The Plant Problem, Part 3: Firestorm

Hey, everyone! I know it’s been a while since Jeniah and Starflight came back on, and I know you must be wondering what happened. Well, read on to find out!

Previously:

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.

.

Jeniah and Starflight were out hunting late, and the cannibal plants woke up at sunset; that was the mistake Jeniah meant. Had Jeniah not looked back and saw the setting sun, the plants would have caught them. Now, they will try yet again to get rid of the plants, but there is an unexpected event that just might help them. But what will happen to the plants?

.

Jeniah opened one eye lazily and yawned as he saw the dawn’s light filtering inside the sheltered cave. Getting up slowly, so as not to wake his sister, he padded up to the den entrance and stretched, poking his face out for a breath of fresh air.

It was just as he suspected: the plants were docile at dawn. They were lazily drooping, having eaten their fill during the night, although many of them were still pumping the last of the water out of the dirt from last night’s rain. A few plant heads had fallen off of the stems and lay on the ground, the juice pouring out and feeding the other plants. There were blood and claw marks everywhere. Clearly, the victim had put up a fight.

As Jeniah watched, a still sober plant snatched up the head of a fellow plant, squeezing it to a pulp in the sharp, teeth-like thorns that lined its ‘mouth’. Having absorbed the liquids, it dropped the mush onto the ground, adding to an ever-growing pile of them, before grabbing another one in its huge jaws.

Jeniah pulled himself back inside, eyes wide. Some plants were still dangerous, and they HAD to get rid of them as soon as possible.

He tried to go back to sleep, but he couldn’t, and gave up before all of his wriggling woke Starflight. Instead, he paced back and forth across the cave silently, trying to think of a plan.

“Jeniah, what are you doing?”

Jeniah looked up. Isabella was sitting up in her nest, Jacques still sound asleep by her side. Her fur was ruffled and her eyes half-closed against the bright sunrise, but she was awake all the same.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he confessed. “I was trying to think of a plan to get rid of the plants, and I think I just might have one.”

Isabella nodded and started grooming herself. “Tell me.”

Jeniah quickly explained his plan, until Starflight and Jacques woke and he had to start over again.

“It’s a good plan,” Jacques murmured when he was finished. “You’ve done well.”

“What are we waiting for?” Starflight jumped into the air with excitement. “Let’s go kill those plants!”

“Calm down, Starflight,” Isabella warned. “The plants might not be gone yet.”

“It’s sunrise; they should be,” Jeniah pointed out, padding over to the den entrance again and sticking his head out. “They’re all sedated by the sunlight. It’s safe to come out.”

The others followed him out into the sun. The weather was sweltering that day, with not a drop of moisture in sight. All of the blood from the previous night had dried up, leaving long, brown stains on the rock and the yellowed grass. There were few clouds in the sky, nothing to indicate rain, and there was no life to be seen other than them and the plants. In fact, the plants seemed to be the only healthy living things in the entire forest, seeing as the cats were half-starved.

“We have to hurry,” Jeniah meowed. “This will take a while, and we have to finish before sunset so that we have time to hunt as well before going home.”

“It does no good to us if we starve before reaping our reward,” Jacques meowed. “Let’s get to work.”

Jacques and Isabella left to go get the dirty water for the second part of the plan. Meanwhile, Starflight and Jeniah began to strip the leaves from the plants closest to the hollow. “It was a good thing you remembered that the leaves were the ones that kept the plant alive,” Starflight commented as they worked. “Taking the leaves out would obviously kill them.”

“Don’t forget that we have to keep them from regrowing,” Jeniah mumbled around a mouthful of thick leaf. “The dirty water should poison the plant enough to keep that from happening.”

“How do you know that the dirty water would poison it?” she asked.

“Did you notice that there were no plants near that old pool of dirty water out by the human house? Every plant got killed from some foul substance in it. No doubt it would kill these as well.”

They worked for a while, until Jacques and Isabella came racing back, eyes wild. “Run!” Isabella yowled.

“What happened? Did you get the water?!” Jeniah meowed urgently as he and Starflight raced alongside their parents.

“No, we didn’t get the water.” Jacques was gasping with exhaustion. “A firestorm started in the heat of the day. It was huge!”

Starflight gasped. “A firestorm?”

Jeniah slowed a little as he pondered the thought. He had never seen a firestorm before, but he knew that only the humans and water could put it out.

They stopped for a moment in a small clearing far from the hollow, and even further from where the firestorm started. Thankfully, it was devoid of all killer plants, although the drought had struck hard here as well. “The firestorm’ll be here before long,” Isabella panted. “They travel fast, and never stay in one place.”

“That’s why we must be long gone when it reaches here,” Jacques answered with just as much exhaustion.

“You need to rest,” Jeniah meowed firmly. “We’ve run far enough that it can’t reach us for a while yet. Even if I’ve never seen it,” he added as they opened their mouths to protest, “I know that nothing can EVER travel that fast, or at least nothing harmful.”

“Jeniah’s right.” Starflight spoke up from her perch on a tall rock, where she had decided to keep watch. “From up here, I can see a little of the firestorm, and it is REALLY far away. We should be safe for a while yet.”

Jeniah bounded up to join his sister at the top of the rock. “You can really see the firestorm from up here?”

“Only a little.”

Jeniah gazed out at the large expanse of dark forest.While they were running, he realized, the sun had gone down, but he did not hear the cries of dying wild animals in the darkness like he usually did.

A flicker of orange caught his eye. There was a small movement of the firestorm far into the distance, where a section of forest had burst into flame. As they watched, it moved on to another section, ever spreading in all directions. Luckily, the clouds above were on the verge of bringing down rage. Maybe they’d break before the firestorm spread too much and it would die.

For some time they looked around in silence, watching the firestorm eat up one part of forest after another, while Jacques and Isabella slept peacefully below. When it came closer, Starflight and Jeniah umped down to wake them.

“The firestorm is coming this way,” Jeniah reminded them as their eyes blinked open. “Our best bet is to make our way around it and get back to the already-burned part of the forest. No doubt it will keep spreading everywhere else.”

They nodded and stood up, stretching. Together, the four cats trekked across the forest, taking a detour to avoid the firestorm, but to no avail.

After some time, the air began to get warmer, and an acrid smell filled the space. “Smoke!” Starflight warned.

It was too late to run. Flames raced up the flammable trees, surrounding them and cutting off any escape. They were trapped.

“What are we going to do?!” Starflight meowed desperately, fear lighting her eyes.

“I don’t know!” Isabella wailed just as despairingly. “Jacques?”

He sighed. “Nothing here.”

Jeniah didn’t answer. The fire roaring in his ears, he struggled to think of a plan. Surely there should be someway to get around the fire without being burned to death.

He looked up, and again the sheer hopelessness of their situation crashed down on him. There was nothing they could possibly do to survive.

This was the end.

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