In quantum physics, there is a concept known as the "Many Worlds Hypothesis." It is believed that, whenever a decision is made, whenever an event occurs, the universe splits. Each division of the universe takes on one of the consequences of that event. Every solar system, every star cluster, every galaxy, every galactic supercluster, every version of every last one of them exists in one of these universes. Every possibility of every turn of events has played out every way it could have somewhere in the multiverse, the grand collection of all of these universes. Somewhere, humankind never evolved. Somewhere, World War II led to the destruction of the human race. Somewhere, the world began over three hundred years later. And somewhere, the world began just over three hundred years sooner. Somewhere, chakats truly exist. Somewhere, this story has come true…
Place: Chakona. Chakonan Date: 6/8/97
Chakat Goldpaw was running for hir life, racing through the thick forest near hir home. The Humans First terrorists were chasing hir down, baying for blood. Why do these people hate me so much?, shi wondered desperately as shi raced to find a safe haven. Why do they want to see me dead? If they had all been on foot, Goldpaw wouldn’t have needed to worry so much. After all, a chakat could easily outpace even the fleetest human, and most of her pursuers were quite out of shape. But the Humans First bastards had brought vehicles. PTVs, helicopters, even a few motorcycles were brought in for the hunt. Worse, they knew of the empathy possessed by all chakats. They forced their bloodlust to the front of their minds, trying to drown their quarry with their hate and malice. Worse still, it was working. The pressure of more than three dozen minds baying for blood–hir blood–was too traumatizing. Shi had to concentrate on every single stride. If hir concentration broke even once, the results would be…
A shot rang out. One of these Humans First bastards had brought a shotgun. The lead slug narrowly missed gouging a trench into hir skull, flying mere millimeters from hir scalp. However, that one shot was more than enough. Hir concentration broke. The bloodlust of hir pursuers flooded hir mind. Shi tripped on a root, and hir desperate, headlong charge brought hir tumbling to the ground. Hir head smashed into a rock, splitting hir scalp and knocking hir out cold. Wearing a cruel smile, the leader of the party approached his prey. He centered his shotgun mere millimeters from the base of hir skull. One more gene joke gone, he thought sadistically, and he pulled the trigger.
A brilliant flash of light blasted forth, carrying with it a shockwave that knocked every man standing right off of his feet. The helicopters, grouped dangerously close, crashed into one another like dominos. The twisted wreckage came thundering down on the rest of the pursuing monsters, shards of metal and broken glass ending many lives. The leader, closest to the blast, was blinded and deafened by the explosion of light and sound. His finger flinched, and he fired another round behind him. Those who had survived the helicopter crash now fell from the spray of pellets. In the end, the leader of the twisted party was the only one to survive. The police found him where he had fallen. As for his quarry, there was nothing to be found. No body. No blood beyond a few mere drops. Chakat Goldpaw had utterly vanished.
Place: Earth. Date: July 5th, 2009
Matthew Walker was a hard-working man. He lived the life of a hermit, existing on little more than what he could give himself. All the food he ate had been grown by his own hands. Every building on his property, every stick of firewood in the fireplace, every thread in every piece of clothing he owned had been a result of his labors and his labors alone. He was so proud of what he had done. Sure, he had to purchase new tools from time to time, but if he could have made the tools himself, he would have. "If I need my money, I use it," he had been heard to say, "but if I can make something on my own, I won’t get it any other way." He was used to his life of solitude. It was steady, predictable, and full of good, honest work. He sowed his own crops. He reaped his own grain. He had built his own house by hand. He had dug his own basement over two long years. He looked after his diet. He kept himself well. He lived a healthy, relaxing, simple life.
However, all that ended at 7:00 that July day. It had started like any other day on his farm. He had gotten out of bed early, fed his animals, and had started tending to his garden. Suddenly, out in his wheat field, a tremendous explosion burst forth. He dropped his hoe in shock. Gathering his wits about him, he ran into the house and grabbed his rifle. With one round in the chamber, he set out to find the source of the bang. It was slow going. He had never kept any sort of tractor or truck or even a harvester, keeping to his philosophy of using as little as possible. The wheat had never been planted in rows either, as Matthew thought of the gaps as wasted ground. It made sense to him, but here the lack of pathways was hindering his progress. He stayed low, moving as quietly as he could. If it was some hooligan, or worse, a group of hooligans, he wanted to be the one to surprise them. Finally, he found the still-smoldering crater. What he saw inside it made his jaw drop.
