Dream Cat

In the morning, you are gone. You’ve left a note for me, inscribed on a birch leaf with fine calligraphy. You dreamt of us, you say: in your dream, we were famous lovers, the masters of an old tower. Our six hundred and thirty seven children became kings and queens and powerful magicians.

The note smells of you. I burn it in a maple fire, so all may catch its scent and know of my prowess. I add a myrtle leaf, to keep my own secret: in my dreams, I travelled with the cat.

That marvellous cat! Had I not been blinded by the rituals of love, I would have given it its full attention. A perfect cat, it was: those shapely ankles, those precise whiskers. How could such a pair as us be parted?

I am quite determined: from the walnut tree where we parted, I trace its lithe passage. The grass resists me, weaving its blades together in defiance. No trail is left, so I ask for help: the owls, the squirrels, the flea circus in the sycamore tree – none have seen my feline partner. I take a gift to the cat councillors in the chapel attic, but that old affair with the flute is not yet forgotten, and they will not speak to me.

In desperation, I sleep. My many children seek me out, sending out carriages pulled by eagles and escorted by plumed bears. What clever children I have! Together, we find the cat at last, handsome in a fine top hat. Oh, what adventures we shall have together!

Emperor’s Dozen

“Good morning, Technician Cat,” he said, sitting down next to her at the console. He passed her the usual coffee.
“Good morning, Technician Rat,” she nodded back. Three years on the job together and they still didn’t use first names.
“So, tomorrow’s the big day, right? Professor Jade’s ordered all research units out past Altair.”
“Indeed.” She pulled her legs up to sit cross-legged on her chair. “There’s some chatter across the channels that he’s offering promotions to the first batch of arrivals.”
“It’s true.” Rat slid his chair across and leaned in closer, dropping his voice to a whisper. “And I have a plan, my friend.” He scratched behind his ear. “You know that big guy in maintenance?”
“Engineer Ox?” said Cat, an eyebrow raised.
“Yeah, that’s him. Has to walk sideways through the portals. He said he’s leaving first thing, first shift.” He wrinkled his nose. “We can piggyback on his access pass.”
“Well, that sounds like it could be successful.” She brushed a few stray hairs from her jumpsuit. “But what about Senior Technician Dragon? Doesn’t she have to approve this?”
“Yes!” Rat squeaked. “But I’ll take care of it. I have a plan.” His eyes narrowed and he fidgeted in his chair.
“I don’t want to know the details,” she said, stretching out. “Ping me early, will you? I have trouble getting up in the mornings.”
“No problem,” Rat said, fingering the sleeping pills in his pocket. “That top promotion slot is pretty much guaranteed.” Rat flopped out of his seat and scampered off down the corridor.
Guaranteed, all right. Now, how to deal with Ox?

Mr Muggles

Jack’s cat is a malicious thing, but no one’s noticed. Mr Muggles has a button nose and a twinkle in his left eye. He walks with a swaying feline swagger as if to tell the world, “I am here,” or perhaps, “Examine, ye, my untouchable beauty.” Only sometimes, instead of sashaying across the room, a prima donna, he jumps around and plays like a little kitten.

This is merely premeditated camouflage, an attempt to appear cute and docile.

When Mr Muggles plays it’s always with living things: a cockroach, a mouse. He plays without killing them. When he’s entranced enough, or self-satisfied enough, his guard slips and that twinkle creeps into his eye.

You might think that you’re safe, that a creature as small and cute as Jack’s Mr Muggles couldn’t play with you. But consider this: Jack has been in hospital this last week. He’d told his doctor, “I’m always tired. I’ve lost my appetite, I’m losing weight.” His doctor had said, “Son, if you look here,” and tapped on the x-ray, “that there’s a blockage.” He pointed to the glowing mass where Jack’s upper intestinal tract would have been if one could see soft tissue on an x-ray.

They cut into him to remove the blockage, a bezoar made solely of hair. A trichobezoar is usually made of long hair, but Jack’s hair is short and blonde and he swore he had never swallowed any.

He never asked why the bezoar was made of black hair, but that suits Mr Muggles just fine. When Jack comes home Mr Muggles will snuggle up to him, rub his black coat against his leg.

There’ll be a twinkle in his eye.

Minx

She sleeps on her back, carefully positioned in a golden patch of afternoon sunlight. The light glistens in her long silver-grey fur, blurring individual strands. Her front paws are bent as if in supplication, but there is nothing beggarly about this cat. I watch as she twitches her ears; they glow hot pink from the light that shines through them. She reaches a paw up to swipe in slow motion at something in her dreams.

