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Rocky, a short story by Karen Eastland

‘Incoming,’ someone screamed and everyone ran for cover beneath the bird places.
I looked for my human amongst the dust and debris left by the attack. The cries of loss and anguish tore at my heart as my friends and neighbours looked for their humans too.
‘Incoming,’ Fred called, then saw as he pulled Frank beneath him to shield him with his body.
A familiar whirring noise neared our position, then the undeniable explosion of sound, by what could only be described as violent lightning and thunder strikes without the rain.
‘A terrible mix for those in the suburbs,’ the window man on the nightly’s had said.
‘Stay quiet everyone,’ I whispered. ‘We have to make sure it’s safe for us to resume our search.’
‘Fred? Frank?’ I called as the dust settled.
At first I thought the last incoming had taken more of my friends, more of their humans, but after a few frightening moments, I heard young Franks groan of pain.
‘Fred? Fred?’ I heard him call. He was frantic, but I knew Fred had given his life to save young Frank.
I put the search on hold for a few moments and made my way to him.
‘It’s all right, young Frank,’ I said, and stroked his head as it hung low to the ground. ‘Fred would’ve wanted you to carry on. Find your human young Frank. That’s what Fred would’ve wanted.’
We all took a few moments to remember His courage.
‘Goodbye, Fred,’ young Frank had said and wiped the dust, wet from his tears, from his little face.
‘Goodbye, Fred,’ I said. ‘You were the bravest of us all.’
After a brief pause, I knew we had to get back to digging if we had any hope of finding our humans before dinner.
‘Right young Frank, let’s get to it,’ I said. ‘There’re humans under that rubble somewhere and we have to find them, or we’ll starve.’
While we held our brief, but heartfelt memorial, I heard the screams and cries of our friends, enemies and other side of the window acquaintances, in our once quiet street. They too searched desperately for their humans.
‘I’ve got one,’ I heard someone call three houses down.
I watched as the others ran to see, but knew I had to find my human.
‘If I have any chance to maintain the lifestyle I’d become accustomed to,’ I thought. ‘I must dig deeper, faster and wider, than I ever had before.’
‘How you goin’, young Frank?’ I called.
‘I don’t know, Rocky, I don’t know if I’ll find our—my human before it gets dark,’ he said, and I saw a large tear fall from his eye.
I watched the tear. It created a small crater in the dust that was once my street. The tear rolled in and beaded and refused to become absorbed by it. The tear lay there, mocked him as he continued his search through the debris. My heart broke for him, for Fred, but we had to carry on.
‘Keep digging, young Frank,’ I called. ‘I won’t stop until I find at least one of our—my humans. You’re small, and I’d be willing to share my food with you for a day or two.’
‘Thank you, Rocky,’ he said on a cheerier note, then he said, ‘What’s that?’
‘What’s wha—incoming!’ I called and ran for cover.
The incoming sounded different to the others. It was silent, and just when I thought it wasn’t an incoming at all, a sudden explosion pierced the ears of everyone on the street, then everything became silent again. I could see the dust and debris fill the air, but it made no noise, could see everyone trying to get to their bunkers before the debris landed, but I was deaf.
‘I’ll never be able to hear my human call me for lunch again,’ I thought and my lips trembled, my eyes watered, then suddenly I heard the cries of my friends.
Satisfied I would be able to hear my humans voice, I dried my tears, picked up my lower lips and became the mighty warrior young Frank thought I was.
The day had been brutal. Wave after wave of aerial attacks had begun just before I got to have breakfast. In fact, I’d just gone to the bathroom when it began. No-one knew why, where, or who the attacks were coming from, but I hadn’t seen or heard from my human since before I woke, no-one had.
‘I’ve found something,’ Chi Chi called, and a pack of wild looking news hounds ran to her aid. I would’ve gone, but she’s not my type.
Chi Chi lived four houses down and always had a pack of no hopers sniffing around her.
‘She usually snubbed them,’ I thought. ‘But as my human says a lot, You’ve got to pick your battles—oh dear. I missed all the signs. My human had warned about such an event in my street. Oh why didn’t I listen?’
My epiphany devastated me and I fell to the ground and cried into the dust. It was soft and felt nice against my tummy. I rolled over and watched the dust float all around me like tiny fairies and tried to catch them.
‘Are you all right?’ young Frank asked, and stroked my head.
‘Yes, yes, young Frank. I’m all right,’ I said and tried to claw back some dignity. ‘So, did Chi Chi find her human?’
‘She found the mailbag, but it had no food in it. If we can’t find our humans,’ he said, ‘I’m frightened those news hounds over there might eat us Rocky.’
‘I know things look bad young Frank, but we have to keep looking. If we can’t find our humans, then you and I’ll leave when the others aren’t looking, find somewhere safe for the night, then get back to it tomorrow, all right?’
‘All right,’ he said. ‘We’ll come back tomorrow.’
Young Frank stayed by my side and we frantically dug, but the deeper we dug into the debris, more incomings came and refilled our holes.
