Flash Fiction By Connie Bedgood § Art by James Guy
Martello is in a different universal plane. It is a planet with four suns of graduating sizes next to each other like pearls. The inhabitants are mostly Bunyips and several less highly developed races. Except, of course, for the Tyra. They are highly regarded by the Jibbons as pets, in spite of the fact, a Tyra is so loving that it can have no loyalty.
The best of the Tyra are peach in color.
In the greatest city, Tingo, there was trouble. A Jibbon named Ionic, whom may immediately be forgotten, destroyed a building which was important for reasons we cannot fathom. This event cause great agitation in the atmosphere, and the Jibbons left their homes and industry and playgrounds…streaming toward the center of town, which is how a certain laboratory door was left ajar.
In wandered a Tyra kitten. It was happy to find itself there; but, then, the Tyra is a happy animal. It roved about fearlessly … it could become invisible if alarmed…and it
glowed at the legs of tables and at the glittering mirrors on the walls. It crept sinuously, humping and arching its back like a clouded leopard along the floor. It’s front and rear legs were like a cats. The middle pair of legs had two sets of elbows bending forward and backward. It was created as skillfully as a crawdad, and it was exceedingly colored in various shades of peach.
Occupying almost half of the lab was a huge and intricate machine, showing signs of development with measuring devices standing side by side. The kitten treated the machine with curiosity and sent a wave of radiation outward which were its glow and purr. As it arched its back and stepped forward on a switch, a humming sound like motorcycles converging on a parking lot that lowered to a hum. The Tyra watched as a blue glow began to grow at the top of the machine inside an open box. To the kitten, the blue glow was like the smell of an antelope to a hungry lion.
The Tyra reared up toward the blue glow, hooked its front legs over the bar after bar and drew itself upward. It climbed from transformer to transformer, skittered up a condenser, changing the setting and finally teetered on the edge of the blow glow. The kitten hung there fascinated, rocking back and forth to the rhythm of some unheard twinkle of music it made to contrast this source less flame. To and fro, and to and fro it rocked and weaved riding a wave of compulsory spectacle. Once, just once, it moved its
center of gravity too far from its point of support. It tripped into the box, and into the blue flame.
This is Houston, Texas, in August and in a class room filled with no air
conditioning. The sweating kids were at their desks waiting for their assignment to be completed on the green board. The humidity was so thick it would take a serrated knife to cut through it. Every time the teacher lifted his arm to write, his shirt stuck to his body.
Behind him he heard the rustle from the moist teen agers. He finished writing his assignment and turning he could see every student scratching the welts on their bodies.
His mouth fell open in amazement and with a frown on his face, he began to welt up himself. He had self-control and did not scratch. He hollered, “Class Dismissed!” and began to scratch.
Finally, the class scratched out the door, the teacher noticed a variegated peach colored something on the window sill. The huge windows were open for any air to come into the room. He looked away quickly away to keep the students from noticing. After they had left, he looked back and there it was – an arched creature with
six legs; but, of course that was ridiculous. He picked up the ruler from his desk and slapped it down hard on the edge, startling the creature and it leaped out the window into the courtyard several stores below. As it disappeared, the scratching or rather itching stopped.
He stared out the open window at the building across the way then down into the court yard below and felt in a daze. In his mind he went over what had happened, saying to himself…I know drugs are not involved for me. He searched the window sill for clues with none available.
The teacher began to formulate a plan. Next he walked downstairs to the gardener’s storage place, asking for a sack of Sevin dust for an experiment his class was going to do. Back up the stairs and sat down to wait in case the six legged animal returned.
When the Tyra kitten fell into the blue flame, it braced itself for a fall at least as far as the floor below. Its shock was extensive, then, when it found itself already resting on a surface. It looked around, panting with fright. The invisibility reflex in full operation.
The box was gone. The blue flame was gone. The lab with its windows, lit by the green Martello sky was gone.
The Tyra kitten sprawled in an open area, a sort of lawn. No colors were right; everything seemed half-colored, smoky, out of focus. There were trees, but not low and flat and bushy like true Martello trees, but with straight naked trunks. The different atmospheric gases had colors; clouds of fading changing faint colors baffled and revealed everything. The kitten twitched its morafs and squiggled its zink, right there where it stood; for no amount of early training could have overcome an encounter like this.
It gathered itself together and tried to move; and then it got its second shock. Instead of arching over inch by inch, it floated into the air and came down three times as far as it had ever jumped in its life.
