The mud squelched underfoot as a raccoon dog and an otter walked through the swamp.
The raccoon dog, Branch, suddenly felt himself sink into the ground a little. He had accidently fallen into a pit of mud. Aqua, the otter, helped him out of the mud pit.
“I‘ve never been this deep into the swamp of Appondale,“ Branch said, feeling tired.
“None of us have,” Aqua replied. She was tired as well, but she didn’t want to stop right here. She stretched her neck and tried to see how much further they would have to travel. But all she saw was endless mud that continued on forever, just getting deeper and darker. Will it ever end? she thought to herself. There was no where to camp, but she didn’t want to give up. “Come on,” she said, “Let’s keep going.”
Branch sighed, then looked up. “But I don’t think we’re getting anywhere...” he protested.
Aqua agreed with him, they weren’t getting anywhere. But she wasn’t going to let him know that she did. She glanced at Branch, who was behind her. “We will keep going, and that’s final.”
They trudged through the mud for many hours, and it was getting darker and darker. Suddenly, Branch stopped.
“This is hopeless. I don’t know why I decided to listen to your horrible idea of even coming here,” he said bitterly, “Now we’re just trapped in this ridiculous swamp. We don’t even know the way back, and it’s already nightfall.” He kicked a little bit of mud. It hit hard against a tree, and slowly slid down.
Aqua looked down at her paws. She didn’t say anything.
Branch glared at her.
Suddenly, they both heard a noise. “ZZZZZzzzzzztttttz.”
“Quick!” Aqua whispered, pushing Branch behind a tree.
After a couple moments, Branch slid out of the hiding place. His eyes flashed in the dark. He stared at the place where the noise seemed to have come from, before hopping over to it.
“Hey!” Aqua said, noticing that Branch was running off. But then Branch disappeared into a bush, and was out of sight.
Aqua sighed. She wasn’t gonna chase after him. There was no point. Raccoons dogs were better in the dark then otters. If she left, Branch wouldn’t be able to find her. If she stayed, there was a chance that he could find her again.
That is, if Branch even came back...
Branch tried his best to follow where the noise seemed to have come from. He felt very uncomfortable. He felt like something was watching him, but he didn’t know what. The swamp was getting stranger and stranger.
The trees were seeming to be black, the mud was turning purple. The mist was growing stronger, and he could see glowing purple mushrooms up ahead. He could swear that there was something illuminating the swamp in this area. He shook his paws, then stopped to lean against a tree. Then something caught his eye, a small purple flash across the tree.
Weird, he thought to himself, before continuing on.
As he got even deeper into the swamp, it seemed like the lighting was getting better. Ahead of him seemed to be a ring of trees, surrounding an open area. He sped up, and reached the clearing. There was a large tree in the center of the clearing. Branch noticed that the tree was hollow, as there were many open holes that allowed him to see inside it. The grass underfoot was no longer moist. It was rather dry. Branch circled the tree, when he noticed a tuft of ash brown fur on the ground. Was there an animal living here? he wondered. After all, the place seemed lifeless and empty. He continued to walk around the tree, when he came to a stop. Lying down beside the tree was a small, ash brown kitten, with its back turned to him. It didn’t look like it was breathing. Had it fallen down from the tree? Branch prodded the kitten a little, but it did not react. Should I take it back to the labs with me? I mean, we can’t really continue if we take it back with us... he wondered. After a moment, he decided he would bring it back with him. He picked up the small kitten by the scruff of its neck, and turned around, hoping he would remember the way back to Aqua.
Aqua paced impatiently. He’s dead. He’s probably dead. I should just leave. There’s no point waiting. He’s not coming back. And even if he does, we’re never going to find our way out of this place.
Then she heard paws pattering on the ground. Wait. Is that him? She looked behind her, to where the sound came from. It was him! Branch was coming to where she was. She noticed that he was carrying a bundle a fur with him.
Wonder what that is. And how he found it.
Branch had seen her too. He sped up a little, then reached her. He put the bundle on the ground.
“What’s that?” Aqua asked him.
“It’s... a kitten I think. I’m not sure if it’s dead.”
“Oh. Well, are we bringing it back with us?”
“...If we can even find our way back...” Aqua muttered skeptically.
Suddenly, an owl hooted. Aqua jumped, surprised.
“It’s just an owl,” Branch said. Then he heard something drop on the ground. He turned his head to see what it was, but he didn’t notice anything strange.
Except... Some mushrooms on the ground had started lighting up.
“Hey, those mushrooms... Maybe they’re going to lead us out of the swamp!”
“Yeah, or they’ll lead us into a pit of doom,” Aqua added.
“Well, better than nothing,” Branch said. He picked up the kitten. “Come on, let’s go.”
About an hour and a half later, Branch and Aqua had finally reached the end of the swamp. Branch could see the lights of Claws n’ Paws in the distance.
“Finally. Now we can get wheeler to take us to the labs.” Aqua said.
