The night was dark and the streetlights glinted a faded blue wash across the street. It was very quiet. The little houses sat still and motionless, with curtains drawn and nearly everyone sleeping. Mr Katz looked at his watch. He was running late. Work had been so hectic this week and he was starving. He could feel his belly rumbling and his nose twitched, just like it always did when he was hungry. He began dreaming of food, lashings of food, mountains of it, steaming hot, and a nice warm mug of milk to send him off to sleep. He smiled at the idea of it. Nice and warm in bed with a nice mug of milk...tap tap tap… from behind him drifted the sound of footsteps in the dead night. In the distance, but getting louder. He turned to see who was out this late, but could see no-one. Weird. He could hear the steps getting nearer. He stopped whistling and quickened his pace.
Round the corner he went, walking fast, his breathing growing heavier. Behind him he could hear the footsteps approaching nearer and nearer. He turned but could see no-one in the dark. He turned another corner, and the next. Still he could hear the footsteps. Louder and louder. Nearer and nearer. Faster and faster. Mr Katz broke into a run. He dropped his bag and sped round the next corner and the next. And the next. Bang. He stopped all of a sudden.
“Are you alright sir? You seem in a bit of a hurry,” said the female voice. He squinted as he puffed, out of breath, but he could not see her face properly as it was so dark.
“Yes,” said Mr Katz. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was in a bit of a rush…”
“So it seems,” she said. “But you ran in the wrong direction…”
Mr Katz felt someone grab him from behind. He coughed and his heart raced. He went cold.
“You really should have gone the other way,” said the male voice.
Then everything went dark.
Chapter one: follow, follow
Amy awoke and saw her black cat sitting perched on the end of her bed, studying the gleaming moon. She rubbed her eyes and sat up just in time to see Kiwi leap out of the window and on to the ledge below. Amy crept out of bed and peered outside. The cat was standing perfectly balanced on the wooden garden fence, calm and still, her tail perked up. A dark silhouette staring up at the moon. I wonder where she’s going, thought Amy. She crept into her brother James’ room where he was sleeping soundly, and prodded his arm until he woke with a jump.
“What?” he gasped, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “I was dreaming. You really scared me.”
“Come and look.”
“Eh?” He stumbled out of bed and, like a zombie, followed his sister to the window. Gazing out, they could see the black cat still sitting on the fence.
“She has been sitting there for ages,” said Amy.
“Maybe she’s stretching,” he shrugged.
They watched, but Kiwi didn’t stretch. Instead she leapt off the fence and stood on the path, looking up at the moon.
“Now that’s weird. That’s what I’m talking about,” said Amy. “She’s thinking about something.”
“I wonder where she goes at night,” James mused.
“Hunting mice,” grinned Amy.
“Yuk, she wouldn’t. Would she?”
“Tell you what, I’m going to follow her and see…”
“You’re crazy,” gasped James. “It’s 1am and mum will kill you.”
“I want to see what she has for breakfast,” Amy laughed. “Don’t you?”
“Yuk! That’s grim,” said James, screwing up his face.
Amy wandered back to her room with her little brother following, half-asleep and a bit confused.
“So you’re coming then?” asked Amy, putting on her shoes and jacket.
“Errm,” he murmured as his sister crept out of the room on tiptoes. “Okay, but if she catches anything I’m not touching it…”
James slid on his trainers, jeans and jacket, and crept down the stairs after his sister, being careful not to make a sound. He could hear his dad snoring like a sleeping dragon. The sound echoed off of every wall. They tiptoed to the back door and slowly opened it on its creaky hinges. It was so loud. Ahh.
Kiwi was still sitting in the middle of the garden, staring up at the moon. Holding their breath they slowly closed the door without a sound. Turning around, they were just in time to see Kiwi plunge over the fence in a single bound. The two children looked at one another, raised eyebrows, and ran to the bottom of the garden to the gate. Out they went, giggling. It was a warm summer night without a breeze. In the field beyond the gate, trees soared up against the night sky, jagged and spectre-like. Without the shine of the moon it would have been completely dark. James shivered, but he had already decided that he was not going to look scared, even if he was.
