Hi Everyone! Here’s a quick, little flash fiction for the cat-lovers among us. Or rat haters. Either or. Enjoy! ~ReGi

A familiar stench tainted the air, snapping Tom out of his pleasant nap on the hearth. The tip of his tail twitched involuntarily with mixed frustration and anticipation. A rat. An arrogant, filthy, disgusting, plague-carrying, affront-to-all-things-decent Rat.

Tom inhaled slowly, silently, through his nose, testing the air. Warm ash, old wood, fresh earth, molding porridge, unwashed man, his own musk, all familiar, all pleasant smells washed across his palate in tantalizing waves of belonging. The smell of vermin cut through them all, threatening his new-found security.

The Master’s deep breathing filled one end of the room, the wool blanket rustling a bit with the steady movement of his rib cage. A scratching outside the door caught his ear, but he quickly dismissed it as a night bird scrounging for lazy crickets. A slight breeze tickled the shutters, its fingers whistling quietly through the cracks. His ear twitched. There!

Tom opened one eye half-way to peer across the dark hut, his pupil dilating enough to hide the amber of his iris. The cocky rodent poked his nose through the ample space between the rickety door and the dirt floor. It sniffed, its nose bouncing ridiculously on its face. It peered across the room to Tom, then huffed its ratly laugh and squeezed into the room, heading straight for the leg of the table and starting its climb.

Tom watched silently, holding back a growl for the insult. His whiskers tingled, sensing dust disturbed by the rat’s entrance.

The rat stretched from table leg to table top and pulled himself up effortlessly. A twinge of envy over the rat’s dexterity touched the back of Tom’s thoughts, but he dismissed it, replacing it with a smile. The stupid appetizer thought it was going to finish off the Master’s porridge.

Tom uncurled slowly while the rat scrambled less easily into the blackened pot. When the rat fell inside, Tom sprinted lightly across the room. He pressed his feet firmly down to make the jump from floor to chair, then chair to table.

He landed on the table top in a crouch and froze, watching and listening for signs the rat heard him or sensed his approach. The room grew still. Tom pulled every sense into a narrow line, all focused intently on the rat in the pot. The faintest whiff of fear caught in his nose. Tom wriggled his haunches, adjusting his muscles and bones into the best position for pouncing.

The rat peeked above the pot. Tom launched himself into the air, his leg muscles extended against the contraction of his back muscles, his  back feet shoving the table for leverage, his front claws reaching toward the startled vermin.

The rat stared wide-eyed at Tom, frozen in surprise, until the tips of Tom’s claws passed over the edge of the pot. Fear-stench exploded into Tom’s face as the rat turned and scrambled for the opposite edge of the pot, but too late. Tom landed with his hind feet on the pot edge, teeth wrapped around the rat’s backbone, fore-claws stabbing its belly.

The metallic twinge of iron-rich blood and the savory taste of his natural prey danced across Tom’s tongue, eliciting an impatient rumble from his belly. He dared not keep it in the Master’s hut, though. He knew what the rats were bringing to the humans. He scrambled backwards out of the pot, leaped through the air to the nearest window ledge, then jumped down into the night, carrying his deadly prize across the Master’s small garden and out of the village.

He needed to go quickly. His sleek black fur camouflaged him in the dark, but also condemned both him and his kind Master to a terrible death if he were caught. As quickly as he dared and as silently as haste allowed, he jogged into a nearby moor. He regretfully buried his catch instead of eating eat. With that done, he rolled in the dust, hoping to discourage any of the rat’s passengers from hitching a ride back into the village on him, before slipping quietly back into the Master’s hut and settling once again into his comfortable nap on the hearth.