The creature lying there looked like a cat. At least, it partially did. Its body seemed to be as solid as that of a lion or a tiger, with a marvelous bushy tail extending out beyond its hind legs. But what could it be? Where the head would be on a normal cat, another torso came out, a woman’s torso. Yes. This creature was a female, he was sure of it. It had breasts like a woman, it was furred like any mammal was, so it had to be female. He watched it further, studying it. Each powerful breath made both the upper and lower torsos expand. But why isn’t it moving?
Suddenly, he spotted it. On the crown of her head, there was a gash thickly oozing blood. She must have hit her head, he thought, and got knocked out cold! I need to get her awake. If I can’t wake her up, I’ll never be able to move her! She could die out here with that wound!
He reached for a wooden canteen he kept on his belt. It was one of the few things he always brought with him wherever he went. Matthew unscrewed the top, gingerly turned the creature’s mouth skyward, and dribbled a little bit of water into her maw. To his surprise, she lapped at the liquid immediately, her pink tongue darting thirstily in and out of her mouth. He took the hint, and kept pouring in more water, careful to keep the stream small enough to avoid drowning the beast. He cradled her head in his lap as she drank.
Right then, he committed himself: he could not let her perish. Animal or not, such a beauty as she could not be allowed to die. Slowly, trying to disturb her as little as possible, he reached for the only other thing he always carried with him: a first-aid kit. He removed a small pair of scissors, and carefully trimmed away the hair surrounding the gash. After washing the wound with more water from his canteen, he dressed it as best he could. Her eyes began to open as he completed his task. They moved aimlessly, wandering all over her surroundings before settling on Matthew’s face. Suddenly, her eyes flew wide open. Fear filled her face. She began to struggle, to try and escape from Matthew’s hands. Worried that she might hurt herself more, he began trying to soothe her.
"Hey, hey, it’s okay, it’s okay. Nobody’s trying to hurt you here. Don’t worry. It’s okay. It’s okay." Matthew tried to make his voice as calm as he could, but he could not suppress the concern in his mind. What if she hurts herself trying to flee? What if her wound opens too wide? I don’t want to see her die! Luckily, it seems he hid his emotions well, and she soon stopped struggling against his hands. However, she still seemed worried, her eyes flitting about endlessly. Maybe she’s scared about whatever made that loud bang earlier, Matthew thought. I should get her inside.
Carefully, he tried helping the wounded creature up. "Come on, come on," he urged her, "up we go, up we go." Slowly, the strange creature rose shakily onto all four legs. She’s been through the wringer, all right, he thought. All the more reason to get her safe inside. He offered himself as a sort of crutch for the animal, and she obligingly placed her arm over his shoulders. She’s intelligent, at least, he thought to himself. Slowly, they walked back to his cabin, the creature still wide-eyed and nervous. Thinking the gun might have been what was spooking her, he swung it over his shoulder, out of sight. She needs all the comfort she can get, he thought.
As they walked, he gave another shot at figuring out what she was. While she had been lying down, he couldn’t really tell how everything was supposed to look standing up, but now he could see that her body followed a centaur-like form. The humanoid portion stood upright, while the feline lower torso followed behind. The tail, which he supposed would normally be rather animated, hung limply to the rear, dragging on the ground. Her fur was a light, but rich shade of brown, with the color changing to an almost iridescent gold around her feet. Her belly fur paled a different way, moving fluidly from brown to a pure, pristine white. He mused again over how beautiful she was. Suddenly, he started. When she was lying down, he hadn’t really noticed it, but with her upright, something was amiss: she didn’t have a top on. Being a rather modest person by nature, and with her being rather well-endowed, it unnerved him a little, but he pushed the feelings back to get her to safety.
Finally, almost half an hour later, they reached his cabin. The door wasn’t wide enough for the both of them, so he went in first, in case she needed help getting through. Slightly wide-eyed, she entered the house, taking in the room for the first time. Matthew took the gun and placed it in his gun safe. Usually, he kept it out in the open, but he knew that might send the wrong image. Besides, he rarely needed the gun anyway. He took off his gardening gloves, went to his armchair, and fell heavily into it. It had been hard work helping the cat-centaur thing back to his home. Now that they were there, he became a little light-hearted and silly.
