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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

4. Storytelling Bandit

Little One looked around the corner and saw Bandit laying in the cat bed next to the fireplace. Bandit was still fighting the infection from his fight with Momma Cat. Little One felt responsible for Bandit's poor health. If it had not been for him Bandit and Momma would not have fought and Bandit would not be laying there in the cat bed. Little One summoned his courage and headed towards Bandit's bed. He had not gotten to within five feet of Bandit, when Bandit stirred.
"No further. Little One." Bandit rolled over in his bed and cast his golden eyes on Little One. "Your mom does not want me filling your head with stories."
"I'm not here for stories." Little One steeled his voice. "I don't want you to get into anymore trouble with Momma or the Twolegs. Momma says they almost cast you out."
"After the fight," Bandit replied. "The Twolegs were worried that I had not tamed down."
"They are afraid you are still one of the Free." Little One said thoughtfully.
"We are not to speak of that." Bandit stated.
"I know. I promised Momma too. But that does not change who you are."
"No It doesn't." Bandit agreed. "But maybe I have to change who I am."
"I hope not." Little One said as he stepped into the cat bed next to Bandit.
He snuggled next to Bandit so that his eyes were at the same level as Bandit’s. A little furry paw stretched out and touched Bandit on the shoulder. Bandit flinched as Little One touched the same spot where Momma Cat's claw had bitten deep.
"I want you to show me how to be as strong as you." Little One asked. "I want to be able to take care of my Momma and my sisters."
"Little One." Bandit replied. "As much as I admire your wanting to protect your Momma and your sisters, it can never ever be about protecting others. There is only one cat that you can ever worry about and that is you."
"Because that is the way it is." Bandit sounded almost sad at his own convictions. "For both the Free and the Bound."
"It doesn't have to be." Little One said.
“Yes, Little One, it does.” Bandit replied, he was still too tired to argue with the inquisitive and questioning kitten. “We are by nature solitary creatures. The Free, by choice, only gather together for one reason. The Bound gather together because they are forced by the Twolegs to do so. This is especially harsh for the Bound. I am going to get in so much trouble for telling you this.”
“I won’t tell Mom. “ Little One stated, “Besides I getting big now and I don’t get scared as much.”
“It’s harsher for the Bound. They adopt the Twolegs as one of their own. But some of the Twolegs still treat the Bound like the Free treat a mouse. They are plaything until it is time to dispose of it. The Bound are then doubly betrayed because it is a betrayal of both their own nature and their freely given trust. Do you understand Little One? The Free sense this about the Twolegs and that is why they prefer to live alone.”
“Do you like being alone, Bandit?” Little One asked, “Or do you like living here in the house?”
“It is much warmer than the junkyard. And the food is easier to find.” Bandit chuckled, “For one thing you don’t have a dumb dog chasing all the mice and squirrels away.”
“Did you have any friends in the Junkyard?”
“Not really. I was the Next Tom of the junkyard. I had to keep a pretty low profile otherwise the current Tom would chase me out. When the Twolegs found me, I had just been reprimanded by the Tom for getting to close to one of the females.”
“Getting too close to one of the females?” Little One’s face scrunched up in confusion.
“Oh no.” Bandit stopped the conversation. “If telling you about the Free ends me up in the Vet’s for a week, telling you about that will put me in the shelter for sure.”
“Oh.” Little One did not want Bandit to get into anymore trouble. “Are there any stories that you can tell me that won’t get you into trouble?”
“I could tell you about my ancestor, Blackpatch Sharpclaw.” Bandit replied.
“What a neat name.” Little One replied, “Blackpatch Sharpclaw. Was he tough? Was he strong?”
“Do you want to hear the story or not?”
Bandit laid his head down on his forepaws and briefly closed his eyes. He drew deep from his memory the stories his own mother had told him. It was the way of the Free to remember those who came before them. Every Free Cat could, with a little effort, tell stories of family members that went back hundreds of years. Many Twolegs comment that when they look into the eyes of a cat they feel they are seeing a very old soul. It is not an old soul they see, but the presence of memories that have lasted longer than most Twolegs have been alive.
Bandit opened his eyes and softly began telling Little One the story of his great-great-great-great grandfather…

