Cold gray light rippled along the pavement, spangling the villas and adding to the shadows that lingered here and there amid the trees. It was an elegant and truly haunting place that bespoke a history perhaps reaching farther back then that of the surrounding city, perhaps back far enough to a time when it had all been country, sparsely populated and more green and lush where now bland noisy colors permeated the pallet of uptown. Sounds in the distance seemed far away, echoes that rang out from a world that didn't exist or at least from some area that didn't matter as much as what lay before him along that one long cold street.
By far it wasn't all dreary. Some of it held beauty to be sure, but it was far removed from an optimistic mood and replaced with something febrile and sinisterly foreboding.
Any movement cut through the air like a knife, his paws vibrating noise that seemed twice as loud as normal, the sound of a car door slamming and one of the garages lifting to swallow up one of the monsters that the humans used for transportation boomed in his ears.
Most of his view of the neighborhood was obstructed by the curve of the path itself so that he craned his neck in multiple attempts to distinguish what lay further along in the direction he had chosen to explore. No matter how far in he went or how badly he wanted to escape and turn away from the lure of going on, he couldn't break free, couldn't find a way to avoid the gentle flicker of recognition that was growing deep down in him, starting from his toes and moving up to send butterflies flitting around his stomach -a horrified excitement flowing through his mind like rolling thunder that licked around the skies of his conscious thought, igniting ideas and things that he feared discovering.
Denali could've stopped off at any of the houses in question, could've made the choice to settled beneath a motionless car along the asphalt or with his back against one of the black disposals for human waste that lined the gutters almost with as much of a uniform air as the trees and hedges did. For whatever reason he didn't but kept going, his eyes riveted to one house, one place that beckoned to him inside of his heart and made his whiskers and tail flick with anticipation. This was it! Senses alive and tingling he could tell that whatever he needed to know would be found here along this street-somewhere in or around that towering villa at the end of the block. Cut off as it was, there had to be a reason for it's strange appeal to him as well as it's promise that his questions could be answered if he was willing to dig in and delve deep, find what lay hidden here...if anything. He doubted strongly that he would stumble upon things that would help, yet seeing it all gave him the most hope that he had ever felt in his short life.
Upon approach a strong smell hit him over the head with all the force of a hammer. It was pungent and dizzying aroma, a myriad of magnolias and weeds, of stale water and the faint hint of something sad and mournful.
Gingerly he climbed up the smooth steps until upon reaching the porch he cast about for an entrance or some small niche where he could slip inside. Nothing!
No doggy door, no open windows, no cracks or panels. Sadly the only things that were within sight here was a miserable old rocking chair leaned in one corner against a pillar belated with thick cobwebs and the other was a matt which he stood on.
Looking down he studied it.
Nothing out of the norm struck him about it. In fact it was stiflingly plain with only the common place line "Home Sweet Home" woven into its' face with what looked like birds round the rim, faded and mucked from the wear and tear of time.
Dejectedly he leapt from the porch surprised by how well intact such an old structure could be. The place had bits of Victorian décor in it's architecture, great pillars of stone rising at it's corners and half points, jutting from a grass covered expanse that melded with a dirt track that wound around the side of the mansion which he followed, apprehension washing over him in waves.
As he wandered about the structure he continued to search in vain for any chance of an opening into the house while picking his way through what soon became dense undergrowth that grew to stand at his shoulder length.
A sparrow whizzed overhead with a loud chirp that startled him before it zoomed away into the evening gradually warbling somewhere in the distance. It's keeling causing a thick scattering of avians overhead that filled the air with cries and warning thrills that caused him to flinch.
Gulping he hugged the wall as his nimble paws met with the smooth dirt which soon gave way to the smooth chill of mismatched flagstones that slapped up against his skin no matter how stealthily he tread. The patio felt refreshing and soothing underpaw and he couldn't resist letting loose a pleasured sigh at the rejuvenating sensation on his feet.
