..the place i belong vi by warnaiman
Lanie had been scouring the outside world for days. Having been stuck at home her entire life, she was only recently realizing how large the world was. Out here, the grasses were tall, and the animals were plentiful and ranged in size and shape. Some of them were nice, others were hesitant, and even more were rude–dangerous.
Mama had warned her. Especially after Papa had died in the farming accident, she’d been dead-set on keeping her children at home, close to her, where it was safe. Her little brothers, while adventurous themselves, had been with Papa at the time of the accident, barely escaping with their lives. They knew what it was to fear the world.
But Lanie was still a curious little one, and had never been as skittish as the rest of her family. So one day, when Mama finally left their home to find them food and her brothers were still sleeping, Lanie snuck away to explore.
She’d only gone to certain parts of the field, and always accompanied by Mama or Papa. They lived near the edge of it, but she’d still never stepped out of the tall grasses that hid their home from the rest of the world.
But that day she did.
Lanie could always smell the ruggedness and grit of the gravel road nearby, but this was the first time she’d set foot on it. It was rough, dirty under her small feet. Walking on the little rocks was challenging. Luckily she was at least a little used to uneven ground.
After the road, which seemed impossibly wide to one so small, she made it to the other side, to a stand of tall, dark trees that lead to the small forest near their home. She was just a tiny, light brown spot amid a sea of dark and darker greens. But the sounds, smells, and few sights she caught from her position on the edge of the forest lured her in.
The grass was shorter under the canopy of leaves, needles and branches, but the trees seemed to touch the sky. Pine needles and their stickiness stuck to the bottoms of her feet, and the scent was overpowering everything else. Hopefully nothing was sneaking up on her; she wouldn’t be able to tell it was coming.
Lanie spent the day simply walking to and fro, slowly ridding her toes of the sappy pine on blades of grass. She found lots of things within the forest. Food in mass quantities–she ate so many berries and small seeds that she felt fit to burst. Lots of different types of trees–she’d never known so many different leaves existed. More animals that she’d never encountered before. This was a whole new world to her, and she loved it.
She’d always felt out of place at home–her family was far too afraid of everything, while she had an almost unhealthy curiosity for the world. And this cluster of trees was wonderful. She truly felt at home in this haven of nature.
Before she even realized it the sky had turned from light blue to a dusky rainbow of reds and oranges. Lanie could hear the crickets in the distance starting to make their music. There was no way she’d make it home before dark, so she decided to find somewhere to bunker down for the night.
As she continued to walk, it slowly got darker and darker. Finally she came across a tree with roots that rose up from the earth, but still provided enough shelter to hide her for the night. As she made her way there, the sudden hooting of an owl caught her attention.
She stopped, shocked, and looked up just as the owl came swooping down at her. She rolled gracelessly to the side, barely missing talons. She hurried back to her feet and scampered under the roots.
The owl came back around and landed in front of the small entrance, darting a leg in after Lanie as it tried to catch her. She mashed herself as much as she could into the other side, her tiny heart beating so fast she was sure the owl could hear it.
It was a few minutes before the owl gave up, deciding to find another morsel to snatch unawares elsewhere. Lanie suddenly realized that her small size was no benefit to her when it came to the hunt of other animals. She would have just been the next on the menu for that owl if she’d paid any less attention.
Breathing heavily in relief and leftover adrenaline, Lanie settled into a comfortable position, hiding her legs under her body and facing the entrance, just in case. What if a snake decided to slither in? Her nose twitched; she’d be more prepared this time. She had to tuck her tail under her body to stop it from wiggling in her near-anxiety.
Lanie felt comfortable in this small forest, but it was still dangerous. Perhaps it took more to find somewhere to belong than she first realized. She’d give it a few more days to decide, if nothing else. She still had to go home and let her family know one way or the other, anyway. It wouldn’t do to just leave forever with no warning…
Taking a paw and rubbing at her twitchy whiskers, Lanie closed her eyes and tried to relax enough for sleep. She had much more exploring to do tomorrow.