Longfur Fastpaw breathed slowly as the last of her kittens came into the world and the Life of the Free. Six little bodies laid damp and tiny on the den floor. She mourned briefly for the tiny little body that was not stirring. She tentatively licked her five remaining kittens clean and nudged them towards her swollen teats. The first was a little solid black male. You are named Blackpatch, Longfur decided. The next was an orange calico male, which she named Blazefur. The next was a female of solid grey, which she named Haze. Another black female blindly wiggled around her siblings. You are to be called Nightpaw, Longfur declared. The last was a tiny little female who was solid black except for a white spot around her left eye. You are Whitepatch, Longfur said. Having named and cleaned her kittens as was the custom amongst the Free, Longfur laid back and waited for her kittens to start nursing.
She was very tired from giving birth. She sniffed the air of the den. The scent of the Shadow was still faintly about all her kittens. The Shadow around her kittens could deepen or lighten. It would be days and weeks before she would know whether any of them would have to follow their stillborn brother down the Darkening Road.
The kittens in Longfur’s den snuggled and nursed for several weeks without seeing or knowing about the outside world. Longfur had finally managed to leave the den to hunt and re-nourish herself. The kittens climbed awkwardly around the den, each step was tentative and thoughtfully placed. Of the kittens, Blackpatch was the most coordinated and active. He was already playfully stalking his littermates. His smallest sister, Whitepatch, was his favourite victim. She, unfortunately, was not growing as fast as her brothers and sisters.
“Come on, Whitepatch.” Blackpatch encouraged his little sister. “You try and wrestle me now.”
“I can’t.” Whitepatch complained. “When’s mom coming home? I’m hungry.”
“She fed us this morning. Whitepatch” Blackpatch replied.
“I didn’t get very much.” Whitepatch stated. “Haze pushed me away before I could finish.”
“Did she?” Blackpatch was furious. “You stay here and wait for mom.”
Blackpatch found Haze curled up next to Blazefur. He grabbed her ear as tightly as he could with his little milk teeth.
“Blackpatch!” Haze cried out. “That hurts.”
“Whitepatch says you pushed her off before she was done eating.”
“I was still hungry.” Haze snapped back. “Besides Nightpaw pushed me off. And before you go and get mad at her, guess who pushed Nightpaw off.”
Blackpatch tried to remember the morning’s feeding. He looked at Whitepatch and was suddenly crestfallen. He had still been hungry when the teat he had been suckling on had dried up. It had been him who pushed Nightpaw off her teat. He had tried to blame Haze for Whitepatch’s hunger, but it had been him who had started the pushing. He apologized silently to his sister, Whitepatch.

“…He would make sure she got more to eat at their next feeding.” Bandit finished off his story of the birth of Blackpatch.
“That can’t be the end.” Little One protested. “That’s not a full story. It’s only part of a story.”
“That is all I have the energy to tell you today.” Bandit replied. “Now go and bother your sisters. I will tell you the rest another day. And if you want to learn about protecting those you care for, ask your mother. She sure took me down a peg or two.”

