Chapter 12. Our Island

Chapter Twelve

Our Island

April 28th

As the sun slowly creeps over the horizon, I see the island. It is round, but it is bordered with huge red and gold cliffs. They are covered in small grass covered ledges. At the base of these cliffs, there is fine golden sand. A waterfall flows off the cliffs, and runs along a bed of smooth golden pebbles until it gets to the sea. Low tide reveals more golden sand, and a trail of smooth red and gold stepping stones, which lead out to a larger rock, which I think must show at high tide as well. Then I turn to look at the top of the island. In the very centre, there is a tall tower made out of precariously balancing red and gold boulders. It is surrounded by more fine, golden sand. The top of the island is covered in dense forest. This, I decide will be our new home.

I wake up everyone else, and we get ready for a long day.

It reminds me of when Daddy renovated!” Says Gryffon. Then we all start to climb the cliffs.

On the way, I raid several seagull nests, for me, Lil, Clary, Wilfred and Honeybee. The eggs are hard to get. Wilfred shouts at the seagulls to get them off the ledges, then I quickly dive in to get the eggs. Once, the neighbouring seagull (who already has chicks) catches me at, and decides that I would be a good breakfast for her newly hatched chicks. She grabs me in her claws, about to tear me into pieces, when the other seagull returns, and crashes straight into her. She lets me go, and tries to find more prey for her chicks to eat.

When we get to the top, the first thing that has to happen is finding a home. We travel all over the huge, round island, and finally, we find a large cave in the base of the balancing tower in the middle of the island. It has small branches, and enough rooms that we can each have one bedroom. It also has a storage room, a kitchen, a dining room and the room that we spend most of our time inside in, the room with all Wilfred’s comfy cushions, all of my leftover blankets and mattresses, a few home made squishy armchairs, some beanbags, a rug… Just anything that can make our house comfy and warm. We install lights, to brighten it up a bit, and add paintings and pictures on the walls. We frequently travel to the floating tip, and collect everything that we think will be useful.

I help Autumnbird make a fleet of rafts, all of them just like Wavebreaker. We name one Sea Eagle, one Sprayglider, one Albatross, and one Bluewave. Albatross and Wavebreaker are built for long sea journeys, while Bluewave, Sea Eagle and Sprayglider specialise in short trips, like to the floating tip and back.

I decide to be part of the boat crew, (which consists of me, Lil, Honeybee, Springleaf, Sunflash and Wilfred,) who travel once a month to the closest Human populated land. (Which is about four nights away.) There, we steal food from stores, and load it all onto Albatross until there’s no more room in the cargo shelves. Then we sail back, with supplies of food that will last us at least another month.

After more exploration of the island, we discover that the stream actually flows in a loop around the island, then joins together, and flows off.

There is plenty of food for all of us, including the vegetarians. We scavenge food from the floating tip, but the best stuff comes from the island itself. The trees grow macadamia, mangos and coconuts. I love all of it. I use the coconut shells as decoration in my room, and I have collected a secret stash of mangos. I eat them whenever I feel hungry. We are very happy, and I feel that the interesting part of our story is over at last.

The End! (Finally.)

I hope you liked my story!

Chapter 11. Some Recruits for our Gang

Chapter Eleven

Some Recruits for our Gang

April 19th

Coming round the corner, there is a huge raft. It is filled with two wallabies, three sugar gliders, and two New Holland mice.

Oh! Hello there!” says a cheery young mouse. “In case you’re wondering why we’re here-” An older mouse shushes her up.

Shh, Sunflash! We still don’t know whether they’re spies for the cats or not!”

Spies for the cats?” Pipes up a sugar glider sceptically. “With Deadeyes as their leader, they’d kill and eat the poor creatures right away!”

True.” Says the older mouse. “By the way, I’m Autumnbird.”

Buttergrass” says the oldest sugar glider.

Fernflower!” Says the older wallaby.

I’m Springleaf.” Says the other wallaby, bowing comically and holding out a paw. “How do you do?” We all laugh.

I think you already know, but I’m Sunflash.”

I’m Basil” Says another sugar glider.

And I’m very naughty, so I don’t want to introduce myself!” Says the only sugar glider left. Then he runs off, and leaps into the water.

That’s Gryffon! He’s really cheeky, especially when we have guests!” Buttergrass leaps up.

Gryffon! Oh, you little demon! Come back here right this second!” Gryffon regretfully doggy paddles back to the raft.

Now we’re all here, we can tell you how we got here!” says Fernflower. “Springleaf can tell you!”

It all started quite a while back. A patrol of cats took Gryffon, and we, of course, went after him. There used to be more of us…All of them except one strangers. We were captured, and all the strangers… They were put into Rat Stew…”(I gulp. Now I know what that red sauce was made out of!) “And I think my best friend Lil was too.” Lil had been staring at Springleaf for quite a while. Then she jumps up. “Springleaf! It’s me, Lil! I didn’t get put in the Rat Stew! I’m right here!!!”

Lil? Lil!! I’m sorry I didn’t recognise you sooner! Lil! It’s so great to see you again! By the way, do you want to hear the rest of the story? I was enjoying telling it to you!”

Why not? Get going, Springleaf!”

Okay! Well, then the cats got taken by some Humans. We managed to get out through the bars, and then we didn’t like it in town because there were too many cats! So we built this raft, then came here!”

Ummm… Can we join you?”

Sure!” We all climb aboard.

The next morning, I wake up, and find that I am yet again the first person awake. I overturn the raft to wake my friends up. Lil is the first. She shakes off all the water on her.

Stanley, your body clock must have gone berserk.” Once everyone is awake, we decide to forage through the driftwood, and see what useful things we can find. I take a large area far away from the raft. I look in all the boxes. In one, there are a few balls of string, and in another, loads and loads of wool. I am silently thankful that Granny taught me how to knit and sew before she died. I make a small floating platform out of planks, and start knitting a blanket. When it’s done, I find a box of old Human clothes, and a pair of scissors. I start sewing more blankets, of many sizes and shapes. Once I have sewn twenty, I find some stuffing, and make several large mattresses. Then I grab a couple of planks, and use them as paddles. I row back to the main raft. Lil is already there.

Stanley! Let’s wait till all the others get back, and then we can see what everyone found!”

An hour later, everyone is back. First to share their load are Lil and Clary.

We found this!” Clary empties a box of nails onto the deck. Next are Springleaf and Fernflower. They dump armfuls of planks onto the deck. Autumnbird and Sunflash add two hammers, some more planks, and an old slice of cheese. Sunflash takes the hammer and a few nails and planks, and starts to enlarge our raft. Next, Wilfred empties out a box of cushions. Buttergrass, Basil and Gryffon step forward, carrying between them three boxes. One is full of nuts, another filled with dried fruit, and yet another topped up with carrots, capsicum and cucumber. Honeybee puts down more planks, a long pole, and a large cloth. Finally, I step onto deck, dragging my pile of mattresses and blankets with me. Then I row my raft to Sunflash, and she hammers it in, chanting an ancient mouse song as she works.

Be a mouse,

Pick off a louse,

Live in the forest but don’t go near a house!

Pick those peas,

Eat that cheese,

Swim in the lake and swing in the trees!”

Where did you learn that song?!”

Mouse school. At school camp, we sung it around the camp fire while eating apple and apricot tarts, topped with mint cream! Ah, the happy days! But then, of course, the cats came…You know what happened next.” I walk away, then notice that something is happening in the middle of the raft. I wander over. Springleaf, Lil and Honeybee are trying to hoist a huge pole upright.

Lend a paw, will you?!” Asks Lil. I grab one side, and we all lift the pole up. Basil and Buttergrass start to nail it to the deck, while Gryffon runs around stealing nails. When the mast is well and truly hammered in, me and Honeybee climb up the mast, and add a sail, made out of my best blanket. Then we walk over to Autumnbird, Sunflash and Wilfred, who are constructing a sheltered hut in the middle of the deck. We join in, hammering planks into the deck. Autumnbird breaks off, and starts making a door. Two hours later, it is finally done. I drag a mattress inside. The hut is just big enough too fit mattresses for everyone. Then we dump blankets all over. Wilfred brings in his cushions too use as pillows.

