The Darkening Road

This is a tale of the Free Cats and the Bound Cats and the different roads they travel. For the Cats of the Bound, they are shown the way to the Rainbow Bridge by the humans they come to know. For the Cats of the Free, they have no knowledge of the Rainbow Bridge and so instead they follow The Darkening Road. The story is published newest chapter first. So if you are new to this site and want to catch up, you will need to read from the archive first.

Friday, January 13, 2006

2. Bandit Warned

The sun illuminated every corner of the living room and shone warmly on Bandit's thick shiny black fur. He laid on his back with his paws in the air and his tail flicking back and forth. He might complain to his Bound housemates about not being able to explore the world outside the windows, but he was learning to enjoy the slow and easy pace of the house. He realized that his stomache had not grumbled emptily in many months. The male Twoleg Nofur, that had pulled him from the broken down dryer in the junkyard, was even competent at reaching the itchy scar behind his left ear, or at least what was left of his left ear. No matter how comfortable Bandit felt about his current surroundings, he still did not count himself as one of the Bound. As he had clearly declared to Momma's kitten, Little One, he was still one of the Free and would always be. He immensely enjoyed the comforts that these Bound were born into, but he felt that they should only be enjoyed as a short term situation. He knew of too many Bound that suddenly found themselves amongst the Free. Scared and untrained, these cats were unprepared for the harsh life of the Free. Bandit could only remember four Bound that managed to become one of the Free. As for the others, he had callously walked past their cold, still bodies.
A quick stretch and a leisurely roll lead Bandit to scan his favourite spot in the living room. The wide ledge of the windows gave him a view of the forest grove across from the house. Bandit had patrolled a similar grove to this one near the junkyard. Strangely, he did not feel the need to patrol this grove. He had changed shortly after coming into the Twoleg Nofur's house. Bandit did not remember when it had happened, but he did know that he had awoken one day to find that everything had changed for him. Bandit heard the patter of feet on the floor. He turned to see Momma striding intently towards him. Deep inside, he heard the call to run and to flee. There was danger in Momma's approach.
"I warned you, Bandit" Momma growled as she leapt up and pulled Bandit from the ledge.
They exploded into a hissing, growling, rolling ball of fur and unsheathed claws. The fight lasted only seconds. When it did, Momma stood over Bandit; his previously torn left ear was held firmly in her clenched jaw.
"He asked." Bandit tried to pull away, but he could not. His ear was trapped.
"And I asked you not to tell the kittens your stories of the Darkening Road." Momma growled, as she bit further into Bandit's ear. "Stories of Ware and Caution are fine. I told you that when the kittens were born. But I told you to keep your tales of the Darkening Road to yourself. Those tales are for the Free only. My kittens are of the Bound, and I do not want them hearing your stories."
"But many of the Bound suddenly find themselves as one of the Free." Bandit flinched as Momma began to draw blood with her claws entrenched in his chest and side.
"These kittens will never become one of the Free." Momma released her grip.
"You can try to promise yourself that Momma Cat. But once they leave to find their own path, you will have no control whether they find themselves amongst the Free or the Bound." Bandit slithered from under Momma's fierce hold. "You know I tell the truth."
Momma took in Bandit's words and reluctantly accepted what she was hearing.
"Little One is not stupid." Bandit said as he reassured himself with a quick grooming. "If he was one of the Free, he would have been Hunted by now. He has it within him to become a great Tom. That is if the current Tom would permit him to live that long."
"I only want to protect them."
"The time of your protection is drawing to a close, Momma." Bandit stated. "Even I can smell it on you and on the kittens. Their time as kittens is ending, and either they will know enough to survive or they will perish."
"That is not their world, Bandit." Momma countered, "The kittens are not in the same danger as they would be if they were Free."
"Tell me, Momma." Bandit replied harshly, "Did Miss Rabbles intend to be left behind when her Twolegs moved? Did she intend to spend several Dark Colds amongst the Free willingly? Did she intend to watch her kittens die by the claws and teeth of the tom DarkPaw?"
"Those are things you are not to talk about." Momma leapt on top of Bandit and caught him off guard. "This is your last warning, Bandit. Leave my kittens alone or I will give you a matching set of ears."
"I will not seek out your kittens, Momma Cat." Bandit submitted. "But know this. If any of them grow into adults with us, I will tell them what they need to know about the Free."
Bandit twisted himself out of Momma's stranglehold. He quickly moved to the far side of the room. He could still see her, but now there was a chair between them. Bandit gave her a knowing snort before he turned towards the kitchen. The sound of the can opener had suddenly eliminated his desire for confrontation with Momma Cat.
Momma Cat watched Bandit slink away to the kitchen. The call of the can opener had also tempered her anger towards Bandit. She would follow shortly. She did not want Bandit to think she had forgotten about or forgiven him. In her heart, his words rang truly and harshly. She felt a pang of regret as the realization that she would not be able to protect her kittens forever settled in and took hold. She had hoped for more for her last litter; that she would be able to raise them without worrying what their future held. Momma Cat sat and waited thoughtfully in the living room. She did not stir until she heard the female Twolegs Nofur call her name.

