They ate lunch in relative silence while they reflected on their training. Soren could think of a million things his brothers still needed to learn. So far, they focused on physical training. They had learned how to climb a rope, albeit not very quickly, and had learned the essentials about tool maintenance.
Soren showed them the different tools such as the braided thread on his belt and the fishhook his own father had given him. He showed them how to braid the rope so it wouldn’t hurt their hands and how to climb using their legs instead of their arms. Soren, on their rest days, had also let them sew their own borrowing bag.
It had only been a month since their training began, but Soren felt confident they had what it took to go out with him on a very simple run.
Soren didn’t want to take them to the older human woman’s apartment. The cat was on the prowl and this mission should be set up for success. The apartment with the arguing humans wouldn’t do either. Their schedules had become more sporadic and Soren heard other humans in the apartment just two night ago. He didn’t know who they were and didn’t know if they left. The apartment they were training in was empty, leaving only one option.
Before, two apartments were available. Now, only one stood vacant. A new human, a young man probably around Soren’s age, had just moved into the apartment near the older woman. His apartment was a disaster at best, which meant there were plenty of boxes to hide around and a plethora of knick-knacks to borrow. It seemed like he was out most of the time and was asleep during the day.
Soren wanted to double check, but he was certain that tonight around dusk when the human left for work. Soren was finally prepared mentally on how he would address his proposal. “I know you’re tired after today, but,” Soren paused to catch their expressions before continuing. Their eyes gleamed with curiosity and weariness. “What do you think about going on your first borrowing trip tonight?” Dorian’s face brightened instantly, his wide, toothy grin spreading from ear to ear. Rey seemed nervous but determined.
“You mean it?” They asked in unison, their tones differing slightly.
“If you feel up to it,” replied Soren. “It won’t be anything too crazy. We’ll take a look and see if there are any odds and ends we need like needles, pins, and nails. If we have time, maybe we can see the kitchen.”
“No way! Our first borrowing trip!” Dorian was beside himself, leaping to his feet and nearly tipping over Rey’s water cap. The sight brought a thoughtful chuckle out of Soren.
“Easy now. I’m going to check out the area first to make sure tonight is a good night. In the meantime, finish your food and lay down to rest. We won’t be able to do anything until later, which means you need some sleep,” reminded Soren. “I’m going to go ahead and check it out. Get some sleep.”
Soren stood and gathered his things. He checked his belongings: hook, thread, tape, pin, mouse cover, bandage cloth. He was just on his way out when Brady came out from around the corner. He was carrying an empty borrowing bag, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Brady tore off a piece of bread and sat nearby. Soren didn’t bother asking where Brady had gone off to; he never answered anyway.
Soren jogged down the passages, listening carefully to the walls. It was afternoon in the human world, meaning the apartments they lived in between were still occupied. The older human was watching her shows. The angry couple was unpredictable, but the woman was usually in the apartment every third day. Thankfully, everything was quiet; almost eerily so.
The dust between the halls clung to the electrical cords and rested against the wooden baseboards. Soren’s eyes adjusted to the minimal light available as he wound his way to the newly occupied apartment. He passed up one passage, then the next. There was a sharp turn where he had to squeeze through two narrow boards to reach the next apartment. The latch he set in place on the ground wall socket was just ahead.
He breathed in deeply and sensed nothing. No sounds of the television. No rumbling footsteps. No pets. No human. Soren pulled the latch free and cracked it slightly, slipping out and crouching. This outlet, unlike others, came out next to the refrigerator. He closed his exit just enough so the human wouldn’t notice at first glance before crouching and inspecting under the fridge.
It was a disaster. There were dust clumps and a few slick spots which were haphazardly wiped clean. Soren kept his side close to the human utility while crouching. The edge of the counter was just in sight. His heart pounded in his chest, but he managed to steady his breathing to keep his head clear. Soren got down on all fours, mouse hood pulled up, and looked out into the kitchen.
The tile under the fridge was just as untidy as the floor in the main rooms. Evidently, this human was not very clean which could work in one of two ways. One being the human didn’t notice anything missing or askew. The complete opposite was possible. Sometimes humans organized their mess in different ways and were very aware when something minor changed. If Soren was correct, they would be safe for the time being.
He spun around the corner to the lip under the floor cabinets and ran in the shadows until he could look into the main room. It was then that his heart stopped. He felt his breath hitch and limbs grow extremely heavy and yet nonexistent at the same time.
There was the human. From where he was crouched, Soren could see the human was sprawled out to their full height on what the humans called a couch. It seemed like the human was asleep, but Soren didn’t want to leave anything to chance. He felt his limbs shaking, both in a sudden shock and in anticipation. Every nerve waited for his command.
He would check later and see if the human was still there. If they didn’t wake up and leave, there was no way he would take his brothers borrowing tonight. Soren turned on his heel and began to make his way back when he heard the shrill beeping of an alarm. Instinctually, he turned to see the human stir, lazily reaching a gargantuan arm toward a phone which rested on the ground a few feet away. Soren couldn’t waist any time. Heart pounding in his chest, he kept to the shadows and sprinted back for the electrical cover behind the fridge. The sound of heavy-set footsteps began to shake the ground, but not before Soren skidded around the corner to safety.
Soren closed the cover behind him and breathed a sigh of relief. The human was awake now but would be getting ready to leave shortly. The timing was going to work well. He made his way back to the camp to find his brothers fast asleep in their beds, their borrowing bags clutched in their hands. Soren couldn’t help but think about how small his brothers looked in that moment; how young and unspoiled they were about the troubles of borrowing. Rey reached up and rubbed his face, yawning in his sleep, before curling into a tighter ball on top of his blankets.
Soren sighed. [We could postpone until tomorrow. Dorian would be disappointed, but they worked really hard today.] He stepped over to his bed, pulled off his top blanket, and draped it over the sleeping forms of his brothers. Stifling his own yawn, he took off his borrowing bag and the mouse pelt from his shoulders before sitting on his bed. [Perhaps resting my eyes for a moment wouldn’t be the worst thing.] Soren thought to himself as he stretched onto his bed and sank into a peaceful sleep.