After getting a ride to the labs, which was where Aqua and Branch worked, they were tired. They entered the workplace.
Icicle, an arctic fox, had noticed them come in.
“What took you guys so long?” she asked.
“...Well, we just got lost and it got dark too fast,” Aqua said.
Branch nodded, then walked over to his lab. The building was not only where he did work, but where he lived, along with many other animals that worked there.
He set the small kitten on a table, then pulled out a machine that could detect an animal’s heartbeat. He wrapped the cord around one of the kitten’s front paws, then sealed it, and pressed a button. He watched as it went from zero to a very high level. It looked like the kitten’s heart was beating every second and a half. That was much too fast. And it had looked like it wasn’t alive at all.
If the kitten’s heart was beating so fast, it must mean it was either traumatized by something, or it was scared, or it was angry.
Perhaps the kitten was having a very bad dream. He looked back at the kitten, and noticed that there seemed to be a shadow rising from it. Branch quickly rushed to the kitten, and untied the cord, then picked it up and pinched the kitten a little with his claws. He was panicking and didn‘t have time to think of a better way, but it worked. The shadow seemed to have evaporated. Branch didn’t know what it was, but it had scared him. The kitten had woken up too.
“Mow?” It turned over and looked at him with large turquoise eyes. He looked back at it.
“Mrow!” The kitten playfully pawed the table, before sitting up and looking at him. It tilted its head.
Branch let out a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t an evil kitten or anything. Just a perfectly normal, innocent kitten.
The kitten stood up, sniffed the table curiously, and started walking across it, towards a pile of boxes. It hopped down them, before reaching the floor. Branch watched as it slowly made its way over to him, tripping every couple of steps. Then it reached him, and pawed his tail. “Mreow!” It swatted it as Branch moved his tail from side to side. After thinking about it, he was quite sure the kitten was female.
After he had played with the kitten for quite a while, Pine, a tiger, entered the room.
“The boss says the kitten seems quite strange,” Pine said.
“Continue?” Branch said.
“Well, he said we should keep it and do research on it, like tests.”
“Oh.” Branch didn’t like the idea of that. The kitten seemed normal, and he didn’t want to hurt it. But he knew not to argue. The boss was a strict eagle named Tornado. And when Tornado says something, he sticks to it. So they were going to have to do it. “Okay, we can do that I suppose,” Branch said.
“The kitten will be Test Subject #37 then.” Pine said.
“Can we give her a real name?” Branch asked, “I wouldn’t want to just call her #37.”
“Sure. You name her.” Pine said.
“How about...” Branch looked at the kitten. She was playing with a ball of tissue. “How about Cotton?”
“Sure,” Pine said, “I’ll get a collar made for her so that we know her name.”
Many days had past since Branch had found Cotton, and the kitten had already made herself well known for making messes. She had angered the boss twice already, and Branch hoped that she wouldn’t anger him again. Cotton seemed to love exploring the labs. But the research they had done wasn’t really going anywhere. It seemed like she was a perfectly normal kitten.
The animals that worked in the lab were having a meeting. They were discussing... something. Branch hadn’t been paying attention.
Suddenly, an empty chair clattered towards the table, causing a few things to slide off. One thing was a book, and another was a stack of papers, which scattered across the floor. A telephone crashed to the ground, and a glass cup filled with milk fell after them, which broke into pieces and the milk spilled across the papers, getting on the carpet.
Cotton peaked from under the table with a guilty expression, then quickly hopped to a puddle of milk and began licking it up. She mewed cheerfully.
The boss narrowed his eyes at her. He looked very angry. Very, very angry.
He turned and glared at Branch.
“I’ve had ENOUGH of the stupid cat you brought here! All it has been resulting in is DISASTERS! You are going to throw that cat back in the forest where it belongs! And when you come back here, there’s not a single other thing I’m going to ask you to do, BECAUSE YOU ARE FIRED. So you can go back to wherever you come from and NEVER COME BACK!”
The last part seemed to have been targeted at Cotton.
Branch looked down at his paws. Nobody noticed that Cotton’s eyes had turned to a deep shade of red.
The light dimmed a little.
A dark shadow began to rise from behind Cotton, and it grew bigger and bigger. Everybody turned in horror as they saw it rise.
It formed the shape of a phantom, and thousands of phantoms came out of the shadow.
All of them rose and their eyes formed large, red beams that shot straight at Tornado.
Tornado let out a screech of horror, just before the beams consumed him.
Febuary 29th, 2014
Cotton was dropped into a tank. Silver hit a button. The tank closed, and slowly grew icy cold. It formed an ice cube inside. Silver left the room, then turned on a button that caused cold icy mist to spew from the pipes.
He took out a piece of paper, and wrote down something.
On Febuary 29th, 2014 Test Subject #37 was frozen for enternity for the following reason:
Silver looked at the paper.
Why did I write Febuarary 29th? It isn’t the Leap Year this year...