The metal cat

Before commencing our explorations, Ingrid pulled the equipment out of her duffel bag. She wore the bowie knife and hammer on her belt, carried the crossbow on a strap that hung on her shoulder, and held the police baton in her left hand by the shorter handle, so the long part covered the outside of her arm.

I had actually brought a weapon too: before leaving Detling I stopped by my church and filled a squirt gun with water from the baptismal font. I’m not positive that Lutheran baptismal font water counts the same as Catholic holy water, but I would have felt weird about taking stuff out of another church. Seeing Ingrid all geared up made me feel pretty self-conscious, so I kept the squirt gun in my jacket pocket. I had a flashlight, though, which would probably be more useful. Ella, meanwhile, was carrying an Indiana Jones-style satchel, and I saw her remove a video camera from it.

The first building we entered is considered the company’s main entrance. It featured a long reception desk that was perpendicular and to the right of the entrance rather than facing it. Another prominent feature was the artificial tree, placed alongside a staircase whose steps looked like they were made of logs.

We moved forward into an area that must be pretty impressive during the day. On our left was a two-story wall of windows that looked out over the courtyard. Above us and on our right was a curving railing that indicated the termination of the second floor. At intervals in the railing there were discs of colored glass.

Among the artwork in this part of the building were a guitar player that looked like he was made out of rubber bands, a sculpture of a small dragon in a birdcage, and a colorful fabric ostrich neck and head that I thought for sure was going to bite us. At the far end of the anteroom, or whatever they call it, there was a door to the courtyard and a large wooden cylinder that a nearby card informed us was a Newton telescope. Ahead of us was another staircase and to the right of it, facing in the direction we had come from, was a park bench upon which sat a life-size (presumably) metal sculpture of The Cat in the Hat. The cat was sitting on the left corner of the bench with a book in its lap, one arm resting on the back of the bench.

We stopped in front of the telescope, just to look around, when we heard a sound like metal scraping against metal. We looked around trying to see what it was, and when we heard it again I was looking right at the thing making the noise.

The Cat in the Hat was turning its head to look at us.

I told Ella and Ingrid, and the three of us watched the cat, not moving. The cat lifted up the arm that was resting on the bench, swung the arm forward, and dropped it down, striking the bench. Then the cat leaned forward and moved its legs under the bench. With slow and stiff movements it stood up, still leaning forward. It straightened up slightly, so that it was looking at us again. It lifted its arms jerkily until they were pointing forward.

And then it ran at us.

It moved with an efficient stride, nothing like the awkward movements we had just seen. That plus its expression, which was still the familiar Cat in the Hat grin, made the sight terrifying. We ran out the courtyard door and closed it just in time, Ella turning around and recording with her video camera and Ingrid uttering a strange farrago of profanity and Dr. Seuss references.

“Hey,” I said, “What happened to Viking warrior maiden?”

“Dude! I wasn’t expecting giant…Cat in the Hat…thing!”

The cat was standing in front of the door watching us. It was leaning slightly forward, resting the top of its hat against the window above the door. It was motionless except for its right arm, which it swung slowly back and forth, tapping the bar of the door. Tap…tap…tap…

“Yeah, I’m thinking, maybe, we come back to this building later,” I said.

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