6. A World Unknown
The weather outside had lost its gloomy darkness and now the sun shown brightly through the windows of the house. The Twolegs Nofurs had even opened several of the windows to let the fresh clean breeze blow through the house. It had far too long since the kittens had been able to sit in front of an open window, and now they all clamoured for the open window in the dining room. A constantly revolving shoving and pushing match broke out between the kittens as they each tried to monopolize the open window. Bandit entered the dining room and shook his head in disbelief at the kittens’ antics. He calmly walked over to the other open windows and hopped up onto the sill. He could still hear the kittens as they fought.
"Eppy." Little One complained as he tried to push Eppy out of the way. "I was here first."
"No you weren't." Alyssa stated as she pulled Little One from the window sill. "I was here where the female opened the window."
"Well." Eppy declared. "You have both had your turn. It's my turn now."
"You just like the way the wind blows your fur around." Little One protested from the floor. "I need to practise my Scents."
"Your what." Alyssa asked as she scrunched up her nose.
"Scents." Little One replied. "The way things truly smell."
"Like your dingleberried butt." Alyssa joked.
"No." Little One snapped. "Like the way, we know what type of food the female is bringing before we even see it."
"Is this something Bandit taught you?" Eppy sneered. "I'm going to tell mom."
"No. Bandit didn't tell me." Little One lied. "I am getting bigger and I can smell more things now."
"Sure." Eppy sighed.
"Right" Alyssa agreed with Eppy.
There was a brief lull in the fighting as the kittens assessed where each of them was. A heartbeat later, the tussling and swatting resumed in full force.
There was a strange sound that echoed though the house. Little One watched as Bandit bolted from the window sill and headed for the rear of the house. He was momentarily distracted by the realization that Bandit had a window sill all to himself. Little One refocused on the strange metallic creaking noise. It had been a while since the last time the kittens had heard that noise. The kittens soon heard their mother calling to them from the back of the house. They abandoned their fight over the window sill and ran towards their mother's voice.
"Kittens!" Momma Cat cried out. "Little One! Eppy! Alyssa! Come here!"
The kitten ran to their mother. They were stunned to see the female and male Twolegs attaching collars to their mother, Bandit and Uncle Magoo. Bandit did not seem thrilled with the concept of the collar and he struggled vainly. A couple of sharp words from the male Twolegs and Bandit quickly resigned himself to the collar. The male Twolegs disappeared with Bandit through an open doorway.
“Momma.” Little One cried. “Where’s he taking Bandit?”
“Don’t worry Little One.” Momma Cat reassured her kitten. “He has just been taken Outside to enjoy the sunny weather.”
“Outside?” Eppy asked. “What is Outside? I don’t think I like it. It sounds very dirty.”
“You kittens are old enough to come Outside with me.” Momma Cat explained. “You have far too much energy to be cooped in the House all the time. And the female Twolegs seems to enjoy being Outside with us.”
Little One watched as his mother patiently stood and waited for her purple collar to be draped over her body and around her neck. Alyssa found the collar intriguing and began to try and play with the free end. She was gently pushed away by a laughing Twolegs. The male twolegs returned and then disappeared again with Uncle Magoo under his arm. Little One thought he understood what was going on, but he was not prepared when his mother was scooped up and taken Outside.
“Momma!” Little One screamed at the top of his tiny lungs and he ran for the open doorway.
He was caught by the female Twolegs at the threshold of the doorway. He squirmed and contorted his body as he tried to free himself. He had to find out where his mother had been taken. The female Twolegs handed Little One to the male Twolegs, and then scooped up Alyssa and Eppy, who were behaving far better than Little One.
“Where’s my collar?” Alyssa asked. “I want a pretty blue one. To match my blue eyes.”
The kittens were carried across the deck to the large green patch of grass. Little One saw his mother, Bandit and Uncle Magoo contently chewing on the green grass. His heart slowed from its racing as he saw that his mother had not gone away.
Little One did not know what to think when his paws touched the soft grass for the first time. He tried to lift all four paws off the grass, but he always seemed to have one paw touching the foreign stuff. Eppy stood up on her paws determined to keep as much of her body away from the grass. Alyssa was quite different in her reaction to the new sensation of grass under paw. She giggled and ran towards Uncle Magoo as she reveled in the feeling of the grass.
