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Deal 1026: Sydney takes stock

After the encounter with the cockatrice, Sydney was a still a little nervous. This was not turning out to be his usual Saturday off. Accidentally falling into a swimming pool filled with burn gel was a lucky break, but he couldn’t help but wonder what else could go wrong.

He also wondered seriously what had already gone wrong. Had he been killed in that musty warehouse in Los Angeles this morning? His memory of his previous life was growing hazy as time passed here in this absurd place. It didn’t matter much however. He was here now, and had little choice but to press forwards. And wherever “here” is, it clearly is no longer in Los Angeles.

Since he clearly had a moment of calm, he took inventory to see what he had managed to carry away. His sword, of course. Despite his injuries in the encounter, his sword did feel more substantial, almost as if it had gone up a level as a result of the cockatrice. He too felt stronger than he had this morning, but the dip in the pool of balm might explain that. His belt bag still had his usual supplies, asthma inhaler, gaming dice, cell phone, notepad and pencil. It used to also have an emergency Snickers bar, but was already gone. But in its place was a leaf wrapping a bar of a similar size and shape. He unwrapped the leaf cautiously, and sniffed the bar it contained. It smelled faintly of sawdust, old socks, and desperation, so he wrapped it back up and put it back in his pouch.

Not for the first time, he wished his new place in life had come with an instruction booklet.

Or at least a hint about the rules.

The maze had let him out onto a grassy knoll, with a building nearby and a village in the distance down the road. Nothing Sydney could see in any direction looked the least bit like California.

He sat down on the grass to take think, and decide on a goal.

The town in the distance was the obvious choice. The road did go on as far as he could see in the other direction, but he couldn’t see anything to temp him.

So that settled his goal. He would walk to the town and hope he still had feet when he got there.

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Deal 979: Moving day

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.”

“Not us.”

“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.