Kees’s mind reeled as she swung the flyer around to the edge of the red grassed graveyard. She started to shake, and very nearly crashed, as the past weeks came crushing down upon her. She had lost Gatran and had no idea how much more she would lose before this day was over.
Nearly falling from the cockpit, Kees went to all fours and walked slowly, as her ancestors might once have stalked. As she walked along, holographic images of the dead appeared and faded. They were the markers here in “The city of honor”, and she knew she must soon face Gatran’s lifelike image and once again look into his eyes.
She had never before seen Gatran’s holo-image and as her weight triggered the switch, her in drawn breath could be heard far across the valley. She squatted back on her haunches with her legs fully under her and her height reduced to four feet. Gatran stood before her, gold eyes staring through a graying muzzle. The image was perhaps too perfect, and other than a lack of movement, Kees could not be sure her mate did not truly stand before her.
Kees let out a low mournful yowl and stayed transfixed at the feet of her dead mate. She stayed there nearly an hour, then dropped to her forepaws and kissed the circular plate that was an extension of her mate’s underground tomb.
Kees stood fully erect and, turning about, saw Gatran’s sister at the next isle.
Tama stood with her head down and ears back, a posture of respect and subservience, not of aggression.
Kees bowed slightly and Tama’s ears came up, “I welcome you huntress, and call you sister. May I approach you in this time of pain?”
Tama came across the isle, momentarily triggering three other holograms. “Approach and be welcomed, the support of a true sister is needed here.” She reached out to Kees and they embraced.
“I must ask.”
“As I must answer. Your mate died to no other than the hunter of chance. We have searched this full year and found no wrong.”
“Thank you, you have freed me, Tama.”
“Your mother and litter mates have a flyer waiting. They request a few hours and accept that much is happening.”
“You have heard more, perhaps than I know.”
“We know the council keeps watch on you, but your hunting prowess is so great they dare not restrain you.”
“If this is true, then perhaps we can have a few hours of peace. I will go as my family requests.”
Tama walked to Gatran’s resting place, activating the holo-image as Kees walked toward’s her family’s flyer.
Kees’ brother was already in her borrowed vehicle, a silent offer to follow her. She could not turn to Gatran’s image as it watched her sullenly returning to her family. She would take these few hours, she suspected they would be the last for a very long time.
I live in metro Chicago, Illinois, and have spent most of my life in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. I have been many things, police officer, large cat sanctuary operator, C.P.A. and on again, off again writer. Lately I am on again. I hold membership in S.F.W.A.. I have sold four books, three fantasy novels and one non-fiction along with several dozen short science fiction pieces and non-fiction articles. I have extensively used my experiences as a sanctuary operator in the 80’s and 90’s to fuel my writing. Specifically I have often used large cat personalities to form my characters. In this story (Last Visit) Kees was a cougar with a loving personality coupled with a quick temper, lack of patience yet never held a grudge. Gatran was her mate with a simple personality and few needs other than his mate and our friendship though he did enjoy killing local critters and birds that squeezed through small gaps in his compound doors or the overhead netting. During the 90’s we were the largest big cat sanctuary in the mid-west U.S.