The White Cat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Noir Creations
A former witch's familiar, Jean Chatoir retells what happened when the townsfolk of Salem discovered his mistress's secret. This is an excerpt of a future novel I have planned about Jean's mission to keep witchcraft alive despite being a simple cat.

Submitted: December 24, 2018

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Submitted: December 23, 2018

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The year is 1693. The peoples of Salem are buzzing with outcries of witchcraft and the devil running amok through their streets. Hangings are happening nearly every weekend with newly-accused "witches" and more graves are being dug to accommodate the corpses. It's dangerous for women, children, and even the elderly to go outside and live their daily lives simply because of the superstition of the highly religious representatives of the so-called "law."

Humans are weird that way. Anything they encounter that's different or not of the norm, they seek to destroy it. They hate it with such a passion that no animal nor attack from Mother Nature could top it. I've previously only ever heard of the hate of humans and I've only ever seen glimpses of it in my time in France when I was but a small kit looking for scraps. I've heard that the hate of humans can destroy whole cities and if fueled too much, can one day destroy the world and when I observed the hangings of the townsfolk and listened to the outbursts of insults and threats, I often wonder if such a thing is possible.

It must be possible. For I've seen the hate-filled humans burn my kin in piles simply for being in the same household as a woman. I've seen the hate-filled humans imprison many in empty cells for days and weeks without food or water and often, many don't even see the day of their own hanging. I've seen the wooden monsters with iron teeth that the humans have created and I fear the future if they learn how to use them for destruction.

But alas, my worries mean nothing when they belong to a cat. Nobody would listen when my only means of communication were meek meows and purrs. The only human who would listen to me was my mistress, Blanche Cantrelle. She took me into her cottage when I was a small kit, fed me, and gave me my name, Jean Chatoir.

I had never previously had the experience of belonging to a name. I had been called many things in my life by the humans but never something that I could belong to as a man belongs to his title as "man." I felt honoured to have a name and I showed my gratitude to Ms Cantrelle by hunting a robin for her. I'm not quite sure what she did with that robin but she smiled at me, gave me a few loving pats on the head and went outside with my gift. When I tried to follow, she wouldn't allow me and closed the door in my face. She came back a few moments later that seemed like an eternity with dirt on her apron and she looked down at me and said in a soft voice, "Tu es un bon chat,"  I purred as she ran her fingers through my long fur and happily followed her around the shabby cottage.

Now, I'm aware that she must've buried the slaughtered robin in the garden, but in those days, I was young and stupid, completely oblivious to the ways of the dignified human. I wasn't aware that humans don't accept prey that I've spent my time and energy on to catch and I'm ashamed to admit that it took me a few years to finally understand that. However, it didn't take me as long to eventually realise that my mistress was a bit different. She was unmarried without children; completely unlike the rest of the village, where women were expected to find a mate and produce offspring. My mistress was fairly secluded from everyone and she didn't have a herd of animals to take care of nor large fields of grain. She simply had a small, one-room cottage with a large, lively garden in the back. She would, on occasions, go into that garden and choose herbs to dry out and bottle up to put on her shelves, but most often, she would harvest the vegetables that grew and stew them up for meals.

It was when I had turned two years of age did I finally learn that my mistress was the witch that the townsfolk spoke about. The "creature" who harnessed the power of the "devil" to rain havoc down on the village; the one who cursed harvests and children and attempts to seduce others into entering her cottage so she can sacrifice them to "Satan". I've heard the stories everywhere, but when I watched Ms Cantrelle go through her daily routines, a realisation hit me that those stories were false. She never hurt anybody in the village; in fact, she doesn't even use the aid of what the humans call "devil', nor curse harvests and children, or sacrifice people. She was a benevolent entity who cast spells to protect her garden from parasites and to cure the forest around her. Even some townsfolk who were in desperate need of help and couldn't afford the offered businesses in town would come either seeking a cure for their family members, wanting a blessing for their harvest, or simply wishing for better luck. 

I turned three and to celebrate, my mistress offered me a potion that better connected our minds. She knew that I had lived with her long enough to know her techniques and decided she could teach me how to be a proper witch's familiar. She presented me with a charmed purple collar and told me that it was for protection against evil spirits. At the time, I didn't quite know what she meant, but after finally having a conversation with her that she could understand, I learned the spirits she was talking about were everywhere and sought to cause harm and bad fortune. I listened to her wise words, eager in my youth to finally be more than just a house pet.

