A silvery stream of light was cast upon morning dew as two cats climbed over fences and sprinted across finely groomed backyards. A sleek black and white tom named Sulfur turned to his sister, beckoning her on with a bright glow to his green gaze. "Wings hurry up! They're waiting for us."
Wings, a long furred she-cat followed him, short on his paws. "Sorry, I can't run as fast!" she panted. But even as she spoke, she could feel the excitement running through her from ears to wing tip. Last night, Sulfur had told her that he had a surprise and that he was going to show her and their friends. The thought of what it could be made her fur bristle with so much excitement, that her puffed up fur made her look twice her normal size.
By the time they had gotten to the ravine it was nearly noon. All around them insects chirped, and Wings could just make out the sound of running water moving along the slope. Here and there wildflowers dotted the landscape, and a fresh breeze rustled the ferns, but despite being the home of three young cats it was unusually quiet.
Sulfur echoed her thoughts. "Nobody's here."
Wings opened her mouth to taste the air, but no fresh scents of any cats came to her. The place was deserted. "Where are they?" She took a step forward, dead leaves crunching underneath her paws. Her green gaze ran over the numerous fallen trees and branches, covered in a curly gray moss that snaked downwards. This is where her friends lived: Brooke, Daisy, and Flint. She had known them since she was a kit and for a while she and Sulfur had lived with them. But it was strange for them to be missing, especially when Sulfur had something to tell them. Had the humans caught them? The thought sent shivers running down her spine, but why? They never come to this part of the ravine.
"Unless..." Sulfur meowed, looking long and hard at the trees.
"What?" Wings followed his gaze. She could just make out a brown tabby pattern among the moss, almost hidden from view, yet a patch of white chest fur stood out like a white dove.
"Daisy, we see you!" Sulfur yowled.
Daisy, obviously caught, narrowed her eyes. She leaped down onto a lower branch and then climbed down the rest of the way to the ground. She looked angry, but Wings understood that she was just disappointed. Sulfur always ruined her games.
"How did you find me?" she asked, wide eyed. Then, realizing there wasn't any need for an explanation, she licked her chest fur in embarrassment. "Sulfur you're too smart!"
"Obviously you would be up in a tree," he said coolly. "How else would you be able to disguise your scent?"
"By standing behind you?" a cat suggested.
Wings jumped. She immediately whirled around, laying her eyes on one of the prettiest tortoiseshells she had ever seen, Brooke. The black and cinnamon patched she-cat looked at them both with stunning amber eyes.
Following her was a muscular brown tabby, Flint, the oldest of the three. Even though he was two months younger than Sulfur he was already dwarfing him in size.
"Sorry about that. Daisy told us that she wanted to test her hunting abilities, but I can see now that she just wanted to pull a prank," said Brooke.
Flint placed one paw on Daisy's head. "Bad kit, you know better than to lie to others."
Daisy's tail flicked. Wings knew that she hated being called a kit and especially by her older siblings.
"Hey, I really did want to practice!" Daisy retorted, her fur bristling. "It's not my fault that Sulfur has the eyes of a hawk!" The minute she said that, she winced.
Brooke gasped. "Daisy!"
Wings immediately felt her fur stand on end. Her eyes fell on Sulfur, who just stood there, looking at his paws with a blank expression. Although he didn't show it physically, she could see the pain in his eyes and sense that something was wrong.
He looked up. "How is Flower doing?" he asked, changing the subject.
"She's doing fine," said Flint, breathing a sigh of relief. "She's hasn't had any symptoms yet, but you can already see her belly growing."
Wings nodded, remembering the brown tabby she's known since she was a kit. It was a surprise to all of them when they learned that she was starting a new litter. It was a sign for her oldest kits to leave and find a new place to live. But before that would happen, they've vowed to spend as much time together as possible. That's just what friends do.
"Tell us the surprise Sulfur!" said Daisy excitedly, jumping up and down with the energy of a kit. She had forgotten all about what occurred moments ago and was now back to her normal playful self.
"I'll tell you on the way there," Sulfur replied.
