Rev. Jan's Fiction Extravaganza

The Cat

"...When the moon gets up and night comes, he is the cat that walks by himself..." --Rudyard Kipling

I will never hear this quote without thinking of Dmitri, Dmitri who was mine... for a while, between moonrises. Dmitri was a cat, but he was so much as well! I appreciated him as cat -- and loved him as "else"; who would not have? But I should begin where it began, by the Lake...

In the summer, when the days are long and the nights longer, I went to stay in the Cottage by the Lake. It had no name, not that I'm aware of; nor did the cottage. They simply were. When I was a child, my grandparents lived in the Cottage; when they died, my parents inherited it -- and sold it. I never quite forgave them for that, but did buy it back; my summers were better there than anywhere else I could imagine. And they got better still when Dmitri came...

It was a cool night, as most were, and stars hung quietly overhead. I sat on the edge of the dock, my feet in the water, my mind free in the heavens above. My immediate awareness was of no more than sky and water, where thoughts are free to drift, unimpeded by earthly constraints. And then, I was aware of something else. It was furred, soft and purring, rubbing against my bare thighs... it was no more than instinct that prompted me to pick the Cat up; it purred louder still, at last bringing me back from my Nirvana of though, back to what was earth, but now... more than that.

In the pale light of the moon, waxing into its full brightness, the Cat was black, for all but his underside and his face; in fact the ebony of his fur covered his body like a cape, leaving only his chest free from its darkness. His eyes were open as a door is at night, revealing only a sliver of light, leaving the beholder wondering what lies beyond. I didn't know, then, what lay in his eyes; now I shall never forget it. I cannot.

The Cat, his purr more quiet now, as though he would fall asleep, suddenly seemed to be aware of my visions of him; he opened his eyes, and the purr ceased. Now he lay silently on my lap, staring up at me with something akin to amusement in his gaze. I was abruptly reminded of a dream, a dream so far in my past the Time had almost taken it from me, but in the dream, there was Dmitri; he, too, came to me in the darkness; I asked him his name; he said, without words, "Dmitri."

That name now escaped my lips without thought, as though against my will. The Cat inclined his head once, briefly closing his cold eyes. Dmitri, he seemed to say, was his name. But no sooner had he made clear the name than he had silently leapt from my lap, and was stretching languidly, his sleek fur accenting the curves of his muscles.

"Don't leave," I whispered, hardly aware of doing so; I had kept cats my entire life, but none of them had been as human, nor as mysterious, as Dmitri seemed. The Cat looked back, the obsidian pools of his eyes flashing red as they caught the moon, waiting for me to follow. I took my feet from the cool, dark water, and walked along the dock behind him, marvelling at the feline grace.

The Cottage was surrounded on three sides by dense woods that none of its owners had violated; I had, however, found a deer path on which I was partial to taking walks. And now the Cat was taking me there, though I could barely see in front of me; the moon was behind a cloud. He stopped suddenly, gazing back at me, silver streaks appearing in his fur as a breath of wind whistled through the trees. I find it hard, now, to describe what happened next: he was there, and then, abruptly, he wasn't. There was no trace of him, none that my eyes could detect; he had probably, I told myself, run away. Cats are like that. I smiled nervously, and shivered. It was growing colder; in my mind, that was an excuse to escape indoors.

I hurried towards the door, stepping gingerly on the cold rocks. Light streamed reassuringly out of its glass, just bright enough to make out the shape of a cat sitting on the step. I wondered briefly how he had gotten there without my seeing him -- there was nothing between myself and the door -- but the curiosity was soon replaced by gratitude; it would be nice to have someone else around the house, even it was a stray cat. They sometimes make the best friends.

I reached the door soon enough, and opened it with the Cat circling between my legs. He followed me in, jumping to the nearest chair, and, as he had before, looked at me as though I were to follow. I humoured him, walking behind as he inspected my rooms, stopping before me bedroom door. He seemed almost to know it, when I let him in; without the least light to guide him, he had hopped onto my bed. He stretched once, yawning to reveal long, white canines, and curled up next to my pillow. "Hmph," I said with mock offence. "Not even a last look, eh? Just jump right into bed -- --" The Cat opened one eye, glared at me for a moment, and went to sleep.

"Indeed," I mumbled, and left the room, to do a spot of reading before going to bed. I couldn't concentrate, though; my mind ever wandered back to my room, to look at the Cat who had so graciously filled the house's vacancy. I sighed, putting down the book, and walked away to join my mind, turning off the lights as I went. The room was now warmed with his pleasant trilling purr, a sound that brought me back to many other evenings at the Cottage, when my grandparents had kept cats; I took one to bed with me every night -- though whether or not they would stay was always debatable.

In the darkness I undressed quietly, not bothering with a nightgown -- who but the Cat would see -- and burrowed under the heavy blankets; Dmitri's purr renewed at my side. He arched his back, his sinuous body shivering, and crept in with me, curling up in the warm hollow between my neck and shoulder. I could hear him yawn, and then sleep took me as well.

That night, the first Dream came.

I lay in bed, warm darkness surrounding me, broken only by a shaft of white moonlight that pierced the window. But then its glow was shattered, the light fragmenting as though struck by stone; sharp, cutting shards of it illuminating in a brief flash the figure of on who was not quite man. And then, just as swiftly, its purity was as it had been -- almost. For just out of its reach, in the shadows that now seemed sinister and frightening, I could see the one.

