Second Chapter of Fuega Fuega.
Where I was born, in that filthy, crowded Twolegplace with Twoleg nests that reached as high as the sky, there were no stars at night. The Twoleg nests gave off light that, when you looked straight at it, was as bright as the sun, and therefore blocked out the stars. Peach never told me about the stars, so I never knew about them until I lived in another Twolegplace, a less crowded one that didn’t give off as much light at night.
I guess that it’s ironic that, though I couldn’t see the stars, the stars watched me more closely than any cat before me, right from the day I was birthed. And until after I got the scar on my back, I never knew.
The night I tried to escape was when I was three moons old. Peach had been drilling us ruthlessly so that we would learn how to fight. Not only did she make us battle each other for the prey she caught, she also used the lid of the Twoleg rubbish container as a fake enemy. If you ask me, it was a pretty bad fighting dummy, seeing as you couldn’t tell when it was dead or not.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise that Vulture took this almost as seriously as Peach, maybe even more seriously. He battled me ferociously for the rats and other garbage Peach would bring us, though there was never a fight like the one I had had with him when our mother first made us fight for our food. Sure, I was getting better at fighting, but my brain didn’t feel like the only thing that mattered was the battle anymore. So he won every fight, though I always managed to rip off a scrap of the food. I was sure that Peach wouldn’t have let me eaten any of it if I hadn’t stolen part of the prey. The first fight didn’t count; there hadn’t been a fair winner to it.
As for the dummy, you would have thought it was going to destroy all felines from the way Vulture fought it. Most of the scratch marks on it were from my brother, and he was constantly trying to tear it into a hundred pieces. Once, after painstakingly biting the same spot on the rubbish lid for several training sessions in a row, he finally managed to break a mousetail-sized piece off. He paraded around the alley with the scrap in his mouth for the whole day, and when Peach brought us our food that night, which happened to be a squirrel (a rare delicacy for cats in that Twolegplace), she instantly pushed me and Ella aside when we trotted up to her. She then gave half—I repeat, half!—of the squirrel to Vulture, which was one of the biggest acts of kindness I ever saw Peach give.
I think all of us, including my sister, were shocked that Ella didn’t die of starvation during our first three moons. She hardly even tried to fight during both our prey battles and training sessions, and she barely got any milk during the rare times that Peach nursed us. She still looked skinny, but not any skinnier. I kept wondering if she was secretly hunting by herself, but honestly…Ella, able to catch prey? Everything was getting so confusing.
I guess that’s why I decided to escape that one night when I was three moons old. Peach had told us that day that she wasn’t going to feed us milk anymore. As I often did, I went to sleep right away and then woke up in the middle of the night.
For a while I sat in silence, just thinking.
Is there a point in living here? What if my purpose in life is beyond this place, with its crowded nests and bright lights? Is a cat really meant to live here? Then something occurred to me. Maybe not all Twolegplaces are like this. Maybe…maybe my father lives where Twolegs are more kind to cats. That’s why he stays with them, right?
I knew then that I would find Peanut, and I would start my search that night. And I would ask him if he knew a she-cat named Peach, with a flame-colored pelt and green eyes. I would tell him that I was his daughter, and I would ask if Peach asked him to take care of me. And I would hope that he had said yes to her.
Taking a deep breath, I turned behind me. I saw Peach, sleeping soundly, and Vulture’s tail twitching behind her; he and Ella had gone to sleep there. As quietly as I could, I climbed the steep wall of the Twoleg rubbish container and leapt down onto the ground of the alley.
At least I’m not as big as Vulture, I said to myself, looking back at the den. He would have been so noisy. And Ella probably wouldn’t have made a sound.
Then, as I turned around, I found myself sniffing the backside of another cat. I leapt up in surprise and unsheathed my claws.
“Relax, Fuega, don’t you recognize me even in the dark?”
I unsheathed my claws when I realized it was only my sister. “Ella, what are you doing up so late?”
“I’d like to ask you the same thing,” she hissed. Her eyes didn’t have the same fearful look that they usually had; instead, they glared at me suspiciously.
“Look, leave me alone,” I growled, turning out of the alley. “I have to go.”
Ella sprinted in front of me. “No! You can’t go! You belong here.”
“Belong here?” I snarled. “What do you think this is, a cat’s paradise? The only things I’ve had to feed on are milk, crowfood, and dirty water. And now we aren’t allowed to have milk! And Peach keeps telling us about mad dogs that want to kill us, and that all the Twolegs here want to catch us and eat us! What makes you think this is better than living with our father?” I gasped as I realized that I had revealed my intentions for leaving.
Ella sighed. “Fuega, you don’t understand. You and Vulture are tough, I can tell. I’ve been having these dreams. Strange, shimmering cats are telling me that I must leave this place, but you must stay with Peach until the time is right.”
“Who says that the time isn’t right now?” I challenged her.
She twitched her tail. “The right time is when you’ll talk to them, too. They told me. You might see them in dreams before that, but only when you really talk to them will you be ready to find your own home.”
I narrowed my ears. “You’re probably just hallucinating because you’re dying of starvation.”
“No I’m not,” she meowed firmly. “I’ve been hunting on my own every night since Peach first brought that rat and told us to hunt it.” She looked up at the sky. “Of course, tonight’s different.”
“Why did you manage to hunt by yourself?” I wondered aloud.
“Because Peach wasn’t watching me,” she replied, still looking at the sky. “I don’t work well under pressure. See, the cats in my dreams told me that you, Vulture, Peach, and I are descendents from a great warrior. We all fight when we really feel we need to. Vulture and Peach have an instinct that any meal or fight could be their last if they don’t try to fight for it, so they do. You only fight when you really feel like you have to protect yourself. That’s why Vulture always beats you in play battles, but you matched him when Peach first brought that rat.”
“And what about you?” I asked.
“I have a sense of fairness inside of me that won’t go away, even if I become the cruelest cat.” She looked at me now, with eyes that didn’t seem to fit her body; they were so older and wiser, boring into my skin. “If there are other, bigger cats around that can hunt better than me, I will let them have the prey without a fight, because I know they can kill me if I don’t. Even with Peach, who wasn’t fighting with us, my instinct told me not to fight hard, so I involuntarily didn’t, even though I was telling myself to.”
I grunted, to show that I had understood, but really I was more confused than ever. What were these strange dreams that Ella was having? How long had she had them? What did they mean? I wanted to ask her, but for some reason the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. We just sat there in silence for a while, listening to the Twoleg monsters that zoomed by every now and then, and watching the flickering lights on top of strange trees made of rock that the Twolegs had built to light their roads.
After a while, Ella whispered, “Well, I better go.” She turned to leave the alley.
“Tell Peanut I said hi,” I meowed sarcastically.
“Oh, I’m not going to try to find our father,” she mewed. “Well, I might, but he’s not exactly who I’m looking for. I’m just trying to find a cat or cats that can be a real family to me. He might be the one, so I’ll stay with him and his Twolegs, or I’ll find other friends. But the dream cats said I need to do this.”
“Why you and not me?” I murmured.
Ella shrugged. “I dunno. The dream cats are strange, but I’ve learned to trust them.” She let out a long sigh. “Goodbye, Fuega. Hopefully we will see each other again.” She turned around and trotted down the street, her fur in the glow of the rock-tree lights.
“Goodbye, Ella,” I whispered, though I wasn’t sure that she had heard me. I watched as she made her way up the road until she turned another corner and was out of sight. Then I turned back into the alley and climbed back into the smelly den, laying down where I was before, thinking many things, the least of which being how Peach and Vulture would react to this.