Chapter Five: To Each His Own
"See?" Oliver said, looking back at Jaz. "He calls you by name. Come on!"
"Oliver! Jaz!" The old man motioned for the cats to hurry, even as they ran at him with all their might. When they jumped onto the porch he opened the door of the house. Oliver rushed in headlong. Jaz hesitated, then followed. The man continued to hold the door open as he called for Molly and Sam. Oliver poked his head out to look for any sign of his brother or his friend.
Then he saw them. Molly came first, making long bounds across the grass. She was dirty and wet, her bottom half covered in mud, but the master did not seem to care as he urged her into the house.
Oliver took Molly to his side and licked her all over. "I was so worried about you," he said.
Molly's eyes were wide and full of terror. "What's happening?"
"We don't know," he said. "But I think the master knows. We'll be safe with him."
Molly nodded, and for once she truly believed it.
"Where's Sam?" Jaz asked.
The panic in her eyes startled Oliver. He looked to Molly for an answer.
"He was right behind me," she said. "He was right there..."
The three hurried to the open door and looked out. The master had spotted him too, at the edge of the tall grass that separated the yard from the field. He was calling to him, begging him to come inside.
"Sammy! Come here, pretty boy!" He held the pan of food in front of him and shook it to entice the cat. "Come and get out of the storm!"
On the other side of the yard Sam stood rigid against the wind and rain. Now you want to invite me into the house, he said in his thoughts. Well it is too late. If the wind and rain destroy me it will destroy you too. I will be no better off in there with you, the cruel and heartless master of the weak! He then sat down. I wonder how long I can keep you at the door, you foolish man. Until the wind blows you away? He snickered at the thought. Oh I've always hated you, but never more than now. Beg some more! Order me to come! I will not obey.
The sound and force of the wind grew stronger until the door was nearly wrenched out of the old man's hand. Sam stayed low to the ground, watching and laughing. Couldn't the man see that he belonged here, that he was one with the elements and that both he and nature were raging against his tyranny? A flash of lightning and immediate thunder seemed to punctuate his conviction. His chest puffed with pride. He felt as strong as a lion. The other cats were weak to depend on the man. He decided that when the storm passed he would never let them live down their cowardice.
Then the door to the house slammed shut, and the man called out no more.
The grin faded from Sam's face. For the first time he felt the weight of the rain in his fur. It pelted him from above, coming harder and harder... No, this wasn't rain, it was hail! A powerful gust nearly ripped him from the ground. He turned around then, struggling to keep all four feet down, and saw to his horror a dark wall of wind with a swirling cloud of debris at its base, pounding the earth, slamming the trees, and coming ever closer.
Abandoning his pride, Sam raced toward the house. He leaped over the stairs, skidded onto the porch, and put his paws to the door. He scratched wildly, but the door would not open. Frantically he looked to the left and to the right, then raced to the nearest window. He toppled the old man's rocker in his efforts, but managed to look inside.
Empty... The house was empty! That couldn't be; he had just seen Molly and Jaz and Oliver inside!
A fear seized his heart unlike any other, like that of one who had lost all hope. He could not move except to cling to the window frame. The noise behind him grew louder still, and the wind ripped at his hide like an angry dog. The porch structure shook. A plastic table disappeared from its place in the corner. He held on until he could bear it no longer; then he let go, being pulled outward and upward and every which way until a collision with something unseen ended everything.