The Tragedy of Panthro, ThunderCat
By RD Rivero
“The Tragedy of Panthro, Thundercat”
May 19, 2000
A tall, gnarled tree with bushy green leaves swayed suddenly but not in
the breeze. Roars and howls came from elsewhere below and that was
quickly followed by the unmistakable sounds of machinery. Some of the
more overgrown branches that extended outwards parallel to the ground
were pushed forward violently. Its own thin, soft offshoots ruffled
together to produce a searing hiss. It then continued to bend
unnaturally until at last it gave way, it snapped, it hung limply on the
side of the bark of the tree by what shards of connective wood was still
left. Birds flew into the air, animals that had remained on the main
branch fell to the ground and just as swiftly as the rest scrambled into
the darkened safety of the underbrush.
Only then did the image of the ravaging vehicle come into view. Shinny
gray with full red-black colorings and tank-treads for propulsion. Its
actual physical form was more-or-less teardrop oval but that the front
end was blunted and that the back end was pointed. Four mechanical arms
stuck out folded over the roof and where ever the vehicle moved around
anything in the way of those tendrils was knocked to the ground.
>From a window over the Thundercat insignia, two passengers were clearly
visible, basked in the orange glow of interior light.
“Really, you should learn to be more careful,” Pumyra said.
“Careful? We’re already headed into a minefield and you want me to be
more careful?” Bengali responded sarcastically.
“What is it with you? What’s the problem that you never think with your
head?” Bengali smiled at her. She looked at him in shock, she could
have slapped him. “Why can’t you be more like Tygra?”
“Then who would come to you bed at night?”
“And what was that supposed to mean?”
The white tiger was silent.
“You know they could be listening in.”
“No, they’re not.”
“There, that’s exactly it! If you only used your brain --”
The think forests cleared into a bright field of chewed grass. The
unicorns must have been around or perhaps that was what the mutants had
wanted others to think. Certainly the flat plain was innocent, too
A thin breeze blew overhead that only intermittently gusted into an
audible gale within the cabin of the vehicle. The wet blades of grass
danced in unison to the torrents.
Bengali looked at Pumyra once again after she had finished her lecture
complete with wagged finger. “My dear, if it seems that I have faults
know that I myself have put them there so as to not overwhelm you with
“Oh, by Jagga, he’s lost it! You’ve been reading those plays Liono
“Of course. The films. It would be quite an event the day you open a
book to read it and not tear the pages for toilet paper.”
“Not that again, that happened so long ago, Pumyra, we were children and
besides, I did put the pages back, didn’t I?”
“I think only one of us grew up. We have serious work to do.”
“Come on, I catch you looking. I know you want to. That’s all right,
you can slide your hand over, no one will see what you do, down there.”
“Well that would be -- no, no! What if some one finds out?”
“Yes, what would you do? Bengali?” a voice crackled through the radio
that had only then spurted to life.
The two Thundercats were shocked silly.
“Um, um, I, what, just what did you guys hear?”
“’Oh, touch me, Pumyra, touch me,’” Tygra mocked uncharacteristically.
“Quite a mouthful,” Panthro added his two cents in.
“So what about you being more like Tygra, Bengali?” Pumyra asked.
He looked at her with his eyes wide open: “Remind me again which one of
us grew up.”
“I see, so your big mouth’s one of those ‘faults’ you installed
yourself? Good, that’s good, I could have never seen your omnipotence
under it, under that disguise. You’re quite a --”
“Enjoy it why don’t you. I think you protest just too much, just a
little too much. I’ve never had any complaints before.”
She petted him softly, almost in pity she spoke: “’Cause your hand
“The lady’s sharp on her wits today, ain’t she, Bengali?” Panthro asked.
“Hey, we should watch what we say around Liono,” Tygra said.
“I’m not a child,” he paused, “well, I'm not,” Liono finished.
“Oh, never mind,” Panthro broke in -- he fought back the laughter --
“can you see the trail through the fields?”
“Yes, we can,” said Pumyra.
“We cleared most of it out ourselves already. It’ll be safe for you to
cross through that trail. We’re all the way at the other side. I don’t
know if you can see us, but we can see you.”
“I can see you well enough. You’ve waving your arms from behind those
bushes,” Bengali said at length, calm once more. “Have there been any
signs of the mutants in the vicinity?”
“No, the early warning detectors haven’t gone off yet, but I’m sure
they’ll be back, they know we’re here and they’ll try something soon.”
Deep in the afternoon the Thundercats had been skillfully able to clear
the terrain of most of the land mines. The only parts that remained
hazardous were confined to a wide tract of land that jetted into the
forests in the east. Close to desert and to wasteland, there was very
little danger that someone would be harmed by the presence of those
buried devices of Plunderian cowardice.
The weather had chilled though the winds had died considerably. The
clouds that had formed a dense overcast for the better parts of the day
had disappeared entirely. In the distance Liono heard the telltale
sound of thunder though no one saw that lightning. Immediately he
ordered the Thundercats back into the vehicles. Pumyra and Bengali,
Panthro and Tygra in the respective mine sweepers while the Lord took
refuse in the Thunder Tank.
Suddenly and from nothing, from the thin air the rain poured hard, fast
and instantly the bright sun had acome to the pitch darkness of shadow.
For a while the only lights came from the bolts from above. Bengali
watched while the view from the windshield of his vehicle became totally
obscured by the torrents of water that splashed across the glass. His
foggy breath did not help either. He turned to his left and found
Pumyra on the floor, the cold metal floor behind the swivel chairs. She
shivered and he went down to her side and cuddled her in his arms. She
rubbed his fur lightly -- her hands were almost frozen. Gingerly he
took hers into his own until they were warm. She turned around briskly
and looked straight into his sparkling blue eyes.
“I don’t like the looks of his,” Liono’s voice broke through the radio.
“We can’t do much more for today,” Panthro began, he held up the
receiver to his lips, “Tygra says that the storm won’t go away until
well after sundown.”
In the back of the cab of the minesweeper the tiger looked attentive and
placed the thin book he was reading down onto his lap.
“There’s no question that the mutants will come back and monkey around
with what we’ve done here.”
“Yes, we have to expect that,” Liono said.