Sheathing his claws he licked his lips and blinked as he gradually took on a more confident and inquisitive air. Curiosity peaked, he soon gave up trying to find a way into the towering villa and instead turned his attention on the grounds which stretched far longer then he had first expected they would. Green grass, trees and unkempt vegetation spanned as far as his eyes could see as he finally came to the rear of the house, gazing out in awe at the titanic property before him.
He might as well have been in the wild.
It was an in between place with grass still trimmed, flowers still apparent in their beds of soil and the overall feeling that this had once been a domesticated area well kept. Yet now the blades of green shoot up at particular angles, the walkways lay cracked, chipped away in places while their still remained smooth bits in others. The area seemed a delicate balance of wild and homely, both welcoming and ominous at the same time.
The path that he was on led out into the yard and he followed it slowly and deliberately as a pale half moon glowered overhead. It was only just now rising, breaching the trees this way and that with claws of light almost as if skewering the place in a death grip that seemed nearly cruel. Nearly, but for the shadowy places that hid caused him fear and set his tail to twitching nervously as he held it aloft in the air as a balance to himself. It might have been silly but for some reason he felt that if he didn't stick to the path like a tick, a pest clinging onto its' host for dear life that he would meet with danger the very instant that he crossed over into that dark world that surrounded him on every side, that lurked behind and under and within the night.
As the moon reached it's highpoint a crawling, knawing recognition clobbered his mind, bearing down until he hissed and shook uncontrollably with barely suppressed joy.
Up ahead was a scene from his dreams.
It was the grove from his first coherent thought on the pier, a wide circular opening of hemlock, magnolia and larkspur trees all hemming in the edge of a small clearing. Each full and leafy branch leaned inward as if adding gathered might to a family of sentinel beings. Knarled limbs creaked loudly complaining of aches and stiffness without water in the dry season of summer. Awash in starlight they seemed to sway in an ancient dance as old as the sky itself, drawing any in who would come to take shelter underneath them. At their core rose a tall stone slab placed and kept in the ground midst the same flagstones that he himself had traversed. Unless his vision betrayed him there appeared to be markings scratched and ensconced upon it's smooth gray face even though in the light it was impossible for him to make out what any of it said.
A fierce chill raked down his spine as he sighted a familiar cat facing away from him towards the stone nearly as unmoving as the trees and the heavy air itself.
To Denali it seemed that he had finally somehow found the power to step from reality back into his head, directly into his memories although this was usually when he would've woken up. The ginger tom however didn't wake. What lay before him in that grove was very much real.
The cat sat rooted to the spot where it sat on its' haunches as the minutes dragged on.
Just then something unexpected happened.
A bright piercing pain shot through his forehead as if a dagger was being pressed into his skull. Wincing he crouched lower, cowering under the crushing feeling. Again it stabbed inwardly at his mind and he shook, purple blasting before his eyes and the world swimming round him. It was alien and cold fear clutched at his chest. He tried to escape it but it was no use. Repeatedly it thrust against his consciousness, rendering him hopeless against the relentless onslaught. When would it end!?
On it went and he had to grit his teeth to keep from yowling and alerting the cat in the clearing of his presence.
Why was this happening!
He couldn't think and above all else he couldn't feel anything but the agony that pumped through him like bolts of electricity. He writhed and allowed himself a soft moan that rose in his throat as his voice was wrenched out regardless of him wanting to keep silent. The pain was stifling now to the point where he wanted to die, to curl up in a ball and hide from everything, the pain was overwhelming and powerful, consuming all of him. What did it want?
"What.....what does it want? Why....." he whispered his words broken by waves of discomfort shoot through him, making his body shake and clench until he lay on his side panting his energy failing him and depleting gradually.
The grinding against his mind returned and he arched his back as the blinding force raced through him again, starting from his ears and scalding through his pounding head, to his neck, down his back and belly and paws and finally out to the tip of his tail.
He yowled rolling into a fetal position before arching his back again his eyes tear and streaming down his whiskers.
The presence persisted and he whimpered, as it broke past his mind with a final effort leaving him shaking uncontrollably.
