2016
01.20

This is a story I wrote for someone I used to know.  It’s about our friendship and our differences, in the most convoluted and indirect way imaginable.  This one is much more cheerful, though, and ends much better than our actual friendship did, even if the reasons are the same in both.

Content warnings: It’s not that bad.  There is killing in it, but only mentioned in passing.  I also mention bugs and spiders and stuff, but it should not be very triggery I think.  There is a person with no compassion and empathy.

There was once a kitten who was all alone amongst the humans.  She could not understand their brokenness or their ways, so she left the house of her humans – who weren’t particularly good to her – and wandered off out into the dark, unknown woods.

Her paws were wary and cautious, and the scent of dew-covered moss and morning, the sight of the dancing morning mist and the sounds of the awakening birds were all new to her, intoxicated her lonely heart.

Then suddenly before her stood a tiger cub (but she did not know what this creature was back then; she only saw a kitten so much bigger and more powerful than she was) and it tilted its head as it looked at her.  For a moment they both just stood there, looking at each other.  The kitten was awed by the tiger cub: the bright colours of its fur so unlike the kittens own, boring greytabbyness; the wild eyes and the tense muscles under the fur, but she wasn’t afraid because she did not yet know why she should fear this creature.  Instead she just stood there, admiring it.
The tiger cub relaxed a bit, then smiled.
It asked: “I see that you are alone, no more than a kitten.  Have you learnt how to hunt yet?”
The kitten shook her head and sat down.
“I just left the house where they used to feed me because I was tired of being alone.  I left to see what life looks and feels like.”
“Then I will teach you to hunt and I will show you what life feels like,” said the tiger cub.  “You are a kitten, but you can be my kitten and we will not be alone any more.”

And so the tiger cub – who was a bit older than the kitten and had already learnt how to hunt – wandered off into the forest and the kitten followed.  The tiger cub led on and showed the kitten the forest, how the land laid, where the rivers were and taught her how to hunt.
And hunted together they did: they hunted mice, rats, rabbits, birds and eventually even greater prey.  They hunted a lot and they both grew.  The tiger cub grew up to be a big, powerful tiger who moved with grace and no hesitation in her paws, and the kitten grew up into a small grey tabby, with the same grace and a smaller, swifter power.

The tiger liked hunting and would often hunt for fun.  One day when it and the cat had hunted and caught their prey, the cat looked at the prey under her paws while eating and asked the tiger:
“Is it really right of us to hunt and kill these creatures?  They are alive, just like us, and they hurt and hunger, just like us.  The birds sing for us in the morning and when we are going to sleep; the deer makes us paths in the snow so that we can get through it easier; the rabbits look after the grass…”
“Of course it is right, my dear,” the tiger answered, licking the blood off its paws.  “Aren’t our claws bigger?  Aren’t our fangs sharper?  Would they be so big and sharp if we weren’t meant to use them?”
The cat was silent for a moment and then she said: “I don’t think we were meant to use our claws like this.  I think that perhaps we are made to hunt, but I don’t think we should take lives for fun.  I think we were made to hunt when we were hungry, for survival, but not like this.”
The tiger shrugged and continued eating.  The cat pondered a moment, then excused herself from dinner to wander off and think for a while.

So the cat wandered around in the forest that was so familiar and safe by now.  Her paws were stable and her steps without hesitation.  She sat down on a stone boulder and looked at all the life around her; the growing plants; the playing rodents; the flying and singing birds.  All of them were alive, just like her, and she realized that the tiger had only shown her a small part of life.  The tiger had only shown her their two lives – but life was not only about them!  Life was all around; life was in the whispering trees, in the wild animals, even in the deep water of the river and in the ever changing sky!
Looking down on the boulder she sat on she saw tiny bugs on it as they were going about on their daily lives, and there!  On the trees!  Smaller than any bird – so small the cat had not even really thought of them before – sat tiny flies and moths!
The cat curled up and thought of all this and decided that no matter how confident the tiger was that what they were doing was right the cat just could not believe in that same thing herself.