“Someone should stay behind just in case,” Tygra said from behind. He
arose and headed toward that front of the cab and sat himself next to
The world outside was incoherent: the masses of trees and of clouds
blended together in a black blob that swayed and quivered with no
perceptible boundary to separate where the jungles ended and the skies
“I’ll stay behind.”
“No, Tygra’s needed back in the lair to monitor the situation,” Panthro
spoke swiftly, “I’ll stay behind.”
Liono was silent for a while.
The two Thundercats looked at each other nervously. Radio silence could
have only meant one thing.
“All right,” Liono said at last, in the faint background of the audio
hiss all could hear him rehilt the Sword of Omens, “we’re going back to
Cat’s Lair. We’ve done as much as we could do today. Panthro’s staying
behind with the minesweepers. Let’s move those vehicles to the boarder
between the clearing and the forests where the Thunder Tank is.”
Although there was no visibility the navigation systems were able to
move the tall vehicles into safety. The ground was muddy and having
been dug up twice it was more than kindly loose and running. No vehicle
lost traction but there were close calls when deep pools of water began
The Thundercats, except Panthro, opened an access hatch on the floor of
the minesweepers, pulled it up and over and eagerly climbed down and
under the vehicles. Though water did splash in their faces, the great
bulk of the minesweepers protected them from the torrential downpour.
Bengali was busy adjusting his clothes, Pumyra’s hair was more than
usually disheveled. Tygra was about to go back up the ladder to fetch
his book when Liono arrived with the Thunder Tank. The bright
headlights hurt the cat’s eyes and some looked away, hands over faces
though to hide in shame -- quickly they darted into that all-purpose
Two thunderbolts echoed and resonated. The assault had taken place in
the mine-ridded area. The sound of the miscellaneous explosions was
muffled by the onrush of deafening thunder. Several trees burst into
flames bunt the falling water did much to kill the fire.
“By the time you get back to Cat’s Lair,” Panthro said, “the storm
should have passed the area. At least I hope so, but still, the rain
should do much to keep the mutants away, you know what they think of
water -- oh --” he stopped himself at the moment that he was ready to
bust into laughter.
He saw Tygra’s book on the floor just then, the bookmark was next to it,
he was about ready to pick it up when --
“If the mutants do show up?”
“Don’t you worry about me.”
With that the radio communication ended. Panthro put the receiver
transmitter unit back next to the instrument panel and sat himself back
on his chair. His eyes closed, his hands folded on his lap over his
legs, he breathed deeply though in sleep but nothing rested in him at
all. He hoped he had not put his foot into his mouth, he hoped he had
not made a fool of himself -- or worse -- of his friend.
He thumbed through the pages under the dim light from a small, yellow
Panthro was utterly lost in thought to notice the moment when it
happened but the rain did stop and the air returned to a more normal, to
a more temperate state. At first he saw that the windshield was clear
and dry, then the orange of sunset. Down the hatch, down the ladder to
the wet earth, stars were visible while his shadow elongated out and out
into the trees beyond and then the light was gone and it was night.
Everywhere, forever, for as far as the eye could see the vast sky-dome
was spread with night time darkness. There was no cloud in sight, there
was no moon. At first there was silence, broken only by the hooting
owls in the trees, at first the heavens were dotted only in a galaxy of
Panthro was about to climb back up into the minesweeper when a great
burst of orange light burst in the distance over the swayed and the
jagged tree tops. The soaring, the screeching howl it caused pierced
the air though it was a thousand tornados melded into one horrid and
The panther fell to the ground with his whole arms over and around his
ears to try to stop his hearing of it, the pain of it. He thought his
head would shatter and burst. The minesweepers, the trees, the rocks,
the very ground itself vibrated, resonated in the oncoming wake for the
sun-bright object was getting closer.
Sprawled on the ground, bouncing in chaos out of control he saw that a
metal body or at the least the outline of a metal body within the
tumultuous orange cloud that streaked through the air. “It’s a ship,”
he said but his voice was lost completely in that sonority. “It’s going
to crash into the clearing!” He tried to get up but the muddy loose
soil was already too unstable. He could stand only by holding onto one
of the track treads of the minesweeper.
The ground shook so violently that what was left of the uncovered mines
exploded spontaneously in dense dirt clouds. Rocks, pebbles and
shrapnel spewed into the air in all conceivable directions. Panthro
only noticed that by the cleared distant visuals unobstructed by the
growing orange light for even the sounds of those blasts were
inaudible. His head rang like a doorbell, like the inside of a
doorbell. He felt sick all over though the clamor alone could grind his
body into dust. His ears bled, his eyes, his nose.
He ducked under the minesweeper for cover.
>From another part of the horizon three small, red objects zoomed into
the air. Hidden in place, even Panthro could see it. “Fire balls from
castle Plundarr,” he muttered under his breath, “perhaps this was their
plan, perhaps this was what they had in mind all along.” Two of the
fireballs passed the approaching orange cloud unmolested -- the
trajectory assured that they would land in Amazonian territory for no
more, for no less that the pleasure of off-the-side damage.
But the last fire ball hit it’s target.
The spaceship that had up the that time been almost totally obscured
turned suddenly to the right, it groaned while it veered off course.
What ever had caused the appearance of that orange cloud the red fire
ball had put to an end. The gray-metal vehicle was naked and
unprotected. No new fireballs came from the mutants -- there was no
need for more. The ship’s path had been adequately deflected to land in
that patch of the clearing where the most land mines remained.
“The defenseless souls!”
He jumped out from under cover ashamed of his own show of cowardice and
incensed beyond reason. He saw the ship side-on as it quickly, as it
steadily came down, closer, closer to careen to its doom. When the nose
touched down in the dirt one violent upheaval followed the other. In the
thick and smoky haze, perpetuated by both the substantive action of the
crash and of the explosions of the land mines, the vehicle was again
enshrouded and obscured.
Until the end, until it stopped, the ship was tilted above the mangled
ground at an acute angle. The mines had done little damage to the upper
parts of the hull but the lower half was scattered in oblong and in
sharply obtuse pieces everywhere along the battered earth.
Immediately and impulsively Panthro began to run to it -- for he could
hear in the newfound tranquility of relative silence the cries of help
and terror from within the ship but only a few feet from the minesweeper
the smashed vehicle exploded. He shut his eyes, he could not see the
pane of glass that fell down from the sky to his head. He fell over
onto his side amidst the shattered fragments, neither cut, neither
harmed -- not physically anyways.
