Chapter Two | Soren and the Fierce Feline
It was painstaking, but Soren was beginning to feel more secure about his family’s living quarters. He had moved them further into the barren halls between the walls past the rooms that smelled of litter and mothballs, but not as far as the human home he borrowed from. It made him uneasy to live so close to humans who he knew were going to be present. Even if it was a little colder, the halls of the empty rooms were far safer for his two younger brothers to speak freely. He had also managed to secure three days’ worth of food from picking up scraps of bread and a box of slightly stale raisins from behind one of the cabinets.
It also kept Brady busy. He was so paranoid that the cat would find its way into the passages between the walls that he spent most of his time guarding Soren’s brothers. This left all of the borrowing to Soren; and he was relieved that was the case. Brady’s incompetence had already forced one move, and he didn’t want another blunder so close to winter. It also gave Soren a chance to observe the humans in the other rooms.
He realized, after only two weeks of observation, that the rooms were sectioned off into things called “apartments.” It explained why the rooms belonged to some humans and not others. Still, it was easy to get turned around in the walls. It was Soren’s youngest brother, Rey, who came up with an idea to help them navigate. Rey suggested using thread to guide the way to different rooms. It would consume a lot of supplies, but using different threads to guide the way to different rooms was the smartest thing to do. As long as they held onto the line, they couldn’t be lost.
In order to do this, Soren would need thread – and lots of it. Based off of his observations, there was only one place he could go – and he didn’t like it. Soren prepared his bag, his hooks, and his needle. There were two outlets which led into a side room filled with paper scraps, scissors, and, above all, thread. Turns out the smelly cat lady worked with her nimble fingers with the thread to make clothes and crafts.
It was early in the morning when Soren prepared to set out. His brothers clung to his bag and begged him to take them along.
“We’ll be good and listen! Won’t we, Rey?” prompted Dorian. His younger brother nodded vigorously.
“Yes! We’ll be the best! Please let us come with you,” pleaded Rey. Soren smiled and ruffled his brothers’ hair playfully. It was long enough now that it covered the tops of his fingers completely. Unlike himself, his brothers took after his mother, kind and smooth faces round and ever smiling. Their eyes, pale blue and hair a light sandy brown, reminded him every day of the piece he wished he had. Soren took more after his father, Aaron. His features were thinner and flexible. His borrowing kept him strong; deceptively so.
“Not today bobbins,” he muttered. His brothers’ eyes twinkled at the mention of their mother’s affectionate nickname for them. “You have to stay put and guard the fort you never named.” His playful rebuke was enough to quiet his brothers. With that, he gave a simple salute and headed into the labyrinth of walls before him.
The smell was overwhelming. Soren took a moment and breathed deeply to calm himself, but the stench only put him on edge. He knew he was fast. He knew he was flexible and could out-maneuver anything thrown or swung his way. Still, he didn’t want to test his abilities if he didn’t have to.
Soren listened carefully, refusing to breathe until he heard some sign of life. If he was right, the elderly human woman would be rustling in the kitchen in an hour or so with the cat begging at her heels. He had maybe two hours before needing to remain absolutely silent and undetected. Barely enough time and entirely risky.
He pushed the faceplate off of the electrical cords and stepped out into the human world.
It was always so vast and dizzying, the world of the humans. The tables and chairs towered above his head. The desks and trinkets were massive and often too bulky for a borrower. It took true ingenuity to even maneuver even the smallest of the human’s things for borrowing; but Soren had a clever mother and a determined father. They taught him many tricks, one of which was to find the piece which he and his siblings were called after so affectionately.
Soren, in a burst of speed, sprinted from the walls to the nearest wooden table. He swung his hook with all his might and watched the line fly from his hands. With a quick flick of his wrist, the hook twitched and lodged itself into the soft wood table. [Lodged on the first try.] Soren didn’t have time to celebrate as he climbed hand over fist until he reached the top of the table. He kept low, resting the entire front of his body on the table from behind the sewing machine. His heart pounded from the sudden burst of energy.
Just a foot from him rested a sewing box. Soren’s mother told him that it was a common place for humans to keep small supplies for sewing like needles, bobbins, and scraps of thread in the box. His heart stopped pounding and, after taking a breath, he stealthily crept to the box and forced the edges apart. Inside was a plethora of supplies, everything he and his family could use for months. Still, that wasn’t the borrower way. [Don’t take more than what you need.]
