Chapter 1: Determined to Live

I’m so tired. And hungry. Or I remember being hungry. Weird, I haven’t eaten anything for days, I was starving to the point of falling, but I don’t feel the sting of hunger anymore. How long has it been? I can’t remember. But I’m so tired. Maybe I should just lay here, just for a bit. I can open the left eye almost entirely now, but it has been like this for a while, I feel I won’t be able to fully open it ever again. At least I don’t have to clean the blood flowing from the bite at the nose anymore. And the injury on the right side of my forehead has stopped hurting.

No, I have to keep looking. I have to find those large two-legged beings who have food. Where could they have gone? And why did they bring me here? First they put me inside that enormous cage together with them, then the cage roars and the world starts to move, first slowly, then faster and faster. I was so scared. Why didn’t they do anything? Couldn’t they hear my cries? Why were they ignoring me? One of the beings, the largest, yelled angrily. Angry because of me? Why? I didn’t understand. I could only but cry even louder. More yelling. More crying.

Finally the world stopped moving and the roaring cage stopped roaring. The largest of the beings got out of the cage. Shortly after, a side of the enormous cage next to me opened and the large being grabbed me and dropped me to one of these grey rugged grounds where fast four-wheeled monsters like to move on, although this time there were none to be seen or heard. We were alone.

I remember well that moment. At each side of the rugged ground, tall trees everywhere I looked. Cheerful birds singing anywhere I listened to. Coming from all directions, all sorts of woodsy scents awakening a fire in me that I didn’t know I had. A slightly chilly air was caressing my fur, not too cold, just right to sharpen me up. It was so pleasant, like nothing I had felt before. I wasn’t scared anymore. Or rather, I was scared, but in an excited scared way, not in the terrified scared way of a moment ago. Sure, who knew what dangers hid that unfamiliar place, but the pull to explore so many marvels was irresistible. Before I realised it, I had already moved to a nearby small plant and I was smelling an intriguing musky scent. Then I turned at once with tension as a roar came from just behind me. The enormous cage was roaring again, transformed into one of those four-wheeled monsters. Ready to climb the nearest tree if needed to, I saw the roaring monster starting to move. Soon after it was gone.

How many days has it been? And where did the two-legged beings go? I haven’t seen them since the roaring monster left. So tired. I think this is it, I can’t anymore.

Wait, what was that sound? It sounded like the fast varied noises the large two-legged beings emit. But I can’t hear anything now. Guess I just heard what I wanted to hear. Keep looking.

Again! It’s far, but I’m sure now. It came from my right, easily thirty trees away and up the hill. Let’s go.

It’s strange, it sounds different than the large two-legged beings I know. And now it stopped again. It was close, ten trees away maybe. Please be there still.

Heavy and clumsy footsteps! No doubt, a large two-legged being. And very close, if it wasn’t for the steep slope flattening at the top I should be able to see it. Just a few steps more, come on, you can do it.

There, a large two-legged being!

“Meowww”

It’s telling me something nice. A mix of surprise and cheerfulness, but I sense worryness too, even a trace of sadness. Sadness towards me? My injuries have healed, no need to worry, but I feel very weak. Do you have food?

“Meowww”

It’s not the same two-legged being that dropped me in this forest. I think it’s telling me it doesn’t have any food. There are two more beings a bit further behind the first one. I don’t know them either. Maybe one of you have food?

“Meowww”

They’re doing those varied noises again, but directed among themselves, not towards me. Hey, I’m here!

“Meowww”

Nothing. Let me get closer to the first being and show it how happy I am of having found it. There, see, I’m almost rubbing to your leg, my tail fully erected. Feel free to pet me.

“Gurrh”

Nothing.

Hey, where are you going? You forgot to pet me. Ok, let me catch up and offer you to pet me once more. There, I’m next to you again, tail fully erected.

“Gurrh”

Nothing. And it keeps walking. Keep following. Keep insisting. It doesn’t walk fast, but I’m so tired, I can’t even follow that pace.

No! I’m falling behind.

The last two-legged being seems to walk slower. I think I can follow it. Let me offer it to pet me.

“Gurrh”

Nothing. And none of them stop. And I’m falling behind once more. Come on, speed up, you can do it.

Ok, I caught up to you once more.

“Meow”

Nothing.

What should I do? They don’t seem to have food, and they keep walking. Should I risk my last reserves of energy to follow them? I’m exhausted, if this doesn’t work… But what’s the alternative? I haven’t eaten anything for so many days, or slept warm, or even rested well. I don’t think I’ll make it through this night, these two-legged beings are my last chance.

“Meowww”

No reaction again, not even a glance. And yet, the last being is walking significantly slower than the other two. I’ll take this as an invitation to follow it. For my sake, it better be. It has to be. All right, this is my last chance, if this fails, it’s over. I’m putting my life on your hands, do you hear me?