"So," said Matthew. "What brings you out here to my little farm?"
The creature turned towards him, looked down, bit her lower lip, inhaled slightly, looked him in the eyes, and said, in perfect English, "Not a clue. Where is here, exactly?"
Matthew Walker was not an easy man to scare. Before he became a hermit-farmer, he once hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, end to end. He met exactly seven bears on his hike. One he literally ran into while coming around a sharp corner in the dark. Not once did he bat an eyelash. Six of the seven times, the bear ran away. The seventh time, the bear charged at him, its vicious claws outstretched. The pelt of that seventh bear still hangs on his wall, its throat slashed by his trusty hunting knife. But when that cat – centaur – thing – spoke to him that day, he nearly fainted in shock. The beast rushed at him, arms outstretched. He scampered up the back of his chair, almost sending it toppling backwards. The creature grabbed Matthew’s bare hand. Suddenly, Matthew felt a rush of concern wash over him. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he could tell it was coming from the creature he had rescued. Slowly, gradually, the concern shifted to peace, and Matthew settled back into his chair. Matthew felt the creature release his hand. He watched it, puzzled. It looks like an animal, but it spoke perfect English. I’ve never heard of such a thing. What… what is it?
"Sorry about that," the creature said. "I didn’t know you’d react like that. Haven’t you ever seen a chakat before?"
"A what?" said Matthew, still visibly shaken.
"A chakat. Surely you’ve at least heard of us?"
"If someone’s made feline centaur creatures that can speak English, I’ve been out here longer than I thought," said Matthew. "Could you fill me in?"
The creature–a "chakat," she said–stared at him briefly in wide-eyed wonder, then began a deep, rumbling laugh. "Seriously, you’ve never heard of us? Man, you’re the most clueless visitor… I’ve… ever…" Her voice trailed off. "Out here? Where am I?"
"On my farm," said Matthew. "In Montana."
It was the chakat’s turn to nearly faint. Her legs buckled, sending her to the floor with a loud thud. She kept mumbling something to herself, rocking back and forth, arms crossed across her chest, every muscle taught as a bowstring. Matthew could tell she was going into shock. Quickly, he grabbed a blanket from the couch and threw it over her shoulders. He knew from his first aid training that a person in shock quickly became unresponsive and unemotional, and he knew that human shock victims often needed to be kept warm. Suddenly, unsure as to why, he sat down next to her and gave her a hug. He gently rubbed her shoulders and whispered reassuring phrases, trying to ease the tension he had brought on. Someone in that state might not even eat. Starving to death was no way to go.
Slowly, she began to ease out of shock. Her body began to relax. Her head slumped forward. Matthew laid her down gingerly, taking a cushion from his chair and placing it under her head. Her eyes were soon closed, and in moments she was fast asleep.
Matthew sat on his sofa and began thinking about what he had done that day. About how he had worked so hard to save the creature’s–the chakat’s–life. Why did I do it? Why did I bring her home instead of putting her out of her misery? An animal wounded as severely as she had been should be killed quickly and humanely, and she is an animal… isn’t she?
Place: Montana. Date: July 6th, 2009
Goldpaw’s eyes slowly flitted open. Shi sleepily glanced around the room, wondering why shi had awoken without hir alarm going off. A wooden chair presented itself, and the aroma of frying bacon filled the room, but shi didn’t understand why shi had awakened so… Wait a minute. A wooden chair? Hir eyes flew open as shi surged upright. A crude woolen blanket fell off of hir shoulders. Suddenly, the events of the previous day came flooding back to hir. The chase through the forest. The stumble. Waking up in a field of wheat, greeted by the face of a man with a gun. The long walk to the cabin. Finding out shi was no longer on Chakona…
Shi almost entered shock again, but hir rumbling stomach and the smell of bacon forced hir out of it. Still a bit groggy from sleep, shi followed hir nose to the kitchen, where the man from yesterday was making breakfast over a wood-burning stove. Who is he? shi wondered. How could he not know about chakats?
The man turned around and started a little upon seeing hir. However, he quickly shook that off and smiled warmly.
"Hungry?" he asked. "I didn’t know how much you’d eat, so I went a little generous on the pancakes and bacon."
