Gülay came out of the shadowy door into a dimly lit jungle. Thick vines hung down from branches that hunkered together to form a canopy overhead. Wide leaves on thin stalks were bent over as if curious about the newcomers. Foliage covered the dirt with arrangements of bright yellow and orange flowers, dark green threads of grass, and tendrils of mossy vines snaking across the ground. Nadya emerged behind her, nearly bumping into her, and then was knocked to the side when Anya appeared. The shadowy vortex of a door disappeared into the thin air the same way it had appeared.
“Have you always had a jungle through your kitchen?” Nadya asked, walking around her sister and Gülay.
“I’m fairly certain the house didn’t come with all this,” Gülay said, waving her arms around at the thick jungle.
“Where are the cats?” At Anya’s question, the three began a frantic search for the runaway clowder. She came face to face with a large feline head that towered over them by a few feet and had a long body that was reminiscent of a dragon’s. The feline draped its tongue over Anya’s face in a lick.
“Auntie!” came a soft excited voice. Anya yelped and lept backward, landing on the ground next to her sister.
Gülay stared in shock at the large creature. The coloring was an exact match to Sassy Pants of the Meow with long fluffy black fur with a white-tipped chin, toes, and a long white stripe along his belly. “Sassy Pants?” Gülay breathed. She took a step backward and bumped into a solid-built feline.
“Mother!” came an overeager voice. Gülay yelled and lept out of the way to turn around. Standing behind her was a thicker-built feline similar in size as Sassy Pants but was creamy orange in color. The soft expressive eyes were a clear indicator that this was Puddy Tat. “Oooh look at leaf…” Puddy Tat bounced, knocking Gülay aside due to his new massive size, over to investigate a hollowed-out hole in the ground. “It looks dirty…” He wiggled half of his front into the hole then quickly backs up, knocking Gülay back down just as she got to her feet. “MOTHER, why did you make me go in there?”
“Attack!” a voice shouted just as a dark orange feline streaked past, pouncing onto a clump of mossy vines. Pumpkin Belly flopped with a thump onto his side and used his back feet to kick at the clump he held in his paws.
“Mother, I have a serious inquiry for you. Why did you name me Sassy Pants of the Meow? Do I look like my eloquence is at that low of a level?" Gülay looked up at the oversized face of her house cat.
She looked around to see a large sleek black feline emerge with the liquid movements of a panther. Nemehiss took the opportunity to pounce on Pumpkin Belly and steal the clump of mossy vines from him.
“Could we not act a little more poised,” an older female voice asked. Gülay spotted Her Ladyship Clawdia Meowsie investigating a tree by scratching her claws along the bark and peeling back faded hues of tan and orange. She still had her long white fur with cream points that made her appear even more elegant in her much larger size.
Puddy Tat came up to her other side and tilted his head. "Mother, why did you fix me? I was really getting street cred with the ladies. Then you took it away. It was 'you're so fierce and ferocious" and now it's "you're so fluffy, will you watch my kittens while I go on a date?" Gülay struggled with an appropriate response just as a younger and smaller feline with medium-length white fur splashed with tabby colors.
Ricky Ticky Tabby shoved a paw in her face that even being smaller than the others was still the size of her head. “MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER LOOK AT MY PAW!”
“You’re all a bunch of idiots. I’m sorry, Mother, that you must deal with them.” Sassy Pants twitches his tail. Gülay gets to her feet and walks away from the enormous-sized cats that were sniffing or pawing at Anya and Nadya, wondering why their aunts had gotten so small. “Mother, where are you going?”
RTT bounded after her with clumsy movements. “MOTHER, why are you leaving me?” He sits and twitches his tail. “MOTHER!”
“This is not possible,” Gülay breathed.
“The cat slobber in my hair says different,” Anya muttered.
Nadya swats her hands through the air. “Where do you think the door went?”
“I’m more concerned with where the key went,” Gülay said. She knelt on the ground and began feeling through the foliage.
“I lost it,” Pumpkin Belly said as he peered over her shoulder. “It disappeared in the darkness.”
“Let’s explore!” RTT said eagerly. “Can we explore?” He bounced up and down, swishing his tail as he did so.
“Might be the only way to find our way out of here?” Anya suggested. “We have no door and no key. Maybe there’s another one.”
“How did Uncle Hector get a magic key to the jungle anyway?” Nadya said.
“Too late to find that out,” Anya said. She’s pushed forward by Nemehiss who head butts her in the back. “Looks like we’re exploring.”
They had been walking for what felt like hours but the large felines didn’t seem to be losing energy in their newfound size. Gülay, Anya, and Nadya on the other hand had aching feet and sore legs. As they walk, a forest of cavernous trees expands around them. They could see bright eyes shining in the dimness of the burrows made in the tree branches. Huge draconic cats - almost twice the size of their oversized former house cats - lounged on pillar-sized tree branches, eyes narrowed in judgment.
"That is the scrawniest pray I have ever seen in my entire life," one of the felines with tawny eyes and gray-to-black ombre coloring drawled. Her long whiskers twitched.
"Purrudence," a feline with pink-tipped ears and lavender fur trilled. "You're exaggerating again." She swatted the first speaker in the face with her tail. "Or are you going senile?" She teased.
"You are older than me, Catalufa," Purrudence hissed. “Clawley, agree with me.”
A feline with bright stripes across his back purred. "I think they're new scratching poles. My claws were getting a little dull," Clawley said.
"Why did that one call the strange creature mother?" a feline with dark gray stripes across faint silver fur said. She crinkled her nose in judgment.
"They can't be cats, Catsiopeia." A smaller feline scratched at an ear with a back leg. "Where is all their fur?" He gestured wildly at them with his two front paws. He had black legs and face with the rest of his fur a dark blue-black.
