I'm Feline Rather Grim

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young child meets a mysterious cat in the woods by their house, whom they christen Noir. As they and Noir become closer, family is suspicious and worried. Is Noir an omen of death, or the cause of it?

Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Even as a child, I had always been aware of death. I had spent most of my childhood with my great-grandmother, whom we all called Gran Nan. We were kindred spirits and although there was nearly eighty years difference between us, she was the closest and oldest friend I had. I was aware of how frail she was, how I could do so much more than she could. If I was sick, I was not to stay with Gran Nan; if she cooked, I had to make sure the stove was off. Occasionally, when we slept together, I would still my breathing and listen for hers, ready to go into a panic should the rhythm come to an end. I cannot pinpoint realizing that she would be dead long before I was, yet it was something I had always seemed to have known, much like breathing, walking, or talking. I knew death, yet I feared it.

Until I befriended it.

One day, I was with my Gran Nan, playing with Gran Pop’s binoculars. He had died six months after my birth so I had never really known him, but I liked his things, especially his fiddle. Gran Nan lived with her son and his wife in a large farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. It was all fields and forest and farmland, with a few other houses and train tracks nearby. To me it had always seemed so far away from everyone, especially since Nanna and Poppy’s  property was so large. Mum had told me once that they had seventy-two acres of forest, but that number didn't mean too much. There was lots and lots of yard to play on, so much so that it was hard to tell where the front ended and the back started. There were two pear trees that stood side by side by the road, an old maple with swings and ropes right behind the back porch, and a pond by the tree line. I was looking there with my binoculars, focusing on trees and birdhouses through the rain, trying to see how close I could get with the lenses pressed up to the glass door.

When I had pulled back to choose something to look at, I had noticed a large shadowy shape. It came out of the forest on the left side of the pond and moved behind the body of water. It was quite dark too, like midnight. Black amongst the green.

I quickly raised the binoculars and focused them again, trying to see what it was. It appeared almost cat-like, but I could not tell. When I had them adjusted properly and pointed, I almost dropped the binoculars in shock.

Green amongst the black. Two green eyes, belonging to a cat, were staring right at me. The thing seemed to have noticed me looking, but that was silly.

“Gran Nan, look!” She was sitting in her chair knitting and she leaned over to see.

“Is that a dog?”

“It's a cat!” I pointed to the thing as it lumbered away into the forest, “See! It's got the ears and walks like a cat, but it's got a short tail!” Suddenly remembering a story I had heard at school, I gasped, “What if it's the panther escaped from the zoo?”

“Run and tell Nanna,” She said, a slight frown on her face.

So I ran into the other part of the house and told Nanna. She had not seen the cat and told me to call my Uncle Buck. He was a hunter. He knew what was in those woods.

 

He told me that there was no such cat and I had probably seen the neighbour's dog. He told us to stay inside for the time. So we did.

But I did not believe him. He had not seen the way it walked or how it looked or how stubby its tail was.

He didn't see the green, green eyes.


 

Sometime later when I visited again, I glimpsed it.

Mum was driving me to Nanna’s and we passed by a patch of forest. I was looking out the window on the right when I saw it. The cat was simply sitting amongst the trees beside the road, calmly observing whomever passed by. A black splotch within the green trees. As we passed by, we locked eyes. Green against the black.

“Mum! Mum! Look! A cat!”

Mum turned and looked but said she didn't see anything. I told her to turn around and when we did, she said she still didn't see it. The cat seemed to wink at me as it turned and disappeared into the forest.

I would often catch glimpses of the cat when I visited yet no one else but Gran Nan seemed to see it. How could they not? It was a shadow amongst the light, it was hard to miss, yet miss it they did. Soon my entire family heard of the cat and seemed to have accepted it as an imaginary friend, but I had never seen the point in those. My younger sisters teased me, told me I was making up stories. It was quite frustrating.

One visit, I asked Gran Nan what I should do. She was the only one besides myself who saw the creature, but our family still did not believe.

“Maybe you should put some milk out,” She suggested kindly, “Cats like milk, even big cats. Go ask Nanna if she'll let you.”

Not long after, I was setting out a filled bowl at the foot of the front porch steps. Looking back, I'm sure Nanna thought it best to humour me, and at least the nearby stray cats would get a treat.

It was not until later that I realized that the night I had chosen to set out the milk was the day of the spring equinox, a day when magic books said things were supposed to be in balance, when new things came to be.

The next day, I was out playing in the backyard by the pond. It was raining and I was splashing around in my boots, looking for frogs. I rarely caught them, but they seemed noisier in the rain. Soon, I felt that I wasn't alone.

