A safe place to call home -Chapter 1 by Amarune (critique requested)

A safe place to call home -Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Memories of Abandonment

Life on the streets was not easy, especially for a young child; always struggling against the weather and fighting hard to survive day to day. This was how Dinya, a young black cat neko, had lived for the last ten years, alone in a world where he was considered nothing but a stray. Abandoned at age eight Dinya could not remember much from before he had been abandoned; most of what he could was nothing but bad memories, oh, there were a few good ones too, but they were few and far between. As he lay curled up in a ball around his stuffed wolf Dinya could not help but wish he did not remember the good times. His mind raced with the few memories he had of a warm, safe home he had once shared with his parents, the soft bed that he had had to sleep in, and the hot food his mother had made. Oh how he wished he could not remember those things, especially when he saw how they contrasted to the make shift shelter he lived in. A lean-to made from scrap wood, discarded crates, and a tarp filled with holes, with a pair of old blankets and a worn out feather pillow for bedding was no place for a young child to live. His stomach growled loudly from the thought of the warm, delicious food, despite the food he had just choked down between coughing fits. The only thing he liked about the cold months was that the food he managed to scrounge up kept longer than it did during the summer, he could ration it longer without ending up sick from rancid food or go hungry quite as often in the colder months. That didn't mean he didn't long for the warm meat or fresh fruits and veggies his mother had always made him eat instead of the half eaten sandwiches, week old, half stale breads, and fruits that were past their prime but still relatively edible. He wondered what had happened back then, why his parents had abandoned him, and if it had been his fault. Pulling a small, ragged, filthy old blanket around himself, he closes his eyes, the sound of the late autumn drizzle falling outside his drafty shelter lulling him to sleep.

As he lay there sleeping his mind raced back in time to when he had been abandoned, a day he could remember like it was yesterday and not almost ten years ago; It had been an ordinary day, nothing particularly special about it that he could tell. His parents had picked him up from the daycare at noon, same as they always had. Only that day they had picked up fast food for lunch and taken him to the park. As they’d sat at a picnic table near the playground to eat he could hear other children playing happily, a group of them sitting nearby were arguing over some trading card creatures, while others ran around playing various games. He was happy with his parents, but he had wanted to go play on the jungle gym, when he’d asked his parents if he could they’d said yes, they’d told him they’d go down the path and get some ice-cream, that they’d be right back and he should wait right there for them until they got back. It was a sunny day; there really were not many clouds in the sky at all so it had been a real surprise when it had suddenly started to rain. He was getting cold and his clothes were wet, but still he waited for them to come back and get him. Even as the rain started to come down harder and it grew dark he waited, he had crawled into a tunnel and curled up, falling asleep there until the next morning. For three days he waited like that, being good and waiting just as his parents had told him to, afraid that if he did not they would be upset with him, that he would be punished for not doing as he had been told. It was on the morning of the fourth day that he finally decided to try to find his way home; perhaps it was just a test, to see if he could think for himself, a test to see if he could find his way home on his own if he got lost. Maybe that was why they had taken him to a park further from the house than they had ever taken him before. At only eight years old he had a rough time remembering the way, but he did somehow, by the time he got there that evening there was no trace of his parents though. What he found instead was a new family moving in to the small house they had called home.

Dinya had spent the next few days wandering back and forth looking for his parents at the park, and hoping they would return to the house. When a week had passed without any signs of them he had heard a couple of the neighbors talking about how they were surprised the house had finally been sold considering his parents had refused to put a sign up out front. While he did not know what it meant exactly, he did know that they wouldn't be coming back for him, and so he stopped looking, stopped hoping that they would return for him if he just kept searching. He had been sleeping in the small garden shed in the back yard since the weather had shifted, the rain and wind making it too wet and cold to sleep outside for very long. Autumn had finally ended and Christmas was only a couple weeks away; He had managed to swipe a blanket from dryer in the garage on one of the few very nice day when the family had left the garage door open and no one was around. He had also snagged a few pieces of clothing from a basket of laundry that was waiting to go back into the house, they were significantly over sized for him, but at least they would help him stay warm. As he watched the family happily prepare for Christmas the weather got worse, soon it had started to snow and he had to be more careful not to leave tracks in the fluffy white blanket that had begun to cover the ground. He could not open the shed door anymore, so as it grew colder he had moved his hiding place to under the deck near the vent for the dryer. In doing so he found a n old crawl space that, while too small to stay in for very long would allow him access to the inside of the house for a little while as long as he was careful and made sure the family was all away at work or school.