With a reluctant sigh, he pulled out two sewing needles from the strange, circular pack. He pulled out one of the bobbins which was filled with thread and found an empty one under one of the pin cushions. Soren grinned and placed the bobbins in his bag along with a few large buttons and the needles. Soren glanced around, satisfied with his borrowing.
That’s when he spotted it – a plastic bag filled with mismatched pieces of fabric and half-used thread spools. The scraps were unusable, barely two inches in any direction; at least, unusable for a human. The fabric would undoubtedly make better bedding and help line the floors and walls for insulation. There was an obvious problem. Moving fabric took time. Since the pieces were in a bag, all he would need to do was push the bag to the ground. Humans with pets often blamed their pets for things spilling and making their way under furniture. If he was going to attempt this, Soren would undoubtedly make noise – potentially summoning the cat.
He would have to be quick. Soren’s heart pounded in his chest. This was stupid. Beyond stupid. This is the sort of thing his parents would box his ears over. Should he wait? Should he abandon the scraps of the humans and the promise of warmth for his siblings? While he crouched by the sewing machine and pondered these things, he heard the soft jingle of a bell – the cat’s bell. He whipped around to see two enormous, fluffy paws cresting over the edge of the table and the tips of two ears in a chair nearby.
This was his chance.
Soren snapped his fingers, gaining the cat’s attention. Its ears twitched at the sound. Its nose and eyes peered over the table slowly, menacingly. It had caught scent of its prey. Soren watched the cat’s movements carefully. Soren’s father taught him that animals had their tells, and that a quick sway before a pounce the tell of a cat. Soren kept his body taut and prepared to leap. [Wait… wait… There!] The cat swayed once, twice, and then rapidly. Soren could feel the creature’s breath on his back as he leapt out of the way toward the plastic bag filled with scraps and thread.
He tumbled out of the way and was on his feet in a second. He grabbed the edge of the bag and rustled it.
“Come and get it fluffy,” he growled. The cat growled right back and swiped at him with its paws, but he was ready. The cat’s paw slashed at the bag, ripping it slightly. Several spools of thread began to slip from the holes. Soren didn’t have a moment to lose. He threw himself against the bag as the cat backed up and pounced again, this time tipping the bag onto the very edge.
With the cat’s back turned, Soren darted across the table to his rappel line. He knew the rope burn against his palms was going to hurt, but it was going to be alright. He seized the line and threw himself off of the table. The cat, in a spasm and flurry of movement, spun and kicked toward the young borrower. As it did, its back legs sent the bag flying off of the edge of the table and onto the ground.
Soren’s hand stung and burned as he reached the bottom. He couldn’t hold back now. He dared not hold back now. Soren pulled his hook free with a rapid thrash of his arm before he sprinted for his life toward the wall. He could sense the cat’s eyes searching for him, but he could sense something else. Tremors. Shuffling tremors. He knew what this had to be.
“Jaida? What are you doing in here Jaida?” the human’s booming voice, even elderly, sent chills up Soren’s spine. He forced his thoughts out of his head and threw himself into his instincts. He was now only inches away from the entrance into the walls. He dove, miraculously missing his head against the far wall. He whipped around and pulled the cover behind him just as he saw an illuminated eye peer at him, seething and hissing viciously.
“Now Jaida, you’ve gone and made a mess. Come along.” Soren listened as the cat growled in its master’s arms as the elderly lady shuffled away to put the cat in another room. Soren wanted to rest. He wanted to recover and sit for an age; but he couldn’t do that now.
Soren forced himself to his feet and peered out of the hole once again. He spotted the old lady and the cat leaving the room as she closed the door behind her. Soren could have sworn the cat made eye contact with him in a deep seeded hatred.
With the door closed, Soren slid back outside of the wall cover and to the bag of cloth scraps and thread. It took nearly thirty minutes, but Soren managed to pull out the necessary fabric and thread and pull them back behind the walls. Soren knew it was probably too much, but the lady was older and most likely forgetful. Soren had been told that older humans were often forgetful.
After his encounter, Soren took a moment on his pile of fabric. It was too close. Far too close. Soren couldn’t believe he had allowed himself to risk his life for some scraps of fabric. He laid back and stretched against the cloth. [It was soft, almost unbelievably so. Perhaps… for fabric this soft… it was worth it.]