The Prophesy of Hermes
A Modern Greek Cat Becomes the Prophet
By Paul Watson
Illustrated by Thomas Kimbrell
The Prophesy of Hermes
Text Copyright 2014 by Paul Watson
Illustrations Copyright 2014 by Thomas Kimbrell
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
Nook/ePub Edition: ISBN 978-1-63443-284-9
Kindle MOBI Edition: ISBN 978-1-63443-175-0
Available from Most Major On-Line Bookstores
S.S. Cyclops steamed slowly into a North African port. Within moments of reaching the dock, a burly seaman was running back and forth on the wharf with heavy ropes. Other men worked up on the ship as the rusty old freighter was secured. Some of the men were quite close; but, they barely noticed the tiger striped tomcat Hermes sitting on the deck.
Hermes studied the ship, the wharf and the ropes that bound them together. Once satisfied, he jumped onto one of the big ropes leading to the shore. With his tail twitching, he walked down to the landing.
He trotted across the wooden dock before disappearing under the wharf. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the acrid smell of urine told him to move cautiously because someone, or something, lived down there.
He crept farther under the wharf, gliding stealthily among half seen obstacles. In the dark, the uneven ground was hazardous; but of far greater concern were the thousands of hiding places it provided. He saw no life; but, had the feeling he was being watched. In time, he came to a deep ditch. Looking cautiously over the edge, there were shadowy forms moving below. While he would have liked his visit to remain secret, there was no choice. He sprang over the ditch, landing softly on the far side. A rustle of many feet far below told him he had been observed. The ‘enemy’ was alert.
Hermes kept looking over his shoulder as he worked his way deeper to the ancient dock area. The rat smell was strong, but he could not see them. With his belly low, he slunk forward, listening intently before each step. His head jerked suddenly around at a slight noise. The glow of eyes revealed an enemy blocking his escape. A quick glance forward now showed darkness replaced by hundreds of angry red eyes. Seconds later, the mob charged across uneven ground. Shadowy forms and glowing eyes heaved like ocean waves.
Hermes turned and bolted from the trap. Large rats lunged at his face and legs. One sweep of a powerful paw knocked an attacker away from his face. Strong hind legs launched his body through the narrow opening. Instantly, he was running for the outside world. He dodged left and right to avoid large pilings as behind him, the pursuing mob slowed as it crowded though the narrow way. The cat slowed a bit to conserve his strength.
Hermes loped in solitude through the murky underworld until he was almost to the ditch. Sunlight filtering down between timbers revealed rats climbing up from below, preparing for battle. He swerved left to avoid them, but they followed. Hermes went to a dead run, outstripping his enemy; but, the ditch only got wider. He was forced to turn back, rushing headlong toward his enemies. Grimly, he wondered how many he could take down before they got him. Suddenly, on the left was a large timber spanning half the ditch. He veered and leapt. His front legs caught hold and he scrambled up. A second great jump carried him across the ditch. Hermes paused for a moment, looking back at the angry mob.
There was little time to waste. He dashed slightly right, heading for the exit. Far ahead, was the glimmer of daylight. The cat slowed as he got closer. Over the last few yards he crept with his belly low, and his senses flowing out. Suddenly, Hermes sprang, landing squarely in the middle of the surprised guard. A paw full of claws raked them as a second great leap landed him in freedom’s door. He was through in an instant and bathed in sunshine.
Once outside, Hermes paused to catch his breath and thought how lucky he was not to be trapped down there. His suspicions were confirmed. Here, as in other ports, the rat population was exploding.
After a brief rest, Hermes ambled back to the ship. Each step brought a twinge of pain from deep bites in his foot and leg. He stopped at the edge of the dock and looked up the long rope that ended on the ship.
There was no choice; he began to climb the unforgiving rope. One paw carefully followed another until he reached the top. Exhausted, he crept slowly to Stefan’s cabin.
He was safe at last. He frowned as he thought of the ‘burnie” chemicals that Stefan put on bites. Hermes backed his ears and licked the bites carefully before curling up on an old sweater.