Christmas came and went, and with it so did a number of opportunities for Dinya to sneak in and steal things. He somehow managed to swipe a large duffle bag, a back pack, another thick, warm blanket, a fluffy old pillow, and some more clothes that were too big for him. It was not easy for him to survive on the things they threw out, and what he managed to steal while the family was away was little help against the cold and hunger he always felt. It was only a matter of weeks before he could not take the cold anymore and started to move around, looking for a safe, warm place to stay at night. Before he moved on though he made one last trip into the house; he had never taken any of the toys or stuffed animals the children had, however if he was going to live alone on the streets he wanted at least one friend, even if it was only a stuffed animal. After watching one of the young boys throw an stuffed wolf toy into a box in favor of a shiny new set of toy trucks he had received on Christmas morning he had decided that was one thing he had to take with him that he had not gotten yet. Maybe that was selfish of him, or maybe it was just his instinct telling him he would need someone, or something, to talk to when he was lonely.

So one day, after watching the family climb into their car to go to church, he crawled through the old crawlspace into the house, leaving his shoes just inside the crawlspace so he would not track snow or mud inside. Wandering up out of the basement he crept through the kitchen, stopping to get some of the cookies from the cookie jar on the counter before sneaking up the stairs to what used to be his room, the room that now belonged to the young boy. Smiling slightly he had wandered around the room he had stopped to play with some of the toys as he searched the room for the poor, discarded stuffed wolf. He had eventually found the toy he was searching for, shoved under the bed, and still stuffed in the discarded box the toy trucks had been packed in. It was not until it was almost too late that he realized how long he had been in the house. Racing through the house he makes it down the two flights of stairs from the second floor back to the basement, making it into the crawlspace just as he heard the garage door open. He had accidentally forgotten to close the basement door though, when he had heard the family enter the house and the children getting scolded for being downstairs he had gotten worried that they would find out about him. After that narrow escape he had decided that was it, he had to move on and find somewhere safer to hide, easier to get things he needed.

It was shortly after New Year’s when he stumbled upon the local Library and wandered inside. It was warm and comfortable in the library and he decided to stay for a while, exploring the ground floor leisurely for a day before he had to leave. Thinking he could at least stay warm during the day, he found himself a large box in a nearby ally and turned it on its side, curling up in it to sleep for the night and planned to return the next morning. Come morning he returned to the library and hid his bag in a corner under a table before starting to look around some more. After a few days of wandering around the large, quiet library by day and scavenging food and sleeping on the streets at night, he noticed there was a seldom-used door in a secluded part of the Library. After sneaking through it, he found that it led to the basement where he found storage rooms for books, as well as a warm, crawl space near the furnace for the heating system. It only took him a few seconds to decide that this would be far better than sleeping out on the streets where it was freezing every night. After all the library only closed on Sundays, so he could sneak out during the day to find food all the other days of the week, and ration it so he’d have some for when the library was closed.

Over the next few weeks Dinya had managed to settle in; establishing himself a new routine of sneaking in and out with a small bag to scavenge food and supplies when he could, and rationing what he had when he could not. During one of his first evenings alone in the dark library he had discovered a supplies closet where he could get flashlights and batteries, and during another he had found a room with shelves of things that had been left behind at the library. He found cloth bags and a range of winter clothing, from hats, mittens, and scarves to sweaters and coats that had been tossed into boxes in a corner. Dinya counted himself fairly lucky, considering he had been abandoned by his parents, and by the time his ninth birthday came in March he had started smuggling books to his secret room in the basement where he spent most of his time reading and studying.

He had been content, the relative safety and comfort of the library providing him good shelter until early spring of his fifth year on the streets. It was shortly after he had turned thirteen when the Library had closed down for renovations, renovations that were predicted to last several years. Dinya had ended up back on the streets, a victim of cruel reality and harsh weather. That had been five years ago, Dinya had somehow managed to survive the harsh weather they had had over the years by taking shelter under bridges, maintenance sheds or tunnels, or in abandoned buildings when he could. He had learned to pick pockets, stealing small change or begging for it when it was necessary, saving it up and using it to buy new clothes from the thrift stores when he had enough to replace something he had outgrown. Over the years he had never thrown anything away; always using his old, worn out things to make his small, damp, drafty shelter more comfortable by laying the rags under one of the blankets to make a sort of mattress, or if they were still good he would give them to other children who were in need of warm clothes.

As his mind raced with these memories of his past he was suddenly startled awake and tried to look around. Though unable to open his eyes very far or for very long he managed to make out another person above him before his eyes closed again. He felt as though he were floating, a soft buzzing in his ears as the cold hit him more fiercely, making him tremble slightly as he was carried somewhere. Where he did not know though, as he fell unconscious only moments after being pulled from his little shelter, his arms holding tightly to the stuffed toy he so cherished.

A safe place to call home -Chapter 1 (critique requested)

Amarune

3 March 2013 at 16:26:23 MST

Originally this story was supposed to be for NANO 2012, but since it took me almost the whole month to manage the first chapter I've decided just to not worry about that and just go with the flow in stead.

This chapter was originally posted on my DeviantArt account on November 27, and took me close to a month to finish. It is a character introduction chapter and consists mainly of a dream sequence/flash back.

Rated general, nothing really wrong with it, though I considered rateing it Moderate(13+) for the mention of Child abandonment and theft as a part of the character's past.