Once upon a time, my mother told me a time of peace.
She said there once was a time when you don't have to run for your life.
She said that that time was long ago, moons and moons before I was born.
I wish I was back then.
This year is the year of the Hunt Games.
And I am born in the unlucky year, because I am participating in it.
You wish to know my name? My name is Shatter.
"Shatter! Come on! Race you to that old log! Last one there is crowfood!"
Cinis' voice rang in the air. His eyes met mine for a split second. His bright blue eyes were usually filled with playfulness but this time it was just a challenging gaze.
"You will be so crowfood," I growled.
"No, you're crowfood," Cinis replied back. "Why are we talking anyways? Race ya!"
My legs bursted off the ground and then I was next to him. Cinis was gaining speed.
I gritted my teeth. Even though Cinis was my best friend, he still beat me in anything. Everything. He is always faster, stronger, and even talks faster.
I can't afford being second. But I saw Cinis standing in triumph on the log.
I had just one horrid though before I went back into the darkness.
I will get you in the Games . . .
"Mother! Come on! Where is Fiona? Did they catch her? Did the leaders decide to like... kill her! Put her in the games?" My voice rang out in the darkness.
"Stop crying out, Shatter. That information is something very dangerous. I don't care what Cinis says but don't ever mention the games," my mother warned.
"Wha Games? Why mother?"
"Shatter, you live in a dangerous world. The Twolegplace is very dangerous, however you cannot go out of it. It is like a pack of dogs in a cave, trapping you in. Outside of that little cave is a snowstorm. You can't go out, even though you want to. But if you can, you will die anyways. That is how it works in here."
For once, I was silent.
"I am giving you very confidential information. Don't tell this to Cinis or any of your friends."
"There is ten symbols of the years. After the last symbol, it starts over again. The symbols are : Egress, Bias, Sen, Wik, Pahik, Isi, Psi, Air, Kappa, and Hunt. You and Fiona are born in the year of the Hunt."
M'kay. The year of the Hunt. It sounds good.
"The year you are born in doesn't really do anything until you are 1 year old. Then you participate in the Games. Every cat born in that year will participate."
The Games. I knew that. I watched the Kappa Games last moon.
"Every game, the initiates will be held in a small hollow where they will sleep, train, and eat with the other initiates. They will be there for a moon, then they will be in a tournament."
A tournament? Ohhh… I remember. I hated that part when Olive was ripped up by Remus. I mean, Remus was three times bigger than Olive! And Olive was so nice to me.
"They will fight to the death. The winner will move to the next level until he/she dies. The winner is the last four standing."
I hated that rule.
"It has been this way ever since this thing called BloodClan died away. The leaders made this so they can control the population. Or that is what they say. I think this is for pure entertainment."
Pure entertainment. How are they so cruel?
"This continues in a pattern. Every year is different but has minimum changes. Egress = One extra constant, chosen at random, Bias = Traps in arena, Sen = Arena in the forest, Wik = Arena near the swamps, Pahik = One random constant will be killed the day before the tournament, Isi = Three winners, instead of four, Psi = One constant will face a trainer, Air = Training time is shortened to half a moon, and Kappa = Normal. Pretty normal, right? Well, until the Hunt year comes along. The Hunt Games are extreme."
Wait… I will participate in the Hunt Games! But they…they… are extreme.
"You will be the same hollow as usual. But the only thing is that ten of the competitors will be the Games trainers. And they always win. Only one winner will survive, other than four. No one other than the trainers usually survive in the Hunt Games."
Oh man… I will loose then, right?
"They also put stuff like poisonous ivy and stuff like that in the arena. Not just plain dirt. It is considered a curse if you are born in the Hunt year. That is why I tried to kill you and Fiona when you were born."
My mother attempted to kill me? That is where my scars came from!
"I wanted to save you from future horrors. It didn't work at all. You still have the scars that I gave you. Only one of my three kits died. I knew that you and Fiona were fighters."
Yay! I am a fighter!
