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This being one the first stories RaggedOak has ever put on the blog, she thought it might be a good idea to post it on the wiki too. She would love to hear what you all think of it.

Characters Edit

Brooke, short, grey she cat with green eyes

Shadow, Black Tom with yellow eyes

Pine, dark ginger Tom with dark, pine green eyes

Jade, old black she cat with bright green eyes

Story Edit

Understanding


They say understanding is a gift. Well, allow me to inform you that it most certainly and assuredly is. Not only is understanding a gift, but it is also a shockingly rare one. One that I, Brooke, was never gifted with. In other words… I took the news hard.

As soon as those doomed words dropped out of my brothers jaw I was absolutely dumbstruck, which made me a little angry I suppose. Shadow took one look at my face, and decided he would wait for the fact that he just told me he was leaving the barn to sink in before he began persuading me to tag along. I stared at my brother in shock, I knew exactly what his look meant, and I knew he wasnt kidding, but Why!? Why would anyone want to leave the barn? I don't understand I thought desperately as I felt a surge of panic forcing its way up my throat. I turned and stormed out of the room under a thick mask of anger whose purpose was to hide my fear. I stormed until Shadow was out of range and then allowed my adrenalin rush take hold of me when I shot up the rickety ladder into the darkest uppermost corners of the barn.

As I crashed behind the nearest haybale I found my mind was being painfully pelted with memories of kithood in this ancient, big barn. The first memory to pelt my head, of course, was the first memory I had as a kit, or the one I thought was the first, as memories are often notoriously difficult to place. The memory began with my brother, shadow, walking proudly into the barn just after exploring the great outside for the first time. It continued with my brother forcing me out of the barn with terrifying promises of adventure and glory. And the memory ended with me tripping and getting a nasty knock on the head just outside of the barn. Yes, I’m fairly certain that's where they began, the adventures I mean, from then on it was me and Shadow charging from one heap of trouble to the next. Well, in reality, Shadow did most of the charging…

I lay behind the haystack in utter frustration. Why would he want to leave? We’ve been best friends  through thick and thin in this barn since kithood. I remembered the first time we climbed on to the roof of the barn. As usual, I was terrified, but my brother talked me into it yet again. I remember he said something about proving that we were just as good as Pine. Shadow never did like Pine. So we climbed up the ladder, and then with every ounce of strength that our tiny claws held, lugged ourselves up through that hole in the ceiling and up onto the barn roof. It was one of our greatest accomplishments, I’d never seen Shadow prouder. Come to think of it, this was also the first time I saw that strange look on his face too. Standing there, proud and tall, his black kit fur all ruffled, he would stare out at those bunches of trees just beyond the corn fields, with a weird look in his eye. When I looked out at those far away clumps of trees I always felt a tinge of fear and repulsion. But when Shadow looked out at them, his eyes seemed to glow, I look that I had never understood…

Good times those were, back then, playing and competing with Shadow, Pine, and all the other kits. But those times had gone, somehow. Old cats died, and young cats spoke of leaving. The most popular and clever kits, were of course the first to leave. Winter after winter the group of cats that always curled up in the corner of the barn drawing warmth from each other seemed to get colder and colder, smaller and smaller. Still, through all this, the idea never occurred to me to leave. The barn was home, and I never really got tired of it, the musty old hay smell, the occasional sound of rustling and the morning walk by the corn fields down to the pond, I couldn't leave my corn fields,... could I? I could always entertain myself as a kit, that is, in between adventures with Shadow. I could walk around and around the barn for ages and ages, each time, catching a mouse, finding an interesting beatle, or sometimes just watching interesting clouds. The other kits would occasionally call me boring, and dull when they were in a bad mood, and sometimes, when they were in a really bad mood, dumb. But for the most part, life in the barn was, and always had been, good.

Now lying pitifully in the shadows, these words came back to haunt me, Was I dumb? I thought as I curled up under the dark hay. Was there something wrong with me because I never understood that funny look I’d seen in my brother and others? Was I dumb, or just a coward?

Suddenly I became aware of tail tip brushing my hind foot which lay sprawled out in a shadow. Embarrassed and startled I whipped around, ready to box someone's ears off... And stopped just in time. The cat to which the offending tail belonged was Jade, and I knew very well that this ancient black she cat was one of those cats that you just  never throw a tantrum at if you value your life, its secrets and your all around happiness. Later on, I learned that this harsh opinion of the old she cat wasn't actually true. But just then, these opinions stopped my claws dead in their tracks. Instead I looked at the she cat sheepishly and began licking my paw. To my surprize however, Jade didn't wander off, or even scold me for something. Instead the ragged, black face softened and she sat down next to me. After a while, she spoke,

“He’s leaving isn't he?” she rasped gently. I looked down at my paws and sadly nodded feeling emotions shoving themselves up my throat again.

“...Are you going with him?” The question came quietly, but for me it hit my mind like a thunderbolt and sent it hurtling into panicky shambles.

“I-...don’t know” I responded at last. Not wanting to leave the barn but not wanting to lose my best friend either. After another silence, the black she cat nodded to a thick crack in the floor of the barn attic, through which I could just see two cats, each eating a mouse.

