The lightning flashes outside, like claws prepared to snatch you. The rain pouring from the heavy gray clouds, like tears shed by the sky itself. The roar of thunder, like the beast in your nightmares.
A storm is circling above us, like a hawk in waiting.
And I, an unnamed three-moon-old kit, become restless.
The screeching wind, like the caterwauling of cats in pain. The splashes of water, like a minnow leaping into a stream.
A foreboding vision for my mother and my littermates, but an enticing adventure stretched out before me.
I want to reach out to the storm, greet it as if it is my friend, but I'm forbidden to.
For my age, I'm dismissed as "energetic" and "bubbly". It's all I'm seen as - a friendly, cheerful tom-kit, with a slight rebellious streak.
I'll show them. I'll prove myself.
My thoughts from over a moon ago, and I'm ready to fulfill the vow.
- * *
The storm lasts for longer than expected, to Mother's disappointment.
And to my glee.
While her head is turned away, I slip through the entrance of our den, and into the rain.
Lightning slices the swirling ashen sky in two. Thunder crackles - the sky growling its disapproval, Mother always said.
But the sky always forgives and forgets, she'd said.
The wind screams through the wide-open moorland, an eerie wound. It tears grass from their roots, rips leaves from branches.
A small, fluffy kit like me would stand no chance.
But I venture into the pounding rain despite myself.
The tears that soak my fur, dragging me down. They make every one of my movements slow.
- * *
After some time, the storm has not retreated, but has developed to its full fury, while I am far away from my mother's safe den, attempting to prove myself - with suicide.
Mutiny is no longer what fuels me.
I am cold.
The rain pounding into my once-sleek gray fur is ice-cold and uninviting. It is worse than the cruel talons of an eagle snatching you into the air.
I am exhausted.
Every muscular in my tiny body shrieking and pleading for me to give up. It is worse than any sickness I've ever contracted.
I am hungry.
My empty belly is whimpering at the very prospect of food. I wish I hadn't ventured this far. Where is home?
I am in unfamiliar territory, stumbling blindly through the rain.
This is not the home I've grown to hate and scorn. The home that I need right now.
A particularly strong wind blows me off my paws. I am rocketing backwards, unable to stop my plunge through then moorland.
My head collides with something hard and merciless.
A mere rock, destined to kill me?
The world is fading around me. The clashing sound of thunder and the howling wind begin to dissolve, too.
Leaving a peaceful quiet punctuated only by the occasional drip-drip of...raindrops.
My final thought before the consciousness left my body is, I failed.
- * *
"Wake up, little one."
I can hear the voice gently whispering into my ear.
"Mother?" I try to croak, but no sound comes out. I blink my sky-colored eyes open.
A pretty she-cat, not unlike Mother, but more graceful and elegant on a way, is standing over me. Her fur is white but dappled with silver.
"Who are you?" I manage.
Shw smiles kindly down at me. "My name is Rosedapple, young one."
"Where - where am I?" I look into her eyes.
They're golden and mesmerizing. I find myself fading again, clinging desperately to stay awake.
Her next words send an unrelentless flurry of pain, shock, and disbelief through me. Her words were simply, "You're dead."
"D-dead?" What about Mother? And Swoop, and Cherry?
Her gaze turns darker, and a malicious smile transforms her pretty face. "And you will be once more."
Before I could ask what she meant, Rosedapple unsheathes her claws and lunges at me. I step back, but not quickly enough.
The she-cat's evilly hooked claws pierce my throat. Pain flares through my entire body as she rounds in me for another slash.
I try to choke out a few words, but she slashes my throat again, almost effortlessly.
"Die alone, Raindrop."
The only name I ever knew.
Rosedapple sneers at me and the stalks away, her golden eyes blazing with triumph.
I vomit up blood the moment she disappears entirely from my vision. My blood feels as if it had been set ablaze. Why did dying hurt so much? For the second time?
I begin to fade to nothingnes, my screams echoing through the dark forest surrounding me. Surely someone would come and help.
Like Rosedapple had said, I would die alone, in misery.
And I'm to blame for it.