Time Cat: An American Feline in Edo

Tobias is just an average black cat. Well, almost black - he has a white sock on his left rear foot and a white patch under his nose. One day while exploring the yard of his Human, he comes across a curious glowing orb. He begins to investigate it and inadvertently activates it, creating a rip in the very fabric of reality. Much to his dismay, he is sucked into the rip and carried through time and space to an era much earlier than his own. Now he must track this orb across time and space in order to activate it and bring him back home. Don't forget my author page: tinyurl.com/anrisarynfb

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8. The Strange Prison

         Hideki was woken up by a shower of a strange smelling liquid rain. It showered all over him, soaking him to the bone. He stood up after it ended quite abruptly and shook himself off. His clothes were white, as if someone had changed him.
         A blast of hot air followed, nearly knocking him over. He was dry in an instant. Another pair of robes fell from the cieling and hit him on the head. A note was attached that said "Put me on."
         Without knowing much of what else to do, he did as the note said. His old clothing was picked up by a pair of pincers that dropped from the cieling. He looked up and watched as the tiles above him closed.
         There was a single bed in the room. It was a cot or some kind with a thin mattress. It looked just like his futon at home, but raised above the floor. It had solid white sheets and a thin blanket all tucked under the matress. It seemed to be built into the wall. He blinked at it, confused. What was this place?
         A tabled folded out of the floor. It was made of a shiney silver material that Hideki didn't recognize. He rapped his knuckled on it and it sounded metallic - not a sound he heard often. Everything was so different. The overload of white made him feel uneasy. He couldn't tell where the floor ended and the wall began.
         The scent of the strange rain still lingered in the air. Hideki wiped his nose on the back of his hand and sniffed the air again. He scowled in response to the scent's remaining presence.
         A tray of rice and a cup of tea was slid through a gap under the door. It slid across the floor almost as if it was made of ice. Hideki watched it, only half interested. He did, however, put an ear to the gap to try and hear something of the outside world. But there was no sound at all, no matter how hard he strained to hear anything.
         Standing up, he went to fetch the tray. No chopsticks were in sight, so he had to eat the rice directly off the tray. He elected to eat much like a goat as the idea of slimy rice-hands was no appealing to him. The tea was lukewarm, but it was good. Oolong - his favorite. 
         There were still a few tea leaves floating at the top. He grinned. Perhaps luck might be on his side today. He recalled a story he told his son about this and how the more floating leaves you have in your morning cup, the better your luck would be that day.
         He felt a little better having gotten something in his system, but now that his attention was not elsewhere, he finally realized how quiet it was in the room.
         He sighed loudly as if it would make the silence less deafening. He wasn't sure what to do, but if he was to be here, there was nothing else for it. He sat in silence for a time, then he grew restless and took to pacing. When this didn't help, he started tapping on the wall.
         He counted each tap mentally, then out loud. He didn't even realize he was doing it until he got to seventy-five. He growled in frustration and banged his fist against the wall.
         He was startled when a reply came.
         He banged on the wall in response. 
         Hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, yottsu, he counted. Four. He waited for a reply, which came in the form of four bangs as well.
          "Hello?" he yelled, trying to ignore the massive echo that came in reply.
         A crude crack seemed to appear in the strange wall. The banging near it grew louder until pieces of the wall began to fall to the floor of Hideki's cell.
         The man drew close to the forming hole, wary at first, but when the final pieces fell away, a familiar face appeared accompanied by what appeared to be a chair leg.
          "Is that you, Watanabe-san?" The chair leg fell to the floor with a metallic echo.
         Hideki blinked at his neighbor. "Suzuki-san?"
          "Yes! Watanabe-san! It's me! Shichiro!"
