The Kougra, curled up to sleep in the narrow confines of
its enclosure, twitched violently awake at the sudden sound of a yowl from three
cages down – a young Lupe, mourning for its heartless master, howling pitifully
into the cool stillness of the night. The Kougra shivered, the rippling of its
muscles almost audible against the harsh metal of the cage, and it too felt the
urge to cry aloud in desolation and loneliness – but it swallowed the need and
curled up tighter, the meagre blanket pulling around its body with the feverish
motion. It fell into a fitful sleep, strangely comforted and yet discouraged by
the many pets that were its only company – abandoned by those it once loved; forgotten
by those who cared at all.
I must not weep.
Morning came with aching, fiendish slowness for
those who slept at all – most lay awake in their tiny cages, half-dreaming of
better times in the moments of swift comfort that their warm musings bestowed
upon them. The first light of the sun (rising as swiftly as the pets’ spirits
descended with the dashing of fantasies) pricked the eyes of those who chose
to witness it, the Kougra among them – soon their tenders, kind with pity, would
be roused by its chorus to nourish the abandoned with brief caresses and treats
of food: perhaps those with more faith in humans could have forgiven the race
on that merit alone, but most of the long-term residents retained a bitter disposition
towards the beings whom had deserted them; some, permanently disfigured by years
stooped in their tiny enclosures, felt only vicious hatred and refused to even
take food from the hands that offered brief comfort.
Musing carelessly upon the subject of its fate
(the sudden decline of its master’s affection, sliding helplessly from contempt
to indifference and finally to abandonment; and its dreams of the future, lit
with warmth and light of love, became sullen and soiled with the dirty demise
of that love - eyes that smoldered with shining light became the dull, cruel
grey of lonely contempt) the Kougra nudged the chunk of meat that was its meal
with a listless paw, all but ignoring the daily weeping and distant cries of
its companions in despair – it was too far gone in the simplicities of daydreams
to care, and it did not notice the sudden hush that befell the ranks of cages
lining the long corridor.
I must not care.
A mournful whine, perhaps tainted with the long-forgotten
timbre of hope, echoed loudly along the hallway, startling the Kougra out of
its silent reverie – and rose sharply to crouch within the stunted confines
of its cage, its shapely ears tilted as far forward as they could go; its large
eyes squinting in the light, straining to see beyond the sun’s shadow.
There – shifting movements upon the tiled floor,
the blackness of a shape silhouetted against the violence of the morning glow
– and the Kougra, for the first time in what seemed millennia, uttered a deep
sound of longing: a mix of a purr and a growl, tinged with the desperation of
loneliness. The figure that emerged from its shadow was a human female, surrounded
by an ethereal aura of brilliance, her face soft with a smile and eyes that
blazed with the fire of sincere humanity – oh, how terribly long it had been
since the Kougra has beheld such beauty! How long it had been since the Kougra
had felt so cherished by a simple glance!
But I cannot help what comes only once in a
Achingly beautiful was she; and as she drew closer
to the Kougra (stilled by its awe, its reverence, of what could only be a person
with a heart full of kindness) felt its face twitch in surprise as muscles long
unused drew its lips back in a desperate smile and hot tears slid down its cheeks
– and it knew at that moment, succinctly, that if she passed on it could not
live to love again; for it had fallen in love with her unfelt touch the moment
her shine had bequeathed the hallway with its delicate care.
As if drawn by the strings of its fervent melancholy
the woman reached out with soft fingers to thread them through the cruel wire
of the cage door – and there, the heavenly touch of her hand stroking its skin
as if in worship; and the Kougra was too shocked and overwhelmed with sudden
ecstasy that it did not notice the swift movements of the woman’s other hand
detaching the lock, only shaken from its bliss by the removal of her touch.
As if addicted to her, like a drug, it wailed at the loss, broken by rejection
– but then she was gathering it to her chest, engulfing its withered body with
strong arms and gentle touch; and its purr rumbled in its chest, in time with
the gentle beating of its heart.
Its eyes slid effortlessly shut as its saviour
stepped away from its prison, her movements smooth and careful as she cradled
her liberated charge and took it into the fresh air of the outside – a freedom
the Kougra had not beheld for many years. Blinking sleepily in the brightness
of the early dawn, it stood as if transfixed upon the spot where she set it
down; dwarfed by her shadow, it looked up into her encouraging face, and took
a step towards her – and then, as if held by a sudden thought, it silently turned
to examine itself. Its skin was a putrid shade of pale green with the inverted
grooves of its stripes and the insides of its ears (unseen by its eyes, but
remembered from its reflection long ago) a gaudy blue; long, jagged black claws
permanently extended from its paws and a snaggletooth protruding from its jaw
to dent the soft skin of its muzzle – it was horrifically ugly, a tragic leftover
from a cruel owner experimenting in that terrible Laboratory and then abandoning
its creation with malicious callowness. And yet, despite the inherently but
deceivingly harsh red glow of its eyes as they stared brokenly from a shattered
face, this woman had selected it from the multitude of others that begged for
love. It stared at her in reverence, his eyes drifting to process the banner
upon her cloth coverings that read “The Adoption Center” and then to the blue
depths of her soulful eyes; and it knew that she was, perhaps, the only true
saviour the world had left. She knew what it was like to burn.
I live now to care, to weep, to love.
The Mutant Kougra female, for that was what it
– she – was, smiled again, and upon the still-cold air its voice whispered tentatively,
filled with love and gratitude –
“My name is Uzuri.”
The woman smiled in return, knowing what it meant.
She perhaps wondered, fleetingly, what it was like to be the abandoned, the
cursed - and then she reached out to touch the Kougra again, and they turned
in unison to face the sun as it steadily ascended into the vast blue of the
“I know, beautiful.”