Monday, January 16, 2006

3. A Kitten Adventure

Three inquisitive feline faces peered through the open pantry door. They had seen the female Twolegs Nofur go into the unknown room and swiftly return bearing cans and a crinklely bag. They had sat with Momma Cat just outside of the range of the large swing door. Momma Cat had told them to be on their best behaviour otherwise the crinklely bag might go back into the room. The three kittens were always careful to heed Momma's advice for they had learned that the crinklely bag held some of the most wonderful flavours. Little One loved the faint pink ones which Momma said were salmon, whereas his sisters Eppy and Alyssa loved the pale yellow ones, which Momma said were tuna.
"Are you sure, Little One?" Eppy asked as she tentatively crossed the threshold of the pantry. “Won’t Momma be mad if she finds out?"
"We'll bring her back some treats too." Little One explained. "Then she won't be so mad. I'm sure if Bandit was here, he would have helped us."
"You sure spend lots of time with Bandit." Alyssa stated. "I don't think Momma likes him very much."
"Momma doesn't mind him. Little One explained "She just doesn't like him telling me about the..."
Little One caught himself before he mentioned the Free and the Bound. His Momma had warned him not to tell to his sisters anything of Bandit's stories about his life as one of the Free. Bandit was not supposed to tell Little One anymore stories about the Free. Little One had heard from Uncle Magoo that Momma and Bandit had a severe fight because of his stories. Bandit in fact was currently at the Veterinarian getting an infection caused by Momma's claws cleared up. Momma had been extra nice to Bandit after their fight. She told Little One that although she had been very mad at Bandit she did not want him to be put out of the house. She had made a point of cuddling Bandit in front of the Twolegs, so that they would think she had accepted Bandit as part of the household.
"Doesn't like Bandit telling you what?" Eppy asked.
Little One sometimes did not like his sister Eppy. She was a lot smarter than his other sister Alyssa and did not miss much of what went on in the house.
"Nothing." Little One lied.
Eppy sniffed disdainly at Little One. He could keep his stupid little secrets. She really was more interested to see if he could get the treats out of the pantry like he had bragged he could. She was looking forward to having several of the tuna treats. The Twolegs only ever gave the kittens one treat at a time, and that was not enough for Eppy. She licked her chops at the thought of having two or three tuna treats.
"So how are you going to get the treats, Little One" Eppy asked.
"The Twolegs always gets them from up high and near the back." Little One explained. "I don't know exactly where because Momma always makes us stay with her. But I do know that the Twolegs has to go right into the pantry. WE just have to see if we can find them."
The three kittens looked up at the four larges shelves lining the walls of the pantry. They could only see the front of the shelves from their vantage point, six inches off the floor.
"Do you see it" Little One asked
"No, do you." Eppy relied.
"I can't see it." added Alyssa.
The kitten milled about the floor as they tried to locate the crinkly bag of treats. Each one bobbed up and down on their rear legs like a meercat trying to see over the edge of the shelves.
"I think I see it." proclaimed Alyssa. "There on the not quite bottom shelf."
Little One hated to admit it, but even though his sister Alyssa was not the smartest one, she did have the sharpest eyes. She could spot their fuzzy mice from across the room far faster that Eppy or him, but she was not the fastest and was often beaten to the prize by Little One or Eppy. Little One looked up and then stretched himself as tall as his little legs could lift him.
"I think she's right." Little acknowledged to Eppy.
"Can you reach it?" Eppy asked.
"Maybe if I was big as Uncle Magoo or Bandit" Little One replied as he pawed at the air trying to judge the distance to the metallic treat package.
"Can you jump to it?" Alyssa asked. "You are the best jumper of us."
"I can try." Little One said, emboldened by Alyssa encouragement.
Little One paced about the front of the shelf as he tried to determine the optimum point for launching his attack. He decided on spot near the corner. From this spot, the foil package was barely visible. Little One settled himself down on his legs. He rhythmically twitched the muscles in his legs like his Momma and Bandit had taught him. His front paws were merely holding his upper body straight. Little One locked his eyes on the edge of the foil package that he could still see. His body quivered as he focused all his energy into his rear legs. With a sudden expulsion of air from his tiny kitten lungs, Little One jumped upwards. He reached upwards and twisted his body as he rose from the floor. At the apex of his jump, he vainly attempted to hook the shelf where the treats laid. A faint scratch of kitten claws on the white melamine shelf was the only result.
"I thought you were a good jumper." Eppy said snottily.
"I am." Little One countered. "I am the best jumper of us. I almost had it"
"Not from where I was sitting." Eppy replied.
"You were very close, Little One." Alyssa encouraged her brother.
"Once more time" Little One said aloud; not to his sisters, but more to himself.
Little One keyed his little body up again. He was a taught spring of feline kitten strength. He exploded upwards.
He felt his body reach its apex once again and he quickly stretched out his paw with claws unfurled. There was the satisfying tug as a little kitten claw first pierced the foil bag of the treats then hooked on the firm surface of the shelf.
"I did it" Little One exalted as he felt his claws find purchase on the shelf.
His exuberance was short lived as his body pivoted on the shelf edge and swung under the shelf. He frantically pulled at the tentative grip he had on the treat bag and was rewarded as it was pulled from the shelf and fell to his sisters below. He instantly focused his attention on curtailing his own unceremonious fall to the floor below. He twisted his body and grabbed at the closest thing on the shelf. Unluckily for Little One, it was a poorly sealed flour bag that weighed less than him. Both he and the flour bag fell from the shelf to the pantry floor.
There was an alarming bang as kitten and flour bag hit the floor. Eppy and Alyssa scattered to avoid their brother. Little One landed with a thud as he barely tucked his paws beneath his body before he hit the floor. He and his sisters were not prepared for the explosive white cloud that blossomed from the upset floor bag.
"My fur" Alyssa cried out.
"Run." Little One cried.
"Moron." Eppy sneered as the kittens tried to flee the scene.
They could hear the approach of the Twolegs as they responded to the confusion in the pantry. Momma Cat had also raced to the kitchen in answer to her kittens' cries.
Momma Cat arrived to see three flour covered kittens racing around the corner desperately trying to avoid be caught by the Twolegs. Their little legs pounding feverishly on the floor. There was a small whitish cloud billowing from the pantry. Momma Cat ignored the frantic cursing from the Twolegs as they tried to prevent the kittens from spreading the flour to the rest of the house.
"Kittens!" Momma Cat yelled. "Stop where you are right now!"
Little One, Eppy and Alyssa stopped in their tracks at momma's command and were quickly scooped up the Twolegs. Eppy and Little One where held by the female Twolegs and Alyssa was in the arms of the male. Little One sensed that the initial anger and surprise in the Twolegs' voices had been replaced by laughter as the Twolegs surveyed the mess in the pantry and the three flour covered kittens. Little One gave a sigh of relief as he figured that they would not be punished for their little adventure in the pantry. He looked down and saw the look on Momma's face. His stomache dropped as he saw that whatever punishment the Twolegs were contemplating was nothing compared to what Momma was deciding on in her mind.