Indeed he had, for shi was greeted with the sight of a stack of pancakes more than a foot high, and a pile of bacon in a similar degree of excess. Normally, shi couldn’t eat that much, even if shi split it with a partner, but yesterday had been utterly draining. Slowly at first, then quickly building in tempo, Goldpaw wolfed down pancake after pancake and whole handfuls of bacon, barely pausing to take a breath. The man sat down to join hir, the cooking completed. They ate in silence for a time, but at last the meal had vanished. They sat there, quietly and contentedly, until the man finally spoke up.
"Well, judging from how you went into shock when I mentioned Montana, I’d say you’re not from around here. So, where are you from?"
At first, Goldpaw sat in silence. Then, slowly, shi began to talk.
"I was born on a planet called Chakona. My kind chakats have made it our unofficial homeworld."
"Unofficial?" the man asked.
"Yes," she replied. "We were originally created on Earth, through genetic engineering, but with the number of chakats that settled on that world, it has come to be called our home planet, even though we came from Earth."
"Okay," the man said, "I may have been living pretty much alone for twenty years, but I know that genetic engineering couldn’t have come that far."
Wow, Goldpaw thought, he really is clueless.
"Uh, I hate to break it to you, but chakats and other morphs have been around since the 21st century. Genetic engineering’s come a long way." The man looked utterly perplexed at that statement.
"But… it’s only 2009. The 21st century’s just begun."
"No. No, it couldn’t be. 2009? You’re joking!" the chakat said.
"Well," said Matthew, "either everyone I’ve ever met has consistently lied to me about the year I live in, or this is 2009. You be the judge."
"Listen," she replied, "I can just barely believe Montana. But 2009? No way. It can’t be 2009."
Matthew’s reply was a jab over his shoulder. As the creature followed his gesture, she squinted, trying to make out what was so important. Suddenly, they shot wide open. The wall calendar was behind him, turned to July of 2009. She began to hyperventilate as her arm rose to her mouth.
"No… no… 2009… all my friends… my whole family… not even born… what the fuck is going on!"
"Hey, hey, calm down, calm down," Matthew began, as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "I don’t know what you’ve been through, but getting angry isn’t going to solve anything."
Slowly, her anger turned to sadness. She began to cry, her heavy tears rolling down her face. Matthew could literally feel her distress, and it was tearing him up. I need to fix this. Now.
"Hey. Talk to me. What’s up?" Matthew tried to get her to say what the problem was. "I want to help you. What can I do?"
Slowly, the… chakat … faced him. "I… I just need a shoulder to cry on."
Matthew sat next to her. "I’m here. And I’m pretty sure I have two of those."
She smiled, slightly, and placed her arm around him. Matthew smiled back, and returned the gesture. He had already tended to his animals. Helping his surprise guest was what he needed to do most.
Place: Residence of Matthew Walker. Date: July 7th, 2009
Chakat Goldpaw woke up late. The sun was high in the sky, and hir mysterious helper from the past two days was nowhere in sight. Shi rose to hir feet, stretched out, and went out the front door, deciding to find him. Shi took a moment to take in the scene. The vast wheat field where shi first arrived stretched out in front of hir, a barn was off to hir right, and a small garden sat on hir left. Shi began to relax, to let hir senses focus and work to their fullest. Shi let hir empathy run wild in its pursuit of minds.
A smile crossed hir lips. Shi walked towards the barn, ideas springing forth in hir mind. Hir mysterious benefactor had his back turned. Slowly, silently, shi approached the man, who was still intent on his work. Shi got within a foot of him before he whipped around and threw something over hir head. Shi sputtered, clawing at the offending item while backpedaling furiously. When shi finally got the bag off hir head, Matthew was looking at hir, laughing.
"What’s so funny?" shi demanded.
Matthew rose from the floor, his silly grin still plastered over his face. "I used to do the same thing to my cats growing up. They’d try to sneak up on me, and I’d get them with a blanket or something. They had the same reaction, too. They thought they were stalking me, but I was waiting for them."
"Okay, you got me," Goldpaw admitted. Shi slowly sauntered up to him. "So, what were you doing?"
"Tending to the animals," he replied, "and waiting for you. Want some breakfast?"
"Sure," said Goldpaw, "but I don’t need as much as last time."
"So noted. Shall we go?"
"So that’s what happened," Matthew said, as he began cleaning up the remains of breakfast. "I’m glad you got away okay."
