I attended the latest Meeting, in the usual clearing outside the M’an-nest. Well, not so much attended, as skulked around the edges, close enough to hear most of what was said, but far enough away that others could ignore me without being overt about it.
The weather was the concern of everyone there. Even the Elders said this is the longest, coldest winter they’ve ever experienced or heard tell of. The snow and cold have driven much prey into hiding and hibernation. Hunting has become more and more difficult, even here in the M’an-nest. But as bad as it is here, it is even worse outside, which has had the effect of driving Folk out of the forest and into here. That only exacerbates the problem. Many of the Folk are beginning to acquire a lean and hungry look.
I’ve not had it too bad in my corner of the wall…yet. But I do worry about what will happen if the cold continues for much longer.
The other topic that had Folks’ tongues wagging was the unexplained disappearance of several Folk. Now granted, Folk do sometimes move on without telling others, especially young males who are having troubles with the females. And as the weather has stayed so bad here, it could be that some have traveled on to look for better hunting elsewhere. Still, there seemed to be more disappearances than could be accounted for with such explanations. The Elders didn’t seem especially worried, but did ask us all to keep our eyes and ears open for anything unusual.
~ A week later ~
Ha! Saw something that gladdened my heart today. I was walking a rooftop near the docks, and heard someone yowling from an alley. I jumped down to a shed and peered over the edge. It was Proudwhisker, the young tom who’d rejected me when I was in heat. He was trapped in a metal-barred box, and yowling his head off.
I couldn’t help but smirk at that. He’d obviously been trapped by a M’an thing, and I think I know why. He and his cronies were boasting at the Meeting that they’ve been stealing fish right off the docks. I’m sure the Big Ones had had enough of that!
I leaped back up to the rooftop and sauntered away, well pleased. Later, I overheard one of his cronies say that a Big One had come and taken him away. Serves him right, I say! Whatever happens to him, he well deserves it.
~ 5 days later ~
This morning, when I looked out at the beach from my cubby in the wall, I saw something washed up on the strand. I thought it might be a fish, so I scrambled down the uneven wall face, down to the rocks, and finally to the beach. I drew near the object…and then all my senses recoiled in horror.
It wasn’t a fish. It was Proudwhisker…dead. His head had been cut open, and the inside cleaned out.
I fled the beach, yowling in fear. After a few moments, I literally ran straight into Crooktail, bowling both of us over. He recovered first, and actually sat on me, at least until I was able to give him a semi-coherent account of what had happened. He scrambled off of me at that and we went our separate ways–he toward the beach, I away from it as fast as my feet would take me.
I finally found a corner in which to hide, and curled up there, not moving for most of the day. When I finally did stir, and made my way back to my nest, I saw that the body was gone–though whether it was taken away by one of the Folk, one of the Big Ones, or simply by the tide, I don’t know.
I feel so guilty. I was wrong…terribly wrong. Whatever Proudwhisker had done, he didn’t deserve this. And I wonder, now, if this is what has happened to those others who have vanished. I think I will roam farther afield more often, and see what is to be seen…