The whole crew of our new boat stay up late too decide the name for our new boat. At eleven o’clock on the dot, we finally decide to call it Wavebreaker. Springleaf writes the name on the sail,then we all stumble inside the shelter hut, and collapse, fast asleep.

I wake up, at about half past one. The first thing I become aware of is the boat’s stillness. I get up. The stars are still twinkling happily in the velvet sky. Then I see why the boat has stopped. We have hit land! I try to get back to sleep, but I can’t. So instead, I go outside, and lie on my back, watching the stars. After a few hours, the first rays of sun creep over the horizon, illuminating the island for the first time.

Chapter 10. The Endless Sea

Chapter Ten

The Endless Sea

April 8th

Me, Lil and Honeybee are trapped in a gigantic storm. Yesterday, we were separated from the others by a huge wave. We tried to swim towards them, but it turned out to be the opposite direction. While they rode the gentle waves into calm waters, we swam right into the biggest storm I have ever seen. The waves are like huge grey-blue mountains, some towering so high that I can hardly see the top of them. A bolt of white hot lightning flashes down from the dark sky, answered almost immediately with the deep, growling rumble of thunder. Huge hailstones rain down on my unprotected back. A giant wave pulls me under, and I bob back to the surface, gasping for air, only to be dragged back into the depths by yet another monster wave. Something nudges my foot, and I open my mouth to yell, filling my gasping lungs with water. The urge for oxygen is taking over. I try to struggle back to the surface, but fail. My burning lungs plead for air. I’m about to drown. Just as the darkness is about to close in on me, a strange thought comes into my head. If I die now, Bloodfur won’t be able to get revenge! (Of course, she probably won’t be able to get revenge anyway. Last I saw her, she was first course for a shark’s dinner.) I sink down with a sigh. Everything goes black.

The first thing I hear when I wake up is Honeybee.

Stanley! You really scared us! We thought you were dead-”

Until you spewed up all of that water directly onto the top of my head-”

Lil! You can’t blame Stanley for that! He was unconscious!”

Anyway, he still needs care. And air.”

True.” I listen to this conversation, still to weak to join in.

Stanley, how are you?” Asks Honeybee. All I manage is a feeble cough.

There there, Stanley. Go to sleep.”

When I wake up again, I have just enough strength to soak in my surroundings. We are still in the middle of the ocean, but we seem to have stopped on a huge sandbank, which has a tiny, tree covered island barely big enough to accommodate me, Lil and Honeybee in the middle. Lil gently passes me a hot cup of lemon ginger tea.

Drink this. It will help you feel better.” I obey, soaking the warmth into my shivering body. Then I close my eyes, and fall yet again into a deep, long healing sleep.

When I wake next, I feel like myself again. I shake my sore muscles, and dive into the water around the sandbank to cool off. Only then do I realise that the sun has only just appeared above the horizon. Lil stumbles sleepily onto the tiny beach.

I see you’re up and well then. We will get going tomorrow.”

We spend the rest of the day packing for our journey. Lil and Honeybee try to chop up some trees to make a raft, but all they manage to get is a small log, barely big enough for me to sit on. I pack two bags full of lemons, three bags of fresh herbs, two bags of ginger, a bag of cinnamon bark, and three bags of water. We stuff them into a hollow log, (Well, not really a log. It’s more like a stick.) then, since all of our packing is done, we decide to play around the sandbank. Lil thinks she saw a shark, but I think it was just a big fish. Finally, at sunset, we stumble back to our makeshift beds, and collapse into them, ready for a good, long sleep.

The next morning, I get up early. Lil and Honeybee are still asleep, so I decide to pour handfuls of freezing sea water over them to rouse them. Lil stretches her legs.

Okay, okay. We’re getting up.” I pour some more water over her. Honeybee opens her eyes, then leaps up.

Stanley! Lil! Let’s get going!”

Alright.” Says Lil. “Where’s the log?”

I’ll get it!” I say. I race over to the corner of the island, grab the log, and drag it back to Lil and Honeybee.

Great!” Says Honeybee. “Let’s get going!” We dump the log in the water, hold onto it with our front paws, and paddle like mad with our back ones. Soon, we are out of the sandbank. We paddle into open sea for breakfast, which is a third of a lemon each, and a few handfuls of sea lettuce. Lil licks the salt from her paws, then steals the rest of my sea lettuce.

Yum! Food tastes absolutely AMAZING when you’re starving!”

You’re not paying attention! While you were talking about food, I spotted something that looks like land on the horizon!” Says Honeybee.

Land! Really!?” Lil stares at Honeybee.

Go see for yourself!” Lil looks towards the horizon, and there actually is a dark smudge that looks like land!

Paddle, everyone! Paddle, paddle, paddle!” I shout. Lil, Honeybee and I are now paddling like mad beasts towards the smudge on the horizon. After a couple of hours, our legs start to tire, and Lil announces that it is officially lunchtime. I reach into the herbs bag, and make a small salad with lemon dressing. It is just big enough for each of us to have a small serving. Lil thoughtfully sprinkles shreds of sea lettuce over her salad. When she catches me staring in disgust at the stuff, she tells me that just because I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t. Later, she sprinkles large amounts of sea lettuce on my leftovers, and when I say that I don’t want it, she scoffs the remains. Honeybee tries to talk over a huge mouthful of salad.

Dish shalad ish dewishosh! Anyun ‘ave ‘eftoversh?”

No.” Says Lil. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t give ‘em to ya, ya greedy overstuffed eating machine!”

Gweedy? Overshtuffed? I’sh cawl you de gweedy, overshtuffed ‘un ‘ere!”

Yeah, but you’re still the eating machine!” We paddle onwards.

The next morning, we reach the smudge. It’s not land. In fact, it’s actually a patch of driftwood, fishing nets, planks, old boxes…just the general flotsam that floats around, left over from a flood. Then Honeybee spots a battered old freezer. Lil leaps over, tearing it open. I walk over, using a few planks as stepping stones. The freezer is full of food! There are slices of cheese, bags of apples, tubs of yoghurt, bottles of milk…seemingly endless food! We disassemble a fishing net, and attach the pieces together, until we have a sort of long rope. Honeybee ties one end to the freezer, and the other to our log.

Yes! Now we’re done, let’s keep on looking for the others!” Shouts Lil. At that moment, we hear a noise from the other side of the patch.

Hey! Something over there’s moving!”

Let’s paddle towards it!” I almost shout with joy. It’s the others! We start paddling towards the spot where I heard the shouts, and finally, they come into view. The vessel that our friends have created is similar to ours in many ways, but a bit different. It has the same log base, but it also has a log at the back attached to the one at the front on both sides with a long rope made out of fishing net. Not bothering about the water, me and Lil half swim, half run towards them.

Wilfred! It’s so good to see you again!!!”

Oh Stanley! I missed you so much! When we saw that storm on the horizon, we thought you were dead!”

Clary! I was so, so worried! How were you?”

Me and Wally played a lot of hide and go seek!”

Oh you little brat!” Lil and Clary embrace each other. I look back at Honeybee, who seems to be muttering about overexcited rats.

Well, let’s get going!” Says Mrs Wombat. At that moment, we hear voices around the corner of a huge box.

Who goes there?!”

Chapter 9. All Overboard

Chapter Nine

All Overboard

March 30th

FREEEEEEE!” The animals cry as they stream out of their cages and up onto top deck. I hear a splash as the first one leaps overboard. I wish I could do that right now, but first, there’s someone I have to find. Me and Honeybee race into the corridor, paw in paw.

Wilfred? Lil?” I call softly. “Clary?” No answer. “WILFRED! LIL! WALLY! CLARY! MR WOMBAT! MRS WOMBAT! WHERE ARE YOU?!”

Suddenly, I hear a hissing from behind us. It’s the cats!

Ooh, ratty ratty! It looks like we’re having wombat ice cream and badger stir fry as well as Rat Stew! Yum!” It’s Bloodfur, who is followed by the sinister Deadeyes. He throws a large net over me and Honeybee. There are iron weights all over it, and they appear to be shaped like knife blades.

Yes! Turn around, rat, or face the consequences!” Deadeyes snarls. I slowly turn around. Then I see. It’s Wilfred, Mr Wombat, Clary, Wally, Mr wombat and Lil. And they are tied up, gagged, bound to sticks, and covered in the same nets that me and Honeybee are smothered in.

