By RD Rivero
By RD Rivero
September 1, 2000
The sky was clear and cloudless and through the turn of evening the pristine
blue had acome to the dark gray. The sun sank and disappeared beneath the
distant tree line sending long shadows out across the land. Slowly and without
a sound another cold, autumn day ebbed on Third Earth.
Gloom and loneliness spread over the face of Cat’s Lair. Heavy front doors
were open -- Snarf and Snarfer stood before them silent while Tygra
approached. He treaded over the extended bridge, dressed in black. His face,
unnaturally pale, was sulked down to the ground.
Inside, he ascended the main stairs and boldly entered his bedroom. That
morning he had laid her on the bed, shrouded her with lotus blossoms and tiger
lilies before he put her in the velvet coffin. Her, Willa, his joy, his life, dead,
He felt a bittersweet sense of relief that the day had ended, that the agonizing
ceremony had ended. He had led the mourners in the procession around the
cemetery. He could not deny that his beloved was gone. Yes, she was gone
and he knew better.
The monument of her tomb was his own design. Within the vault of the crypt he
stared blankly into space while the body was interred -- he watched like a
helpless child while the Warrior Maidens and the new Queen Nayda deposited
When she was at last safe in the marble confines he took hold of himself. Tygra
thanked them, the watery-eyed onlookers, but while they slowly dwindled back
to the comfort of their lives he remained rooted in that spot in despair for the
rest of the day. He locked the tomb and the barred, iron gates and threw the
only silver key into the darkness of the mausoleum. It shimmered on the
flower-strewn floor in the dying twilight. The air was cold and a sudden breeze
stirred severed, multicolored petals over the metal form, burying it, as it were,
forever beyond his reach.
It was almost six when he finally left the shrine.
Back in his bedroom everything was the way he had left it, the snarfs had
touched nothing. He remembered how he held her in his arms tightly while
death snatched her from his grasp. He kissed her and with one last smile she
More, there was more, but the memories, too, decayed and faded quickly into
The windows, framed by curtains interlaced with gold trim, were open. The last
rays of evening light fell upon the large portrait of the deceased. Tygra looked
around him, taking in the whole scene. The robe lay across the armchair where
she had flung it the night before. On top of a mirrored chest were her earrings
and a necklace of black pearls she had worn on the day of the wedding.
Half-open drawers full of oils and scents, sparse articles of clothes and other,
minor personal tidbits.
He looked at the bed. The pillow was crumpled in the form of her head, the
sheets and blankets were unmade and sprinkled with dots of blood. On the
floor was a flute, its end still wet from its last use seemed in its silence to play
echoes of unfinished melodies.
And over the mattress loomed the clock whose hands he had broken off so that
it would tell time no more. And yet she was gone. And yet he --
The Thundercat lost himself in memories. He remembered how they had first
met, how they had saved each other’s lives battling the mutants, the lunatics,
Mumm-Ra. Her bravery and the tenderness when their eyes met. He could
still see her, there radiant, there once, in a crystal-clear lake, in the moonlight,
sky blackened and starless, she emerged from the warm waters like a goddess
-- he knew then he had to worship her forever -- there the two lovers had
become so intoxicated by their love that it was the only reality.
Hours passed by minutes, minutes passed by seconds.
Trees in the forest rustled in mourning and he looked out the window. In the
darkness of space only the shinning, spinning planets were visible. He walked
to the open portals and inhaled the cold air.
“It is Willa,” he whispered and at the sound of the name he trembled.
He turned to inspect the room once more as if awoken from a dream.
The objects in the room were now illuminated in a soft, warm glow. A smoky
tint fumed in the air while flickering shadows dances on the walls. A rod of
incense burned in a small, porcelain urn on the table next to the bed -- it was
Willa’s custom always to burn oils and essences before retiring to sleep.
He called Snarf and the old Thundercat nanny appeared at the door. He turned
to face the tiger -- a rush of fear and terror coursed through his body for Tygra
smiled as though nothing had happened.
