Part 1: Tire Tracks
Heavy mists curtained over the landscape today. I opened the blinds and stood before a scene of sunlight puddling over the top of the vapors, bright and alive in little pools but prevented from reaching the ground with any force. I put on one of Bartók’s piano concertos and wondered at the sharp division between the grey ground and blue sky. What was above was almost too clear to see, and what was below was obscured, even to feline eyes.
Tigers occasionally stuck their noses up, a stray tail would surface curiously like a periscope, and throughout the morning I was treated to an indeterminate dance of mystery. In a world of perpetual and unmistakable perfection, it was a welcome turn of events.
Around mid-afternoon the mists began to rise. I was prepared to draw the blinds shut once again and return to watchless solitude in my town house. As the celestial bacchanal of the afterlife became more apparent, however, another curious fact came to my attention. There, under the brims of the nearest tree line, around a hundred metres distant, was a set of brown gashes in the soil. Straight, parallel lines they were. I recognized them immediately and growled. The title of this section should make their identity obvious enough, and I was compelled to investigate out of that most unfortunate feline proclivity, my uncontrollable curiosity.
Part 2: The Masked Tour Guide
Three days in a row I made the trek outside and inspected the tire tracks. Each day, I waited concealed high in the forest canopy, watching from high enough so that neither the driver nor any inquisitive tigers could spot me. The first two days, I stayed all afternoon, watching as the tracks faded and the grass reasserted its supremacy. It was dreadfully boring but I was able to pass the time wincing at the foolish cavorting going on out in the open.
On the third day, however, there was a change. That change was that a pair of tigers found me in the tree and pried me down with endless questions.
Me: I explained to you already that these could not have been left by tigers! Tigers do not leave tire tracks!
Kilpa (names changed to protect and insult the guilty): In this world, maybe they can.
Jeffer: I agree with Kilpa. This world is not like the old one.
Me: But we have not changed in essence. We still walk, and the staff here does not use vehicles. They can fly!
Jeffer: I disagree with you. You cannot know for sure.
Kilpa: You claim that these are tire tracks. That much is clear. However, that does not explain why you care.
Jeffer: I agree. It doesn’t.
Me: Do you remember when the masked man entered this heaven and attracted large crowds?
Kilpa: I must have been asleep that day.
Jeffer: I never leave Kilpa’s side, so I must have been asleep as well.
Me: Useless. Look. Nothing ever happens here but the same old nonsense. Mindless frivolity all day long, all year long, for centuries to come. If you had to write a book just to keep from getting bored, a pair of tire tracks would be entertainment enough for at least a few days.
Kilpa: In that case, can we watch with you? We are bored stiff of eating each other in creative ways. That’s been the game the last few months. We were getting good at it.
Jeffer: True. I look fine now, but he had been eating me one cubic inch at a time over a month. There was only about three quarters of me left.
And at that moment a truck carrying a load of humans both in the cab and in the back sped past. I saw the masked man driving and wearing a ranger hat. With just a glimpse I could tell this was a tourist expedition, what with the armory of cameras, fake safari gear, and tiger plushes aboard the human vessel.
Part 3: Tourists
The trip evidently ended at my doorstep, because the entire group disembarked and began snapping photos of the townhouse. I nearly fell out of the tree and leapt across the flat plain through the…festivities. I menaced the tourists, bristling and bearing my ill-used but exceedingly sharp incisors.
Me: What are you doing here with all these hangers-on?
Masked Man: Hello, Alexius. I’m not the richest person you know, and this is a very lucrative venture. I won’t have to make many more trips. Please?
Me: What is this? Why? Couldn’t you compile and publish my musings as ordered?
Masked Man: Let us just say that monetizing your thoughts has proved difficult in a skeptical age. People only buy nonfiction, you see, and most people didn’t know there was ever a tiger that could speak English.
Me: There probably won’t ever be another!
Masked Man: I’m glad you can be proud of that. As for me, I have to live. You can eat a few of them if you like.
I refrained. I was too sickened to be hungry, but after more argument we settled an agreement. He could bring three more groups into tiger heaven and then he would find another way to support himself. I nipped one of the tourists on the finger when he asked for my autograph.
Me: Scars are much more permanent and easy to keep track of.