The cats had already started to scamper in every which direction, looking for a place to hide. The three carrying bows were no amateurs, however. They would calmly wait for the cats to find a place to hide, scare them out of said location, and then shoot. Their bow skills were apparently expert - it is no easy feat to hit a cat running at full speed.
‘Could they be slaughters?’ thought Zin. While that of course was not outside the realm of possibility, these men seemed to Zin to devote their time fully to hunting wild animals. Slaughters don’t use this much precision when they hunt. They prefer to smash and destroy. These men had deftly divided the tasks of the hunt into driving the cats out of their hiding places, and shooting them.
Even the most nimble and quick efforts from the cats could not save them from these hunters. Leona by then had also heard the screeching from the cats. She slowly emerged from a crack in the building and started moving toward where Zin was standing.
‘This way’ motioned Zin with his hands to Leona, who nodded her head, quickly understanding what his gesture meant.
Without a word of conversation or discussion, Leona quickly arrived at the supermarket. The hunters continued to skillfully hunt the cats.
“What’s going on?” asked Leona.
“Looks like they’re hunting some animals. Do you see over there?”
“Ah...yeah.” Leona nodded her head with tepid confidence.
“They’re not slaughters, right?”
“No, they don’t seem like it” answered Zin.
“Well, they surprised the shit out of me” said Leona as she let out a sigh of relief. She was under the impression that something really bad had happened, judging from the ungodly sound from the cats. Zin continued to eye the hunters.
Besting an enemy almost always comes down to who gets to attack first. But these hunters were almost certainly not slaughters. Letting them finish up their hunt and go quietly could be the best option.
“What are you gonna do, Mister?”
“Not sure...looks like all they’re after is cat meat. Maybe we could just let them be.”
Evil spares nobody. If their cat hunt were to cause something bad to happen, that ‘something bad’ wouldn’t just go after them.
“Let’s just watch for now” said Zin as he took out and reloaded his M700 Remington. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he would do his best to conserve ammo. Leona once again nodded her head. The hunters stalked the alleys between crumbling buildings, bagging a total of 15 cats.
At some point the hunters had approached to within shouting distance of Leona and Zin.
“You think these are enough?”
“We should only take a few. We don’t want all of them to up and leave.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Remember when we killed all those dogs in area D? We killed so many the well dried up!”
“I broke five of my arrows too.”
“We need to catch a few more. Y’all know how many mouths we have to feed,” said one of the men, who appeared to be the leader. The others sighed. He continued:
“If we leave with just this, we won’t eat for a week.”
“Mother fucker. This place just gives me the creeps. I wanna leave.”
“Calm down. Five more. Then everyone can eat well for one meal at least,” said the leader. Everyone nodded in response. These people most likely have a hideout somewhere, and stay alive by hunting for their food. They probably don’t have enough people to be considered a town, and their livelihood depends on the success of these five hunters.
The sound of crying cats could be heard coming from here and there, as if they were crying in sadness.
“Mother fucker, I’ve got goosebumps,” said one hunter, cold sweat pouring down his back.
“I really hate coming here.”
“Stop. Just stop talking like that. There’s nothing here - nothing but cats.”
“I know. I know we’re being fucking cowards right now. But you know what happens when we leave here? About a hundred cats come crawling out and stare at us leaving. You guys just haven’t seen it,” said one of the hunters to the leader, looking around as he spoke.
His face suddenly lost all its color, as he pictured the hundreds of cats staring daggers at the hunters as they left the fallen town. The image of hundreds of flickering eyes locked on him was surely a nightmare for him.
The apparent leader’s face cringed in disgust, seeing his men making a fuss.
“Shut it! You know what’s scarier than some fucking cat eyes? Starving to death! The look in my kids’ eyes - like they’re about to pass out from hunger - that’s a hundred times scarier! Shut the fuck up and do what I say!” shouted the leader.
The others forgot their fear instantly, remembering the stares of their starving family members. The image of them starving, racked by hunger and thirst, was burned into their memories. That’s the scariest thing in the world. They had no time to be scared of cats meowing.
