Fear the Dawn: Chapter 51

I don't remember any of this”, Line said, putting the book down for a moment. Yet somehow, parts of it did feel distantly familiar, like some long-forgotten memory was clawing at the edge of his mind.
Are you sure you want to keep reading?”, Karma asked. “It's not going to get any better.”
I think we have to. If there's any chance we might be able to find her.”
He continued reading from where they had left off.


When she came to, she was back on her ship, and for a moment she dared hope that it was all a mistake, that somehow it hadn't been real. His ship wasn't there, so she quickly climbed down the ladder and dipped her tail in the water to listen for him, but no matter how long she waited, Creamy's signal wasn't there. She tried again night after night, but neither Creamy nor his signal ever came back. He was gone. Creamy was gone.

Even though she had feared it to be true for some time now, when she finally accepted it it still felt like she had been struck in the chest. She was so overcome by sadness and grief that she lost her grip on the ladder and slipped into the water. She tried to get back to the ladder, but all of her strength was gone the current was dragging her away from the ship as she splashed about helplessly. Blackie looked down at her from the top of the ladder, stone-faced as ever. She glanced back in his direction, but she didn't think to ask for help, to apologize or anything else, she simply had nothing left. Creamy's departure had taken everything out of her, she barely even had the strength to struggle against the current. What good would it do? In a few more moments she would be swept away, never to bother anyone else again.

Then something she really didn't expect happened. Blackie started to climb down the ladder. He got to the bottom and grabbed on to her just before she started to sink, then pulled her back to the ship. He actually cared. He didn't want her to drown. Maybe even though Creamy was gone, the time they spent together had gotten through to him. Maybe he had really changed.
Oh Blackie”, she thought, squeezing him and crying into his chest. It still hurt terribly, she missed Creamy so desperately much, but maybe someday it would be okay.
She reeled back and released him, clutching her stinging cheek. He had struck her.
I deserved that”, she thought, “it's my fault Creamy's gone”. He had every right to be angry with her after what she had done, but she couldn't face him anymore. She turned away and ran down below deck, sobbing uncontrollably. She finally wound up in the big room at the end of the hall, hiding in a corner. How had this happened? Creamy and Blackie were getting along so well. Why? Was it all because she got close to Creamy? She didn't mean to, she just wanted to help. That was all she had ever wanted, to help Blackie get back to the way he had been before. But it could never be. She was cursed, anyone who got close to her would suffer. She should just be alone, away from everyone, where she couldn't do anymore damage.
There was a noise. A moment later, the door opened, and Blackie walked in. He had come after her. She quickly darted along the wall and put the couch inbetween them, but there was nowhere for her to go, and as he approached her she just shrunk back into the corner. He walked up to her and raised his paw, and she closed her eyes and turned her head away, sure that he was going to hit her again, but he gently put his paws around her instead.
Blackie had never hugged her. Even before things went bad she didn't think she ever remembered him doing it. Then she realized that he was suffering just as much as she was, he just didn't show it.
I'm sorry Blackie”, she thought, snuggling up to him. “He was your friend.”
She wished they had more time, to try to come to terms with that loss, but outside the window, the sun continued to rise in the sky, oblivious to the concerns of the world below.