Daisy could only scrunch up her nose in impatience. She didn't want to have to wait, she had to know now!
Just then a familiar scent filled Wings nostrils, and she perked her ears at the familiar sight. Flower had just finished climbing up the ravine to join her kits. The brown, mostly white tabby waved her tail in greeting at Wings and Sulfur. "Don't be gone for too long okay? I don't want to have to come find you."
"We won't, I promise!" Daisy said reassuringly.
"There's no need to treat us like kits," Brooke told her. "It's almost time for us to grow up anyway."
Flower gave a small sigh. "You're right. But at least come back before nightfall, for me?" She gave a quick lick to Brooke's ear and turned away, waving goodbye with her tail.
"Can you tell us the surprise now?" Daisy meowed impatiently as she padded across the front lawn of a house. She struggled to stay in line with Sulfur, who was walking quite slowly.
"Yes," Sulfur blinked. "I found a new hunting spot."
"Really?" Brooke burst out.
Wings turned her head to see the she-cat's eyes were as wide as pinecones.
"It's only temporary of course. If anything we can only hunt there once, but you never know."
Daisy glared at Sulfur. "But its only temporary how come it can't be permanent?"
"Can you tell us about it?" Flint asked, interrupting Daisy before she can say anymore. He was falling behind and Wings could tell that he was unsure about the whole thing.
"Well as I was hunting mice behind a house, I discovered this strange looking puddle that looked too big to be an average puddle. When I got closer I noticed that there were fish inside of it."
"Oh, fish!" Daisy licked her lips. "I love fish! How far is it Sulfur?"
"Not too far now."
"Daisy when did you try fish?" Brooke asked curiously.
"When I was hunting around the fish market some person was nice enough to give me one."
Sulfur looked at her with concern. "Person? Daisy, you know how dangerous it is be around them. You could have been kitnapped!"
"Well I wasn't!"
"Still, you should have been more careful," Flint warned. "Who knows what could have happened."
Daisy sighed, "I know Flint, you don't have to warn me. Besides, Wings was with me."
"Wings?" Everyone turned to look at the completely white cat, who ducked her head in guilt. It wasn't her fault Daisy was so manipulative.
"Hey look, there it is!" Sulfur pointed with his tail at a hole in the fence ahead of them. It was just the right size for all of them to fit through, even Wings, despite the large appendages on her back. "All we have to do is go through that fence and we'll have all the fish we can eat!" With that, he cautiously approached the fence and took a peek through the hole. When everything was clear, he made a signal with his tail and everyone slipped inside.
The inside of the yard was peaceful and pretty. Yellow marigolds decorated the edges of a garden harboring countless varieties of vegetables and flowers and rose bushes bordered the white picket fence that surrounded the yard. Sulfur led the way to the pond by following the shaded path between the garden boxes, which harbored 6 foot high tomato plants and bushy patches of squash. When they arrived, everyone widened their eyes at the huge goldfish.
"Can I catch one Sulfur can I?" Daisy jumped up and down at the sight of the fish.
"Well, you can certainly try." Sulfur gave a smug look.
Daisy thrust her paw into the water and tried diligently to catch a fish, with no go.
"Here let me show you," he jumped onto the rocks that bordered the water. "Now, the first thing you want to do when catching fish is to get into position." He showed them by leaning forward towards the water and unsheathing his claws. "The next step is to be patient and wait for the fish to come to you." Every cat listened patiently except for Wings, who wandered away from the group to explore.
This is such a beautiful garden. She told herself excitedly. There must be something other than just fish to eat. She wandered around the yard for a bit, tasting a few of the leaves and sniffing some of the flowers. She was amazed at how different each one looked and smelled. How come she had never seen these before? She poked a hydrangea with one claw, watching as a few of the petals fell to the ground.
