Willowsong glanced around, finding herself in an unfamiliar location. The first thing she noticed was the large twoleg nest in front of her, however, it had the symbols of all three Clans (plus SoulClan) upon its front. The second thing she noticed was that she was standing on clouds. And the third? The fact that she was dead. She knew that the last thing she was doing was fighting in a border skirmish with SlateClan, and one of the warriors was getting a little too violent, but there was no way she actually died-
"Hello! I'm sorry it took so long for me to come out and greet you!" an apprentice-sized yellow tabby mewed, interrupting Willowsong's thoughts. "Welcome to SoulClan! Or rather, the Waiting Room. I'm Noonpaw, it's my job to welcome newcomers. Come in, come in!" As he spoke, he gestured towards the twoleg nest with his tail, hopping about energetically. The wisps of starry smoke dancing around Noonpaw shook wildly as he hopped about.
"Wait, SoulClan?! I'm dead for real?" Willowsong gasped. But she knew it was a pointless question. "Should I really be going into that twoleg nest over there?"
Noonpaw nodded, his wide yellow-green eyes blinking with confusion as though it were the most obvious answer in the world. "That's the Waiting Room! That's where cats wait to be judged by the Council to see whether they go to SoulClan or the Dead End." Noonpaw let out a sigh. "A cat as good and adhering to the warrior code at you would normally be out of here in no time at all, but apparently some rogues have been killing off tons of Clan cats so the Council's swamped with work. It may take a little while for them to get to judging you."
"Do I really have to wait in there, though?" Willowsong asked, unnerved by the thought of sitting in a twoleg nest.
"Well, it's not really made by twolegs, y'know!" Noonpaw rolled his eyes, wanting Willowsong to get going. "We SoulClan cats created it with the help of some weird kitty called Dawn, and it's just a coincidence that it looks like a twoleg nest."
So, Willowsong followed Noonpaw into the Waiting Room, still rather unsure. Upon entering, she was greeted with walls patterned with light grey paisley, and logs fashioned into makeshift seats. Some strange elevator music was playing, as well. A dark grey tom was idly scratching along the side of a large stick clearly meant as a scratching post, a bored red she was snacking on a pile of mice, and a brown tabby kit was spinning around a ball showing what was going on in the world of the living, pretending that as he spun it, the world spun too. Not to mention the black fuzzy she staring at the wall!
"Fun place," Willowsong said sarcastically.
"They're just bored." Noonpaw explained. "Most of them are just waiting for Greyclaw to be judged so they can get their turn and leave." As he said the name Greyclaw, he pointed over to the grey tom, who idly waved.
"Why's he been in here so long?" Willowsong asked.
Noonpaw let out a sigh. "Warrior turned medicine cat turned lover with a cat from another Clan. Died protecting his mate from the band of rogues. Apparently the Council's really torn about interClan relationships. But if you think Greyclaw's been in here for a while, don't worry. He's only been here for 10 minutes. Don't know how much longer he'll take, though..."
"If you wanna talk about being in here for a while, you gotta know about Bloodclaws, man." the red she mewed, cutting into their conversation. "Apparently the Council couldn't make a decision about her, so they just gave up. Something about her actions being unforgivable, but she did stop trying to hurt others. Maybe they decided that because they didn't have a purgatory, the Waiting Room would be a good substitute." While explaining, she pointed over to the black cat staring at the wall. "She's been in here for moons and moons."
Willowsong approached Bloodclaws cautiously, and noticed she was muttering something. "What are you doing?"
Bloodclaws whipped around, startled. "You made me lose count!" she hissed.
"What are you even counting?" Willowsong asked.
"...The dots on the Waiting Room wall. Now i'm going to have to start over, and I was somewhere in the 500s..." Bloodclaws seemed genuinely upset. Clearly she had lost a few screws from being in here so long. "I swear, the dots change. They think I don't see them changing the amount they have, but they're so, so wrong..."
"Oookay..." Willowsong backed away, and walked over to the brown kit spinning the orb. "So, who're you, and what's your story?"
The little tom looked up at Willowsong. "I'm Sparrowkit. I think deathberries taste good. I swear, I didn't know they were deathberries...." He sounded completely embarrassed. "I like to spin this orb. It's like all the cats inside are spinning around. But they aren't really spinning around, or else they'd get dizzy."
