It was spring in the high country. Snow melting away from the towering peaks slipped into the ice-cold mountain streams, as they meandered through deep gullies. Joining together growing in size and momentum and becoming one wild, raging torrent of water. Cascading down the mountains, cutting a broad ribbon of blue through the lush green valleys. Turning, twisting on its way to the distant hill farms. For miles stretched wilderness and isolation. No telephone wires, electric grids or any trappings of civilization marred the rugged landscape. Few men came this way by choice. Here was still the kingdom of the wild animal, living free as nature intended.
Deep in a glade thick with fern and long grasses, a heavily pregnant puma searched for a sheltered hollow. Finding one, she began to make a nest of soft moss and ferns, snarling at her mate as he tried to join her. A faint stirring inside urged her on. She needed no companion for the task that was ahead. The time was near for her kittens to be born.
Soon, one by one, each kitten took its place in the world, wrapped in a thin, sack of skin. Carefully, the mother cat bit it away and licked the tiny creatures rolling them over until clean and dry. Each one a perfect kitten with the dark mottled spots of infancy on their fur. Holding high black ringed string like tails. Blind and helpless, they squirmed on the ground, their oversized heads rocking back and forth, as they inched forward, instinctively following a scent and finding the first milk of life. At last, her labours complete, the mother cat fell into a deep sleep. Seven contented kittens snuggled close to her warm body, almost hidden by her fur, unaware of the dangers surrounding them in their wild world.
They grew swiftly in the gentle days of spring. Soon, with blue eyes wide open, they played between the moss and fern of the hollow. Mother watched them, pulling back any that managed to scramble out. She knew very well that others would find these tiny things easy prey. All this time she had not left the kittens once, feeding only on small mice, insects, and other tiny mammals that darted out from the surrounding bushes. She was now thin and hungry. In the dim light of dawn, while the kittens were still sound asleep, she stole away, meaning to be gone only long enough to find some food. Stealthily stalking a bird, intent on his breakfast, she pounced but weakened by the demands made on her by her kittens, she fell short. The startled bird flew off as she tumbled headlong into a thorn bush. It took a long time to disentangle herself from the cruel barbs. Bleeding and with thorns from the bush deep in her flesh, she painfully hurried home, her heart pounding, knowing the kittens had been alone too long.
During her absence, the kittens climbed out from the safety of the hollow, wandering off in all directions, searching for their mother. An eagle screeched overhead and in her talons, she held a limp kitten. Her chicks would eat well this morning. On the river bank, an otter, homeward bound after a night's hunting. Just about to pounce on another when sharp claws dug deep into his back, and a ferocious, snarling bundle of fury set about him. The mother cat returned. Fearlessly, she hurled herself at the otter, knocking him over. She stood her ground as he turned to face her. Standing sideways on, fur bristling, with back arched and orange eyes flashing, she waited between him and her kitten, ready to defend it no matter what the cost. Unsheathing her long claws, she lashed out, dragging the skin from his nose. Snarling in pain, he lunged at her repeatedly, they tumble over each other as they struggled. The dusty ground streaked red with the blood streaming from their wounds. The cat was weakening, the otter, realising this, grew careless, and for a brief, fatal moment released his hold. She twisted away, turned, gathering her remaining strength, and made a last desperate leap at his throat, tearing a deep rent across it. He fell dying at her feet. The cat circled him, snarling. Deciding he could do no more harm, she gently picked up the kitten and took it back to the hollow. With a heavy heart, she searched for the remaining kittens but found only three. The rest she knew had perished, too small and weak to
Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Publication Date: 11-13-2012
All Rights Reserved