“No, it’s not their eyes…” whispered one man, still drenched in fear.
“It’s not just their eyes. Can you hear how sadly they are crying? Did you hear it? Do you know how they cry? Do you have any idea how mournfully they cry?”
“This crazy mother fucker!”
The leader struck the man in the face, unable to bottle his bubbling rage. The man lay prone on the ground, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.
“I’m gonna leave you here if you don’t shut the fuck up. Get up right now unless you want to take another beating!”
“We shouldn’t have come here….”
“I said get up you asshole!”
“Hahaha...you don’t know. You haven’t heard that sound...you don’t know.”
“Hey - what’s up with him? He’s acting real strange” said another man to the leader, whose face lit up, seemingly understanding something for the first time. The other men had also realized that the man on the ground had never been this scared - not even close. The leader had realized that as well. The man continued to mumbled on the ground, blood still running from his mouth.
“Do you know how they cry?” he asked. He opened his mouth and began making a sound that had no business coming from a man - the crying noise the cats were making.
The man wasn’t scared.
Everyone suddenly lost all the color in their face as the man was making perfect cat noises. Zin heard the noise as well, his complexion changing instantly.
‘He’s possessed….’ thought Zin.
“They cry like this...like this…” said the man, his body shaking violently.
“What the fuck is up with you? Huh??” asked the leader. The other men began shaking the man on the ground, and the leader tried in vain multiple times to slap some sense into him. It was no use - he couldn’t stand up.
“We...we shouldn’t have come here.”
As the man finished his last word, the cats began to surrounding them, as if they were about to attack. Black, brown, striped, gray - every conceivable type of cat
collected and surrounded the men. And they cried. They cried in the saddest pitch imaginable.
“What the, what the fuck is this…”
Auspicious happenings lead to more auspicious things. The cats surrounded the men that had hunted them. Hundreds of eyes fixed upon the hunters, and sad cries sprinkled with hate bombarded those surrounded.
Zin picked up his M700.
This wasn’t a problem that could be solved with a gun.
“What is this? What the fuck is going on?!?”
All the men had on them were bows. Wild animals normally run away from humans. Forming a group like this, starting at a group of men like this - this shouldn’t be happening.
The man laying on the floor began once again to cry like a cat.
The hundreds of cats surrounding the hunters took that as a signal and pounced on their targets. Leona stood watching this crazy scene with huge unblinking eyes.
When sudden evil strikes in the wild, nobody knows what will happen. That’s why you avoid anything auspicious.
That saying wasn’t invented by hunters, but by sorcerers.
“What the hell is this, is it contagious or something?”
Hundreds of cats were pouncing on the hunters, biting and scratching. Just like an army of ants hunts a grasshopper, the five men instantly fell to the ground, overwhelmed by the scores of cats.
“HELP! SAVE US!!”
“No, NOOO!! AAAHHHHHH!!!”
The man possessed by the spirit was also being eaten by the cats. Leona was beyond astounded. The only way she could account for what was happening was to assume something supernatural was going on. Leona couldn’t conceive on regular animals - not monsters - doing something like this.
“Wha- what’s going on?” asked Leona.
“I don’t know exactly, but it’s kind of like an evil spirit.”
“We’re not in danger, are we?” replied Leona. Zin had taken something out of his void container and was going through some kind of preparation. He was, at the same time, acutely aware of his surroundings.
“Sudden evil spares nobody.”
Cats by themselves are nothing to be afraid of. If you get a couple hundred to move in a group, however, things are different. He may not die, but even Zin felt threatened by the prospect of hundreds of cats pouncing on him. And Leona? She would surely perish.
“What do we do?”
Zin appraised the situation unfolding around him after he finished assembling his weapon.
“Looks like all the cats have banded together.” Every single neighborhood cat had surrounded the hunters and attacked. Zin pointed his weapon at the center of the carnage. RPG-7 heat seeking rockets.
“It’s about to get loud” warned Zin, aiming carefully before firing.
“AHHHH” shouted Leona. She was so surprised she smashed her butt into the ground as she sat down.
