This story is a continuation of Chapter 1, Yellow Monster Part 1
When our maman finally returned that evening with a piece of ham, she was happy to just watch us feasting. Of course, it wasn’t enough for two very hungry kittens, but we enjoyed it so much! We hadn’t had anything to eat for days. We asked for more; however, we understood that maman was too tired to go looking for more food that same evening, so we curled up next to her inside our small home under the fir tree and fell asleep immediately.
Maman told us she had discovered a magical garden where a nice lady served as much food as one could ever desire. To eat as much as we want? What wonderful news! We were so happy! Nobody could have foreseen the terrible events that were to unfold in the near future.
But first, life was going to indulge us with two wonderful, happy weeks.
To start with, our maman went back to the magical garden as soon as we got up the next day. She washed us quickly and said, “Petits [she used to call us petits as a sign of her affection for us], now please go and sit in the sunny spot on the grass over there and wait for me. I’ll go to fetch your breakfast. I won’t be long this time.”
“Oh, can we play, mam’?” I asked because, you know, sitting still has always been very difficult for me.
“Yes, but no rowdy games! And don’t go to the street, don’t even approach the gate!”
We promised and watch her slip between the bars of the gate, cross the street and disappear into the hedge opposite. My sister asked: “Is she back yet?”
“Silly, she just left!” I replied and started to tease her, just for fun.
That day, maman went back to the magical garden at least ten times!
“Oh, my darlings”, she told us, “this lady is so kind! As soon as she sees me, she hurries to the kitchen and brings something for me even if there are already plenty of kibbles and cat biscuits on the little table on the terrace! She must know I have kitties because she is careful to offer me food that I can carry away.”
We listened with open mouths and marvelled “Oh maman, please can we go with you?”
“Not yet, my chickens, but soon! A few weeks more and you’ll be big enough to cross the street and follow me.”
Life went on like this the following day and the day after and the next fortnight. The more we grew, the more frequent maman’s visits to the magical garden became, and she never ever came back without a little something for us. Soon, the amount of food maman was able to carry had become too small to satisfy the appetites of two fast-growing kittens. These comings and goings were of course very exhausting for her and dangerous, too. We worried about her every time we saw her standing on the pavement on the other side of the big gate, ready for her departure. She would look to the right, then to the left, waiting for the traffic to clear enough to be able to cross between two roaring vehicles. It seemed so frightening! And the time she was away always seemed so long! But we would be so incredibly happy when we saw her coming back, when we spotted her frail silhouette emerging from the hedge on the other side of the road. No matter whether it happened 10 times a day, I always wanted to dance and jump to the sky and run in circles when I saw her. You know, we remembered that day when she almost didn’t come back, and we feared for her life.
Then something happened that put an end to those dangerous comings and goings.
A Matter of Chance
The lady from the magical garden understood that our maman had kitties somewhere because she had seen her taking the food away on that very first day maman went to her garden. But where were they? The gardens in this quarter followed one another in a row, hedges of cypresses bordered them, and our maman, anxious not to be followed, would thread her way through the vegetation. It was impossible to see her; she disappeared among leaves and branches once she had crossed one or two of the neighbouring gardens.
The kind lady asked her nearest neighbour if he could look in his hedges – the kittens’ home might be hidden there.
“Oh yes, madame”, he replied, “I’ll look immediately! They must not be allowed to grow. How would we get rid of them afterwards?”
You can easily imagine how that upset our lady! She who wanted so much to save us and wished with all her heart that she could help our maman! Forgetting restraint and politeness, she rudely asked the neighbour not to try to find us, not to look. She then continued searching for us as much as she could. The houses were all protected by large fences, making it impossible to see what was going on at the back or in the gardens. The number of places she could look was very limited. And she never imagined that we were so far away from her house.
Her searches therefore remained unsuccessful. Then one sunny afternoon. . .
But I’ll let her tell you what happened.
That afternoon, my son and I were returning from a shopping centre – we had bought some interesting books and were discussing our future reading in the car. My son was driving. He liked to drive my small sports car.
