phosphenes

(n) the light and colours produced by rubbing your eyes

prologue

The forest is still, the cool darkness of the night enveloping it like a soft cocoon. The usual soft light that bathes the forest during the night is absent; the dark clouds hide the moon from view, leaving the forest far darker then its occupants have come to expect of it. Crickets chirp in the dark, the occasional owl hooting. Small feet can be heard running over the leaves scattered across the forest floor - a nighttime melody.

Rain begins to fall from the clouds. Heavy, unrelenting sheets of rain that threaten to engulf the forest in an eternal flood. Upon reaching the forest, the raindrops struggle to breach the protective canopies of leaves. However, their resilience pays off, as well as their numbers; the drip of drops falling from leaves echoes through the forest.

The dim form of a cat slips through the dripping forest. The gloom makes it difficult to make out much of the cat, although their broad shoulders and rather square head are visible, as well as their gleaming yellow eyes. The rain doesn't seem to bother the cat; they walk with purpose and agility. It is clear they know the forest well, as they avoid all the small obstacles in their path despite the dark.

A sudden boom of thunder rolls across the scene, and the yellow-eyed cat looks up, startled despite themself. However, the cat quickly shakes their head and continues on their chosen path. It is painstakingly clear that they have a destination in mind; they walk deliberately and with purpose. Something glinting in their sun coloured eyes hints that their intent is malicious.

And suddenly, the cat stops, like they have reached an invisible boundary. Their eyes run over the surrounding quickly; something about them seems snakelike. Perhaps it is their calculating gleam. They cock their head slightly, a small purr rumbling in their throat, and sit down. It is clear that the cat is completely at ease. Why else would they begin licking a paw idly?

A sudden flash of lightning seems to crack the sky in two. The raw, jagged power of the bolt ruffles the black-and-white fur of the cat; for, in the brief light of the lightning strike, the scene was illuminated. The cat is broad-shouldered and muscular, her fur short and wiry. She's predominantly black, although a ring of fur around her neck, her muzzle and a splash of fur on her underbelly is white. Her ears are nicked.

The brief flash of light revealed something else; she isn't alone. A second cat sits a few tail-lengths from her, his amber eyes narrowed. His most noticeable feature is his amputated tail; it's only a whisker-length long. His fur is lengthy, white in colour, although his ears, a few spots along his back and what remains of his tail are a ginger-brown.

"Hello Driftclaw," the white tom sneers, his amber eyes gleaming coldly in the darkness. Thunder booms again.

The black-and-white she-cat, Driftclaw, dips her head to him. She seems far less angry then he does; his cold fury is palpable. Her calm demeanor seems to infuriate him even further; her calm response causes the fur on his back to lift. "Oh, Finwhisker. It's been such a long time, hasn't it?" Although her tone is relatively friendly, the bitterness she feels is clear.

"It has," Finwhisker agreed, getting to his paws, "of course, it was deliberate, at least on my part. You know full well that I never intended to see you again, once we'd made our goodbyes." The definite tone of his voice causes Driftclaw to flinch slightly. Although Finwhisker seems quite unaware of it, it is plain that the she-cat still cares for him.

Bitterness burns bright in Driftclaw's eyes as she answers, "Then why come here? Why meet with me?"

Finwhisker approaches Driftclaw, his amber eyes narrowed to slits. His voice is a low hiss when he speaks. "Why? Because how else would I get the chance to see you again? To look upon you again, to speak with you once more?"

"You... wanted to see me?" Driftclaw asks, clearly puzzled. "But you just sa-"

Finwhisker cuts her off before she can continue. "I was with you for two moons, Driftclaw. I spent two moons sneaking out of camp to the border and meeting you. But we broke the warrior code, Driftclaw. The warrior code wasn't made to be broken."

"We loved each other," the she-cat responds at once. "And what is more important then love?"

The tom pretends to consider this for a moment. It is clear, however, that this is merely to mock her. "Oh, I don't know, maybe the warrior code? You broke it, Driftclaw. A ThunderClan she-cat isn't supposed to end up with a SkyClan tom like me."

"No," Driftclaw agrees, "I've found someone better now. A she-cat from the same Clan as me. She's lovely, absolutely lovely. And I love her. And perhaps that proves your point, that forbidden love isn't real. But I don't think like that. Love is love, despite where you come from."

Finwhisker is silent for a moment; this time, the emotion seems real. "I wanted to see you for a reason, Driftclaw. Ever since I left you, ever since we said goodbye, I've been plagued with guilt. Not guilt about breaking your heart, no, guilt about breaking the code that defines every aspect of my miserable life. And I've figured out how to solve it. I know what I can do to make that guilt go away.:

This clearly puzzles the black-and-white cat. "What do you mean by that?" she asks.

"I mean it's time to take something out of the field," the brown-and-white tom answers. "And you know what that something is? You." With those rather chilling words, he leaps onto Driftclaw, ending her life with a quick snap of his jaws.

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