It cowered on the dream-like grass, darting glances all about, under, and up. It was terrified. It saw its shadow through the shifting haze, and the sight made the Tyra’s heart pulsate which scared it even more, as the heart was in the pit of its stomach. There were no shadows on Martello. Everything seemed the wrong way up backwards. All were less visible. His body did not work like it should and he could not see properly and there was not a single Vox to be throdded.
The Tyra jumped again with extreme caution. Then it bobbed for a moment, seesawing on its middle legs and flung itself skyward. Up it went about ten feet turning and end over end and landed on the grass. This delighted the Tyra so much it gathered itself together and leaped again. Its fears were gone in the exploration of bouncing. The Tyra, it has been told, was gleeful animal. It cavorted and sailed, soared and somersaulted.
It looked upward, and saw what looked to be an opening in the wall some eight feet about the ground. Overcome by a spirit of high adventure, it sprang upward and came to rest on a window sill – a feat of which it was very proud. It crouched there, prenning itself, and looked inside.
The Tyra beheld a pleasing sight. More than twenty amusingly ugly animals, apparently imprisoned by their lower extremities in individual booths, bowed nodded and mumbled. At the far end of the room stood a taller, more slender monster with a naked head—naked compared with those of the trapped ones, which were covered with hair like a wamson’s egg. A few moments study showed the kitten that in reality, both sides of their heads were hairy; the tall one turned around and began making tracks in the end wall, and its head proved to be hairy on the other side also.
The Tyra kitten found this entertaining. It began to radiate what was, on Martello, a purr or glow. In this marvelous place it was not visible; instead, the trapped animals began to respond with the most curious scratching with their claws. This pleased the kitten even more, for it loved to be noticed and redoubled the glow. The receptive motions of the animals became almost frenzied.
Then the tall one turned around and made a curious sound or two. The smaller monsters left their stalls and disappeared through an opening in the wall. Then the tall one picked up a stick from the platform desk and brought it down with a dreadful crash.
The impulsive noise frightened the Tyra kitten half out of its mind. The Tyra became invisible; but its visibility system was reversed here, and it was suddenly outstandingly evident. It turned and leaped outside. It clambered for low growth of shrubbery and concealed itself among the leaves.
Very soon, however, its irrepressible good nature returned. It lay relaxed, watching the delicate movement of the stems and leaves – in a slight breeze. A winged beast came humming about one of the blossoms. The kitten rested on one of its middle legs, shot the other out and caught the beast in midflight. The thing promptly jabbed
the kitten’s foot with a sharp black probe. This, the kitten ignored. It ate the beast, and belched. It lay still for a few nanos, savoring the sensation of the bee in its gizzard. The experiment was suddenly not a success. It ate the bee twice more and then spit it out way across the courtyard as a bad job.
The Tyra turned its attention again to the window, wondering what those booths of animals might be up to now. There was no noise in that direction. Boldly the kitten came from hiding and catapulted itself at the window again. It was getting adept at accuracy leaps in this mad place. It balanced on the window sill and looked inside.
Surprisingly, all the smaller animals were still gone. The larger one was leaning behind the shelf at the end of the room. The Tyra and the larger animal watched each other for a long moment. The animal was grappling for something and threw a cloud of pungent dust into the air toward the Tyra.
The kitten choked and became visible as it was scared, which was very. For a long moment it was incapable of motion; gradually, however, it became conscious of a poignant, painfully penetrating sensation which thrilled it to its heart. The kitten gave itself up to the feeling. Wave after wave of agonized bliss rolled over it, and the Tyra began to dance to the waves. It glowed incandescently through the emanation served
only to make the animals in the room scratch histrionically. The Tyra felt strange, transported. It turned and leapt high into the air, way out from the building.
Mr. Smith stopped scratching. Disheveled, he went to the window and watched the odd sight of the peach animal, quite invisible now, but coated with the yellow dust, so that it was like a bubble in a fog. It bounced across the lawn in a huge floating leaps, leaving behind it diminishing patches of yellow powder in the grass.
The Tyra kitten bounded off through the long shadows and vanished in a thicket of bushes. There it dug itself a shallow pit, working drowsily, more and more slowly. At last it sank down and lay motionless, thinking strange thoughts, making weird music and racked by peculiar sensations. So even its slightest movements ceased and it stretched out stiffly and motionless. At the end of three weeks, the Tyra, no longer a kitten, was enamored with a fine healthy litter of under three hundred dark orange creatures with six legs each. Perhaps it was the Sevin dust or maybe it was just that time.
The humans had the glidey itch and the scratching itch and the prickly heat or tingly or titillate parenthetic circles on their bodies. There was not a thing they could do about it, at all.
So they left the planet heading for Martello.
Isn’t Earth a lovely place for the Tyra?