Shining Path


Chapter 11

The Sun is rising on this war-kami's day, 7-day of 5-month. The humidity haze and the chemical and moral pollution of the city cannot dim the glory of First Queen's great yellow eye opening on the world. Mew. Even humanoids know that the Sun is a divine Queen. They call her Amaterasu. In a few frames' time the light chirps from the first infrared rays up into the spectrum that humanoids can see. A ginger joneko, this one, watches carefully through the East-facing window of the flat. The world exists today. Today is not the day of the Eschaton.

The Sun is rising at 4:44 on this day. The very longest day is not until several weeks in the future, but already this day is almost as long. All the humanoids are still asleep, more or less peacefully according to their individual habits. The little blue queen sleeps quietly and innocently, as is appropriate for one her age. The younger male kitten sleeps deeply, tired from his after-school sports club. He is a kick-boxer or something. This one does not pay much attention. The elder is a light sleeper because he must wake soon to go to work at WOMT, and even in his sleep he does not trust the alarm clock. The mother had too much to drink and bad meat to eat at the pachinko parlor, and tosses restlessly, barely asleep at all.

An hour and a half after the Sun rises, it is time to go watch the older kitten wake up. Maybe even lick his ear just a second before he would wake up of his own. He always complains and sometimes throws slippers. He does not admit that he enjoys the attention. There is no territory-warning in the smell of his sweat. He needs approval and an audience. Mew. Greeting the kitten every morning is a cheap enough gesture to repay the kindness of the humanoid family unit who offer this one a warm place to sleep. Joneko outgrow the need for external validation very young, just after their eyes open and long before they can be called queens, but male humanoids never seem to quite grow up. They are always playing but seem so serious at it. It is part of what makes them fascinating. This one can watch boys for hours, live and in anime both, and always be surprised by their antics.

But before that time there is time for a wash and a purr and a nap in the infrared patch below the window. First Queen may appear in a dream during the nap. She does that frequently these days. Some of the joneko at the studio say they see her almost every time they sleep. A gray with a white shirt, who works as an assistant to the production accountant, says that Fourteenth Queen is the Last Queen, and the day of First Queen's return, the day of the Eschaton, is at hand. She says that this is a message given to her in her dreams. She is insufferably smug about it. This one is unconvinced. This one does not have such dreams. First Queen seldom says anything about the end of the world or the fate of the social structure. The return of First Queen and consequent departure of humanoids from the islands and new deal for all joneko might not be such desirable prey anyway. Humanoids are not all bad. Humanoids are fun to watch, at least. Their cities contain many comfortable places to sleep.

It is true that humanoid males are very fragile. Maybe even that is part of First Queen's plan. First Queen does not make mistakes. First Queen does not make worthless things. First Queen does not give her daughters broken toys. Mew, a rat can be savored slowly or gone in one bite. Perhaps having to be careful and pay attention to humanoid limits is meant to be part of the fun; or training for more dangerous prey, like a kitten's naïve pounces and bites. Down in the hot-houses on any warm night one hears the screams of joneko queens begging for release from their awful curse of biology. Why does a loving mother inflict pain, indiscriminately and by design, on kittens innocent of any misconduct? It is natural to hope for and dream of an Eschaton. An end to loss of control, an end to the hole inside that cannot be filled, an end to begging, the promise is compelling. No queen should beg.

But, mew growl mew, is anything that feels good really a curse at all?

This ginger one sleeps below the window for a short time, without memorable dreams, waking when the rising Sun causes the infrared patch to move. The change in the light leaves her tail cold. This one stares out the window again, down at the world below. Among the buildings below, she sees flashes of gray, ginger, and white streaking from ledge to ledge, across rooftops, and up and down utility poles. Those ones are parkour couriers, delivering the day's first wave of messages and packages among humanoid businesspeople too square to use the pneumatic tube system. It is pleasant outdoor work. This one was a parkour courier before joining the studio, and still prefers that method of transportation over the subway, mew. This one still prefers to enter and leave buildings through windows.

But the windows in this building do not open. The humanoid management says it is because of air conditioning, but really it is a measure intended to prevent humanoids from committing suicide by jumping out. Suicide is a strange word. It is a foreign word for a foreign idea. It seems to be imported from English, but it does not sound like other English words. It sounds like a very old word, mew. It sounds like many Queens among the humanoids have reigned and been forgotten since that word passed into the English language. Perhaps humanoids themselves do not remember who invented it.

Because the windows do not open, one cannot jump out of them without breaking the panes. One must leave the flat through the door like a humanoid. It is annoying, but really only a minor inconvenience. Humanoid dwellings have other compensations. Humanoid dwellings often contain refrigerators. Is there any tuna in the refrigerator at this time? No. The humanoids stopped buying tuna shortly after this one moved in, but she never gives up hope. Perhaps the humanoids developed allergies. This one hopes none of the humanoids become allergic to fur, since it would be annoying to have to ask any of them to leave the flat. Mew.

Perhaps on the way to work this one will catch a pigeon for breakfast. The SDL claims that pigeons in this city are contaminated and unsafe to eat "in all months that have numerals in their names," which is almost a joneko style of joke, but this one is not inclined to trust the SDL. Contaminated or not, pigeons taste good. This one can leave with the older kitten, go by way of the rooftops, stop for a pounce and a bite, and still make it to the studio before he arrives on the subway.

This evening after work it may be advisable to accompany him home, however, even though to do so means the noisy and unpleasant subway instead of the parkour. This one has seen little of the older kitten recently. This one feels an obligation to supervise him. After work he usually puts on his zoot suit and spends the evening out, and this one is too polite to follow him. But this one is curious about the kitten's activities when he goes out. The humanoid mother is of no use; but kittens need mothers or at least big sisters, and the task falls to this one. Besides, the kitten is cute.

He often returns from his expeditions carrying the scent of a queen. The scent is not just that of queens in general. It is the pheromones of a specific individual. This one has never met her, but would recognize her by the scent in any future meeting. It is the scent of a barely-mature organic humanoid queen, not sexually active but otherwise in good health. Mew. There is certainly nothing to worry about here. This situation cannot possibly end badly.

A seru boyfriend is far preferable to an organic boyfriend. This one does not understand all the details of the laughably complicated organic reproductive process (except, of course, for a few practical techniques), but this one knows that it certainly requires an organic partner. The queen who leaves her scent on the humanoid kitten in the zoot suit can afford to do things with him freely that would have serious consequences with an organic boyfriend – even if, judging by the scent, she has not started yet. Of course, her parents will smell it in those terms also. As for the age difference, humanoids are well known for accommodating such things, and for recognizing their young as adults capable of adult self-determination as soon as they reach objectively-defined maturity. Mew, mew, mew.

In all seriousness, the humanoid with the zoot suit is a good kid. This one must be ready to comfort him when his girlfriend's parents intervene, as they surely will. Mew.