A huge explosion rose from the location of the hundreds of cats, soon followed by a flash of light.
The explosive power and the overwhelming heat of the missile turned the scene into a scrap heap of meat in a split second. Zin put the launcher back into the container and wiped his hands. Leona stared down at the scene below, completely astounded.
“What, what the heck…”
The cats, the hunters - everything in sight - had disappeared. The explosion from heat seeking missile was enough to take out anything within its vicinity. Were that not enough, the thermal effect would have been enough on its own to take out all the cats within a fairly wide radius. Leona sat watching the mushroom cloud float above the scene. She couldn’t bring herself to speak.
“Son of a bitch…”
“Humans are cruel. And you need to watch your language” quipped Zin.
“That’s none of your business.”
Explicit expletives like that are effective at conveying the speaker’s feelings, but Zin couldn’t help but laugh every time Leona used them. Leona still had her gaze fixed on the crater made by the missile, seemingly unable to believe its incredible destructive force.
“So those guys killed a couple dozen cats and got eaten to death. We kill a couple hundred - is that ok?” questioned Leona.
“All mediums for the evil have disappeared now. It’s ok. Nothing’s going to happen now.”
The evil materialized through the cats. Now that the cats were all gone, there was nothing to worry about. Leona was taken aback by the audacity in Zin’s choice of words.
You have to avoid anything auspicious.
But if evil strikes, you’ve got to strike back. What Zin valued and protected more than anything else was his own safety.
Leona was sure nothing would happen. But if she knew anything in this world, it was that an ‘if’ always existed. What if…
“Still, you never know, something might...”
“That’s what I think too,” agreed Zin.
After seeing all the cats band together and attack the hunters, Leona had concluded that nothing good could come of staying here any longer. While it hadn’t been too long, Leona and Zin had been together for a good amount of time. They did often overlap in sensibilities.
“Let’s go” said Zin.
“Yep” replied Leona. The two made their way out of the narrow streets without a second thought.
They never did find out what happened to the spirit. They never gave it a chance to appear and exact its revenge. The two left those streets as fast as they could. The two walked at a pretty good clip until dawn. Zin kept a close eye on Leona the whole time, half worried that she may be possessed by the spirit.
“It’s a goddamn joke, Mister! A joke!!” Zin removed his revolver from his coat and pulled back the hammer. Leona turned ghostly pale and scampered away.
“You make the wrong kind of joke kid, and you could get a hole in your head.”
“AHHH!” cried Leona, tears streaming down her face. Zin had smacked her with the handle of his gun. It had been a few hours since they left the town. Leona bit down hard on her jaw, holding her swelling head in her hands.
“That’s pretty fucked up - knowing I was joking and taking out your gun anyway.” Zin knew she was joking. A human’s vocal cords can only go so far in imitating a cat’s meow.
“Don’t you have to join in on the joke for it to be funny?” asked Zin glibly, shrugging his shoulders. Leona shook her head and responded.
“I’m tired. It’s even more tiring travelling with you, Mister. You’re a handful.” They had left the small town hours ago. The wild stretched to the horizon in front of them. The sun hadn’t risen completely. They had no choice but the keep walking before they could find a place to rest.
“Ah, so was there anything worth taking back there?” asked Zin. Leona shook her head to say no.
“Of course not. I went to check just in case. Just in case. There could have been something in another hiding place, but I think anything worth taking is gone. Looks like it’s been a while since the town was destroyed” said Leona. She seemed to be chiding herself for thinking there may be something left. Zin nodded his head. It would be out of the ordinary for anything valuable to be left.
“Ah! What’s gonna happen to the people waiting for the hunters?” asked Leona, suddenly remembering something.
“Don’t ask if you know the answer.”
“....This is when you should join in and play along!”
“I do what I want,” said Zin.
“You’re such a child” returned Leona, tutting her travel partner. Zin had no response.
What would happen to that small village that depended on those five hunters? They both knew the answer. They didn’t have to ask. Leona thought about it, and she had no idea why she even asked.
There’s no need for sympathy. There’s no reason for it either.
There’s no reason to be curious, then.
Buy us some coffee!