Chapter 24 || Visiting Dreams
“Who needs them, anyway? Not me! Nope, definitely not me!”
⠀⠀The black tom shouldered his way through the foliage, tall decaying leaves smacking him in the nose. Batchaser hissed and shoved them out of the way, his tail bristling angrily. Craning his head up to the dark red sky, the ShadowClanner’s eyes slightly narrowed. How am I gonna find my way out of this place?
⠀⠀Despite how angry he was at Cypressfall and Rushingpaw, Batchaser had to admit that the two had been a useful addition to his team. Rushingpaw’s good hearing and Cypressfall’s knowledge and excellent tracking skills had actually really helped the group on the journey—but now that they were split? The black tom wasn’t sure he’d ever find his way out of this stupid forest.
⠀⠀Filled with very dead-dead-dead hungry cats, might I add. Ugh, StarClan makes everything so confusing—I’ve been killed twice yet I’m still not dead. What kind of logic is that?
⠀⠀Huffing, Batchaser pricked his ears, hearing a shuffling sound nearby. Prey? I hardly forgot how hungry I was—I don’t think I’ve eaten this whole trip . . .
⠀⠀His tail flicked with confusion. Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t eaten a single scrap of fresh kill—was it just the Forgotten Eternity? Did cats not go hungry here?
⠀⠀Unless I’m the prey.
⠀⠀Gulping, Batchaser spotted a large oak tree in the distance. Picking up his pace, fear carrying his paws onward, the tom leapt up and scrambled to the lowest branch, claws hooking into the bark as he heaved himself up another two or three levels. Humming silently, the ShadowClanner wove his way through hanging tendrils and found himself on a sprawling nest-like padding of leaves. His heart rate decreased and the tom sighed, exhaustion tugging at his mind.
⠀⠀I’ll continue on tomorrow . . .
⠀⠀Batchaser curled up on the sturdy branches and let his eyes crack open to look at the starless sky.
⠀⠀Will I ever be able to make it back home?
⠀⠀When Batchaser opened his eyes, he expected to be back in the Forgotten Eternity. However, his fur ruffled as a soft breeze blew by, and the ShadowClanner realized that the sky was a gentle shade of blue. Did that mean—?
⠀⠀“Hello?” Batchaser’s ears swiveled to the empty meadow behind him, tulips kissing his paws. Growling, the black tom slashed them, bounding down the hill and examining his surroundings. Who had spoken? That voice . . . It sounded so familiar.
⠀⠀“Is uh. Anyone here?” Batchaser’s heart lurched when he recognized the tone.
⠀⠀Only a ThunderClanner would be stupid enough to call out for someone in a dream.
⠀⠀Batchaser sprinted up another hill, his feet rooted to the ground. He truly hadn’t expected to actually see her—the ShadowClanner figured it was some hallucination in this already dumb dream. But no; here she was, brown and white woven pelt standing out against the green grass below. Her blue eyes scanned around the place until they landed on Batchaser.
⠀⠀“BATCHASER!” Jackalstar propelled herself forward and into the tom’s chest. He gasped and staggered back, falling on his back with the leader on his belly. His ears flicked back and he looked away.
⠀⠀“Um. This is kind of awkward.”
⠀⠀“Oh.” Scrambling off of the tom, Jackalstar bounced on her toes like an excited little kit. Despite everything that had happened, Batchaser was happy to see her. He truly had missed the ThunderClanner. “So you’re alive? I . . . I wasn’t sure whether or not you were still in the Forgotten Eternity.”
⠀⠀The black tom sat down, blinking at her. “Yup. Still here, alone right now . . . How were you able to contact me?”
⠀⠀Jackalstar looked a little embarrassed. “I pulled a you.”
⠀⠀“. . . And that means?”
⠀⠀“Some older StarClan leaders closed off the border to the Star-lit Pool,” she sighed. “I fed one poppy seeds from a finch and snuck past. I wanted to see if I could contact a living cat, but wasn’t given the option to choose. Instead, I was sent here, but I’m actually quite happy about that.”
⠀⠀Batchaser rolled his eyes. “Happy to see me? I’m surprised, especially after you decided I was better being used than an actual friend.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar flinched. “Batchaser, I—”
⠀⠀“It’s whatever,” Batchaser huffed, paws shuffling. “I was a foxheart to you and honestly deserved that. Don’t dwell on it too much. I’m escaping from here soon, anyway.”
⠀⠀The she-cat looked surprised. “You don’t need me to come save your tail?”
⠀⠀Batchaser scrunched up his nose. “Not for now, at least.” He paused, gaze darkening. “How is StarClan? I don’t imagine this is what it actually looks like.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar instantly became stiff, her playful mood dwindling to specks of nothingness. “Follow me,” she murmured, turning tail and leading him away from the field.
⠀⠀They walked for a while until the sky seemed to split in two. Batchaser froze, pieces of the blue sky falling away, dark storm clouds bubbling on the horizon. The fields were littered with specks of dead grass, gray sheets of rain pelting down on the rotting trees ahead. The black tom couldn’t move; shock pulsed through him like an infected wound. Is this really what StarClan looks like now? Is this the destruction I caused?
⠀⠀Guilt twisting his heart, Batchaser turned away, hurt spiraling through his chest like a hurricane. “This is all my fault,” he whispered, his voice breaking.
⠀⠀Jackalstar, realizing her friend’s overcoming sadness, pushed her muzzle into his flank. “It’s okay,” she whispered, voice soft. “We’re going to fix this, right? Once we get you out of that StarClan-forsaken place then all will be okay. We’ll get the Clans to see some sense.” She paused. “Even if this is sort of your fault.”
⠀⠀Comforting as always. Snorting, Batchaser pushed distance between the two, his pelt ruffling awkwardly. I don’t like being that close to Jackalstar. Not after she betrayed me like that. Biting back bitterness, the black tom’s tail flicked as the world around him began to grow blurry. “I suppose this means our dream is ending,” he murmured.
⠀⠀Jackalstar seemed to notice the fading of light, her eyes widening. “No! You can’t leave yet! We still have things to speak of!”
⠀⠀“Calm down,” he huffed, claws ticking. “We’ll see each other again soon. Hopefully I’ll be out of this dreadful place in a few days and return to StarClan.” His eyes darkened. “Then we’ll fix this mess.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar nodded, frozen as stone. “See you, Batchaser.”