She woke slowly, becoming aware of sound and scent first. Her mind still hazy, she just laid there, breathing for a moment. The last few days had been confusing.
She’d been getting tired easier and was always cold, sleeping was all she wanted to do, and she had a place the other would not bother her. When she had gotten up to eat her back legs didn’t work right, she couldn’t feel them, but she found she could still get to her food and most desired pets.
The humans had seemed concerned. They tried to hide it, but it leaked out in their voices and scents. They put her up right and called her for pets. She took a few steps then the back legs just would not hold her anymore and her hips dropped to the side.
They had watched her, still trying to hide the fear, so she tried to tell them that she was okay, but she was tired and couldn’t get up on the bed, the bestest warm place anywhere. They put her in the box and took her in the noisy room to the scary place. Strangers poked her and did unpleasant things, talked to her person and left. She could hear and smell others, but they were not close enough to threaten her, so she tried to ignore them. Her person was there, so was the other person. They spoke to each other and to her. There was sadness around them and they seemed to be trying to tell her something. She wanted their sadness to go away.
The strangers came back, took her into another room and poked her some more and then took her back to her person. She had fallen asleep cuddled by her person, listening to the sound of her voice and heart.
Slowly she opened her eyes. She wasn’t in the scary place anymore, but she wasn’t home either. This place looked, and smelled, like she saw through the door. Then she saw that there was an orange cat sitting a few feet away. She pinned her ears back and lashed her tail. “Go away. Leave me alone.”
The other cat just sat there watching her.
She backed up and growled again. “Go away.” She looked around trying to find a way to run. Where was she?
Calmly the other cat said. “None will harm you here.”
“Where is my person?”
“She is not here. Humans do not live here.”
She relaxed a little; the other cat had made no move to threaten her. In fact the other cat hadn’t moved at all. “I want my person.”
“I know. That is something we all want.”
She flicked her ears forward. There was something familiar about this cat. “What?”
The other cat started washing a paw. “We want our human again. That’s why we are here.”
“Where is here?” She slowly sat up and looked around. She had vague memories of when she had been a kitten and had no real home. It had been cold. This looked like that cold place, but it wasn’t cold.
The other cat moved to washing an ear. “This is where they send us to wait.”
“No.” She flattened herself. “My person would not send me away. Would she?” She looked around wide eyed. “She promised me.”
The other cat paused in her bath. “Calmly.”
“I want my person. I want my home. Why did she send me away?”
The other cat lay down and watched her. “Your human did not send you away. She sent you here. Here is safe. You will never be cold or hungry here. You will not have to be along, unless you chose to. Because your human loved you, she sent you here to stay safe.”
“Why? Why would she do this to me?”
The other cat sat back up. “Did you recently get hurt or very sick?”
She twitched her ears and groomed her whiskers in thought. “I think,” She said slowly, “that I got sick. I was cold and had a hard time walking.”
The orange cat nodded. “Such happened with me. Humans are funny. They live so long and can do such wondrous things,”
“Make yummy food come from cans any time they want.”
A slight nod and the orange cat continued. “But they are also ruled by their emotions. They cannot endure pain. They cannot stand to see one of us in pain. When we become too badly hurt or too sick they send us here. Here we wait until we can see them again.”
“How long? When can I see my person again?”
“You will see her again in the fullness of time.”
“But she’ll get another cat. She’ll let the other one into her bed and then she’ll forget me.”
“No,” the orange cat scratched an ear, “she won’t forget you. Another funny thing about humans, they can have more than one cat and still have room to love the first. Come with me?” The other cat stood up and turned and she saw that this cat had no tail.
“I … I think I know you?”
“Once, a while ago, we shared the house. That is why I came. It is easier to hear one we once knew.”
“You didn’t like me.”
“I was afraid of you.”
“Afraid of me?” She rose and looked down at the other, barely noticing that she was two thirds the side of her.
“You were small and cute. I was afraid that you would take my place; that my human would like you better.” The orange cat started to walk towards a group of trees. “I did not know then what I know now.”
“We learned to get along, didn’t we?” She started to walk along side her new/old friend.
“After a fashion,” came the amused answer.
“I don’t like the other cat in the house, the one who took your place.”
An ear flicked back. “You wanted to be an only child. So did I. The one who came after me probably does too.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes. She looked around and saw other cats playing in the grass or napping in the sun. She saw dogs running and playing, chasing cats or other animals. She heard birds in the trees. Everything seemed nice here; everyone was in the prime of life and strong. It was then that she noticed that she wasn’t tired or cold, that she was strong and glossy – as she had been in years past.
They reached the side of pool of water and stopped. Another orange cat strolled up to them. “Welcome,” he purred. “You are safe here.”
She looked at him for a long moment, ears flicking as something tugged at her memory.
“You were still a kitten when I left.” He smiled at her. “If you want company, seek me out. We can rest together.”
“Look in the water,” the smaller cat commanded.
She looked in the water and saw her human laying on the bed, holding one of her toys, crying. She wanted so badly to get to her human that she started to jump into the water. The bigger cat nudged her with his shoulder.
“Not a good idea.”
“It hurts them to send us here.” The smaller cat spoke again. “They can’t stand to see us hurt or sick, but they miss us. That is why they get another. Not to take our place, but to share their love. They can’t stand to be alone.”
The smaller cat reached out a paw and touched the surface of the pool. “You mentioned the other cat in the house.” In the pool, the image of other person in the house appeared laying in her bed. “Notice that her bed is empty? I slept in her bed as did my older sister. My younger sister does not. That is how I know that my younger sister did not take my placer in her heart. As it was with her, so it shall be with your human.”
“In time, another kitten may enter the house, but that kitten will not take your place in our human’s heart.” The bigger cat added. “She has loved others before and will love others to come.”
“When can I see her again?”
“You can see her here, at the pool, any time you want. You come here and think of her and you will see her in the water.”
“But that is not the same. I want to snuggle with her, to tell her that I love her. I want to feel her heartbeat.”
“I know. I wish for the same thing. In time, we will get to see them again, but until the time comes when they come to take us to the place where no shadows fall, we wait here.”
In Loving Memory:
Darlington: Sept. 17, 2004 – Jan. 17, 2019