‘Shush,’ I called. ‘Pass it on young Frank.’
‘Shush,’ young Frank said, and so on down the street.
‘What is it?’ he asked.
‘Humans, but not our humans. Hide! Everyone hide now!’
Everyone made it to their hiding places just as a group of humans walked into the middle of our street. They spoke a strange language, and I felt frightened.
‘Shouldn’t someone warn them?’ young Frank whispered.
‘Shush. They may be the enemy.’
‘What—No. Really? The enemy? The ones who have taken our humans?’
‘Yes, young Frank. Those—hang on. I understood that word—’
‘Which word?’
‘Lu—n—ch, lun—ch. I’ve got it, lunch!’ I whispered and felt proud of myself.
‘What’s lunch?’ young Frank asked.
‘What’s lunch?’ I asked and turned to look at him. I couldn’t believe he’d never heard of lunch before.
‘Lunch,’ I began, ‘is the meal that comes after breakfast, and morning treat, before afternoon snack, cuddles and dinner, nighttime cuddles and sleep. Your human sounds like a perfect heathen.’
‘What’s a heathen—’
‘—It does not matter Frank. All I’m saying is when we find our humans, and I will, I’ll allow you to visit so you can witness the wonder that is lunch. Now quiet—Oh come on! They’re gonna sit there and eat lunch right in front of us. What is happening to my world?’
Young Frank, Chi Chi, the news hounds and I stayed hidden. Those new humans sat in the middle of the debris, on top of our buried friends and humans, and ate lunch! The torture seemed to go on forever. Not only did I miss out on lunch, but those torturous humans were sitting on my dinner plans.
‘Finally,’ I said as they left. I was certain they were our attackers, because I’m smarter than the rest, and noticed there’d not been an incoming for a long time.
The heads of those who live on the street, rounded the bird places and bushes to make sure the coast was clear. I gave the all clear, and we began the long hard slog to dig up our humans. It worried me, mine didn’t like dirt.
‘Rocky! Look what you’ve done,’ my human says every time I come in from the outside with a gift for her. She would get upset—nay, I might go so far as to say, angry, when I would drop the bird offering at her feet. I never asked her to stand on the soft woolly stuff next to my bed, but she sure knew how to make it sound like I did it deliberately.
‘Of course I did it deliberately,’ I would say, but hadn’t mastered humanese, so it came out as a hiss and a spit. ‘It’s a pressie for you!’
For someone to bury mamma beneath mounds of dirt, she would be very angry with those lunch humans.
‘Lunch? Lunch! That’s right, lunch,’ I happily thought and ran to where they’d sat to see if there was any left. Then I was sad once more when I saw there wasn’t!
The whirring noise and incomings had stopped, but it didn’t matter how far down we dug, we still couldn’t find our humans.
‘Humans,’ young Frank called and pointed to those who’d eaten lunch. They were making their way back down the street.
‘Hide,’ I yelled, took Frank by the paw and dragged him with me as we slid under bushes, beneath the bird places.
Everyone hid, but the humans were doing something strange.
‘What are they doing Rocky?’
‘They wouldn’t?’ I said.
‘Wouldn’t what?’ young Frank asked.
‘They’re laying down trip wires—’
‘What are—’
‘Not now, young Frank, this is bad, very very bad. I’ve seen this when the nightly’s are on.’
‘Nightly’s are on?’
‘Yeah, it’s this black thing on the wall inside my house,’ I said but kept my eyes on what the lunch humans were doing. ‘When my human says, the nightly’s are on, it turns into a window, and oh—there’re all kinds of angry, nasty humans in that window young Frank. All kinds. We need to stop ‘em before we find our humans, and I mean now!’
Young Frank looked out between the leaves of a thick green bush. He saw the humans had a long piece of trip wire they were burying. Everyone heard Chi Chi’s cry as a huge yellow monster reached out and dug down into the hole she’d been digging. We all thought her human had perished. The news hounds stepped out from behind a row of bushes, while Sally, Chi Chi’s next-door neighbour, comforted her.
‘Well, that’s just unfair,’ I said. ‘Now we have to go out there too. Damn news hounds are showing us up.’
‘What do you—Never mind,’ young Frank said as he watched me squeeze through the bush, then asked, ‘what do we do now?’
‘We stand,’ young Frank. ‘We stand!’
‘What, just here?’
‘Yes, and now we wait to see what the news hounds do, then we do something better. It’s a competition young Frank, and we need to win.’
The humans and their huge yellow monster stopped and looked at everyone watching them. The news hounds got snarly, but had made no threatening moves and held their ground. While Rocky was looking the other way, young Frank ran back to the bush. He had no time to say anything and guessed lunch was off.
‘Hello,’ said a big hairy human, and he bent down and picked me up before I even knew what was happening. ‘You’re a big fella, aren’t ya?’
‘Rocky,’ young Frank whispered, and I knew he thought he’d never see me again. I thought I’d never see me again.
‘Bend at the knees with that one,’ another human called, and it made all the other humans bark.