Without realizing it she had ventured dangerously close to the house, where a variety of large and small pots perfumed the air with scents of lavender, mint, and basil. One plant stood out to her the most and as she climbed up on the porch the sweet, intoxicating scent grew even stronger. From underneath a window she spotted it, sitting in a blue pot with a sandy colored stripe winding around the exterior. It looked odd, tiny pink flowers were gathered in balls against tall thin stems, and the leaves were pointy but not sharp. Still, Wings couldn't resist nipping at the leaves. The herb tasted wonderful, and much more savory than a stinky old fish. Come to think of it, the others might like some too! She pulled up the pretty pink flowers and headed towards her friends, all the while resisting the mouthwatering urge to swallow them whole. As she approached, she heard a big splash.
"Yes! I caught one!" Daisy held up her prize for all the other cats to see: a reddish orange goldfish that was as big as her head. "Told you I would catch one first!"
Flint nodded with approval. "Good work."
"Me next, me next!" Brooke jumped onto the rocks next to Sulfur, who purred with pride.
Wings used this chance to approach the others with her herbs. "Hey look, I found some yummy flowers!" She held them up happily, while the others turned to look at her.
Sulfur narrowed his eyes, "Wings you-"
"GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!!" An enormous woman carrying a broom flung herself right in between the cats. She raised the weapon as high as it would go in the air, ready to strike at Brooke.
"Scatter!" Sulfur shouted while flinging himself away from the group to run through the hole they had come from.
Flint flew in just in time to push his sister out of the way. He turned to hiss at the woman, dodging her high-heeled shoes at the same time.
Wings watched as the chaos occurred around her. She turned this way and that, looking for some sort of escape. She spotted Brooke running towards some bushes by the fence and followed her, thankful for a safe place to hide.
"Get out you monster!" the woman swung her stick out at Flint, who dodged it just in time to run into another bush.
"Wings, what did you do?" Brooke asked her fearfully, "Didn't you know it's bad to take plants out of a garden?"
"Sorry, I didn't know," she replied in distress. "I just thought they smelled good!"
The woman, after surveying the damage and kicking the rocks in anger, ran back into the house. The cats saw this is as an opportunity to escape and left through the hole in the fence, all the while shaking from their ordeal.
Moments later, the cats gathered underneath a stationed blue Mercedes a few miles away from the house. Sulfur had a frightened look on his face as he looked right and left for any sign of trouble, while the she-cats sat close to one another, grooming each other's ruffled fur. Flint arrived a minute later with news of no further trouble and sat down with the others.
"This isn't helping much at all." Sulfur murmured to no one in particular. He stared at his paws, scratching them painfully against the rough gray concrete.
Brooke lifted her head from where she laid huddled next to Wings and padded over to Sulfur. A look of concern was scrawled across her face, although she said nothing. She just pressed closer to him.
"What are we going to do Brooke?" he meowed quietly to her. "If this keeps up, we'll have no choice but to split up."
"Don't worry about it." She licked his ear affectionately. "As long as there are people there will be places to stay and things to eat."
Sulfur turned his attention away from her to look over at his sister and the siblings. They were sleeping peacefully next to each other, almost completely hidden by an outstretched wing.
"Do you think I should scold Wings for what she did?" He turned to his green gaze to look at Brooke, who stared deep in thought at the world outside.
"Wings is still young and experienced, and she makes mistakes, just like all of us. We can't follow your rules all of the time."
"I know that, but the prey that is around now isn't enough to sustain us. We could move into the park or another dwelling, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be enough. There are too many mouths to feed Brooke."
"Oh hush. As you said before, where there are people there is prey. Remember that hypotemus you told us about?"
Sulfur nodded. "Hypothesis, but that doesn't save the possibility that I'm wrong."
"Its proven right so far." Brooke flicked her tail teasingly over his left ear. "Don't worry about it. Shortage of prey or not, you'll be no use to us in the morning fretting over what you can't help. Get some sleep. We'll make up for it later."
Sulfur, now momentarily reassured by Brooke, lied down to relax. "I hope you're right," he murmured, letting out a huge yawn. "I hope you're right..."
An hour later Brooke, Wings, and Flint slipped out from underneath the car. Above them dusty gray clouds were gathering in the darkened sky, threatening to release an onslaught of rain and wind. It ruffled Wings's fur, tickling her nose, and she let out one big sneeze as a result.