WILFRED!” I cry. Deadeyes glares at me, and Wilfred glances pleadingly at me, trying to tell me not to talk. I ignore him. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY FRIENDS, YOU FILTHY, COWARDLY IDIOT!?” I shout. Deadeyes lunges at me.

That’s it.” He growls. “Bloodfur, you have a score to settle with this rat. Get him out of my sight.”

Yes Master! Right away, Master!”

TAKE HIM! NOW!” Bloodfur clamps her jaws around my neck, (purposely digging her teeth in,) and drags me away. The last thing I hear before I am dragged away is Honeybee, Wilfred, Mr Wombat, Wally, Mrs Wombat, Clary and Lil, shouting together.

STAAAAAANLEEEY!”

I am taken into an empty room.

Let’s get even!” Hisses Bloodfur. She bears down on me, her teeth bared. I crawl away. “OH NO YOU DON”T!” Bloodfur pounces. She is on top of me. I try to kick her with my free back legs, but she is too tough. She grabs me round the throat, in a stranglehold. I wheeze, and gasp for air. Then she pummels me in the stomach, knocking all my remaining breath out. She tears a huge gash in my side, then moves in for the kill. I curl up, ready to die. To torment me, Bloodfur snarls:

I am going to kill you in three, two, one!” Her claw is poised above my heart, just about to plunge in-

BLOODFUR! BRING THE RAT HERE!” It’s Deadeyes. I breath a sigh of relief-then notice that Bloodfur in staring at me venomously.

Well, he didn’t say he wanted you alive, did he?” She scrapes her claw across my chest-

AND JUST IN CASE YOU THINK OF ANY LOOPHOLES, I WANT HIM ALIVE, PLEASE!” I’m amazed! Deadeyes actually acknowledged me as a living thing! And I think that’s the first time he called me him!

Well.” Says Bloodfur. “I’m not done with you yet. I’ll hunt you down. I swear that I will hunt you down until you’re dead!” She snarls bitterly, then grabs me in her jaws, and takes me back to Deadeyes.

I have an announcement to make!” Roars Deadeyes. “The Black, Ginger and Grey Spotted teams have successfully taken over the ship. All the men are overboard!!!” The cheer that follows this almost bursts my eardrums.

YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAH! GO BLACK TEAM! THREE CHEERS FOR GINGER TEAM! HOORAY! HOORAY! HOORAY! GREY SPOTTED TRIUMPHS! Hang on! Raise the SPOTTY flag, I said, not the stripy one! That’s the GREY one, you moron, not the SPOTTY one!”

AS I WAS SAYING!” Roars Deadeyes. The crowd immediately falls silent. “There is a slight problem with the ship. It isn’t floating properly.” I stuff a paw in my mouth to stifle a laugh. I know that the boat is floating properly, and that Deadeyes has very little knowledge of ships. He is about to do something very stupid.

I have decided to put holes in the bottom of the boat! This will obviously make it lighter, and more buoyant!” Finally, I can not hold back my laughter any longer.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” Deadeyes glares at me. “What’s so funny, RAT!?”

(Cough cough,) It’s just-(cough) so funny! (Someone get me a drink, please! Cough.)

You and your friends will be making the holes! Start NOW!!!”

Okay! (Cough)!”

We all race down to the bottom of the ship.

How are we meant to make holes with just our paws?” Says Clary.

The wombats will figure it out!” Says Mr Wombat. “Watch this!” The three wombats scrape their paws along the wood. After an hour, they have only made a shallow dent. A cat called Mace pokes her head through the hole in the ceiling.

HURRY UP!” She growls.

Hang on, I think I know how to do it!” Says Honeybee. She hurls herself at the floor, which cracks on impact. She falls through, and icy cold salt water pours through the gap. She clambers out. Mace pokes her head through again.

Time to finish! You sleep on top deck. I’ll show you your…Um…bed.

Our bed turns out to be the bottom of the mast. We are chained to it, and covered in the weighted nets.

It is two in the morning when the water floods in. I feel the boat starting to sink. A plan forms in my mind.

Wilfred, Clary! You try to cut these two knife-weights free with the one on the other side! Once they’re done, Wally can cut this one free, and Mr Wombat can cut away these two! The all of you can cut this net off us, and me, Lil and Honeybee can start to break our chains! Then we can go overboard, and escape!” We immediately start with our jobs.

Lil kicks at the tough iron chains. The water is swirling around my feet.

It’s no good!” I groan. “These chains will never break!”

Wait!” Says Honeybee. “Stanley, lean out, and make the chain in front of Lil straight!” Lil seems to realise what Honeybee wants her to do.

Clary! Pass me one of the big square weights, will ya?!”

Sure, Lil! Here you go!”

Thanks!” Lil hammers at the chains.

Lean out further, Stanley!” Says Honeybee. “That’s it! Lil, try again!” Lil bangs the taught chain repeatedly. CRASH! BANG! CRASH! CRASH! CR-A-A-A-CK! The chain breaks, and falls to the ground with a clatter.

Follow me!” Says Lil. We follow her to the side of the deck. Then the cats wake up.

HELP! THE BOAT”S SINKING!” The cats flood onto top deck. We leap overboard, just in time. The boat sinks. I turn around, and have one last look. The cats are clinging to the remains of the boat, with terrified expressions on their savage faces. A shark pokes it’s head up.

Ooh, Dinner!”

Chapter 8. Help!

Chapter Eight
Help!

March 23d

I am being held by my tail over a crackling fire. The cats are talking. Ouch! The fire singes the remaining bits of my tail.

“Shall we toast it?” Says one of the cats.

“No, I think we should roast it.” Says another.

“I think it should be Rat Stew!”

“Oh yes! Rat Stew!”

“RAT STEW! RAT STEW!”

“You’re not going to eat me!” I mumble. Deadeyes stands on one of the taller open cages, and calls for silence. I start to sweat. Now Deadeyes is shouting into the crowd.

“Mace! Blade! Take the rat to the fresh food storage!” I gulp. The fresh food storage!?

“I take that back! Throattearer, Legripper and Ratkiller! Take the rat to the Pillar!” I sigh. Surely this Pillar can’t be as bad as fresh food storage!?

Ratkiller seizes me in his jaws. His sharp teeth dig into my flesh. The result is yet ANOTHER chant.

“THE PILLAR! THE PILLAR!” Maybe the Pillar is worse than I thought it was…

We are at the Pillar. It’s DEFINITELY worse than I thought it would be. It’s a pillar, but it’s covered in short, sharp spines. Ouch! Being tied to that would hurt! But when I look closer, I see something worse. The Pillar is covered in a blanket of fleas, mosquitoes, lice, flies…Basically everything that a lovely, clean rat who washes and scrubs himself down with lemon scented soap three times a day hates. I yelp.

“Yes, RAT! You’re going to be kept THERE!”

“Do I get showers every day?”

“No.”

“PLEASE! Okay, okay! Twice a week?”

“No.”

“Do I get soap? Please, please! At least a bit of soap!”

“No soap.”

“Then a bath! A nice, warm, clean bath!?”

“Well…You will get a scalding hot bath…” I go blank.

“A HOT BATH!”

“Yes. We have decided how to eat you.”

“How?”

“Rat Stew!” I gulp. Suddenly, how to keep clean isn’t my biggest worry.

The next night, I don’t get any sleep at all, so I start to make an escape plan. The cats have posted guards all around my pillar, so I cannot escape by going around. If I started digging a hole, they would hear me, so the only option is to go up. Unfortunately, that will be a very difficult operation. I start to wriggle up the pillar. Suddenly, I hear something. It sounds like someone is sawing a rope in half! Then I realise what it is. The rope has caught on one of the large, sharp spines that are digging into my back. I start to wriggle up and down, and the rope gets thinner and thinner. Finally, it snaps. I might be able to use this to do something useful, so I keep it. I clamber up the pillar, the sharp spines digging into my soft feet.

