In winter’s icy grip
Against all odds
Heat beat down on the Kyra’s helmet and sweat ran down her back. She and Hawk had been trekking through the woods all day. “I’m taking this ridiculous thing off, Hawk.”
“You can’t,” he said. “They’ll turn your mind to mush this close to the radio telescope.”
She’d been so skeptical of Hawk’s wild theories of alpha wave mind control, but when she looked through his special binoculars, the supposedly abandoned facility lit up like a rainbow.
“Are you sure this thing will protect us?”
Hawk tightened his chin strap, then tapped the pyramidal shaped helmet he wore. “Absolutely. There’s a reason the ancient Egyptians chose this form. Microwaves will bounce right off it. Vanity is a poor price to pay for having your mind controlled.”
“Whatever,” she said.
It took another hour to reach the structure. In the center of the dish danced a small figure dressed in green. A gold buckle decorated his hat and a small shamrock bounced as he moved. Sparks of color shot from his wand, making the ground ripple with a golden glow. He stopped and glared with narrowed eyes.
“Yer foun’ me. Can’t git in yisser minds. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, an’ violet al’ bounce aff yisser clever ‘ats. Ye as magically delicious as de last ‘umans ter visit?”
A cold wind made Kyra shiver. She and Hawk stepped away from the strange man with the red hair and pointy ears.
The man licked his lips, then laughed so hard he collapsed. “Ah, de luk on yisser faces. Priceless. Yer don’t nu anythin’ aboyt wee people, chucker yer?”
“They were aliens.”
“You told me they were cats,” said the doctor. He tapped a pencil on his note pad.
I glared at the doctor and raked my belly. I’d been relegated to the psychiatric ward ever since they found me unconscious on a barren island in the Pacific.
“They were alien cats and they walked on two legs like we do.” The irritation on my stomach continued to irk me as much as this conversation. “I swear. I’m not making this up.”
“I’m sure you believe that’s true. Tell me again how your ship sunk.”
My teeth pressed together until they hurt. At least it distracted me from the damned itch. I’d told the same story for a month. No one believed me. Had I hallucinated Catherine and Tom? Had I really been that sun mad to have concocted the whole story?
“We hit something during a storm and the ship sunk. I was the only survivor. Tom found me washed up on their spaceship disguised as an island. He and Catherine fed me the best seared fish I’ve ever had. That’s all I have to say.”
The doctor’s brow wrinkled. “Looks like you’re not ready to face reality yet. I’ll have an orderly bring you back to your room.”
The lock clicked behind me like a doomsday chime. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I really had imagined the whole thing. I scratched my stomach again, then looked at the irritation. A tawny gold and black pattern decorated my skin, just like the spots on Catherine’s fur. My heart jumped. It was real, and I’d been tagged and released.
“Tom, please get our guest another drink while I fix supper.”
“By all means, Catherine.”
The prim and proper manner of my hosts still struck me as odd. They sounded like an English couple, yet looked… well, they looked like huge cats. I was fair pickings when they found me washed up on their doorstep, but instead of being supper, they invited me to the meal.
“Here you go,” said Tom. His long tawny tail swished back and forth. “I’ve added a restorative. Wouldn’t do for you to get sick after Catherine prepared such a lovely meal.”
I took the cup, thanked him, and turned away. Tom’s luminescent gold eyes made me shiver. They’d been nothing but kind and gentle, but it was hard to ignore long sharp fangs. Not to mention, the retractable claw Catherine used to gut tonight’s dinner. The pan seared fish smelled magnificent, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was on tomorrow’s menu.
I pushed that thought away. It wouldn’t be good form to turn into a bowl of quivering Jell-O. “Where are you folks from?”
Catherine’s golden bronze fur rippled as she cooked, making her dark spots move around. “We originally came from planet Mau, although Tom and I grew up just outside of London. Our ancestors have studied your species for several thousand years.”
I put the cup of juice on the table before it spilled. My mind struggled to wrap itself around aliens and sentient cats. “A tiny, pacific island is a long way from London.”
“This isn’t an island, dear,” said Catherine. “It’s our spacecraft. London got too dangerous with all the cell phones and cameras. That’s why we don’t go outside until after dark. Humans have come a long way, but you are still way too unpredictable and violent.”
Sad to say, but she was right. And I was nothing but stray dog, a wild animal.
My skin felt like over-cooked bacon. There was no water or food on this island, only a few spiny shrubs. Dehydration would probably get me first. Already my tongue felt thick and heavy. It would have been better to have drowned with the rest of the crew. Instead, I floated for days before washing up on this sandy deathtrap.
It was midday when I collapsed on the coarse sand. Something snapped in the scrubby growth. I opened my eyes. The sun hung low. I strained to hear past the steady crash of waves. Another rustle, even closer. Maybe it was something to eat. I scanned the landscape.
A dark shadow moved toward me. Two giant eyes peered from the darkness. Vertical slits reflected yellow in the failing light. My stomach twisted. To have come so far only to be eaten by a beast was fate’s ultimate cruel prank.
I forced my cracked lips open. “Make it quick.”
The beast towered over my prone body. Instead of death, furry arms scooped me up like a babe. I was too stunned and exhausted to fight. It carried me down a ramp into a bunker and place me on a bed.
“Catherine. We have a guest.”
Another creature appeared. “Poor thing’s dried out and terrified, Tom. Bring me some cactus juice.”
I sipped the offered juice and let my feline rescuers fuss over me. If this was a hallucination, it was a good one. If not, I’d have an interesting story to tell.
Wendy clung to the rock wall twenty feet off the ground. Ripped and bleeding fingernails weren’t her biggest problem. The tingling in her fingertips was. She bit her lip, fighting for control.
“One normal date,” she mumbled. “Is that too much to ask?”
“Are you okay?” asked Jason.
The cutest guy in school graced her with a smile that only increased her racing heart. How could she not say yes to a rock climbing date? So what if she had the agility of a glue stick. He was hot and she was the weird girl no one talked to. But rock climbing? What was she thinking?
Every muscle ached, trembled as she searched for a new handgrip. There were none in sight. The tingling ran up her arm. Panic began to close in. She chanced a glance at Jason and his bulging muscles only to find him studying her. There was no laughter in his look, only concern.
“Wendy, don’t worry about falling. You’re on a belay line.”
“I don’t want to quit. My foot is slipping.”
He scrambled sideways across the rock like a squirrel. The moment he touched her, the tingling flamed through her body. She gasped and began to fall. Jason grabbed her hand. A blinding flash sucked them away.
Instead of dangling from a rock wall, they landed in a wooded clearing. So much for normal. Tears stung Wendy’s eyes. She waited for Jason’s condemnation, the fear that others had displayed at her powers.
He stared at her, his deep-brown eyes wide. Then he smiled. “Wow. That was one heck of a jolt. Can’t wait to see what you do on our second date.”