Midnight was the what they called her, although she was calico colored with splotches of orange and white fur intermingled with the black. Black was the predominant color within that swirl, and she was often invisible, seeming to appear only when she chose, as if she moved within a perpetual night, so the name seemed fitting. Her every movement had a calculated wariness, as though she expected the universe to bare its claws at any moment.
When it did, she would reply in kind. They all could recall the day the neighbor’s dog took it into his head to attack her. He charged, fangs bared, as she emerged from under the step. Though they expected her to disappear back under where he couldn’t reach her, Midnight stood her ground, not even flinching as the dog approached. Just as he arrived, looking to snap his muzzle into her neck, she struck, one quick paw, barbed with claws, on his snout. He scurried away whimpering, and seemed reluctant to look in her direction again, while she went upon her way.
There were harder things in the world than her, though she refused to bend toward them. One day, as the weather turned crisp and leaves began to change their colors, she left the step and her four kittens, crossing over through the garden, under the fence and into the haystacks. These were always teeming with mice, which she would catch with ease. Some she would take back to the kittens to play with and to learn the lessons they needed to learn.
As she stalked one mouse through the maze of of hay bales, intent on its scurrying form, she failed to notice the coyote. It was there as both she and the mouse burst out from the bales, staring at them as if it had expected her all along. With a snap of its jaws the mouse was dead. Midnight came to a sudden halt and glared, while the coyote snarled at her.
Another cat might have fled immediately, but Midnight knew better. She hissed, her hair standing up on end, even as she crouched lower to the ground. The coyote froze in turn—for only a second—unsure what to make of this cat, pondering whether it would be more trouble than it was worth. That was all the time Midnight needed. She was gone, fleeing into the bales and beyond, back to the yard and the trees that surrounded it. She was halfway up one before the coyote even realized where she had gone.
Who knew how many such near misses she had. She never counted them. It was simply another day on the knife’s edge of life and death. And she had dealt out enough death to have no illusions of what would come for her someday. But not that day, and not for so many that followed.
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