Adventures of Harvey
The Event Horizon
by James Strauss
Sleep didn’t come that night for Harvey. His place, usually at the foot of his principal human’s bed snuggled into one ankle, was foregone to allow for tactical positioning. The heating vent near the front dining room window was not only covered by a billowing silk drape held back by some wall mounted tie, it was also right beneath the low sash, allowing for full view of the darkened forest beyond. Even with the human penchant to somehow turn the heat down every night, the drape trapped what little the vent offered. And it was enough.
Harvey’s night penetrating vision repeated its tireless sweep of the driveway cul-de-sac at the bottom, and then up along the road that served as a division between Harvey’s territory and that of Good Christ, the Fox. Nothing of alert status occurred during the entire night, but everything visible out in the windy snow-swept woods moved. The powdery snow moved across iced over lawns, the trees bent ceaselessly back and forth, more at the top and less as their trunks thinned of branches, but thickened with girth, on the way down. Even the nearly invisible black wires on bare poles vibrated constantly. No animal life rose up enough to catch Harvey’s sharpened eyes, scanning from down to the lowest of lumens all the way up into the high ultraviolet. As a rule, Harvey slept through winter, rising to eat, short bouts out to check his territory, out to relieve himself, and of course out to combat boredom. Nights were to be slept away. The past night had been his first spent fully awake since the summer before, but there was no tiredness coursing through his body or mind. There was waiting. Waiting awake, unmoving, and with expectation for the dawn.
First light came but it had little to do with Harvey’s dawn. He had to wait, which was difficult, although he knew nothing would change much with the waiting. He waited until the car rode up the driveway silently, its lights still drilling two holes in what was left of the night, and casting broad yellow swaths upon the blowing snow. The triple tap of three plastic bags of paper hit the brick walkway beneath the front steps. A human would only have heard one tap but humans lacked Harvey’s highly tuned reception capability in that area. Harvey rose up and stretched. It was time to move. He looked across the room where Josie, his indoor and totally unwilling slave of an indoor cat, sat staring out. Josie only looked at Harvey when he wasn’t looking at her. There were no predatory rules about such subtle things. It was just the way it was.
Silently, Harvey walked away, down the hall and into the bedroom he hadn’t entered since the day before. Even Josie was pushing him to do something or she wouldn’t have come down to the dining room window while he was there. Do what? There was nothing to be done. He stared up to where the humans, and he himself, usually slept. His alpha human had come looking for him several times in the night, using one of those awful light machines held in one hand. Each time he’d found Harvey by the vent, said some senseless human things, and then gone back to bed when Harvey made no move to break from his position and follow him. Harvey jumped lightly up to the bottom of the bed where he normally slept in order to take advantage of the human’s great dependability when roused from sleep. Harvey deliberately walked on the man’s back, pushing down with his paws for all his might. The human groaned and turned over. And then complained.
“Jeez, it’s a bit early don’t you think?” his human murmured, but he slowly climbed out from under the covers and put his slippers and ratty blue robe on. He moved toward the kitchen and the morning ritual he and Harvey went through every day, although not usually so early. He filled Harvey’s wet bowl with wet food, grousing verbally about something. Then he topped off the bowl of dry food, continuing to talk about nothing. He brewed coffee in a special machine that made a lot of noise, and had fascinating lights going on and off atop it. He moved to the counter, as Harvey approached him after making believe he’d taken a few bites of his food for encouragement. His human took a special white and gray piece of plastic from a holder and snapped it onto Harvey’s waiting collar. Finally, he made the move Harvey had awakened him to perform. He went to the front door, opened it; and went outside, down the steps, and over to retrieve the three plastic packages dropped off earlier. Harvey made his move and was out the crack of the door and onto the snow of the driveway in seconds. He moved quickly down one of the runnels in the snow pressed down by the car.
“Just where in hell are you going so early in this cold?” his alpha human yelled behind him. “Oh screw it. Cats have no sense whatever.” The door slammed on his last word.
Harvey was alone in the elements, with full dawn coming down upon him. Right Claw, Left Eye and Nothing Crow sat on the power line at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, as if expecting Harvey to appear so uncharacteristically early. Cold and snow didn’t seem to bother the birds at all, which was just another unexplainable mystery about the capable, but nasty, flying creatures. Harvey moved under the birds, fully expecting that they would quickly reveal his presence to the entire forest, but they remained quiet. Harvey padded slowly up the road toward Little Floyd’s House, determined to do something, but having no clue as to what. The crows flew overhead, then landed together on a branch hanging over the snow-covered asphalt close to the corner, above and beyond which was Bad Taffy’s place. Strange behavior. Harvey stopped before passing under the low hanging branch. Still, the crows remained unaccountably silent. Then Good Christ appeared from behind a tree trunk, not far from where he’d positioned himself the evening before.
Harvey backed off the road slowly until he was firmly in his own territory. He looked at Good Christ, who returned his direct gaze, and next up at the birds, realizing that the crows had indicated Good Christ’s position nearby very accurately. The crows flew away squawking until they landed on the wire crossing Bad Taffy’s driveway. Harvey stared after them. What were the birds doing, and what was under them now, Harvey wondered. He would have shrugged if he’d been capable of such a move. Instead he began walking forward again. There was no other direction to take and there was nothing to be done. Good Christ walked in the same direction on his side of the road. At the corner Harvey turned and proceeded on the other road until he was not far from the crows. He was still in his own territory, or very close to it. Bad Christ was not. He walked on the other side of the road, which was actually inside the limits of Little Floyd’s house. They both stopped not far from where the three crows balanced above them.