"There was only three winners that wasn't a trainer. In the past hundred years or so. One only one is living, the one that won the past game. She is really really old and has like a bunch of respect. Her name is Vivo."
Vivo? I heard of her. She is really old.
"That is the Games. That is it. Our normal lives before that is just living in the abandoned Twolegplace. You try to survive on your own for nine moons. I will have to abandon you when you are three moons. Next moon I will have to abandon you."
Mother? Abandoning me?
"But it is necessary because of the law. Also, you must come to the large dirt place in the middle of the Twolegplace during mid Newleaf. Everyone who lives in the Twolegplace must come."
Even cats in the brink of death?
"I wanted to go out of the Twolegplace but I can't. The land beyond it is just Thunderpaths as they call it. And I would be more likely to be killed out there."
"But I think the opposite."
"After that, you live your own lives like finding a mate and such. You can kill any cat other than the Leaders. There is five leaders who own this place."
"And I hate them. I want to rip them."
My mother has murderous thoughts. I never thought of my mother that way.
"Earth to Shatter!"
I snapped out of the flashback. Cinis was still on the log but glaring down at me this time.
"Your flashbacks are getting worse. Anyways... today is the big day. We need to be at the big dirt place. This is the year of… the Pahik? Egress?"
Year of the Hunt, dummy.
"The Hunt. It is torture year, Cinis," I replied.
"Torture year? Man..." Cinis grumbled.
"I thought you were smarter than that, Cinis. We learned the order of the symbols with your mother," a feminine voice said behind me.
I turned around, seeing a cream colored she cat with dabs of gray in it. Her emerald eyes shone brightly.
"Your sister is really… good-looking, I guess," Cinis stuttered.
"Shut up," I growled back, elbowing him on the stomach.
Fiona looked particularly amused.
"You have a crush on me? I won't choose you for a mate, that is for sure. Maybe… Frigidus? Nito?"
Cinis looked crushed for a split second.
"Frigidus? I hate him, that is for sure," Cinis replied. "Nito is okay... but why not me? I am so buff and all!" He laughed.
Good old Cinis. He was the joker, the person who makes everything lightened up. I knew him since we were little. Very little, in fact. Our mothers were enemies but they became friends I guess.
"Also Frigidus sounds very frigid. He is that type of dude which is always stiff," Cinis added.
"Joke around some more, Cinis because you won't have some time to do it later. It is the torture year, or did your humorous brain was filled with so many jokes that you don't know what day this is?" another voice replied coldly.
That voice sent a shiver down my spine. It was Nito. He was mysterious at the very least. He does have a sense of humor but a dry one. He is that person who disappears into the shadows.
And Nito was born in the Hunt year. His grandmother was Vivo. At least he doesn't act like he is so awesome because he was related to her, unlike his two other sisters, Nugae and Narro.
There was awkward silence for a second before Fiona broke it. "We are late to the Ceremony. We must go."
"I bet that one of the trainers are going to win," Cinis added.
"Let's just get going, brick-brain!" Nito growled.
"I regret saying that you were okay…" Cinis muttered.
But Nito had excellent ears. "I heard you!"
"We now host the 120th Games! The Games are made to test every cat's strength and see if they are strong enough to be full member of the Fallen!" a large brown tabby cried out. I recognized that voice. It was the announcer of the Fallen, a winner of the Wik Games, Reed, and he was given the official position of the announcer.
The Fallen is what the five leaders called the Twolegplace cats. We just call it "The Dump."
"This year is a special year, the year of the Hunt Games! Before we will go to the big thing, we will go on and announce all the new kits born of the year of the Egress!"
This part is really boring. They just announce the names of all the kits. The number of kits being born every year usually vary from 30-50 but when their Games come up, about 10-40 are alive.
"We have Angelina, Brick, Stone, Red, Poppy…"
The list went on and on. When we arrived here, Nito, Cinis, Fiona, and I came here right before they started searching for the tardy. And they kill the tardy. We are marked off into the section of the participants of the Hunt Games.
