"Susan, how many times do I have to tell you, claws unsheathed," Susan's mother said, exasperated.
Jacques tumbled over, easily shaking Susan off. She stood up, shaking the dust out of her ginger fur. She licked her paw, and ran it over her ear.
Finally, she spoke. "What if I hurt Jacques?" Susan had never understood why Shade always seemed so sensitive and caring, but then would urge them to use violence.
Jacques was currently slinking behind a big green bin, eyes round with curiousity. But Shade wasn't paying attention to him. Nope, her perfect little Jacques can do no wrong.
Susan met her mother's blue gaze defiantly. Shade sighed. "You know why you must unsheathe your claws."
"No, actually, I don't," Susan hissed. What is wrong with this place?
Her mother's stare grew hard. "Susan. This is for your own good. You must be unafraid to let out your claws, and draw blood. You must be able to sink your teeth into your enemies." But Jacques isn't my enemy! He's my brother!
She could her him shuffling around in the stinky Twoleg rubbish; but he was still being ignored by Shade. Susan looked down at her paws, shivering. How could our mother suddenly seem so bloodthirsty?
"Do you understand me?" she hissed, "Jacques! Come back here!" Her brother was attempting to clamber inside of the dumpster.
"All right," he mumbled frustratedly. He leaped onto the dirty alley ground, and scurried to Shade's side.
Susan had always thought that Jacques would grow up to be a rugged, handsome tom. It was true; but he always boasted that he looked like Bone, because he had a black and white coat.
As if that's a good thing.
She secretly feared that he would grow up to be one of those deadbeat toms that would ensnare a she-cat's heart with no effort. And when she had kits, he would leave her along in the cold, merciless world.
Well, of course that was a fear of Susan's. Considering that it had happened to her mother.
Or worse, he could grow up to be one of Scourge's guard.
She jolted out of her reverie, to see her mother looking at her expectantly. "Please, Susan. You must learn how to use your claws and teeth now. For your own safety." Shade's eyes now glimmered with frightening intensity. Frustration? Fury? Bloodlust?
Susan's heart began to thump loudly in her chest. For the first time in her life, she began to feel terrified of her own mother. She's asking me to injure my own brother.
Before she could stop herself, words bubbled out of her mouth like a stream. "I won't hurt Jacques! You can't make me!" Before Shade could reply, she spun around, and bolted away.
Her paws thudded on the ground, Twoleg rubbish crinkling underfoot. She could hear her mother in hot pursuit.
Susan's paws were still pink and kit-soft. So when she skidded on a slippery, wet piece of trash, there was no way to save herself. She hit the pavement with a bone-rattling thud.
"Susan?" Shade was calling out. She could hear that her mother's voice was tinged with worry. But she didn't want to risk it. Muscles aching, she dragged herself around a corner and behind a rubbish bin. The smell of Twoleg food rotting drifted through the breeze, along with the metallic tang of the garbage can. Susan's stomach squirmed, as she resisted the urge to vomit. Hey. The stench will hide my scent.
Shade's voice echoed clear and worried off of the filthy walls. "Susan? Susan, where are you? Please, Susan, come out! I would never hurt you, I promise! I will explain everything once you come out! Please!"
Susan could sense that her mother was getting frantic. Maybe this is all a misunderstanding. Maybe I should just come out...
She heard a lone teardrop spatter onto the ground. "Please. I can't afford to lose you," she murmured.
Susan was indecisive.
My mother wanted me to use my claws against my own brother....
But she is so dejected and depressed... and she said that she could explain it all, didn't she?
But why would I trust her?
She heard Shade mutter, sounding horrified and miserable. Jacques must've been there too. That, or she was talking to herself.
She took a deep breath, and padded out from the bin.
But instead of coming face-to-face with a crying and worried Shade, she found herself staring into a pair of lime green eyes.
The tom was not one that she knew. His ginger pelt was filthy and tattered, and his ribs were visible through his fur. But she could see the strength in his muscles all the same. Before she could protest, the tom snatched her up by her muzzle.
Susan let out a squeal of terror as she dangled ominously over the ground. The last thing she spied before the tom whisked her away was Jacques yellow eyes stretched wide in horror, and Shade's jaw open in a silent yowl.
As the tom rounded bends in the alleyways, an intricate maze with no true end, she became more confused and more terrified. Yet she dared not speak. Who knew what would happen to her?