Later that night, the sharp click of the cabin door awoke Hermes. A familiar “man smell” rolled through the cabin as his master slid into bed. Hermes climbed up on the man’s chest and a hand soon slid down the cats back, pausing at the injured foot.
“Well old scout, I see you’ve been in another scrap! No worries lad. Next stop is Naxos. Your lady friend Obelia will be glad to see you!”
Soon after, Hermes curled up on the bed by Stefan’s feet and slept deeply. But for the second time in his life, he dreamed of a huge wave and the rising sun.
Four hunters peered out from the jungle curtain. The enemy looked big and tough; but, he was alone. Cautiously, they emerged from the jungle. Bellies low, they slunk across the open ground unnoticed.
Hermes lay by Obelia in the vegetable garden of a small stone house. It was the one place he felt totally safe. He was mostly asleep and his eyes were two narrow slits with a glint of green. He felt Obelia’s warmth and the rhythm of her breathing.
Without warning, two of the hunters landed on his tail as others went for his neck. Needle sharp teeth sank into his tail, as he shrieked “RATS” and catapulted skyward. Hunters were thrown this way and that. Obelia lashed out knocking one of them down. “Enough children!”, she snapped. “Hermes is just back. Show some respect!”
The four looked a little embarrassed as they retreated into the tomato vines and basil of their jungle. Hermes stood awkwardly, trying to get his tail unfluffed as he searched for a way to get Obelia lying down, just so, as she had been moments before.
Calm gradually returned. Obelia settled down and Hermes returned to his old position; but, something just wasn’t quite right. Human voices leaked from the open window. He recognized Stefan’s voice immediately. Human talk was usually boring, but today it was different. They were talking about business --- Cat Business that is.
“Yes Nadia,” Stefan rumbled. “But we really don’t know for sure where those kittens came from.” Hermes couldn’t quite make out the woman’s irritated response before Stefan continued. “Maybe we are just a couple of sailors, but I like to think we’re more. But you are right. The garden is swarming with cats. Look, I’ll take Ajax and Artemis back to the ship with me. The others may be useful here. There’s just too many rats these days.”
Hermes glanced at the window, wondering just how much his master knew. He shuddered at the memory of those red eyes, surging in his direction. “Looks like Hermes will get some help; but,” he muttered, “three cats won’t be enough.”
He glanced across the garden at Artemis. She was sleek, young and intelligent; but, he didn’t know how much help she would be in a scrap. Next, he turned appraising eyes on young Ajax. The black and white was big for his age and already powerfully built. He definitely had possibilities.
At that very moment, Ajax was under the oak tree sparring with Obelia’s oldest boy Seth. Most, cats look for an opening; but Ajax made his own. He lunged, knocking his rival to the ground. Before the Seth could recover, Ajax dove in for a neck bite before the inevitable clinch and belly kicking. His stout back legs punched and punched until the lad squealed. Ajax relaxed at once and let him up.
Hermes sauntered over for a word. “Hay lad, that wasn’t bad! Stefan and I could use a stout lad like you on the ship. Maybe you ought to go to sea and be a sailor like me. ”
Ajax gave him a dull, noncomprehending look. “What ship?” It was clear the lad had never been down to the coast.
“The ship Stefan and I ride all over the middle-sea. I think you’ll have your chance boy, and we’ll be partners.”
Ajax wondered what the sea was, but he liked the sound of a”partners”. He glanced sidewise at the big tom and felt reassured. Hermes was lean and muscular with just a few scars. In a scrape, the tiger could probably take care of himself.
Hermes and Obelia awoke well before sunrise. The air was fresh. Hermes yawned as Obelia stretched and surveyed the garden. Seth and the half growns were already chasing about and Obelia gazed fondly at Artemis. “My baby girl is going to sea.”
“Cats grow up and leave home. That’s just the way of it Obelia,” replied Hermes. “But you’re not losing her. She’ll be back whenever we’re in port. I’m sure of that.”