The regular cats are marked off into three categories : The Kits and The Mothers (Kits are cats younger than 3 moons), The Waiting (The cats between ages 3-11 moons), and the Survived (The cats who survived the Games, ages 12+ moons)
Usually, the program starts off with Reed introducing the start of the Games, then the Reading of the Newborn Kits, then the Speeches the Five Leaders make, then there is a small break. After the break, Reed presents some recent news, then the Head Leader makes another speech, then they start with the Games. They just say the participants and any comments about them.
Then we are taken away. I don't know how Cinis and Nito are so calm about it.
Narro is standing on one side of me and Fridgus on the other. Narro can't help herself shutting her brick-brained face of hers, can she?
"I will win for sure! Mother says that I have the gift of Vivo. Mother says that I will win the Hunt Games," Narro kept on saying. "And Nugae is a copy-cat! She always copies what I say! And Nito is so scrawny! That is why I will win!"
And your plumpness will make you win the Hunt Games, fatty.
Fridgus just stood straight up without a sound. He is on the muscular side and can beat up Fiona in a few hard scratches. And really, Fiona is tough. He is the third strongest in the Hunt year. Only Brutus and Drew (What kind of name is Drew? A kittypet?) can beat him up.
I glanced around the crowd, trying to find my mother. I finally spotted her on the second row of The Survived. Her gray fur is neat as usual with her swift paws on their toes, posing to fly. But she isn't. She is one of the shorter ones and she just needs to see what was going on. She looks like those birds… a gray junco, something she was named after.
"Now I will present the five leaders of the Fallen."
Now they are announcing the leaders and their annual speech. They are the ones who control the Fallen or the Dump, whatever you call it. The five leaders are changed every five years. The next leaders are their apprentices. They have apprentices which learn their maleficent ways.
The first one to appear was Shade. He was the kindest of the leaders and tries to convince the other leaders to make a quick death like poison instead of a slow death. But that is the end of his kindness.
The next one was BMW. He was a former kittypet but ran away. He said he actually met the clan cats like ThunderClan and such. But those are lies to me. But BMW still has the name the Twoleg gave to him. He says it was a name of a monster of something. But he is equally as cruel as the cruelest leader of all.
After BMW was Fang. Fang was this random dude who was just plain cruel. He was the descendant of the leader of BloodClan, Scourge.
Then there was lovely Poppy. She was a loner but joined the Fallen. I don't care what you see in her appearance; I heard she uses it to charm the males but when they are mooning over her, she will kill them and drink their blood. That is why she rose up to be a leader.
Last but not least, there is the head leader, Claws. He looks very tiny, in fact, he just won the Kappa Games. But beware because he manipulates anyone who comes in his way. That is his power.
"Welcome to the Games! The Hunt Games, in fact."
And that was said right before all chaos broke loose.
I mean, who is smart enough to jump on Claws? I mean, he is tiny but that doesn't call for a rebellion, brick-brained Nugae!
Why did Nugae jump on Claws?
The entire audience went silent. They just didn't do anything while Nugae tackled Claws. Well, Claws was struggling under her grasp but Nugae's plumpness had proven to be a weakness.
And BMW and Fang was already coming to kill Nugae.
Reed looked very uncomfortable, in fact, he looked like he was about to explode.
"Sorry for the inconvenience. A rebel had interfered with our program and she will be dealt accordingly."
Her moment of awesomeness left when BMW and Fang tackled her. They didn't kill her but they scarred her. It was gruesome.
I can't describe it. Blood oozed around her. Her face was torn up, really badly. Half of it was ripped off. Even the healer can't fix it.
And the healer is an expert at medicines.
But she wasn't killed. Nugae was just taken away, a trail of blood following her.
Surprisingly, Claws was only scratched, barely.
"And on with the speech."
I only fell asleep on the speech! I swear!
Well, not only the speech. I guess I fell asleep on the break and the recent news and stuff like that too.
Reed was calling out the names now and before that, the audience, especially the Waiting, were exhausted and tired.
"Now we will start with the annual Games! This year is the Hunt Games!
The Hunt Games. So wonderful.
