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Debra E. Blaine, MD, CMT

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This NEW RELEASE continues the story of Beyond the Pillars of Salt.

However, it can also be read as a standalone novel

Published Sept 2023



Ten-year-old Anna ran through the bushes as quickly as she could. She had no idea how far she’d sprinted, but her breath came in huge gasps. The trail—if it was a trail—was getting narrower and the bramble was becoming thicker so that the scruffy branches scratched at her face. The purple moon they had named Kheiron faintly illuminated the sky. Vaguely, she understood she was completely lost. But she had to find Micky! She could not live without her little cat, and she felt something was desperately wrong.


Back on Earth, Anna had watched the Whispies—known also as the White Supremacists—torture and rape her baby sister, Alana. Even her parents did not know how much then five-year-old Anna had seen. But every minute of every day afterward, she heard the raw cackling of the men, she smelled their foul cigarettes and the stench of their filthy bodies, and she felt the screams of her two-year-old baby sister vibrating through Anna’s entire body.


For over a year, Anna had encased herself in a cocoon of silence, refusing to talk to anyone. Until Micky had come along. He looked into her with deep, soulful eyes, and he seemed to understand. Micky stepped into Anna’s lap, curled up, and started to purr. At first she had pushed him away, but he looked up into her eyes again like a gentle challenge, and returned to her lap. He just wasn’t going anywhere.


They became inseparable, and Anna began to talk to Micky. She still would not speak a word to her family, but she poured her heart out to the wise and affectionate Maine Coon when she thought no one could hear. And Micky would look into her and purr and sometimes rub his face on her cheek. In truth, he wasn’t supposed to have been allowed to come off-world with them, but she and her father had snuck him aboard. Her dad was a veterinarian and highly valued on this journey, and when Micky was discovered, he had steadfastly refused to come if Anna could not bring her cat. Anna had never told her father how much she loved him for that. Mostly, she had told him she hated him for leaving Alana behind that day.


But now, Micky had been straying nightly from their little colony, and staying for longer and longer periods, sometimes days at a time. Not only was Anna lonely without the big mouser who had literally saved her sanity, but she was worried for him. This was a strange planet, with so many unknown dangers lurking that even her hero cat might not be able to defend himself against. His last escapade had lasted three days.


This evening, she had just caught sight of his tail disappearing into the shadows. There had been warnings of a storm coming and Anna chased after him without even thinking. Further and further into the growing darkness she’d run, until now all she knew was that she was very far from her parents and the little village they’d created on planet Meraki.


Finally, she stopped running. Her breath came out in white puffs in front of her and she paused to zip up her parka. It was so cold on this planet—all the time! She had no idea where she was or where she was going. The second moon, blue Cerulea, had now joined the night sky. Anna still hadn’t gotten used to what the nights looked like, almost periwinkle, as the colors mixed. But clouds were starting to form in front of her, and soon it would be snowing and the moonlight would be obscured. She reached for her gloves, but she must have lost one along the way. She pulled on the left one and pushed her right hand deep into her pocket.


A cat yowled softly just ahead, but it didn’t sound like Micky. Were there other felines on this planet? Anna tiptoed forward through the tall bushes and came to a small clearing.


Micky was sitting off to her right with his back to a thick barrier of brush, and there was a semicircle of creatures surrounding him, about eight or nine of them. They did look like cats, but they were huge. A few were sitting up on their hind legs which made them about four feet tall, with their front paws slightly raised in front of them, and Anna could see the sharp claws of the one closest to her. In some hysterical way, it looked like they were having a meeting.


Micky did not seem overly concerned. He even looked confident, but didn’t Micky always look confident? His tail was down, and he was swishing it very slowly, not rapidly, like he did when he was on edge. His back was flat, not raised, and his fur was not all fluffed like it got when he was ready to fight. His ears were straight up and he seemed to just be… waiting. Or maybe, daring them.


There was a certain resemblance between Micky and these animals. They all had tufts of extra hair around their scruffs, with long bushy tails, and shaggy fur, but even though as a Maine Coon, Micky was no short little moggy, these alien creatures were easily five times larger, their fur was reddish-brown and their eyes were orange. One of the animals put its front paws on the ground and started walking slowly toward Micky. It’s tail was straight out behind it and swished irritably from side to side. It made a soft growling sound.


Anna had started carrying a knife that one of the other colonists had given her. The gift was intended to help her cut the tough tubers that grew like weeds and made for a tasty snack when she sucked the milk out of them, but it also made her feel safe. Without thinking, she pulled it out and started running forward, screaming as she went.


“Get away from Micky! Don’t you hurt him!”


All of the cat-animals turned abruptly to face her. They crouched and started to advance toward her, and Anna was instantly regretful that she had challenged them. But no one was going to hurt her Micky! As the group circled toward Anna, she yelled to her beloved companion.


“Run, Micky! Run away!”


But Micky did not run away. His demeanor changed completely and he took a huge leap, higher than Anna had ever seen him manage. He flew over the approaching animals and landed at Anna’s feet, then immediately turned back toward the group and bared his teeth. He snarled menacingly.


Anna had noticed that she, herself, could jump much higher here on Meraki and she’d had to get used to running without flying into the air. Daddy said it was because the gravity on this planet was so much lower than Earth’s, and had promised she’d get used to it. It’d never occurred to her that Micky would have superpowers here for the same reason.


The other animals stopped, momentarily stunned by this display of Micky’s prowess. But then, they too, started to snarl in return and continued to approach.


There were just too many of them. Anna was sure she and Micky were both going to die.