“Pew! Pew! Pew! Aaaaagh! The asteroid is coming closer – we’re all doomed – save us, Superkitten! Superkitten fortifies himself with a mouthful of his secret, mega-strength muscle mix – OK, two mouthfuls…mmnnnn…hang on while I clean my plate – I need all my strength to repel the asteroid…bit left over here..mnnnn…maybe a couple of my maxi-power biscuits too…OK, ready! I will save the earth!”
He rolled onto his back under the bridge and batted fiercely at the soft yellow star hanging on its string – “He’s doing it! Superkitten is diverting the asteroid! He has saved us all! Thank you, Superkitten! How can we ever repay you?” He licked a paw nonchalently. Another grateful population. Another job well done. Just another night in the life of Cassidy – Superkitten.
A small noise behind his head caused him to roll over and peer into the darkness. “Hello? Is someone there? Uncle Barty? Aunt Bunny?” A small dark shape resolved itself into a kitten. “Topper? I thought you’d gone…”
“I’m not Topper…I’m lost” The small tabby kitten’s lip began to tremble and her eyes glistened.
“Whoah…no crying on my watch! Crying’s not what we do in Superkitten’s secret lair. Here – borrow my carrot.” He manoeuvred his favourite felt carrot in front of the tearful kitten. She looked at it blankly. “It’s OK, you can play with it – as long as you give it back when you’ve finished. It’s my best one.” The kitten continued to stare uncomprehendingly at the toy. “Look..” said Cassidy. “You do this…” He flicked the carrot deftly between his front paws. “It’s fun. You can’t cry when you’ve got a carrot to play with.”
Tentatively, the tabby kitten dabbed at the carrot until she managed to move it. Then she stopped and put her head on one side, still sniffling. “I’ve never pushed a carrot around before. It’s weird.”
Cassidy sighed. He’d never before come across another kitten – or a cat for that matter – who didn’t know how to play. This sounded like a job for Superkitten! He took a deep breath, flexed his muscles and closed his eyes to concentrate. Like all superheroes, Superkitten had his sidekicks….
“Over here…!” shouted a new voice. The tabby kitten stared, wide eyed, as Cassidy punted the carrot across the floor to where another tabby kitten had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and was waiting to receive it. Suddenly, there was mayhem in the little room. Three kittens galloped about, pouncing, wrestling, skittering the toys around, running, jumping…and Cassidy happily scooted around with them, propelling himself with his front feet, matching his companions turn for turn, never falling behind, never missing a catch or a pass, laughing happily as the impromptu soccer match was finally declared a draw. They all flopped down to catch their breath in front of the now wide-eyed and bewildered visitor.
“Who…how…?” she stammered.
“This is my crew” said Cassidy, proudly. “They don’t come often, but they come when they’re needed. This,” he indicated a sleek black kitten – “is Toothless and these two,” he pointed to the two tabbies who were sitting close together, occasionally chewing on each other’s ears – “are Tadpole and Pollywog.” The black kitten smiled, and the other two broke off from whapping each other in the face to grin at her.
“What’s your name?” Toothless asked her.
“I’m not sure I have one” she said, wistfully. She gazed at Cassidy. “What’s wrong with your legs?”
He looked round at his back legs, encased in their usual splints, “Why, are they dirty? Have I got litter stuck to them again?” He winked at her and she said no more. “How come you don’t know how to play?”
