Come home Denali...come home.
The voice rang over and over in his head as the tomcat laid on the peer. He wasn't sure what the dream had meant. Perhaps it could've been his mind trying to remind him of something in his past. His paws were caked with mud, in fact most of his fur was indiscernible, covered as he was in the grime.
Harsh cries of seagulls, the dazzling luminous bright sun above resounded around him with unfathomed brilliance as if completely seminal. The cat knew that he had experienced life before the last few moments and yet it all seemed new as if he was experiencing being birthed again with the exception of having litter mates around him to keep out the cold. If this was his beginning then it bore anything but comfort. He felt hot and cold at the same time his body racked with a slight fever.
Coughing and spluttering he turned over on his belly and set his paws to the pavement steadily pushing up until he stood, his limbs shaky and wobbly beneath him.
The world around him spun and he staggered forward deeper into the city, the pier and sand giving way to green rolling terrain. From the looks of things he'd entered a local park, the cool carpet underpaw a welcome change from the shifting giving mud. Solid ground...how he loved it.
Confidence sparked in his chest for the first time that day.
Thinking back on his dream he blinked, whiskers quivering as he surveyed his surroundings. Sparse underground, flat ground, benches here and there, trash bins hemming in each one and tall buildings towering high towards the afternoon sky in the distance. The cloudbanks were few and only a small breeze brought relief from the intense heat.
He knew that the reason he felt the way he did wasn't affected by the weather but that it was because his fur needed to breathe.
The cat or voice or voices or whatever it had been had called him 'Denali'. Was that his name?
Perhaps it was.
Clicking his tongue and weighing his name in his mind he took care to try and avoid the scattered humans about the park, making his way deeper in until upon coming to a small bit of undergrowth he settled down under a small group of trees, sparse bushes and leaves giving him shelter from prying eyes. He needed sleep and then he would find something to eat....
The name in his dream was as good as any and before he drifted off he had accepted it as his own....
Hours later Denali woke abruptly, pulled from sub consciousness with the insistent feeling of something or someone prodding his side. It was soft whatever it was and furry but the urgency with which it poked him made him start. Leaping to his paws and swiveling his head this way and that to find the source of his tormentor he unsheathed his claws and hissed trying to hide how sore he was.
Even before his eyes had picked up movement he could tell by the scent that it was another cat. His nostrils flared....another tom.
Before him the hedge shifted slightly to reveal the stranger just visible in the pale blueish sheen of moonlight that bathed the evening.
The other male had a somewhat stocky build, brown and black stripes interwoven throughout his pelt. He smelled of grass and people, most likely a house pet out on the prowl Denali surmised. Two piercing yellow orbs stared back at him calculating him and sizing him up incase of trouble. Denali sensed a friendly air from the tom but to be safe he kept his guard up stalking in a wide half circle.
The other cat sat back on his haunches wrapping his tail neatly around his front paws in a casual manner while taking the time to groom himself.
"I promise that I mean you no harm friend" the tomcat meowed disarmingly his eyes twinkling in slight amusement. "Have to ask though...what are you don't out here alone and in such a mess?"
Denali for his part avoided the strangers gaze allowing himself to relax after seeing that the other feline was friendly.
"To be quite honest about it I dunno..." he murmured his whiskers twitching with annoyance. "Infact I can't remember much of anything before waking up this morning just like this."
He flicked his tail in a gesture to his mud caked fur.
"Been like this all day."
"You're a strange one indeed. You mean you don't remember anything....what you hunted yesterday? What alley friends you spent time with....the last cat you talk to? the other cat asked incredulously?
Denali shook his head before bringing a paw up to his mouth and flinching away from the taste of grime that met his tongue.
Chuckling the tomcat stood and stretched padding around and examining Denali closer shaking his head.
"We'd better find a way to clean you off as soon as possible friend. By the looks of it much longer and it'll really become a hazard cleaning yourself. By the by what may I call you? My names Bernard.... You do remember your name...don't you?"
"Washing this crud off would be very nice. I'm Denali" he meowed catching himself smiling for the first time all day.
"Pleasure to be properly introduced then" Bernard purred touching his tail to one of Denali's shoulders. "Why don't ya come with me. I think I have an idea as to how we can have ya feeling like a normal cat again!"
Falling into pace beside the other tom Denali dipped his head in genuine gratitude.
"I would be eternally grateful if your idea works out and I can get some rest. You have no idea how stifling it feels to carry around all of this extra weight!"
"Must truly be an ordeal" Bernard agreed mockingly as they padded along. "You look like one of the chocolate pastries that I've seen in the bakery sometimes, the big plump ones that they show in the windows.....except you don't look tasty at all" he growled mischievously.
"I don't look that plump do I" Denali hissed?
Inspecting himself a grin formed along his lips.
"If I do for some reason it might be a good thing...might be able to entice some mice for us both while I'm at it. Could be a benefit to carry around this mess after all eh?"
"Sure could" Bernard laughed in reply. "Ya'know Denali...something tells me that you and I are gonna get along just fine with humor like you've got."
"I think so too" Denali answered talking stalk of where they were. "I just hope that your hunting is as sharp and refined as your jokes."
As casually as he could he licked his maw, casting a glance over at his friend who had raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Is that a challenge?"
"Yep it is" Denali whispered back. "First however, we need to try out your idea so that I have a fair shot."
"Denali, I wouldn't have it any other way!"
For the most part it seemed like Bernard was following a very clear cut path, one of the gravely lanes that the humans had laid down that snaked around up the hilly section of the park, skirting another small collection of trees and bushes. The crickets were out and chirruping back and forth to each other in melodic sequences that bounced off of the stillness like soulful drums. Surprisingly there were other passers by walking through the night like shadows seeking adventure or whatever life threw at them.