Somehow it happened, somehow his eyes could open once more and he could
see. The rest of his senses returned not gradually, not all at once but
in quantum packets. Hearing, taste, smell, even the sense of touch was
an oddity. First cold, hot second, then he could differentiate between
smooth and rough, soft and hard -- only pain came at the end. And what
pain -- he groaned loudly and the sound of his own voice frightened him.
He had never heard it before -- his own voice -- he realized then,
indeed, the he had not only never heard his voice but that he had no
recollection of that sense at all. Of that sense or on any other sense
what so ever.
He explored his body -- he had no idea what it was, what the parts were
for. He saw that he was gray and that was strange because up to that
moment when he looked at his fur the idea of ‘gray’ never existed. Then
there was the idea of ‘fur.’
Ah, but then, but then and in a moment of terror at last he came upon.
That ‘he’ was this, that ‘he’ was that, he realized that ‘was’ that he
‘existed,’ that he was an ‘I.’ Worse still -- that he was alone.
In those initial, tentative moments he had made a thousand discoveries
and after all that he was numb to the newness of the universe, he simply
let the knowledge sink in and accepted it. He accepted without question
that he was separate, that he was no longer at piece.
Yet, even yet he wondered, he tried to formulate the words but there
were no words, there was no language, there could be in language -- only
mind -- for everything had been reduced to the animalistic, the
rudimentary, to its absolute minimal simplicity.
His body was covered in clothing but he could not understand the purpose
of it. So he found a way to peel it off. Around his waist was a large,
red-black insignia with an unusual figure carved into the object but
because even the he could give no meaning or use too he threw it away.
He arose and stepped to the side -- his foot came to rest over something
pointy and jagged. He yelled in pain and darted back. On the ground he
coward and he looked at his injury. It bled and somehow he knew it was
not good but he did not know what to do.
When the pain alleviated he looked to where he had stepped and found
that on the ground was the most curious object yet. Two sticks with
carved designs of the ends, one red, one blue connected by a chain. One
of the ornate ends was wet with blood from where it had imbedded itself
into his flesh. He understood what had happened and so realized he
would have to be more, far more careful.
The bleeding on and around the wound further lessened in a dense and
adhesive built up. He tried to stand and to walk in a manner that he
though was normal but his foot pained miserably every time the sole
pressed against the ground. What he ended up doing passed for a
pronounced limp -- so unstable that he crashed against a hard metal
surface. He raised his head and looked upon it: that same red-black
insignia was on the massive construction but it was different from he
disk he had pulled off himself, it was not carved into the substance.
But then to the business of that huge object -- there were two of them
and he did not know what to make of it.
An explosion and by instinct he hid his head in cover. Objects fell
onto the ground around him and he scrambled for cover in the safety
around the two large metal objects. He looked out to the distance where
the disturbance had come from, where most of the light came from large
fires flamed from within the mangled carcass of a fallen spaceship. It
was large and though the fires danced in the currents of the breezes the
structure itself did not move or waver.
He approached with caution mindful that at any moment he could be faced
by another sudden explosion. There was a large metal section where
there were no fires at the end half-in, half-out of the ground. He
walked to it, to the crash site that was nearly a thousand feet away in
that unusual and in that painful gait.
When he arrived at the target he did not know what to do. The scene was
calm for the most part, warm and silent. His curiosity satisfied he
turned to head back to where he had come from then he heard something.
Something shrill. He almost dismissed it for it did not sound again but
when he did turn and took the first step the sound returned and louder
and that second time it did not stop, it would not stop.
He was face to face with that section of the ship looking into the
darkness. He could see nothing but there had to be something, there had
to be something marking that noise. Inside the small, cramped space was
littered with debris of all variety: glass, metal, components of
technology in multiple, broken parts, papers and the sound of screaming.
He recognized it -- it was the stubborn and persistent shriek of terror.
Explosions continued to destroy the read of the ship where the fuel and
the engine had been. Crumpled and broken pieces of metal were sent
hurtling into the air in a shower of after-shrapnel. Fires crested
above and below the mangled wreck, noxious fumes and gases swarmed out,
into the air in spiraling vortexes. All over everything was hot to the
touch. The ship’s skin was made from gray-black tiles, some of which
hung, loosely connected like scabs from the injured main body, some of
which had evaporated into rust and ash that decomposed in his hands like
an eraser undoing itself.
He entered the remains of the fallen vessel through a large but thin
gash that had been cut across the underside of the hull by the action of
the crash and the ensuing blasts. In the first room he encountered he
found long, clear tubes scattered on the floor in pairs or in groups of
threes connected laterally in riveted knots of spiny, metal tendons. On
several tubes the glass was smashed broken and profusely obscured in
dark soot -- whatever was inside them had burnt crisp very quickly. The
heat was so great that even the glass began to bubble and deform in the
process of melting. The other tubes that were not broken were filled
with a dense, white vapor. The fires were so bright that he could
faintly see something within the gasses.
He stood over one of those tubes that was still attached to the wall.
Something alive within appeared from the oblivion of the mist and
pressed its face against the glass cylinder. It pounded violently with
its clenched firsts. Its flesh was badly burnt and readily peeled free
from the body -- large chunks of skin remained adhered to the inner
surface of the glass tube where it and intermixed blood boiled and
bubbled. It screamed to the top of its lungs but all the cat could hear
was a faint hum, a low rumble. He did try to help but it was no use, it
all happened so fast. The figure inside burst into orange flames,
burned and spewed ash then disappeared back down into the incoherent
mass below the swirling gasses.
The cat screamed and stormed out of that chamber of horrors. He heard
the shriek clearly once more -- he looked around in utter confusion.
Pipes and bulkheads dangled dangerously from the beaten ceiling. The
floor was patched full of holes from where he could see the bare, broken
ground upon which the ship had crash-landed. It was hard to walk or
just to move around not only because of his injury but because of the
heat of the metal floor, the sharp objects as well as the shards of
glass that littered everywhere, in ever conceivable nook.
