PACKING LIGHT • by Gustavo Bondoni

The humans were taking too long. They seemed hell-bent on stopping at each and every burial nook and statuette — no matter how badly overrun with cobwebs — to make a little notation. Location, description, photograph number, everything was placed in the little black book.

Emmerson was a cat, and — therefore not interested in little black books — was not happy with this. Judging by their faces, they’d been caught by surprise at the sheer size and variety of the hoard. They kept repeating that they couldn’t believe that looters hadn’t gotten it yet. In this particular case, Emmerson had to agree with the looters: climbing mountains that are miles high just to get a few little golden statuettes seemed a bit much, even for humans.

He normally looked upon his companions’ foibles with tolerance, but the slow progress they were making, combined with their distracted enthusiasm, threatened to make them forget about Emmerson’s lunch.

And, though he was master of all he surveyed, nothing could change the fact that he couldn’t open cans. He sat despondently, wondering if there was anything he could do to make things go more quickly, but nothing came to mind.

A soft rustling reached him from the depths of the cavern. At first, Emmerson thought it was nothing, a breeze or a stream, but then realized that the sound was rhythmic, and uneven. He shot down the corridor to investigate.

“Emmerson!” Dr. Enzo cried. Emmerson ignored him; Enzo could be a bit overprotective at times.

“Let him go. He’ll be all right, he won’t get lost.” Alice was usually the voice of reason in these cases. Her calm demeanor gave him pause; it was likely that she would remember to feed him.

No. He was already in motion, and damned if he was going to let the humans dictate what he would or wouldn’t do. The cavern sloped downward and the sound grew louder.

All at once, Emmerson was forced to a halt. The tunnel had collapsed here, and the way forward seemed to be comprehensively blocked. The stones and dirt wouldn’t have been hard for a human to shift… But he wasn’t a human.

Sounds beyond the pile taunted him with their inaccessibility. The low rustling had been joined by a higher-pitched squeaking, and he wanted to know what they were. Some feline sixth sense told him that important things were going on beyond the mound of rubble.

He thought about it for a second: if he could hear sounds, there had to be an opening for them to reach him. The wall must not be as solid as it looked. And if there was a space, there was room for him to crawl through.

The space wasn’t really adequate, but Emmerson managed to squeeze through at the cost of a fraction of his dignity — which wasn’t an issue when there were no humans around.

Once through, he was amazed to see that the corridor was bathed in a soft silvery light that came from around the next corner. He padded silently to the kink and watched, unnoticed as a drama of galactic proportions played out.

“My love,” a silvery being said in a high-pitched voice, “it took centuries, but I’ve come back for you.”

The speaker wasn’t human. It looked like a length of silver pipe with a huge glowing bulb on top of it. Thin tendrils served as arms, and they flowed seamlessly back into its body when not in use.

The being seemed to be speaking to one of those old Inca mummies that the humans kept getting so excited about. Emmerson wasn’t really sure what there was to get excited about. They didn’t look good, they didn’t smell good either, and the cat had resisted trying to find out what they tasted like. Perhaps the fact that they could get strange beings to talk to them justified the fuss.

The mummy moved. “Yes,” she said testily. “You said that already. But look at me! How can I possibly go with you now? You took too long! I’m completely ruined. And… and someone killed me! I can’t even remember who!”

“We can restore you to whatever you want to be. Just say that you’ll come with me!”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Well, you were dead when I got here. You can go back to that.”

“Not much of a choice, is it?”

The being ignored her. “We need to leave now. The natives are nearly here.”

The mummy sighed, sending dried flakes into the air. “What can I take?”

“Whatever you can hold.”

The mummy looked around at the treasures strewn all over the floor and sighed. She tried to pick up a large pile of coins, but they slipped through desiccated fingers.

Cats could do one of two things when a human was in trouble: demonstrate their superiority by making it worse, or demonstrate it by solving the issue. Emmerson walked into view, and immediately both beings stared at him.

He calmly proceeded to a nook beneath the mummy’s niche and pried out an unnoticed crystal bauble, recognizable as something different and special, with a nail. He batted it into the center of the floor and walked haughtily back to his original spot.

The mummy leaned forward to grasp the piece. “This!  You gave it to me when I was young, so young. This is what I will take with me.” She turned to where Emmerson sat, but never had a chance to voice her thanks.

The silver light intensified and they were gone.

Emmerson licked his paws as the humans broke through the rubble and walked into the chamber.

“Emmerson!” Dr. Enzo cooed.

Alice concentrated on the chamber. “Looters have been here,” she said, pointing at the empty niche, where a mummy had once lain. “I wonder why they didn’t take the treasure.”

“Maybe they couldn’t carry it with them,” Enzo replied.

Emmerson said nothing. He was a cat. But his thoughts were simple: a single, exasperated word: Humans!

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer with over a hundred published stories and three books to his credit. Every Day Fiction is one of his favorite places to get a fiction fix — and loves the interaction when one of his stories is published there.

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