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Chapter One

Cyrus bolted through the cat flap and staggered into the tall, damp grass. He dug his claws into the ground and fought to get air into his lungs, breathing in and out over and over, but he coughed and spluttered and fell onto his side. It was past midnight when he blacked out. When he came round, despite it being a mild summer night, he felt an icy chill penetrate his short silky fur right to his bones. He lay in the darkness numbed and confused, desperate to make sense of what happened. He tried hard to focus and listen to his surroundings. No longer could he hear disturbing sounds echoing in the distance, when in his semi-conscious state of mind before he lost consciousness. Nightmarish noises you’re eager to wake from to discover everything the way it was before falling asleep. The only din to his ears now was the prattling of the resident nocturnal creatures, but they were of no help. He attempted to stand, but his legs refused to respond and he floundered onto his side again.

What happened? What am I doing out here? Am I dreaming? What, why? He thought.

As the minutes ticked by he strove to stand up again and this time with a determined effort he scrambled into a squatting position. Shaky on his legs, with uneasy bewilderment in his eyes, he raised and looked ahead, relieved to see he was crouching on familiar ground. But his befuddled mind sensed something sinister in his midst. He stared into the surrounding grounds of Sandorn Manor wondering what on earth he was doing there in the middle of the night-when what forced him to bolt through the cat flap and scurry with haste into the undergrowth of his home suddenly flashed through his brain with unrelenting furry. In the flick of a switch, Cyrus’ demeanor

He mewled loudly! A wave of terror penetrated his soul as he recalled the horrors of his harrowing ordeal…

“I was asleep in the kitchen, I woke up, the smoke, the crackle, the stench, I couldn’t breathe,”-his voice broke and he wailed pitifully.

He didn’t want to believe it; he wanted to believe it was a nightmare he would wake up from at any moment. He twitched his nose, he could still smell that acrid odour. What is that, he wondered. Then he realized it was all over him, it had saturated his fur. He shuddered, his heart raced uncontrollably. Then all at once his thoughts switched to his loyal companion, and he felt a churning, sickening feeling stir in the core of his belly, it made him want to throw up!

He bellowed, “Mr. Jays, Mr Jays”, but there came no reply.

Deep within the grounds and facing away from Sandorn Manor he knew he had to turn around and move closer because it was the only way of knowing the truth about what happened to his beautiful home and loyal companion. Cyrus shuffled his body around to face the direction of the Manor. Uncertain of what he was about to see, with great apprehension he walked towards the Manor. The moment it came into focus he gasped in disbelief and immediately squeezed his eyes shut but when he opened them again nothing had changed. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. His heart sank. He sat staring in sheer dismay at what little remained of the Manor, now a sorrowful, charred ruin. A crippling tenseness overwhelmed him. He glanced up at Mr. Jays bedroom window where he sat enjoying the afternoon sunshine. There was no window, just a blackened, lifeless hole.

He yelled out, “Mr. Jays Mr. Jays,” calling out his name over and over but there was no reply. Now he knew with absolute certainty there was no escaping the sordid reality of his grave situation. He had to accept he had nothing—no home and no Mr. Jays and had become one of many thousands of homeless cats struggling to survive in an unpredictable and hostile world. A world satiated by countless cat hating humans and cat chasing dogs besides unknown dangers. Desperate waifs, each with a dream, dreaming of that special day, their day of liberation, a day when one human being will notice them, show them kindness, scoop them up and give them their forever home. Cyrus collapsed in a heap. The tears rolled down his handsome, blue masked face, a face now forlorn and sorrowful, he felt as though his heart was breaking. He raised a limp trembling paw to his face and rubbed his sodden eyes.

The thought of being a stray terrified him! He was a complete novice and feared his lack of experience might not be the best foundation for survival. He knew he was facing an unpredictable and scary future and life from this point on would be far from easy. He’d once heard Mr. Jays speak with friends around the dinner table about strays and so he knew the outcome for many homeless cats is a million miles away from a happy ending with many dying in pain and alone. It was an agonizing thought. He could never have foreseen or believed it could happen to him. But now Cyrus was all alone in the grounds of Sandorn Manor, forced into the same miserable existence and desperately trying to come to terms with the reality of his destitute future. There was nothing more he could do now though, besides, he felt utterly exhausted and so he sought a comfortable place to bed down for what remained of an unforgettable and heart-rending night.

As he began his search, the smattering of clouds dissipated. He welcomed it very much because now the moon was visible and shone its silvery light over the grounds making it easier for him to find a suitable resting place. Then he thought about the mighty oak tree positioned at a far end of the Manor in a disused part of the grounds. He remembered it had a hollow at the base of its trunk and immediately he went to inspect it. The entrance looked small, he peeked inside, it surprised him to see it offered enough room to curl up. It had a dank, musty odor, but it was shelter and offered adequate protection—more than he could ask for with not having anywhere else to go. He was just grateful to have found somewhere to rest and a place where his ruined home was completely out of sight. He couldn’t bear to look at it again, it was too upsetting. He glanced up and spoke to the moon which now adorned a clear sky. “Thank you,” he said with gratitude. Holding that pleasant thought he turned and wriggled his slender body through the hollow of the oak tree, face towards the opening, paws tucked under his chest. For a while he lay there looking up mesmerized by the blanket of stars wishing he too could be a twinkling star dancing to the rhythm of the universe. He scanned the sky and honed in on the brightest star in the heavens and it was at that precise moment he thought about making a wish. Despite what he’d heard about stray cats and their unfortunate ending, he was sure there had to be some fortunate ones too and so he immediately decided he wanted to be a fortunate one. He would believe miracles can come true.

What have I got to lose, he thought.

With faith and conviction Cyrus made his wish. He instantly felt good about it, it brought comfort to his shattered soul and gave him hope. He took solace in that thought and curled up in his oak tree hideaway. A moderate chill still lingered in the air, but that didn’t concern him, it was the least of his worries. His mind was on other things now, but no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on his wish and of good things to come, his mind wandered, insistent on haunting him, repeatedly replaying his harrowing ordeal over and over in his head. Even the prattling of the resident night creatures made him feel anxious and so tonight sleep escaped him. He was afraid to go to sleep, worried something else might happen to him. As he lay there wide awake the night seemed never ending, he felt as though he’d been in his oak tree hideaway forever. Despite being daunted by the prospect of facing a new day homeless and alone, he yearned for daybreak. He was thinking he’d never see daylight again when the dawn finally appeared, as it always does, and he was glad to see it. His thoughts immediately turned to Mr. Jays. He could accept losing his beautiful home, the home he’d shared with him since a kitten, but losing his loyal companion was too much to bear. He sighed heavily and in that moment he wished he was dead.

I’m not though, I’m still alive, I have to go on,” he said to himself, then promptly diverted his thoughts to his wish because it was the only thing he had to cling to, the only thing he had to believe in now.


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