Then suddenly, not far from our house, I caught a glimpse of a tiny black and white kitten, sitting on the pavement in front of the waste ground.
I shouted “Stop! Stop!” and my son braked sharply. It was late in the afternoon, and the traffic was very dense – the car behind us almost hit us. Quite naturally my son got upset; I shouldn’t have shouted so loudly. Of course, he was right, but I was so excited! I was sure this little creature was one of the kittens of the little black cat. I had been looking for them for so long!
It seemed strange to see such a small kitten sitting on the pavement while cars were speeding past him; how very brave he was! But would he run away if I got close? I stepped out of the car and started to walk slowly towards the little creature on the pavement. I was just a few steps away when the kitten looked at me, thought for a moment and then decided to slip back to the waste ground.
He wasn’t alone – another little kitten was sitting on the sun-baked grass inside the gate. This one was a tabby, almost completely grey except for white paws. I looked around for the mother – were they really the little black cat’s kids? Many feral cats wander around our area because it’s very green, with a lot of gardens and a huge park nearby; the perfect environment for street cats.
I didn’t have to wait for long. Suddenly my little black cat appeared from across the street. She was carrying a piece of bacon in her mouth – I had put some bacon on a small plate in the garden before I’d left in case she came for food during my absence. Can you imagine how happy I was, how excited I felt? I ran home – naturally my son had gone to park the car in our garden in the meantime.
Once in my kitchen, I filled a large bowl with kibbles, grabbed a bottle of milk, filled saucers and small plates with roast chicken leftovers and headed back to the waste ground.
That evening, the kittens and their mother were treated to a sumptuous feast.
The next day, and for more than a week, I went to the waste ground twice a day – in the morning and late in the evening, and each time it was a celebration, a banquet.
I would stand at the front of their home on the pavement. It was impossible to go inside because the gate was padlocked. If they weren’t in sight, I would call them. The one who always came out first was the little black and white one, the little guy from the pavement. He would answer my calls with tiny, happy meows, then come bouncing with little jumps over the tall grass. Several years later, I can still see him, a lovely little boy, running up to the big iron gate to greet me. But he always stayed inside the waste ground, too far away for me to cuddle or even touch him. I didn’t mind though. I was delighted to have found them, to be able to bring them food and to see how happy they were.
Sometimes, during the day, I would stop my car in front of the waste ground if by chance I came back from shopping and had something in my baskets that they might like. Sometimes I would sit on the edge of the waste ground and talk to them for a few long minutes. People passing by must have thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care; for me and the little family, those were blissful moments. I thought of the day when I could take them with me to my garden. I would try to figure out how I could do this. For the moment, they were still too small, and they needed their mother. I wasn’t sure she would have followed them once I had taken them to my house. And they were so happy here that it hurt my heart to think of uprooting them. It was just a waste ground, but to them it was paradise.
They were out of danger now, I thought. A few weeks ago, I’d saved their mother when she had arrived half dead in my garden; the little ones would not have survived without her. Now though, I had found them and cared for them. Innocently, I believed that by saving them twice, so to speak, I had somehow earned the right to a happy outcome. All the difficulties were behind us, weren’t they?
But they weren’t. In fact, far from it.
It was beautiful, sunny morning. I was having a busy day in the office, and I couldn’t go to the waste ground as early as usual. It was a little before noon when I was finally able to pack a bag of food for the kitties. I hurried to see them, walking with a light heart, looking forward to seeing my little babies again. My house was full of cats at that time. I had eight Maine Coons, but these little kittens on the waste ground were my special treasure. I loved them more than anything.
As I approached the kitties’ home, I heard the sound of heavy equipment at work. I thought they were mending a road, or maybe there was maintenance work in process in the park. A bit worried, I walked faster.
