful day changed it all.
That day was just like every other day: wake up scared, scrabble for food enough to survive, hope to remain unnoticed, and eventually sleep again.
“You aren’t like the others, are you?”
The voice was commanding. What else could I do but stop and hope it went away?
“You there. I know you understand, not like the others around town.”
Oh. Those others.
“Who wants to know?” I asked, quietly.
“Don’t fret about disturbing anyone. No one is paying any attention. I’m clearly doing my job, and neither you nor I are expected to be talking instead. So even if we were seen, it won’t matter.”
I edged a little ways into the light, then backed down swiftly. The voice was a cat. We don’t generally care for cats, it’s likely instinctual, as I don’t think we have a rational reason for our feeling.
“Yeah, yeah, talking cat. And you’re a talking rat. I don’t see why that should be cause for surprise.”
“But, we’ve been so careful.”
“And that is what I noticed. The other rats in town are much more carefree. But they don’t talk, even when cornered. You talked when merely offered the chance. That all by itself is a difference worth noticing.”
“Oh,” I said.
“There is a place you can go where you will be safer. How many in your clan?”
Now, that was information I could not divulge. “Enough. You know I can’t say.”
“I don’t need an exact figure. I just need a sense of scale so I can help.”
“But, you’re a cat.”
“We’ve been over that part. Yes, I’m a cat. You’re a rat. So?”
“Aren’t we traditional enemies?”
“We both have a bigger enemy right now, and it is killing this city. I’m searching for survivors that need my attention.”
“Ah, the famous rat pride. No, not really you, but any of the others around time that escaped and founded colonies.”
Oh. Maybe we weren’t really alone. But, still, pride. “We can take care of ourselves, but perhaps we’ll do a little scouting. Where do you suggest?”
“On the other side of the water, a four story brick building. You’ll know it when you see it.”
“We’ll check. Transport that far may be trouble for some.”
“That can be arranged. I can arrange for a truck to be left here, then moved there.”
Even today I don’t know why we trusted him, being a cat. But scouts came back with gifts. We loaded everything up, nearly filled the truck. And now we live here, with the cats. And big cats. And some really odd creatures too, including a human that understands our difference.
And most importantly, dawn arrived.