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“Leaf, Leaf, can you hear me? Leaf, wake up!” I jumped up startled and looked around. Echo was standing hackles raised, staring wide-eyed at me. “Leaf!! Thank goodness you’re awake. Hurry we need to get out of here!!”
“Wait! Echo what’s going o-,” Then I saw it, dark thick grey clouds coming from the other room, flowing into the room Echo and I were in, like waves crashing against to rocks at the shore.
“Echo, where’s our housefolk?” I asked, “What happened?”
“He’s dead, the fire, it came from his room!”
“What!” I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t want to believe it. “Where’s Scratch?”
“He’s already outside, come on hurry!” She ran towards the door then stopped and turned around when she realized I wasn’t coming. “Come on! The fire’s spreading!” Just as she spoke those words the chair near the door burst into flames. I darted towards the door and followed Echo out to the front yard where Scratch stood waiting.
It was raining when we made it out of the burning house. I saw Scratch run towards us, “Leaf! Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. But what happened? How did the fire start?” I wanted to know everything that happened.
“You know that fireplace in his bedroom?” Echo and I both nodded, “Well, I guess a spark landed on the rug and started the fire.”
“Well what are we going to do know?” Echo wailed, “We have no place to live!”
I looked back at the house; it was already engulfed by flamed tongues of red and orange. Sadness suddenly came over me; it was like losing my littermate, Stream, all over again. I’ll never forget that day, ever, the pain of watching her die slowly and painfully, and the thought of that was overwhelming…… I was still thinking about Stream, when Scratch spoke up.
“Come on, we need to find shelter, and get out of the rain.” Scratch turned to us, “Are you guys coming?”
“Yeah, we’re coming,” I said and nudged Echo with my muzzle. “Come on we can’t stay here forever.”
“I know,” she sighed, “I just can’t shake off what happened today.”
“We all feel the same way Echo,” Scratch said from behind us, “but it’s time to move on.” So with Scratch in the lead we walked away from the home we knew and loved.
We walked on and on, past towns and farms. Many times we found a good place to live but after a day or two there, rouge cats would drive us out. I didn’t know where we were and I don’t think the others did either. I was tired, hungry and scared. What if one of us gets hurt? I know for a fact that these woods were filled with badgers and foxes, from the many stray cats that wandered through town. They had had told us many stories of foxes and badgers.
“If you ever go into the woods be on the look out for foxes, they look like a dog but behaves like a cat with dark red fur and bushy black tail. Then there are the badgers, vicious creatures they are, with sleek black fur and a white stripe on their forehead.”
I was still thinking about what those cats said that I nearly jumped out of my fur when Scratch shouted, “Hey look, a barn! We might be able to live there!”
I looked in the direction that Scratch was pointing with his tail. It was an old looking barn surrounded with broken fences and weeds, but as we got closer we took in the details. There was a lot of prey lurking around; the barn itself had two floors and was in good shape for a permanent home. “Come on! Let’s find something to eat, I’m starving!” Scratch dropped into a hunting crouch and began to creep up on a mouse nibbling on a piece of wheat. He was within killing range, when a white cat with black stripes on his back, leaped out from nowhere and landed squarely on to Scratch’s back.
“Ah! Ambush!” Scratch turned around and tried to shake the white cat off his back, while the white cat clawed and scratched him again and again. Suddenly the white cat leapt of Scratch’s back and turned around to face us all, his fur stood on end while he hissed a warning.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?!”
Echo was the first to speak, “We just came to find a place to live!”
The cat looked at Echo for a moment then at me, I could tell that he was thinking about it. And then…..
The white cat’s fur flatten a little, “Well I suppose you could share the barn with me and my mate…..”
“Can we? That would be great!” Scratch seemed excited to move in, but I was suspicious. We didn’t even know who he is or who his mate is. I needed to know more about him before I could trust him. I wasn’t like Scratch or Echo, they get along with everybody. I obviously didn’t trust them; I didn’t care if they let us live here or not or how they may treat us, I didn’t trust them.
Echo spoke up, “My name is Echo. This is Scratch,” pointing her tail at Scratch who nodded, “And this is Leaf.”