A voice, the same one in his dreams prowled in his mind with as much clarity as if he had been speaking with someone face to face. It was numbing and he welcomed it in relief and a rest from whatever had attacked him. However his fear didn't abate because he knew without a doubt that whatever had pushed him and caused him harm only moments ago and the mind that touched his were related somehow.
You have entered Mirii. You shouldn't be here Denali. They will kill you if they find you here all alone!
Struggling to raise himself his ears pricked forward.
Mirii had been the place that Samantha had warned him to avoid, yet here he was. What was so dangerous about this place and why was he so drawn to it?
The mind rubbed against his own soothingly and without really contemplating it he thought back his reply.
Who will kill me? What is Mirii? How do you know me and who are you?
He questioned whether whoever it was could hear him but then the voice came again and he realized that he could send his thoughts back through the connect just as easily as the entity could. They could communicate with their minds and it thrilled him.
So you don't remember anything? Never mind that then. I know you from before The Call and before Mirii is as you see it now. Mirii was....it was our home.
So I've been here before?
Yes...you have. A long time ago...
Who else lived here?
Many cats, some still do but not as many as once.
The sense of melancholy, depression and despair was so strong in the presence that he almost had to retreat deeper inside of himself.
I am Petal. And I have waited to see if ever all of this place, this world would someday rise to its' former glory when we all lived in bounty and freedom. But since what happened...since The Call....I have given up that things could ever return to how they were, how they should be.
Petal, what is this Call?
Strong dread crackled between them and he shivered as the opposing mind went dark, displaying a void that glittered and shone, impossibly huge and impossibly inviting. It was contagious in nature and he marveled and shrank from it all at once.
No one should....no one should know what happened...no one should have to face what happened. It was forbidden and I shrink when I know that I was unable to halt it, that I wasn't able to stop and think and see before it was too late.
I don't understand any of what you're saying Petal he sent back confusion bubbling within his thoughts. I want to but I don't remember if I was here. I don't remember you, I have not a clue what any of this means and I can feel your pain, somehow I can feel it. Overall I'm confused and scared. This isn't possible, talking like this feeling you inside of me like this...it can't be explained and no logic can bring any of this to light. Mirii as you call it draws me yes but I know as much about it as you would about what I've done today in my own life. Whatever happened still doesn't explain your sadness, it doesn't explain why just moments before I thought that I was going to die nor why you attacked me with....with whatever you did.
He shivered slightly his inner voice growling.
I need to find answers but it seems the more I find out about myself the more questions arise. I need to understand before I can appreciate what you've said. I want to help however I can, but I don't even know myself yet. I've forgotten who I am....
Petal was still for a moment, seeming to hang on his every word and balancing out his meaning. The wind shifted slightly blowing across his pelt and licking at his skin as it dawned on him that Petal was the cat before the pillar just as she turned around and faced him.
She was an astoundingly beautiful queen, a Siamese slender and elegant yet there was something about her countenance that belayed hidden strength. A long saddle of brown fur laced her ears and the back of her head before trailing down her back in two twin rivers of fur separated in the middle by a patch of white that matched the rest of her white pelt. A lighter sable brown graced her muzzle winding around her chin while it faded away at the sides of her nose. Most striking of all however were her eyes, fervent brilliant orbs reflecting the stars. They were grayish green, voluptuous in a stunning way that was divine and scenic as if they display for those who gazed into them a magic haven where all were welcome....and yet when she looked at him he sensed unimaginable sadness.
Even as his emerald eyes met hers her muzzle tilted up into a pained smile and his heart pounded as his breath caught.
It melted him and he found it hard to breath. He could feel as well as see how conflicted she was about something....perhaps about him.
In any event I am glad that you are back Denali. I have missed you...
Oh and Denali...
I didn't mean to hurt you, your mind was closed to me and I didn't know who you were nor your intent.
My mind was closed? What does that have to do with anything?
You were very strong when last we talked and we shared many a conversation like this. Your conscious touched many a mind when you called Mirii home, it had to...for with who you were it was necessary. I fear though that you not being scrupulous enough back then was one of the reasons why we probably weren't prepared.