 

I looked up to the spot where the cat had first appeared; a small mound where the forest became grass. Sitting in the shade of the trees was the cat, made blurry by the rain. It was quite close by and I realized how big it was. It was almost as tall as I was, sitting on its haunches. We stared at each other, green eyes boring into mine. Slowly, it got up and approached me. I know now that I should have been afraid, yet I felt no fear. I knew this cat and it had shown me no wish to do harm to me or anyone else. It seemed friendly and playful and I had never been the sort of person to turn down new friends.

So I let it approach me. We never broke eye contact, green eyes in the black fur. Soon it was so close I could see the little pink nose and the whiskers on its cheeks, the soft inside of the ears and the sharp white claws. About an arm's reach away it stopped. Curiously, I raised my hand and gently laid it on the cat’s head, finding it to be incredibly smooth and soft, like the finest silk.

The spell of awe and mystery was broken, and one of oddity and companionship was cast.

I spent the rest of that dreary day playing with the cat, splashing in puddles and scaring frogs, tasting rain and playing tag. When it was time to come in, my new friend followed me.

As Nanna dried me off she noticed a separate wet spot with some definite paw prints and asked me about it.

“That's the big cat I told you about,” I said with a smile, scratching behind their ears, “I think they're going to be called Noir. I don't know if they're a girl or boy though. How can I tell?”

Nanna did not answer but pursed her lips. She frowned when she saw damp paw prints on her carpet and I offered to dry Noir. She had looked quite frightened when the towel seemed to bend around nothing.

When Mum came to pick me up, I heard her talking to Nanna. It was something about Noir, and Nanna was getting worried. I told her and Mum that Noir wasn't dangerous and they weren’t made up. Gran Nan said she saw Noir too, and that they were cute. Noir quite liked Gran Nan.

I had thought that Noir would stay at Nanna’s but they followed me all the way into the city, chasing alongside the car and hopping on fences. Noir made me smile and continued to do so, but for some reason, my parents thought it bad.

 

 

One day, Nanna, Mum, Noir, and I all went to see a “special lady”, as Nanna called her. She was smiley, wore bright clothes and lots of crystals. We all sat down on a comfy green couch in her home. She made us drink nasty tea with leaves and talked to Nanna and Mum. I didn't understand much of what she said, but I caught words like “fae” “grim” “omen” and others. Then the lady threw some sand over Noir, who promptly sneezed, while the lady promptly shrieked. She went on about how a Grim was a sign of death and if I was so close to one, surely it meant I was going to die soon.

Perhaps I should have been worried, but I could not find it in myself to be troubled. I grew up with religion and thoroughly believed that after this life came an incredible afterlife, and I was quite curious to see what it was like.

The lady must have given some spells and such to Mum and Nanna to try to get rid of Noir, but they never seemed to work, which was good. I liked Noir and Noir liked me. They liked the towns and my school and playing with kids who couldn't see her and running in parks and chasing hares. Yet as time went on, I could tell the people who knew about Noir were getting nervous around me.

 

“Why don't people like Noir?” I asked Gran Nan one day. I was sitting in her lap and teasing Noir with a bit of yarn.

“They don’t quite understand Noir and that worries them,” Gran Nan said wisely, “They think they knew after talking to that psychic, but it appears she was wrong. That crazy lady said Noir was a sign of death, so you will surely die soon.”

“But you can see her too,” I pointed out as I jerked the yarn away and Noir mewed in protest, “Why aren't people fussy about that?”

“Because I'm old,” Gran Nan said with a laugh, “They're not too worried if I see a death omen.”

“Do you really think Noir brings death?” I turned around to face Gran Nan who smiled softly.

“I don't know, dear, but neither of us are dead yet, although I may be close.”

 

When I was twelve years old, my grandfather started to see Noir. I could tell he pretended not to, but it's hard to ignore a black panther with emerald green eyes. Noir made him nervous, but I didn't know why. They always sat with me and purred loudly when I played with or pet them. I didn't know what to do to make Poppy not scared, so I let him be.

A month later, he passed away from a heart attack.

Not only was it a sudden and horrible shock to our family, but it only raised suspicions around Noir. I had evidently not been the only one to notice how Poppy’s eyes would follow a little bit behind me, lingering on a shadow that belonged to nothing. He had seen Noir, and he was dead.

 

I often visited my other great-grandmother, an old Quebecoise lady we called Memere. She lived in an apartment above her son and his wife, who taught me and my sisters piano lessons every Tuesday. Ever since Noir had become my friend, she seemed to be different around me. I didn’t think she could see Noir, but she knew they existed. A year after Poppy died, Memere started to see Noir too.

