Antics and cats in this very special instalment of…
Trailing Stars: Chapter Six
Edited by: Dawnfrost
illustrated by Jayfrost
“We need to find some sort of food source.”
Copperclaw looked at the Clan, gathered below her. She sat on a high, jutting rock next to Cakestar. The meeting was taking place at noon, and she felt the hot sun bake her spotted tabby pelt. She shifted her paws uncomfortably, hunger clawing at her belly. The scrawny bits of prey that they had rationed the day before were nowhere near enough to sustain her for the day, let alone the days to come.
“But how?” a voice called from the gathering cats. Copperclaw couldn’t see who it was, with the sun in her eyes.
“Not by whining about it,” snapped another voice, like barbed wire.
More voices began to meld in, arguing and lashing out at each other. Copperclaw stood calmly, but she was filled with dread. BlogClan as now fully gathered, but they still argued, even now that they were cats. And more and more had happened recently, with all of the hunger. It was getting ridiculous. The deputy felt her own temper begin to bite at her.
Attack, a small voice whispered to her. Fight.
She flattened her ears against the feral instinct bubbling within her. Ever since becoming a cat… well, it wasn’t important right now.
“HEY!” she snapped, fur bristling and eyes dark with rage. Her voice carried over, and the cats stopped and stared at her. “Stop it! You’re all acting like five-year-olds!”
She turned to Cakestar, who was surprised and slightly flustered. “Can I continue this?”
The leader nodded her approval.
“Alright,” Copperclaw continued, her voice loud in the silence. “We’re starving, we’re not happy, I get it. But no need to start trying to kill each other! Haven’t we learned from things that happened even when we were humans?”
How do I get this organized? I need some order here… she thought back to her days as a human, the way teachers conducted classrooms. The fact that she was speaking, alone, in front of all those cats was starting to get through to her. She felt her paws shake slightly.
“Now, we need some way to find food. Instead of whining or being mean, we start to get ideas. Got it? Okay. Raise your paw if you want to speak.”
A cream she-cat raised her paw, blue eyes shining. Copperclaw nodded to her.
“I think we can try finding some other cats, maybe see if they can teach us.” There was a murmur of approval.
“But what if there are no other cats here?” A cat Copperclaw identified as Dappleleaf pointed out. “Or if they have the same situation as us?”
Copperclaw nodded. “Dappleleaf is right. But, we’ll have that one as an option. Hazelburrow, what do you think?”
The hazel tabby tom stood. “Well, maybe we can go to Twolegplace and find some food. I saw some houses when we were crossing the river!”
Copperclaw nodded. “That’s a great idea!”
Voices began to bubble up in the camp. “But what if we eat food that can poison us?” Thistlepaw said softly, eyes wide.
“Well, I know some foods that cats can eat,” Dawnmist piped up.
“We should gather herbs for emergencies, too,” Leafpaw pointed out. “What if we do get some tainted food?”
“We don’t know which herbs are which!”
“Twolegs have kitchen gardens, right? And gardens have labels for herbs…”
“But what if we can’t read English anymore?!”
“QUIET!” Copperclaw called out again. The voices receded. “We have no other option. We’ll set some patrols. I’ll lead patrol A, and it’ll have… Emberpaw, Kat, Dappleleaf, Leafpaw, and Owlpaw. Dawnmist will lead Patrol B. It’ll have… Brightshadow, Lilyshine, Echoleaf, Flowerpaw, and Hazelburrow. The rest of you, work around camp and make the dens slightly bigger. Silverpaw will stay behind if anyone gets hurt at all.”
The gathered cats split off, some muttering and some walking off in silent acceptance to their respective jobs. The deputy sat back, eyes wide. I just did that.
“Copperclaw! Let’s go!” Kat called up to her. The light brown tabby nodded and hopped off the rock to join her patrol.
“Alright. The Twolegplace I saw is near the river,” she heard Hazelburrow tell Dawnmist.
“Okay. Patrols A and B, we go together until we split off at Twolegplace. We go to different sides and meet outside before sunset. Come on!”
Copperclaw walked out of camp, the cats in tow as she worked her way through the unfamiliar, grassy forest. The cats were quiet, some making idle conversation as they passed the cool, sparkling river. The sun shone through green and gold leaves, and everything had a grassy, clean scent, like freshly mown grass. Birds chirped softly as their pads sunk slightly in the wet dirt. It would have been pretty, if they were still humans and just taking a hike. The fact that they might never leave made the warm air seem icy. It was almost cruel how beautiful their prison was.
The change from moist dirt to hard, scratchy pavement made Copperclaw stop at the entrance to the Twolegplace, a ragged hole cut through a fence.
“Okay, apprentices first!” she called out to the group.
Leafpaw made it through first, her fluffy fur only slightly catching in the hard metal. After everyone was through, Dawnmist led her patrol to the west side of the Twolegplace. Copperclaw walked through the east.
Normally a Twolegplace would just be a natural place to be. But with her enhanced senses, Copperclaw nearly vomited at the rank stench of car exhaust, the harsh, painful street pebbles, and the wilting, dying flowers that grew in little pots at windows. She wondered how she could ever have lived in one of these. The whole place gave her head-throbbing nausea.
“I wouldn’t want to steal…” Leafpaw said nervously.
“Nah, don’t worry. We aren’t stealing. We’re… dumpster diving!” Copperclaw grinned. Might as well add some fun to this.
Her patrol grumbled, but they cracked some smiles at her sarcastic enthusiasm.
“Just follow my lead. Find something that smells alright, grab it in your teeth, and get out of there.”
“Something that smells alright?” Kat wrinkled her nose. “It’s a trash can!”
Copperclaw hopped into the garbage. Blergh, Kat’s right! She sniffed around the dank, nauseating trash bin until she found something that smelled… not too bad. She grabbed it in her teeth and yanked it out. It was… she gasped. A giant pile of grilled chicken skin! The delicious, enticing scent of grilled chicken wafted to her nose. She could tell by the other’s hushed amazement that they felt the same.
Kill them all and take it for yourself! Instinct poked at her mind. Claim your own territory.
Copperclaw shook her head slightly. She was constantly getting that bite of being a true cat. Jealous, angry, territorial… the tiny voice in her head taught her how to fight, how to kill. She had let it take over for about two seconds the minute she woke up. She remembered her vision blurring red, seconds away from killing the other cat until she heard the name Dawnmist.
She would never let her guard down again.
The other cats began to hop into the dumpsters. Kat rose, an unfinished buffalo wing held firmly in her jaws. Emberpaw recovered some fried eggs and bacon, and half of a waffle. Copperclaw was so happy that she was tempted to make her a warrior right then and there. They began to form a pile. A half of a sausage. Some lettuce. A few chunks of cake. An uneaten package of oatmeal. The patrol carried their treasures out to the exit of Twolegplace.
Copperclaw had the sneaking suspicion that every cat had a different instinct, telling them what to do.
Proud of her cats and stomach growling more than ever, Copperclaw guided the patrols as the sky turned a vibrant shade of orange. Only one thing dulled her joy.
Dawnmist said that something told her we needed to unite. If we’re all together, united, then… how come we haven’t become humans again?