The patter of pawsteps, and something being dragged lightly across the ground could be heard from a block away.
If I didn't know better, I would think that a cat just died.
Lily and Scratch stood on either side of their mother, doing their best to help her get to shelter. Her weakened paws dragged along the ground, and she moaned.
Deep down beneath Lily's calm exterior, her heart was racing, mind whirling.
Will she be all right? What if she dies? And how could they've possibly done something like this to her?
"She can't possibly fit safely and comfortably in our den!" Scratch mewed frantically. Lily secretly had the same worries, but didn't know where else could be safer. All of the places that didn't smell to bad, and made for good shelter were inhabited by fierce BloodClan cats or at least had them nearby. That was a risk that couldn't be taken.
"I think it would be better if she stayed with us," Lily replied. Shade let out a low moan.
Soon, she was lying underneath a bush, as she let water trickle from a rag into her mouth. Scratch was out hunting; he would be back soon, hopefully with something actually good. Prey seemed to be getting even scarcer those days, even if you could call what they ate "prey". It was mostly trash and whatever edible thing crawled out of the gutter.
The whole day, the streets seemed quiet. Even the crows that roosted on the overhead wires remained silent. It was unreal, almost like the calm before the storm.
Lily wondered what the storm could be. But as soon as the possibilities started pouring in, her mind tried to shut out those thoughts. Shade dying.... Scratch dying.... BloodClan attack and execution.... the promised battle. Unable to hold it in any longer, she turned to see Scratch padding towards her with a chicken bone.
"I... I'm worried."
"About what? Finding food? I was real lucky, and found a chicken bone."
"No, not that. It's just... something bad's going to happen. I can feel it."
He looked her straight in the eye, his intelligent voice sincere. "Lily, don't worry about our mother or the battle. She's in our care now. As for the battle, Scourge has everything under control, and will lead us to a victory over those wimpy Clan cats. Soon, we will have more prey than we can ever imagine." She did admit that it sounded good. The light and shadow of oaks side by side, green leaves rustling, squirrels chattering up amongst the branches waiting to be caught. Even better, the rivers trickling by that were full of fish. Maybe Scourge isn't so bad after all, if he's leading us to all of this.
She never thought that she could find herself thinking of Scourge, almost positively. But then she looked down at her mother again. Shade was just opening her eyes to a crack. All of her gratitude vanished. Scourge is a tyrant and a murderer, I don't care what anyone says.
Her mother hungrily dug into the chicken bone. Lily thought she had never seen a cat so hungry, and that was saying a lot, because everyone on the streets of Twolegplace seemed like their only purpose in life was to get their next meal. Actually, for some, it was.
She chose to sit by her mother, and see if she would talk.
"Shade? Mother?" she mewed. There was, of course, no response. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks. But brilliant pale green eyes stared at her calmly, as if she were saying, I understand you. I am so happy that you saved me. You are wonderful kits. Or maybe that was Lily's imagination trying to come up with something happy to think.
Just then, most inconveniently, her own stomach growled ominously. She was starving, and she hadn't realized till then, after all of the excitement of trying to heal her mother. It had taken what had seemed like days to press all of the leaves on her gashes. Now she was hungry enough to eat a dog.
"Hungry?" Scratch asked.
"Well, yeah. Did you bring any extra food?" He shook his head.
"This was hard enough to find."
She took a few steps towards the hole in the chain link fence. "I think I'll go get some food now, or at least try to. Water as well. I'm parched." Scratch nodded agreement, as she gave Shade a comforting lick before she began heading out herself.
Same as earlier, the streets were almost like a dream. Barely any cars whizzed by, and no cats were seen.
It's so quiet... it's ominous.
Shaking off her unease, she absentmindedly padded down a friendly - looking alley. Well, as friendly as an alley could ever get. Lily wouldn't care if she never had to see one again in her entire life. Unless it was the main source of food, which it was, and that really sucked.
There was barely any cat scent there, except for the remains of a queen's nest underneath a dumpster. She decided to leap on top of it, to see if what was inside could be of any use.
And she was surprised.
It had to be one of the luckiest dumpsters she had come across in ages. It had oodles of meat that was still slightly warm, and a few ratty rags and coat scraps that would be perfect for bedding. Only if I could carry it all! Lily decided on taking the food for tonight, because that was gravely needed. The bedding she would bring tomorrow, if she had time.