As I approach and sit beside her, she wakens, reaching her paws straight up in a slow, sensual stretch. She gazes up at me with soft, languid eyes and an expression of utter contentment forms on her face: mouth curved up at the edges, eyes half closed. Her mouth opens in a wide, leisurely yawn, revealing rows of tiny, sharp, white teeth set prettily against the pink of her tongue. She slowly arches her back and languorously stretches her limbs, then rolls over and stands up in one fluid and effortlessly elegant movement.

She considers her options; then pads determinedly over to me. She climbs onto my lap and scales my chest. Now we are face-to-face and she stares into my eyes, emitting her signature purr – the soft rumblings broken with periodic hiccups. Then, with deliberation, she takes my nose into her mouth and holds it and my heart gently for a moment before curling up high on my chest, her fur softly tickling my chin.

I wonder whether I can bring myself to move just yet: I really should clean up the slaughtered bird whose bloodied remains lie casually beside us.

White Cat

She was raised by fairies, of course she’s every inch the princess – the long gold hair, perfectly curled, the blue eyes, the tiny ankle. The grace, courtesy, wit, learning; even the playfulness which I so enjoyed when first we met. Our subjects adore her. Even Hans likes her, and he’s been in my service since we were teenagers, and can be a mite possessive.

And I owe her so much – the kingdom, the quest, meeting my father’s ridiculous requirements. We still have the dear little spaniel, he’s quite a favourite of mine – he doesn’t fit into a walnut any more, but an egg cup holds him comfortably. She used the impossibly fine silk cloth as a wedding veil.

She’s really very sweet, and still curls up in my lap so affectionately. Given that tradition dictates I marry some lovely lady, I could have done a lot worse.

But then there are … the eccentricities. The balls of string. The milk: she laps very daintily, but it’s still not quite polite. And the mice are a real problem. So far she’s only done it in front of me and Hans and he’s very discreet, but I have no idea how we’ll hush it up if she pounces in the middle of a diplomatic function. And the crunching noises are so distressing.

And, of course, her … other proclivities. I do my duty as manfully as I’m able, but I’m not really the biting type, and the yowling is becoming embarrassing. Fortunately Hans has a really good salve for the scratch marks.

It’s not that I wish she wasn’t a woman – I mean, obviously I do, but we all know that’s doomed. I just miss my white cat, and it hurts to be reminded of those simpler days.

Cat Walk

Tom was woken by the distant wail of sirens. He stretched his entire body deliberately and wandered through to the kitchen to pick idly at the food that Mable had prepared. But there was blood in the air tonight and food held no interest for him.

Outside it was nearing midnight, the wind was up and a scatter of drizzle whipped between the dirty high rise blocks. It was a perfect summer’s night.

He stepped nimbly onto the rusty fire escape and tasted the wind. The sounds of loud drunken curses and a woman’s sobbing drifted up from the fourth floor. A clang caused him to sink deeper into the shadows but it was merely some teenagers in the alley below: their sweet, cloying cannabis smoke mingled with the smell of rotting garbage. There was nothing of interest down there so he headed upwards, to the roof.

He found the acrid signs of a challenger on the wall near the top stair: inwardly he shuddered with excitement. Adrenalin rising, he stalked, low to the ground, across the untidy roof space. He sensed his foe behind the old venting units and leapt silently onto them.

For one long moment he paused and pulled his lips back slowly, baring his teeth – it was the closest Tom got to a grin. Then he dropped down behind his startled opponent: back arched, claws unsheathed and hissed a vehement challenge.

It was time to tussle!

Koneko

The man stands before a signpost making his choice.  His bowler hat is straight and his coat is clean.  Decision made, he moves on angling away from the more favoured path.  That is not where he needs to be, he has to take a different path.  Slowly he comes across a dense forest and slower still he makes his way through, it echoes his sorrow.  He breathes the free air as he leaves the forest and all its dark.  Before long, there is a cat on his path.  He doesn’t look at it but walks stoically past, determined.  The cat follows him with its eyes as he passes and disappears down a long road.

Eventually he meets a witch, hunched and twisted.  He takes off his neat hat and presents it to the witch.  She slowly puts a fish into the man’s hat and looks at him, jealous.  They both turn to leave, no words are spoken.  The man retraces his steps, carefully carrying the fish in his hat on the long road.  And there is the cat, waiting.

He lovingly gives the fish to the cat and steps back as it eats.  And then changes.  There is his wife, she smiles so sweetly as they hold hands.  Together.