"Daisy stay here and guard Sulfur for us please." Brooke called to the young feline as she emerged.
Daisy was in the middle of a stretch when she noticed they were leaving and ran up to them. Her eyes were wide, as if she couldn't believe what she was saying. "But I want to go hunting with you!"
Brooke gave a quick glance towards the black and white cat, who had hardly budged from his spot. "Sulfur barely gets enough sleep as it is and you know how much he was tossing and turning the night before."
Her fur bristled. "Why do I have to watch him? Its Wing's fault we didn't catch any prey and he's her brother."
Wings ears fell back as she remembered their ruined hunting trip. If only she hadn't been so stupid, then they could've brought back loads of big fish and Sulfur wouldn't be passed out underneath a car. "She's right, I should stay," she interjected.
"No." Flint spoke seriously, "Wings has to come with us to make up for the lost prey."
"But-" Brooke swept her tail over Daisy's mouth, silencing her instantly. "That's enough. There's a storm coming in and we don't have time to argue. We shouldn't be gone for very long."
"Fine." Daisy huffed, she turned around and quietly walked back to the car, her tail dragging behind her. Even she knew it was pointless to argue.
"I'll let you get the first bite of anything we catch ok?" Brooke called, a tinge of sympathy in her voice.
Daisy only gave a disappointed glance in their direction before the three walked up the street and out of sight. There was no way they were going to make it back in time.
"Where to first?" Brooke asked Flint as they bounded up the steep hill that led to the park. Her tail curled in anticipation, obviously delighted to practice her hunting skills.
Flint thought for a moment. "We'll make a wide circle around the trees that surround the area and then come in closer to the center as we hunt. If we split up, then all the prey will be in the center of the park."
Brooke rubbed her head affectingly on Flint's shoulder. "Sounds like a plan to me. It looks like Sulfur is rubbing off on you."
Wings watched the two with keen eyes, wishing she could just as easily warm up to her brother. Sulfur has been so grumpy and depressed lately that even he has been breaking his own rules. The ones that state you can't hunt in the forest, eat rats, eat trash, hunt near occupied houses, kill sick and injured animals, and most importantly go near junkyards and trash heaps. It made her worry. She sighed. "Are we going to hunt or what?"
Brooke jumped, obviously embarrassed of having something take away her concentration. She took a quick glance at Flint, who rolled his eyes, hiding his embarrassment as well. It wasn't unusual for siblings to share this kind of bond and friendship among each other, but it was another thing to completely take away their focus. "Yes, of course." He replied quickly. "Let's begin shall we?"
"Finally!" Wings mewed excitedly, and without waiting another moment she ran towards the edge of the park, the ground underneath her paw pads transforming from rough gray concrete into cool green grass. She opened her mouth to detect the scents coming towards her but all she could detect were a few squirrels and mice.
From afar she spotted Flint and Brooke heading in opposite directions, Flint to the east end and Brooke the west. The north was protected by a road barrier, so that meant the south belonged to her.
Slowly and carefully, she followed the trail of the mouse. Although she had yet to spot it, her desire to chase it down was causing her anxiety. Thoughts swirled through her head as imagined what would happen if she failed to catch anything. Would the others be upset with her? Will Sulfur abandon them all together? With determined eyes she followed the mouse. And then just as suddenly she stopped.
Not far from where she was standing she spotted movement in the thick leafy branches of a bush. The rustling was too big to be an ordinary mouse, so it had to be something bigger. Instinctively she got into the hunter's crouch and stalked towards it, making sure to stay perfectly still unless the animal were to notice her brightly colored fur. As she watched, a fat brown sparrow hopped out, completely oblivious to the winged cat stalking towards it. She bent her legs, and leaning forward, touched her chest to her front paws. She would only have one chance, one second to get the right move. The bird wandered a few inches closer until strike! She landed on top of it and bit its neck, instantly tasting the mouthwatering scent of her prey.
