From kithood I knew all greenleafs pass, allowing leaf-fall and leaf-bare to approach in turn. None of the seasons thrived forever, and eventually newleaf would arrive, bringing with it life to the desolate snowy forest.
Little, however, did I realize one day that newleaf would not come.
It was two moons after my warrior ceremony. Two moons after I overheard the medicine cat, Eagleshine, talking to Ravenstar. Because this was a rare occasion, I couldn't resist the impulse to listen.
"Leaf-bare should be over by far now," Eagleshine had said.
My name is Cloudshadow and this is my story.
We're hunting - by the lake.
It's frozen and seems to be stable enough to support me, but I'd better not try. We know that ice can be fragile, more so than it se,s.
I quickly lose the interest I once possessed in hunting, because I only have one shriveled mouse; however, my friend, Brightshade, has nothing. Her jaws are empty and her eyes and expression are hollow.
"I guess I was lucky," I admit, glancing down at the skinny mouse. "But there's barely enough meat on here to feed a kit."
"At least it's something."
It was. And it would go to the elders, not us, who'd worked from dawn to sunhigh to hunt this single mouse. I doubt the elders would even say "thanks" to us. To me.
Brightshade's orange fur stands out like the tiniest flame against the empty, snowy landscape. I wish there was color to brighten the world. But it's impossible. I can't change nature and neither can she.
I wish...so many things.
And yet all of them are impossible.
I used to believe nothing was impossible, until this moon. My life seemed to fill with impossibilities.
"Come on," I say. "Let's go back to camp."
Brightshade nods, and we trudge slowly back towards camp, miserably, from our lack of success.
The camp is as gray and white as the lake, if not more. Warriors are huddled around the icy clearing, but they aren't sharing tongues like they used to. They're just there.
"Hey," a warrior mews bleakly as we trod past. A second glance tells me the warrior is Forestheart, my former mentor.
"Hi, Forestheart," I murmur in the same dull tone.
Brightshade and I enter the elders' den, a large tree hollow tangled with brambles. I deposit the shriveled mouse at Quailsong's paws and we back out of the den, shivering from the fierce cold.