“Well, you seem like a nice group of cats…. Come and meet my mate and our kits.” We began to follow him, when he stopped and turned around and said, “Oh, by the way, my name’s Pine.”
We followed him to the second floor, where a tortoiseshell she-cat with chocolate colored eyes was waiting with three kits beside her. When she saw us she nervously pushed her kits back behind her. I knew what she must feel right about now, fear, tense, ready to guard her kits with her life. She was just as suspicious of us, as I was of her and Pine.
“Star, it’s okay, this is Echo, Leaf, and Scratch. They just wanted to make a home here.” The she-cat’s fur flattened with relief.
“Well, there’s plenty of room for all of us and the kits.”
“So can we settle here?” I asked nervously. I didn’t like to speak around cats that I did not know too well. Out of the three of us I was the shyest, but I did want to meet new cats.
“Of course you can,” the she-cat said , she must of understood how I felt about this situation. “I’m Star by the way and these are, Moss, Brook and Stream,” she pointed to each of the kits in turn with her tail. I looked at the last kit, she looked so familiar. She had Stream’s gray colored eyes, and the way the kit walked was the same too. The only thing different about her was that the kit’s fur was a light blue, while Stream’s fur was silver colored with a hint of blue.
Echo’s voice brought me out of my trance, “It’s nice to meet you Star, and these are beautiful kits!!”
“Thank you and it’s nice to meet you too.” She turned to the kits, “Say hi to Echo, Leaf, and Scratch.”
The kits ambled up to us and as one they said, “Hi Echo, Leaf, and Scratch!!” After their greeting, they ambled back to their mother. I looked at the other two kits; Moss was a light tabby with dark green eyes like the dark forest surrounding the barn. Brook was a tortoise shell like her mother, but instead of having Star’s chocolate colored eyes, Brook’s eyes were the color of the ocean. They weren’t really dark and they weren’t really light either, they were sort of in the middle.
“You make yourselves home; there are plenty of mice around here too. Just don’t go into the woods east and north of the barn, it’s dangerous.”
“How is it dangerous?” UH-HO, one of these days Scratch was going to hurt himself. Well he did, one time. Scratch was the kind of cat who wants to prove how tough he is. Although he’s not really independent; he’s a great friend to have. Once he heard that there was a group of cats who wanted to pick a fight with Scratch. Scratch didn’t want to fight until they started to call him a coward. That got him angry and he tried to fight all four cats one by one. He came home with a collection of scratches, bites, and a few tears on both his ears, but he won all four fights and proved himself as the strongest cat in the neighborhood. When our owner saw him in that condition. He came up with the name, Scratch.
Pine’s answer faltered my train of thought. “There are two groups of cats that settled there. One group settled East and one group on the West. Both groups show no mercy to those who wander through their territory. Some cats that came through here say they kill trespassers,” He sighed and continued, “There was a cat that did wander into the East group’s territ-”
“What happened to him?” I asked, part of me wanted to know what happened to him, but yet the other part of me didn’t.
“Well, he wasn’t killed that’s for sure. The East group offered him a position in their ranks.”
“Did he?” Echo wondered.
“Yes, he did. After he joined, he never came back.”
“We don’t know if he’s alive or not,” whispered Star. “Our kits get restless everyday, since the groups are known to come very close to the barn.”
Stream spoke up, “Sometimes me and Brook see them hunting. They hunt so strangely, like this,” She dropped down on her haunches and moved foreword then pounced on an imaginary mouse.
“Yeah, and they come and collect some of the herbs that grow just out side of the barn,” Brook said.
“Can you show me where the herbs are?” Echo had always been in to herbs, when she was a kit, she would always bring home plants or berries and she would examine them for hours. Now she knows how to heal minor injuries with the herbs.
While Echo followed Brook to the other side of the barn, Scratch and I started to look for prey among the many stacks of hay. Suddenly I saw a small movement around the corner it turned out to be a mouse collecting food; I crept as near as I could until I was within distance. I pounced; the mouse didn’t see it until it was too late!
After I had eaten my fill I found a comfortable place to rest and drifted off sleep, I thought Scratch, Echo and I had finally found a place to live with no worry. Little did I know, it was just the beginning of a deadly battle.
To Be Continued...