Her name was Seven, and she was small and graceful and fast. Only a small patch of brown fur on her back and her green eyes broke the shiny uniformity of her blackness. Her Mama had named her Seven. Her brothers and sisters were One through Fourteen. Mama had said it was just easier that way. She and Five were inseparable. Five was a tiger striped tom with one ear that wouldn’t stand up. It had been injured in a fight.
Seven was faster than Five, and sometimes she would hide pieces of the mice or birds she caught where she knew he’d find them. One time, when they were small, he stepped on his own whiskers while stalking a bird. He fell on his face, and the bird looked at him like it was thinking, Idiot. She worried about him because he was a little clumsy and because he took foolish chances. She would never admit it, but that was part of why she liked him, too. Everything was a game to him, and he wasn’t afraid of anything, not even the men.
Mama had told them about the men. Some of them would give you food, but it was dangerous to go near any of them. They couldn’t be trusted. The worst man in the neighborhood was the one with the blue machine. He was big and had no fur on his head, and once he had chased Mama with the machine. She had crossed the street and was on the curb when the machine came right up after her. She jumped aside, but it almost got her, and she heard the man laughing as it zoomed off down the street. After that Mama made them hide whenever she saw the blue machine.
Last week the blue machine hit Five. He and Seven had been hunting in the yard with the bird feeder. Seven was stretched out under a rose bush. The sun was hot, but there was a breeze. It moved her whiskers as it blew. The earth near her twitching nostrils smelled dark and rich and she wasn’t really interested in the chattering birds. She was happy to lie there and watch Five stalk them. It was like watching a piece of herself.
Seven heard the door to the house open, and then the dog was there, snarling and slobbering and trying to decide which one to chase. Five and Seven rocketed past him, sailed over the gate, and sprinted up the gangway to the street. Seven was in the lead, and as she crossed the street she saw the blue machine at the end of the block. She called to Five, but it was too late. He was in the street, and the man had seen him. The blue machine was fast. Five darted up a driveway, heading for a tree, but the blue machine followed him. Seven screamed when she saw him disappear under the tire. She ran after it, but the blue machine kept going, down the street and around a corner.
Five was dead. Seven lie down next to him and cried. She lay there all afternoon and all night, and the next day, around mid-day, some men came with a shovel and took Five away. Seven hid while the men were there, and when they left she went looking for the blue machine. It was sitting two blocks over, in the street by the curb, when she found it. She took note of which way its eyes were facing and walked in that direction to the end of the block. Then she crawled under a bush and lie down to wait.
It was dark and wet when she finally saw the man. It had been raining all evening, and she was glad, it would make her job easier. She got up, stretched, and walked out from under the bush, into the middle of the yard. She looked up at the night sky, and the cool rain felt good on her face. The grass was wet, and she was a little worried about slipping, but this was her chance, and she needed to take it. She looked at the man and screamed. He turned toward her, and when she knew he had seen her, she walked out into the middle of the street and sat down.
The blue machine roared as it came to life, and its eyes shone with an evil brightness that bathed the wet street and almost blinded her. She lowered her head to shield her eyes from the glare, and as the machine came toward her she growled, low, deep in her throat. By the time she turned to run the machine was a blue blur, a juggernaut of inevitability, bearing down on her. She cut right at the last moment, and the machine followed her up over the curb and into the fire hydrant. The blue beast caught Seven on its bumper and threw her high over its head, then slammed to a halt as if an invisible hand had grabbed it in mid-lunge.
Seven landed on the wet grass and slid across the lawn, coming to rest next to a tree. She lay still, breathing hard, and listened for the sound of the man’s laugh, but all she could hear was the rain and her own heart, pounding in her chest. When she got up everything hurt, and one leg wouldn’t work. She limped over to the silent machine and looked up. The man was laying on the hood, half in the machine and half out. His face was covered with blood, and he made little noises, like he was trying to say something but couldn’t. There was a pool of water flowing out from under the machine, and Seven looked down at her reflection. A spot of blood stained her head where an ear was torn, and the ear flopped down to one side. It looked a little like Five’s ear, and she knew that it would probably heal in that position.
She heard men opening doors and coming out of their houses. She took one last look at the machine and limped off into the night.
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