"The Games are made to prove that the young cats are worthy of being in the Fallen!"
"Now I will announce the 25 participants of the Hunt Games!"
Please note the sarcasm in my voice.
"But as you all know it…"
Yes, please go on. This is the best news in the world.
"This is a special year! The year of the Hunt Games! So, ten extra participants! Wahoo!"
I wonder how Reed sound so enthusiastic. It is probably by the orders of the leaders.
"35 participants. I will announce them all."
I know most of the Hunt. Well, there is Fridgus, Nito, Narro, me, Fiona, Brutus, Drew, Brick, Flower, Cotton and some more.
I don't know how the others manage to stay awake. It is like watching grass grow on that big field. And I swear that the grass there barely even grows. It is like every century, a mouse length grows on it.
My stomach started to do flip flops.
I never felt this nervous before.
But before I knew it, Fridgus was shoving me towards the lackeys. The leaders has about 50 of 'em and they are trained to be lackeys since birth. They live in the dirtiest place in the Twolegplace; they live near a Twoleg thing called a sewer. Some lackeys are trained to be leader's apprentices if they are fit. Others train to be guards, and some others are trained to be trainers. But very few though. And the guards deal with them until they are ready for service.
"Please come this way, participant," a small brown lackey started telling me.
But I knew that lackey. She had that familiar warm hazel eyes. Lackey-kits and regular kits weren't allowed to mix and mingle but somehow we bonded a friendship. But it was more than a kitship.
Really, I had a serious crush on Zero.
Zero is her name. I like it.
Our eyes locked for a split second. Then she looked away. Her eyes was filled with despair? Regret? No, it only was filled with nothingness. The kit I used play with was still there but it was blocked off by the emotions made by hardship.
Now I am beginning to sound like those really emotional cats.
"Come this way, participant. The training area will be on the right," Zero directed me.
I never met Zero again after I formed my little group containing Cinis, Fiona, Flower, and Nito.
I was directed to this large arena like place but blocked off from the real world by thorn barriers and poison oak.
I glanced around. I was locked in this very roomy area blocked from all four sides. There is this Twolegden to my right. It was covered in ivy and what everyone else was saying, 90% of the ivy was poison ivy. So I can't escape by climbing on the Twolegden.
The ground was just plain dust. It felt hard under my soft pads and when I lifted my feet, I saw black ground. It must be some Twoleg stuff that they used put. By the way, the ground hurts. It stings like if someone was throwing gravel at your paw.
There was nothing other than that.
The other initiates started trickling in. I was one of the first ones here, along with Narro and Brutus.
I saw the ten other trainers on the left of me. They were all older than I was. All had muscles rippling under their pelts. I saw that seven of the trainers were former Lackey-kits. It is noticeable because of their scars on their half torn tails. Every Lackey-kit born must have this marking thing. To show that they were imperfect, their tails will be torn apart. The tail will be bitten off after it and scars will be dotted on the tail
It was harsh, especially for a kit. Some didn't survive it.
"Welcome to the training of the Hunt Games! The trainers on the left of you will be also your enemies as well as your regular trainers."
I forgot to mention that Poppy and BMW are the "Head Trainers".
"Some of you won't survive training, of course. But these are the basics," BMW was saying. He had a hint of a snarl in his voice. Many leaders have that snake-like "hiss" in their voice. Only Poppy had that charming voice that made me want to go head over heels. That made me want to vomit. "Poppy, explain."
Don't ever be fooled by Poppy's lovely voice. That is her main weapon.
"Every participant will sleep in that Twolegden. You will sleep there. Go inside it and there is a main room covered in moss. You will sleep there."
I heard that the Twolegden was gross.
"In the morning, you will wake up at dawn. You will collect some prey for a morning meal. Eat quickly and go towards the middle of the Training Area; that is the place where I am standing right now."
Wake up at dawn? Cinis will have a hard time following that rule.
"The ten trainers as well as BMW and I will teach you six aspects in the tournament. The two trainers over here, the gray tabby and that red tom will teach you speed."
Both of them were former lackeys. They were muscular, of course, but their body shape was more agile.
