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The Attack

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<< The Abandoned Former Habitation on the Mountain Plateau The Attack Ninth Journey Period >>

The Attack is one of the periods of the xkcd comic Time, within the Mountain Era.  It began on frame 2226 and ended on frame 2317.

The period is marked by a catlike animal pouncing on Cueball.  As the animal attacks, Megan hits it with a stick and the animal runs off.  Megan and Cueball then sit discussing the attack, their actions, and their injuries.

It is also notable that in frame 2231, a large object appeared on the right edge of the image, later identified as mustard.

This is one of the most fast-paced, exciting periods of the comic, certainly the most perilous up to this point. It caused traffic on the One True Thread to reach the most frequent post rate since The Fading.


This period begins abruptly as an interruption of the previous period, where, at the abandoned building, Cueball and Megan had been building a small sandcastle. Cueball pulls out a small flag he has brought with him, and is in the midst of explaining why when he suddenly cuts his sentence short in frame 2225. The next frame, the first of this period, shows Cueball shouting, "LOOK OUT!" and pushing Megan to the side. Just then, from the bushes by the fence where large molpy activity had previously been observed, a large catlike animal lunges out and leaps at Cueball's head, knocking him to the ground. They struggle on the ground with the cat clawing especially at the bag on his back, as he appears to have turned face-forward during the attack, so that his bag serves as an effective protective layer between him and the cat.

Click to view GIF animation by mscha of the attack sequence.

Megan gets back up from the ground where Cueball had pushed her to safety, grabbing a stick as she stands. She tries to distract the "meowlpy" by first shouting, "Hey! HEY! OVER HERE!" which does in fact cause the cat, which has had Cue pinned to the ground, to turn its head. She whacks it across the backside, creating an onomatopoeic "THWAP!" sound and causing the cat to snarl at her. She then raises the stick up above her head as it defensively raises its paw and hisses at her. The stick comes down on the cat's head, either hurting or startling it enough to cause it to abandon Cueball and retreat back to the left side where it came from and exit the frame.

Megan drops the stick and rushes to Cueball's side, asking if he's okay. He hesitates for a moment and then responds, "I, um... I think so?" "It didn't bite you," Megan asks, to which he responds that it had claws and he saw them, so she asks, "But you're not bleeding?" He responds with a tentative, "No? I think it grabbed my bag by mistake." Megan remarks what a lucky turn that was, and Cue responds that it was lucky she chased it away. He asks if she hit it, as he couldn't really see. She affirms and he comments on her bravery. She responds commenting on his act of saving her by pulling her down upon its first emergence, with a hanging hypothetical, "If you hadn't pulled me down and--" At that point Cueball cuts her off and and asks if she is okay.

Megan says she's fine and is immediately contradicted by Cueball, who says, "No, you're not." She is confused, so he adds, "You hurt your leg." She says, "No, I just banged it on something when--" but he cuts her off to say, "You're bleeding." She remains disbelieving for a second before finally noticing the wound, saying, "What? No, I-- Oh. Claw Marks. I didn't see it hit me." Cueball reminds her that it did move fast. Meanwhile, he starts digging in his bag for something, supposedly some sort of dressing for the wound. He mutters to himself, "Where is it... I thought I had..." Megan then adds an alarming statement: "This is a surprising amount of blood." Cueball instructs her to apply pressure to the wound while he looks for something to wrap it with. He decides he can simply tear the bag as it is already damaged from the attack anyway, but Megan stops him and grabs the flag Cueball had just added to their small castle when the attack happened. She hands it to him and he uses it to wrap her wound. "Sorry for ruining your flag," she says, to which he responds, "It's okay. After all, I brought it for you." She thanks him and adds, "I like it so much I'm coloring it a beautiful red."

They sit in silence for a while, and a beesnake flies past from the right of the frame to the left. Megan comments that it will be a long walk home. Cue asks if she can even walk at all, and how she's feeling. She responds that she's thirsty and Cueball retrieves a waterbottle, from which she drinks. He asks if it hurts and she says, "It didn't at first. Now it does." Cueball stands, looks off to the right, and says, "I think you're right. There's some kind of structure on the mountain" (in the previous period, Megan pointed out possibly seeing something on the mountain top). Cueball helps Megan stand and she says she thinks she can walk ok. There is a noticeable lump on her left leg at the spot where she was scratched by the cat. She says it hurts, but it doesn't hurt more when she leans on it. Cueball sees this as a good sign, but cautions that it is still a really bad cut and could get a lot worse in the time it takes to get home. "We need help," he says, and she asks if he thinks they should continue going up. He says that they can't be more than a day from the top and there may be people there. "Like the people in the hills?" Megan asks. "We're a long way from there," says Cueball, "We don't what's past the mountains. If we go up a little more, we'll be able to see. There could be villages." Megan agrees, adding that even if there isn't anyone there, they still wouldn't be much further from home than they already are. Cueball says a quiet, "Yeah."

Megan agrees to the plan, and Cueball offers to consolidate all their belongings into her bag, which he will carry, since his was torn anyway during the attack. After adding his belonging to her bag and hoisting it on his bag, he turns to her and tells her to tell him if her leg starts hurting too much. She affirms with a quiet, "OK." They begin walking and exit off the right side of the frame.