The stench of other cats tainted the air. But this wasn't the warm, soft scent of Shade and Jacques as they curled around each other, attempting to stay warm for the night. It was the smell of cats scavenging for the last decaying morsels in Twoleg bins, cats that killed for food, or just for the blood running through their claws...
Susan couldn't take it anymore. "Help! Anyone?" she cried.
She instantly felt her captor's teeth spike into her scruff. She felt a drop of blood slip down her shoulder, as she let out a meep of horror.
But it looked as if her journey was over. The tom had carried her into a ring of BloodClan cats. Their gazes seemed to burn into her flesh, as they sized her up.
Her kidnapper released her from his tight grip. She tumbled onto the ground, colliding with a head-rattling smash. The cats around her snickered openly. She looked at the furiously. Yet, she couldn't stop her legs from quivering.
Finally, a huge black and white tom muscled through the crowd, his green eyes glimmering with curiousity, and some other emotion that Susan couldn't place. She gulped. It was Bone.
He gave her a little prod on her soft flank, as if to inspect her. She jerked away.
"Undersized little specimen, isn't she?" Bone finally remarked. The BloodClan cats hooted. Or at least Suan assumed that they were BloodClan cats; Shade had told her and Jacques that they all belonged to a big community called BloodClan, and that it was ruled by the powerful Scourge. And it seemed like Bone was his subordinate.
The ginger tom who had snatched her away replied in a deep, scratchy voice.
"I found her wandering the alleyways. It seemed like her mother and her brother were following her." Bone nodded.
"Scourge will want to hear about this," he rumbled.
Susan had been unaware of the dark lump resting on top of the trash can until that moment, as it stirred. She watched slowly as a shiny black shape unfurled, along with a row of hooked dog teeth attached to a collar.
Ice blue eyes flickered open.
This cat was barely larger than herself; but yet he had an aura of importance that struck fear into her heart. Who was this cat?
Bone dipped his head to the black cat. "Scourge," he mewed politely.
Susan felt shock pulse through her. That cat is Scourge? When Shade talked of his power and dominance, she had always pictured him as a huge, burly tom with plenty of battle scars. Not a little black cat; Bone easily dwarfed him.
Scourge's voice rang out high-pitched and cold. "Well, what do you have to report?" he said, training his vision on Susan. It was all she could do not to squeal in terror.
Bone gestured to the ginger tom. "Go on, Brick," he urged.
"We found this little thing skulking about in the alley. Her mother and brother were pursuing her, but I convinced them to yield. Apparently she was running from a training session."
Scourge's eyes narrowed in interest, although he twitched his nose like there was a bad smell under it.
"How do you know this?" he inquired menacingly.
"I stopped her mother and brother. Her little littermate slipped it to me, by accident of course, even as the mother tried to stop him."
With an arching leap, Scourge landed in the center of all the cats, directly in front of Susan.
Up close, she could see every horrid detail of Scourge. Not only could she see his icy eyes and dog teeth, she could see the other dog teeth, crusted with red, standing out perfectly against one white paw.
His size didn't matter. He was completely terrifying.
"Who was the mother?"
Brick hesitated for a moment, then answered tentatively. "Shade is the mother. A weak, worthless she-cat she is."
Scourge considered these words, as Susan shivered. When am I going to get out of here, if at all?
He spoke again, his words as clear as the sky that evening. "She is weak, yes. But not worthless. She can contribute kits."
Brick sighed. "I suppose this is true. This kit's little brother shows much promise; I have been watching them from afar. But on the other paw--" Brick's head snapped around to look at Susan.
She must've leaped about three tail-lengths into the air, purely out of fright.
Bone sniffed. "Just like her mother."
My mother. Why would I ever run away from my mother? She's not evil, compared to these cats!
Suddenly, another ginger tom stepped forward.
"Kits are only good if they are useful themselves," he added, "Useless kits like this one here will just clutter up the streets, and create another mouth to feed. Most likely, this one will never be able to serve in Scourge's guard."
Scourge hissed. "Silence! You do not speak without permission!" He shrank back.
Another black and white tom hastily jumped forward. "Do you want me to take care of him?"
"That goes for you too," Scourge snapped. He turned to Susan. Her heart threatened to thump right out of her chest.