“There she goes,” pointed Amy, as they bounded across the field towards the black tail that bobbed above the grass in the distance.
They chased and chased. The black cat ran and ran. They swerved between trees and the black cat just kept running. The children started to puff and pant. “Kiwi!” they yelled.
Suddenly, the cat’s ears pricked up and she stopped with a jump. Caught unawares, the little black cat turned around, her yellow eyes wide and enquiring. “Are you two following me?”
Amy and James stopped dead in their tracks. James sat down on the grass with a bump, his mouth wide open. Amy wanted to say something, but she couldn’t speak.
“Well, are you?” asked Kiwi, standing up straight and resting one paw on her hip. “It’s a bit late to be out playing you know.”
Kiwi grinned the biggest, widest grin and flicked her tail. She sat down and started washing, knowing that she had just given her two playmates the biggest shock of their lives. She carried on washing her paw, flicked out a claw, and waited for a reply. It was a long time coming.
The children were transfixed, rooted to the spot. Cold fingers of air travelled up their spines and made all of the hairs on their necks stand up. Amy gulped. Was she dreaming?
“What’s wrong?” laughed Kiwi. “Cat got your tongue?”
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” Amy sat down with a thump.
“Yooouuuu taaaallllkkkkk,” James stuttered.
“Well, what were you expecting? Sign language?” asked Kiwi matter-of-factly.
“But, we can understand you,” mumbled Amy, pinching her arm. Ouch. She wasn’t dreaming. Could this be real after all?
“Well, I know several languages,” explained Kiwi. “It comes in handy. So you WERE following me? Ha ha!”
“Sort of,” said James. “We were wondering what you ate for breakfast.”
“Like mice?” asked Kiwi, grinning.
Kiwi laughed. “I have more important things to do. And mice taste funny. Errr. Not good. And mice have feelings too. They’re very intelligent you know. I have several good friends who are mice….” Kiwi stopped talking as the two children sat open-mouthed in shock, blinking oddly.
“Ok, well, enough of that,” she carried on. Best to change the subject. “I was joking. I don’t have any mouse friends! Well, you see that moon up there? See how it’s really bright and glowing?”
The kids nodded.
“And see how it’s shaped like a cat’s claw?”
“I guess…” said James.
“Well, nights like these are not ordinary nights,” said the cat, looking straight at the boy.
James shivered. “Why?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer. Was Kiwi going to eat them?
“Well,” said Kiwi slowly, “if you really want to know… why don’t you follow me some more?”
It was a challenge. The cat was grinning from ear to ear now. Amy was cold and scared. She could only stare awkwardly as though hypnotised while her brother chatted to the cat… the cat…. THE CAT! She felt dizzy.
After a few more minutes, Kiwi gazed back at the moon. It seemed even brighter. She got up. “There is no more time to lose. I have to go now. Are you coming?” She flashed her big, yellow eyes.
James sprung to his feet. “I’m coming,” he announced.
“No,” called Amy as James started to follow the little black cat. “I’m scared. Don’t follow. This is too weird…”
But James didn’t listen and carried on walking. Amy pulled herself to her feet and looked behind her. The field was empty. It must be about 2am by now, if not later. Their parents would be getting up in a few hours for work. Morning was fast approaching. What should she do? She couldn’t let her brother go alone. What if he got lost? “Wait!” she shouted, and charged after her brother and her suddenly talking cat. Things were not how they were meant to be today.
Chapter two: as easy as one, two, three
“Come on,” said Kiwi. “We’re nearly there.”
“Where?” asked James, glancing around at the big, open and completely empty field. All around the edges, the tall trees loomed, stretching up like a giant, natural wall.
“Here,” said Kiwi.