“Meow”

Yes, yes, no reaction. Ok, let me offer you to pet me to seal our unspoken agreement. There, I’m again next to you, tail fully erected.

“Gurrh”

And nothing, what a surprise. Fine, we’ll do it your way. I’ll just follow quietly.

Yes, I think it’s indeed an invitation to follow it. We’ve been walking for a while now, and the other two-legged beings are now much further ahead, I only see them briefly on long straight segments before the path bends. Fortunately we’ve been walking downhill all the time, this has made it easier to follow.

Oh my, this is taking a while. Before I was able to catch up every time I was falling behind, but I can barely follow at a distance now. How long are we going to keep walking? Annoyingly now I’m not only exhausted, I do have to pee too. But if I stop for even a moment I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up. But I can’t hold it anymore. Please, stop for a moment.

“Meowww”

The two-legged being stopped! No time to waste, a quick hole, and… uff… what a relief. Ok, ready, we can continue. Thank you.

“Meow”

And it resumes walking to my sign. No doubt, it’s an invitation. I hope there’s food at the end of this, I feel lighter after peeing, but I’m still exhausted, and thinking of food has revived the sting of hunger.

Another long while walking. Always downhill, and yet my steps are starting to feel too heavy. I want to rest so much, but I’ll lose the two-legged being if I do. Come on, keep following.

And I’m sitting. I can’t anymore, I went passed beyond what I thought I could walk in my condition, I need to rest a little, just a little bit.

No!, the two-legged being is not stopping. I can’t follow you. Seriously, I want, but I can’t. Please stop, let me rest a bit.

“Meowww”

It turns around, sees me and… stops! Thank you.

Ah, a little breeze. It feels nice, let me bask in it for a moment.

I wonder how this will end. I haven’t seen the other two beings for a long time now. They kept walking faster, I suppose they must be much further away by now.

All right, I think I can walk a bit more. Better I don’t delay this, I can’t risk the two-legged being changing its mind if I linger too long. Let’s go, thank you for waiting.

“Meow”

Ah, I can catch up the two-legged being once more. And I’m even able to follow its pace without falling behind. This little rest has worked wonders. It feels much better to walk at its side than at a distance behind. I think the two-legged being likes it too. It keeps quiet without giving any obvious signal, as it has been the whole time, but I can sense it.

We’re leaving the path? Ah, I understand it, it’s a shortcut. The being must be concerned about me. How nice of you. It’s quite steep, but short. Just a couple of small jumps down and we’re back in the path. And look, at the end of the path I can see the rugged grey ground where it all started.

The benefits of the brief rest are starting to wear off, but I still manage to reach the edge of the rugged ground walking side by side with the being. The two-legged being pauses for a moment there, and then starts crossing the rugged ground. I want to follow, but a rush of bad memories come to me and I hesitate. It doesn’t help either that this rugged ground feels so empty and exposed. But the two-legged being doesn’t need my plea to stop this time, of its own accord it stops in the middle of the rugged ground, turned towards me, clearly expecting me to cross the rugged ground too. It’s keeping an eye on me at all times now, except for occasional quick glances at both long sides of the rugged ground, as if something could come from there.

All right, I’ve come this far, it doesn’t make sense to stop here now. There, here I come. See, I’m next to you once more, even in the middle of this exposed and alien ground. Curiously we don’t cross the rugged ground, instead we start walking along it and… Hey, I can see the other two beings in the distance. They’re at an empty area made of hard sand, similar to our previous path. It follows the left side of the rugged ground for about five fallen trees long, and it forms a curved shaped of about one fallen tree wide in its widest point. It’s surrounded by forest at the parts where the curve connects with the rugged ground, and a cliff on the widest part. Next to the two-legged beings there’s one of those large four-wheeled cages. We’re walking towards them apparently. I wonder if this is our destination. Maybe they store the food in the cage?

The possibility of food removes the last remnants of fear from feeling exposed in the rugged ground, and I follow at the side of my two-legged being travel companion without hesitation. Soon we reach the beginning of the empty area. The area is mostly flat, except on this side, where it descents smoothly towards its center. Mmm… one of the two-legged beings next to the large cage, the one that I first met, is telling me something. I think it’s encouraging me to come closer. Don’t tell me you have food?! All my body gets excited at the possibility, my muscles somehow muster a resemblance of rigidness and strength, my tail raises and starts undulating slowly in a cautious anticipation, my ears point forward to make sure I don’t miss any important sign, and, incredibly, my legs start to accelerate the pace and I leave behind my travel companion.