“Now kittens.” Momma Cat warned. “You are not to stray very far away from me. I can’t chase all over the Yard to find you.”
Little One noticed that she, Bandit and Uncle Magoo had a long thin rope tying them to a stake in the center of the Yard.
“Go where you want.” She continued. ”But do not leave my sight.”
“Okay.” It was only Little One’s first taste of freedom and he was already bristling at the notion it was going to be limited.
The kittens played in the grass and under the bushes. Alyssa discovered the trees and experimented with how high she could climb. She was unceremoniously removed from the tree by the female Twolegs and placed back next to her mother. This was a scene that repeated itself multiple times. Little One was surprised that the Twolegs never got upset or anger at having to retrieve Alyssa from the tree. Eppy tried to remain stoic and nonplussed as she sat next to Momma Cat. That lasted until a pale white butterfly flitted past her nose. Eppy leaped at the butterfly and was rewarded with a pawful of air. Little One snickered as her ineptness. Eppy did not care as she was totally absorbed in her hunt of the little white butterfly.
Little One noticed Bandit at the end of his restraint. He trotted over to Bandit’s side. Bandit was sniffing in disgust at a something in the grass. Little One sniffed at the object and grimaced in disgust.
“Ewww!” Little One pawed at his nose. “What is that?”
“A dropping.” Bandit said sharply.
Little One could sense that the dropping was making Bandit nervous. Little One tried to find the Scent of the dropping. Something large and dark had left this behind and it was not a cat either.
“Who is this from…?” Little One’s question was cut off by a very terse and alert Bandit.
“It is dog.” Bandit growled. “Go to your mother. Now!”
Momma Cat sensed Bandit’s agitation and she came over to investigate. She had forgiven Bandit for the stories he had told Little One, but if he was scaring her kitten again, she would be very displeased. She was several feet away when she caught wind of the dog dropping. She also grew agitated. The dropping was fresh and that meant the dog was still in the area. She ran towards where the female Twolegs was reading her book.
“To me, Kittens!” Momma Cat cried out to her kittens. “To me! Come to me right now!”
Little One hesitated slightly.
“Go now!” Bandit commanded harshly.
Little One obeyed immediately and ran to his mother’s side. Alyssa and Eppy also ran to her side. Eppy was less than happy at having to give up on the hunt for the white butterfly.
“What is it?” Eppy asked.
“We are going inside now.” Momma Cat pulled and squirmed against her collar.
The female Twolegs saw Momma Cat’s distress and quickly unhooked her leash. Momma Cat trotted quickly to the back door.
“Follow me.” Momma Cat ordered.
The kittens obeyed their mother’s orders and followed her across the deck. Their mother did not relax until they were all inside the safety of the house. She groomed each one of her kittens to reassure herself that all were safe and accounted for. Bandit and Uncle Magoo were brought into the house shortly thereafter. Uncle Magoo grumbled but then found a sunny spot and soon was snoring away. Bandit was still upset and he paced back and forth at the back door.
Little One approached Bandit and flopped down onto his side of the floor.
“What is wrong?” Little One asked. “I know the dropping was very gross, but I don’t think…”
“There is no think in this matter, Little One.” Bandit snapped. “What did you Scent in the dropping?”
“It was very smelly.” Little One explained.
“No.” Bandit interrupted. “It was not just very smelly. There was a darkness about it. The dog that left that dropping was on the Hunt. The Hunt is very dangerous, Little One. It is very dangerous indeed.”
“Has your mother told you of the Hunt?” Bandit asked.
“No.” Little One paused. “What is the Hunt?”
“All creatures of tooth and fang perform the Hunt.” Bandit explained. “Sometimes it is for food, sometimes it is for territory, and sometimes…”
Bandit’s voice trailed off. He was worried that he was about to cross Momma Cat’s line about which stories were for little kitten ears and which were not.
“Sometimes is not for either of those.” Bandit explained. “And when it is not, there is great danger and the only thing to do is to run and try to hide. Do you understand?”
“I think so.” Little One replied.
“Good. Remember that Scent, Little One. It is the most important Scent to know.” Bandit turned away from the doorway and went to find a quiet spot to alleviate his agitation. “For both the Free and the Bound.”