After that, the strange feeling that the world was watching her seemed to disappear. More carefree than usual, she soaked a rag in a puddle on the sidewalk. And let's hope my mother doesn't get sick off of this water.
A mourning dove flitted down from the wire, and landed on her fence over her family's den. The markings on it were a strange black pattern. It uttered a low coo. Stick around, and you'll be lunch, she thought. Although she couldn't help but admire the beautiful bird.
Right then, she was at the perfect angle not to notice a pair of green eyes watching her from just around the bend.
The next day seemed to have the same lazy feeling to it. Lily considered trying to get her mother to talk again, but decided that it was no use. Whatever Scourge's cats had done to her, it was horrific, and uncurable. She shoved down all of the images and possibilities that arose in her mind.
"I think that we need to give the BloodClan cats payback for what they've done to our mother," she stated strongly.
"That's ridiculous, Lily," Scratch mewed sharply, "The BloodClan cats are now leading us to safety and warmth and prey. Plus, you don't even know which cats did it."
"Oh, I have a pretty good idea," she replied grimly.
"Just drop it, all right? We already have enough trouble in our lives."
She pointedly turned away from him, to look at Shade. She appeared calm, and gave a little nod of greeting to Lily.
"Hi, Mom," she whispered. Shade began to purr. But suddenly, she stopped, and a growl rose in her throat. Lily hurriedly looked over her shoulder.
Her mother's eyes flashed, as she gestured to two green eyes, staring at them calmly from across the street. She let out a low hiss, and backed up into the den. Only she could see her true terror.
"Scratch! Scratch!" Lily hissed. He had to pay attention right now. But he still seemed to be ignoring her. Twiddling his claws... I hate him.
But when she looked back, the green eyes were gone, just like that.
She came to a decision to go investigate what was over there, and to get the bedding she discovered the day before, which was of less importance. A nagging feeling that those eyes contributed to her mother's misery came up.
Sly as a raccoon, she crept along the curb, and dashed across the street when the cars ceased to run along the street.
There was no trace of another cat in the alley, except for a tuft of ginger fur resting in a crack on the pavement. Brick. She growled. Brick had lied to them, saying that he was their father, just to gain their trust to get them captured. I wouldn't put it past him to do all of this to my mother.
She gave it a sniff. The scent wasn't familiar, but who else could it be, spying on them? Trying to exploit them and attack them? But then she remembered that the eyes were blue, not green. It had to be another cat.
Chills raced down her spine at the utter silence.
And the unknown cat that obviously did not have good intentions.
Stop thinking about it, Lily, she told herself. For a moment, she realized that it seemed as if she traveled back into her kithood, when she was Susan and frightened of everything.
Soon, she was at the dumpster where she had found the meat and rags. Unfortunately, it looked as if some cat had taken some of them. But that was all right. There was still plenty. As carefully as possible, she gathered up the rags in her mouth and turned around to leap off of the edge of the dumpster.
All of the rags slid out of her mouth and hit the dirty alley ground.
There stood a ginger cat, green-eyed, staring back at her. He seemed unafraid of her, yet he didn't seem very menacing either. He blinked once, twice. Lily couldn't help feeling that she had seen him before, in a very distant memory. Not a good one either.
After thinking for a minute, he spoke. "I'm glad I finally get to meet you."
Lily wrinkled her nose in disgust. This wasn't the scary threat that terrified her mother, it was just a creeper.
"And could you please explain to me what you were doing watching our den?" she questioned haughtily, as she leaped down to retrieve her bedding.
"So you don't remember me?"
Lily's suspicions were confirmed. She gulped, and shook her head, even though his face was a familiar one.
"I met you when you were a kit. Remember that day, when you foolishly wandered off right into Scourge's paws?"
She could only assume that he was referring to the time when she ran away from her mother, because she was scared of fighting.
It's all my fault. All my fault that Shade's scarred literally and mentally.
"You were the cat that Scourge made me fight," she whispered. She all remembered it now. He had attacked her, but made sure not to hurt her. It was a great puzzle to her... he could just be two-sided, like Brick. Still, he seems much nicer than Brick...
"I spared your life."
