“Fire in the Woods” by Lucy Goldberg

Shade had always been afraid of fire. Always. Ever since the fire had killed her brother, Shade never looked back. She was a calico she-cat, who had once been a house cat. Once. Before the fire. Shade didn’t intend to go back to another house that might burn. She preferred to sleep in wide open areas, so she could see fire miles away before it came to her. She sometimes wished she hadn’t left her humans and had waited for the house to be rebuilt. Sometimes. When she forgot about the fire for a few seconds. She supposed doing a nightly fire check was a bit paranoid. But on most days she just preferred to be safe, as she never wanted to be sorry again. Never. Because next time it might be her surrounded flames with no way out. Shade just wished there was something to make her be brave again, like she had been. She had been the first to reach the top of the tree when she lived in the house. The tree. The tree that had caught fire and started the blaze that destroyed Shade’s life, and her one companion.  Shade spent all her time in fear of fire, until her worst fear happened again. The trees of the woods were set on fire by a lightning strike. She heard screaming. Screaming. Something she remembered clearly enough. Against her better judgment, she went to get a closer look, a brown tabby she-cat was running.

“Help me,” she begged Shade. Help. Something Shade thought she could never give. She looked into the flames. She saw the she-cat’s brother trapped. She looked at the panic in the she-cat’s eye. Panic. Something she knew well, and didn’t want anyone to experience every again. Shade steeled herself and thrust her paw towards the tom-cat. She wanted to scream, with he pain in her paw was unbearable. He gently sunk his teeth into it to hold on, and desperately Shade pushed her paw out of the fire, relieved to see the tom-cat was out of the fire. The fur on her paw had burnt out, but all Shade felt was relief. As the three cats ran toward the open area, the tabby and her brother told Shade how she was brave. Brave. Something Shade thought she would never be. Brave. Something Shade was.

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