Ella Takes a Forest Walk with Merlin.
This is an unedited excerpt from World Within Worlds. Read more about Merlin in the book.
My feet pound against the forest floor, hamstrings straining with the sudden burst of speed. Merlin, my cream Burmese, races ahead and I sprint after him, determined to let him have a good run before he gets to the end of his leash and must yank to a stop. He slows a little as the leash tightens, then races ahead again as I catch up. His destination is in sight. I just have to keep up a little while longer, but my heart is pounding now, and I wish I was as fit as I had been when I had danced 6 hours or more a day.
He leaps up the rock, paws scrabbling at the top as he fights to pull himself over the edge. He makes it, he always does, then sits above me, looking down with his head cocked, his bright eyes telling me how clever he is.
‘Yes, you’re a clever boy,’ I say.
He licks a paw then runs it over his face and behind his ear, and I lean against the rock to catch my breath. By the time I climb up beside him, he is still, listening. I sit without moving and listen with him. I hear with the ears of a cat, see through the eyes of a cat, and my nose twitches as it sifts the smells for information. Something dead and decaying to the north; damp earth and leaf mulch to the east; dry rock and lichen below, and the perfume of eucalyptus blossoms dance on the breeze.
The sounds of the rainforest leap forth like crystal bells ringing in the silence of a grand cathedral. Birds song punctuates the background texture of cicadas buzzing in the trees: a lyre bird, a cat bird, native wrens, finches and thrush, and far away the call of a currwong. The names do not matter to a cat, and right now, they matter not to me either.
Leaves rustle, we turn to the sound. Something large is hiding behind a shrub. Merlin crouches on his haunches, ready to pounce, his gaze, filled with anticipation, is fixed on the movement. It doesn’t matter to him that whatever is there is clearly as tall as a man. He’s just interested in the hunt.
I curse my human brain for drawing a computer world character into my physical reality, along with the tension his name brings, and I bring my mind back to what I see. Just see without the mental commentary, I remind myself. I look. I see. I return to the present and the tension fades. The glossy, green leaves of the bush are still now. Whatever is there knows it’s being watched, and it waits, hoping it’s hidden, and no doubt ready to flee.
Merlin creeps along the rock on his belly, his nose twitching, tail flipping back and forth. What does he smell? I hope it’s a large wallaby, or a roo, though they don’t usually come so high. Could it be a man?
He stalks me online, not as a fan, which I would welcome, but as a bully, which I can do without. Though he hunts on the internet, someone is behind the name, someone who lives somewhere. My chest contracts.
Don’t be ridiculous.
There is no way he could be here. But if he was, does he hate me enough to knife me, or shoot me? It’s unlikely, but there are lots of crazy people in the world. I realise that if I don’t stop the growing paranoia, I’ll be one of them. I jump off the rock. “Come on kitty; let’s go.”
Thump, thump, thump. I catch a glimpse of a large wallaby fleeing through the forest. My mind created the fear, nothing more. It was never real.
Merlin casts one look after his prey, decides it’s a lost cause and ambles on. A finch flutters past, catching his attention. He races after it, taking up the full length of his leash, then simply stands and watches as the bird flies out of reach. The Wallaby is forgotten, relegated to a past that no longer exists. I put Dita in the same place and run my gaze up the broad trunk before me. Thousands of insects dwell between and beneath the rough bark, their world crowned by silver green leaves dancing against the backdrop of a brilliant, blue sky. I stare into the sky and smile. I will not give Dita the satisfaction of allowing him to disturb a moment like this.
That’s it for today folks. Any comments?