Formidable

I struggled to see through the darkness as I stepped out into the backyard. The cold bit at my bare arms and I shivered.
“It’s time for bed!” I called out to the dogs, peering through the night.
A Husky and a German Shepherd bounded at me from behind the shed. I held my ground, they knew better than to bowl me over. They stopped at my feet, sitting perfectly still. Staring up at me with big eyes, ears forward and mouths hanging open as they panted.
“What were you doing behind there? You’d better not have been digging,” I said, as though they could understand me. I received no response. They had a gleam in their eyes and I dreaded the mess I’d have to clean in the morning. The Husky nudged my hand with his nose, the hand carrying the treats used to coerce them into the cubby for the night.
“Alright, alright,” I laughed as I stepped past them and headed for the cubby. They followed behind, occasionally stepping on the back of my heels, causing me to dance around them, frustrated, as they struggled to maintain a consistent pace. We reached the cubby and I ducked under the overhanging roof that acted like a veranda. They bolted inside past me and sat waiting. I tossed the treats into two opposite corners and they got busy devouring them while I shut the door and pushed the small bolt across, locking them inside for the night. All noise inside the cubby ceased as they settled for sleep. That was the last I’d hear from them until sunrise the next morning, it ensured that they didn’t get up to mischief at night; I didn’t want them hurting any other animals. Or getting themselves hurt.
I glanced up and spotted a large spider web spanning the underside of the veranda roof. Usually I resisted looking at them, but tonight I’d forgotten and the thought of being so close to whatever monster lurked in the crevasses, sent shivers down my spine. I stepped off the veranda and headed for the door, looking back across the yard. A low growl rumbled from a tree on the opposite side and I stopped dead. I couldn’t see anything, it was too dark. It growled again and I wished that I hadn’t threatened it; the wildlife around here may be small compared to a human but they were tough, tooth and claw always ready. Was it going to attack if I moved?
My heart pounded as my eyes darted left and right, trying to discern what else was with me in the yard. Of course the dogs were locked away, so they were of no use to me. My mind started conjuring up theories; perhaps it was a koala, I knew that they growled, but possums growl too. Maybe it was a bat.
And then the dreaded and inevitable thought; perhaps it’s an alien. The one thing that gets me quaking at the thought of having to walk through the house at night. The one thing whose motives and abilities humans have no idea about, they could do anything to us and we’d have no defence. Whenever I start to deviate down this train of thought, I feel ridiculous, but it doesn’t stop the fear.
It growled again and I raced for the door, ducking in to the safety of the house, refusing to look over my shoulder in case I saw it coming for me. I’d never be able to go out there at night again if I did.
I shut the door behind and stood panting for a moment, but curiosity still gripped me. I had to see what it was. Partially because I wanted to stop my imagination running wild for days to come, creating all sorts of horrors, all in my own backyard.
I grabbed a torch off the shelf beside me and cautiously stepped out the door. Flicking it on, I shone the beam toward the source of the growl and I scanned the trees. I spotted a large black mass at the centre of the fig tree and my heart stopped. It was nearly the size of one of my dogs, hanging effortlessly between the branches. What on Earth could do that?
It moved and I froze, staying as quiet and still as possible, never removing my hand from the door behind me. Slowly, it turned it’s head to face me and I was finally able to identify it.
It was a fully grown possum, red eyes gleaming in the light, broad grey tail hanging down beneath it. It was a beautiful creature, a formidable presence in this world of our weapons and wars. It stared at me for a moment before it bounded off into another tree. Disappearing into the dark, granting me permission to breathe.

Eyes of Blue

“What’s this, Mum-mum?” Isabella wondered aloud as she walked into the lounge room, looking at a pet cage on the floor.
“That’s Crystal, Bubba,” I replied, indicating our newest family member inside. She sat still, watching her three feline siblings study her from afar.
“Crystal!” Isabella chirped at the cage. As she did so, a little furry white head turned to look at its greeter. The kitten’s unblinking, bright blue eyes fixed on the little girl. It was still trying to discern who was friend and who was foe in this unfamiliar terrain.
“Crystal scary!” Isabella laughed as she ran over to me, “blue eyes!”
Crystal danced back and forth, bouncing and pacing, studying every angle of the room from between the gaps in the cage walls. Her eyes fixing particularly on each of the three cats. They watched her, pupils large and focused, ears forward and tuned to her every movement. Our black adult cat approached the cage, sniffing the air, trying to catch the kitten’s scent from as far as possible. Isabella spotted him and jumped at the opportunity to play.
“Corey!” She cried as she ran to the cage before I could stop her. Scared and on edge from the presence of the intruder-kitten, Corey sprinted for the safety of our bedroom. In response to the fright, the long-haired and most timid of our cats – Fuzzy – followed him, eager to hide away from the unpredictable action.
“Where did Corey go?” Isabella asked, “where did Fuzzy go?”
“They’re hiding in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, Darling, leave them,” I said.
Isabella returned her attention to the blue eyes in the cage. She approached it.
“Hello Crystal!” She cried as she bent down to peer inside. Once again, Isabella ran screaming as Crystal looked at her.
“Crystal scary!” She laughed, cuddling into my leg.
“She’s just a baby cat, a kitten,” I reassured her as I stroked her smooth brown ringlets. I enjoyed this opportunity to witness her first ever meeting with her new sister-cat, a brand new experience. A kitten who I hope will appreciate Isabella’s company as much as Isabella adores hers.
“Kitten,” Isabella said, eagerly watching the cage.
Our third adult cat – the king of the household – still hadn’t moved a muscle. Focused and almost impossible to distract, his eyes trained on the kitten’s every movement. It was up to him to remain in control of his domain. The other two cats experienced this first-hand when we introduced them as kittens; they quickly learnt to mind his mood and to respect his personal space. If they weren’t careful, they risked provoking him and promptly experienced his abilities. He would pounce and secure his victim in place long before they had a chance to respond. Such swift abilities like his only came with age.
Isabella finally spotted our oldest cat; he was still glaring at the kitten, unaware of Isabella’s intentions.
“Kobe!” She cried out, but this time I discovered her plan before she had a chance to move. I picked her up and sat her on my lap.
“Leave Kobe, Bubba, he’s angry, you leave him, okay?” I explained to her, attempting to prevent an outburst of disbelief. She almost never gets to play with Kobe, but she certainly understands when he is angry.
“Okay, Mum-mum,” she grumbled, “Crystal?”.
“Yes, you can play with Crystal,” I said, putting her down, “but not Kobe.”
By this point, Crystal was now laying down, watching her oldest feline brother, but never holding his gaze for too long. To do so would mean a threat, and it seemed she already knew which battles to avoid. I put Isabella down and she toddled back to the cage.
“Crystal?” She said, crouching and peering in again. Crystal remained in place and turned only her head to look at Isabella, though this time Isabella didn’t run away. She stayed there, looking at her new little sister-cat with wonder. Emboldened, she pushed a finger between the gaps of the cage, beside Crystal’s head and Crystal licked it tenderly.
Isabella giggled, “Crystal funny,” she said, smiling back at me, “love Crystal.”

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