1. One scared kitten

A reverberating tattoo of frantic paws on the hardwood floors stirred Momma from her nap in the paper box under the computer desk. She cocked an ear towards the sound coming from the hallway. There was a soft thud as a little body slipped onto it's side. It was followed swiftly by a jarring crash. Momma opened her eyes. Someone had crashed into the closet door outside the den. A scant second later, a small fuzzy black body raced into the room and ran towards the paper box.
"Momma! Momma!" The frantic cries of the black kitten echoed about the den.
"Little One" Momma called back to her kitten.
Little One crossed the floor as fast as his little legs could carry him. He had not yet achieved the elegant gait of adulthood. His back paws still kicked out behind him; more like a rabbit trying to run through snow than a swift cat chasing prey. He crashed into Momma and buried his little head under Momma's chin.
"Momma" he cried as he flopped down and further tried to hide under his mother's chin.
"Settle down, Little One." Momma reassured her kitten as she began licking the top of his head. "Why are you so scared?"
Little One rolled on to his back and exposed his underfur for his mother to groom. His frightfull cries were slowly replaced with a low contented rumble deep inside his chest.
"I was talking to Bandit, and he told me about..." Little One was quickly silienced by a shrap growl from Momma.
"What did Bandit tell you?" Momma's voice was tense and edgy.
"We were playing." Little One stammered an answer, sensing the anger in his mother's growl. "And I asked him about Miss Rabbles."
"She went to the Rainbow Bridge. Little One." Momma replied, as she continued to groom her little kitten. "I told you that when she went to sleep."
"But I wanted to know what the Rainbow Bridge was, Momma. " Little One started to fuss under his mother's forceful grooming. "I asked you, but you said that it was not something for kittens to think about."
"It still isn't, Little One." Momma gently released her squirming kitten. "You are strong and there is no shadow about you. You do not need to worry about the Rainbow Bridge."
"But I want to know were Miss Rabbles went." Little One pleaded.
"When it is time, you will know all that you need to, Little One. Until then I don't want you to think about these things."
"But Mom..."
"No more, Little One." Momma sternly warned Little One with a faint growl and sharp smack from her paw. "And I don't want you pestering Bandit about it"
"All right. I won't ask Bandit about the Rainbow Bridge." Little One asceded. "Bandit said that only those of the Bound go to the Rainbow Bridge and that those of the Free follow the Darkening Road instead."
"He told you what?" Momma's growl deepened.
"He told me about the Bound and the Free." Little One shrank away from the fury in his mother's voice.
"I want no more talk of the Free and the Darkening Road, Little One." Momma sternly warned her kitten. "It is not something you need to think about. And I don't want you scaring your sisters with this talk either. It took me forever to convince your sister that there wasn't a monster in the litter box after your last discussion with the other cats."
"But that's what Uncle Magoo told me." Little One replied. "He swore on his fuzzy mouse that it was true."
"Uncle Magoo had other reasons for telling you that." Momma snickered as she nuzzled Little One towards her teats. "He's not too fond of having to share his litterbox with three kittens. Now have something eat. I don't want to hear anything more from you until you've had your nap and settled down."
"Okay." Little One suddenly realized that he was hungry and he eagerly found an available teat. "Momma?"
"Yes, Little One?"
"You're not going to the Rainbow Bridge, are you?" Little One asked between his kneading and suckling.
"Not anytime soon that I know of, Little One" Momma reassured her kitten. "Now eat and no more talking."
Momma leaned backwards and let her kitten nurse. She winced slightly as she felt his newly formed kitten teeth. The sound of other uncoordinated paws on the floor let her know that her other two kittens had remembered it was feeding time. Momma flinched again as the two little girls, Eppy and Alysa, each latched onto a teat and began nursing. Soon she would start weaning her kittens from their main food source. Momma was not worried for she had already seen that her TwoLeg NoFur had placed some smaller kibble near the paper box. Momma relaxed and thought about her kittens.
"I hope your lives lead you to the Rainbow Bridge, my beloveds." Momma thought. "As long as you are in the heart of a TwoLeg Nofur, I will see you there."
Momma knew the stories that Bandit was telling Little One. Those of the Bound, who were held dear in the heart of a TwoLeg Nofur, were guaranteed a place at the Rainbow Bridge, a place of peace and pleasure or so they were told by the TwoLegs. Those of the Free, who had no ties to the TwoLeg Nofurs, were slated to follow the Darkening Road. Momma did not know anything about the Darkening Road. She had been one of the Bound all of her life as had her mother and her mother's mother. She knew that Bandit had been born one of the Free and had been told all of the stories of the Free. She had heard him tell the kittens some of his other stories. Most she had agreed with for they taught the kittens to be wary and watchful, but she had warned him not to talk about the Darkening Road. Those were tales not fit for little kitten ears. She would have to remind him of the rules of the House; her rules.