Cat’s Paw by Robert A. Hoyt

Anyone who’s read Bite One, Get One Free knows that Robert A. Hoyt has a rather, er, interesting and entertaining imagination.  If you have any doubts, they’ll be swept away with Cat’s Paw (scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2011).  Here’s a short sample of what you can expect.

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Many humans know there is a mountain at the end of the universe to which a bird flies every thousand years to sharpen its beak, until the end of the mountain comes, and thus the end of eternity.

What few know, however, is that a rather unimaginative power-that-once-was had, in a fit of originality, named the bird Happy.

Thusly, the bird also had the sort of monumental chip on its shoulder that can only come from spending several billion years with the name Happy. To add insult to injury, it was also the dullest grey bird in existence, which seemed to it a disgraceful state for a creature of its stature.

And more the worse for humanity, is that the entire fate of the universe was in its wings.

***

It was about half past noon at the end of the universe, and a sort of pale light which had no discernible source poured in, flowing into the air like warm butter in spongecake.

Happy was within sight of the mountain, which was not a very great distance, because, at this point, the mountain was little more than a pebble rooted in semi-existent turf. The Bird landed and, with great ceremony, bent over, scraping its beak until it sent up brilliant white sparks that died with little pops.

Somewhere behind Happy’s mad little red eyes, his brain could process the idea of the universe ending. That was fine by him. Overall, he hadn’t been too impressed with the universe to begin with, and several millennia had not improved his opinion.

Casually, the way one might realize they had forgotten to buy cabbage on their last trip to the market, he remembered that his most recent master would be dead by now. It would be time to find another one.

Fortunately there were always creatures ready to provide shelter for an innocent looking, harmless grey bird.

Not that this made him feel any better.

After five minutes, he was contented with his beak’s edge, and took a quick look at remainder of the mountain.

Only one more trip there. Just as well, my wings are getting tired, he thought. A malevolent little smile decorated his drab features. Serve them right to find themselves nonexistent. Humph…Happy.

At the end of the universe, something was listening, in an equal state of discontent. Anyone present would have been certain the wind was swearing.

The trip back would prove to be filled with extensive grudge-keeping on Happy’s part. And after so much time, The Bird was very good at keeping a grudge.

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