Finally, I reach the top. It is close to the ceiling, but it doesn’t quite touch it. I’ll have to jump. Silently, (I hope,) I jump up, and onto the nearest roof rafter. I feel the ceiling. It’s rotten. YAY! I punch it a few times, and the rotting floorboards crash through. Then, I hear something bigger. I race to one side, just in time to see a large draw with a terrified looking young girl on top crash through. The cats start start scratching her as soon as she lands. The girl races through the door, calling “DADA! DADA!” In all this fuss, she doesn’t close the door. The cats stream out behind her. They don’t look back. I wait a few minutes, then jump through the hole in the ceiling. Safe at last.

I poke my head out of the hole, and immediately change my mind about being safe. The small cabin is filled with the worst of the ship’s crew. The cook with the cleaver, the captain’s bodyguards, the tough guy with the dagger who Lil thought was a pirate that the captain had recruited, and finally, the thin, nasty looking boy who Clary saw torturing mice by bringing the to the cook with the cleaver, chopping their tails off, holding them over the hot fire, then giving them to a cook so they can chop the poor mice’s heads off. Oh dear! They’ve seen me! I’m doomed!

The nasty boy grabs me and squeezes me.

“This would be a nice rat for the captain’s private skeleton collection! Should I take it to Doctor Klinge so he can make it’s skeleton perfect?” A private skeleton collection?! Maybe I was better off with the cats! And my skeleton IS perfect. I think that boy is very rude.

“Hmm… I guess the captain has been wanting a rat skeleton for a very long time. So yes.”

“YES!” Shouts the boy. He grabs me, then races round the corner.

“I wonder if this rat is bouncy, like the the old tabby cat. I hope it doesn’t black out as soon as the cat did. Bouncing them is no fun when you can’t hear them wailing and screeching!” I gulp. If a cat can’t stand being bounced, then I don’t think I can either. Then I finally feel what bouncing is. The boy throws me hard at the ground. I crash down, and amazingly bounce back up again. The boy whacks me down, even harder this time, and when I hit the ground, I can’t help but screech and squeak. After a few more bounces, I faint. The last thing I hear before I pass out is the boy.

“Well, that was even more disappointing than the cat!”

When I wake up, I am in a large lab. In the middle of it, there is a huge bench. On the outside, there are hundreds of shelves. Every one of them is covered in skeletons. Some are in boxes, some are pinned into strange and unnatural positions, and still more are just sitting on the shelves. I recognise most of the creatures, but some skeletons are like aliens. (I suddenly have a vision of the skeletons coming alive and attacking the boy. Oh, and my old rat school maths teacher. Anyway, no time for hopeful wishes now!) I’ve got to escape!

Also in the room, there is a tall, ugly man in a white coat that is covered in red splodges. I think THIS is Doctor Klinge.

“A good specimen. I’ll only have to make a couple of adjustments.” He says. I shudder. Adjustments? I don’t like the sound of that! Finally, the boy leaves.

“Okay!” Says the man. Let’s put this thing into the line. He grabs me, and turns me towards the back wall. I look, and see the one thing that I have missed. Up against the back wall, there are cages. Loads of them. And every single one has a different creature in it. I struggle, and bite Doctor Klinge several times. But he still manages to force me into a cage.

“Go to sleep, RAT!” He snarls through the polished iron bars.

The next day, I wake up, and decide to converse with the creatures in my neighbouring cages. Next to me on one side is a thin badger with only one leaf in her cage. She sees me staring in disgust at the single mouldy leaf.

“That’s all you get in here.” She whispers. “Klinge knows that you don’t need to survive long in here, and he says that being thin makes your skeleton beautiful. It doesn’t actually. I think he just wants an excuse to torture us. Besides, the captain will get mad if he wastes food on us lowly creatures who are no good at anything apart from being skeletons.”

“Well, I’ll find a way out of here for all of us.” I say with a shaky grin. “By the way, what’s your name? My name’s Stanley.”

“Oh! Sorry, didn’t I tell you my name? Well, it’s Honeybee.”

I smile at her, then turn to talk to the creature in my other neighbouring cage, who happens to be a skinny echidna. The poor thing is curled up on the sharp iron bars, fast asleep. I turn back to Honeybee, and start devising an escape plan for all of us, when we hear a loud crash. All the cages tip over, and smash. Then I see what caused the explosion. It’s the cats.

Chapter 7. Our Big Mistake

Chapter Seven
Our Big Mistake

 

