1.Another day is going away.
It's easy to tell. The chirping and singing of annoying birds is being replaced by noisy school kids walking down the block. The dancing dust motes in narrow sunbeam slowly disappear and the warmth on my back feels weaker by the minute. The shadow of the curtain changes to a darker shade that shows my reflection on the window glass in front of me.I never cared about any particular day——that is——until now. Days all meant the same to me: sunbathing on the dented back cushion of the living room sofa facing the street, staring out to the driveway looking at stupid dogs walking with their humans to do their business out in the public without any shame, and occasionally, jumping down the sofa to take a sip of water in my water bowl.But that's not all I do. I am not some brainless animal like pigeons who can't tell a piece of pizza crust from a plastic bottle cap, or squirrels whose only interest in life is to collect nuts. I observe. I think. I plan. And once a year under the new moon in the midst of the midnight darkness, I execute.It's no easy task. It really takes a whole year to concoct something worth doing for my human, something worth one of my lives.So why do I care now? Because I realize that I will soon leave this world to an unimaginable realm, go on a journey to an unknown destination, and worst of all, part with Jane, a human I've fallen in love with for the first time since I was born.I don't normally agree with the many beliefs humans made up for psychological comfort, but I do like what they say about appreciating the beauty of the present life, before it becomes the past. Well, I am not saying I regret how I spent the other lives before this last one. It's just that I want to stay longer to witness the joy I am bring to this family because of what I did this past Halloween.Okay, let me back up and fill you in on what happened that night, and the fate awaiting me in the near future.
It was a breezy evening just as I expected from the waving leaves outside before the sun set. Going outside was not one of my favorite things to do, but still necessary if Taffy, the kid next door, called me for a discussion of ideas for his family. (I was not doing him any favor. It was merely a way to pass wisdom to the young, a courtesy I return for those who had helped me in the same way before.)The trick to sneak out of the house was to follow Jane, the lady of the family, when she cleared the litter box to the trash receptacle in the yard. I figured out the routine shortly after I arrived, so it was just a matter of timing the frequency of my elimination as the day came close. After they noticed I was gone, usually around dinner time, they would look for me by knocking at my food bowl loudly in the yard, hoping I would appear at the call. Sometimes I did go back, if my business with Taffy was done. But if I didn't, they would eventually stop and wait for my return. I had been, after all, a stray before I came for their shelter from the neighboring house where my previous humans live. It was just natural that I would miss the outside world once in a while, therefore there was no reason to be worried, I supposed.It had been weeks since I last went to the outdoors. Taffy must've made up his mind about what to do this year after we last talked. The weeds looked taller and felt more cushy. The air stirred a little as the distant buzzing noise of kids trick-or-treating in the neighborhood drew near. Familiar steps and poles helped me up the fence for a clear view from above. I didn't need any assistance finding my way with my night vision, but the light leaking from the house windows did help me make sure I didn't lose my footing.What I was looking for, was the opening to our annual gathering. It could be anywhere and in any length or size or shape. If I had to describe it, it would be two overlapping dimensions like transparent mirrors facing each other. Still no idea? Okay, let me tell you this: to the best of human knowledge so far, they only learn that we are color blind and have extraordinary night vision. But what they don't realize is that we see an electromagnetic spectrum only visible to our eyes and comes to its fullest on Halloween night.Of course, spotting it in the darkness took practice. I almost failed my first mission because it cost me a whole night to find the opening. I barely made it back to my first human, Robert, before dawn broke. It was a literally eye-opening experience that I vividly remembered till this day, and the feeling of accomplishment when I saw him dancing in the house with the college acceptance letter made me so proud of myself that I decided to stay with him for two more lives before I moved on. Recovery from the car accident that could've killed him and reunion with his long lost father should be enough to repay my debt of gratitude to him for saving me from the fatal encounter with a mutt after separating from my siblings. This companionship taught me how to pay attention to the everyday life of my human, to judge what he or she deserved or what not, and most important of all, how to do the job right.So needless to say, I was able to see the opening by the crawlspace of the ranch house one block down the street, not long after my search. I quietly leapt down from the fence and landed on the lawn of their yard. With a quick jump I slipped into the opening without any hesitation, and soon found myself in a bustling ocean of felines, all black.
My second human Megan left me to her parents after she graduated from college, four Halloweens and four lives after I had said goodbye to Robert. Don't get me wrong, I still miss her from time to time. I wouldn't take it as a form of abandonment. Humans come and go. It's just the way it is, although, unlike what these "superior" beings think, they do not own us, the black cats misunderstood for thousands of years.
