The first thing Scratch-Ear remembered after crossing the window was the feeling of having every molecule in his body pulled apart and put back together again.
This was not a painful process as his body had no understanding of what was happening to it, but it was far from a pleasant feeling.
So when Scratch-Ear came out on the other side of the invisible tear it was like the cold morning after a hot and sweaty night, his skin both burned and felt frozen at the same time.
An unfamiliar coldness entered the kitten’s mouth and lungs as he viewed his new surroundings.
From the ground up past the heavens were shelves filled with an assortment of objects and metal boxes.
Each object was both foreign and strange. Stuffed animals, tools, exotic weapons, clothes made for beings with two heads, and things that Scratch-Ear could no more identify than the exhaust of a car.
Everything blasted him with curiosity, but they would have to wait.
Elder-Sister and Scratch-Ear’s clan mates were in trouble, but what could one child do against so many Cali? Fear of the unknown and what lay behind that floating window caused Scratch-Ear to step back.
Scenarios played out where he jumped back through the invisible window only to be captured and have his heart eaten out by the Cali.
Fear of going to his death, the terror of staying and abandoning his friends and teacher, and the confliction between brain and heart almost caused the Damu-Sarmi to scream.
A stick flew out of the portal and Scratch-Ear side stepped before it could hit him on the head, but why did a stick come through the tear in the world. Unless it was a test of some kind.
Intuition caught up and it was a race to safety. He was halfway across the aisle before a large body flew out of the portal.
The brute was a great feral that was twice the size of Elder-Sister.
It was clearly a fighter that lived for violence, a network of scars and wounds fitted across its body in a pattern like a menacing tattoo, and the only sign of any hair upon its body was a long stripe of matted fur that went from its head to the tip of its tail.
What in the ancestors’ names was a male doing hunting and doing the work of a female. Male Cali were more akin to sloths, built like omtwy, and could only hold two thoughts in their head. Eat and fuck.
The striped Cali recovered quickly from the transition between one world and this one.
The adolescent lion picked up the stick that he had thrown earlier and threw it back to where he suspected the portal was, the stick disappeared and he appeared to be slightly relieved that this experiment had worked.
While the Cali waited for reinforcements he sniffed the air like a demented bloodhound. “Little narsi, little narsi. Come out and play with Tabore.” The Cali stalked the corridor of shelves in the direction of Scratch-Ear.
A narsi was a woollen creature that was similar to a chipmunk and Damu-Sarmi kits often used such creatures as practice for hunting.
Scratch-Ear often liked to bite off their heads for the fun crunch.
Of course now that he was being called a narsi by a member of a culture that were known for males eating their rival’s cubs Scratch-Ear really didn’t want to remember such things.
Perhaps there was a way to get around this mad beast, to sneak around the shelves and get back through the sky window.
It was an idea, but so was running away before Scratch-Ear discovered his head was between this Tabore’s jaws.
When the ripples around the tear signalled another arrival, Scratch-Ear knew that his quest to get home was now impossible. The Damu-Sarmi closed his eyes and suffered a bout of self-loathing before he ran down the alleyway of shelves.
The sounds and pressure of movement did not escape Tabore’s notice. “Run little Narsi. Run before Tabore catches you.” Tabore said and pursued the runaway.
Not wanting to die Scratch-Ear ran with everything he had, behind him he heard another Cali call out the large cat’s name but the chase was on.
The rhythmic beats of Scratch-Ear’s heart intensified. The larger hunter would catch him as sure as night time was dark.
He was up against an adult, an hunter that had possibly years of experience in hunting game, that was faster, and was far more dangerous than one little child. If Scratch-Ear did not think and fast, this game would be over.
Tabore was gaining speed, with no obstacles to hamper his movements the mad Cali had caught up to Scratch-Ear with ease. “Nice little snack.” Tabore opened his mouth and readied himself to leap onto his prey.
There, to the right, Scratch-Ear saw an opening between a porcelain doll and a typewriter. The Damu-Sarmi seized the opportunity and lunged for the opening right before Tarbore could sink his jaws into Scratch-Ear’s young flesh.
