In the future, cats will become a prized commodity for all the wrong reasons.
Cat in the Cradle
The cat staggered onto the porch and plopped down in front of the door, drawing its final, exacerbated breath. Blood flowed from a neat little hole in his neck as his body twitched and contorted, making one last grasp to stay in the world of the living. But death had other plans, and finally pulled him over. Stillness came over the cat’s body like a pool of crimson expanded beneath him.
From within the house, somebody stirred. A scrawny little girl stuck her head out of a flame-gutted window overlooking the porch. She brushed her nappy, matted hair from her face and stared at the dead cat.
“Kitty, kitty,” she purred, barely audible.
She emerged from the window. There, she stood her ratty clothing and scarred and muddied bare feet. She held a black fire-poker that was meant to protect her while her brother was away. She approached the cat and poke it.
The cat didn’t respond. A rotten-tooth smile crossed her soot-stained face.
She heard someone approaching, ambling through the rubble. From across the street, emerging from the remnants of a two-story home, a teenage boy, brandishing his pellet gun stepped over the frayed walls onto the dead, brown lawn. He rushed across the street, up the porch, and toward his prize. He stared at the still cat while trying to catch his breath at the same time. The girl glanced sheepishly at the boy.
“A clean shot in the neck,” the teen gloated between gasps of air. “We won’t be going hungry no more.”
“Food?” the girl droned.
“The catch of the day,” the boy answered.
The girl’s smile widened: “Better than rats?”
The boy smiled at his sister and lied: “You bet little girly. It’ll be like eating prime ribs from years past.”
He knew the girl never had anything like prime ribs. The missiles flew at their spots; the world went to hell when she was a baby. She has never known anything like prime ribs. She hadn’t known anything that resembled edible food.
Sun-light faded, quickly and ominously. Fear etched its mark clearly on the teenager’s dirty face. He glanced toward the heavens to see dark, ominous clouds slowly crawling across the sky. It had the tell-tale signs of black, radioactive rain. He felt sick, realizing the dangers of such a cloud.
“We better head to the shelter,” He ordered her.
“Bad clouds coming?” the girl inquired, seeing the foreboding expression on the boy’s face.
“Bad clouds coming,” the boy answered.
He reached down and grabbed the cat by the tail. By this time the blood coagulated and stained the cat’s fur. He walked around the porch and entered the shattered house through a hole in the wall. Inside, the shattered and blackened home, he found the one unharmed thing. It was the cradle that once served as the girl’s bed. He plopped the cat into it.
He saw the collar and the name: Tabby. It was once the neighbor’s cat. It was the one he used to feed when those neighbors went out on trips. A lump formed in his throat, but the grumble in his stomach cured him of that. He peered again through a hole in the roof toward the oncoming clouds. He didn’t have to bemoan the past or consider what he and his little sister had become.
The girl re-entered through the window, giggling, giddy, with delight.
“So it’s yummy?”
“It’s always yummy.” the boy answered, faking a smile.
He grabbed the cradle, while his sister – always being helpful, took the pellet-gun away from him.
They ventured to the safety of the bomb shelter in the backyard, knowing the day wasn’t lost; they were going to eat tonight.