Answers in the Sky

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2016

Edie Koehlert and Chloe Weber
Answers in the Sky cats in the forest

“We all miss Papa, it’s so hard to move on without him…”

Midnight woke at the crack of dawn. His glossy, dark pelt shone in the light of the rising sun. The tree shadows danced in the wind like fingers on a black table. Midnight looked around, watching his brother, Moonshadow, his sister, Autumn, and his mother, Silverwater. Midnight’s father had left the beautiful earth shortly after the birth of his family.

“One day, I’ll be strong. I’ll live up to you, Papa. Even though I might be the smallest, I have power like no others,” Midnight whispered, staring hopefully at the sky, his heart aching at the thought of the father he missed so very much.

As Midnight was settling back down, he saw Autumn’s eyes flicker open.

“Midnight, what are you doing up so early?” she whispered, careful not to wake the others.

“Couldn’t sleep. Bad dreams,” Midnight meowed back.

“Like what?”

“Well, Papa was there and… we were hunting mice together… and then he just… left, and…. I couldn’t find him anymore!” Midnight whimpered.

“I understand. We all miss Papa, it’s so hard to move on without him… But we just have to remember that up there, high up in the beauty of the night sky, surrounded by stars, Papa is there, and he’ll be watching over us always,” Autumn replied.

Autumn settled back down, leaving Midnight with his thoughts about his papa. Could he really be up there, watching me right now? Midnight wondered. And with this comforting thought, he settled back to sleep.

*          *          *

Midnight awoke to the faint smell of mouse. He opened his eyes to see that Moonshadow and Autumn had already finished eating. Mama was nowhere in sight.

“Hey—where’s Mama?” Midnight meowed. At this, Moonshadow and Autumn exchanged nervous glances.

“Well… Mama is… not feeling well,” Moonshadow murmured at last. There was such fear in his brother’s voice. At first, he thought nothing of it, but then he realized what was really happening.

“Mama!!!” Midnight yowled. He ran to the small clearing where Mama loved to rest and found her lying in the middle.

“Midnight…” Mama spoke, but her words were interrupted immediately by coughing. The cough sounded terrible, almost deadly.

“Mama… No… You can’t… This can’t be happening… You are going to be OK!” Midnight meowed, trying to convince himself.

“Don’t worry, Midnight… It’s all going to be OK,” she croaked.

“No!” Midnight yowled, as his siblings appeared behind him. Their eyes widened as they saw the state their dear mother was in.

“Midnight… Go…. Find us a new home…. Don’t worry about me… You must leave this place…” Mama spoke as she coughed some more.

“But… Why? How will you survive while you are like… this?” Midnight meowed in panic, trying to take in all she was saying.

“I have experience with herbs and healing. I can use catmint to heal my cough, and once the cough is cured I can hunt for myself,” Mama meowed wearily.

“Mama… are you sure?” Autumn spoke for the first time.

“I most certainly am.” Warmth sparkled in Mama’s eyes. “Now go, my kits, go quickly…” coughed Mama.

The cats looked at each other for a moment, then nodded.

“OK, Mama… We’ll go…. But remember, we are thinking of you every step of the way,” Moonshadow meowed sadly.

“B-but… Wait! Why can’t you come?” Midnight blurted out.

“I will not be here for long. It is best you make the journey alone. Soon, I will walk with Papa… And I will protect you in your new home,” Mama said, coughing.

Taking one last look at the mother they might never see again, Midnight, Autumn, and Moonshadow turned their backs on the place they had always called home.

*          *          *

The three young cats walked along in sorrow. As Midnight padded along, he couldn’t help thinking, I should have insisted on staying there and helping! If she dies, it’s all going to be my fault… He felt terrible about leaving Mama in the forest all alone. When Midnight was ill, Mama had always taken care of him…

“Midnight! Watch out!!!” Moonshadow yowled, but it was too late. Midnight was wrenched from his thoughts about Mama as he plunged deep into an icy-cold, swiftly moving river. Midnight frantically tried to pull himself out of the river, but it was no use. The fall had knocked the breath out of him, and he couldn’t tell which way was up and which way was down.

Suddenly, Midnight felt a strong paw struggling to pull him out of the river. Then another paw reached for Midnight’s head, and he broke surface. Autumn and Moonshadow were staring down at him, fear in their eyes.

Midnight could barely breathe. Water clogged his throat. He coughed up a large pool of water, gasping for breath.

“Midnight! You’re OK!” breathed Autumn in relief.

“Y-yeah…” Midnight gasped. “I’m fine.”

“You have to be careful next time! You could have died!” Moonshadow spoke in annoyance.

“Well, sorry,” Midnight replied bitterly. “We should keep going.”

Without a word, the three cats kept walking toward a thick pine forest. It was slightly cold as they neared the forest, and Midnight assumed it was because of the small frosty mountain range surrounding it.

