Anthony didn’t notice the man when Atlas ran through two stalagmites. The green light flashed and back-lit a man, and Atlas disappeared.
“Anthony, welcome. My name is.”
But the man’s name came out as a series of static and high-pitched tones. Why is he smiling at me like I understood?
“It’s good to see you.”
The man’s face wrenched into a mechanical smile, held, and then he turned away.
“Follow me,” the man said.
Nothing signified their destination, but the source of the green light brightened where Atlas disappeared. Ten things to do when held captive. One, follow. Anthony kept pace with the man, but his thoughts returned to Atlas. Dad was right, the damned cat could never save me. He’s only gotten me into more trouble. Even after the lists of facts and examples of cats throughout history, Anthony’s father never relented in his battle for the canine’s supremacy. His father’s conclusive argument that signaled the close of each debate echoed through the cavern walls.
“If you like lists so damned much, I’ll give you a list of two. One, your damned cat only lives for itself. It cares nothing for you, and would lie on your dead corpse instead of searching for help. Two, a dog will drag itself for a thousand miles on broken legs to find help for you. Cats are a waste of space. Dogs add value.”
Atlas meowed ahead at the close of the thought, and Atlas’s silhouette dashed from a shadow. Anthony tried to push past the man, but a muscular arm collapsed his lungs. The man grabbed under Anthony’s arms and lifted him to a standing position.
“The cat will lead to death. You must follow me.”
Two, don’t ask questions, they won’t give you genuine answers. After the Taken craze, and overly quoted lines, a surge of requests came in for a list of what to do if taken captive. The list sounded worthwhile, relevant, and helpful. But the list died a few weeks after the research began.
“Who the hell are you, anyway?”
The man didn’t stammer or step back in offense. A mechanical crooked smile, only half of the one he’d used before, froze Anthony’s mind. Three, make sure, no. Three. Three? Why didn’t I finish that list? Cold air re-inflated Anthony’s lungs, and a sulfurous hint almost sent his guts through his mouth. Anthony spluttered out some acid that tinged the back of his throat before he could ask again.
“Who are you? Why can’t I follow my cat?”
“I’m the butler, but the cat will take you to the madman.”
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