The park seemed to be a popular place to roam for felines and the odd dog. However...the later was rarely off of one of the leads that the humans had created to secure them and control them. One such dog that they passed at a distance scented them and whined piteously, lunging against her leash and pulling her paws forcefully digging into the soft green earth.
"CATS! GRRRRRR! MUST CHASE.........MUST CATCH ........MUST GRRRRRRRRRRRR RUFF MAKE THEM RUN!!!"
Denali was bemused by the creature. Never in his life had he ever seen such a weird animal.
Her body was thin, almost fragile and scrawny, her first smooth coat was a dirty white with splotches of gray here and there. The second coat however was poofed out and fuzzy to the extreme. Solid gray it proved a ridiculous feature that made the haughty canine look very comical.
Noticing him staring Bernard drew closer whispering to him while keeping his eyes fixed on the dog.
"Never seen one of those have ya?"
"What the hell is it?"
"The humans call em poodles. Mostly the very wealthy ones choose to have them around although I've never understood the appeal of them. Having a dog around is strange enough without them looking sickly and utterly mismatched. If you're gonna have a doggy friend around at least have one that is decent looking ya know?"
"I'm probably as comfortable with the idea of having a dog around as you are" Denali admitted. "If I wanted to laugh all of the time or make a spectacle of myself, could definitely see the merit of having one of those cloud puffs around though!"
"Yeah...sure you could."
"What....they could be useful!"
"So anyways where we headed Bernard? We almost there" he said hopefully?
"Yep...dead ahead, you see that fountain Den?"
Apprehensively he nodded giving his friend an inquisitive look.
"Yeah...a good nickname...short for Denali. I thought that it would have a nice ring to it. Sounds like a strong good name to have."
"I actually like it."
"Thanks Den" Bernard said strolling up to the fountain and leaping up onto the smooth cement brim. "Up here buddy...this is where you and your coat of mud part ways forever. You ready?"
Leaping up to stand next to the other tom Denali had a feeling what was coming. However he also knew that to become clean again that he would have to play along and see it through. He didn't really care for the smooth ungiving surface under his pads nor how cold it was and what it held. Water.
He was adverse to water except in small amounts. However this was enough to soak him through and through. It trickled down in rivulets cascading over three tiers carved out of what looked like the same cement like material. The highest tier being the smallest had wavy parts of it that rose and feel like waves frozen forever in time, each wave a prison to a stone fish with open wide sockets for eyes. Each was the same with only subtle differences setting them apart, all of them stacked with precision along a smooth pillar that spewed water in twin opens at it's pinnacle.
"Don't they just look good enough to eat!"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"The fish Den. Don't they look delectably divine!?"
Before he could answer the tomcat gave him a hard nudge that toppled him off balance and sent him plummeting into the pool of water with a splash. Wet, cold, wet, overwhelming....
Kicking out and hissing he reemerged spluttering and coughing violently, the thick pervading liquid rolling and crashing in his eardrums. It was everywhere at once, bearing down on his whiskers, adding even more weight to his body and threatening to sink him. Yowling he clawed at the side of the fountain pleading with the gleefully smirking face leering down, just visible over the ledge of the fountain.
"Hiya Den, not to worry! Just soak up a little and enjoy and I'll soon have ya out of there again!"
"When I get outta here! Why did you have to push me in? I could've just jumped" he snarled.
"In a dog's eye you would've! No cat likes water so I figured the element of surprise was the best way. Besides...seeing the look on your face was well worth it!"
Denali shook his head fighting to stay on the surface and as near the edge as he could, droplets of water pattering on his head from above, his whiskers plastered to the sides of his cheeks.
"You furball! When I get my paws on you I'll!"
"Never mind that You ready yet or you going to keep yowling?"
"I'm ready...just pull me up."
Thankfully he soon felt his friends' teeth in his scruff and then the pull, bracing himself against the side of the pool with his paws he scrambled up and over onto the ledge his pelt dripping and his ears drooping as he was greeted by a friendly nuzzle.
"Heh now I know what ya look like! Didn't figure you for a ginger pal" Bernard mewed greeting him cheekily. The tomcats' face however became serious for a moment as he looked down.
"What happened to you Den" he asked his voice low?
"Well besides you pushing me into this fountain and water logging me not much" Denali answered shaking himself until his pelt puffed out, dripping constantly.
"No....I meant, I meant this?"
Bernard lifted a forepaw and tapped at his chest.
"It looks like a small burn on your skin...wouldn't have noticed it if you weren't so wet."
"I honestly don't have any idea" Denali answered beginning to groom himself with his tongue. If felt soothing to run it through clean fur once again. Vaguely he remembered doing it before although what had been going on around him when he had last groomed himself still was a complete blank.
"Anyways thanks for helping me clean myself...should we get some rest now. Perhaps you could show me around town tomorrow.....and...Bernard? Bernard what's wrong? Berna......oh..."
His friend had been staring ahead totally ignoring him, his yellowish pupils opened up as far as they could go. Fur on end and tail ridged behind him the tomcat looked light he had seen a ghost.
Turning to see what had upset his companion so much he gulped as his eyes feel upon an enormous dog standing nearby watching them intently, it's eyes glowing brilliantly and it's slavering jaws dripping with saliva. The dog looked like it was about to pounce.
A sheer chill of dread spiked through Denali's spine as the dangerous looking canine took a heavy step towards them growling out in a savagely smooth voice that dripped over them like honey.
"Who dares muddy Venger's fountain....?"