The Key

 

Orena paced on the green grassy knoll, her favorite place in the Lower World. Ordinarily, she’d be happily hunting, but the loud noises from the people overwhelmed her senses. The temptation to howl was nearly overwhelming. She could feel the music reaching a fever pitch.

The cacophony infuriated the bobcat and made her fur stand up around her neck—not a comfortable feeling. The sounds reminded her of the annoying cackling of crows who chased her away from the easy pickings of their nests. A cat needs to eat, right? Baby birds and eggs, yum!

She rubbed her right ear with her paw, then licked the paw. The music didn’t taste any better than it sounded. She was tempted to waken Helena, her human, known to some as Lena and to others as The Virgin Mary. Mind you, not The Blessed Virgin Mary. Even Lena wouldn’t go that far.

Calling herself the Virgin Mary was some sort of human joke, but Orena couldn’t figure out why she thought it was funny. Her human’s favorite moniker was Lena, which was good since she certainly looked nothing like the holy mother. She had wild, red, curly hair and startling, crystal clear blue eyes. She smiled a lot, and the freckles across her nose made her look younger than her forty-five years.

The bobcat wanted, no, needed, to stop the ceaseless banging and thumping of the annoying music. But Orena was a dutiful power animal and understood her human needed to sleep. It was her job to watch over Lena while she slept.

Yesterday, her human drove eighteen hours from Oklahoma. She faced another four or five, maybe even six hours of driving today before this journey would end. Her friend in Sammamish, Washington, near Seattle, needs her. Orena determined to be vigilant and to do her job well and watch over her human.

If her human didn’t get enough rest, Orena, with her human, might go to the great beyond. Frankly, the bobcat preferred being a part of the excitement of human activity in the Middle World. Her human’s dreams were usually not this loud. On ordinary nights, the power animal could, with stealth, go about her business and favorite pastime, hunting. She would occasionally give her human ideas, thoughts, possibilities for moving her life forward in this dimension. Maybe she would hunt and catch a bite or two for herself.

The music in Helena’s dream tonight continued louder and louder, faster and faster. The drummer thumped and banged with wild abandon. The saxophone player wailed and yowled creating the sound of pain, at least to the bobcat’s way of thinking. The bass player thumped in time with the drummer and seemed to push the drummer to pound louder and faster. Sweat poured off the bassist’s brow and down his face. Orena didn’t understand why anyone would work so hard to make such sounds.

The bobcat felt a howl coming up from her belly and was losing control of her own reactions. Instinct took over, she shook her head and opened her mouth to let loose a mighty roar just as the music stopped. Orena sighed in relief. She shook off the tension and her hair follicles smoothed to their usual silky coat as her fur settled down.

The audience clapped their approval then quickly returned to their conversations over drinks and dinner. For some, drinks were dinner. Alcohol was yet another thing Orena didn’t understand about humans. Why would anyone drink something that inhibited their ability to hunt? Thoughts of hunting brought the idea to her mind. A nice furry rabbit would be tasty right about now.

The leader of the jazz group, the bass player, interrupted her delicious, mouthwatering thoughts. He came to the microphone, pulled the microphone close to his mouth and said, “Thank you. Now to introduce the fine musicians playing tonight.”

Orena shook her head, then laid her head on her paws and sighed. “Fine? Jazz isn’t my thing. I can think of a lot of other ways to describe this music than fine. Give me Willie Nelson or Lyle Lovett any day.”

Regardless, she couldn’t control her human’s dreams when she was bent on thinking about music and her friend in Washington. The dream wasn’t Orena’s dream. Bobcats dreamed about more important things, especially hunting. But she was responsible for her human, even during dreams the power animal had not sent to her human.

 The wild cat looked at each musician as the leader pointed them out. A few in the audience clapped, though most kept eating and chatting and of course drinking. The piano player, a woman with long flowing black hair cascading nearly to her knees, stood and acknowledged the polite clapping. Before she sat back down on the bench she reached into her pocket, pulled out a coppery, gleaming bauble, and dropped it on the keyboard. She brushed her fingers lightly over the trinket. The disc slid between two keys, asking the question: “The Key?”

Orena startled at the sound of the object as it thumped softly between the keys. She sat up and stared at the leader of the group, the bass player who seemed to see nothing unusual. She turned her gaze to the saxophone player, who seemed oblivious to everything except his horn. She moved her attention to the drummer, who was smiling at the audience. The other players did not see or hear what Orena saw and heard. She shook her head. “No wonder they heard nothing. Their ears must ache from the loud music.”

 The piano player smirked, looked up, and saluted quickly in the bobcat’s direction.

 “Wait. Does she really see me? She shouldn’t be able to see me. I’m in Non-Ordinary Reality.” Orena shook her head as the woman sat back down and began playing. This time, the music was not quite so jarring to the bobcat’s nerves. But one clear thought came through to Orena. “What does ‘The Key?’ mean?”

 She sat and watched the pianist and listened to the music. The band played what the leader said was his very favorite piece, Round Midnight, written by a monk. Orena didn’t understand why a monk would play in such a place as this but let those thoughts drift away as she watched the pianist. Even thoughts of yummy bunnies didn’t distract Orena, though her belly gurgled in protest. The pianist turned her head back in Orena’s direction, flipped her black waves over her shoulder, and winked. The bobcat felt an urge to pounce on the cheeky pianist, but it was impossible in the dream state to do anything physical.

She curled her paws under her belly, listened and watched. The music soothed her, and her fur settled even more. She relaxed and thought, “Maybe jazz isn’t so bad after all.” Her next thought was, “The Virgin Mary might be interested in the piano player’s behavior. I’ll wait and see.”

After the music stopped and the humans were leaving the venue, Persephone, the pianist tucked her hair behind her ears as she walked out of the bar and grill. The breeze caught her hair and lifted it a little. She was striding in her anger and frustration, faster and faster. The faster and longer her steps, the more her hair lifted from her back. Her gleaming black hair became a long, flowing cape, nearly touching the ground. Her face became a determined mask of revenge, her eyes blue swords of ice.

 She loathed subbing for pianists who were merely adequate. She couldn’t understand why the music world didn’t see her true abilities. They should be subbing for her. She forced her tears to remain inside her eyes and muttered, “I’ll show you, each and every one of you. When I’m through, you’ll understand how cruel you’ve been. Well, I can be cruel too.”

Orena didn’t see the pianist leave the bar and grill. She didn’t see the woman lift her head to the starry night and let loose her own growl of frustration, causing a few stars to shudder. The bobcat was unaware of the woman’s grief, hatred and intentions. Had Orena followed the woman’s path from the piano into the night, she might have seen and felt the evil vibrating around Persephone. She might have seen death reaching out with strong, savage hands into the night.

      Was death the key?

 

Here’s the Audio version of this story:

 

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