"I caught it!" Wings automatically shouted to the others as she dropped the bird. She looked out into the center of the park to see if Flint and Brooke had noticed but they were out of sight. I'll have to show them later. She thought as she dug a hole underneath the soft leaves. She dropped the still warm carcass inside and then buried it again so that she can pick it up later. I hope Sulfur can forgive me.
Back in his temporary shelter under the Mercedes Sulfur was fast asleep. He had his head tucked underneath his white-tipped tail and his paws were curled underneath his chest. The others had left him there to get some rest, as they knew how much he was fretting over food the other day. During the night he was tossing and turning and making little mewing noises in his sleep. They didn't need his permission to go hunting, so they left him there to catch some shut-eye. Though, even a 11 month old kitten can't sleep all day.
Suddenly a loud yowl and the heavy weight of Daisy threw him awake. In a flash he was on paws and swiveling his green gaze anxiously around him. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," she purred, "I just caught a squirrel." She pushed the gray carcass towards him.
"Ha! The way you were acting I would've thought that Wings was flying." He leaned down and took a big bite of the still warm prey, "or is there another reason?"
Daisy looked away. "Um, I just wanted to try and catch another fish that's all."
"Again? Even after what happened?"
She took a few steps forward, her ears flattened against her head. "I can't help it! It tasted so good! And besides, Wings ruined our chances last time. If she didn't come maybe we can catch a few."
"But didn't you already eat?"
"Well, no, the others told me to guard you until you woke up. So I caught a squirrel to pass the time."
"Doesn't that defeat the purpose?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Oh Sulfur! Will you just tell me yes or no? I'm dying from hunger over here!"
He rolled his eyes. "Fine, but only this once and as thanks for the squirrel." He padded halfway out of the car before shooting her a serious look, "and you still owe me."
Daisy purred and jumped after him.
Soon after leaving the vehicle Sulfur and Daisy found themselves traveling through a dense set of shrubbery that bordered a nearby highway. Senses alert and tails low, they knew that at any point in time a dog or a kitnapper could come after them so they had to be cautious. As a result the air between them had become deadly quiet and neither cat spoke to one another. Daisy fell into a hunter's crawl and followed Sulfur to the edge of the ditch to wait for the cars to pass, the reeking scent of oil and burnt rubber sending shivers down her spine. She took a quick glance at Wing's brother and was surprised to see that he didn't seem bothered by it all. Instead his gaze was fixed squarely on the other side, his fear scent unnoticeable. Was he used to this?
"Now!" Sulfur yowled, and Daisy, momentarily struggling against the steep incline, bolted onto the road.
As they raced across Daisy did her best to stay calm while moving her paws as fast they could, focusing straight ahead on a thin line of trees coming closer and closer into view. She passed Sulfur along the way and didn't look back.
"Wait Daisy," he shouted, his voice drowned out by the roaring highway as other cars passed by in other lanes. She was nearly to the other side when she felt the ground shake, and heard the roar of an engine growing louder. She winced.
"Stay still!" This time Sulfur's panicked voice reached her ears, prompting her to freeze in the middle of the street. In that split second a white convertible sped by, pelting her body with loose stones and ruffling her fur with a powerful wind. When it was gone she opened her eyes again and saw the trees, then a black shape materialize on the other side. Sulfur was waiting for her. She followed soon after, her body shaking from the near impact, her heart racing in disbelief. Once she had caught her breath she gave him an angry stare.
"What?" The tom asked.
"This isn't the way to the pond Sulfur, we never had to cross a highway!"
He nodded, acknowledging her concern. "This way is faster though."
"Yeah, but you never said we were going to go this way."
"Well I'm telling you now, aren't I," he snapped. "Don't you want to bring back some fresh fish for the others? We can't keep them waiting."
Daisy, watching him go, narrowed her eyes. She couldn't fathom why he would be taking this shortcut now and right after taking them the long way yesterday. But whatever the reason may be, she guessed that there must be some small detail she was misunderstanding and followed him anyway. Maybe she was just being paranoid. But why would he know about a shortcut when he's only been there twice? She shook the thought from her head. She knew that Sulfur was smarter than he looks. He probably knew about this place all along and just decided to show them now, sneaky Sulfur.