I am sure you've heard about the good or the bad lucks black cats can bring to humans. Different places say something different, but it's always a clear position: good or bad, never neutral. Whichever one you prefer, I trust you would agree that black cats possess extraordinary powers that mystifies humans since we first appeared on earth. Unlike our "common" peers, each one of us has a purpose to fulfill, something we couldn't foresee until we conclude what needs to be done based on our observation. Burnt, tortured, ignored, or loved, we never change our care for humans. So if you must ask me about the luck thing, I would say that we do not bring any, except what that person truly deserves.Now that I had arrived, there was no reason to waste any time. Not far from where I landed I saw Taffy, whose chubby face glowed with excitement from being able to find his way by himself. I shot him a smile when he saw me and gave him a nod as a praise, then immediately turned to search the catnip I came here for. It wasn't hard at all, if one could resist the temptation to lie down and roll on the soft ground filled with the most attractive scent from these lovely plants, and concentrate on finding the one with a distinctive aroma suited for that right purpose——earthy scent for health, metallic for wealth, woody for career, minty for family, floral for love, spicy for intellengence, honey for beauty, smoky for misfortune, rotten for death. None of these fit my need. But it turned out that the one I was looking for was right by Taffy's feet. As soon as I discovered its citrus scent, I gave it a small nibble just to make sure it was the right one. Yeah, I was positive. Eating the catnip was always the most enjoyable part of the Halloween nights. Knowing what I was eating here would take one of my lives away never bothered me. That was, after all, what we were destined to do. I stayed there for the rest of the night sniffing the wonderful fragrance, savoring each moment on this last visit. White blooms spotted with pale purple dangled gently from the tip of the plant, as if to bid me farewell. I would miss this place, I thought as I rushed back home.
Jane let out a sigh of relief when I showed up at the door she opened to get the morning paper. "Where've you been? We were looking for you all over! It's really dangerous to go out on Halloween night, do you hear me? People say kids like to use black cats for live decoration these days. So don't you dare to disappear like that on Halloween night again!" Jane picked me up and rubbed my chin as she carried me inside. I don't normally do the purr thing, but precious moments like these always made my heart overflow with so much joy that yearning for more affection seemed to be the only appropriate gesture. After lapping up the milk Jane poured on my dish, I returned to my spot and slept for the rest of the day. There was nothing more to do now, except waiting for the catnip to work its magic. As days went by, I started to feel a familiar dull pain, this time on my right shoulder. Like the other bulges under my skin, this one appeared shortly after my return from that Halloween night. Manifestation of the catnip I consumed, I was sure. Jane liked to sit by the sofa and smooth the fur over these bulges softly. It did, indeed, ease some pain as if her touches had a soothing power more potent than the catnip. She is indeed special. Whoever willing to take in an old stray cat with "tumors", as humans called them, should be awarded with a Medal of Honor for the kind offer of a peaceful companionship in an animal's last stage of life. Not that I don't appreciate the luck of meeting Robert and Megan, both of which treated me with affection back in the day. It was totally a magnetic attraction I felt the first time she drew me near with her warm hands, after I had left my previous humans, Megan's parents, whose yard was only a fence away from Jane's. Well don't get me started with those two! Losing half of their pension was not my fault, just a result of poor investment strategy and of course, treating me like a bad omen. By contrast, Jane never showed any kind of disgust I had gotten used to at Megan's parents' house, and I realized that nothing comforted me more than her tender strokes and the sweet tone she carried when she spoke to me. I could often sense a sadness in her though, but I didn't need to understand what she was talking about to figure out the cause of her sorrow. A dusty pink pacifier under the sofa. The glow on her cheek from last year's Christmas photo and the distress she was now hiding underneath her forced grin. Her husband's tired smile in front of Jane and the hollow eyes with which he looked at her back. The marking religiously drawn on the calendar each month. Clues like these were easy to pick up, if you paid enough of attention. That was when I noticed what was really missing in the house——the sound of baby crying. I came to this family with only one life left. I would've traded all my nine lives to give Jane back what she had lost, if I still had that many. But one should do the trick, I decided.
I think today is the day. Thank goodness. These many days of sitting on pins and needles will soon be over, inevitable as I've been aware from the very beginning of my lives. What I've been wanting however, since Halloween night, is to leave in a quiet place where Jane wouldn't have to witness my death, to sob over a scheduled departure, to dream about the pain I wouldn't be able to hide. I chose the perfect spot days ago, the corner at the bottom of the rear stairs leading to the yard. Luckily, the litter box was pretty full, so Jane took it out to the yard just as I predicted. So now here I am, lying on the damp concrete ground next to a wall overgrown by mold and moss. The night is freezing cold, hard to fight with my fast fading strength, both physical and mental. Well, there's really no point to fight. I silently laugh at myself, and let my mind go free while waiting for my last breath. As the recollection of my lives flashes before my eyes, a vision occurs to me: I see Jane, and her husband standing behind her. They are both looking at me with tender loving eyes as if I were the most important existence in the universe. I see soft toy butterflies hanging above me. Peaking through the bars surrounding me, I see the familiar bedroom where Jane and her husband sleep in. The most strange thing is, I hear baby cooing coming from my throat and feel helpless as I try to move my limps to get up. What a fascinating vision! Joy bursts out of my chest and I almost feel as if I were given yet another life to stay with Jane, in a different form as I imagine. But then, all is gone again. I let out my last breath, and left in peace.
This is a a short story loosely based on the true life of Aggie the black cat, our beloved friend who left us 10 years ago. Thank you for your time and hope you enjoy it.
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