One section of the ship seemed to have remained intact, somewhat
intact. It was a passage from where dull, gray light emanated. The
walls were lined with crumpled pipes -- water spewed forth in
fountainous displays. The scream, the cry was more, much more desperate
and so he ran in the height of terror. He came upon a large room that
was apparently in design similar to the first room he had been in --
only not so destroyed. In that place the tubes were small, mostly and
empty. Empty except for one.
It had been smashed but it was only partly open. The cat looked in -- a
young boy was struggling to free himself. Glass was smeared around his
face so he reached in to carefully remove the glimmering, shinning
fragments. The child opened his eyes, screamed and tried to back away
but the tube kept him confined in place.
That time he acted quickly, determined. He cleared what was left of the
cylinder out of the way. The boy continued to scream, even after he was
all but freed. The cat picked up the defenseless youngster and put him
on the floor. In an instant when he was not looking the child ran into
a passage that led deeper into what was left of the ship -- parts that
continued to explode.
He followed for some unknown reason.
A large explosion, the vessel rocked, something yet unseen to him fell
and the boy yelled once only. He stumbled upon an open hatch, crawled
through a tight shaft of smooth, brown walls. A metal door lay on its
side and beyond that was a control room, or what was left of the control
room. Half of it had disintegrated, the rest was in flames.
To the right he saw what had happened. A support beam had fallen,
diagonally across the floor and the boy was under it. The large pipe
had hit him on the head and he saw silent and still. The cat gently
rolled him from the heavy, fallen object. There did not appear to be
any broken bones or other injuries, there was no bleeding and he
breathed. He cradled him in his arms and calmly walked out of the ship.
The boy opened his eyes, tentatively at first and then he was bolder.
He began to speak while explosions followed the hasty exit: “Acitauq a
jeps elensaj osusaj elfereuq o irnuer bose serc lobranu. Od num led
nifle, niflets a haida aidad ivatseed elased anerbosa dan.”
He did not let his eye’s wander from the cat’s face. Calm and gentle
juxtaposed amidst the tumultuous chaos, he felt safe and, before he knew
it, he was out of the broken, fallen ship.
The fires were bright and lit the night sky in a yellow glow. The boy
wondered about what had happened -- to him in particular but most of the
events remained in a blur. He knew who he was and what he was for sure,
it was just that he could not recall exactly what led up to his rescue.
He felt hot and dizzy, for a few minutes he could not stand but after a
while those unsettling sensations ceased.
The cat, meanwhile, kept the two near the vicinity of the huge vehicles
in the recesses of the clearing, vehicles adorned with strange,
red-black insignias. He would not let him approach them too closely
though he was afraid of them at some fundamental level. The boy
wondered if there might be some connection with it and with his savior.
The vehicles were silent, motionless, not a light was on from inside,
there was no perceptible danger.
He looked at his friend and approached him while he was seated on the
green, grassy ground. He wrapped his arms around the cat. “O emo citag
or natore uqet. Adi vimod avlass a em.” He began to cry and his friend
consoled him the best he could. The boy petted him, scratched him
behind the ears to his delight. “Aro haim ed reca haveuq.”
The cat had a large wound on his foot. The boy ripped off some of the
fabric from the white cloths that clothed him. He wrapped it around the
bleeding tightly. Blood continued to seep through the linen for a while
but that soon eased and stopped altogether. His friend found that he
could move more easily, with less pain.
He did not want to be around those two metal beasts anymore, he did not
trust them. From the distance, from beyond the fallen spaceship the air
echoed in a certain rumble. In his mind he could see rocks shatter
under massive wheels, treads, similar to those that were on the metal
vehicles. He was not about to stay there any longer.
He got up, took the boy by the hand and together walked into the darker
portions of the forest where the only sounds came from the birds in the
upper canopy and in the insects in the underbrush. The youngster did
not protest though he could barely see where he was going. He trusted
his new friend totally and he knew by instinct that the large cat would
not hurt him. His friend did seem to know where he was going, even if
he was not conscious of that.
After almost an hour hiking the two reached a wide, imposed tree that
unlike the others had a ladder imbedded in the bark. The cat looked up,
high, to the highest vista -- shadows, formless shadows were what he
could see but there was an outline of something, of a platform. He took
the boy in his arms, in a quasi-embrace, the youngster’s arms were
around his neck to keep him from sliding or falling during the long,
Much of the climb was a blur because the boy began to nod off. He did
remember or recalled eventually reaching some sort of end to the ordeal
yet again there was nothing to see but a vaporous nothingness. He could
tell then that he was being taken across, around a floor of rough,
The gray cat put him down on that hard surface then curled around him to
keep him warm because the air just then had a biting coldness to it. He
remembered little else then he fell asleep, haunted by the passing,
fleeting memories and visions of what had happened to him in that
spaceship. His friend, too, was restless with the fragments -- broken,
disordered and chaotic -- of his former life that his unsettled brain
simply could not comprehend.
Birds of the night flew noisily from one branch to another. Flowered
leaves that bloomed in the night swayed in the shiverous current to
aromate the scene in the wild scents of dewy, green nature.
No alarm sounded the coming of the new day, except perhaps, the soft,
sharp rustling of the branches of the canopy above and below. The boy
opened his eyes to see shadow only but not complete darkness. In
disabling grogginess he was convinced that it was either still night or
that it was obscenely early in the morning. Every so often, though,
while entangled tree limbs and leaves shook in the wind, gaps of clear,
blue sky were revealed to allow just enough light through -- just enough
and no more.
Still on his back on the wooden floor he looked to the right to where
his friend should have been. Should have been for instead all that he
found were the shards of cloths he had torn off of himself the night
before. The tight knot he had given it had been violently undone and it
was stained with blood, red, dry blood with clumps of gray fur.
“O tag le?” he questioned -- he took the fabric in his hands and
squeezed it in his grip for comfort. “O tag le?” that time his words
were softer. “Sat seed nod?” that time his voice was below a whisper.
Saddened and alone, he held the crumpled fabric to his face. His eyes
had welled up and he had to dry his tears somehow. He remembered little
of the crash before his being trapped -- when the cat had saved him.
Had he lost his friend, too?
“I uqasat se!”
No. No, his friend would not have left him. He was sure of it, he
hoped for it. That was when he noticed that blood had come out of his
nose during the night. It had dried in disintegrating flecks around his
upper lip. The wound, what ever it was, seemed to have healed or at the
least to have stopped for the moment.
