Akshara Dalan, Class 8, D Y Patil International School, Nerul

November, 2023

I stood before the mirror, staring intently into empty, gray eyes bereft of any emotion or passion. I saw dirty blonde curls cascade till my shoulders, which were draped in a knitted cardigan that told tales of marvelous autumns complete with a myriad of oranges, reds and yellows. Unlike the pink streaked sky, I felt no vibrancy permeating my body- energy drained as I set off as usual with a copy of the town newspaper under my arm and a watery coffee in my hand. A hissing sound signifying the end of my subway journey and the sudden silence was broken with screams and shouts and pure, undignified chaos.

“Hey, get aside!” a grumpy man chided. He looked like a contractor, someone who had a project to finish up by December and was vastly underpaid. Speculating about his job made me think of mine: an emotionally- exhausted journalist drained of ideas and passion whose editor-in-chief told her that her pieces lacked any pen-wielding skills whatsoever. I set off as usual that day, with barely an idea of what I’d write in the stuffy office that smelt of singed coffee beans and wet ink and was always surrounded by an incessant air of vexation.

As I walked down the street, making my way to the secluded corner the town paper’s office was nestled in, I took in the beauty of my surroundings. The rosy sunshine gazed down at me, and for once, I felt safe under its watchful regard. Leaves floated down and landed gracefully on the sidewalk making for a sight worth the yearly wait. Before I could take in the other beauties of fall, I saw a dilapidated house right by the corner. It was painted in dark purple, which didn’t matter much because the paint was chipping right off. A few broken windows contributed to the fright. I ventured over to the porch, certain that it was simply an abandoned property. It was in vast contrast with the glamor of its surroundings. Sheer curiosity and the undying will to find something good for an article led me right to the door. My inquisitiveness fought any hesitation as I walked myself in.

The inside was just as decrepit as the outside, with torn curtains and wrecked floorboards. The floor was immensely dirty and a broken chandelier lay to my right. I examined the broken furniture as I neared a door. As I reached for its handle a sound pierced through the air. I shivered. Fear crept through my body, paralyzing me.

“Who’s there,” I screamed. The high-pitched voice reached my ears again. I started to say something, a weak explanation as to why I was breaking in, but something choked the words in my throat. Suddenly, there was bone- chilling silence, my heart was beating in my throat and was clearly audible. Motionless, I stood before the door. It took me a few minutes to decide that I should enter the room- despite knowing what happens to the curious minds, I went in.

The high- pitched voice returned and I turned around in a flash.

“Who’s there,” I called out again. No response. I went further into the room; certain it was my best bet. A flowy curtain hung from a rusted rail right in front of me. I paused to admire the floral design on the dusty curtain when I saw it move slightly. I blinked in sheer shock. And then it hit me, I wasn’t alone. I gulped. Hesitantly, I pushed the curtain aside. It was like no creature I’d ever seen before.

Pretty hazel eyes looked right at me. They were so impeccable and perfect, I wondered if they were painted. Black and golden fur ran over a tiny body as it stalked gently over to me. I noticed the tiny, triangular ears and the long tail that was almost upright. I was so taken by the marvel of this beautiful creature, I forgot to notice the limp. She was injured.

“Meow,” the creature made a sound, I could almost hear the despair and pain in her voice.
I picked her up, she was a tiny peaceful bundle in my arms as she looked up at me with what looked like a grateful smile. I ran my fingers along her soft fur as she curled up and shut her dreamy, hazel eyes.

“Hi, Willow,” I whispered into her ears.

The immense joy the cat’s very existence provided me with was immeasurable. Elation flashed across my face every time I saw my little cat stalk around the house and meow for more food. After a week of tending to her every need, she was just about fine. It still broke my heart to think of her in that abject condition- no food, no veterinary care and no love. It hurt me to think of all the other animals around town in the same abject state as her, they don’t all have an overworked journalist who finds them. An animal shelter in town to care for these poor animals, bereft of any attention and care, was simply imperative. And as I daydreamed about the creation of such an establishment, it hit me, my next article.

I ran my fingers along the print of my article in the paper as I looked up at the animal shelter born of my writing. I guess I didn’t need those pen- wielding skills to make a difference, all I needed was a little bundle of joy- otherwise called, Willow. A cat like no other.

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