The Nine Lives of the White Spotted Cat, Book 1

In 1919, a black kitten with a white spot on his flank was born near a small town. A year after his death, a cat who looked almost exactly the same was born, and a year after his death yet another cat was found. This happened nine times. Was it one cat, living out nine lives? Or nine separate cats? Could it be proof that cats really do have nine lives? It all started in 1919...

Puma had a mostly normal life at first as a kitten. His mother taught him and his sister to hunt and climb trees, just like any other cat. But his life is shaken when a mysterious white cat from his mother's past begins stalking his family, appearing everywhere like a ghost. Puma seems to be the only one to notice. Why won't this cat leave them alone? And what happens when he finally attacks?

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7. The Walk

For reasons he wasn’t sure, Puma didn’t tell Rose or Rain about all the times he had seen Snowball. His mother, of course, assumed that he had fallen due to carelessness.

“You really need to be more careful, you know,” she told him. “You gave us both a fright. You could have been killed! You can’t just go running back and forth on a branch that high! Your first time climbing! I should’ve made you stay on that lower branch...”

Puma tuned out his mother’s nagging. Once she had gotten over her happiness that he wasn’t hurt badly, and asking him if he was okay, she had instead started telling him about how it was his fault, and how it could’ve ended.

    “You know that thing you did when you fell?” Rain asked. “Where you twisted around in the air and then landed on your feet? How did you do that? Could you teach me?”

    Puma opened his mouth to answer, but Rose cut him off. “No one can teach you how to do that,” she said. “It’s a special reflect-an instinct that all cats have so that if they fall they land safer. If and when the time comes, you’ll know how.”

    Puma, Rain and Rose never did figure out exactly what had happened to Puma’s paw. All they knew was that it hurt badly and he couldn’t step on it, and for the next three days his mother wouldn’t let him do anything but lay around, bored. Not that there was anything he could do. Try as he might, he could hardly even stand up.

    Rain tried to entertain him as best she could. “Wanna see how high I can jump?”

    He watched her leap as high as she could, her paws reaching for sky. It didn’t seem very high to Puma, especially considering how high he could jump himself, but it was better than doing nothing. He also watched her learn to hunt squirrels, and one day she brought back a small fish for him to eat after just one day of being taught how to catch them. "Once you get better," she told him. "I'll teach you how to catch a fish. I promise."

The one thing he hated watching her do was climb trees. Sometimes he thought he would rather stare at the ground than watch that. Every day, Rose would continue to teach Rain how to climb trees, and every day she got better and better, higher and higher. Puma hated watching it. The one time he had gotten to climb, he had loved it, at least before he fell, anyway. Being up there, so much higher than he had ever been before, was the best feeling in the world. He felt free, no longer condemned to life rooted to the ground. It was torture having to just sit and watch while Rain did the thing he loved most, especially since he wondered if his mother would let him climb trees ever again after what had happened. Or if he would even be able to. What if his paw never healed? What if he couldn’t live without help from another cat, having to live his entire life laying on the ground?

    Puma pushed the thought aside. He couldn’t think like that. He had to believe that his paw would heal, and that if it didn’t, that he would be able to find a way to adapt and to walk.

    

 

After a couple more days of restless boredom, Puma awoke from his sleep in the middle of the night. It was still pretty dark. Something felt different, not quite right.  He realized what it was with a start. His paw barely hurt at all. It felt more like it was sore now, rather than the stinging pain he had felt before. Rain and Rose slept beside him. He didn’t feel like going back to sleep, so he decided he would try to stand up. Still a bit tired, he rose on all three feet, holding up the injured one. After laying on the ground for five days, his legs felt weak and stiff. Slowly, he lowered his paw and gingerly touched it to the ground. He felt a small bit of pain and his paw went right back up. Puma made himself put his paw back on the ground again. He kept it on the ground momentarily, but it hurt too much to keep his paw down for very long. But he wanted to walk. Slowly and awkwardly he hobbled on three legs, stepping lightly so he wouldn’t awake his mother and his sister.

    Slowly, Puma left Rain and Rose. He wouldn’t go very far; just for a short walk. He looked out at the road, several feet away. Across it, he could see a small house. He turned around and decided that he would go farther into the woods.

Puma trekked away in the opposite direction of Rose and Rain, looking back at them every once in awhile until they became small, dark shadows on the ground amongst the trees. His foot was still sore, but walking was getting easier and his mother and sister were too far away for him to worry about waking them up, so he sped up a bit. Even still, it was a somewhat lousy pace. He knew Rose wouldn’t let him get up all the next day, though, and he wanted to move around while he could so he kept on.

After awhile Puma’s short walk turned into a long one. His paw started to feel worse and worse, but after spending five days laying down, despite how weak, stiff, and sore he was, it had never felt better to walk. Eventually he came to a river, a thin indigo band sparkling in the moonlight. Probably, he thought, the one where Rain and Rose had caught the fish. Once he was closer, he saw the speeding, glistening bodies of fish moving past in the water. If he could just catch one and bring it back, he would be able to prove to Rose that he had walked all the way to the river, and maybe she would be convinced that his paw had healed enough to let him catch up with Rain in learning to hunt, and maybe, just maybe, climb trees again.

Nervously, Puma approached the river. There were plenty of fish, but they were almost as big as him, and they were very fast and it didn’t seem likely that he would be able to catch one with his tiny paws. Maybe, though, he’d be able to grab one in his mouth. Opening his mouth, he hesitantly bent toward the water. Seeing one pass him, he quickly snapped his jaws shut, but he was too far away. He crept closer. Puma tried again, several times, every time still too far away.

In frustration he realized that he would never be close enough unless he actually got into the water. One paw at a time he tested the cold water. The shallowest area came up to his shoulder as he crept farther in, the fish surrounding him moving quickly.  He was about to try and catch a fish when the current knocked him off balance and he landed on his side. He quickly regained his balance and leaped out of the water. He flinched when he heard a voice. “Go for a swim?” It said.

Sopping wet, Puma turned. Snowball’s white fur stood out in the dark. He was standing just feet away from Puma. How long has he been there? “You’re just like your mother,” Snowball said.

Puma felt the fur on his back stand straight up, and without really thinking about he hissed. “Cute,” Snowball sneered at the young cat. He suddenly lunged forward, and, thrusting out his paws, shoved Puma into the river.



 

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