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Ember Eyes (standard:drama, 1682 words)
Author: WaltAdded: Apr 17 2013Views/Reads: 1866/939Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A cat's tale Even jungle cats are curious . . .

Ember Eyes 

They established their base camp near the river where I catch my fish
when I feel like a change in diet. I heard their trucks rumbling along 
the trail across the wetlands and up the steep grades through the 
forest all that afternoon. They might have made better progress on foot 
but they needed their supplies. Tents, clattering cooking equipment, 
tables and chairs, suitcases of clothing, bug spray and snake bite 
medicine. Beer, wine and whiskey for courage. 

I recognized the two tanned guides for they had hunted me before. The
white ones, gringos the guides called them when they thought they were 
by themselves, were two older males and a young female. I watched as 
they wielded machetes, clearing a space for their camp. The fat one 
kept mentioning snakes, poking the undergrowth with a stick, but any 
small snakes had long fled the area, the noise of their camp-making 
enough to warn every bird, animal, lizard and snake away from the 
knoll. On the other hand, the noise of the encampment attracted the 
flying bugs and biting ants. I watched, wondering what these people 
wanted. Were they taking pictures or firing guns? Why did they have 
that metal cage on one of the trucks? 

“Pedro, have you seen any signs of old Ember Eyes?” the woman asked one
of the guides. 

“Si, señorita Doctor. There is sign of a freshly killed wild pig just
one hundred metres to the south. The Gato Negro is near. We will find 
him.” If I had known they were coming I would have hidden the rest of 
my dinner. 

Gato Negro. That is what the Spanish-speaking people call me. Over the
years, I have picked up their lingo well enough to know to make myself 
scarce when they are hunting. The English speakers were becoming more 
numerous, mostly following guides and taking pictures of the birds, 
butterflies and flowers which flourished in this hot humid country. Up 
here on the hills where it was cooler, they tried to find us, but we 
cats are not at the top of the food chain because we are careless. Once 
in a while they catch one of us – the ocelots and smaller cats in 
particular. Sometimes an older panther will go down to the villages to 
eat the fat lazy cows or blatting goats and then the people come with 
guns. The smell of the death of a great cat is something that stays 
with me. I am careful, watching the people at night when they cannot 
see my blackness. 

It took me a while to realize that they had begun calling me ‘Ember
Eyes'. Sometimes I get too close to their campfires and my eyes reflect 
the flickering light of the campfire. Once they fired a gun at me but 
mostly they just yell and scream at me to frighten me away. I do not 
fear them. One on one, they have no chance. They are too slow and too 
weak. Even with their knives, machetes, and pistols and excited with 
drink, they know to stay near their campfire at night. In the daytime I 
can hear them, smell them and see them before they see me. I know about 
their booming guns – that is how they killed my mate, Silva. I remember 
the smell of the man who fired his gun that day. It is the older man 
now in the camp. 

Darkness comes quickly in the forest and I crept closer to watch and
listen. We cats do not moralize like the people. Nor do we rationalize. 
It was simply a fact that I was going to have my revenge. As a kit, I 
had played with mice and squirrels, toying with them before killing and 
eating them. I had no taste for human flesh but I did like to play a 
little with my prey, practising with my quick claws. Unless my prey was 
one of the larger snakes like the pythons and constrictors: those I 
crushed immediately. 

I do not like the smell of their fires. The acrid smoke burns my eyes
and assaults my nose, yet it is also a marker that I can follow to find 
them. Those who light their smoke sticks as they walk along are easy to 
sniff out for the smell lingers on their hide. The smell of the 
repellents they wear also floats among the trees all around them, but 
what is most offensive is when they burn and char the meat of animals 
before they eat it. They despoil the juices and taste, covering it with 
their own bottled juices. This is what they now did as I watched from 
the cover of brush, trying not to twitch my tail in disgust. 

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