PROLOGUE

The thin she-cat scrabble up the wooden beams, her claws digging into the wood harder as smoke clouded her vision. The stinging sensation in her eyes and nose was reaching an unbearable level as she fought to stay near the top of the barn. Soot and ash streaked her once beautiful gray and white fur. Her bright blue eyes blinked to keep from being blinded by the pain.

She shuddered, faint voices ringing out in her head.

Get low! one screamed, The smoke is thinner there! Jump, away from the flames, dear, jump!

Higher! Another yowl pierced her thoughts like a bloody dagger. Climb, cat! Climb away from the danger!

Her sky-colored eyes widened as the building shuddered. With her ears pressed flat against her head, she crept along the wood...higher. She had to get higher. More stabs of pain shot through her girth. She glanced down to see a rope tied around her stomach tightly.

She didn't know how it got there. She didn't know how she had gotten there. She didn't remember anything but the fire.

Survival. The cat's mind switched to the brutal primordial gear where her only thought was getting herself away from danger. Getting herself away from death. She wheeled around and sank her teeth into the thick rope. Her claws slipped for a second, fear pulsed through her nervous body as a tingling sensation. She bit the rope again, repeating the action until it snapped.

She was free! Free to die, thought the lamenting tonkinese cat as she mourned her short life.

The barn gave a final rumble. The sound was like distant thunder to the she-cat. Her platinum mink fur was all she seemed to have left. No use in waiting for death, she thought miserably, The end is so close I have no need to.

She no longer thought for her paws. They desperately stretched out, climbing the beam even as the rest of her decided it was too late to even try.

The structure quaked like a shivering man. The she-cat caught sight of flames licking their way up a stall door in a haunting dance. At last the beam beneath her gave way. The she-cat let the air tear out of her lungs in a yowl, one last shriek the world would never hear.

...

The she-cat gazed into the night sky. She blinked again and again. What a pleasant place to be dead she was in. The stars were out. She remembered what stars were. How mysterious stars are, the loudest part of her thought.

The second half of her mind, the quieter part, contradicted the other. Stars aren't at all mysterious, idiot, they're balls of gas in space. Helium makers.

The cat's ears pressed against her head as it started to ache. Her eyes still stung and her the pads at the bottoms of her paws still hurt like crazy. She came to the decision that she wasn't dead at all, unless being dead was much more unpleasant than she had guessed.

She paused and looked around. A singed door to a stall was wedged above her. It made her spine hurt like she was under a boulder but it had probably saved her life. The hay that had made the fire spread so fast was of short supply, but a few clumps of it cushioned her belly. She moved her tail and immediately yelped when she realized the tip of it had been burned.

I must look terrible, thought the softer part of her, But at least I'm alive.

Food, the other part of her cried, You must find food and water and shelter from the world of rain and hot sun.

She dug her front claws into the dirt and started to haul herself out. Her ribs burned as she slid out from under the the door. The fire had been put out by a person. The scent swarmed her but she didn't care. She was alive and if it was because of a human she was suppose to thank them.

Which of the two voices had made her think that she didn't know.

"My name," she meowed to herself hoarsely. It was the first time she had spoken that she could remember. "What was I named?"

Brief flashes of memories caught her off guard. Holding something, Screaming in a voice that wasn't hers, and grabbing something-no-someone as she fell onto the hard stone below. As a cat it wouldn't have hurt so much...it shouldn't have hurt so much...

Unless she wasn't a cat.

This was something important. She didn't know how important it was or why it mattered, but the thought made her stumble and catch herself wanting to yowl a plea for answers. "Aileen." Her ears shot up as uttered the name. "My name is Aileen! But there must be something more. There is something more. This doesn't make sense..."

She couldn't figure it out. Aileen was a distant memory to her, not her true name. It was as if a part of her had died here, and all that was left was the burnt husk of her present self like the blackened remains of the barn.

Aileen shook her head. There was a larger splinter in her left hind paw that caused her to limp as she stumbled away from the scene of the fire. Her sides shook as she laid down beneath a shady tree east of the barn. The grass around the trunk was still green and unburned; the fire hadn't reached where she was resting before it had been extinguished.

She closed her eyes, trying to block out her confusing thoughts.

You don't belong here, the quiet voice in her head said.

I know, agreed the other.

It's time to return to who you are.

Aileen shut out the insistent nagging of her thoughts. "Aileen isn't here anymore."

But she didn't believe herself.

I copied and pasted this from Google Docs and it SUCKS. I had to redo all the italics. :(