As I’m approaching the two-legged beings next to the cage, one enters in the cage to sit in a soft L shaped object that extends the cage from side to side, while the other one, the one that has been encouraging me to come, signals me the interior of the cage too, in the same opening where the other being is sitting. That’s it, the being inside the cage must have food and the being outside is pointing me towards it. What else could they be signaling otherwise? Just a couple of steps more, and here I am, next to you. The food is in the cage you say, right? There, two steps more and I’m at the opening in the cage. Let me peek inside by standing up with my two front paws at the edge of the opening and my nose scanning the inside. “Sniff”, “sniff”… Where is the food? Hey, why are you lifting me towards the inside of the cage? The being inside the cage is moving its hands towards me. Do you hold the food in them? “Sniff”, “sniff”… where is the foo… hey, why are you grabbing me too and putting me on your lap?

“Bam!”

Oh no, the cage has closed! No!

“Meowww”

“Clack, clack”

The cage opens further at the front, at both sides. There’s a tall soft object in front of me that prevents me from seeing them from my trapped position, but I recognize the by now familiar sounds of the other two-legged beings entering the cage. The one that I first met at the left side, and my travel companion at the right.

“Bam!, Bam!”

And the cage is closed again. I’m so scared.

“Meowww”

This is like the other time. It’s over. Why? What have I done wrong?

“Meowww”

The cage starts to roar and, exactly like in the first cage that brought me here, the world outside the cage starts to move.

“Meowww”

The being holding me on its lap is caressing me with one of its fingers, while still firmly immobilizing me. The caress has a nice tranquilizing effect. Maybe it’s different than the other time after all? There is no yelling, instead the being in the front left is telling me something in a friendly tone. I can sense a mix of tenderness and sadness directed towards me. And I can see the head of my travel companion rising above the L shaped object where it’s sitting at the front right. Its look shows the same mix of tenderness and sadness as the voice of the other being, also directed towards me. They seem good. Still, if that’s the case, why have they tricked me and put me in this cage? I trusted you, I spent the few energy reserves I had left for you.

“Meowww”

The being holding me moves me to its right side, letting me flat on the soft L shaped object. Once there its left hand slides along my back to my neck, exercising a soft but firm downward push that immobilises me with a single hand. Afterwards, the other hand ungrabs me and I hear it stirring something that makes a crunchy noise. Shortly after, the free hand rises my behind slightly and slides what feels like a soft fabric around me. Then, with the hand holding me, it rises my front while it tries to slide the soft fabric further up along my body. I notice the fabric wrapping around my front legs and I manage to move them forward so they don’t get trapped. This repeats a couple of times more, with the being trying to slide the fabric around my front legs, and me managing to move them forward away from getting trapped. Why are you doing this?

“Meowww”

Eventually the being manages to push my front legs inside the fabric and close the gap around my neck with the legs inside. I have my entire body, legs included, inside a sack, with only my head popping out from an opening closed around my neck. Why?

“Meowww”

I see how my travel companion at the front right raises from its seat, places a leg through the gap between the two tall soft objects where the beings in the front have been sitting all this time, and clumsily crosses the gap to sit at my right. Right after, I feel its caress through the sack on my right side. It should be comforting, but I’m too scared.

I can’t see the forest outside the cage now, only the sky. When have we left the forest? I haven’t even noticed. And what’s this trembling? It’s faster and more regular than the unpredictable rocking movement of the cage. Oh, it’s me. My body is shaking from fear. Please, put an end to this.

“Meowww”

We go on like this for a while, me inside the sack laying flat between the two beings, while the one at the left makes sure that I don’t move and the one at the right caresses me though the sack. I manage a couple of times to put a leg outside the sack, but it’s promptly pushed back inside. Somehow my fear starts to diminish, I’m no longer trembling. Maybe due to the caresses, maybe due to the friendly voices I hear from them towards me, maybe due to the exhaustion finally penetrating through my fear. Probably due to all of them.

I yawn.

Eventually the sky is replaced by strange tall dull flat rocks. I think I saw similar tall rocks the day I was brought to the forest, but these ones look somehow different.

The tall rocks keep flying by past the cage, until the roaring cage stops next to one of them, the cage opens at the front-left side, the two-legged being sitting there leaves the cage, and the opening closes again. Shortly after I hear a rocklike noise, but sharper, coming from the tall rock, followed by a repeating rumble noise, like a rock sliding, but sharper too. Then the sliding rocklike noise stops, and silence takes over, broken only by the now soft roaring of the cage, like if it was deeply asleep. The soft roaring has a relaxing effect on me, and my eyes are starting to feel heavy. Or maybe it’s just the exhaustion.

This peace is short lived though. The cage opens again at the front-left side, the being reenters the cage, and the opening closes again. Then the cage awakens, and after a disconcerting back and forward maneuver, it enters the tall rock moving backwards. My temporary relaxation is instantaneously replaced by tension an alertness. What’s going on? I don’t even dare to say anything.