March 11th
“Stanley! Stop crowding me!” It’s Lil. Now that me, Wilfred, Wally, Mr Wombat, Mrs Wombat, Lil and Clary all have to sleep together in the same hole, it is getting rather squishy.
We have discovered something good. Clary and Wally are almost exactly the same age, and so are me and Lil.
“Wally, do you want to come play Hide and Seek with me? You know, in the kitchens?” Squeaks Clary.
“Yeah! When do we start?”
“Now! (By the way, I dibs Seeker!)” They race off, laughing.
“That brother of yours knows were to play Hide and Seek, doesn’t he! Your brothers and sisters told me that the kitchens are like a maze, with plenty of holes in the floor, empty barrels, cramped shelves and secret passages to hide in!”
“Yep! Someday, I might want to show ya around! I know this ship like the back of me paw.”
“Wow!”
“Mum hasn’t moved ships since I was born! What do ya expect?”
A few hours later, Wally and Clary return.
“Lil, Stanley, there’s something you better see.” Squeaks Wally. I take one glance at his pale face, and know that this cannot wait.
“Lil, come on.”
We race along the deserted corridors.
“All of the crew are still asleep. That’s why the corridors are empty!” We hear a yawn coming from the room next to us.
“Grr… what’s that tapping noise?” says a gruff human voice.
“Or not! Run, or you’ll be caught!”
We race along the corridors, a growing mob of sleepy sailors stumbling along behind us. One peeks out of a bedroom right next to us.
“What’s all this?” Then he sees us. “Rats! Get them!” Now I can hear the whole mob shouting.
“Dirty rats!”
“Filthy rats!”
“KILL the rats!” Then I hear Wally’s voice, which is slightly more comforting.
“Stanley! Stop, or you’ll fall right in!” I skid forward, and stop at the edge of a rat sized hole that seems to tunnel down to the hold. Then Lil speaks.
“Wally! Clary! Stanley! We can hide from the sailors down there!” She jumps in. I jump in after her.
“No!” Shouts Clary. “Don’t go in there! You don’t understand!” Lil pokes her head up.
“Come in!” She says. Clary grabs Wally, and drags him into the hole.
“Come on, Wally! We’ve got to save them!”
I crash into some sort of wire meshing. It’s a cage! Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain at the end of my tail.
“Ouch! Lil, Clary, Wally, let’s get out of here!”
We all race behind a pile of crates in the corner. As my eyes adjust to the dim light, I see what is in the cages. The wild cats! There is something on their cages. It’s a label, and it says… I can’t read it. No, hang on… It says “THE PET PALACE!” I almost laugh out loud. The evil, savage wild cats going to a PET SHOP? What I see next, however, wipes the grin off my face. One of the cats slips out between the bars of it’s cage. My brain works quickly. This cat is too thin to harm any of us, but the cats must of worked that out already. They’re not stupid. (At least, most of them aren’t.) So this cat must be here for a different reason. What is it? Suddenly, something in my brain goes click.
“Lil” I whisper “do you think the cats have keys to their cages?” What I see next confirms my suspicions. It’s Deadeyes. He’s talking to the thin cat.
“Beast! Attention!”
“Yes Master!”
“So, Beast! Find the key, and bring it here!”
“But Master!” Deadeyes slashes his claws down Beast’s flank.
“Yes! If you fail, there will be punishment!” Beast is starting to sweat. “And believe me, you will not like that punishment.”
“Yes Master! I will find the key!”
“So, Lil” I hiss. “We need to find the key before that thin cat-Beast finds it.
“Yes! And however vulnerable he seems, Beast is still me enemy.”
We have finally found the hole that we got in with.
“Clary, Wally! Hurry up, we’re waiting!” Lil squeaks, impatient. We squeeze in.
The next day, me, Wilfred, Wally, Mr Wombat, Clary, Mrs Wombat and Lil crowd around a carefully drawn map of the ship. (At the bottom, the words ‘By Lil, Stanley and Clary’ stand out in black ink.)
“THIS IS OUR FINAL PLAN TO GET THE KEY!” Shouts Mr Wombat. “NO MORE CHANGES!” (He’s a bit annoyed that we kept on spilling the ink on purpose, and I suppose that he would be MORE than a bit annoyed after the annual rat and wombat ink fight. Yes, he did get covered in ink, yes, he did ask us to stop more than once, but hey, WE never made the ledge that the ink pot was sitting on break while he was sleeping underneath, did we!?)
“HEY!” Shouts Lil. “I thought we agreed I would do the labelling of objects, and YOU would do the rest of the writing!”
“Well, you’ll have to cope with not doing it, won’t you!?” I say. Lil snatches the quill from me, and quickly scribbles down the rest of the labels “NOW, LET”S ACTUALLY DO THIS, INSTEAD OF STANDING AROUND AND GOSSIPING!” Booms Mr Wombat.
The next morning, Lil, Clary, Wally and me all get up early.
“Now we have to wake the adults!” Squeaks Lil. “Me and Clary will wait here.”
“I’ll wake mummy and daddy! Oh, sorry, I mean Mr Wombat and Mrs Wombat.” Whispers Wally.
“And I’ll deal with Wilfred!” I say.
I scamper off to Wilfred’s room, and tug his tail and jump on his bed until he turns over, sees me, and groans loudly. In the room next door, I can hear Wally using the same method to rouse Mr and Mrs Wombat.
“Stanley, you demon!” Wilfred says “How many times have I told you not to wake me up so early!”
“Zero.” I answer truthfully.
“Oh Stanley, you funny little rat!” says Wilfred. He pats my head, and pulls on a beanie. (I notice that it is the blue one with the fluffy green bobbles that I made for him last Christmas.)
“So, Stanley!” he says “Let’s find this key!”
Lil and I go first. A door crashes open, and we dart behind the nearest barrels.
“This is actually dangerous!” whispers Lil, excited. “We could really DIE doing this! Oh, what fun!”
We keep racing along the corridors, until we are finally at the kitchens. I race behind table one, and wait for Lil. She doesn’t arrive.
“Lil! Lil, where are you!? LIL!” Suddenly, I spot her. She has been caught by one of the chefs. The fat one with the cleaver. And he has put Lil on the chopping board.
“Stanley! Help!!!!! HELP ME!!!”
I race up, and bite the cook’s leg.
“Waaa? Oh! Another filthy, dirty rat! I’ll get rid of this one too.” He lifts me up, and drops me on the chopping board with Lil. Then he presses us both down with his ugly hand. He lifts the cleaver, and brings it down. Just as it’s about to chop off our heads, however, both me and Lil leap forwards, and he only succeeds in chopping off half of our tails, which still hurts A LOT.
I leap down to the floor, and see footprints in the dust. Rat footprints. I sigh. Everyone else has passed through, which means they’re past the biggest danger.
“Now let’s catch up with the others!” I shout to Lil.
“Nothing!” I call to the others. We have arrived in the captain’s office, and gone to our assigned areas.
“Same here!” shouts Clary.
“I’ve checked all the shelves, and I haven’t found a thing!” Squeaks Wally.
“What about you Lil?” I ask.
“It looks like the captain has been using this safe as a lolly store! (That was a no, by the way.)”
“Oh dear! Where else would we find a key!?” I say.
“Maybe on that guard’s belt. It says ‘KEYS’ on it in capital letters.” Lil suggests.
“Yeah. Probably.” I say. “I’ll get it.”
“Okay, but be careful!” Says Lil.
I leap onto a barrel, then squeeze my hands into cracks in the wooden walls. I swing myself up… Then I let go.
I keep on swinging up, until I reach the ceiling. I jump onto one of the beams across the roof, and position myself so that I am directly above the keys man. I drop onto his shoulder, and dig my claws into his uniform. The I drop down onto his belt, and hold on.
Suddenly, I hear Lil.
“Stanley! Beast’s here! He’s watching us!” I shudder. If he sees this, Beast will follow us everywhere, attack us when we’re sleeping… He will stop at nothing to get this key.
I grab the keys, and pull. They come quite easily, FAR more easily than expected, and I catapult backwards, into Lil. She catches me.
“Stanley, are you okay?” She asks.
“Yeah. Just a few bruises and a chopped off tail.” I get up, and we all race back home.
The next morning, I wake up to a growling sound from outside. Then Wally (who always gets up early with Clary to play ‘dodge the fat cook with the cleaver’) screams. I leap up, and race outside. Then I see Beast. He has grabbed Wally’s tail in his jaws, and is attempting to drag him to the hold. I race back inside the hole, grab the nearest weapon, (which just happens to be the key,) scamper back outside, and hit Beast on his scrawny little head. Beast yowls with pain, drops Wally, and races off to the hold.
After all this, we agree that the key must be destroyed.
“Do you know if this ship has a blacksmith’s office?” I ask Lil.
“Yes. It does.” She answers.
“Great! Where is it?
“Why do you even WANT a hammer?”
“To break up the key, of course!”
“Then the cats could just find the pieces, and put them back together again!”
“Good point. Let’s throw it overboard instead!”
“I’ll go wake up everyone else. You, Wally and Clary can take the key up to top deck.” Squeaks Lil.
Me, Wally and Clary arrive at top deck. I lean over the side, and see a big, black fin. I jump backwards.
“Oh, hello up there.” Says the shark. “I’m very hungry. Would you please fall off?”
“I’m not planning to do that any time soon!” I say.
“Don’t worry. I’m patient. I can wait here forever, if you make me. But sooner or later, you’ll always become shark food.”
“Strange.” Whispers Wally. “I didn’t know sharks had MANNERS!” By now, the others have arrived.
“If you’re so hungry, then eat THIS!” Shouts Wilfred. He throws the key down to the shark. The shark almost immediately spits it out. It flies down and plops through a hole in the deck.
“Yuck. Not nearly as good as fresh rat.” The shark says, glaring at me. Then, I see a streak of ginger, flying through the air towards the shark. It’s Beast! He must have been following the key this whole time! Beast flies straight into the shark’s jaws.
“Yum!” says the shark. When he has finished chewing, he says:
“Yum! Fresh rat is not nearly as good as fresh CAT!”
“Let’s get this key!” Says Wilfred.
I jump through the hole in the deck, and fall. Then, just as I hit the ground, I realise where I am, and where the key must have gone. I am right next to the hole to the hold. CLICK. Oh no! The cats are unlocking their cages! I scramble away, but I am to late. Sharp claws grab me, and drag me into the hold.

Chapter 6. The Ship’s Rat

Chapter Six
The Ship’s Rat

March 6th

We have spent a day on the ship now. The Seaworthy knot is not proving to be very seaworthy.

Mr Wombat staggers in.

“Maybe I was wrong!”

“Wrong about what?”

“Riding on Parsley is DEFINITELY not as bad as being seasick.”

“I told you so!”

None of the others have got their sea legs yet. They spend all their time up on deck. I have some free time down below, and I have heard mysterious sounds coming from the hold. I do not like them.

We have spent our time on the ship so far looking for holes to live in, and I am still doing that. I decide I might go check for empty holes in the middle deck. I find one in a very, very thick wall. I crawl into it. And that is when I hear it. A growling sound from the hold. Something on this ship is very wrong.

I breathlessly race up onto the top deck. There are the others, looking (as usual,) bright green. I smile. It’s good to know that SOMETHING is normal. My smile fades as I hear the growling once again.

The next day, I crawl out of my hole and find myself face to face with a thin, scrawny grey and white rat.

“Hello matey! Ya here to ‘scape ‘em wild cats?”

“Yes, but how did you know?”

“I recognise ya. Do ya recognise ME?”

“Well… you do seem kind of familiar.”

“I’m LIL! L-I-L!”

“Err…”

“Ya met me at the wild cat’s base!”

“Oh. THAT Lil.”

“Yep. That Lil.”

“Okay. Do you want to join us?”

“Sure! But you’ve got to meet mum first. Follow me.”

We race along the deserted corridors, tails streaming out behind us.

“Woohoo! This be the best thing ever!!!” shouts Lil.

“Where’s your mum?”

“Not far to go now!”

We keep running through the ship for what seems like hours, and finally, we come skidding to a stop outside a large hole in one of the bigger walls.