"And you were that young when you died? Harsh." Then, Willowsong looked over at the red she. "Wait, what's your name?"
"I'm Scorchtail. So named because I burnt my dang tail off. Long story. But I died because some rogue slashed me open during an attack on SlateClan camp. Yeesh, not very fun." The red she, or Scorchtail, resumed snacking on the mice, which seemed to be magically refilling itself. "What's your story?"
"Border skirmish." Willowsong simply answered. That reminded her - she should probably check to see if BlossomClan prevailed. After she left the Waiting Room, of course. She definitely wasn't going to tell Scorchtail she was killed by a SlateClan cat, though.
Noonpaw, who had been outside waiting for another cat to show up, then trotted back in. "Hey, I forgot to tell you something, Willowsong!"
"What is it?" she asked, ignoring that she was fairly sure she never gave Noonpaw her name. Afterlife stuff and all.
"I need to tell you the rules of the Waiting Room. Hopefully you haven't already broke them, though. Firstly, no breaking stuff in the Waiting Room. Secondly, no stealing stuff from it either. Especially the infinitely-refilling bowl of mice. Thirdly, no leaving the Waiting Room early. Fourthly, no pouting about which afterlife you go to. And finally, no talking about the waiting room to anyone, living or dead. Breaking any of these rules instantly means you're sent straight to the Dead End!" Noonpaw sounded far too cheerful while reciting these words.
"Y'know, Noonpaw, you never told us what YOUR deal is." Scorchtail yawned. "It would at least be a little bit interesting to pass the time, right?"
Noonpaw suddenly began to blush from embarassment. "N-not really. I fell off a cliff and broke all my bones. Every single one. My brother dared me to try and jump across the chasm. Even though every cat in HailClan said 'no Noonpaw, you'll die!'." His tail was drooping a little, but it perked up as he told the next part. "I was so sure that I was gonna go to the Dead End for disobeying that I begged the Council to let me do anything to redeem myself. They said I wasn't going to be sent to the Dead End, but they said that I could have a job as an attendant for anyone going to the Waiting Room, and I accepted! And that's how I got my job. You can't take my job, though. It's mine."
Then, a little bell rang near the entry to the Waiting Room. "Oh, someone else is here!" Noonpaw mewed, and darted outside. Soon, he returned, leading in a white she and three extremely tiny kittens, two white ones and a grey-blue one. "This is Dovewhisker, and her three unnamed kits!"
"Excuse me, but from this point on, their names are Smallkit, Lightkit, and Puddlekit!" Dovewhisker snapped, annoyed by Noonpaw reffering to them as 'unnamed kits'. She then licked their heads protectively.
Willowsong wasn't completely sure she wanted to ask what the story was with these kits, but she decided that if she didn't ask, nobody else will. "So, erm... what happened to you?"
"I was pregnant, and I caught a horrible strain of greencough... At least now I know how beautiful my kits would've been if they lived!" Dovewhisker answered. The kits didn't really say much, but they did do a little nod, as they hopped up onto the seat as Dovewhisker sat down, and Noonpaw recited the rules once more.
Suddenly, a voice came over a speaker embedded in the ceiling. "Council speaking. Greyclaw, please enter the elevator to SoulClan."
"Nice," Greyclaw mewed to himself, as some of the wood in the wall opened to a smaller, shiny and metallic room. He then entered, and the wood closed once more.
"Why did the wood move?! Where did he go?!" Willowsong said with shock.
"Calm down, Willowsong! Those are called sliding doors. He just entered an elevator. Think of like... a really tiny metallic den that can move up and down to take you somewhere." Noonpaw explained. "Luckily, he's going to SoulClan, so it's going up. Unfortunately, nobody in this room is actually currently being judged."
"WHAT?!" Scorchtail snapped. "It's so boring in here, and there isn't even very many cats in the room! Who could they be judging right now?!"
"Erm, nobody." Noonpaw said, recoiling a little from Scorchtail's freakout. "A ragtag group of rebellious SoulClan cats are protesting that they should go down to the world of the living and do stuff, even though that's not only breaking the rules, but could cause serious trouble for the Clans. Long story short, the Council is currently preoccupied with something more important than a few cats who aren't in the proper afterlife yet."