It was morning again.
Banshee felt so weary that she just wanted to fall to the floor, but she had to keep going. If Creamy really had brought about a change in Blackie, she couldn't let it go to waste. No matter what had happened that night, that wouldn't be what he'd want. Just thinking about that night made her want to cry, but she tried not to. She still had to get through this ordeal first.
Wherever she was, it smelled old. It was very damp and earthy and she smelled a lot of wet stone and moss. There was also a draft coming from somewhere and a faint smell of smoke. She thought it might be a cave, but when she opened her eyes she saw that it was some kind of stranger-made structure that merely resembled one. It was no less dark, however, save for a few torches along the walls, and it seemed to be in disrepair.
I probably just have to figure out how to get out of here”, she thought, scanning the enormous structure. A hallway extended a long way in front of her, and there were also some stairs leading both up and down. She looked at the windows, but they were a long way up the walls, and all she could see out there was the night sky. It was impossible to tell how far up she was.
Well, the exit is probably somewhere near the bottom”, she thought. At least if she could see the sky, she couldn't be underground. She carefully started to descend the spiral staircase leading down, until she came to another floor. The staircase continued going down, but she decided to take a look around the floor first.
There were no shortage of unusual things to see in the giant stranger cave. Countless rooms filled with elaborate wooden furniture, various types of weapons and cloth banners lining the walls, even a great room with an enormous table in the middle surrounded by what must have been at least fifty chairs. What really caught her eye though was a tiny little garden, growing out of a little dirt patch on the floor below a broken window far above. She had no idea if the stranger had put it there deliberately or if water had just seeped in from above, but it made her happy to catch a glimpse of nature inside this unnatural place. She knelt down to take a closer look at the tiny red flowers growing out of the ground.
Even after all that happened, flowers still made her happy, a timely reminder that there was still beauty and happiness in this world even when all hope seemed lost. Creamy called her “Pretty Flower”, did he understand that, too? She wished she had gotten to spend more time with him, he was so kind and friendly. Maybe he could have even have been her friend too after Blackie got better. She cared for him, there was no point hiding that anymore. She picked one of the little flowers and held it up to her nose. It had a nice, soft scent to it, not unlike Creamy himself. “Please don't die, little flowers”, she said, putting the picked flower back with the others. She stood up and left the little garden.
Goodbye, Creamy”, she thought, tears streaming down her face. “I'm sorry for wanting to be close to you”.
She thought back to that night they had spent together, and she could almost still feel the warmth of his arms around her. Was it so wrong to want someone to care for her? Why did she have to be cursed this way? She could never let anyone get close to her, or this would just happen again, and there weren't enough flowers in the world to hold back all those tears.
She made the mistake of glancing back at the little flowerbed, and to her horror she saw that all the little red flowers had wilted away, and that broke down the last remnants of her tenuous hold on her emotions.
Oh Creamy”, she sobbed, falling to her knees on the floor, “why did you have to go away?! I miss you! I miss you so much!”. If only she had said or done something different that night, maybe he would still be here with her. Oh, Creamy...

She was so terribly distraught that she wasn't paying the slightest attention to anything around her. That made it incredibly easy for a dark shadow to creep up right behind her and give a horrible shriek right in her ear. She screamed and leapt right into the air before crashing back down and landing flat on the floor. It hurt, but she was so startled she hardly noticed.
Banshee?!”, someone asked. She peeled the hair off her face and found herself looking at Blackie, or rather, through him. He was floating in the air and didn't appear to be fully there.
You terrified me!”, she said, still trying to pick herself up off the ground.
What were you doing making that terrible racket?!”, he demanded. “What if the stranger got you?!”
What difference would that make?”, she said, her voice starting to get choked up again. “He... he's gone!”
The stranger?”
No. Our friend. He's gone.”
Oh, please”, Blackie said. “He'll be back.”
So he didn't know. It made sense, he hadn't been there that night, and he couldn't hear the signals the way she could. She didn't know how to tell him that Creamy wouldn't be coming back, and she was getting terribly upset again, but she tried to speak clearly for Blackie.
No, he won't. I can't hear, but when I put my tail in the water and close my eyes... I can feel the other ships in the sea. But his ship is gone now. Gone forever! I'm so sorry!”. She broke down and started crying again.
Stop it!” Blackie demanded of her. “He was an idiot. He let his heart grow soft, and that was the end of him. We'll be better off without him getting in the way. But you have to be quiet, or who knows what'll happen to us!”

He couldn't mean it. She had seen his suffering, he missed Creamy too. He must have just told himself that to try to cope. It had to be.
But what if he was starting to believe it? Like how he had started to hate the strangers after that night. Would he close his heart to everyone else, too? He had hit her earlier. She was willing to forgive him, but what if that was just a glimpse of the person he was going to become? What was she going to-

Her train of thought was interrupted as a sharp pain shot through her back, then everything went dark.