As the years went by, I learned many things about not only being a familiar but also about being a witch. I learned the spells and herbs by heart; I knew how to identify wild plants in the forest and because of my knowledge, my mistress would send me out on errands to gather wild berries and leaves for her incantations. I would even sometimes hunt birds for her to use the feathers and bones if she needed it. I was her errand-boy for a majority of the time and when I wasn't hunting for ingredients, I was learning how to read human language. Ms Cantrelle never taught me written human language but my own curiosity led me to teach myself. I read from my mistress' spell book and from that, I eventually learned how the spells worked and I knew how to conduct spells of my own through incantations.

Unfortunately, my time as an errand-boy soon ended as the village leaders soon began hearing rumours of the lower-class villagers seeking guidance from a witch in the woods. My mistress, instead, began sending me into the village bewitched so she could see through my eyes. I spied on the town for her, watching everyone who seemed suspicious of the woods or was directly talking about the "evil" hag who was cursing the harvests. The rumours and indirect threats worried the both of us. We knew we couldn't remain in a town that was plotting to burn us at the stake.

So, one fateful night, we packed up everything we could carry and fled to the harbour, where we stowed away in the cargo hold of a ship headed to the New World. 

I had never heard of the New World up until the moment we were on the ship. Ms Cantrelle told me of the new opportunities in the colonies; how they were ruled by the king of England but governed by the people who were looking for religious freedom. That's what we were hoping for; freedom from being judged for being a person of pagan faith. Little did we know, we'd simply be heading to a Hell on Earth.

We settled in Salem, Massachusetts in 1690. Everything seemed to be going smoothly at first. We were both happy, returning to our old lifestyle of casting happy, innocent spells and hunting for herbs and spell ingredients to use. We remained isolated as we were before but we were closer to the town so that I could occasionally stroll through and steal a loaf of bread for my mistress or catch up on the latest news. Life was seemingly routine for now.

Which brings my story to where it started. 1693. The town officials are accusing the townspeople of witchery and hanging them. No one is safe and unfortunately, it's no longer safe for me to venture into town, for if there was such a feline that was more ghostly and frightening to see at night than the chat noir, it's the chat blanc with fur as whispy and white as the thickest fog. So, I've resorted to remaining inside our cabin while Ms Cantrelle goes out at night to run the errands herself.

That's how I presume she was caught.

I gave my mistress two days to return before worrying, and after the third, I decided to go out and search for her. I found her in one of those cold, empty, jailhouses; devoid of anything warm or comfortable. She was chained to the wall, surrounded by others who were starved and stripped of their clothing, left to die while awaiting their execution. I was saddened by the sight and I hopped into the cell to comfort and keep my mistress warm.

She was exhausted and cold, but with her strongest breath, she looked at me and said, "Tu es un bon chat, Jean... veille sur mes sorts pour moi, s'il vous plaît." 

Je vais, Je vous promets. 

I swore to my mistress that day that I would protect her potions and spells. We both knew that she would never escape that cell. We knew the inevitable that was to happen sooner or later. As much as I wanted to refuse the truth and find a way to get her out of that dark hole, I knew it was useless; she was not a cat. She couldn't do the things that I could. So, with a heavy heart filled with pain, I gave her one last, loving gaze before leaping out of the small window and running as fast as I could to the cottage.

I was determined to fulfil my promise. Blanche Cantrelle would not die in vain while her spells and potions were left to be destroyed or forgotten. I wasn't just going to watch over her spellbooks, I decided I would take matters into my own hands and memorise those books so I could spread the art of magick around the New World. I would find a worthy apprentice and teach them these same spells so they could one day spread the knowledge on to their children and to their children's children. I swore an oath to myself that I would not let witchcraft die while I was alive.

And to ensure that, I cast a spell on myself that would prolong my lifespan by several hundred years. It was a risky spell that even my mistress had never used because one wrong step could make the spell end terribly. I admit, I was nervous, but I made sure to go through every step slowly and carefully so as to make sure nothing went wrong. The bewitchment was a relieving success and after it was cast, I consumed a potion that allowed me to speak to the humans.

My last step was to memorise all the books and this process lasted nearly a year. Long after my mistress had died and long after others had joined her. I worked hard; losing sleep and losing meals but in the end, it was worth it. By autumn of 1694, I knew how to perform Ms Cantrelle's spells by heart and I was ready to spread that knowledge.

To my dismay, however, a farmer and his son discovered the cottage and fled to town in an outrage. I left as quickly as possible while they were away but I was still nearby to see the townsfolk returning to burn the cottage. My home was sent up in flames and everything I had ever loved was destroyed right before my eyes. Every essence of my mistress was burning and I could do nothing about it; all I had left of her was my purple collar, with its star of protection hanging from the ribbon to forever protect me from spirits.

Perhaps the spirits she warned me about were really the hate-filled humans. The humans and their mad superstitions and fear of things they don't understand. Will they ever learn?

I guess I'll simply just have to find out, for I have hundreds of years left in me to witness human history and see what happens. 


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