          "Shichiro-san! It's so good to see a familiar face around here!" Hideki reached a hand through the small opening and shook his neighbor's hand as best he could.
          "Please, Shichiro is fine. There's no need for formalities in such a place." 
         The other man nodded, grateful to have an ally in this strange place. "How long have you been here?" Hideki asked, withdrawing his hand.
          "A few days, I think, judging by the meal count," Shichiro said, rubbing his chin. "It's hard to tell, really. But I have fallen asleep three times since my arrival."
          "Why are we here?" Hideki asked, raising an eyebrow. "Is this jail?"
          "No, I don't think so," the other man replied. "They want us alive and healthy. That's what the strange rain is."
         As if it had been summoned, the table and cot folded into the wall and the strange-smelling rain began again.
          "This kills unhealthy things," Shichiro explained over the noise. "Yesterday I woke up sneezing and the rain cured it after three showers."
         The hot air came next, closing all ability to communicate for ten seconds, and then each man received a new set of robes from the ceiling. They took a few seconds to change, then returned to their conversation as the pincers disposed of their dirty clothes.
          "This is strange. Why are they keeping everything so clean? What are these walls even made of? They are thicker than Mori-sans walls!" And Mori-san's walls were rather thick as they needed to be able to protect villagers if it came to that.
         Shichiro chuckled. He knocked on the wall as if that might tell him what it was made of. "Very strange wood!"
         Hours passed and the two men spoke about many things. Shichiro explained he hadn't even heard a single voice other than his own since he arrived. It was as if they were confined in a land made of silence. He had known nothing but his four white walls, strange rain, and echos for the last three days.
          "If you arrived three days ago," Hideki said thoughtfully, "then you were captured on the first day of the year."
          "That's right," Shichiro nodded in agreement. "I was attacked from behind my someone that I couldn't see. They put a strange needle in my arm. It wasn't heavy, but it made my eyes heavy. I was asleep in a matter of seconds, and I woke up here."
         The more they talked, the more confused the both became about the whole situation. They still had no idea why they had been made captives. Their only explanation was that they were defying the bakufu, but that wasn't enough of a reason to not tell them why they were captures, was it?
         The sanitations continued, once every 60 minutes. The pair of them counted about six showers, joking the whole time. After the sixth shower, there was a scraping sound that indicated food was being slid under the door on the familiar metal tray. 
         They each watched the own trays shoot across the cell floors, mesmerized. Hideki stood up swiftly, but instead of racing towards his rations, he raced toward the gap under the door. He glanced around, his eyes widening as he spotted a pair of dark boots walking away from the doors.
         There really were people here!
          "Let us out!" he shouted, watching the boots retreat. For a split second, he sword the wearer paused, but then continued down the insanely straight hallway. "Hey, come back! Let us out!" he shouted again, this time louder.
Shichiro watched from the now slightly larger hole, his mouth full of rice. He could now see Hideki's entire figure on all fours shouting into the hallway.
          "I already tried that," he said, swallowing his meal made of the same color of the walls that surrounded him. 
         Hideki banged on the door in frustration. Images of his family flooded his mind. What if they were next? At least he knew they were alive, but he didn't know for how long. He sat, crouching near the door, and put his head in his hands.
         He heard his tray being lifted from the floor, but paid no mind. He felt tears of rage coming, and tried to stifle them, but his frustration and worry got the best of him.
         He felt a hand on his back and looked up. Shichiro looked down at him, a small smile on his face.
          "We're both in the same position, Hideki-kun, but there's no use starving yourself over it," he said, offering the other man his meal.
         Reluctantly, Hideki took the food and ate it slowly, his friend sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him.