He was no more than a blur of hard, white, deathly coldness, so cold it hurt to looked at him. I turned away, shuddering, but out of the corner of my eye I could still see that dreadful visage, growing clearer as he stepped towards me, into the light. Only his face was visible; he was clothed in black, an ebony cloud that writhed about him with every step. I wanted so badly to close my eyes, to keep him from my vision, to obliterate him from my memory, but no muscle would obey me. They recorded his every movement, the icy blue of his eyes, the features that were chiseled into his face like stone. I could never forget; that moment was forever engraved in my mind.

So, too, was the touch of his hand on my shoulder as he knelt at my bedside. And his words, murmured in what seemed to be almost reassurance: "So young, you are. Even in the night..." He closed his eyes briefly and smiled, benevolent for that moment, only the sharp curve of his lips reflecting the irony of which he surely spoke.

I said nothing; I could not speak. My body was no longer my own, in this dream. It was his, and the prospect loomed ever nearer as he lowered his head, the crystal eyes open again, gazing into my own. He was no longer in the light, but neither was he in darkness; there was a preternatural incandescence to his face, and the white hands that even now moved to caress me. And the cloak of black that he wore was still but for the gentle movements of his arms as they enfolded me, lifted me nearer to him, pressing me against his ebony shape.

And then, abruptly, he stopped -- and the world with him. He held me like a child in his arms, with a strength kept under the tightest of control. His steel-blue eyes grew darker, as a cloud passed over the moon outside, and his heart inside, but he kept them locked on my own. I could never look away; I still can't; I will never want to. He held years in those burning, icy eyes, years of unremitting pain and unforgivable trespasses; aeons of undying, agonizing passions that no will could restrain -- and at the same time, joyous release, freedom from the captivity of the eternal. Those, I knew, were the eyes of one who had experienced everything, and knew all of what could be learned, and was as innocent as a child, with the same knowledge.

His eyes were those of a cat. And more than feline; they were human as well... almost. For there was also the eternity I had witnessed, years no mortal could know -- or would want to know. These were the eyes of one who had no fear of time; not its fleetness, but its interminable spans, had brought pain into those eyes, where pain should never have been allowed to go. Gazing into them I knew Hell; it is unending existance without hope of reprieve, athanasia that very few can endure without harm.

The cloud was gone from the window; he closed his eyes slowly, and when he opened them again I felt a splash of moisture on my face. He sighed, slightly, but it sounded to me like a moan, one that was all the sorrow of the ages; it was changed to unhappy relief that someone else could know it as well. And I could move again; I lifted my hand, touched his pale cheeks with my fingertips, to take away his tears. The dark centres of his eyes, like scythes sweeping across that icy sky, widened in surprise, but he did nothing to stop me. When my hand left his face, he smiled, very faintly, without opening his lips -- though the opal tips of his teeth were there anyway.

What will you do now? I thought, my eyes bringing life to the thought as surely as his had. The smile was gone now, replaced by cynical, almost ironic hunger, and the pain that the nature of the desire brought him. He shuddered once and looked away, his eyes following the streak of moonlight that had brought him here. It was dimmer now, low in the sky; he knew what it meant, as did I: whatever decision he would make would be made soon, before the rising of the sun. He turned back to me, the blue of his eyes colder now, less of the pain showing now than the hunger.

It was the hunger that won. His arms trembled as he brought his face down closer to mine, as his lips touched mine ever so briefly, then my cheek, moist with his tears. They were the kisses of an angel -- but one fallen entirely from divinity, into the well that eternity was. And so he reached my neck. He held me tighter with his shivering hands, as he kissed me one more time, allowing his lips to open, and the opalescent teeth to sink into the vein that lay below them. This was his purpose in coming, I thought, through the chill that his touch brought; will he stay afterwards?

The fingertips that caressed me had lost their shaking, and their iciness. Now they were pressed against me, firm, steady, warm with the blood that had so recently been mine. There was no pain, merely an ache that could have been his, and the soft suction on my throat. And euphoria, like that which only a dream can bring. I don't know when he stopped, or when he was gone; all I could feel was the warmth that enfolded my body, like sunlight from above, or the soft fur of a cat...

...Like the one that lay beside me when I awoke. It was morning; the window that had previously filtered in the moonlight now sparkled in the sun, and I could see trees, green and swaying, outside it. Dmitri felt my waking motions and yawned, stretching his black paws and licking my face. His eyes were closed -- but suddenly he stopped his washing and looked at me. The eyes flashed, briefly becoming the same icy blue as those I had known for a moment in time, when the moon was bright.

I was transfixed; in my dream, had he not known me? Had I not acknowledged his identity? I had, I knew; was this confirmation? He blinked, his eyes becoming his own again, blue as the water below, innocent as the sky above, and began washing himself, his paws, the tip of his tail. There was no trace of the one I had known in the Dream. Just Dmitri... perhaps. Because the next night, the moon was full; I watched it rise from the window, and felt the cold hands of the other Dmitri on my arms. I did not sleep.

And so I had Dmitri... but only for a while, between moonrises... The moon waned, as it had to, until it was nothing but a pale scythe cutting across a field of stars; on that night, he merely held me, close, as he had the first night, the almost-full moon, and stayed until dawn. I closed my eyes as the sun hit them; when I opened them, he was gone. I sighed, closed the shades against the painful brightness of that light, and then shuddered, and licked the soft fur of my paws...

Dmitri lives on, as do I; I will find him, for eternity is ever so long...

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