She opened her eyes. Somehow, she was back on the ship, lying on the couch in the large room below deck. She briefly wondered how she had come back, but it didn't matter anymore, it was all over.
Creamy was gone. Blackie was regressing. Everything she had tried to do had failed miserably. Her curse had struck again, affecting those she cared about most, but this time it was just too much. Ever since that fateful morning nothing had gone right. If only she had been quicker, maybe things would have been different. Maybe Blackie would be better, and Creamy would still be here.

She could still remember the small of the grass that morning, it always smelled particularly strong when it was wet. It was dark out, and cool, and she and Blackie were going for a walk through the forest. Then she picked up another scent, something that didn't belong there. It was sharp and acrid, and made her eyes hurt. She told Blackie to be quiet, and then she saw the smoke and the light of the fire, and heard strangers talking amongst one another. She usually liked strangers, but there was clearly something wrong here, between the unnatural smell of the fire and the hushed tones in which they spoke. She slunk down to the ground, listening carefully and staying out of sight.

Unfortunately, Blackie was transfixed by the fire. She tried to stop him, but he just kept inching closer and closer, far beyond the safety of their hiding place.
No, Blackie!”, she growled, but the strangers heard her. Blackie dove into a bush, and she tried to get out of the way, but she was too slow. There was a loud blast and a sharp pain tore through her side, knocking her to the ground. She looked over to see her blood pouring out, staining the grass a dark red. Blackie was there too, growling pointlessly at the strangers.
Run, Blackie”, she wheezed, her eyes half-closed. But Blackie wouldn't run, he simply stood there, defiantly challenging the strangers. He was so brave back then, but there was nothing he could have done, and she couldn't let them get him too.
Run!”, she said again, grabbing him by the neck and flinging him across the grass. The awful sound rung out again, hitting her in the shoulder this time, and she yelped in pain and slumped to the ground. The strangers ran after Blackie, and she felt one of them dragging her across the grass. They left her near the fire that had transfixed Blackie so. She could no longer see much of anything, but she could smell it and feel its warmth. From here, it actually felt kind of nice, so she reached out towards it with her paw. She couldn't remember anything after that, but somehow she had found herself in the water afterwards. She made it back to the ship, and was relieved to see that Blackie was okay, but after that morning he was never the same again. He closed his heart to everyone and became cruel and hateful toward the strangers. Even though she was the one to be shot, it was as though the old Blackie was the one who had died that night. If only she had been a little quicker, but that was her curse.

For a while, she thought that maybe if he made a friend, he might be able to learn to trust again, but her curse would never allow that to happen. She realized now that as long as she remained here, Blackie would never get better. It was time for her to go. She pulled out her little book from underneath the couch to write one final entry. Her paw shook as she wrote, and a few tears smudged the ink, but her words was legible enough.

Goodbye cursed life. Goodbye Blackie. Goodbye Creamy.



That was the end of it. There were no clues to be found within those pages, merely a total indictment of his miserable existence. Line looked horrified by what they had read, but he didn't even fully understand it. To think that the slain panther that had spurred his crusade against the strangers had been Banshee, and she had suffered in silence the entire time. If he had only known, but he had been so blinded by his anger and thirst for revenge that he had driven her to such despair as to give up her own life. Line had been right all along, he truly was a monster. There was no absolution for him, his quest for redemption had been a futile pursuit from the very beginning.
Go. Leave me”, he told his only remaining friend.
Karma...” Line moved closer to comfort him.
GET OUT!!”, he bellowed, with such ferocity it nearly blew Line out of the room.
He was past grief, past sorrow, past even the desire to throw himself to his own death the way Banshee had. Sitting alone, in the dark, Karma pondered the nature of his existence. Why had he been brought back to this place? To save Line? If so, what was left for him now? Or perhaps to answer for his crimes? But what answer could anyone possibly give?
No matter how long he thought, he couldn't come to any answer.