He arose and on his feet -- he was a little dizzy but that feeling faded
-- he walked along the wooden planks of the makeshift tree-house. The
logs were old and, unprotected for so long, the boards were warped.
While he treaded over them he noticed that they wobbled though
loosened. At the very edge he stopped and he looked around: in a wide
ranged arch for thirty feet ahead there was a great treeless gap where
there were only branches, green, lusciously overgrown with leaves and
intertwined with flowered vines. He could see nothing out further
beyond that effective wall, nothing below -- rather he dared not look
A large portion of the sky opened momentarily. Three large, red birds
flew in the light from one nest to another then began to call to untold
and unseen others. With that the forest was alive again in activity.
He turned his head to hear in sudden awareness. Droplets of water
trickled form flat, wide leaves burdened with dew and collected mist.
The stream flowed over and through the floor boards noisily.
The boy walked once around the giant, brown trunk at the center of the
hide-out but found no one, certainly not the particular cat he was
searching for. He wanted to call out a name but he had none for his
friend. Determined to find out what had happened none the less he
discovered the escape hatch and lifted it to reveal a wooden ladder
built into the bulk of the tree.
The night before it had actually been his friend and not he who had done
the climbing. He was tentative as well as afraid for he knew that time
he would have to do it all himself.
The ladder had no frame, it consisted of rectangular cutouts of wood
nailed or screwed into the bark at roughly even, equal distances. For
the most part the rungs were sturdy but every so often he encountered
some that were gray, rotting to the point of total disintegration or
others that were loose. The loose pieces themselves came in one of two
types. Or the screws were not tight and the rungs would shake in his
hands or the screws were jammed in unsturdy wood and the rungs would
have come off entirely if he had held on the wrong way.
In the descent he never did look down -- not that it would have
mattered. He noticed that the deeper he went the darker the world
A large, flying insect appeared unexpectedly. It fluttered over and
around his face, he could hear its wings flap, feel the short bursts of
air the circulated in its wake. He scared the horrible intruder away
with high-pitched screaming and with the swinging of his arms. When it
finally disappeared he remained in place, motionless, to rest a while.
After several more minutes of careful climbing he reached down with his
foot but he felt nothing -- at least not what he had expected. His
greatest fear just then was that either the ladder ended prematurely or
that there was a large gap in it. He tried once more with his foot but
all he reached was the start of a large branch. He looked down -- his
heart that had raced in panic grew overjoyed -- he had reached the
ground, the ‘branch’ he had felt was a large root that bulged up out of
Oddly, the air was calm and stale, a faint gray smoke was suspended
everywhere in the stagnation. The effect was eerie and electrical and
lent the already dark, the already shadowy world down there an extra
dimension of gloom.
The smell of fire and burning was raw and fresh.
There were enormous gaps and spaces between trees where different paths
had long since been carved. Dead, decayed leaves, brown and crunchy,
littered the earth alongside rocks and large boulders. The land was
also marred by dips and hills.
The boy followed a green trail between dense bushes toward the
omnipresent sound of water. The path ended in tall, green stems of
overgrown reeds that blocked his sight entirely. A cold wind echoed
from the right and shook the entangled vegetation though it was one
gigantic mass, one immense blob. The sound deafened or muffled the
effects of the events visually beyond his grasp. He extended his hands
into the shoots and drew them to the side to expose a snippet of the
larger universe before him. Out beyond, the main body of the forest
ended in an unmistakable ‘line’ on the ground -- those parts of the
ground that he could see -- onto a tightly-hewn grassy plane interrupted
by a thin stream, by a snaky river nearby.
For a few moments there was silence, there was stillness. A deer of an
exotic verity appeared, materialized from thin air. The animal turned
its head from left to right and waited. Perched on the opposite side of
the flowing, crackling current. It put its front left leg into the
water tentatively before it moved the rest of its legs in to tread
across to the other side. Behind that deer, in the shadowed underbrush,
were glowing green eyes, bright eyes that hinted of a large herd
The single, lonely deer grazed quietly.
He was bored and looked overhead briefly. Up in the treetops there was
darkness only. Every so often a single branch here and there shimmered
in wet, dewy colors. He turned his eyes back down -- the cat sprung out
of no where, from no where to land atop the animal. After a mere blink
the deer was on the ground, on its side. The mouth was wide open though
it had made no sound, the eyes were shut oddly -- or perhaps the blood
that had poured form the open gash in the neck obscured that particular
He got up from the cover and headed to the animal. The large cat, his
friend, had walked to the river where he cleaned the blood from his
hands, his face for he had killed the deer with one, singular bite.
Then tired, he lay on his back along the grassy river bank. The boy did
not approach out of fear that he might inadvertently arouse him from
some deep sleep but the cat had seen him and waved him over to his side.
He removed what rags remained of his clothes and dunked himself into the
deeper parts of the river. His friend had a strange smile and followed
quickly. The two were face-to-face in the clear liquid, splashing water
gently on to one another. The cat grabbed the small boy around his arms
and gently rubbed his fur up against him.
“One ub yums ere,” the boy spoke softly, water gurgled into his mouth
with every other syllable. “Ramit sala save mon.”
The animal was deceptively large. So much meat, so much meat. The hide
was tough and it was the hardest part to do away with but it had to be
done or else the flesh beneath would have been inaccessible. The cat
carved the dense muscles from the breast beginning just under the arms
with the claws of his hands. Those muscles that covered the ribcage
ended at around where the waist would have been -- there the flesh was
thin and the internal organs could be made out faintly through their
contours and through their outlines.
The muscles were a chaotic mass that the cat further sliced into neat
strips over the stones next to the carcass. Without prompt the boy
brought forth several small rocks and dried twigs. He showed his friend
how to start the fire. The cat took the meat and poked them through
some of the branches in order to roast them over the fire that the boy
artfully attended to.
Sometime while the two feasted the cat perched his ears up. A sound
resonated through the trees, through the forest. He looked down to the
child who was eating one of the sticks of meat unaware of the
disturbance. A low, dull hum combound with the sounds of rocks crushing
in the distance, even the land seemed to shake. In his mind he conjured
a picture similar to the large metal object he had encountered the night
before, a whole eternity ago -- but different in a way that he could not
understand, comprehend. That mysterious red-black symbol flashed in his
eyes but it went away, passed away quickly.