Suddenly, Bloodclaws yelled over to them, despite not even being far away. "Guys, I just reached 100, but I swore dot 100 was over there, but now it's over here! Frederick, you and your dot kin may THINK you can pull the wool over my eyes, fool me to think you all stay in one place, but noooo, you are wrong!"
Willowsong glanced over at the paisley pattern on the wall. Nothing had changed.
"I'm going out to wait for more cats to show up, so you might wanna stay here! Unless you want to go to the Dead End, for whatever reason." Noonpaw informed them, then walking out of the Waiting Room.
"Oh, for the love of SoulClan..." Scorchtail groaned. "We're going to be in here for ages, aren't we?"
"Does it really make sense to say 'for the love of SoulClan' if you're going to be joining it?" Willowsong asked to herself.
"Chin up, you with the burnt off tail." Dovewhisker mewed. "Surely, staying in a room with such a relaxing song can't be too bad."
In only about ten minutes, the boredom set in.
"I take it back. Listening to this song makes me want to claw someone's face off." Dovewhisker groaned.
However, Sparrowkit was singing along to the music. "Do, do, do do do do-"
"If you keep that up, i'm tearing your throat out, even it if DOES send me straight to the Dead End." Scorchtail hissed. "I don't care if it's pointless due to us already being dead."
"Does Bloodclaws ever do anything other than count the spots on the walls?" Willowsong asked. "She's been at it for a while..."
"How would I know? I haven't been in here as long as her. I heard she sometimes wears the bowl of mice on her head." Scorchtail responded.
Willowsong was somewhat confused. "Heard? From where? Isn't talking about the Waiting Room outside of it completely forbidden?"
"Eh- erm- my uncle Waterpelt. He's - uh - already in the Dead End, though." Scorchtail wasn't a very good liar.
"Suuuure." Willowsong said sarcastically. "I won't tell anyone, though."
No amount of idle small talk was really helping their boredom, especially after they had been waiting for more than a half-hour.
"Please, just PLEASE let this music stop!" Willowsong yowled to nobody in particular. "It just drones on and on and on!"
Sparrowkit rolled his eyes. "I still think it's catchy. Long, but catchy. I'm bored though. Spinning the orb is only fun for so long."
Scorchtail sounded interested. "Can I have it then-"
"LET ME HAVE IT!" Bloodclaws suddenly demanded. "I'm worried Snufflekins may have set my 7th-removed grandma on fire! She does that a lot, and I need to click my tongue at her disapprovingly to make her stop!"
"Uhhh..." Sparrowkit handed the orb to Scorchtail, worried that Bloodclaws would smash it or try to eat it or something like that. Of course, handing it to Scorchtail wasn't the brightest idea either...
"Woo, i'm rolling around EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD!" Scorchtail mewed with the glee of a giddy apprentice.
Everyone - excluding Bloodclaws, who was back to counting - let out an annoyed sigh.
After twenty more agonizing minutes of boredom, finally, the speaker spoke once more. "The dillemma has been taken care of, and the next cat has been judged. Scorchtail, please enter the elevator to SoulClan."
"About time!" Scorchtail said happily, dashing into the elevator. After a few more seconds, the speaker spoke yet again - "Council speaking. Dovewhisker, along with your three kits, please enter the elevator to SoulClan." They all hopped into the elevator, which had already returned. The same then happened for Sparrowkit, and finally, Willowsong.
As Willowsong entered the elevator, she noticed it was definitely very small. She felt cramped in here, even though it was empty. Worse, the music hadn't even stopped playing. However, it did quiet a little as a mechanical voice rang out from another speaker. "Thank you for riding Dawn's Afterlife Elevator, a development by Dawn himself. Remember, if your time in the Waiting Room has traumatized you, bored you, or made you want to rip out your own brain and stomp it into the floor, we have a treatment right near the exit that will allow you to forget your experiences in here! This will also assist in following the final rule - no speaking of the Waiting Room, EVER."
Then, the elevator continued for a few more seconds before stopping, opening into another room. This room was far more like a normal warrior den, rather than a twoleg nest, and a button was set into the wall. Written above it was text that said "PRESS FOR WAITING ROOM-SPECIFIC AMNESIA." Willowsong wasn't really sure she liked the sound of that, Waiting Room-specific or not.
She'd just try to forget about her experience on her own.