"You had nothing to do with my survival!" she retorted.
"I refused to injure you. And you know why?"
"No, I don't. And I don't care. Just step aside, so I can return to my mother and brother." Instantly, she slapped her tail over her mouth. Siblings weren't supposed to live together once they got older, let alone with their mother.
The mysterious cat didn't seem to mind that they were breaking the law though. "I think you do care."
"Fine, so what? But there are more important things in life."
He slowly came closer. "Like your mother. But have you ever thought of your father?"
"Sometimes," she admitted. Like he hadn't a worry in the world, he flounced to her side, and pressed his flank right against hers. Their shade of ginger perfectly matched. They even seemed to have the same paw and leg structure.
"Now do you understand?" he mewed, starting to sound less elusive, "My name is Scorch."
Lily backed away. He could just be another cat, like Brick, trying to trick her into letting her guard down. He could be plotting to tell Scourge about their living situation right that moment. Yet something in his green eyes seemed sincere.
Although she was fairly sure that he could not be trusted.
Without another word, she picked up her bedding, and rushed away from him.
"Get away from us!" she spat, "I know what you're trying to do!"
"Scourge doesn't want to hurt you! He helps you, by keeping everything under a tight power!"
"That's what you call oppressive corruption," Lily yowled back after him. Scorch brought back bad memories, horrible memories... he supported Scourge. But she had a strange gut feeling that the undesirable tom was her father.
Their den was just around the block, just around the corner. She could make it with out meeting any other cats.
And she didn't.
Yet when she whipped around the bend, she ended up face to face with two angry Twolegs.
The one towards the rear barked out its weird language, pointing to Lily, and Scorch, who was farther down. She let out a cry of terror, and tried to run. But the Twoleg in front reached out its meaty paws, and snatched her. Before she knew it, she was shoved into a tight cage stinking of the cats before her. She began meowing even more, terrified, only thinking about how to survive. She could see Scorch through the wire of the cage, darting side to side, indecisive on whether or not to save her or save himself.
As the other Twoleg rushed towards him, he decided to save himself.
Lily didn't remember much else, other than being shut in a darkened, rumbling car, everything going black.
The storm had broke.
Jilly was seeing Scorch once again, but this time, the meeting wasn't all light and lovey-dovey. Scorch seemed to have something on his mind, and a worried look in his eye. He shuffled his paws.
"Come on, what is it?" she finally asked, "Tell me so we can have some fun!" For a moment, her heart lurched. What if he's going to say that he wants to break up with me? She felt dizzy at the thought. Her life would barely have any meaning then.
He opened his mouth to talk to her, his words coming out surprisingly smooth and well-planned.
"I want to take you for a walk around the city today. And I can talk more about how life for me is really like." She couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief. They were still a couple. But this must be serious, if he's in this mood.
"Um... okay, sure," she mewed, and leaped down from her fence. It had been new once, but now it bore her clawmarks and scent.
They walked along the sidewalk so close, that her pelt brushed his. Jitters raced along her spine.
"So, I know that you know life is rough for me," Scorch began awkwardly.
"Well, yeah," she responded in the same manner.
"But you don't really know how this stinking place runs."
"Uh... I always thought that it was completely chaos with no control."
"Not exactly." His words were grim. "See, the feral cats of Twolegplace are all controlled by Scourge. He's the cat in charge. How he rose to power, I don't really want to know, but you're either with Scourge or against Scourge."
"He sounds big and scary," Jilly whispered back.
Scorch let out a little chuckle. "Scary, yes, but you'd be surprised by his size."
They turned around a corner, and began to head into the park.
"There are cats that are somewhat subordinates to Scourge. The biggest and meanest is Bone. But there are others as well, who all serve Scourge and capture cats who are breaking the rules."
She gulped. "What are the rules?"
"Well, obviously, never question Scourge or say anything against him. And you wouldn't anger his guard if you were smart. You're not really allowed to be out late at night, that would arouse suspicions. You're not supposed to be living with other cats once you get older, either."
"Wow," Jilly mewed. She wondered why Scorch hadn't told her about all of this before.
"And I have another reason for telling you all this," he mewed, looking down nervously.
"What?" she inquired, ears pricked, eyes wide.
"Would you like to join me and live on the streets?"