It was getting dark, and the three cats decided to settle down for the night in a small, empty cave by the edge of the pine forest.

As Midnight slowly drifted to sleep, he found he was not asleep at all. He was standing in a small, starry forest with the moon shining brightly over every inch. For some reason, the place seemed oddly familiar.

When Midnight looked around, he let out a gasp. He could hardly believe his eyes. For the first time in so long, Midnight’s gaze rested on his very own father, just as he had seen him last.

“P-Papa… Is… is that really you?!” he stammered, barely able to speak at the sight of the starry cat he thought he would never see again.

“Yes, my dear son. In times like this, one cannot expect to know what to do on their own. I would like you to know that your mother is barely clinging to life. She will be joining me soon.”

Midnight felt hot tears sting in his eyes.

“I am very proud of you, Midnight. I know it’s hard leading your littermates so far away from our home.”

Midnight blushed slightly at this. His father had been such an amazing cat, and it meant the world to him that he was proud of Midnight.

“But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to tell you the home you seek lies in what you believe is possible.”

“Wait—Papa… What do you mean?” Midnight asked, confused.

But before he could say another word, his father had faded away.

*          *          *

It was a chilly morning, and Midnight couldn’t wait to ask his littermates about his dream. His father’s words still confused him. What does all this mean? I just don’t understand, Midnight thought.

Midnight looked around and spotted Moonshadow and Autumn lying together in the back of the cave, trying to keep warm.

“Moonshadow! Autumn!” Midnight shouted, running up to his siblings. “Guess what—last night Papa visited me in a dream!” Midnight meowed excitedly.

“Really?” his littermates meowed, interested.

“Yeah! But I still don’t understand what he said. He said, ‘The home you seek lies in what you believe to be possible.’ What do you think he meant?” meowed Midnight.

“I don’t understand,” Autumn meowed.

“Yeah, what does it mean?” Moonshadow replied.

“I don’t know. But we’ll find out eventually, I know we will,” Midnight meowed.

*          *          *

The next day the cats were starving, and Moonshadow decided to go out hunting. All he brought back was a thin mouse, which they struggled to split evenly between all of them. They were so weak and tired they could barely move, so they spent the day in the cave.

Midnight settled down once again to go to sleep after the second day of traveling, and as he was drifting off to sleep, he looked up at the sky and whispered, “Oh, Papa… I remember what you said… I’m trying my hardest, but… it’s starting to feel as if we will never find the place we are looking for.”

*          *          *

Three more days had passed, and still no sign of a place to live. Hunting was not going very well, as none of them were used to hunting without the help of Mama.

As Midnight, Autumn, and Moonshadow were walking along in silence once more and the sun was setting over the horizon, Midnight spotted something. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a large grassy hill on the right of him.

His common sense was telling him it was just a regular hill, but his instinct told him there had to be something behind that unexplored hill.

“Moonshadow! Autumn! Look! I think we should go see what is behind that hill,” Midnight meowed to his littermates.

“Why? What is the point? I bet it’s just a whole lot of grass!” Autumn snapped at her brother.

“Actually, I think Midnight is right. What we are looking for could most certainly be just behind that hill,” Moonshadow meowed thoughtfully.

Answers in the Sky cats looking at animals

It seemed as if this place had the light of the sun itself

“Oh c’mon, Moonshadow, that’s nonsense. It’s just a dumb, ordinary hill! Even a mouse could see that!” Autumn argued.

“Of course there is nothing behind that hill, if that’s what you think. But the truth is that the home we seek truly lies in… in what we believe to be possible,” Midnight said, surprised by his own words.

That’s it… This is what Papa meant! Midnight realized. Midnight ran towards the hill at top speed. His littermates, confused, followed, though Autumn reluc- tantly. He sprinted up towards the top of the grassy, tall slope.

As Midnight reached the top of the hill, he was greeted by a truly amazing sight. As he stood at the top of what seemed to be an ordinary hill, he looked down at the most beautiful landscape in the universe.

There was a long, calm, clean, flowing turquoise stream cutting in through a beautiful green forest filled with prey and life, and the forest was filled with such beauty and amazingness that it simply took your breath away.

The forest offered great shelter, and in the distance Midnight spotted a wide, open prairie, growing with grass and wildflowers. There were so many different colors, and everything was so bright that it seemed as if this place had the light of the sun itself.

And as Midnight looked down at this wonderful place, he thought, We have found our true home at last.

Answers in the Sky Edie Koehlert

Edie Koehlert, 11
Montclair, New Jersey

Answers in the Sky Chloe Weber

Chloe Weber, 10
Montclair, New Jersey

Answers in the Sky Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung, 12
Theodore, Alabama

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2 Comments
 
  1. joe November 21, 2016 at 11:08 am Reply

    good job on the kittens

  2. Pingback: Today — Stone Soup

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