“Snarf,” he said, “Willa and I are tired, no supper this night but be sure to have
a large breakfast prepared tomorrow morning. And, Snarf, we’ve decided to
live here alone starting tomorrow. No one else but you is to stay here another
night. Tell Snarfer to go stay at the Tower of Omens from now on. Tell
Pumyra and the others that they are not to return to Cat’s Lair. We will not be
receiving any more visitors.”
Snarf trembled once more while Tygra walked past him into the darkness of the
“And be silent -- she sleeps now.”
He disappeared into the shadows of the lair. Snarf stood alone, quiet in the
bedroom. He could hear a faint breathing but he did not know from where it
came -- if it just might be Tygra lurking nearby. He shut the door and hung his
head ready to play the devoted accomplice in the pretense, the frail mind spring
that, after all, might fray in the morning. It was his duty and he could not
question it -- fortunately, the others were too busy on New Thundera that they
would not meddle or notice for some time. Leaving the area he carried out his
That night was the beginning of a new way of life.
The initial awkwardness soon wore off. Snarf played his part well, he created a
roll that was so natural that within the space of a month there were times that he
had to remind himself Willa was dead. He was getting too caught up in
Tygra’s game that he would himself loose track of reality.
Tygra lived completely unaware of his wife’s death. He felt her presence
everywhere. Often he would sit outside by the bridge -- it was kept retracted
except for those rare moments when Snarf would go out to get food, supplies
or to ward off the other, sympathetic Thundercats from coming closer -- and in
the clear daylight he would read aloud the poetry she loved best:
“If along the highroad
I caught hold of your sleeve,
Do not hate me;
Old ways take time to overcome.
“If along the highroad
I caught hold of your hand,
Do not be angry with me;
Friendship takes time to overcome.”
In the evenings past sunset he would sit in the dinning room, two cup of wine on
the table, chatting, smiling to empty chairs, to somber shadows.
Tygra lived a double life, in a state of heightened perception. He would see a
soft, pale face between blinks of the eye. A tune sounded through the flute. A
kiss would close his lips as he was about to speak. A sweet scent of lotus
blossom would fill the air while doors opened and closed commingling with the
soft sound of naked feet treading over the carpeting.
A shadow just beyond the end of the hall, a laughing voice calling him, the
sounding of bells in the morning -- it was all so familiar, it was only his bride
playing a child’s game with him and only natural for she was so well-loved.
Even Snarf had grown accustomed to her existence.
Once he thought he saw her so clearly that he reached out to touch her but his
movement only caused her image to vanish, dissolve like smoke.
“Willa,” he spoke with a smile.
On her birthday he lay a flower on her pillow -- in the indentation left by her
On the day of the dark anneversary Tygra, sitting at his drawing board, had just
finished reading a thin tome of poems of Terznick, a famed and admired
Second Earther and closing the book he reached out for a cup. He said:
“Willa, do you remember the western falls over the Sea of Clouds? Didn’t it
remind you of that luscious valley?”
He stood and walked to the bed. On the sheets were the black pearls his love
had just slipped off -- they were still warm. He happened to pick up a cloth
upon which were drops of blood once fresh. He looked to the side -- someone
had turned a page of music, the flute lay between the folds of the pages. The
flame of the incense gave the room joy and life and he looked up over the bed
to see that the hands of the clock had been restored and adjusted to set the
hour -- the clock he had mutilated the instant of her --
At that moment he sensed that she was there in the room. He could see her
there. A fresh peal of laughter -- he turned around and before his eyes, leaning
against the doorway, was Queen Willa.
“Tygra,” she said.
He stepped forward -- then he shuddered, struck by a fatal recollection.
“But what’s wrong with me? You’re dead.”
And as he spoke the words the flame in the urn went out -- moonlight filled the
room. The hands of the clock fell soundlessly to the floor and vanished in the
fibers of the rub. The vision of Willa, too, faded into the thin mists of the air and
Tygra sighed, he realized he was alone and a sense of prevailing death radiated
from everywhere at once.
“It is the end, she is lost. How am I to reach you now? Show me how to get
Suddenly, as if in answer, a shinny object slipped from the bed to the floor
where it shimmered in the dim, dying light. Tygra bent down to pick it up -- his
face then lit with a smile for in his hands, amidst dried and withered flower
petals was the key to Willa’s tomb.
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