“This be it!” says Lil. “Ya wanna go inside?”

“Sure!” We go inside, and I see what looks like the inside of a tree. There is a table carved out of the wood, with bizarre shapes on top that look only vaguely like cups, plates and bowls. Carved out of the floor, there are chairs. And playing around the place, there are twenty-one tiny ratlets!

“Err… Mum’s a big ship’s rat adopter. These are all me baby brothers and sisters. Do ya wanna be introduced?” Then, without waiting for an answer, she starts.

A small white and black patchy ratlet steps up. “This is Clary.” Next, a grey one with a black patch over her left eye. “Jessica.” A black one. “Felix.” A grey one. “Leo.” A grey one with a black patch. “Bob.” A black one. “Bill.” Another white one. “Emily.” I yawn. Lil, however, just keeps droning on and on.

Finally, she is done. “Now I better get mum.” Lil races off into another chamber.

While she is still away, a small black and white ratlet who I recognise as Clary walks up to me. He looks up at me, eyes wide.

“Lil told us you were escaping from wild cats! Tell me why they’re after you! Tell me, tell me!”

I tell him about my adventures with the wild cats. About the cauldron, about the kit-tour, about Deadeyes and Bloodfur. About EVERYTHING.

When I am done, Clary is staring up at me in awe.

“Always been an adventurous spirit, that one!” says a voice coming from the corner of the room. I jump, turn around, and see a large, motherly looking grey rat looking at us, with a big smile on her face. I realise that she must have been watching and listening the whole time. “Now, deary, do you want to stay with us? I would do anything for you and your friends. I have a big debt to pay back!” I pause, confused.
“Why?”

“You saved Lil from the wild cats! She was driving me MAD with worry! I thought that she was going to get eaten for sure!”

“Oh. Well, she’s paid me back already! Without her, Wilfred and I would be (as Lil put it,) bubblin’ away in some fat old cat’s belly!”

“You saved her, and I’m grateful for it.”

The next day, I get up and find everyone packing up the home.

“What are you doing!?” I ask.

“We’re moving ships!”

“Why?”

“’cause we want to! Now, deary, do you want to come with us?”

“Uuuum… maybe not.”

“That’s fine!” says Mrs Rat.

Suddenly, Lil pipes up. “Mum, can I stay with Stanley?”

“Hmm…”

“Please!”

“Alright, alright.”

“Can I stay as well?” I turn around to see who is talking. It’s little Clary!

“As long as Lil takes good care of you. You hear that, Lil! Take care of Clary!” Then, along with the other 20 ratlets, she leaves.

Chapter 5. The Harbour

Chapter Five
The Harbour

February 28th

We ride across the coastline on Parsley. The bushes and grass flash past us, and once or twice, I even see a wild cat looking at us in complete dismay. The third time I see a cat, I wave to it, and stick my tongue out. The cat stares, open mouthed, and I throw a large and sharp rock at it. My aim is true, and the cat rushes off, meowing in pain.

I suppose that you think I am a bit harsh, but the truth is, I recognise this cat. It’s Bloodfur.

Parsley looks back at us, tongue lolling, and says

“This is my favourite thing to do!!!!!!”

“Not mine!” Mr Wombat replies, turning green “This is like being seasick, except worse!”

“Nonsense. It’s NOTHING like being seasick!” I say.

Finally, we’re at the harbour. It’s rat paradise! (Apart from the thin, grey and ginger tabby cats that patrol the jumbled streets of the harbour, of course. But I guess they’re no danger to us, with Parsley at our side. Cats hate and fear dogs, especially large black greyhounds like Parsley!) I find part of an onion that someone has dropped. Eeeeewww! I hate onions! Then I see a piece of a carrot. YUMMY!!! I eat most of it, then scamper off to ask Wilfred if he wants any. He says he doesn’t like carrot, so I keep it all for myself! Mou ha ha ha haaaa! (That is meant to be an evil laugh, but if it doesn’t sound like one, I’m sorry.)

“Quiet! we’re almost at my house!” whispers Parsley.

“Won’t you’re owners not like having two disgusting, filthy rats and a family of equally disgusting and filthy wombats in their lovely, clean home?” I say. I am not a big fan of Humans, especially the fancy and posh ones. Once, one of the posh ones trapped me in a rat trap. It took me days to find my way out! Luckily, this particular Human had a very bad memory, and didn’t remember to check the rat trap for rats.

“Yes!” says Wally. “They’ll eat us! They’ll kill us!”

“Nonsense!” says Mrs Wombat, though I notice that even she looks uncertain.

“Err… Maybe we’ll go to a different place.” says Parsley.

“But where?” we all say.

“Hang on… I know the perfect place for you to spend the night!” says Parsley. “Follow me!!”

We march down the jumbled streets, and get to a section where the house’s windows are all boarded up, the doors are falling into the house, the windows are cracked, the chimneys are crumbling, and you can hear the almost constant clatter as countless tiles fall off the crumbling roofs.

“Um… Are you sure we’re in the right place, Parsley?” I say.

“Yes Stanley! Follow me!” We run into what seems to be the most tumbledown house in the whole harbour. “This isn’t it. It’s just a shortcut!” says Parsley. We all back up against the rotting walls. And that’s when I notice it. In the wall behind us, there is a tiny hole that is framed with the words “Way In”, and I can see a warm, golden light coming from it!

Parsley sees me staring at the hole in the wall. “Yes Stanley! That’s it!” We all jump into the hole… And find a rat paradise!

The floor of this large, low chamber is covered in bouncy gold and green mattresses, the ceiling covered with mini light bulbs, and the walls painted to look like a hot, humid jungle. On the other side of the hole, the words “Way Out” are written in gold lettering. The words are surrounded by a perfectly painted green vine, complete with veins, patterns in the silver bark, and even tiny wrinkles on the glowing golden berries. There are mini beds, mini chairs, and even mini bathtubs! The bathtubs, bed sheets and the cushions on the chairs are either gold speckled with green, green speckled with gold, or like a jungle, matching the walls. There are also tiny tables, made out of a beautiful golden wood. On the tables, there are mini cups, plates and bowls all gold with green specks or green with gold specks. The cutlery is made out of solid gold and silver. But best of all, the place is teeming with other rats!

Rats are very social creatures, and I am a particularly social rat. So don’t be surprised that when I see all these other rats, I get up, and go speak to them. When me, Wilfred, Mr and Mrs Wombat and Wally have finished talking, (at least for now) Parsley pokes his nose through the hole. “Welcome to the Rat Hole!” he shouts proudly. Then, as he sees the blank look on my face, he says in a much softer tone, “Stanley, I found this place, named it, and styled it up for the harbour rats. Now I’m kind of their hero.”

“WOW! So you MADE this place?”

“Yes, Stanley. And now you can enjoy the Rat Hole as well, I would very much like you to do it!”

“Wow Parsley! Wow wow wow!!”

“Stanley, the other rats are waiting!”

“Alright, Parsley.” I race over to a large grey and black patchy rat, and start to finally catch up with my social life.

In the evening, a large Italian looking rat with ridiculous curly hair and a fake moustache waddles up to us.

“Bonjourno. Scegli il tuo letto.”

“What!?”

“Oh. Sorry. You don’t speak Italian, do you?”

“No. Anyway, can you please translate that for us?”

“Sure. ‘Bonjourno. Scegli il tuo letto’ means ‘Good day. Pick your bed.”

“Any bed?”

“Any bed.” I pick a bed with a jungle on it, right in the very corner of the long, low room. Wilfred picks the bed next to me on one side, and Mr Wombat sleeps on the other side. Wally is next to Mr Wombat and Mrs Wombat, tucked in safely between them. We sleep, knowing that at least for now, we are safe.

In the morning, we have to leave. We walk down to the harbour with Parsley, and start to pick our boat. I think we should take a large green sea boat named Wavebreaker, Wilfred likes the look of a small dark blue boat called Starlight, While Mr Wombat fancies a black one with stars painted on it, called the Nightwhale. Mrs Wombat and Wally like the look of the Seaworthy knot. We just can’t decide!

Finally, we decide to do it the old rat way. Rat snout, you’re out!

I start to explain to the others.

