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By Willowpaw

For Wistep's contest

IllusionsEdit

We're running through the forest, like I did with my sister as a kit. She purrs a bit as she passes me, and I playfully run ahead. We're together, and nothing else matters. Life is good. She's putting on a burst of speed, and I follow.


I hit a tree, and I wake up.


It's a dream.


A stupid, stupid, dream.


There are no "happily ever after"s in life.

It's all pain and hardship.

Why do cats even bother living?

Some cats live to survive.

But they're going to die eventually, and we all know that.

Some cats live to serve their Clan, to help other cats.

They're just helping other cats live their pointless life.

And some live for love.

Love is a tale told by elders to the kits and apprentices.

It's all an illusion.

But no cat bothers to see through the lies.


--


I stand up. I walk out for my patrol. I mark the borders to keep out enemies. I come back.

It's the same dull routine every day.

I go hunting. I bring the prey to camp. I eat.

No cat sees how stupid it all is, that we're all living for nothing.


No cat except I.


--


It's another normal misty dawn. I wake up, drag myself out of my nest. I leap down out of my den, and wait under the Rockpile for my patrol assignment. An everyday routine.


I'm assigned to the dawn patrol, as always. I pad off toward the same path out of the gorge, and I have the same cats next to me. Every day is identical.


--


We mark the same borders, keeping the nonexistent enemies away. We tread the same path back, and I come back to the same camp.


I'm only still alive because I'm a coward.


--


It's another routine dawn patrol. Always treading the same path, marking the same borders, keeping out the same nonexist-


There's suddenly a splash of color in this black and white world.


A strange she-cat stands at the border. She looks at us.


"What do you want?"


The same challenge that we've always been told to use when strange cats are in our territory.


She looks at me. My heart beats faster.


"A home," she says.


Strange.


The cats next to me look at each other.


"Let's take her to the leader."—The path back to camp seems different somehow. I notice things I never have before. Beautiful things. White flowers grow on the side of the path. A bird sings a song that rings through the air.


The gorge is different too. It's not just the monotone rocks and craggy outcroppings, the perpetual dustiness.


There's a lizard resting on a stone. A little stream trickles between the dull boulders.


A little stream of hope trickles between the dull boulders of misery.


--


The she-cat's name is Hope.



She's assigned to dawn patrol with me.


I beckon with my tail for her to follow me, trotting up the path out of the gorge. The trot turns into a run, and she runs after me.


--


We're running through the forest, like I did with my sister as a kit. She purrs a bit as she passes me, and I playfully run ahead. We're together, and nothing else matters. Life is good. She's putting on a burst of speed, and I follow.


I run into a tree.


She purrs and pads back to me, helping me get to my paws.


It's not a dream this time.


It's real.


--


The dull sameness is gone.


When we finish marking the borders, she and I pad back leisurely, not at my normal brisk pace. I pick one of the white flowers carefully and thread it behind her ear. We're the only cats in the world.


--


Later, we share a bird. She plucks one of the feathers and sticks it in my fur. I stop thinking and start living. She purrs.


So that's why cats choose to live.


--


I show her to the warriors' den, and she gracefully leaps up, waiting for me by the edge.


That night, we share a nest.


--


The sun has risen and fallen, risen and fallen. We spend more and more time together, as the other cats start to fade from my mind.


Life is good.


--


Today, we're on patrol together. With her, no day is quite the same. She can take anything bad and turn it around.


She turns toward me, and I purr.


Her claws stretch, and she leaps, grabbing my throat between her jaws.


There is no happiness.

There is no love.

There is no hope.

This world is full of cruelty and despair.

It's all an illusion.


Never wish for color in a grey land.

It will blind you.

Never wish for a ripple in a still pool.

It will drown you.

Never wish for hope in a cruel world.

It will kill you.

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