The tiger found the cat the next day, where she was still remaining on the boulder.  Once again the cat asked the tiger if it really thought it was right of them to hunt and kill all those other creatures for their own amusement and the tiger insisted.
“They are not like us,” the tiger said.  “They are not like us.  They are inferior and weak.  They are small and insignificant, my dear, unlike us.”
“But they are just like us!” the cat exclaimed with a little jump straight into the air.  “Look! Look! Can’t you see them?!  They are singing, dancing, growing and living all around us!  You said you would show me life, but you only showed me a part of life; a part just as tiny as the one I had inside the house.  You never told me about this!  You never told me about the life of the birds, or the life of the river, or the life of the gently fluttering moths!”
The tiger looked at the cat, not even attempting to hide the confusion in its eyes.
“I showed you our life.  The only meaningful life.  I taught you how to hunt, how to read the scent of prey, how to find water and shelter.  What more could you possibly want?”
“But the song of the birds, you never taught me.  The songs of the river, you never taught me.  The dance of the moths and butterflies, you never taught me.  And they are also a part of life.”
Just then a small spider came running over the boulder.  Seeing the sudden movement the tiger swiftly hit it with its paw, immediately killing it.  The cat stared at the tiger in shock and at that moment she learnt why she should fear this creature; this creature had no compassion or understanding for anything or anyone except for itself and that made it incredibly dangerous.
Noticing the shock of the cat the tiger tilted its head.
“Don’t be upset, my dear: it was only a spider.  There are plenty of them and no one cares about a spider.”
“Then you have nothing more to teach me,” said the cat, still staring at the tiger.  “I will go on my own and learn life for myself, but I will still join you for hunting when I am hungry and need to hunt, if you will let me.  I will still be here for you for we are both children of the same forest, you and I.  We only felt alone because we did not realize that we are not alone; we are surrounded by the other children of the forest but you do not consider them.”
The tiger narrowed its eyes and bared its teeth in an angry snarl at the cat and the cat got terrified but did not flee.  Instead she slowly put one of her tiny, grey paws on the paw the tiger had used to kill the spider and with tears in her eyes she purred soothingly to the furious creature.
“I love you dearly and I will always respect you for what you are.  I will always be grateful for what you gave me and what you taught me.  Even if you cannot see it you’re just as graceful as the butterflies and your growl is as beautiful as the morning song of the birds.  Your fur is like the colour of the sunrise mixed with the darkness of the deepest night, and your eyes are as bright and burning as the sun.  But you are also just a part of the forest, like me.  We are just two creatures out of the many creatures of these woods.  You are also alive, but you are burning with rage and hate and they blind you…  My dear friend, I will not leave you.  I will never leave you.  I will just wander by myself but I shall return to you.  Because even if I have to see more of life and other sides of life than the ones you can offer and teach me, you are still also a part of life and so are hunting, killing, hate and rage.  We can rage together and hunt together, but we cannot sing together and we will never see the water or the trees the same way.”
The tiger looked down on the tiny paw and stopped growling.
“I don’t sing,” said the tiger scornfully.  “Songs are unnecessary and won’t get the hunting done.”
“Then please let me sing for you,” said the cat, very gently.  “If you do not sing, at least allow me to sing for you, my beautiful, broken friend.”

And so the cat sang for the tiger: a song about the forest and the swiftly flowing water.  And drumming with her paws against the boulder she sat on she sang of the thrill of the hunt; the tracking of the prey, the chase, the kill, the taste of warm, fresh blood.  Purring softly, she sang quietly of the night that comes with rest for tired paws and weary, raging hearts.  Joyfully she sang about pleasant dreams that let even hateful creatures smile for a moment in their sleep.  Stretching up, she sang about the rising sun and the dawn turning grey mist into the gold and copper of the tiger’s fur and how the sun would burn and glow like her friend’s eyes.

And the tiger realized that the cat was a creature to be feared, because she had the grace and power of the hunter that she had grown to become and yet she sang like the birds and drummed with her paws to the boulder like a sometimes soft, sometimes hard rain.  Her eyes were clear like the autumn air, and her fur was the grey of the night time mist, and her gaze was as deep as the dark river.
When the cat had stopped her singing the tiger bowed its head and whispered;
“Then please, come and hunt with me when you are hungry, and when you sing together with the birds and dance your dance with the butterflies, please remember me.  Dance and sing for me who cannot dance and sing and I will watch you.  I will not understand, but I will listen and I will watch.”

So the cat wandered off by herself and the tiger wandered off by itself.  When the cat was hungry she would find the tiger and the tiger would join her to hunt with her.  And when they went to sleep together in the soft, dew-covered moss at night, the cat would sing quiet and gentle songs for the tiger and the tiger would smile as it slept and dreamt.

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