The meal ended shortly after that. The fire was put out by pouring sand
and wet soil over the neat pile of stones and brown leaves that the boy
had put together. What was left of the deer remained on its side on the
ground. Already, overhead vultures and large birds circled, small dogs
and other animals lurked half-in, half-out of the jungle around the
The terrible sound was still there, still there but soft, distant --
muffled. Whatever it was, perhaps it had been driven away. Just to be
safe he and the boy began to hike far from there, too.
To be sure the two were still well deep in the forest, rather it was
that they had reached a portion of the land where the density of the
trees had loosened to the point to where it was quite nearly a meadow.
The cat was nervous and cautious about where he and the boy had come
into. He would not let him wander off by himself to the point where he
felt that the only way to restrain his carefree curiosity was by putting
the child up on his shoulders.
The boy was heavy but he did not mind carrying the weight. He saw
something -- a large object -- up ahead but instead of walking directly
to it he trailed his own path that circumvented around the meadow
through the trees. Low-hanging branches brushed against the boy’s face
but the cat was very careful to make sure that nothing else harmed him.
When he tired a little and when he felt that the boy would not wander he
put him down then lay himself across over a rock to bask in the cool
air. He napped for a while, or he attempted to nap for a while but, in
that fuzzy scope between the conscious and the unconscious minds he
thought he had heard that hum, that rumble. Visions returned to him and
to his horror. He got up, he took the boy by the hand and together the
two jogged toward that obscure object that only slowly took on a
definite and concrete form.
It was a house, old and ancient. There were no plants around it except
for well-trimmed grass, there were no trees. Next to that construction,
on either side, were large piles of rubble that could have been what was
left of other, similar houses that had long since been destroyed. The
ground immediately in front had large, flat thin rocks of black tar that
crumbled to the touch.
The face of the building was made from a deep yellow mortar. He felt
it, his friend, too, his fur often stuck onto the rough surface. Two
sets of asymmetrical windows marked off the general internal outline.
At the front of the house was single, regular door, white in color.
Oddly, it was metallic while everything else was wooden. He knocked but
there was no answer. His friend looked into a side window -- within
there was nothing but darkness.
The boy looked around in the back from the side. He went forth, the cat
followed. The ground sloped down gradually to reveal a lower level
formed from large, black stones. Similar rocks lined the scene of the
ruins of the village. The two walked along the side of the house to the
back where there was the edge of a cliff, of a tall cliff that
overlooked a whole new cosmos, a whole new wilderness of teeming
jungles, mountains, hills, valleys carved from strong rivers. Mist and
fog rose from below in thick clouds.
Behind the house was a garden or the ruins of a garden much abused by
time. Plants were overgrown with weeds and where the land had once been
tilled and neatly trimmed there was now chaos and disorder. Before one
of the red, brick walls, under a wide window was a small, square area
set off by a thin, wire fence. A wooden box was within the pen next to
a blue, plastic tub that had been full of water a long, long time ago.
The rest of the enclosure was covered with wild flowers except for that
patch of earth where there was a skeleton of a turtle that had fallen
onto its back.
A door, a single door, tucked away in a nook under the shade of an
overhang, a door open that all but beckoned them to enter. It was red,
a deep red wood, there was a bronze doorknob that had rusted over in a
putrid mass of green and gray deposits. On the other side, within the
house, there was a large room lit only by the blue sky that broke
through unblocked but unopened windows -- the only two along that side
wall. The room was large and wide but empty -- or so they thought until
they entered. As it turned out there was furniture there, hidden in
obscurity. Two sofas lined the wall under the windows and arched
against the second wall at a right angle to that where an oil painting,
disfigured by dust and by time, hung in the shadows. There was a small
and low table in the middle of the room but it had no top anymore -- the
glass had shattered and fallen on the floor within its frame where pots
of dirt and shards of pottery remained as well.
Along yet a third wall opposite the windows the two could see a series
of bookshelves. The boy took one out whose spine he could see clearly
in the post noon daylight. The words, though, were unrecognizable and
badly eroded, the pages had been eaten out through the millennia by
silverfish and by other wormy insects that had, too, long since died and
withered into dust.
The cat wandered around a bit, too and promptly discovered that there
were three doors. One door led to a room that faced the garden. It had
more windows and was clearly a bedroom. There were spare items of
furniture there: the mattress and the bedclothes, some tables made of a
brittle, rotted wood, chairs, shelves, a large closet with clothing hung
in clear and noisy sheaths of see-through plastic.
The boy jumped on the bed -- the springs were all right. He jumped up
and down clearly enjoying himself for the first time. The cat had also
relaxed and curled up on the floor under the light of a window.
The boy tired of jumping and was overcome with exhaustion. Quietly he
tiptoed to the cat and when his friend was not looking he came down upon
him and began to rub his tummy. He giggled while he spoke: “Riru
Back into the large room from the start he tried the second door but it
was locked tight and would not budge. The third and last door was not
really a door but an open passage. The room it led to was not a room
but a thin, narrow hall without windows. It was completely and totally
dark and formless.
He felt his way around with his hands. He found a large table but the
chairs, what chairs he stumbled into, seemed to have been made of a wood
that did not take well to aging for the substance decomposed into a
grainy dust in his hands. Cabinets lined the back walls of one end of
the corridor along with heavy metal objects that he quickly realized
were the parts of a dismantled pump.
A stove and a sink carved into the ground. The oven had a large tray
within but he dared not feel what it might contain. Around the base
were ashes and small chips of wood. The porcelain tub was cracked in
three and had only a drain.
It was a kitchen, a relic of a pre-modern age and, looking around
further, he heard a creak and turned to his left. At the extreme end
there was a door that swayed in the current of the wind. A window was
bright and open in the small room it led to, a room full of crates,
metal pipes and a couple of wide cylinders upright against a brick
wall. He opened the door all the way to so that the light would flood
into the kitchen. That was when he saw that at the other extreme end
was an alcove, a small side room with the potential to reveal more.
