[Story] Story a Week 4

[[ Prompt: The Afterlife ]]

Banjo awoke in a sunny field, the grass soft and warm beneath him. It was speckled with little flowers and he could smell their light, sweet aroma carried on the hint of breeze. Not far away, he could hear the gurgle of a stream over rocks, the promise of fresh water. But there was something odd about it. For one thing, he wasn’t wearing his collar. His collar was important, it had his name on it in case he should get lost. He’d never been without it, only when he was having a bath. Was he having one now? He didn’t think so. For the other, more distressing thing: his human was nowhere near. He couldn’t see her, or smell her. She would never leave him alone like this. It had to be some mistake. Even when she went away from the house, her smell was still there. Banjo tried to remember back to what had happened before. He remembered riding in the car with his human, wrapped in a soft towel. She had held him on her lap. It had hurt a lot then.

Looking down at his paws, Banjo realized that they no longer hurt. The ache that had crept into his joints over the years was gone. He hadn’t just forgotten it momentarily — it was gone. He gave a little jump to test it, then a larger leap, then he bounded over the grass, his tail aloft like a flag. He felt young and strong again, like he could run for a hundred years. His human would be so pleased! They could go for hikes in the forest again, sniff all the strange plants and animals. He especially liked it when she gave him water out of his own special bottle. It somehow tasted better than the bowl water. Imagine all the adventures they could have again! Lately he’d just been too tired, too sore, to walk for very long. Banjo had to find his human. She’d be so worried about him.

At the edge of the forest, Banjo paused. He recognized a familiar scent, though it seemed more faint than before. He raised his muzzle to sniff, searching for it. Sitting on the top of a fallen log was the cat, Sophie. His tail started to wag, but then he remembered and his expression grew suspicious.

Hello, said Sophie. I’m glad you’re here now. You’re going to love it here.

Banjo glanced around, warily. Where is here?

I don’t know what it’s called, the cat continued. But there are a lot of animals here. It’s always warm and no one is hungry, and no one hurts. Look! She swiped a paw over her head. Banjo remembered that she’d been missing an eye. It was there now.

But how— Banjo said. He remembered now. She had grown ill over the space of a few weeks. The human had been very upset. If that cat had been hiding here all this time, Banjo was going to let the human know about it!

Follow me, said Sophie, hopping off the log. Her tail curled up into a little question mark. They crossed the little stream, Banjo stopped to drink the water. It was fresh and cool and clear. The cat led them to a larger clearing, where animals of all sorts played and rested in the soft grass. Dogs and cats, horses and goats and birds. Some of the animals, Banjo didn’t even know the names for. No one growled or hissed, no one seemed scared or upset. Banjo had never seen such a thing.

It all seems very nice, Banjo said, looking around. But where is our human? I want to see her.

Sophie’s ears perked. Oh, this way! She said, and dashed away again. Banjo hurried to follow. The cat led them to a still pond, surrounded by lush grass and chirping frogs.

She’s in there? He asked.

On the surface, said Sophie. The reflection.

Banjo was doubtful, but he leaned in to look. He gave a little gasp as he saw a vision of his human, at home in her house. His expression fell. She looks sad, he said. I want to go to her. She needs me.

You can’t, Sophie said gently. But she won’t forget about you. I promise that. I know she still thinks of me. And you can see her here whenever you feel lonely.

That’s not the same, Banjo said. He touched his nose to the water, and the image shivered and faded away. I want to see her now!

We have to wait. All of us do. That’s why we are here. Over there — the cat nodded to the north — is a place where you will be together again. At least that’s what everyone says. I’ve never been myself. We have to wait for her.

Banjo looked to where Sophie had showed him. A rainbow illuminated the sky overhead. All right, he said. I will wait too. They returned to the clearing with the other animals.

 

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