Episode Four, Season One, of Solitary.
I gave a small shudder as the Clan cats entered my thoughts once again. My pelt still stung with the scratches that Smallstripe had laid on it, and it wasn’t easy to forget about the battle – Smallstripe’s eyes blazing as he laid a blow on my flank, the pain that came with it…
I sighed. Life hadn’t been easy since the Clan cats had come to live in the forest.
Five sunrises had passed since I’d wandered on ForestClan territory, and been attacked. When I thought of it now, I had only done it because I was blighted with revenge, because they had come past my den…
… Maybe the decision I made that day wasn’t the wisest one.
The warm sunlight shone through the trees, dappling the ground. As one shafted onto my back, I purred at its warmth. I had never been this relaxed in a long time – not since the Clan cats had come…
I’m sure I’m not the only cat thinking this way, I realized with a jolt. Maybe there will be other cats that can side with me?
For once, I felt that I had come up with a good idea. A group of cats to drive the Clans off would be a good idea. The rogues around the territory would have abundant prey once more, and there would be fewer squabbles for prey – a couple of which I had sighted on walks around the forest outside Clan territory.
Yes, I thought, satisfied. I’m going to ask all the other cats in the forest if they will support my cause.
I started to search in the area around TreeClan to start off with. I knew some rogues had their hunting grounds there – not Oak and Raven’s group, but another lot, that I grew up near to. This group was mainly rogues living near each other, and were relatively friendly – they definitely wouldn’t hurt a cat unless it was necessary.
They wouldn’t have bothered the Clan cats, knowing them, I thought, lashing my plumy tail. They’re too friendly to attack them. They’d leave them alone, knowing them.
“Wisp? Is that you?”
I turned to see a thickset gray she-cat, her amber eyes like pools of fire. Her dark fur was long, unkempt, and scarred.
“Cinder?” I questioned, tipping my head to one side. I recognized her from meeting her a few times before, since the death of my mother. One of these moments started wavering, fresh in my mind, as if it had happened yesterday:
I blundered through the forest in grief, the memory of Stream stinging me. I couldn’t believe I had lost her. I had only wanted to hunt for her, to show her how good I was. And now…
Tears started to run down my face. They plopped to the ground as I ran. I ran for as long as I could, as fast as I could, until I could go no further. Tired, I plopped down to the ground, the tears still silently flowing out of my blue eyes.
I could barely see through the haze of tiredness and grief. The trees of the forest were still standing high above my head: the ground below was still the usual green-brown. I could also see a dark gray shape in the distance, only barely visible.
The shape started expanding, getting, larger, until a cat approached me. Her amber eyes were blazing as she stared at me.
At once, I scrabbled to my paws, and backed away. “Stay away from me,” I hissed, feeling my claws unsheathe.
The dark cat laughed. “You’re a lot smaller than me,” she purred. “Do you think you’d be able to get away from me?” Her amber gaze was intently fixed on me.
“Just stay away,” I repeated. “I need time alone.” I turned and vanished into the trees. “Wisp needs time alone.”
“Come back then, Wisp!” I heard her voice trailing after me. “Come back! My name’s Cinder – I didn’t mean to hurt you –“
I ignored Cinder’s voice, and continued to walk away until her scent faded. All I needed to have was some alone time.
All I needed to do was to grieve.
“Of course,” Cinder replied, jolting me back to reality. “This isn’t your usual area of the forest, Wisp,” she added unnecessarily. “What are you doing here?”
“I –” I stammered. “I wanted to ask something –“
Cinder’s eyes were burning with curiosity after I had spoken those words. She gave a slow, thoughtful nod, and mewed: “Carry on.”
“Well,” I started, “these Clan cats have been really bothering me, hanging around the place.”
After I had spoken, I saw Cinder shift her paws suddenly. “They’ve been bothering you?” she gasped, “I’ve actually found them to be quite interesting, and their ways useful. Marking their territories warns us to stay away. Apparently, they share fighting skills with each other – they all would be powerful, ready to defend themselves against outside threats. Their ways make a lot of sense if you think about it, Wisp.” After her speech, Cinder fell into silence again.
“A group of the Clan that lives on the other side of the forest – ForestClan – went out of their territory and went past my den,” I growled. “Apparently, they’re not meant to do that.”
Cinder snorted. “That’s not my problem,” she pointed out. “It’s ForestClan’s business, whatever they do. But Wisp…” Cinder’s voice trailed off again.
“What is it, Cinder?” I sighed. “Just tell me. I promise not to tell any other cat.”
Cinder gave a small sigh. Her amber gaze met mine as she spoke: “Well, Wisp… to be honest, I find Clan life much more interesting than my current one. I’m thinking of asking TreeClan if I can join them…”
What? “You’re the last cat I would’ve expected to join the Clans,” I mewed hoarsely.
Cinder’s eyes twinkled with surprise. “You’re the last cat I’d expect to join the Clans,” she mewed cheerily. “You prefer to be in your own company.” Snapping back to the original point of the conversation, she asked: “What were you going to ask me, anyway?”