When morning came and he smelled the scent of wet grass and leaves, he thought it was some kind of cruel joke. The forest looked exactly as it had in his memory, as if to further taunt him for his blindness. Yet as he felt the soft dirt under his paws and caught the faint smell of smoke he realized it was no mere illusion. Somehow, he had been brought back, but for what purpose? To settle things with the strangers once and for all?

Karma looked up to the darkened sky above, then back down to the grass surrounding him. He was tiny again, just a cub, as he had been back then. Yet the other panther, whom he now realized to be Banshee was nowhere to be found. He scampered through the wet grass, following the scent of the fire, when he heard a deep growl. He looked ahead and saw two panthers, a large one and a small one, in danger of being spotted by the strangers. Could it be that he was really back there, watching that same scene play out again? The larger panther growled to the smaller one, and the strangers cried out.
And then he finally knew why he had been brought back, why he was still here in this world after all that had happened. He pushed his tiny legs to run faster, as fast as he could go, then he leapt into the air.
A shot rang out, and the large panther cried out in shock. Karma felt the bullet tear through his chest, spilling his entrails all over the grass as he fell to the ground. The other panthers disappeared into the bushes as though they had never been there. The larger panther peered out at him from her hiding place and let out an anguished cry. He had done it. She was unhurt.
Aww, it's just a runt”, a stranger said, looking over him. “You can't get any good fur out of that thing, it's barely even worth a bullet”.
I think I saw some more, keep your eyes peeled”, another one said. They stepped away from his body, and the panther cub appeared from a nearby bush. His vision was starting to go dark, but he could see that he was not looking into the face of his younger self, for this cub had blue eyes, not yellow eyes like his own.
I'm glad to see you old friend”, he said. “Take her and leave this place.”
The little panther nudged Karma with his head, but he wasn't getting up again.
It's all right”, Karma said, actually smiling for once. “Go, and be happy together. You two... deserve each other”.
Line gave him a last, sad look, and disappeared back into the bush. It was done. He had finally found a way to atone for all the terrible things he had done. He looked up towards the night sky as his eyes gradually came to a close. This wasn't a bad way to go. His chest didn't hurt so much anymore, and he would finally get some peace and quiet, away from those two. He just hoped things would go better for them now that he was gone.

There they are! I see them!”
Karma's eyes snapped back open just in time to see Line run past the strangers. A shot rang out as he disappeared into the bushes. Behind him, the large panther made a soft grunt and picked him up by the neck.
No! You idiots! They'll get you too! Run!”
Ignoring him, the big panther broke into a full sprint, carrying him in her teeth. Line zig-zagged past them off to the side, with multiple shots right on his heels.
Don't let them get away!”, the stranger yelled, but Karma himself was having trouble keeping his eyes open. The sound of gunfire and paws pounding against grass gradually grew softer and faded away.


The next thing he knew, Karma found himself staring into a familiar warm white light. He wasn't in pain anymore, and he felt at peace with the world.
That was a noble thing you did”, she said. He could hear the girl's voice, but there was no sign of her, only the same bright light he had seen before. “What will you do now?”
He thought about it for a moment. “I want to see you again”, he replied. He longed to see her face again, after all this time.
Then open your eyes, my Karma”.

Gingerly, he opened one eye, and he saw the same vibrant blue eyes he remembered staring down upon him.
He's awake!”, Line shouted happily. They both threw their arms around him, winding him.
Hey, get off”, he said struggling feebly to push them away, but they ignored him. The white-furred one hugged him particularly tight.
Is that really Banshee?”, he asked.
I was as surprised as you are, but she dragged you out of the water and just wouldn't let you out of her sight until you woke up.”
You are both fools”, he sighed. “You should have just left me there.”
Is that really all you have to say after all this time?”
He looked down at Banshee, who was still snuggled to his chest. Gingerly he put his paws around her. “I'm sorry Banshee. You suffered so much because of me.”
She couldn't have heard what he said, but she seemed to understand anyway. As he put his arms around her she started to softly purr into his chest. The entire time he had known her, he had never known she could purr, because he had never been nice to her before.
And that was when his facade finally broke down and he embraced his friends tight, never wanting to let them go.

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