Oh, what a shock when I finally saw the waste ground! It was a dreadful sight. I stopped, totally perplexed. This was just deplorable. The fence of the waste ground had been knocked down, and a big yellow machine was digging a huge hole in the middle of the waste ground. Already, huge piles of earth had been excavated and amassed all around. I’m not an expert on construction equipment, so I couldn’t name it precisely, but I think the digging machine was a buldozzer. In any case, it must have been at work since the early hours of the morning given the huge amount of earth around it.
The noise it made was deafening. Where was my little family, the mother and her kittens? The little fir tree they had used as a shelter lay pitifully close to the big gate its roots in the air. Why did the workers need to dig it up? The hole they were digging was in the middle of the field, far from the kitties’ house.
There was a big sign that said “WORKSITE CLOSED TO PUBLIC”, but I stepped inside.
It was not easy to make progress between the chips and clods of earth. I had to climb mounds of soil before I managed to reach the devilish machine. It was useless to try to speak or even shout; the noise was too loud. So I just waited there, holding my little basket of cat food, in the hope that they would finally notice me.
After a time, they did.
“Did you see a black cat or kittens when you arrived?” I asked, after greeting them with the usual “bonjour” and my best smile. Honey catches more flies than vinegar, my auntie Ella used to say; she had a saying for every occasion.
“No ma’am, we haven’t seen anything.”
“Have you been here for long?”
“Yes, since dawn.”
“And you are sure you haven’t seen any cats?”
“No, no, there were no cats on this property.”
“Oh please, do take my phone number, and by all means, give me a call if you see a black cat or small kittens. I’ll reward you!”
They acquiesced, but I doubted they would pay any attention to the cats. Anyway, the noise here was such that it would have frightened any living creature. Even the birds had flown away.
They allowed me to walk here and there on the waste ground to search around the fences, but I knew it was useless. There was an office building not far from the waste ground with a security guard at the door. I asked him the same questions: had he seen any cats around? He might have seen which way they ran. But no, he hadn’t. I again left my phone number. I rang the doorbells of the nearest houses, and some owners allowed me to search their gardens.
I left my phone number everywhere, and I think that by the end of the afternoon, the whole quarter knew me and had my mobile phone number.
But all my searching was fruitless.
I realized that this waste ground, which was actually an abandoned garden, had an owner who had decided to build a house on it. The black kitty and her kids had lost their home forever, and the need to take them to my garden was urgent. But first they had to be found.
I returned to the waste ground several times that evening. I even went there in the middle of the night, hoping the kitties would come back for food. But no matter how long I waited in the dark night, whether I called out for them or left food for them, there wasn’t even a slender sign of the little family. No sounds, no rustling in the bushes. The food I left for them was eaten during the night, but how could one know who had taken advantage of it? There were lots of stray cats and even foxes from the park that often wandered around.
What had happened to the kittens and their mother? Where were they? I kept looking for them, exploring the surroundings daily, questioning neighbours. No one had seen the kittens. There was simply no sign of them.
But let’s allow Freddy to explain exactly what happened during the week that followed as it’s a mystery to me.
That morning will always be ingrained in my memory. Mum says it “traumatised” me. Who knows what that means! I just know that I get terribly frightened if I hear a very loud noise.
It was still very early in the morning, and we were asleep, curled next to maman in our small house under the fir tree. I was dreaming. In my dream, I was chasing a butterfly at the far end of the waste ground. It was so much fun that I was laughing, possibly aloud. But then a bee came and started circling my head, closer and closer to my ears, buzzing more and more loudly. Annoyed, I gestured with my paws to make it go away, but it only got louder. I covered my ears with my front paws, first shaking my head and then my whole body – there was nothing I could do. The noise started to become deafening, unbearable even.
It hammered in my head, banging on my skull. It hurt me! It was no longer one bee. It was a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand bees! The dreadful noise came closer and closer. It invaded our little house. I got frightened. I woke up and saw maman just above me. She touched me with her paw and said, “Freddy, run out, hide! We’re in big danger! Freddy! Caramel! Follow me!”
And without waiting for us, she leapt out of our home as she was sure we would go with her.