“You’re going to say no,” I mewed flatly. “It’s not worth telling you now.”
“You will tell me, Wisp.”
“No, Cinder.” I couldn’t bear to tell her. She would be so pained…
“You will tell me, Wisp!” Cinder yowled, her amber eyes blazing with rage. “Or I will make you get some more scars.” For the first time, I noticed that Cinder’s gaze was pinpointed on the wounds I had gained in ForestClan territory.
“Those wounds were granted by ForestClan,” I sighed, as I noticed her gaze.
Cinder gave a small shrug. “So that’s how you got the wounds,” she meowed. “I was wondering.” Her kindness stopped abruptly, as she hissed: “Tell me what you were going to say to me.”
“Fine,” I sighed wearily: wishing it hadn’t had come to this. “I was going to ask if you and your rogue group would come and join me on a mission to rebel against the Clans.”
Cinder’s amber eyes were soft as she gazed at me. “I couldn’t do it, Wisp,” she whispered. “I know I won’t be able to hurt them, as they haven’t done anything to me. As for my rogue group…” Cinder’s voice trailed off again.
Well, soon it will be what used to be your rogue group, I thought scathingly.
“Well…” Cinder’s voice jolted me away from my thoughts. “They would probably say the same thing. I’m sorry, Wisp, I understand why you want to do it, but we’re not into that thing, and we aren’t the cats who desire revenge.” Cinder’s amber eyes were full of remorse as she whispered: “May you have good hunting, Wisp.” After she had spoken, the dark gray she-cat vanished back into the trees.
“Goodbye, Cinder,” I whispered, as she left. The pain of her leaving – and the pain of no cats on my side – tugged my heart. Obviously I had to try someone else.
Two more groups to try, I thought, trying to keep myself cheerful. What could possibly go wrong?
My pawsteps were wearisome as I warily approached what was laid out in front of me. I was full of fear, full of a desire to turn away. But I had to do this – even if it was for the worst.
Their scents were fresh on my tongue; the scent of fresh-killed prey was also there. I presumed that they had recently returned from their hunting trip.
“There’s someone near here that shouldn’t be.” A voice sliced into my thoughts, and I recognized it instantly. “It smells like Wisp.” At the mention of my name, the voice came out as a voice of hatred and malice, and the cat was obviously furious.
I tried to run away, but my paws were rooted to the spot. I felt my eyes widen as a black tom padded out from behind an oak tree, his amber eyes glittering.
“Wisp,” the black cat hissed scornfully. His claws unsheathed, and I saw his eyes scan over my wounds – like every single cat had done when they had seen me today. “Have you forgotten how to fight? Some cat has thrashed you in something.” After he had finished, the tom cat bared sharp, pointy white teeth at me.
I padded forward, and attempted to shove the cat out of the way. “Leave me alone, Raven,” I hissed. “I want to ask Oak about something.”
Claws dug into my pelt, and I yowled in pain. I staggered backwards in the shock, and saw Raven, one of his front paws in the air. Blood – my blood – was dripping off his claws onto the ground. I could hazily see a scarlet river of it flowing down my pelt.
“Next time, don’t try to shove past me,” Raven sneered at me. “I’ll go take you to see Oak, but don’t expect him to be merciful with you. Come.”
I padded behind Raven into Oak’s hideout, trying to lick the blood from Raven’s wound as I went. When I realized I was in there, however, I stopped at once. A dark brown tabby tom was staring at me, his dark eyes unkind as he stared.
“Wisp,” he hissed scornfully as I approached. “I thought I smelt you. What is your business here?”
I dipped my head fearfully. “I just wanted to ask something, Oak,” I mewed in a very small voice, not meeting his fierce gaze.
“Tell me then, Wisp,” Oak mewed slyly. “Or I will make Raven scratch you again – as he has already done today.” I saw his eyes sliding towards my shoulder, where Raven had dug his claws in. It was still bleeding – but the flow of blood had been stemmed.
I didn’t meet Oak’s eyes as I spoke: mainly because I was scared of him. “I wanted to ask,” I mewed quietly, “if any of your friends would like to join me in rebelling against the Clans.”
After I had spoken, there was a silent tension between Oak and Raven. I shivered in fear as their gazes met, and then they moved over me. Finally, Raven spoke:
“Why would we want to join you?” the black tom hissed scornfully, as he lashed his skinny tail. “You’re useless, Wisp. You keep to yourself – no cat likes that. No cat wants you here, Wisp. Why did you even come here in the first place?”
Because I had to at least ask, I thought. You two don’t understand me.
“The answer is no,” Oak added, as the large tom strode up to me. “Now, get out of my sight, before you meet with my claws.”
I turned my tail on Oak and Raven at once, and rushed away. I had nothing left to say to them – they had always scorned me, and now – for the first time – they had attacked me with their claws.
Oh, why do none of you rogues understand? I thought, as I raced through the forest, locating the route back to my den. Tears started welling up in my eyes as my silent plea remained unheard.
Does any cat understand?