“But there’s nothing here,” said James, cold and slightly impatient. Not only could his pet cat talk, but she was also clearly crazy.
“There’s more than the eye can see,” said Kiwi, gazing up with her big, yellow saucer eyes. “Just follow what I do. And concentrate. It’s easy.”
The cat sat down and stared up at the moon. “One, two, three, a flick of the tail, a purr, a leap and away we go…”
Puff! She vanished. All that remained was a strange, glowing, purple mist.
“She disappeared!” cried Amy, turning round in a circle. “I can’t see her. Can you?”
“Your turn,” he said quietly.
“What? Are you crazy? She‘s just hiding in the grass,” said Amy.
“You go first, like she says…”
Amy looked annoyed. “You can’t be serious. You’re not suggesting…”
James nodded. “You’re the oldest.”
“No way!” she replied. “I haven’t got a tail to flick and I’m pretty sure I can’t purr…”
“I think you’re meant to imagine one…”
“You’re mad,” said Amy.
“Mmm I’m going to try,” sighed James, and he starting counting out loud.” One, two…”
“Ok, Ok,” cried Amy, clenching her fists to her sides. “Now straight after this I’m taking you home. Okay?”
And so, Amy flicked her imaginary tail, which was pretty long in her mind, purred and leapt up into the air – into nothing, or something? She couldn’t make it out. She had this amazing feeling of pure weightlessness as if her body weighed nothing. It also felt smaller, and she seemed to be floating. All around, everything was purple…
“Wow, it worked,” shouted James, jumping up and down. And he collapsed into giggles. “Cool!”
In the spot where his sister had jumped, only a puff of purple mist was left. Now it’s my turn, he thought, and turning round with a one, two, three and a flick of his imaginary tail, a purr and a leap, away he went to who-knows-where. A feeling of sheer weightlessness gave him the impression that he was flying. Wild! But where was he flying to?
“Ahem, the landing can sometimes be a bit difficult until you get used to it,” grinned Kiwi, washing her nose with a paw as Amy found herself collapsed in a heap on the floor. “You’ll have to get used to being on four feet now!”
“Four?” Amy stuttered, bewildered.
“Sure, look down and see how many feet you’ve got.”
“Eeeeeek!” Kiwi was right. Not one, not two, not three, but four feet were attached to her new body – but they were not feet, they were paws!! Fluffy black and white paws! “No!” Amy jumped backwards and fell over. But the biggest shock of all was the big white fluffy tail that wiggled out like a worm behind her. “Oh no!” she cried, and then fell over again trying to chase round in a circle to check out the tail more clearly. “Ahhh”, she yelled, and then a small laugh bubbled up inside her, spilling over until she couldn’t stop. She rolled over on her back with her legs in the air. All four of them. “I have a tail! A tail!” And she laughed some more.
Just at that moment, James fell through the sky and bounced on the ground with a little “ouch”.
Except that, of course, it wasn’t quite James. Well, it was and it wasn’t. James was now a little, tabby kitten with a very pink nose. He wobbled a bit on his new feet when he walked, with his tail stuck up like a radar.
“Where’s Amy?” he asked as he sat down, a bit dazed.
“Don’t you recognise her?” grinned Kiwi, nodding towards the little black-and-white cat, who sat bright-eyed and staring at him.
“No, really, where is she? Is she okay?”
“I can see this is going to take a while,” said Kiwi, taking charge. “Amy meet James, James meet Amy. No, you’re not dreaming. Yes you have a tail.”
“No, you’re joking…”
“I’m afraid she’s not,” purred Amy in her feline voice.
“Ah,” shouted James and fell over. He noticed that Amy still had her flowery necklace on. “It can’t be true! Hey, what’s that? Hey, I’ve got a tail! Wow! And four paws. No way! This tail is really bushy…”
Amy started giggling. Kiwi raised an eyebrow. It was going to be a long night. Humans!