Mouse Rapier hunched his shoulders to illustrate his irritation over being tasked with preparing the pillow on which the Elder Cat would sit during his visit. He dragged it into place, but apparently that was not enough, so he prodded it and circled to ensure that it was perfectly situated for this sublime guest.
“I don’t see what all the fuss is for,” growled Mouse Rapier between bared teeth, tugging at the pillow’s edge. “Just some codger who’s managed to avoid a dogfight for longer than the rest of us.”
“Hush now,” hissed Butter Nose, pushing a bowl of milk with her head. “He’s one of The First.”
“No way. Five immortal cats who have been around since forever? Old howler tale. I’ll be surprised if he’s thirteen, let alone three thousand.”
“Even if you don’t believe,” said Butter Nose, pausing to smooth her head, “there are some of us who do. It would make everyone feel better if you weren’t so loud.”
Mouse Rapier sniffed and headed out, tail high with disdain. Taking his irritation out on mice kept him away from the place where all cats for miles gathered this dark predawn. He did not see the serene air of an ancient cat as it paced with utter self-assurance to its central pillow, black paws folding over one another as it began.
“Thank you for having me. I am truly humbled by your hospitality and enthusiasm. Yes, it is true what you have heard. I am one of The First. For those who don’t believe, I will have many stories to prove myself. They will give weight to my advice, garnered from lifetimes of observation and survival.
“The first part of which is this: the greatest threat to catkind is not man. Not predators. Not our environment or anything external. It is ourselves. A cat’s propensity for selfishness, spite, and rash action – these will tear us apart.”
Mouse Rapier could not hear any of these words, because he was stalking another mouse when a gloved hand grabbed his scruff and hoisted him into a plastic cage in the back of a van, along with several other animals who had been caught alone.