With his speed and the lack of natural ground underneath his feet, Tabore skidded for a moment and snarled as he turned towards the place Scratch-Ear had evaded him, the Cali did not like to miss.
With his brutish strength he pushed his head through the doll and typewriter but was unable to go further.
Tabore sniffed the air but could not pin point Scratch-Ear’s exact location, the objects that filled this strange place were too foreign and overwhelmed him with doubt.
In a fit of rage the large Cali swatted at a random jewellery box and watched as the objects inside landed to the ground.
Something small and glimmering in the unnatural light caught his yellow eyes. “Well aren’t you nice?”
Buried deep within a collection of stuffed animals, like a statue made of fur Scratch-Ear did not dare move.
Through his own eyes he could see the large feral search through the contents of his box, what caught the Cali’s attention he did not know but Scratch-Ear prayed that it would be enough to drew his attention away.
An opportunity presented itself when the sound of glass braking caught the Tabore’s attention. The Cali quickly palmed the object he had been admiring and ran off in the direction of the noise.
When it looked as if the area was clear of enemies Scratch-Ear drew back into the pile of animals and attempted to back track to the window, there was just one problem. Where was the window?
Due to Scratch-Ear’s attention being solely on escape he had not been paying attention to his surroundings, an act that would have gotten him scolded by his teacher.
Not daring to walk out into the open, Scratch-Ear travelled through the shelves as easily as a Gapachu stalked through the trees or a mole through its borrow all the while worrying, Was this where I came from?
An odd aroma touched on Scratch-Ear’s nose. If Scratch-Ear had ever quickly walked passed a perfume counter he would have thought of synthetic musk or a manufactured and cheap cologne.
Picking through the objects was a creature Scratch-Ear had never encountered before. It was a female, or at least its body appeared female as far as viscous pink gel could.
The creature appeared to be confused and in awe, she sent out two gelatine-like limbs that picked up a jewel that was embedded in glass.
What came out of whatever orifice she used for speech was a song like hum. Being interested in the jewel the creature seemed to look down both sides of the aisle before absorbing the jewel in its body like the shoplifting version of the blob.
With what could be called a guilty look on its non-existent face the blob girl slurped her way passed Scratch-Ear while trying to stay away from anything that looked like security.
What exactly was this place? Where had the invisible window taken Scratch-Ear? And what was that thing?
With this nagging doubt he was going to get much information from the shoplifting gel thing, Scratch-Ear but one hand paw in front of the other and his stubby little tail brushed up against an alien alarm clock.
He looked down just in time to see the strange and highly expensive collectable smack down on the hard floor.
A good awful, and high catchy tune blasted out of the alarm clock.
Scratch-Ear, thinking that the gods were coming to punish him, and the gel thing, thinking that she had just set off a security alarm saw each other.
There was a pause as each entity was trying to figure out one another, trying to gauge if what they saw was a threat, or food, or was even real.
This situation was made more complicated when a loud wailing scream echoed through the shelves.
Spooked by the noise both Scratch-Ear and the gel ran away in opposite directions, the female alien sounding as if she was blowing a bugle through her ass and Scratch-Ear knocking down half the things on the shelves.
All around the maze of endless shelves all hell was breaking loose.
Windows leading to and from other worlds were causing a vast disturbance as thousands of cultures, extra-dimensional creatures, and other worldly aliens were experiencing first contact on a massive scale.
Humans from a world that was in the middle ages had run into dinosaur people.
A section of the shelves became flooded with water and mermaids were beating off swamp witches with whatever they could snatch off the shelves.
Two versions of the same girl were fighting for the perfect dress.
The minds of a hundred movie directors could not imagine the different verity of aliens that were running around, screaming, and fighting one another.
Running around another corner Scratch-Ear ran into another strange creature, it looked as if it were a bunny merged with a human.
The bunny saw Scratch-Ear and smiled, showing a set of fangs rather than a typical pair of buck teeth. It spoke something in its native tongue but all Scratch-Ear wasn’t much for conversation at the moment as he was too busy running for the hills.
