“Where were you last night?” she asked Malcolm, picking him up by the stomach and holding him against the familiar soft fur of her dressing gown. As she stroked his cheeks, his ears and expertly under his chin, he reflected on her question, obediently purring.
Of course, it all started with the ginger tab, recently moved in two streets over. Malcolm had been picking up that strange, foreign scent all of yesterday on his daily prowl over his domain, Baker Street to Whiteshilling Way. He decided to go out that night. He only occasionally did this, to keep the other neighbourhood cats on their feet. Usually he liked spending time with his human at night time: It was night time when they had taken his brother away from the pack. They had been closest, playmates. But when he woke up, his brother was gone. When she was asleep, he’d keep an open eye on the house: setting up patrols. For good measure he’d run laps to keep himself awake, especially before settling down for a few minutes on the bed. He liked to check up on the human. To make sure she was still warm and breathing. But last night, he had ventured out.
The cat flap passed over his head and he gracefully leapt up the garden wall. Malcolm barely registered what he was doing: He had lived here for almost as long as he could remember, after he lost his brother. Instead, he was preoccupied contemplating his furry little problem. All the cats in the neighbourhood knew how things were. Every cat each had their own quarter. Admittedly some larger than others, but how else would you know who ran things around here? It’s every cat for himself nowadays. His own quarter was not the largest, but considerable enough to be avoided by his neighbours. Over time, he had worked hard expand around his plot, reducing that of the cats around him. Reputation was important. It kept things ticking over soundly. Keeping other cats away from your human in the street. They knew Malcolm wasn’t to be messed with. So tonight, he’d have to show the new cat in town the way things worked around here.
There he saw it. Over on the fence of three doors down, an orange flash of bushy tail. On his territory. Something had gone into the nice old lady’s lawn. She always left out her left overs for him every other day without fail. Usually no one would dare touch his food, so it was alright until early morning – before the birds started snooping around. Usually he’d kill a particularly brave one for effect but there’s only so many times you can do that before it gets boring. Easy prey. Occasionally, swatting the odd unsuspecting victim and sinking your fangs in as they squirm has its perks. It certainly left his mark in the neighbourhood. Still, as he slinked across the little maze of fence tops, he saw the ginger newbie go in for the kill. On his left-overs bowl.
He pounced, and the ballet began. Soundlessly, the air barely fluttering against his ears, he flew down from the fence. Landed on his front two paws, he pulled his hindlegs through and started to sprint towards the ginger. His back to him, unknowing of the danger gathering pace behind him as he tucked into the gravy covered chicken. Only the ginger tab’s ears quivered, the ground betraying the slightest vibration. The light pounding of feet. The tab barely registered this information before something shot into his back. Pinning him to the ground. A stomach-wrenching war cry filling his ears.
Right off, Malcolm sensed something jarring. His readiness to cat fight, claws out-stretched in the cool night air, paused. He saw the tab’s face. A jolt of familiarity sparked in Malcolm. What’s more, the tab’s wide headlamp eyes spoke of something more than fear: Recognition. The two felines were poised like statues for what could have been an age, Malcolm pinning the helpless ginger tab beside the bowl of leftovers, the other paw splayed open above his head. The smell pausing the whole scene. Something faintly resonated from somewhere deep. Something old and important lay within this cat’s scent. Never had Malcolm felt anything as deep and overarching as this before, as if a thread was gently pulling him towards this cat.
“Brother?” The ginger cat said, relaxing under his grip slightly. Malcolm was speechless, his mouth lolling open. He too, slackened his hold. “Is it you, brother? It is, isn’t it?” The tab rolled back over on his paws, coming to Malcolm’s eye level.
“You… can’t be,” Malcolm was aghast. After all these years.