I too bounced out, just in time to see maman disappearing at the far end of our waste ground. She had climbed up the big chestnut tree and jumped over the high wall that bordered the northern part of the grounds.
“Come, Caramel!” I shouted and started to run, too frightened to wait for my sister. She’s going to follow me, I thought. Not far from our house, towards the right side, was a terrible yellow monster, invading our home, encroaching on it, crashing everything in its way, roaring like it was mad.
I ran as fast as I could, and I can run really fast.
“Freddy, wait!” cried Caramel, but I didn’t. I was so scared that I simply couldn’t stop running.
I did what maman did and climbed the huge tree, but when I tried to jump over the wall, I fell to the ground. I didn’t even know if I had hurt myself; the terror inside me submerged all other feelings. I started to crawl in the opposite direction. On the west side, a simple fence bordered the waste ground. Was there a hole for me to escape through? Not able to find any, I tried to dig into the ground, but it was so hard that all I managed to do was to hurt my paws. There was nothing else to do but to crawl further, to the big iron gate through which our maman used to sneak when she went to fetch our dinner. I remembered that she always looked left and right before crossing the street, but I had no time for this. I just pounced, and I didn’t care if there were cars or not – the horrible roaring monster was so close, the noise so horrifying, that I was ready to risk my life just to escape it.
I ran, crossing a lawn, then another larger street and ended up in a park. The noise was still in the air, coming from afar, but at least it was less threatening. Just ahead of me I saw a space where the trees were growing so tall and so close to one another that it was almost dark. The ground here was covered with a carpet of pine needles, just perfect for my aching paws, so I decided to explore a bit. And oh, what a chance find it was! There was a hole in the ground, a burrow next to a tree, and it seemed empty. I crawled inside, rolled up into a ball and hoped this house had no owner. My heart was beating so fast that I thought it would leave my body. I was shaking all over; my ribs hurt from the fall, and my claws were bruised to the bone. But crouching in that tiny burrow, I managed to calm down bit by bit and soon fell asleep, too tired to think about anything.
When I woke up, there was darkness all around me. I had probably slept the whole day. Where was maman? Where was Caramel? Had they managed to escape the danger? I knew I should go back to our little home. I felt guilty for having left Caramel behind. Friends, call me a wimp if you want, but I must confess that I hadn’t the courage to move that night. Nor the next day.
Besides, early in the morning, the noise came back. From afar of course, but it was there. Who knows, at any moment it could have decided to come after me.
It was only late the second night, when all was silent again and I felt too hungry to wait any longer, that I dared to leave my retreat.
I crawled all the way back to the waste ground as fast as I could. What desolation! Our little home had been knocked down, and oh, imagine! The ground where we used to run and chase each other was now full of strange hills and slopes and holes! Did the ground also want to harm us? I felt as if the whole world had become unfriendly and hated us.
I called for maman and Caramel. First, there was no reply. But as I kept calling, I heard a meow in the distance. Caramel! My sister has a very distinctive voice, one can recognise it among millions!
I called her name and within seconds saw her running towards me. We rubbed against each other, we kissed, we cuddled, and I asked her ten questions at a time: “Where have you been? Where is maman? Are you fine?”
“Oh Freddy, I couldn’t find maman anywhere! I hid over there in a garden, inside a pile of wood logs.” My poor sister sobbed while she spoke, and I had to give her kisses and head rubs until she calmed down.
“Don’t worry, sis, now that we are together again, we’ll find maman, you’ll see. Don’t get lost again! When I start running, follow me, don’t linger behind!”
She promised, and we started to explore the ground around the gate – in case the lady from the magical garden had left some food for us. But all we found was an upturned saucer and a few kibbles scattered here and there. Nonetheless, it was something, so we swallowed them greedily.
The Fire Dragon
We wanted to start patrolling our surroundings; we had to find our maman. But suddenly something terrible happened. The noise again! This time it came from above, from the sky. A terrible, thundering, relentless noise invaded the night. And if you can imagine, it was spitting fire across the sky. It was that same yellow monster! It had escaped from our waste ground and transformed itself into a fire dragon! Now it was determined to swallow us both. Where could we go?