The two sat in silence waiting for the first streaks of light that proclaim a new day. Before long, lights and sounds began emanating from the house. The smell of bacon summoned everyone to the kitchen door. Older cats sat in a ring around the door while the kittens took turns climbing the screen door. Obelia fidgeted.
After what seemed like a long time, Nadia emerged with a platter of bacon and scraps of scrambled eggs. She waded ankle deep through a sea of cats. Only Hermes hung back because “humans don’t like to be tripped”. He watched from a distance as cats swarmed over the food.
Nadia’s long skirt swung gracefully as she leaned down, stroking Hermes. “Poor baby, go and eat,” she said. He looked up at her, slowly closing then opening both eyes before moving to the food. He pushed into the plate. The bacon tasted rich and greasy. There was plenty!
After a fine breakfast that ended with a bowl of milk, the cats gathered under the olive tree. They licked their paws wet before rubbing their faces. Finally, they finished by licking themselves clean wherever a rough tongue could reach. It was a social time but did not last long.
“Artemis, Ajax, come here,“ commanded the master. Stefan began loading Ajax and Artemis into a rough, wood and wire cage. Hermes jumped up to inspect but scowled when he too was stuffed in with the others.
Minutes later, Stefan, Nadia and the three cats were bumping down rough mountain roads. Artemis cowered in the corner. Ajax howled and Hermes just wished it would end.
As the three cats sat miserably in the cage, Stefan and Nadia made the best of their remaining time together. “How long will you be away this time?” she asked.
“Hard to say. We’re headed to Milos and then Selcuk. After that I don’t know. I hope not too long,” he added. He reached out and held Nadia’s hand the short time before negotiating the next mountain turn.
“Have you thought any more about taking a job on Naxos?” she asked.
He stared down the road a few moments before answering. “I looked through the paper yesterday. You know, it's hard for a 40 year old sailor to find a job on Naxos. I got no relatives; but, maybe we could open a small shop one day.”
The two rode in silence for a while, thinking of a hopeful future together.
After a couple of hours, the truck ground to a halt on Naxos quay where ocean freighters unload. Stefan grabbed the cage with one powerful arm and walked to the gangway with Nadia by his side. He embraced her briefly and up the gangway he went.
The cage swung wildly as Stefan walked up the ramp. Whenever Stefan’s hand strayed over the stanchion, Ajax looked into the water with dread; but, soon their ordeal was over.
Stefan carried them aft before climbing down a steep ladder to the deck below. A short trip down a hall, the sharp click of a cabin door and they were inside Stefan’s cabin.
The cabin was small; but, there was a bed, a small desk, a sandbox and an old sweater that smelled faintly like Hermes. Stefan released them on the floor before disappearing outside. Minutes later, he returned with a bowl of milk. “Sand box. There!”, he commanded in a booming voice that sent the two young cats under the bed.
For a couple of hours, Hermes lay on Stefan’s bed, purring loudly. The other two cowered underneath; but made cautious forays to the food-bowl. When he sensed it was right, Hermes found his “toy mouse” and started batting it about the floor. Eventually, he hit it under the bed and Artemis knocked it back. Before long, Artemis and Ajax were both knocking the “mouse toy” around the floor.
Hermes lay on the bed and watched. His eyes became narrow slits and Hermes dreamed he was back in the garden with Obelia and the kittens. He awoke only once, when Stefan climbed into bed at the end of a long work day.
Chapters 3 through 20 develop the story of Hermes, Ajax and Artemis. The three are drawn together as they face unfolding calamity. Raw nature challenges their very survival while an evil force enters our world through tunnels connecting past to present. The result is storms at sea, back alley fights and battles below ancient castles.
Chapters 3 through 20 tell of sleek Artemis the spy, Ajax the strong and Hermes the Prophet. It is the story of how these three convince cats around the Mediterranean to unite in the fight against evil. If this trio fails, cats will cease to exist and a great happiness will be lost to all of us.
Please support Hermes, Ajax and Artemis by sharing their journey. Read The Prophesy of Hermes. They need your support!