She lifted her head and opened her eyes. What had woken her, and where had her mother gone? The gap in the cliff which made an almost cave was empty, and the wind, which had turned to blow from the East was driving snow under the overhang. She began to shiver. Although her coat was thick, with an underlayer to keep her dry and hold in her body warmth, on the coldest days she wasn’t yet able to keep herself warm for very long. And, she realised, she was hungry.
At the thought of her mother’s rich, warm milk she opened her mouth to call for her, but before she did some instinct stopped her. Alone she was in danger, and calling out would reveal her presence to predators who might fancy snatching a plump kit to feed their own young. She was still small enough for eagles or vultures to carry her away.
She moved further back into the narrowest part of the cleft and deeper under the overhang. If she curled up there with her back to the wind she might get warm enough to go back to sleep. Her mother was a great hunter, she would soon be back, and as well as milk she would be given some of the fat-rich meat from a mountain goat. Comforted by this thought, she relaxed and soon dropped into a light doze.
When she woke again the wind had dropped, and the shadows around her showed the day was drawing to a close. Now she was really hungry, her stomach cramped with the thought of food, and this time she cried out her need of sustenance. A rattling of loose stones from further down the slope made her turn round and sit up. This must be her mother dragging her kill home to share with her. She crept to the front of the slab which made the floor of their den and peered over the edge.
A foul smell filled her nostrils – it almost made her gag – and not far below she saw the figures of three humans scrambling towards her. She scuttled backwards, squeezed herself as far into the dark recesses of the den as she could and making herself as small as possible, lowered her head and closed her eyes.
Time seemed to stand still, but eventually she heard the men exclaim as they caught sight of the cleft and the dark space in which she hid. Their voices were loud and rough, sounding one over another. Terror gripped her and she almost ceased to breathe.
Then a slithering, scraping sound approached her hiding place. She lifted her head and looked into the eyes of a man whose hand was stretched out to seize her. She spat, snarled and screamed at him; she raked his hand with her small, but very sharp claws but she couldn’t defend herself any further. He snarled back, seized her by the scruff of her neck and dragged her out into the open. She was dropped into a bag and then pain blossomed across the back of her head and she knew no more. She didn’t hear the laughter of the men, or see her mother’s skin draped across a boulder down at the river’s edge.
Part one of a homework originally titled ‘Three Little Kittens’ which I adapted to a wider range of wildlife.