The CatEdit

It was quickly agreed that the cat which attacks was almost certainly the "edge molpy" seen in frame 2188 of the previous period. For a time, while the attack itself was still unfolding, some believed the edge molpy might have been LaPetite or some other follower who would intervene to save Cuegan from the cat, but when no other people or animals ever emerged, it was generally accepted that the edge molpy was in fact the raptorcat. In the previous period, it had first appeared as an edgemolpy in frame 2214, which then rustles the grass as it sneaks into the bush. Many speculated as to what kind of animal it was during that time, but really quite early on, during newpix 2220, OTT user marchlight (who earlier was the first to alert movement in the bushes) became the first to suggest it might be a large cat, based on the shape of a tail evident in pixel changes between frames 2214-2216, even suggesting that it looked like it was in an aggressive stance ready to pounce, based on the very first bush rustling appearances of the cat, a full 10 newpix before its actual emergence from the bushes.


The original fossa example picture submitted by thirds.

Upon confirming its large predatory cat status at the beginning of this period, discussion shifted to identifying the particular species of cat. Admittedly, due to the excitement of the attack itself, not as much intense discussion focused on species identification as had been spent earlier on other molpy encounters such as the snake or the pricklymolp. Often, the discussion centered more on whether Cueball was facing up or down on the ground than on what exactly was attacking him. However, early on the proponents of the Madagascar Theory worried because there are no true cat species of a predatory nature native to Madagascar, and thus found an alternative: a fossa, first proposed by

NatGeo size comparison of Fossa and Human, submitted by BlitzGirl.

user thirds. Fossas are not true cats, but have a somewhat cat-like appearance and are the only predator that could be the attacker if in fact the comic is set in Madagascar. However, mscha first pointed out that the cat in the comic was too big to be a fossa, aided by a NatGeo size comparison chart from BlitzGirl. Many others also agreed that the shape of the fossa was a bit too slender compared to the bulkier, muscled cat which knocks Cueball to the ground. It was thus here that the once leading Madagascar Theory lost most of its remaining adherents. Most agreed that the raptorcat is most likely species of large African cat, most likely some sor

NatGeo size comparison of leopard and human, submitted by BlitzGirl.

t of leopard/panther, which fit quite appropriately in both size and behavior. The leopard identification was first proposed by BlitzGirl who subsequently used the dominant support for leopard-identification as a rallying point for adherence to the Africa Theory. Indeed, this period truly propelled the Africa theory to its greatest height of popularity. The possibility that the cat could be another species was not explored at length, due to body type dissimilarities with species like tigers or lions. During the period and its immediate aftermath, most interpreted it as a leopard/panther. Some other large cats native to other areas of the world such as jaguars and mountain lions were proposed, but weren't discussed at length at the time. The idea of a large mountain lion later made a resurgence during the Night Era when the 13291 Hypothesis implied a North American setting for the comic. Nonetheless, it is still largely interpreted as some sort of leopard or "panther" (a melanistic leopard or jaguar) at this point.

Megan's InjuryEdit

The second main point of discussion during this period was the nature and severity of Megan's injuries. It was widely

BlitzGirl's artistic rendition of the raptorcat at night.

suggested that her inability to initially feel or notice the injury indicated classic signs of shock. The mention of blood was the first indication other than eating of normal internal processes for Cuegan's bodies, strengthening the common assumption that the two are in fact stick-figure representations of normal human beings, the contrast in their rather crude appearance increasingly juxtaposed against an increasingly detailed world drawn by Randall. Many hoped they'd finally reference clothing during this period, but no such references were made. Some have concluded that Megan, if wearing clothes, is thus probably wearing shorts and the cut happened on the mid-to-lower leg. The lump noticeable where the flag-bandage is seems to indicate the injury being placed in the vicinity of the knee. Others concluded that the very fact that Cueball makes no attempt to use clothes to tie off the wound and settles for a sandcastle flag is evidence that they must not have any.

Mustard AppearanceEdit

Faux Giraffe-molpyEdit


Comparison of two mustard frames with and without mustard

rames 2231 and 2232 originally featured the emergence of an odd set of poking pieces on the right edge of the frame. Many in the thread at first thought this might be a form on deus ex machina to save Cuegan from the attack. Speculations as to what the odd pieces might represent (often with ENHANCE! photo manipulations to accompany the speculations) included a giraffe, an evil terminator death robot, and a dragon. After being identified as mustard, ucim pointed out that the two pieces looked like slices of Megan's and Cueball's heads respectively from earlier in the thread at the weird tree.

Megan's bagEdit

When frame 2235 first appeared, Megan's bag had mysteriously disappeared from her back, but this was quickly identified as a mustard mistake and promptly remedied by Randall, who drew the bag back into the corrected frame.

Molpy SightingsEdit

Obviously, the scene is largely defined by their encounter with the catlike animal. Common nicknames introduced in the thread include:

After dressing Megan's wounds, as they sit in silence for a while, a beesnake enters from the right side of the frame in 2273 and crosses the full length dancing beautifully in circles and patterns over a duration of 10 newpix before exiting at the left. This very distinct showcasing of a beautifully flying insect seems to be a direct reference back to the recent Fluttermolpy Discussion period, which utilized a similar insect to symbolize both the beauty and danger of the natural world and darkly foreshadowed the attack which began this period.

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