"Was it true that you ran from a training session?" he questioned, almost in a mocking kit-voice.
Susan looked at him in the eye, even as she wobbled precariously.
"Y-yes," she mewed, "But it was for a reason!" Bone openly laughed, as Scourge cracked a toothy smile. Brick just stared with a burning intensity.
"Well, at least the scrap has some fight in her," someone muttered. Fight in me? When I learn to fly.
Scourge crouched down (he didn't have to go far) so they were nose to nose. "Would you care to tell me your wonderful reason?"
"My-my reason? Oh--um--"
She felt Scourge's slender paw placed on the back of her throat. The horrible dog teeth dug deep into her skin. She clenched her jaws, to hold back a yelp of pain.
She could feel his hot breath in her ear. "You will oblige," he murmured, "You will oblige to everything I say, or dreadful things may happen to you, and possibly your mother and brother." She felt the claws dig in deeper.
Susan gulped for air, and began to babble nervously.
"My reason--yes--reason.... My mother--her name is Shade--told me to unsheathe claws--against brother... I couldn't hurt him."
Scourge let out a high-pitched laugh, and flung her limp body into the alley muck. "That's the whole point of training! You have to be trained to spill blood, to rip through flesh with your jaws! That is what makes you a member of BloodClan!"
Susan didn't dare pull herself up, just in case those claws were hovering above her. She heard Scourge muttering to another cat. In return, she heard the first she-cat of the whole meeting.
As she perked her head up in curiousity, she saw Scourge discussing something with Bone and a beautiful tabby she-cat. Her green eyes seemed to sparkle in the red light.
Finally, the tabby she-cat padded to Susan. Her pawsteps seemed like thunder against the cats, now fallen silent.
"As Scourge, our great leader said--it is blood and slash of claws that makes us united as BloodClan. You have shown no promise, so far. But now is the chance to prove yourself. And we may decide to let you live." She cut her speech off abruptly, and gazed up at Scourge, admiration in her eyes.
"Thank you, Slash. As for your chance, here it is," he mewed in his horrible high-pitched voice, "You there. Come over here." The ginger tom who had spoken earlier padded up to him. "Yes, Scourge?" he mewed respectively.
Scourge's mouth stretched into a grin, as he uttered his command.
Jilly jumped up onto the newly-installed fence, enjoying the feel of the wind in her fur. The leaves rustled. It was a very nice view.
Beneath her, she saw a shape slip by.
She narrowed her eyes curiously, wondering what it was. She saw a cat, with shimmering ginger fur, hurrying past.
"Hey! You!" she called after him. But he still didn't halt. She leaped down from the fence, and began to chase after the tom. There was something about him, that was just so compelling, so interesting. Jilly had to catch him.
"Wait up!" she called. The tom finally stopped and spun around. "What?" he spat. His eyes were a beautiful lake-blue.
She timidly looked at her paws. Now that she had his attention, she was at a loss for words.
"If you're just going to waste my time, then I highly suggest that you go do something of use," he said, exasperated, "If you excuse me, I have younger siblings to feed."
Jilly instantly felt guilty. This tom was a stray; he had no home, no one to care for him and love him and feed him.
"I'm sorry," she crooned instantly, "I didn't realize."
He sighed. "Kittypets like you never 'realize'." Kittypet? She supposed that he meant house cat.
She thought for a moment. Then a brilliant idea crossed her mind. "You could come live with me, and bring your siblings! I'm sure my housefolk will welcome you!"
He arched his back, and hissed. "Live with you? In a nest with your stinking Twolegs? I'd rather die!"
Jilly was offended. "My Twolegs are nice!"
"Whatever you say, kittypet," he mewed, "Now I'd better be going." Jilly stopped him for the last time, as he attempted to turn around.
"Ugh. What now?"
"What's your name?"
Scorch. How interesting. "My name is Jilly. Nice to meet you Scorch."
"Yeah. Nice to meet you." His voice sounded distant.
A strange silence followed. Scorch shuffled his paws. Hastily, he added, "Um... I live just down the street and around the corner, behind a dumpster, if you need me." And with that, he sped off.
Jilly watched him go. He seemed like a rough-n-tumble tom, but also a free spirit, and a sensitive character.
Down the street, around the corner, behind a dumpster, Jilly repeated in her head, as she leaped back up over the fence, landing in the soft garden grass.