I knew they were barking because young Frank had told me his human says to her human, ‘Don’t bark at me like that.’
One day when young Frank and I were still window acquaintances, before we were friends, I heard his human bark at the other, and it sounded the same as the humans barking in our street.
Young Frank watched the human walk away with me in his arms, and I looked back. My eyes pleaded for help, then saw the moment young Frank decided not to be young Frank anymore. He bravely stepped from the bushes and bird places, cleared his throat, then made the sweetest, cutest noise anyone had ever heard. The human carrying me stopped and looked back. I knew once his eyes met Franks, the human wouldn’t stand a chance.
One look at Franks big sad eyes, drooping lower lip and raised paw held in mid air, the human would believe Frank had been hurt. The big hairy human had no option than to go back and help him. I’ve seen this play before, and Franks very good at it, works every time. We all have our own little attention grabbers, but Franks by far was the most efficient. If the day turned out to be the disaster we thought it was, and we couldn’t find our humans, at least we’d learned to work together for a common cause.
‘Aren’t you a special baby?’ the hairy human who held me said as he put me down and picked Frank up.
I choked up, and after I made it behind the bushes beneath the bird places, I looked to see Frank. He was being carried away, and knew I had to try something, anything to save him. I had worked myself into a frenzy, was about to run out into the middle of the street and make like I was injured too, then saw Franks human, and her vet carriage stop in his driveway.
My frenzy eased, the want to move into berserk mode stopped, and I knew his human would see him in time to save Frank.
‘Frank!’ I called and watched him squirm in the hairy humans arms until the human had no option but to put him down. I saw him run to his human and knew everything would be okay.
‘He’s home, safe and sound,’ I thought, then something caught my eye.
Something was moving through the dust beneath the brush along the edge of the road, and crawling from beneath a line of bushes, was Fred. He hadn’t become a casualty of war after all, but was in need of some water.
Suddenly I heard my humans voice.
‘Rocky. What are you doing out here?’ she asked and picked me up. ‘Oh my sweet boy. Mamma’s lil boy. I bet you missed your breakfast—and lunch? Oh you poor, poor baby. Now, mamma needs to ask the gentlemen something, then we can get you fed. What do you think about that?’
I was safe and snug in my humans arms and Frank knew it. He was being smothered with kisses and hugs by his human.
‘Frank?’ I called, but he didn’t hear me. ‘Young Frank?’
‘Lunch, Frank. Lunch!’ I said, and he smiled.
‘Do we have power yet?’ my human asked the hairy human who’d picked me up just before Franks vet carriage got home. ‘I hate to ask this because I know it’s not really your department, but has the NBN been connected yet? I haven’t had a telephone or Internet access for more than a week.’
‘The power should be back on in thirty minutes or less,’ the hairy human who tried to take me away said. ‘But as for the NBN, I’m sorry. You’re right, we just work here. No-one knows when it’ll get finished. We’ve laid the fibre, just coverin’ it back in, but it’s up to the—well it’s in God’s hands now.’
‘I understand only too well,’ my human said, and she sounded sad. ‘Thank you.’
Then we went into the house and I knew she’d feel happier once she gave me food.
‘Somehow,’ I thought, ‘I will have to let her know about the trip wires, the incomings—what if she gets tangled—worse still, will she know she has to hide in the bushes beneath the bird places?’
‘Oh my sweet Rocky, you’re such a brave boy. You can have something special for a late lunch early dinner,’ she said.
I sat at my bowl and waited patiently for my human, but there was no light in the Rocky cold food section and I’d panicked again.
‘Here we are my sweet boy,’ my human said, and instead of, and I shuddered—the usual chicken and gravy in my bowl, there was cool fresh red meat.
‘I love you mamma,’ I meowed between bites and my nose rubbed against the cool wet meaty goodness. ‘I’ve been a good boy.’
Once I’d eaten, I walked to the window and looked outside to see almost everyone’s humans were alive. The mailman had come to get his bag, I was there when he dropped it. No-one told him about the incomings either, so when the first one hit and the dust flew into the air, so did his mail. But once the dust settled, he had disappeared. I thought he’d perished in the first attack, but the lunch humans were helping him.
‘Oh dear, it doesn’t look good for the mailman,’ I thought when I saw the news hounds still hadn’t found their humans.
‘Bless ‘em,’ my human said when the Rocky cold food section light turned on. ‘The nightly’s are about to start, my baby. Come sit with mamma.’
She tickled my tummy and picked me up. I climbed up over to her shoulder and sat while I cleaned myself, and as my mamma used her magic to open the bad, evil window, I forgot all about the trip wires.
‘I love you mamma,’ I meowed and purred in her ear, kissed her cheek and she fed me treats. ‘You must never leave me again, and I’ll not bring you a outside present for one week.’
Everything felt as it should. My tummy was full, the stress of the day was brushed away by the gentle touch of my humans hand as she brushed back my thick black fur. I looked at her with my big green grateful eyes, then snuggled in against her neck and went to sleep.

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