We started to run. We looked for the breakout, but no matter which way we went, the monster was always there, above our heads, following our every step. The whole night became a giant demon – this was the end for us. We ran to the left, we ran to the right, towards the north, then the south. But this doesn’t stop the fire dragon. There was no way out of the dreadful night.
Finally, and I don’t know how, we ended inside a pile of wood logs in the garden where Caramel had hidden before. We crawled inside as deep as we could and curled around each other.
How long did we stay there? One, two, three days? I couldn’t tell. The storm (it was a storm as I later learnt) kept on going for days and nights. They say it was one of the biggest and longest storms ever seen.
After a very long time, actually an endlessness, we became so hungry that we decided to go back to the big gate, back to the waste ground. Maybe we would find some more kibbles scattered on the ground? Maybe we had overlooked some?
Outside the log pile, the rain kept falling heavily. We listened, but the noise wasn’t there anymore. The dragon had seemingly retreated somewhere. Was it just hiding, waiting for us to show up so that it could jump on us? Possibly – we had to remain extra careful.
Totally exhausted, we dragged our shivering bodies to the gate. We hadn’t eaten for so long! If only we could find a little something, a crumb, anything! But regardless of how hard we looked, how carefully we searched, there was not a single kibble left in the mud around the portal.
Suddenly I had an idea. “Caramel, you know what? Do you remember the day I went to sit on the pavement? I was looking for maman to come back, and suddenly that lady from the magical garden showed up, and we were happy after that?”
“Oh yes, Freddy! And she brought us plenty of food! Maybe you should go and sit on the pavement again? Maybe she’ll come?” Poor Caramel was thrilled.
I’m not one of those who believe in miracles, but what did we have to lose? It was worth a try.
Here, I’ll let mum share what happened next.
It had been five or six days since I had seen either the little kittens or their mother. Five days that the construction works had continued on the old waste ground.
Moreover, it had rained constantly over the previous few days. Big thunderstorms had been raging above our heads, and no sooner had one storm ended than another was on the horizon. The rumblings and lightning were so frequent and so violent that even my bold Maine Coons had lived in hiding places most of the time.
Given the situation, it was very unlikely that the little family would have returned to the waste ground.
I hoped that they had remained together, that the kittens were with their mother. I also hoped that she would bring them to my garden. She knew where I was, where the food supply was. Before I started delivering food to their home, she used to come to my house several times a day. Why didn’t she come now?
Despite my most fervent hopes, she didn’t make an appearance. Nor did she go to the waste ground. I went there every evening with my little bag of food and called for her and her small family. I’d wait, then call again, but in vain. I went to check for them, not once but three, four, five times an evening, not to mention the early mornings, sometimes at dawn.
I would go out wearing my boots and raincoat in the pouring rain, in the frightening storms. I would go, with my little bag full of cat food, hopeful on the way there, desperate on the way back.
That evening, despite the heavy rain, I had already gone to the waste ground three times. My last visit happened around eleven; again, I couldn’t find any kitties; nobody answered my calls. To be honest, I hadn’t felt that they would be there that night, but I had to see for
By chance, I had a large study to work on which involved market research on China. It distracted me a bit from my sad thoughts. Once in my home office, in front of the computer, I managed to forget my worries for a while.
Then suddenly a thought crossed my mind: they are there now, at this very moment. I looked at my watch – it was well past midnight, almost 1 am. As I listened to the rain drumming on the windows, I began to prepare myself. Boots, raincoat, a small bag of cat food. Even I thought I was crazy to go out in such weather and at such a late hour, it didn’t matter – I had to go.
It was a hunch, a feeling, an intangible emergency call.
As I approached, I noticed a small white shape standing on the pavement right in front of the waste ground in the dark of the night. Was it just a piece of white paper? Was this a cat? My steps quickened. The little shape moved and disappeared into the night, and I knew it. It was one of them, one of my kittens!
(to be continued)