The alcove was in the shape of a square and terminated directly into a
large machine shop. There were more cabinets and shelves there than in
any other part of the house he had been in yet. Glass jars were
everywhere, stuffed everywhere, each contained a particular kind of nail
or of screw, bolts and nuts, washers. Woods, panels and sticks. Tools
and knives were neatly organized -- so organized and so finely kept that
not even the workbenches had a smidgen of dust.
The boy found a spiral staircase and he followed it up slowly, slowly,
until he reached a single door -- a white door with a shiny knob that
turned completely and silently in his grip. He paused for a moment, he
thought about what he was doing and almost backed off. Almost, but not
The door opened in one, swift movement. There was more light upstairs,
anyways, but the pattern of the interior had been altered significantly.
The rooms were dressed the same way but certainly they were much larger
and better kept. Where the front door was he found stairs that led to
the third floor. Next to it was a passage that continued through to the
First, a small side door that again did not open. Second, came the
kitchen -- though similar in appearance it was far more spacious, open
and lit than the specimen he had encountered downstairs. He drank the
cold water that flowed from the tap after he pulled the crank a couple
of times. He had not noticed before until just then how thirsty he was
-- and that there were some drops of blood on his clothes. His nose
bleed again. His head felt hot and he was dizzy once more. He sat down
on the cold floor until the sensations passed.
There was a door in the kitchen and before he would go any further he
wanted to see what was on the other side. The room was oblong in shape
and seemed to have been hastily constructed from the free space of the
kitchen. There were two windows on the opposite side that showed him
the garden, the edge of the cliff and beyond when he stood before it.
The sun was no longer on that side of the sky and the air had cooled.
The wind blew the heavy curtains in the air.
He looked around back. There was a bed and there seemed to be something
or someone on it. He approached on tiptoe, he tried to say something
but barely a whisper broke through his lips -- he was so afraid. The
figure on the bed did not move or respond when he nudged it a little
with his finger. He felt something hard and hesitated for a long while
before he proceeded to peel away the bedcovers.
He clutched the blanket in his hands and pulled it back free -- he
screamed and fell back to the floor where the pain he had caused himself
made him stop screaming at least for a while. On the bed was a corpse,
eaten out to the bone except for the head where the flesh remained
intact. The mouth was wide open and seemed to have turned to face him
-- the whole skeleton seemed to have moved. He screamed and the sound
of it was loud enough to deafen the noise of what developed elsewhere in
the house. The boy crawled back on the floor, he dragged the blanket
along with him and caused the bony arm to outstretch to him.
A gray figure stepped into the room. He screamed once again. He thought
all was over until he realized that it was the only cat. He ran to him
with open arms.
The body remained half on the floor, half on the bed, motionless.
After that disturbing incident his friend would not let him out of his
sight. Even while napping he kept an eye open, watching what was going
on. He took the boy back outside where they played in the yard for a
while a rather unusual game. Sometimes he or the boy would pretend to
be predator or prey. The games never got violent but by the end of the
day they were beat.
They had discovered a lake nearby the remnant, unearthed ruins that had
clear water that tasted about the same as the water that came form the
tap in the house. Around that the boy sat on a rock at the very edge of
the cliff -- his legs dangled down into the air, onto nothing. His
friend curled up next to him but his attention was elsewhere for the
He looked out upon the forests below, upon the woodlands below steadily
drowning in the shadow of night. It seemed to him that he had seen
something there within the trees -- that metal beast with the red-black
insignia. It was a passing thought, a fleeting thought but he could not
deny that he had heard it, too, the hum, the rumble. The wheels turning
-- he got an image in his mind but he shook it off, it was
unrecognizable and horrid. He saw himself in that metal vehicle along
with -- he put the boy up on his shoulders and headed back to the safety
The sky, that had been a twilight blue fading into purple, suddenly and
unexpectedly was set ablaze in green fireballs. The violent thunder of
massive detonations, upheavals was distant and muffled and did not
surprised them more than the display of light. Out in the horizon, just
above the treetops of forest below, the blasts converged onto an unseen
construction whose only detectable parts where the debris sent hurtling
into the air, into the surrounding countryside.
The two thought little about it, though and continued on with their
business unfazed and unmolested. As abruptly as it appeared the green
glow vanished and before they knew it, before they ever aware of it,
evening had turned to night once more on third earth.
The time was well past midnight, the moon was out in the heavens in the
glory of its eerie, smoky ambiance. The two were again in the bedroom
lower, stone walled cellar. The boy was on the bed, exposed. The cat
was on the floor next to the door that he had propped shut. The first
few hours of rest were especially calm but sometime during the late
night, early morning, while the half-world slept, from the unknown upper
floors came a soft and muffled whine, the same sort of whine that a door
would make if it were caught in the midst of a strong current.
The cat opened his eyes then sat up. The noise was steady but was soon
cut off when the door unseen had hit the wall -- the doorknob banged up
against the unseen wall and sounded in telltale acuteness. He was
already on the side of the bed nudging the boy wake before he had heard
the heavy, dull footsteps that followed.
The boy was still tired but when he, too, had heard the footsteps from
above he was perched and ready for action. His friend had moved the
props from the door silently but swiftly. The door could then open but
unfortunately it made a creak, there was no way to avoid that so the cat
swung it open completely in one turn. The thing from upstairs responded
by giving a loud moan or a groan and up-paced its footsteps.
The two were in the large, living room headed to the side door when they
heard the unseen creature begin to descend the staircase. The onslaught
would take only second after that but fortunately for them they were out
of the side door and out of the house in time. They ran to the dense
and protective forests near the edge of the cliff that extended for
miles from one end of the horizon to the other.
The boy looked back while on his friend’s shoulders. There were lights
on inside the house. But that was that last that he saw of it. They
stumbled upon a concrete embankment along the thick underbrush that fed
into stairs -- also of concrete -- that led down to the forest below.
Hesitantly the cat began to descend the rough steps for he feared that
the monster that haunted his mind might still lurk down there beneath
but he also feared that the other thing from the house might strike from
When at last they had reached the end it felt though they were in a
world all to themselves again. They hiked further inland until they
reached a tree wide enough, strong enough to hold them. He climbed and
on a thick branch several feet above the ground he and the boy spent the
rest of the night in sleep.
