The slow process of beginning again.
This is it. I am here.
I struggle to catch my breath, and my quick exhaling makes puffs of warm air in the cold leafbare day. It is just after sunhigh, but the sun is low enough in the sky to suggest otherwise.
My Clan stretches ahead of me in a long, single-file line. The familiar bodies calm me in the strange place, but the cats who normally are so proud and brave are quiet, much more quiet than I have ever seen them before.
In the back of the line is the reason why we are here. She is carried slowly by two of her closest, lifelong friends. The dull, cloudy look in her eyes nearly kills me on the inside, but then I realize it is a side effect of death.
My sister is dead. She was killed by a patrol from another Clan- no cat is sure which Clan, exactly, but we are investigating- and was found nearly a day later. I was the one who found her body.
As we near the top of the hill, my sister’s burial site, the Clan cats step to either side, creating a sort of path for us to walk through. The Clan murmurs their well-wishes as I walk through, parting the warm, furry bodies like water.
Her friends set her down gently, oh so gently, and step back to be with the rest of the Clan.
I stand before them, her brother. The Clan stares at me, they are desperate for leadership and I will give it to them.
“Thank you,” I say to her friends, Flowertail and Dapplepelt, “she will be honored to be carried all this way by two noble she-cats like you.” I see the two she-cats’ eyes brighten considerably.
Funerals are for the living, I remind myself silently.
And I begin. The words, so meticulously practiced in my head, spill out like a waterfall.
“My sister, she was great,” I begin. “She was a fantastic littermate, somebody I could always count on to play with me. Always friendly, always adventurous, and ridiculously smart. She definitely didn’t like to follow rules, so she found ways to get around them.”
The Clan purrs with amusement. The older cats definitely remember those days.
“She learned quickly,” I add on, "as an apprentice. It didn’t hurt that she was being trained by one of the most cunning warriors in the Clan, but she was a talented apprentice all the same. She was kind to everyone, she didn’t get involved in all of the gossip that apprentices always get themselves into.”
A warrior calls out, “And the warriors!” It is Raventail, one of the newest warriors, and the Clan nods in agreement.
“Yes, and the warriors,” I agree out loud. “And as a warrior…”
This is where I trail off, consider my words more carefully. “As a warrior she was one of the best the Clan has ever seen. She was fair, she was a leader, she always thought about her decisions. And those are just a few of the qualities that led her to be chosen as deputy.
“And then she became our leader, and let me just remind everyone how much trouble we had at the beginning!” Those who are old enough also remember, they nod in agreement and nudge each other. “She was so down. She thought leadership was easier. The truth is, as time went on, she definitely made it look easy.”
I remember her confiding in me, her sad eyes boring into mine. Back then, it was easier, because she had the weight on her shoulders that I thought I would never bear.
“I won’t do as well,” I acknowledge, transitioning from speaking of my sister, who still lays on the ground in front of me. “Leadership has never come as easy to me as it did for her, and I am still just as shocked as I was the day I was chosen as her deputy. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m honored and I will work just as hard as my sister did.”
The Clan stares at me intensely.
“It’s a shame, really, that I’ll never get her advice, but we can forge on without it.”
The sun goes behind a cloud, and the forest plunges into a shadow. We stand, all of us, staring at our noble leader’s body.
I walk forward and start digging a hole large enough. The Clan comes slowly forward to help, starting with Flowertail and Dapplepelt, and Raventail, and every other cat. I have no idea who pushes her body into the hole, and I lose track of time as we finally pile the dirt back on.
It is sunset as the Clan begins to watch me again, looking for leadership.
“Go back to camp,” I tell them, “I’m going to the Moonpool.”
I don’t even know why I wrote this, but I was in a weird mood anyway, so…