“Your brother has a mouse, and so do you, there is plenty of mice for the both of you” she said at last. After a few quick glimpses at the ancient she cat's eyes to make sure she wasn't completely mad I spoke,

“what do you mean?” came my quiet mew. She turned her head toward mine and fixed my eyes it with her green gaze,

“Don't doubt yourself because of what you think others think, you have just as much mouse as your brother does, and it's high time you started to eat it.”. After informing me of this, Jade abruptly stood, a popping from one of her ancient bones signaling her departure. I puzzled over what the she cat said to me for the next few moments, and, after a while, I began to piece it together into the rough complement, and sound advice that it was. After a thoughtful while, I got up as well. Though calmer, I wasn't ready to talk to my brother yet, I had to check something out first. Stealthily as I could, I climbed up onto the roof of the barn again, just as I had done so many moons ago.

There they were, those gaping silent dark trees that marked the end of my world. I stared at them, long and hard. Was I afraid of them? I shivered. Yes, I definitely was. I sighed, over the course of my life it seemed like I already had to put up with an endless amount of fears…

After a while I became vaguely aware of another cat behind me. Fearing it was Jade, I refrained from taking out my claws, only to find however, that the spying cats was someone I very well would have liked to claw. The ginger tom sitting on the roof behind me was Pine. Usually I felt awkward around the toms of the barn. But Pine was a different story, from the very beginning Shadow and I never liked him, as kits we would constantly compete, argue and fight. Now that we were older, I simply treated Pine with a friendly annoyance, but Shadow never really warmed up to the tom. Pine.., I was making probably one of the most important decisions in my life, and Pine just had to stick his nose into it, didn't he? Without a word to him, I turned around to stare at the great open space of the night sky over the corn fields, hoping he would go away. Instead I heard him pad nearer. I didn't turn around. Of course now you would expect me to say, that Pine said some cliche line about what a nice night it was. Well, he didn't, Pine wasn't the sort of tom who said stuff like that, he was always straight to the point.

“...I’ll, miss you,-guys” Just four words, he said, then he turned around and climbed back through the crack in the barn roof. I stared at him as he left, and afterward stared at the crack through which he climbed. Was I shocked? Well, a little, yes. But the main reason I stared after him through the crack, was, after those four words, perhaps I didn't wish he would go away any more. I sighed, and stared at that great army of trees again. At the moment, was no time to be wondering about Pine. Then an Idea occurred to me, silently I jumped of the roof of the barn on to some prickly, stacked bales of hay. After making my way down these, I began to walk. Out past the corn fields, past my pond and right up to those towering, grasping trees I went. If we left the barn we could always come back couldn't we? Maybe I didn't understand most of that look that haunted my brothers eyes then, but something about it told me no, we couldn't. Oh why do decisions have to be so hard I thought at last, feeling another surge of frustration forcing its way up my throat has a stared at the cold, dark forest. Suddenly something made me turn around and stare, at the barn, my big, wonderful barn. The words of Jade came back to me again, That barn was my home, my mouse, and my destiny. It wasn't my brothers destiny though, my brother had his own mouse, that I would never taste. I knew what to do. Silently, I made the long walk back home, I felt sad, but at least I felt at peace. Quietly I curled up on a pile of hay and went to sleep. At dawn Shadow and I went on a hunting walk followed by a bitter sweet meal. Bitter for me, and, I suspect, sweet for him. Once he had said goodbye to Jade, the other cats of the barn, and, after a nudge from me, Pine, Shadow and I walked out, past the corn fields, past the pond, and up again to those dark trees. At which point I stopped. And Shadow gave me a quizzical look, like a typical tom, he hadn't noticed that I had not said farewell to the cats of the barn. Finally, he asked

“You comin sis?” After a pause I blinked, and shook my head sadly, unable to speak. I almost changed my mind when I saw the look of confusion this caused in his face.

“I, can’t leave the barn” I said, taking some small gratification in at last seeing a reflection of the incomprehension I felt when I watched my brother look off at the trees beyond the cornfield.

“You, don't want to go on any more adventures?” At, last the words fell out of my dumbstruck brothers mouth. I blinked at my brother,

“we’re not the same cat” I responded gently “my place is here”. Usually, at something this shocking my brother would have gotten angry, but this time, he just stared at me, with wide yellow eyes. For a while I stared back, sorrowfully. Eventually, I stepped forward, stretched my neck out as far as it would go and gave Shadow a lick between the ears. Then I stared at him for a few more seconds, whilst fighting a war with the emotions swelling my throat. At last, Shadow seemed to wake up, he squared his shoulders, blinked at me, said

“Well, I’ll see you round then, Brooke” and then, with a few, sad backward glances, slowly made his way into the shadows of the wood. I watched him go, I watched his shadow go, and then stared after him, into the shadows of the woods for a long time. As, the Sky began to turn orange and gold and that fantastic ball fire began to fall beneath the cornfields again, I began a slow, thoughtful walk home... I took a bite of my mouse

I have enjoyed my mouse for many, many moons now, the barn may look a little different after a thorough battering from the winds of time, but for me, it is still my place. I’ve had a good life here. Eventually, I took Pine as my mate, of course, and raised three very handsome kits and one beautiful kit. But they’ve all mostly gone away now. I suppose you could say I turned out to be Jade’s replacement, in the end... the old and feared she cat of the barn “heheh”. And, honestly I don't think of this as a bad thing.

He never came back though, My brother, and friend. Sometimes on a dull winter afternoon I will wish him to come stumbling through my wooden door, but I know he never will.  Though I've never forgotten it, I still do not fully understand that look he always had in his eyes.  There is one thing I do understand about it though, where ever my brother is now, happy or sad, dead or alive, I am sure, he is at just as much peace with himself as I am with myself, because he is doing what he loves, and he is doing what he understands. ☁

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