Before I begin, allow me one quick introduction. I make it a habit to write to the music my friend Thomas Rakowitz puts out, which isn’t news if you follow this blog. Well a few months ago he put out an instrumental EP titled Streams Volume 1, and I’m only now getting to it. Sorry Thomas.
Ideally I’d do this as one quick story, writing until the EP ended in a stream-of-consciousness style, but this isn’t an ideal world. It looks like I’ll be doing multiple installments for this particular story with some forethought put in place for good measure. Whoops.
So here is chapter one, based off of the first song of the EP. There will be four more chapters, ideally released once per week.
Chapter 1: We’re a Long Way From Home
Rain was a long ways from home. She had been walking all morning, mostly humming to herself and skipping when the mood struck, and now she wished she had brought more snacks. All her Oreos were gone, and she was down to her last juice box. She supposed it was her fault for eating all of the cookies right away, but she also supposed it was impossible to only eat just one.
The sky was cloudless and a piercing shade of blue, and Rain couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for her adventure. She knew that real adventurers could tell the time based on the position of the sun and moon, and since she was on one herself, she decided to try. She considered the sun and the length of her shadow, looking back and forth, and then she checked her wristwatch. Her shadow did the same. It was a few minutes after 11:00.
Rain was going to the sea. Her teacher said that all streams eventually lead to the sea, and Rain had always wanted to see the sea. She had seen pictures of course, some she had drawn herself (her mother had put the best ones on the fridge) but she had never been there. Even at eight, Rain knew that seeing and being where very different things.
So she had grabbed her Lilo and Stitch backpack, filled it with cookies and juice boxes, and set off, following the little stream that ran through the edge of her family’s farm. She figured she’d be back by lunch time, though now she wasn’t so sure. The sea should really be on the horizon by now. Rain shrugged because it wasn’t a problem; it was a beautiful summer day, and she still had one juice box left. It would last her until she got to where she needed to go.
The stream gurgled around a little bend as it dropped half a foot in what was easily the prettiest waterfall in all of Oklahoma, and Rain decided to take her shoes off and soak her feet in the cold water. She started humming again as birds skimmed the surface, looking for bugs and fish to eat, and checked the map she had drawn the night before. It was on a white piece of computer paper and expertly colored in crayon. She had started with her own home and fields, which she knew like the back of her hand, and then the Jordy’s farm and finally the Casper’s. She was now nearing the edge of the Casper’s farm, and her map said the sea was just ahead.
Rain nodded because her map wouldn’t lie—she had drawn it after all, and she wouldn’t lie to herself—and stood up. It was time to go.
For Rain, this adventure was more than just her desire to see the sea, though that was a big part of it. No, this was serious. The stream was shrinking. Rain played it every day during the summer, which made it hers even if it did cut through at least six other farms, and she paid very close attention to it. It was growing smaller. When she had first learned how to swim at four, it was practically its own sea, but now she could swim across it in a few minutes and even touch the bottom with her toes if she stretched them hard enough.
Rain was afraid it might disappear entirely if someone didn’t do something about it.
“Are you lost, little girl?” a voice rang out in a sing-song fashion.
“Who’s there?” Rain called back. She wasn’t afraid since she was still near the Casper’s farm and knew the family very well, even if she didn’t recognize the voice.
“Turn around. You don’t want to step over the threshold.”
“Sure I do,” Rain said, though now she was a little worried. This sounded like an adult, and an adult would make her turn around and go home. An adult would yell since she was very explicitly told to not leave her house until all her chores were done, and she hadn’t done any of them. She also wasn’t supposed to wander into other people’s yards without permission.
When the voice made a soft, hacking sound and a grey cat with purple stripes walked out of a tall patch of grass, it’s ringed tail standing tall and proud, Rain forgot all about the angry adult.
“Oh hey kitty!” she called, already taking a slow step towards it, one hand outstretched so she could pet it. “Who’s a good girl? Are you a good girl?”
“Ugh,” the cat said. “Why is it always children? Listen little girl, you can still go back. The threshold is—”
“You can talk!” Rain blurted out. She had never met a talking cat before, though she supposed since she was on an adventure, anything was possible. She watched enough cartoons to know that. “What’s your name?”
“You’re about six steps away from being stuck here. Turn around now and go home.”
“Are you one of the Casper’s cats?” Rain stamped her foot. It was just like Jody Casper to have a talking cat and not tell her. If she had a talking cat, she’d tell everyone! Well, maybe not everyone, but she’d tell Jody. Maybe.
The cat sighed in such a heavy fashion that it flopped over onto the ground. “Why is it always children?” it sang to itself.
Seeing an open opportunity, Rain walked over and began to pet the strangely-colored tabby. The cat’s fur was so soft that it couldn’t be a farm cat. Rain should know; she had had three farm cats, and they were always filthy, especially Peanut Butter who was perpetually caked with something that most certainly was not cake.
“What are you doing?” the cat asked, now purring.
“How come you can talk?”
“All cats can talk.”
“My cats can’t talk. I should know, I talk to them all the time. They never say anything back.”
“That’s because you’ve never asked them anything worth responding to.”
“Oh.” Rain wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but it sounded rude. “You aren’t a very nice cat, are you?”
“If you don’t turn around in two more steps, you’ll be stuck on this path,” the cat said again. It stopped purring.
Rain got up and took two more steps south, following the stream. “Good,” she said. “This is the path I need to be on.”
The cat responded with another sigh and a bad word.