The cat awoke first, again, he had the boy cradled in his arms. He
petted his hair back and noticed that there was blood, a lot of blood,
under his nose, around his mouth, some of it had even smeared all over
his own fur. He was shocked but the effect was temporary -- he began to
wipe away the dried blood with his fingers. From the ears, from the
corner of the eyes trickled small drops of that fresh, dense red liquid.
The boy only then awoke and he seemed visibly tired, unrested and
debilitated. He could barely lift his head -- that was reddening,
throbbing and heating up -- he could hardly move his arms anymore. His
voice had left him but he was able to whisper: “O emo cita go reucet.”
Bright sunlight shone upon them from the large gaps in the canopy. The
air was cold but calm and silent, scented in floral aromas intermingled
with only trace hints of smoke. Suddenly the branches of the tree
swayed and echoed in the rustling of the leaves that rubbed together,
suddenly there was something else, too -- the cat’s eyes opened wide.
It was the humming, the rumbling. He looked down, across to the side.
Bushes and shrubs in the distance were crushed under the large, tracked
wheels of that metal beast. He saw a red-black image but by then he had
quickly turned away.
He took the boy onto his chest and managed to secure his arms and hands
around his neck while he climbed further up the three. His claws dug
deeply into the brittle bark but unfortunately it was too loose and too
dry and would acome to the bare, sticky wood beneath. His climb was
thusly hampered and on top of that he stopped often to resecure the
The child was still responsive but so weak, so incredibly weak. He
stopped -- he could not climb any higher. He was there on the length of
the trunk ten feet above the lowest, reachable branch, the other
branches over him he only then realized were small and thin and could
not possibly support their weight.
His heart raced -- the boy said or screamed something, he could not tell
exactly, not that it would have mattered anyway, for the sounds of the
metal vehicle were loud and omnipresent. The tree vibrated violently,
it shook in his grip and the bark he held on to began to give way. He
began to climb down but it was too little, too late. He felt the boy
slipping and there was nothing he could do about it, nothing. He put
his legs together in a way that could keep the boy from falling all the
way through in case of the worst.
He stopped moving but the tree did not stop rattling. He did not know
how long he remained there, motionless there fifty feet above the rocky
earth. Time seemed to have stopped, the seconds seemed to take hours to
tick away. Meanwhile that metal contraption just would not stop coming
closer, it just would not go away.
The last he heard before his body failed him were screams and shouts
from below -- from the red-black adorned object that had only then
stopped, that gradually loudened with the fall.
For some time there was only darkness but not silence, not silence
exactly. He heard voices unrecognizable, incoherent, the language was
different from the boy’s and inexplicably familiar. Stern and soft,
paced and panicked, gradually he became aware of the differences between
the voices to such an acute degree that he could actually tell them
“The mutants would be blowing anything up for a while,” one voice spoke,
quickly, forcefully. Determined?
“That ship must have --” some of the words took too long, too long to
form meaning in his head, “Jagga only knows what might have happened had
the mutants got what they were after.”
Once head separated them -- the male from the female -- only then did
the very words fall into place. Yes, it was language and in the shock
of realization it occurred to him that he what was being said, the he
understood at last what had happened to him.
“So much death, what a waste and for batteries only?”
“Nothing else survived the explosions.”
The memories returned like a tidal wave, like an avalanche at full
His eyes opened. He was flat on his back, naked but wrapped tightly in
a white blanket. He saw the sky: the clouds evolved in faint mists, in
vaporous forms to reveal the bright blue heaves that seemed to go on and
on, eternally, eternally.
“I’m Panthro, I’m a Thundercat.”
He sat up, the covering quickly acame off of him.
“I remember! I remember!”
“You’ve been injured,” Pumyra said. She tried to hold him back, she
tried to refit the blankets around him.
“Where is he? Where’s the boy?”
She was silent and helpless while he got up to his feet.
Panthro was wobbly and for the first time he had the oddest sensation on
his left arm. Above the elbow the fur had been ripped to expose flesh
underneath: red, bright red, throbbing red but not bleeding for it had
been nursed expertly.
“You're arm’s broken,” she said, her voice was pathetically thin, almost
inaudible, “fractured --”
“Where’s the boy, Pumyra? I must see him!”
“You have other injuries, you shouldn’t be up --”
She arose, her eyes pointed to the vehicle whose outline could be seen
clearly through the green foliage. It was the same vehicle that he had
heard, that he had long tried to dodge and to escape.
How foolish, he thought to himself, how foolish.
Liono and Tygra stood before the bushes, the two would not step closer
to the Thunder Tank. Only Bengali moped around the back. Panthro had
never seen his friends like that, especially the black smith -- like --
bloodshot eyes, he kept turning his head away, he left covering his
mouth so that no one could see the quivering manner with which his lips
He ran to the white tiger but he stepped back defensively into the
The Thunder Tank as empty except for the back where the trunk’s lid was
up, open. A blue blanket covered the form of the small boy. Panthro
recognized him merely from the shape of the head alone. In a rage anger
he ripped off the cover, the boy’s body was momentarily lifted by the
harsh and swift action but when completely exposed he fell back with a
There was no reaction, there was no movement. The boy’s eyes were open,
mouth tightly shut. Blood had oozed out of the ears and of the nose.
Fragments of decayed bark and green leaves clung to him, adhered to the
Panthro began to pry off those things from he boy’s face while the other
Thundercats clawed up enough courage to come closer, to come to his
side. “There was nothing we could do,” Tygra spoke through shaky words,
“it wasn’t the fall that killed him, it was the brain trauma, the brain
injury was too great.”
“No, no, no, no life, no!”
He cradled the body in his arms and sat on the floor, on the ground
while the others watched helplessly.
Tygra began: “His last words were --”
“No life! Why should a mutant, a lunatic have life and he no breath at
all? Never, never.” With each impending word he shook his head more
and more violently though he would decapitate himself. “Look here,” he
pointed to the lips, “look here,” to the eyes, “Look!” He rocked back
and forth, left and right. He brought the boy’s face up to his and
kissed him once on the cheek before he broke into tears. “Good night,
good night,” he said to the dead body.
His arms gave way, his body fell forward over the boy, he was still, he
was motionless. Tygra knelt down over Panthro, he put his hand firmly
under his neck. He felt there for a moment or two and then he shot back
in terror. He looked around to the others then at last to Liono: “He’s
dead, Panthro’s dead.”
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