Guardian Cats Book Launch is only hours away. Be sure not to miss the free goodies.
Book Launch Specials:
- Win an Amazon or Barnes & Noble $25 gift card
- Win a free Guardian Cats e-book
- How to purchase the print copy of the book
- Audio file of Chapters 1-4
- First book sightings photo. You won’t want to miss who’s reading my book.
This is the last day for chapter postings.
Chapter 4: Stray cats and castles
Next to the dumpster behind a gas station, Marco found food. Hardly the tuna or crunchy nuggets he was used to, but he was in no position to complain. Gas fumes mixed with the rancid odor of rotting garbage, but his belly had been rumbling for days and he gobbled up the meager pickings. It made him even hungrier.
The smell of meat drew him to search at the back of the trash bin. His head was caught in a tight space when he heard someone behind him.
“Punk! Did I say you could eat here?”
Marco involuntarily jerked his head up, but he only succeeded in getting more stuck.
“What a cretin,” said the voice. Another voice chimed in, and Marco learned a few words he’d never read in books. He was so humiliated, he considered staying stuck, in hopes they might give up and go away. He tried crawling farther in, but to his dismay he was suddenly free.
Free to face the cats who had been cursing him behind his back. They were practically in his face and he was trapped by the dumpster and a brick wall.
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Uh… right. You sound like a smart guy. Where you from, stranger?”
Marco had the feeling that whatever he said was going to be the wrong answer. Besides, he didn’t know where he was from anymore.
“I’m from…” Marco looked off vaguely in the direction of his old neighborhood.
“He looks lost, like a pet. Don’t you think?”
“Then you gots to be a stray. Like us!” said the smallest one.
What a horrifying thought. Was he a stray? Was this what his future looked like?
“This is our turf, runt. And there’s barely enough food for us. So scram.”
Marco was only too glad to leave the ragtag cats to their smelly dumpster and he took the opportunity to bolt.
“What a wuss. You’re not gonna last long out here! Pet!” the cats called out behind him.
Marco trotted along deserted sun-baked sidewalks, glad to have escaped the street cats, but the heat was searing his tender toe pads. Life on the outside was harsh. He was always hungry and thirsty, and he had no training in the hunt. Now he discovered he had enemies he didn’t even know existed. Some hero he was turning out to be. He couldn’t even defend himself against a few alley cats.
He longed for a place to rest, but he was surrounded by dry scrub and empty lots. Something made him lift his head, though, and look farther in the distance. As if by magic, the promise of relief appeared. He quickened his pace until he reached the cool shade of buildings and green leafy trees that seemed to grow out of the sidewalks.
His spirits raised, he explored the streets and found a puddle of water to quench his thirst. A girl patted him on his head before she disappeared through one of the shop doors.
At the end of one street was a stone building nestled in a grove of trees. A dome sprouted from the roof, and the rounded turrets at both corners reminded him of a castle, like ones he’d seen in books.
On one side was a good climbing tree, which beckoned him to climb into its cool arms. It held him like an old friend and he curled up on a wide branch that fit comfortably. It was the perfect napping place. He fell asleep the moment he closed his eyes.
How could such an ideal napping spot bring on such a terrifying dream?
Marco was surrounded by complete darkness, the lack of light so dense it had substance, like an invisible creature. Had he been eaten by a predator? He panicked, thrashing out in all directions, but it was impossible to fight an enemy he couldn’t see.
Somehow the realization came… who this enemy was. He understood that it was fear, his own fear.
A force welled up inside him, moving up into his throat and out of his mouth. He bellowed… like a lion, shattering chains he didn’t know were there. He would not go down like this! Before he sprang, he recoiled and roared again; something terrible and savage in a voice he did not recognize as his own.