The Plant Problem, Part 2: Sunstrike

We left off when Jeniah and his family are trapped in the hollow among the cannibal plants. Read on to see what happens next!

Previously:

“When morning strikes, we could start the day by pulling out as many of these plants as possible, as many as we come across,” Starflight piped up. “We can start with those closest to the hollow, to ensure our safety, and then the ones in the training hollow. We can also eliminate any that we see on our hunting routes, so that even if we can’t find any prey, we’ll have limited the number of prey- and cat- eating plants.”

Jeniah nodded in agreement. “Excellent plan, Starflight,” he meowed, glad that she could keep a cool head in the face of danger.

“For now, we’ll have to sleep on it,” Jacques meowed sternly. “No use for that great plan if you’re too tired come morning.”

With an annoyed sigh, Jeniah and Starflight settled in their nest at the back of the hollow. They watched Jacques and Isabella lie down in front of the den’s tiny entrance. Jeniah rested his head on his sister’s flank with a worried look on his face.

“Oh, Starflight, will this nightmare ever end?”

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This is where I left off. Continue! 😀

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Morning dawned, bright and early, and with that the sight of the back-to-normal plants. “My theory was correct!” Jeniah mewed happily as he and Starflight trotted out of the hollow side-by-side.

“That it was,” Jacques purred. “Starflight, let’s put your plan into action.”

They set off in pairs. Starflight and Jeniah headed off to the training hollow, while Jacques and Isabella worked to clear the ones near the hollow.

When the two kittens reached the training hollow, they were met by a horrifying sight. The sandy floor had been kicked up and dust hung heavy in the air. The plants loomed tall and thick all over the place, and dead tree leaves and rotting rodent carcasses littered the ground.

“They did all that…overnight?!” Starflight whispered in dismay. “No way!”

Jeniah looked up to where the canopy of leaves once grew. Sunlight streamed in through the broken gap, where it only once dappled the soft floor.

“Starflight, look.”

She looked up at where Jeniah was looking. “Oh, no,” she murmured. “The plants must’ve torn it apart.”

Jeniah glanced back at the center of the hollow, which was filled with the killer plants. He knew now what was wrong.

“Starflight, there’s no fixing this. This hollow will never be the same again, and neither will our memories of it. We might as well leave it for the rest of the forest.”

“Well, we can’t just leave it for another poor unfortunate coming along here,” Starflight mewed defiantly, padding over to start nibbling at the tall, thick stalks. “We’ll kill it, but just leave it here for others to know.”

They worked all morning, biting through the tough green strands and tossing them aside as the long stalks came off. Finally, they were done, and they stepped back to survey their work.

The stumps of the plant stems, clustered together in the center of the clearing, shone in the bright mid-morning sunlight that filtered through the broken leaf canopy above. The actual plant heads were torn off and cast onto the dusty ground, withering and dying fast where it lay. Water seeped out of the broken stems and squashed heads, soaking into the ground.

“Now that that’s done,” Jeniah suggested, “why don’t we go through the forest? We can hunt and bite through more of them. The others surely wouldn’t be this thick, so it’ll be easier to tear them out of the ground without leaving these ugly stumps in the ground.”

“Good idea, let’s go.” Starflight trotted off on our normal hunting route, leaving Jeniah to follow hurriedly.

Nightfall approached, and by then Starflight and Jeniah had not only gotten rid of all of the killer plants they had come across but also caught two squirrels, a robin, a mouse, and a skinny rabbit to take back to their parents. They could eat better that night knowing that more and more prey would be coming back. After all, it was the season of sunstrike, when the sun was shining its brightest, it was hot and humid, but most of the prey came out to play. Once the plants were out of the picture, the prey would survive, the drought would recede, and everything would be perfect.

Suddenly, Jeniah looked back. The light was fading fast, and they had yet to get back to the hollow.

“Starflight, we have to go now!” Jeniah cried out in alarm, dropping the rabbit and robin he held in his mouth. “The sun is setting and the Yennefig plants will soon be waking!”

Starflight’s eyes widened as she glanced back at the setting sun. “Sundown already,” she murmured worriedly through a mouthful of squirrel fur. “We must hurry.”

Jeniah picked up his prey. Together, they raced through the forest, leaping over fallen trees and ducking to avoid the snapping jaws of the killer Yennefig. They arrived, panting, at the mouth of the hollow, where they jumped down and dropped their prey in the center.

Jacques and Isabella were beside them in an instant. “Where have you been?!” Isabella fretted. “Are you hurt?”

“We’re not hurt,” Jeniah meowed. “We were hunting and removing the killer plants, but we went too far. We were walking back when I saw it was sundown, and we ran back here before the rays were fully gone.”

“Maybe you two shouldn’t be hunting alone,” Jacques meowed. “If another mishap like that happened, you could get seriously hurt…or worse.”

“We got away safely,” Starflight replied indignantly. “And sunstrike season was a big help. It takes a longer time for the sun to go down this season, so we’re able to come back just as the sun begins to set.”

“You can’t stop them from hunting on their own, Jacques,” Isabella meowed. “They can look after themselves and each other better than we can keep an eye on them the entire time. They know each other’s minds better than how all cats know when to wake up or go to sleep!”

She turned to the kittens. “Promise you won’t make that mistake again?”

“We promise,” they chorused. Starflight yawned, opening her tiny mouth wide to reveal sharp teeth.

“You’d better go to sleep now, young ones,” Jacques purred. “Don’t hurt yourselves tomorrow when hunting.”

Jeniah made his way over to the corner of the cave where he and Starflight usually slept. Starflight stumbled with tiredness, but Jeniah helped her settle down. As he rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes, he couldn’t help thinking: Tomorrow, we MUST be more careful. Who knows what would’ve happened had I not looked back? We can’t afford to make that same mistake ever again.

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