So he had at one time not only been able to talk like this with one cat or one other being but with many. The thought was nearly unbelievable in its' scope. Who had he been before whatever it was that she kept mentioning? What had happened? What had been so tramatic as to have made him forget something as incredible as a connection with minds? Talking without words was absolutely exhilarating in his opinion like drifting in and out of a forbidden world or taking part in a past time that went against the very laws of nature. How had he lost it?
I wish you could explain what you meant by that and tell me what happened.
He held his breath waiting for her response, hoping that he could glean from her more then she had proffered him with her hinting and her fear that touched him like a hailstorm that whipped around inside of his head.
Petal thus far had frustrated him but he felt she was delicate when it came to where his questions would lead and what answers they would bring. He dared not press the matter, not just yet anyway.
Just beware of Naga-Skal or Dark Fate. Any mention of Her and you run, any whisper of Her and it would be wise to beware what follows. Avoid Her at all costs because you are not ready to face Her as you are with no memory and as only a shadow of what came before.
Face as in fight? I don't want to fight anyone for any reason until I find out more or am met with adversity I won't raise a claw or bare fangs against another cat.
She looked at him grimly and for the first time moved toward him in a steady gate, moving like chained water that flowed in time with the turning of the earth.
You may very well have to soon. It could mean the difference between losing your life and keeping it...
He gulped at her revelation just as her nose touched his, soft pink skin meeting and touching his and her scent permeating his senses, a mixture of roses and ginger and something else....something lilting that was akin to what water would smell like if it had a scent or bore the faintest traces of an odor.
Petals' proximity startled him although he didn't draw away. He stayed allowing the closeness although he couldn't quell his fur from prickling in embarrassment and the insides of his ears becoming hot. Their eyes were closer then ever as he stared at her just as she did him. Ever so slightly he could feel her gentle breath inhaling around him and drawing in his scent.
Clearing his throat he took several moments to be able to gather himself and use his audible voice which in comparison seemed far removed to the mental link they now shared...it was nearly primitive in nature to him now.
"Um...Petal...what are you doing?"
"You have not eaten in a while....at least not today. Would you enjoy a hunt perhaps?" she whispered watching him with unblinking eyes.
"How did....yes I, I'd like that" he replied standing and arching his back. It felt so good to be himself again, closed off without the pain and with a mental guard where his thoughts were his own. "I'd bet prey is plentiful here."
"We have to leave Mirii. It's disrespectful to hunt here among our brothers and sisters."
"What do you mean? There isn't anyone here at all...just us and the trees. There must be mice and squirrels and moles all kinds of-
"Prey would be plentiful here Denali but we are not alone. Under each tree around us there is buried a cat, all of the remains, the bodies of those we lost to Naga-Skal. All have been since you last were here and it wouldn't be right to tread over their graves with only the intentions to snare food instead of paying them homage" she hissed.
Looking around him after her admonition made him see the grove in a whole new light. Cats dead and buried under trees because of this mysterious Naga-Skal.
Seeing his unease Petal shook herself and then smiled kindly.
"You couldn't have known...it's just the ones of us who are left...we try to preserve the memory of all who ...
She froze lifting her head and tasting the wind after a few moments her pelt bristling.
"What?" he asked. "What's wrong?"
"We have stayed here too long! They are here...we must move quickly! If they find you... if they find you Denali they'll kill you!"
There was no mistaking the urgency in her voice nor the spark of panic that rose like bile in his throat as he swung his gaze around wildly. He could detect it too, the slight aroma of wild cats, unfamiliar scents drawing near in the midnight hour.
Petals' warning had come too late though for he could see dark figures closing in on every side, shadows that growled and snarled at him with menace. It was too late now to escape, to run away and flee this place, this strange, haunted dreary place. Heart sinking he wished that he had never come, even though he had learned some garbled information it wasn't worth his life.
Crouching low he bared his fangs and growled back at the jumbled forms hidden away under the larkspurs, touched by shafts of moonlight that gave him some idea of where his enemies lurked.
Prepared for battle he inwardly hoped that he would last the night and survive to greet the dawn.....