For a while they sat and munched on food rations while gazing out at the Ocean. They had both worked up quite an appetite.
Max didn’t have much left in the way of rations, so he knew he would have to devote the next couple days to finding more food. Back when he was down at the pond, he had wondered if a birds-eye view of the island might help. Now he wasn’t so sure.
Yet for the time being he was content to pet the cat and peer down on different parts of the island.
Near the jagged tip of the mountain, there stood a large tree, its branches almost seeming to touch the sky from where he stood. Now that he had a chance to catch his breath, he decided to climb the tree and check out the view from there. An outcropping boulder gave him easy access to the lower branches, and from there it was a breeze getting the rest of the way up. He and Lance and Cleo had dared each other to climb tougher trees back home.
Thinking about them here felt so strange in this deserted place. The knowledge that somewhere back in the Islands, his friends were surely worried sick about him made him feel almost embarrassed to still be alive, yet unable to let them know. Even recalling the one time Carlton ever took the dare— and subsequently got stuck up in the tree and couldn’t get down without Ian’s help, somehow failed to yield a laugh, like it always had before.
Having climbed as high as he could, he looked out from this lofty perch, seeing even more of the island than he could from any of the other vantage points. The only thing he had ever seen like it was the Crow’s Nest back in Layosha. At the pinnacle of Shipwreck Bay the Islanders’ placed the mast of an old ship, and anyone who climbed up there could see all the way to the islands of Makando and Shindoji with a telescope from that lofty height. In much the same fashion, the view here was almost dizzying, and took some time to get used to.
Once he did, though, he sat up there for a long while, letting the wind caress his face while he simply thought about nothing before finally climbing back down.
Max stretched out against a slanted rock, and the cub flopped next to him. As he lay on the sun-warmed stone, he was again amazed by how simply blissful it was to sit and pet a cat. He was just nodding off when the cub rolled over and he spotted it out of the corner of his eye.
It wasn’t a natural marking, that he could tell right away, even though it was black like the rest of the cub’s fur pattern. At first he rubbed the cat’s tummy, listening to him purr. Curious, he sat up slightly, still petting the cub.
A closer look revealed it to be a series of numbers and letters tattooed down the length of his belly. As the cub peered up curiously at him, he read the numbers: E-86489-2. And below that: BANDIT.
“Bandit, huh?” Max looked down at the cub, who immediately perked up at the mere mention of that word. “Guess that’s your name, isn’t it, little guy? Bandit… Just like Grampa!”
He said it again, and the cub’s ears perked up once more.
“That’s your name, alright,” Max laughed. He had been at a total loss for what to call his new friend, but had grown tired of thinking of him as the cub. “You’re Bandit, yes you are!”
He spoke in a higher, chirpier voice, realizing after a moment that he was imitating an Outlander who once passed through Layosha with his cat when he was little. Bandit looked up at him as he spoke, and seemed to smile as Max petted him again.
The cat was yet a cub, though, and soon fell asleep, taking a nap next to Max. Who had greatly underestimated how drained he was, and quickly dozed off, too.