Again Scratch-Ear chose to flee. He didn’t want to be the strong and powerful hunter, he didn’t want to be a warrior that would bring honour to the tribe, he wanted to hide under his bed and cry for his mother.
Without watching where he was going, Scratch-Ear smacked into something that felt like a slab of deer. The kitten shook his head and looked up at the Cali known as Tabore.
“Out of the way, narsi.” The Cali shouted and slammed Scratch-Ear into a pack of selves.
Whatever Tabore had discovered in this crazy place had scared him enough to forget about a Damu-Sarmi trespasser and run for the window.
Scratch-Ear moaned in pain, his tormentor had pushed him into a silver box that was large enough for an Elephant to nap in.
“No… Wait.” Scratch-Ear tried to say. Whatever the Cali would do to him looked to be nothing compared to the horrors that lurked in this world of monsters.
Weak from the blow Scratch-Ear stood up and walked unsteadily towards where Tabore had run to, perhaps the Cali knew where the invisible window was.
The kitten had made it only five unsure steps when the world became flooded with red light and a voice spoke into Scratch-Ear’s mind. “Warning. Intruders detected in storeroom. Warning. Intruders detected in storeroom.”
A sudden urge to get through the portal came over Scratch-Ear.
Wait… what was a portal?
The word was not one of the Damu-Sarmi words. Never mind. Scratch-Ear got the feeling that if he did not get back through the invisible window than he would be stuck here and punished for his intrusion.
A dark thought came to him. What if he did return? How would he save Elder-Sister and the others from Tabore and those like him?
Scratch-Ear needed something? He needed a weapon. A weapon that would tear open the Cali’s hearts, a weapon that could make him the most feared Damu-Sarmi in history, something that could make him rival that of the gods themselves.
As if it had read his mind, laying on a near-by self, staring him in the face was a dagger made of glass its handle looking like some mutated scorpion.
The Damu-Sarmi had not discovered glass work yet and their part of the world did not experience winter for Scratch-ear to compare the substance to ice, but still, the kitten knew what lay before him was special.
The glass dagger seemed to call out for Scratch-Ear to claim it, to hold it, to wield it, and to kill for it. But what could this thing do? It looked more like a tool used for ceremony than any practical fight.
As Scratch-Ear approached the weapon he could swear that the flashing red lights from above made the dagger appear almost as if it were made of the blood.
Take me. The blade seemed to say in Scratch-Ear’s mind. Hold me. Wield me. And I can give you everything you could ever desire.
Scratch-Ear didn’t ask how an inanimate object could speak and didn’t much question this bizarre oddity or his luck.
The Damu-Sarmi was too entranced by the crustal blade, the intricate designs of this alien insect, and the way that the monster bug’s eyes seemed to be constantly stare at him.
It saw something in him, a warrior waiting to be unmasked and re-made.
You want to save your friends? Pick me up. Take me away before he finds us and eats us. Together, we can save your friends.
Scratch-Ear wanted to ask who he was, but it didn’t matter. This weapon, whatever it was, was both sharp and looked very impressive.
With it Scratch-Ear could save Big-Sister. He could save Free-Fang. And as for Black-Paw…
The dagger could feel the rivalry between the cats. Yes. Think how jealous he will be, and imagine the pride on Big-Sister’s face when you and not Black-Paw save her.
If possible the dagger’s noiseless voice stank of desperation. Just pick me up.
All the kitten wished for at this given time was to save his friends and go home. But without help, without the necessary tools it was a lost cause.
A large shape took form next to the young hunter.
No. The dagger screamed in bitter hate. He’s mine. It is my time.
The dagger, distracted by something was enough of an opening for Scratch-Ear stepped away from the relic. He felt afraid, like some great predator had almost got him in its jaws and was never going to let go.
Scratch-Ear hissed at the knife, he would find his own way of freeing the others, and it would have nothing to do with anything in this evil place.
He turned around and collided with a pair of green dress pants. Knowing he really shouldn’t Scratch-Ear looked up and did a piddle on the floor as he saw the towering form of Sydney smiling down at him.
“Sorry, Ithel. This one is mine.” Sydney said though Scratch-Ear could not fathom who this creature was referring to.