The little tabby’s eyes misted over again. “I don’t really know. I was just starting to learn how but everything changed so quickly. I was with mama and my brothers and sisters and it was warm and cosy and I felt safe and happy and then one day I wasn’t with them any more and I was outside and there was all these cats who I didn’t know and I was hungry and it was cold and then I was in this box and in this other place which smelled a bit like this place and there was big people who put their hands all over me and I was frightened and they stuck this thing in my bum…” the other four all nodded sagely at this “..and then I was in this other place and then…” the tears began to trickle now… “I was here and I don’t think I’m supposed to be. I want mama…”
The tabby kitten made a futile attempt to wipe her eyes and nose with her paw but only succeeded in wetting the rest of her face, which made her weep anew, until the touch of something soft against her foot made her stop and look down. Cassidy had pushed the felt carrot over to her and he was looking at her, his head cocked to one side. She gave it an experimental tap. It moved, so she tapped it the other way. She batted it a little harder and it rolled in a way that made her mouth water a little – she didn’t know why. She bent down and took it in her mouth. It felt soft and delightfully pliant between her teeth and she was seized with a sudden compulsion to run with it. Before she knew it, she was dashing around the room, the four boys in pursuit, all of them intent on taking possession of the precious carrot. She threw it in the air, she pounced on it, she pushed it, she rolled on her side and pounded it with her back feet, she weaved in and out of the furniture, she jumped, span, slid, ducked and dived and never once lost her grip on her prize. She was fast and fierce and – for the first time in many, many days – she was happy.
“You’re good..” said Tadpole, breathlessly, as the chase wound down. “I couldn’t keep up with you.” The others all agreed and she was declared undisputed champion of the carrot hunt. She beamed with pride. Her first hunt… But, as her euphoria wore off, that nagging feeling returned that she was not where she was supposed to be.
“Cassidy,” she said “why am I here?”
“I called you. So you could join my crew.” he replied. He beamed with love and pride at his three companions. “These are my boys, my team, my family… They make me strong. They weren’t able to have their lives down here. I don’t know why – only the Moon knows that. So, they gave me their life force when I needed it. They helped me survive and they give me the strength to overcome all my problems. They were there when I was healing and they were there the first time I walked on my front legs and the first time I could push myself round the room on my own and the first time I tried my wheels, and climbed up to the first platform on the tree, and when I climbed up to the second… They’re there when my hoomin comes in and bends my legs, so it doesn’t hurt so much, they make me laugh when my splints get uncomfortable…even if they’re not in the room, they’re inside my head. We’re always together. We’re like one. We are Superkitten – and we’re going to save the whole world.”
“Then why do you need me?” asked the tabby.
“You are strong and courageous. You may not feel like it at the moment, but you are a mighty warrior and I can always use a mighty warrior on the team. You’ll see. You’ll never be lonely again – you’ll have the boys and you’ll have me, and I will have you too. We’ll play and we’ll snuggle together and we’ll tell stories and jokes and I’ll tell you all about hoomins and televisions and cars and spiders…”
“But I can’t stay here…”
“No, your place is with them. They’ll be your brothers on the other side. They tell me it’s beautiful over there. You’ll never be frightened or cold or hungry again. You just have to promise you’ll come and see me sometimes.”
“Of course I will.” She secretly swelled with pride and excitement, her sadness forgotten. Nobody had ever wanted her to be in their team before. She’d be the best team-mate ever! She looked around the room, but there was no sign of Tadpole, Polywog or Toothless. “But how do I find it – where do I go…?”
Cassidy nodded his head towards the back of the room, where a large shadow was moving towards them. “She has come for you.”
The shadow loomed ever closer until it was right on top of them, then it kissed Cassidy on the nose and said “I hope you’re being good.”
“Of course I am, Auntie Quark” said Cassidy, winking at the kitten over the big cat’s shoulder.
Quark turned towards her. “Come along Rain. It’s nearly dawn – time to go. The boys have gone on ahead.”
“Rain? Is that me?”
“Do you see anyone else here?” asked Quark, imperiously, making a big show of peering around the room. Rain felt a little intimidated, until she noticed the twinkle in the big cat’s eye.
“Ooh…you remind me of my mother…” Rain skipped after Quark, tail aloft. “See you soon, Cassidy – I promise.”
The room always felt very empty after his crew had departed. Cassidy idly swatted at the carrot. “Superkitten! We need your help! A giant mutant spider is terrorising the city and devouring all in its path. Only you can save us…”
Cassidy sighed. Never a moment’s peace for a superhero. Mutant spider, eh? This would take an extra large helping of mega-strength muscle mix, plus a side of maxi-power biscuits…
His brain buzzing with possible spider-defeating strategies, he applied himself to his bowl.