"Are they naked?" a female feline asked, placing a paw over her mouth delicately. "How scandalous," she continued, silver-blue eyes shining with mirth.
“Miraclaw, Fraidy Cat, don’t be daft.” Catsiopeia jumped down from her perch onto a thick round branch to get a closer sniff. She was a few feet above the strange newcomers. "Strange scent. Not dracat at all."
"What's a dracat?" Gülay asked slowly, instinctively slipping into the tone of voice used for wary cats. She stepped back from the feline while keeping her eyes locked on it. She’d seen that hungry look in the face of her own cats when they were hunting for mice.
"Sounds like a made-up word to me," Sassy Pants said, standing in front of his mother protectively and getting between her and the strange cat.
"I'm thinking we don't find out," Nadya whispered, gently pushing Pumpkin Belly and Puddy Tat to step back so they could make a quick retreat.
"Aren't all words made up?" Clawdia Meowsie asked, making a show of stretching and using the motion to show off the sharpness of her claws. She would not be intimidated by these ruffians and gossips.
"Not helping, Miss Meowsie," Anya whispered, shaking her hand at Clawdia Meowsie in an attempt to shush her. A vain attempt, as usual.
"I am right, aren't I?" Clawdia Meoswie responded haughtily. "And it's Your Ladyship. Not Miss."
Pumpkin Belly batted forward with a paw. "They look like us. That must mean they were cats too."
"Not sure that's how that works," Nadya said. Nemehiss nudged her and Anya into the middle of the cats.
Catsiopeia made a face and stepped back when the orange dracat batted at her. "You are a rather strange bunch."
"Maybe they bring their dinner on the go?" suggested a voice from a branch directly over their heads. They each took turns making a face as the stench of rotted fish hit their noses.
Catsiopeia waved a paw in front of her nose. "Watch where you aim that stench, Fish Breath."
Gülay watched, puzzled, as one of the smaller dracats gagged. She personally wasn't fond of fishy smells but as a kitty mom, she learned early to deal with it. "I thought cats liked the smell of fish," she whispered, idly stroking Nemehiss when the female nudged her.
"Definitely, not dracats," Outclaw said. A ripple of distaste spread through the dracats as a lone male slinked forward from the forest floor.
Pumpkin Belly jumped to the side, startled at the sudden voice. "Who are you?" he asked, wary. Though the first of the cats to attack in play, he was also easily afraid of everything from small dogs to thunder.
Sassy Pants pressed against Gülay to keep his mother safe. "We are just passing through on our way home."
"Where's home?" Clawley asked. He hopped down to another branch, along with a few other dracats that followed his movements. The eyes landed on the smaller dracat referred to as Fraidy Cat behind him who immediately hid.
"I am Outclaw," the male replied with some pride.
"I'm Ricky Ticky Tabby!" RTT balanced on his back legs to wave his front paws at Outclaw. "Do you want to play?"
"Stop that," Pumpkin Belly hissed, swatting RTT back down to all fours.
"It is a paradise of sunlight and treats." Clawdia Meowsie answered grandly. She paused. "I never bothered to learn the human name for it."
"Aww, you love your home," Anya gushed.
"It's far from here!" RTT wriggled his way to the front of their little pack.
"That explains the prey," Catalufa said, giddy with understanding. "Long trips require snacks!"
"We would never eat our mother!" Puddy Tat protested, his hackles rising.
Nadya grabbed RTT by the tail. "Don't antagonize ..." she whispers.
Fish Breath flipped around, keeping a set of claws hooked into the branch so he could get closer. "We could all use a good snack..."
"Oh, go suck a trout, Fish Breath," Purrudence groused. She lept with a deceptively delicate grace to his branch and used her momentum to knock the foul-mouthed dracat from the trees.
“Fish Breath!” a voice came from higher up in the webbing of branches. Gülay heard a voice groan and mutter a comment about ‘Fish Bait’ which she assumed to be the name of the dracat.
Clawley scratched an ear. "I don't know. I think Fishy may be onto something. That one has nice legs. Good for chewing."
"I like how round the quiet one's hips are," Miraclaw agreed, leaning forward to sniff the air. "I bet there's some tasty bone marrow in there."
"Excuse you!" Anya fumed. "Who talks about a lady's hips that way?"
"I wasn't referring to you," Miraclaw said, tilting her head curiously. "Why so upset?"
"That's my sister!" Anya said, grabbing Nadya's arm and hauling her closer.
"Really?" Nadya looked at her sister.
Catsiopeia licked her lips. "I think I'll take the ribs."
"Maybe a head." Fish Breath swiped at one of the humans with his paw.
"Time to go." Sassy Pants lowered so that Gülay can get onto his back.
Gülay scrambled onto Sassy Pants' back, using her rising fear and dread to combat the thrill of riding on her giant furbaby's back.
"Stay back!" Nemehiss growled, swiping at Outclaw.
"I'm not doing anything!" Outclaw protested, backing away. He glanced up at his fellow dracats. "If I were you, I'd worry more about them."
Nadya was shifted onto Puddy Tat's back while Pumpkin Belly got between him and Sassy Pants with a nervous flick of his tail. "Get us out of here, please." She saw Anya plopped onto Nemehiss's back by Clawdia's teeth.
"If you aren't going to fight then get out of our way," Nemehiss growled.
"Why is everyone acting this way?" RTT asked, his eyes huge. He slinked up to Pumpkin Belly, pressing close for comfort.
Anya wriggled down to sprawl along Nemehiss's back, figuring that staying low would be in her best interest. "Worry about that later, RTT!"
Outclaw stepped aside. "A piece of advice," he called as the strange clowder raced off, "head for the water."
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