She didn’t seem as scared, but more resigned. Not long after, she passed away peacefully.

My family’s suspicion only grew. I had overheard Nanna and some great aunt or other whispering about Memere’s psychic abilities, and how even she hadn’t been able to see Noir.

I started to become curious as well. Memere and Poppy had seen Noir and died within two months. How come Gran Nan and I lasted for so long? Why were we special?

Thankfully, deaths in the family stopped. As I entered teenage years, I became more cautious of Noir. They still followed me everywhere, but we both learned to keep quiet. I hardly acknowledged Noir and they did their best to stay out of people’s ways. Sometimes, I would be walking in public with Noir and someone would stop and stare with horror. I always felt sorry for those people, and hoped they had their affairs in order.

 

When I was in grade 10, Gran Nan fell ill. She was 94 years old, and she wasn’t expected to recover.

I still visited as often as I could, even if it hurt. She was still so vibrant, even if her light was fading. When asked how she was, she would laugh and say;

“Well, I’m still alive, so there’s that.”

One day, I was at school, eating my lunch, when I felt Noir’s head in my lap.

I looked down into those green eyes, a spot of light in the dark, and I knew.

I never got to properly say goodbye.

The following week had been the most painful of my life. I had been preparing myself for her imminent demise for almost my entire life, but now that the dreaded event had arrived, I found that I was in no way prepared. Even seeing pictures brought tears to my eyes, and every thought concerning her was a dagger to the heart. That trying time would have been hard enough had it not been for the stares and the whispers.

Too often would I walk into a room and a conversation would suddenly stop or shift unnaturally. I never heard it outright, but I knew what they were talking about.

Gran Nan had been the only one besides myself who had seen Noir from the beginning, and now she was dead. Eyes seemed to follow me with suspicion, as if I were the one responsible for her death.

At the funeral, I had walked into a side room to get some quiet. I knew there was a small piano in the room and hoped for a distraction. Noir, of course, followed me. As I got close to the door, I heard voices. I recognized one as Nanna’s, and the other I guessed was some great aunt or other.

They were discussing Noir, how we had found each other, how Gran Nan and I had seen Noir from the beginning but once someone saw them they died soon after, how they went to a mystic for healing. Nanna was blaming all of the deaths on Noir, saying that if I had never seen the damn thing everything would be fine, her husband might still be alive. The other woman suggested maybe speaking to a priest, but after that I didn’t hear anything, because I left.

I didn’t completely understand Noir or how the whole death thing worked, but I was sure that Noir was not the cause of death. How could they be, when all of them died of perfectly natural causes?

But after that, those who knew about Noir were more hostile than ever.

Pitiful stares followed by angry glares became normal. I was no longer allowed to feed Noir (not that they needed it, but they liked milk and salmon), and any interaction was frowned upon heavily.

It soon became a rather lonely existence. The only one who stood with me was gone, while everyone else placed blame on a being they couldn’t even see, touch, or sense. Noir was innocent in every way, yet all they received was hate.

 

 

As the years went on, life changed, but Noir didn’t. They followed me whenever they could and they were a constant companion, despite how my family had treated them. People would still see Noir and feel fear, then die, but I had come to accept life.

In university where I studied literature, I met the man who would become another life-long companion. He found it intriguing that I had a Grim as a personal friend, and although he never saw Noir, he always treated them kindly.

Two months ago, he saw Noir for the first time. He seemed saddened, but he was quite excited to see what Noir looked like. He went on and on about those green eyes in a sea of black, how “inspiring” they were. He made the best of his last two months and died peacefully three days ago.

 

So now I sit, wrinkled hands writing my story. I wish for people to know that Noir is not a terrible harbinger of death, but merely a benevolent being who likes milk and salmon and green yarn. I believe that Noir merely has a correlation with death; they are not a causation.

I do not know how much longer on this earth I have. Odd enough as it is, I worry about Noir. I hope they find another companion who is kind, and whose family is open-minded. I know I should not worry about such an eternal being, yet I do. Noir is my friend and I wish only the best for them.

I feel the light of my life start to dim, but I still do not understand why I have been able to see Noir all these years. My closest guess is that because Gran Nan, as elderly and frail as she was, was so close to death that I, being close to her, became “close” to death as well, in a sense. I suppose this may just be the silly thoughts of a senile elder, but it is the best I can offer. I have never understood how the relationship works, and I don’t believe I ever truly will. What I do know, however, is that for most of my life people have told me that I will die soon, any day now, yet I seem to be the last one standing.

 


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