"I wish the same could be said for Moonlight. All I can think about is the two of us together, and that bullet going right through hir… hir…"
"Please, no tears," Matthew said. "I understand it was tough, but there’s no sense in living in the past. People die, sometimes right in front of us. We have to move on."
Goldpaw almost began crying again, but shi swallowed hir tears. "You’re right. I just hope they’ve gotten what they deserve, those murderous bastards."
Matthew lay a comforting hand over her – no, hir – shoulder. "I’m sure they have. Every last one of them."
Goldpaw nodded, gently fingering the shirt shi wore. It was little more than a brassiere or tube top made from spare cloth, but it was enough by Matthew’s standards.
"Well," said Matthew, "I guess you won’t be going back any time soon, like it or not. Would you like to stay here? I’ve got more than enough room."
"No," Goldpaw said, "no, I couldn’t. What if someone saw me? What would they do to me? What would they do to you? I’m very thankful for the offer, but I don’t want to cause that kind of bother."
"Believe me, you won’t," said Matthew. "I’ve been living alone out here for ten years. Never have any visitors. Nobody will see you except for me and the animals."
Goldpaw studied him for a while, before sticking out hir hand. "As long as I won’t be a bother to you, I’ll stay."
"Great!" said Matthew, as he took hir hand. "The farm’s been getting larger, and I could use the help. Know anything about farming?"
"No," said Goldpaw. "Never been outside the city before."
"Well, I hope you learn fast. Harvest season’s coming."
Goldpaw chuckled. "I always do."
"Great! Let’s get started!"
Place: Chakona. Chakonan Date: 8/8/97
"For the crimes of murdering Chakat Moonlight, assault with a deadly weapon, assisting in the murder of over three dozen furs, and other hate crimes too numerous to mention, Jacob A. Smith has been sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole. As for the disappearance of Chakat Goldpaw, charges are being pressed against Jacob Smith and are expected to reach a ‘guilty’ verdict soon.
"In related news, authorities are still baffled as to what caused the deaths of Jacob’s 39 accomplices two days ago. When questioned, Jacob said a ‘large explosion’ occurred in front of him, causing helicopters he had brought in for his hate crimes to crash into one another. Authorities are doubtful of the truth of this statement and continue to seek answers.
"On a lighter note, the Faleshkarti population problem seems to be getting under control, and the runaway population growth should cease within…"
Place: Matthew Walker’s residence. Date: July 7th, 2009
"Not a bad start," said Matthew. "It took me days to figure out how to milk a cow the first time."
"I guess I just had a good teacher," replied Goldpaw. "Sorry about the green beans, though."
Matthew shrugged. "It was just one plant, and I can always plant more next year." The conversation broke as he gave a jaw-cracking yawn. "We should turn in," he said. "Do you need anything?"
"A padded rug is enough." Goldpaw frowned slightly. "I would like some company, though. I’m not used to sleeping alone."
Matthew smiled. "Well, I suppose I could sleep with you. Not… not that I’m suggesting sex or anything…"
Goldpaw placed hir finger over his lips, cutting off his stammering excuse. "Just get ready for bed. All I want is someone to cuddle right now."
"Okay," said Matthew. "I’ll be back soon."
Goldpaw smiled as shi watched him walk away. Whether it was just an infatuation, or perhaps something more, shi found hirself attracted to the man who had taken hir in. It would be some time before he admitted it, but shi could tell he was attracted to hir too. It felt right to hir, that the two of them should be together.
Shi prepared hirself as shi was waiting, removing hir top and lying down on the rug in the center of the room. Shi thought back over the past few days, from hir miraculous escape to hir newfound home, and realized how lucky shi was. When Matthew returned, he carefully laid himself down, facing his friend. Goldpaw began softly purring as shi placed an arm over him and covered him with her tail. They fell asleep in each other’s arms, a small smile on each of their faces. Against all odds, they had met. Perhaps soon, their hearts could meet as well.
Chakats, Chakona, the Faleshkarti, and the Chakat Universe are © Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.
All other characters and this story are copyright © 2010 Chakat Swiftrunner.
A special thanks to all my friends, my teachers, my family, and everyone who wrote or helped write all the books I’ve ever read, for shaping me into who I am today, and for inspiring me to write a story myself.
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