"We'll be there soon," he reassured her, as they stepped through the trees and into a parking lot. Daisy followed closely behind, keeping her gaze up towards the sky, in awe at the sight. High above her, rising towards the clouds, were several concrete structures covered in shiny blue windows. Colorful advertisements decorated every corner of the streets, and people from all forms of life littered the sidewalks, dressed in black business suits or in casual jeans. Many of them were too busy on their cellphones to notice as two small felines padded past, hugging the store fronts, trying to remain unseen.
This was actually the first time she had ever been in the heart of the city and she couldn't believe that Sulfur hadn't taken them here before.
"Hurry up, the traffic's getting thick!"
She turned to see that Sulfur was already half way up the street and heading towards an alleyway. She sped up, trying to keep up with his fast strides. Soon they were in another part of town, completely unrecognizable from the first. Trash, dumpsters, and the acrid scent of rotting food and rats hung heavy in the air and she couldn't help but scrunch up her nose in displeasure. This part of the city was completely different from the first. The buildings were smaller here, made from faded brick and broken windows greeted them as they passed by. Daisy took this all in inconspicuously. After all, Sulfur did say this was a short cut.
"If we climb over the fence and cross through that abandoned lot over there we'll be very close to the house." Sulfur said, pointing to a rusted wire fence with his tail.
Daisy kneaded the rough concrete beneath her paws pads, glancing uneasily at what awaited them from behind the fence. It reminded her of her near fatal accident with the white convertible. "An abandoned car lot seems like the perfect place for snakes and spiders and dogs to live."
Sulfur shook his head. "No, come on. We have to get going before our siblings find out."
She nodded and followed him over the fence and into the lot, where cracked concrete and patches of weeds and grass greeted her paws. Several worn down, abandoned cars dotted the area and pieces of metal screws, nuts, and bolts littered the ground. This was no place for a human to live, especially a cat. Did they take a wrong turn? She followed Sulfur to the center of the lot until he suddenly stops. Confused, she narrowed her eyes, giving him a questioning glare before he whips around and attacks her, pushing her to the ground with both paws on her chest.
Daisy winced, his claws digging into her fur. "Ouch, okay you got me," she mewed playfully, batting him with one paw. However Sulfur didn't budge, his expression remained serious, and soon her eyes widened in shock. This wasn't a game.
"Get off!" She cried, kicking her hind legs and unsheathing her claws in a violent attempt to break free. She swiped at his fur, but the pain hardly deterred him. He was much older than her, by three months, and while they were nearly the same size she was the weakest out of all five of them.
Sulfur's ears twitched as he heard paw steps approach them from behind. Quickly, he dragged Daisy by the nape of her neck towards them. "You said you wanted another prey hunter right?"
A skinny orange tabby stood before them, staring down at her with a disapproving glare. His swirled tabby pelt contained many scars and was flanked by another tom, this one much shorter. He spoke with a rough voice, "is that the best you can do?"
"She is really good at catching squirrels, and she's fast too." He said with a tinge of nervousness, speaking rapidly and with his tail between his legs. This was the first time Daisy had ever seen him like this.
She let out a squeak of protest. "Sulfur I-"
"Quiet you!" He slammed her face to ground with his paw, silencing her instantly.
"Sounds like a whiny brat," another cat chimed in as she approached. The gray tabby stood next to the two, a white flea collar hung loosely from her neck.
"Oh, shut up Stella," the black tom retorted, slashing his tail. "Do we have any other choice?"
"What do you say? Do you want to let me in?"
The orange tabby narrowed his eyes and gave them both a long, hard look. After a minute he mumbled "fine" under his breath and then turned around and stalked off, leaving the two alone without saying another word.
As the cats dispersed, Sulfur looked down at Daisy. His eyes were so cold she thought they would freeze her to death.
With a small defeated voice she whispered, "why?"
He leaned down, and without speaking a single word he mouthed, "you owe me."
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 14.07.2016
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