"The reddish brown tabby and the white she cat will teach you strategy."
They looked the most normal out of the group with some muscle and some of that "agile-look".
"The silvery blue tom and the brown tabby will teach you physical strength and ruthlessness."
They look stronger than Fang. Those trainers will be hard to beat in the Hunt Games.
"The ginger tom and that calico she cat will teach you loss and emotional strength."
They look normal too but with a tint of unhappiness in their eyes.
"The tortoiseshell she cat and that light brown tabby will teach you skill."
They are muscular. They are agile, by the looks of them. They have that cunning look in their eyes. I don't trust them.
"And BMW and I will teach you how to bear pain."
Bearing pain? This will be harder than I thought it was.
"Go, shoo. This is your only break day in this moon of training. Enjoy your little bit of freedom before that bit becomes none."
The air seemed to be colder the instant I walked into the Twolegden.
The cats simply called it "The Slaughterden".
I didn't do anything during the break day. I just moped around for some time before Cinis invited me to hunt with him.
I learned how to hunt with Cinis a long time ago. Last time I hunted was a moon ago. Last time I ate was yesterday. I was too lazy to hunt so I ate crowfood.
And I am totally out of shape for hunting.
Cinis and I wandered for some time. We looked like idiots. Unfortunately there was no prey in this small place.
After hunting, I joined Nito and Fiona's little game that they made. It was just a game of dirtball. It was like mossball but using the water from the small stream, we made mud by using the dirt+stream combination. And we made a ball out of that.
We got messy though and got yelled at by the brown tabby, who I think was the trainer of ruthlessness. His name was Ichor.
Now, one of the parts I hated was coming. I hated sleeping. I can't sleep in The Dump. I am afraid that someone will kill me in my sleep. And they do that in the Slaughterden when we sleep. And they have no punishment.
They say that some cats slit other participant's throats when they sleep.
I don't want that to be happening to me.
No one wants that happening to them.
Other than the cats who want to die.
I walked into the Slaughterden. There was this spacious area with moss thrown on the floor. It reeked of crowfood and the wood was rotting.
All the participants slept here other than the trainers. The trainers sleep somewhere else.
I chose a piece of moss that looked less damp than the others. But another paw grabbed it first.
I glanced up. It was Brutus.
"Get out of my way, dirt."
He said that so loudly that the other participants looked up. To be called dirt was the worst insult, worse than brick-brain, worse than dummy. If someone called me dirt, it means that I have no worth; I am worse than the worse criminal in the world. Using dirt as an insult is bad. That was just what I learned. Using it as a thing was okay.
No one used that word. It was generally called the D-Word.
"What did you just call me?" I blurted out.
I shook my head after that. I was learned by my mother not to blurt out things. She told me to "Think before I speak." My mouth was particularly naughty so I was warned more than Fiona.
I usually never do that.
"What did you call me?" I said more softly but it was more hardened.
"I called you dirt," Brutus just replied.
"No one calls my brother the D-Word, you brick-brained dirt!" Fiona growled.
I heard Nito curse under his breath.
"No one calls me dirt, you dirt!" Brutus yowled so loudly that I was afraid that the imaginary ThunderClan could hear us.
There was awkward silence with half of the participants staring at me, half at Brutus.
Suddenly, Cinis stepped up.
"That already happened. Someone already called you dirt. Are you deaf? Fiona just called you dirt," Cinis replied briskly.
Brutus was silent for once.
"Oh, and you are dirt too," Cinis added.
That was the second time I heard him say that as an insult. Once, he called me that when I made his team loose in a game of mossball.
There was silence for the longest time in the world.
"Umm… guys? We need to sleep," Nito said nervously.
"Fine, you dirt," Brutus spat.
I reached for the nearest piece of moss and placed it over the rough wood.
I can't sleep tonight.
I can't do anything tonight.
I am a worrier. I can't.
I just can't.
Not just of the killing but all the horrible dreams will come back to me.
Everything screams in my dreams.
Everything in my head is a nightmare.