“Okay, this is how you do it. I go “Rat snout, you’re out” around our paws, and then the person who it lands on doesn’t get their choice of boat, and when there’s one rat or wombat left, that one gets their choice of boat!”

“That sounds great!” says Mr Wombat. “Let’s do it!” So we do.

Eventually, Wally is the last one left.

“What boat did you choose, Wally?” I ask.

“Seaworthy knot” he says shyly. So Seaworthy knot it is!

Chapter 4. Moving

Chapter Four
Moving

February 21st

Yes, I survived. What is it? Don’t look so sad. Me surviving is a GOOD sort of thing. Anyway, back to the story.

We race through the trees for what seems like days, and finally, we arrive back at the lakeside camp. Wally settles down to rest, but Mrs Wombat immediately rouses him.

“What is it, mum? I’m sleeping.”

“We can’t stay here! All of the cats know EXACTLY where we are. And believe me, they won’t be nice and put us in cell next time. We’ll be eaten straight away!” shouts Mrs Wombat. She looks around at the blank expressions on our faces. “Seriously!? Has no one thought about it before!?” I feel the tip of my nose go red. I stare down at the ground, embarrassed. We are silent for a while. Then, finally, Wilfred speaks.

“I say we leave the forest, and find somewhere else to live.”

“Somewhere over seas.” Mr Wombat adds. “We don’t want the cats to follow our scent.”

“I’m in!” I say, exited.

“So am I” says Mrs Wombat. We all turn to Wally.

“For once, I agree. I don’t want to be eaten just yet!”

“Then it’s decided” says Mrs Wombat. “And do you know where that means we’re going next?”

“THE HARBOUR!!!!!”

“And does anyone know how long that trip is?”

“NO!!!”

“It is 50km which, in good weather conditions, will take us five days.”

“What about BAD weather conditions?” Wally pipes up.

“It depends how bad.” says Mrs Wombat.

“BAD BAD BAD!”

“um… well…”

“If it’s bad, then we’ll all sink into the mud and DIE!” I say.

“Exactly!”

“Let’s get going, or we’ll never get there at all!”

“Good idea. Stanley, will you help Wally get into my pouch?”

“Sure!” I lift Wally up, and he clambers into his mother’s pouch.

“Thanks Stanley!”

“Wilfred! Don’t forget my cheese collection!”

“Oh Stanley…You and that cheese collection are INSEPARABLE!”

“Let’s go.” We march out of camp, and into the soft evening air.

The next morning, we are all absolutely EXHAUSTED. (All except Wally. He slept in Mrs Wombat’s pouch.) We have been walking all night, and Mrs Wombat says we have only covered about 10km!

We march into a meadow filled with flowers. I spot some edible roots and bulbs, and we settle down for lunch. Once we finish the small but delicious collection of roots and bulbs, Wally and I set out to find a bigger lunch. Now I have a better chance to look around, I see that bordering our meadow, there are a selection of large red and orange cliffs. Then I look closer, and see that the ledges are covered in bird’s nests, and I think it’s breeding season! YES! Perfect lunch! (If I can reach it.) I race towards the cliffs, the stop and think. If I can get the eggs, then how can I get enough for us all? I walk back to the picnic, and collect three large bags. That should do it! I run back to the cliff, clamp the bags between my teeth, and clamber up to the first nest. It has four large grey eggs. I put them all in the first bag, which is now a quarter full. Then I clamber into the next nest, and steal the five eggs that are inside. This goes on until all the bags are completely full. Then, with all three bags thumping against my back, I start to carefully lower myself down. About halfway down, however, my foot slips, and I slide right off the ledge I am standing on and tumble to the bottom of the huge cliff. As I spiral downwards, I say to myself

“I’ve had too much of falling off cliffs this week.” Because I have.

When I reach the bottom, Wilfred, (who is standing at the base of the cliff,) catches the eggs, and completely ignores me. “So you care about the eggs more than me.” I say grumpily.

“Well, I can eat the eggs, but I can’t eat YOU!”

“Why not?”

“Too many little bones.”

“Hmmph.”

“Oh, and by the way, the wombats are vegan.”

“Oh great. I have to find more food.”

“Do you want them to die?”

“Yes.”

“Stanley!”

“Oh fine.” I spend the next hour in the meadows, looking for food. So far I have found: ten mushrooms, one hundred edible roots and bulbs, some nice green moss that tastes like peppermint, three different kinds of edible flower, some salad leaves and a slab of metal to cook the eggs on. I also saw a clear stream running through a small grove of trees in the centre of the field.

When I get back to camp, me and Wilfred light a fire by rubbing a hard, sharp stick across the groove in a huge and soft board of wood. Then we carefully place the slab of metal onto our small, hot fire. I crack two eggs, and they satisfyingly ooze out and onto the metal, the orange in the middle, the white on the outside.

The wombats love my salad, and we all tuck into dinner.

“It’s so late! I think that we’ll have to find a place to settle down for the night!” says Mrs Wombat.

“I thought I saw a cave in the cliffs back there” Wilfred says.

“Great! let’s check it out!” We all march over to the dark circle in the cliff, which is indeed a cave.

“This is very warm!” says Mrs Wombat. “Let’s sleep here tonight. And we do.

Then, at about midnight, something wakes me up. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t sound friendly. At first, it is a single, moaning yowl that speaks of loss, loss and terrible anger. I fall into the music. Then, more yowls join it. I pick out one voice that sounds louder than the rest. It speaks of anger, rage, FURY, but at the same time, it feels loss, and a terrible pain. Suddenly, I snap back to my senses. The cats! The yowling stops. And then, I see the cats silhouetted against the dark sky.

“Deadeyes!” one of the cats says, “I smell a rat!”

“Go check the scent out, Rosy Posy Eater Of Tosy.”

“Rightyo, Deadeyes.”

The cat (who I am assuming is Rosy Posy Eater Of Tosy) creeps towards our cave. I dart to the back of the cave, and cower in the shadows. She sniffs the air.

“The rat has been here.” she snarls back to Deadeyes.

“Good. We’re on the right trail.”

The next morning, we move on. I tell the others about my encounter with the wild cats. (Well, all except Wally. Mrs Wombat told me not to tell him any more scary tales. Apparently, he had nightmares last night about wild cats eating Mr Wombat!) We pack up, and each strap two or three bags of food and water to our backs. I take two bags of eggs, and so does Wilfred. Wilfred also has the metal slab and the soft board and hard stick. Mrs Wombat has a bag of salad greens, a bag of edible peppermint moss, and a bag of roots and bulbs. Mr Wombat has a bag of mushrooms, a bag of edible flowers, and a bag packed full of straw bedding. Wally has two bags (which I made out of kelp at my old home) of water.

We set out in the hot summer sun. After a few more days of walking, we are in a hot, humid forest. More than half our supplies that we packed at the meadow are gone, and Mrs Wombat says there’s still 20km to go. Our situation is getting grave. Suddenly, a huge shadow looms over me. If it is a cat, I have no chance against it. I close my eyes, and wait for the terrible pain that will signal the end of my life. None comes. I open my eyes. It’s a big black greyhound! I squeeze my eyes tightly shut again, then open them. It’s still there! And this greyhound looks strangely familiar.

“Parsley?” I breath.

“Stanley!”

“Parsley! You were the only thing I missed about that house!”

“I missed you too!” says Parsley. Wilfred arrives.

“Stanley… Is that who I think it is?”

“Yes Wilfred! Yes Yes! It is!”

“PARSLEY!” Yells Wilfred.

“Yes! It’s me, Wilfred!” I notice that Mrs Wombat, Mr Wombat and Wally are staring at us, utterly confused. I quickly explain.

“It’s Parsley. Back at my old house, he used to give Wilfred and I rides around town. He was our best friend.”

“Yes, that’s right.” says Parsley. “Now, would you all mind having another ride…”

“Er… Parsley, it may not be the best time for this…”

“…TO THE HARBOUR?”

“Oh Parsley, would you really?”

“Yes! I would do anything for you! You’re my best friend!

“Oh Parsley! You are so kind!” We pack our supplies again, hop onto Parsley’s back, and sail into the sunset. TO THE HARBOUR!!!!!