Harvey looked around, for some reason no longer concerned that Good Christ might attack at any moment. The only movement was in the big window set in the middle of Bad Taffy’s house. Hesitantly, with Good Christ moving in unison with him, Harvey continued cautiously up the driveway. There was no iron machine at the top of the driveway so it must be in the house where such machines were normally kept, he thought. There was movement behind the big window. Harvey and Good Christ arrived at the window together, closer than they had ever been to one another. Harvey looked over at the front door of the house. An empty cat food can was turned upside down next to the concrete landing in front of the door. Bad Taffy didn’t even rate a single bowl at home. He sat and watched the small boy through the misty ice-edged window. Good Christ sat down nearby, eyes focused on the same sight.
Little Floyd was up against the glass, trying to wave, pointing at something where there obviously was nothing. Harvey looked behind, but only saw the birds sitting on the wire, once more squawking quietly among themselves. The little boy had to be looking for Bad Taffy, but there was no Bad Taffy. There was nothing to be done. He looked at Good Christ but the fox was staring at the birds. As if taking note of the predator’s fixed gaze, the crows suddenly sprang into the air and began circling, rising ever higher into the cold morning air. Across the road, Thumper (the giant rabbit, that should have been hibernating for the winter) rose up to its full height and emerged from between two frozen bushes. The sound of the iced over branches and leaves tinkling loudly announced the rabbit’s presence so vibrantly, that it was obvious the animal didn’t hunt anything for a living. The big tough animal settled down to watch whatever was happening, which was nothing.
Suddenly the birds came to life with sound, and then wheeled and headed off in a southwesterly direction at high altitude. Thumper, Good Christ and Harvey all watched intently. The birds turned and flew back, making the trip in just a few seconds. Then they flew off in the same direction again. Harvey concluded that the pesky birds had found something. There was only one thing to be done. He headed back down the driveway and turned south on the packed snow right next to the road, roughly following the direction the birds traveled back and forth overhead. Good Christ paralleled Harvey’s movements on the far side of the road. Harvey looked back. Thumper just sat there, a big gray lump in the snow, making no effort to use any cover or concealment.
Harvey came up upon the busy road that split his territory, and turned to move along its edge. When he was younger he’d explored far down the road and knew about the stretch in the distance at the bottom of the hill. The birds weren’t following the road, but it would be impossible for any cat, or fox for that matter, to make it across the vast fields of ice-covered snow. There was little traffic at this early hour, the sun not having come fully up yet. Harvey quickly learned a new trick from Good Christ, when a car approached. Instead of moving further to one side and stopping while the metal mass went by, Good Christ dove into the softer snow left heaped up by the bigger metal masses that pushed it into piles on both sides of the road. When the car went by, only Harvey could be seen, the fox buried invisibly in the deep snow. After that, they rapidly moved westward, each on different sides of the road, diving into the snow every time a car approached and then passed.
They came to an intersection at the bottom of the hill. Harvey stopped. The birds had gone south but were no longer visible. There was no choice about where to go. Either they returned the way they had come, or they took the new direction on the smaller road south. Good Christ made no decision, sitting on the roadside licking his cold front paws, one after another, seeming to ignore Harvey’s existence. There was only one thing to do, Harvey realized. Follow the south road to the top of the hill there, and then see what could be seen. He headed out and Good Christ followed. The distances were hard to calculate, and the trip took longer than Harvey thought. He knew he could not stay outside much longer, moving on the ice and snow covered surfaces, without damaging his own paws.
From the top of the hill everything looked different. Everything was far away, almost too far away. A slight shiver of fear coursed through Harvey’s body. The crows seemed impervious to the cold, and the fox possessed a coat even thicker than Harvey’s own. Fear almost overcame him until he caught sight of the crows again. They sat on the wire that ran next to one side of the road. They were almost too distant to see, but they were there. And then, and only then, did Harvey realize that he was on the same road and heading in the same direction, as Coaster’s metal heap had traveled the day before with Bad Taffy in the back seat. The crows were sitting above the small patch of pines Harvey had seen from the top of his highest tree. There was nothing else to be done. Harvey took off at a trot in the very center of the road. The side road had no traffic at all, and the wind was stronger, sweeping the snow from the it’s black surface. Good Christ took the center, as well, following a few body lengths behind.
Harvey ran. His paws were freezing. The road’s surface was easier to move along, but the black asphalt was much colder than the snow. Harvey knew he could make it to where the crows sat, too distant to be heard, but with a sinking feeling he also knew that his paws would not last for a return trip home. He glanced over at the distant horizon, where the sun was just beginning to rise. The line of the horizon was unbroken, unflinching and cold. The wind-driven snow, swept from the top of the slick ice, layered over the fields, coated his right side, penetrating nearly to his skin. He’d come too far down the road to go back. The patch of pines in the nearing distance might offer only a place to rest until he froze solid, or weakened to the extent that Good Christ might make a meal of him, but he knew he had to go on..............