         The next morning came abruptly, not from a sanitation shower, but from an explosion of noise outside in the halls. Hideki shot up from his cot and raced over to the door, Shichiro was already at his own door, listening from under the gap.
          "No! Leave me alone!" The shouting grew louder as the person weilding it grew closer. It echoed off the walls of the hallway as the man and the guards passed. All the pair could see was the collection of boots, all black in color, except for he captive who wore his house slippers, which were white, just like Hideki's.
          "I don't deserve this! Leave me be! I need to get home to my family!" His pleas were ignored as he was pushed along the whiteness of the facility. His captors were rough and, based on his protest, they weren't shy about the use of knives. He cried out in pain as he was pushed along swiftly.
         As the sound of the footsteps disappeared, Hideki sat up and was instantly drenched in a sanitation shower. He glowered and crossed his arms.
          "It's as if they time them for the most inconvenient times," Shichiro joked, sputtering.
          "I'm pretty sure that any time is convenient when you are locked is a deathly clean prison," Hideki growled.
         Shichiro chuckled and hugged his legs. "I wonder if they are coming for us, too," he said idly, watching the door.
         Hideki ignored his friend and put his face back to the gap under the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone of something in the hallway. He sat like that for what seemed like hours. Every few minutes, another Dark-boot paced by. Hideki tried to gather some kind of information from what he saw, but nothing but the color of their boots was revealed.
         A few minutes later, another protesting prisoner was pushed by. This one was far more dignified, but just as desperate. He demanded to be released and struggled against his captors. Hideki watched as he kicked and punched the Dark-boots, but they did not even seem to recoil. He seemed to have been stabbed, but no blood dripped onto the pure white flooring.
         The fight stopped between Hideki and Shichiro's door. The man watched as the Dark-boots shuffled around, trying to restrain the white-slippered man. He could hear the sounds of the man's strikes against the Dark-boots, but it wasn't the sounds of skin-on-skin. It was a rather metallic, which the man soon realized meant he couldn't defeat these Dark-boots. His attacks slowed as this fact dawned on him. He slowly sank to the ground in fatigue. 
         Hideki pushed his eyes as close to the gap as he could, trying to catch a glimpse of the man. A shock of recognition ran through him. The man was old and had a short, triangular beard, bleached white with age. Hideki couldn't recall the man's name, but he was an elder in the village, closely involved with Mori-san.
         If this was indeed the man he thought it was, no one was safe from these Dark-boots. It was only the men being captured so far, but who's to say that the women and children weren't next?
          "Elder-san!" Hideki shouted to the man. The man's tired eyes peered up, suddenly filled with a small glint of hope. "It's me! Watanabe Hideki!"
         The older man opened his mouth to say something, but he was cut off by the Dark-boots. They jerked him roughly to a standing positition and he cried in alarm.
          "Watanabe-san!" the old man cried. But he couldn't answer; his body was limp. The Dark-boots must have put a needle in him like they did with Shichiro and himself. The old man was dragged away like a rag doll. Hideki watched the group disappear from view, a grim expression on his features.
          "Who was that?" Hideki asked Shichiro, who was on all fours now, too.
          "I think that was Iwate-san," Shichiro offered. "Iwate Jin."
          "Iwate-san? He's one of the oldest men in Choshu!" Hideki hissed. "Why would they take him?"
          "I don't know," Hideki replied, not looking at his friend. The sound of boots approaching made his brow furrow. "But, I have a feeling we might find out soon!" he hissed, backing away from the door.
         As if in confirmation, Hideki's door was flung open. A group of four men dressed in samurai armor approached him and jerked him to a standing position. The armor looked exactly like the ones that had attack Choshu, and he could still not see their faces.
         He recalled the event just moments before where Iwate-san couldn't hurt any of them at all. Were they really impervious to attacks?
         The scent of something mechanical reached his nostrils. He had only smelled this when the barbarians showed up on their shores. That was years ago, but the smell brought back all the memories in a flash. 
         He was so involved in this strange recognition, he didn't fight them when he was dragged from the room. He spotted the same happening to Shichiro who also appeared to be fighting the same memories. They exchanged confused glances and were dragged bodily from the room.
         The strange men allowed them to stand when they reached the hallway, but kept their hands on their shoulders. 
          "What is going on?" Shichiro demanded, shaking the hands off. "I demand to know what is going on!"
         The strange samurai didn't reply. They waited a moment, then began to move forward, pushing the two men ahead of them. At first, Hideki and Shichiro didn't resist, but after the initial shock wore off, Hideki stopped walking.
         The strange samurai behind him pushed him forward, but Hideki refused to move. Shichiro heard the lack of footsteps and turned to see what was going on. As if on signal, the two of them erupted into action.
         It was as if they had trained together their whole life. Their actions were almost exactly mirrored; they kicked and punched in near unison. But moves that would send any normal man flying against a wall didn't move these beings. Nothing the pair did made even a figurative or literal dent in any of them.
          "What are they made of?" Shichiro panted, his back against Hideki's.
          "I don't know," Hideki replied, his breath coming in gasps. "But there's only one way to find out!" He lunged at the nearest samurai, ripping off the mask and helmet before the strange man could react. What was in the mask's place made the both gasp.
         The entire head was covered in a wire casing, and inside were churching and clicking gears. The only thing that appears slightly human were the eyes. They moved around, watching the two men, blinking slowly with silver-colored metallic eyelids.
         Hideki jumped back, nearly knocking Shichiro over. The two men's eyes widened in terror, confusion, and shock. The mask lay on the ground before Hideki - he had dropped it in his retreat.
         As if nothing had happened, the unmasked samurai bent over and picked up the face covering. His eyes shifted back and forth between the two men and then silently placed the mask back on.
         If the two men hadn't been in such shock he would have fought harder as theirs hands were bound and they were escorted down the hall past many doors similar to their own. Hideki found himself wondering whether anyone was inside the cells like he and Shichiro had been for the last two days. He would have called out, but his voice caught in his throat thinking about what he had just seen.

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