Once fully inside the tall rock, the cage stops moving and roaring. This time it doesn’t do the soft roaring, but instead it goes absolutely quiet. Then, once more, the cage opens at the front-left, the being sitting next to it leaves the cage, and the opening closes right afterwards. Shortly after I hear the rock sliding sound, which ends with an abrupt impact sound, as if the rock hit another rock. And then I’m taken out from the sack, the cage opens at both of my sides, and I’m put down on a flat floor that feels like a smooth rock.

At first I don’t move, but then curiosity takes over and I follow an inspection route. I find myself in what looks to be a large chamber of a cave. It reminds me of the den of the previous two-legged beings I was with: a flat floor, four flat walls and a flat roof, with all sorts of strange objects lying around. This chamber is larger than any of the chambers from the previous den though. And it doesn’t have any exits or views to the outside. I only see walls, not even the entrance through which the cage entered the chamber. The distribution of the strange objects is also different. Here all the objects are either hanging from the walls or laying on the floor next to the walls, but there isn’t any object in the middle of the chamber besides the wheeled cage, now resting immobile and quiet. The three beings are also in the chamber with me.

Or rather, they were with me, I only see two now. One of the beings, the first one I met, is unrolling a large fabric on the floor. The other being, the one that was holding me, is inside a cavity on one side of the walls, with its back facing me. Sound of running water is coming from there. Then the sound stops, and the being turns around and starts walking towards me. It’s carefully holding a bowl in its hands, and as it lowers the bowl to the floor it tells me nice and encouraging things. Is there water in there?

“Meow”

I approach the bowl, and indeed, it’s water! I start eagerly drinking. And drinking. And drinking. I was so hungry that I didn’t even realise how thirsty I was too.

When I finally lift my head from the bowl, thirst quenched, I hear the other being telling me nice and encouraging things too. It’s standing next to an enormous fabric that lays on the floor half unrolled. I think it’s inviting me to step on the fabric. It looks cozy.

I walk towards the fabric and step on it straight away. Its soft and scratchy touch is a pleasant change from the hard and cold floor of the chamber. I contract my paws slightly, enough to feel the resistance of the fabric on my claws, sending a relaxing and comforting feeling throughout my body. It’s cozy indeed.

“Clack”

That sound came from the far corner of the chamber. The wheeled cage blocks my view, but looking underneath the cage I spot two feet. I move around the cage to find out the third being, my travel companion, next to a newly formed hole in one of the walls.

“Clack”

And the hole closes. I see, it’s one of those wooden rectangular devices that populate the beings dens between adjacent chambers. So this isn’t the only chamber in this den.

The being sees me and starts lowering a bowl to the floor too, encouraging me to approach it. I’m curious what’s in the… FOOD!

“MEOW!”

I’m here. Put that bowl down. You’re too slow.

“Meow”

The first crunchy dry piece that I engulf is the best food I’ve ever eaten. And the second piece. And the third. The fourth and fifth go down simultaneously. The sixth I swallow without bothering to chew. Seventh, eight, ninth… I finish the entire bowl in a blink of an eye. And I’m still hungry.

“Meow”

The two-legged being tilts a bag towards the bowl, and to my immense pleasure more of those crunchy dry pieces drop from the bag to the bowl. I resume eating while the pieces are still falling into the bowl. I eat at a pace that it might seem as if I haven’t eaten the first bowl at all. Maybe is the hunger playing tricks, but they taste delicious.

The second bowl also vanishes in a blink of an eye. I’m still hungry, but it isn’t the painful starvation from these last days anymore. So much better. I look for my travel companion hoping for more food, but it’s not next to me anymore. I was so focused on the food that I didn’t notice it had moved away towards the large fabric.

I walk back to the fabric, next to my travel companion. The other two beings are also nearby. They’ve been emitting the varied noises that the two-legged beings emit, but this time I don’t feel ignored, rather I feel their attention directed towards me. On one paw I feel safe for the first time in countless days, but on the other paw I’m in an unfamiliar place and the dreadful experiences of the last says still haunt me.

I drop flat on the fabric on my side, looking at my travel companion, front legs stretching towards it in a mix of gratitude and pleading. Thanks for giving me food and safety, but please don’t leave me now.

And my travel companion kneels and caresses my side. It feels good. It feels comforting. Its hand tenderly caressing my side, while my paw rests on its arm.

We remain like this for a while. Now and then I get up, just to drop straight away on the fabric again, and we repeat the mutual caresses. Comfort slowly pushes fear away, but soon I realise that fear was the gate keeping exhaustion at bay. As soon as comfort displaces fear entirely, I feel the gate opening and exhaustion comes rushing filling my entire body. The cozyness of the fabric becomes an irresistible pull and with the feeling of safety among these three two-legged beings I curl on the fabric and close my eyes.

It has been a long day. Many long days.

Montsoriu sleeping on the fabric