Chapter 3. The Wild Cats

Chapter Three
The Wild Cats

 

February 1st (Although I wish it wasn’t.)
A sea of yellow and red eyes turn towards the tree Wilfred and I are hiding behind. My instincts tell me to run around the clearing yelling, and I trust my instincts.
“HELP! HELP! WE ARE DOOMED!!!! WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“SEIZE HIM, BLACK TEAM! (And shut him up while you’re at it) screams Deadeyes. The “Black Team” chases me three times around the clearing. I am exhausted, sweating, sad and absolutely terrified, and I know that I will probably be killed in less than a days time, but I can’t just give up my life! A chant starts. It does not help me calm down. In fact, it does the exact opposite!
“GET THE RAT! KILL THE RAT! GET THE RAT! KILL THE RAT!” See why it doesn’t cheer me up? I spy a pathway up the cliffs and away. I think fast. I still have enough energy to keep in front of the cats, but I can only do it for a few more minutes. I feel a sharp pain in my tail. I know what has happened, but if I turn around to look, they will get the rest of me, not just the tip of my tail. “GET THE RAT! KILL THE RAT!” The stone steps will slow the cats down, so I might just have a tiny chance of escape. But if the cats catch me, I know the consequences will be huge. No time to choose now. I dart up the stone steps. “GET THE RAT! KILL THE RAT! I am going really well. Just a tiny bit to go! Suddenly, I see the thing that I have been dreading. Two of the Black Team have seized Wilfred’s tail and front paws, and he is struggling. They roughly drag him to the middle of the clearing, and drop him at Deadeyes’s feet. “GET THE RAT! KILL THE RAT!” I pause, scared for poor old Wilfred. That one second pause is enough. The leader of the Black Team barrels into me, shoving me off the narrow path. Accompanied with vigorous cheering from the cats, I tumble down. I seem to fall in slow motion, but when I hit the ground, the affect is more or less the same. I see stars, then everything goes black.
I come to in a dark stone cell.
“Wilfred, are you there?” I whisper, not wanting to catch the attention of more vicious things than old Wilfred.
“Yes, I am, but only just.”
“Then will you come over to me please? I really don’t like this.”
“Yes, sure. Then I will tell you what happened.”
“Good.” Wilfred shuffles closer to me, until I can feel his warm body against mine. “Great. I almost feel SAFE now.” I hear soft laughing coming from Wilfred’s direction. Then I hear another voice, a rat’s voice, by the sound of it.
“Hello. Lil at your service!”
“Who’s there?” I say.
“Hey matey, been a long time since me had OTHER rats in here! They thought me too thin to eat, so that’s why I’m here still, instead of bubblin’ away in some fat old cat’s belly!” Then she seems to realise why we are here. Her voice softens. “What ‘bout you? You gonna be in that Rat Stew, aren’t ya?”
“Not if we can help it.” I say tersely.
“That’s the trouble round here, you CAN’T help it. Otherwise those fat cats down there wouldn’t have gotten any food, would they? Can I do something to help ya before ya get gobbled up?”
“We are not going to get “gobbled up” as you put it, thank you very much.” That’s Wilfred again.
“Oh yes yes you are! What can I do to help you?”
“Fine. If you insist, we would like you to follow the Black Team’s prints, until you get to some lakeside houses. There you will find Mr and Mrs wombat. Tell them this: From Wilfred and Stanley. We have been captured by the wild cats. Do not come after us.” I whisper to Lil.
“Sure, mateys, but how can ya get me out?”
“You’re so thin that you can fit through the bars!” I reply.
“Off I go!” Yells Lil. “So long, mateys!” Lil slithers between the bars, and heads up the stairs to the top of the cliff-wall. I sigh. I wish I were Lil.
A few hours later, another cat, this time a large grey one with red eyes, comes into our cell.
“You are coming to the Cauldron Room.” She snarls. She rakes her sharp bronzey-black claws down my flank, and I gasp in pain. “That’s for running away from us this morning!” The huge she-cat grabs me and Wilfred, and roughly drags us out of the cell. When we get to the steps, I struggle, then make a break for the top of the
cliff-wall.
“Not so fast, stupid!” the grey cat growls. She grabs me, and tosses me over the stairs. I land on a ledge some way down, then skid backwards, only just grabbing the jutting out rocks. A few minutes later, the grey cat arrives, dragging Wilfred behind her. Then she stomps on my fingers until I have no choice but to let go. I fall down another level, and crash onto the hard stone. Dazed, I sit up, and come face to face with the grey she-cat. She is looking away, listening to Deadeyes.
“What’s taking you so long, Bloodfur? You better have a good reason!”
“I’m just teaching the white one a lesson, Deadeyes!”
Then she turns towards me, shivering with rage. “DON”T-YOU-EVER-DO-THAT-AGAIN!” Bloodfur growls. “This should teach you!” Then, without warning, she races forward and bites off my left ear. She is about to bite my tail off, but a warning growl from Wilfred sends her backing onto the path. Wilfred may be a rat, but he is the size of a small cat and has very sharp teeth indeed!
“Into the cell.” Bloodfur barks, and then,as she sees me racing for the path, “BOTH of you!!” I reluctantly shuffle back to Wilfred. Bloodfur shoves us into the cell, and we tumble into a large pit. I look up, and see Bloodfur’s grey face jeering down at us. “Have fun being eaten!” she gleefully calls down to us. Then her face disappears, and the door slams shut. Wilfred and I quietly stare at each other for a while. Finally, a thoroughly deflated Wilfred says
“Well, she was rude, wasn’t she!”
We start to explore our new cell. I am exploring the left corner, when Wilfred, (who is exploring the middle,) calls out to me. “Hey Stanley! Come here, I’ve found something!” I walk over to Wilfred, and find what seems to be a large hole in the floor. “I think that this is what Bloodfur meant by the cauldron room!” whispers Wilfred. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see what Wilfred has been seeing. Underneath us, there is another room, and in the middle of that room, there is a huge cauldron. Around the cauldron, there are more cats, who seem to be stirring a thick red sauce. One cat looks up at us.
“Soon you’ll be in there” she says, pointing to the red sauce in the cauldron. The other cats laugh. “And the you’ll be in HERE!” She signals to her fat belly. “I AM looking forward to that bit!” The cats around her explode into hysterics.
The next day, the mother cats start to take their kits on tours around our cell. The first load of kits is a bit of a surprise. They are all black, with grey ears. Their mother is black too. They all jeer at our matted fur, and one kit even asks her mother “Can I bite off the teensy white one’s ear Mummy?”
“Hmm… I’m not sure”
“Please Mummy?”
“Maybe…”
“PRETTY please?”
“Fine.”
“YAY! Thanks Mummy!” The kit lunges forward, but before she gets to me, Wilfred steps in front of me, and bares his sharp teeth.
“DON’T YOU DARE LAY A PAW ON MY GRANDSON, FILTHY CAT! He yells. The mother hurries to herd her litter of black kits away from the cell.
“Thanks Wilfred” I say shakily. “I’ve lost one ear already, and I’m planning to KEEP the other! (At least for a while. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it in THIS kind of place!)”
For the next few days, there is little action. Clearly the mother cat has told everyone about the disastrous kit-tour. Wilfred and I spend most of the day plotting ways to get out. Occasionally, food is brought to us, and when it is, it is disgusting. I get gruel and mouldy cheese, but I am so hungry that I eat it anyway. Suddenly, I hear a commotion outside.
“Hear that, Wilfred!?” I call to my grandfather.
“Yes! I think someone has come to rescue us!
“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” I hear cracking and grinding. It’s almost like… The stairs are falling down? Then I hear someone calling my name, and I finally know what this is all about. “Wilfred! Mr and Mrs Wombat AND Wally Wombat have all come to rescue us, but they don’t know where we are! Let’s call to them, so they can find us before it’s to late! “
“Great idea Stanley!”
“MR WOMBAT! MRS WOMBAT! WALLY! WE’RE IN HERE!” Finally, I hear footsteps on the ledge outside our cell. The hatch opens… and a smiling Mrs Wombat hauls us out.
“We better hurry, the stairs are crumbling.” She says. So me, Mr Wombat, Wilfred, Mrs Wombat and of course little Wally, race up the stairs (which are crumbling away behind us) and burst into the light. We’re FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!