Cats and Ghosts | Teen Ink

Cats and Ghosts

June 9, 2016
By zoe98love BRONZE, Telford, Pennsylvania
zoe98love BRONZE, Telford, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Still, life had a way of adding day to day." -- Virginia Woolf

 It was a cold, grey day, I could see from the window, with pale sunlight making the small backyard garden look washed out, like an old, dusty painting. I crouched low on the windowsill, curling my tail between my front paws as I took in the sight before me. A few birds stirred slightly in the trees. My claws tensed against the sill instinctively, but my eyes were occupied elsewhere.
It was back. It lingered at the end of the lawn, floating listlessly in circles, lost, confused, wondering why it was still here. I stood, giving a stretch, and hopped off the sill.
I trotted over towards the back door and scratched at it, making some hopeful noise in the back of my throat as my one human seated at the table rose, stepping over to the glass door to observe the backyard. They didn’t see what I saw. They didn’t see the thing that loitered at the bottom of the hill.
“Do you want to go outside, Cosmo?” the human cooed at me, reaching down to scratch me behind the ear. “It’s such a terrible day outside.”
I made a more insistent noise, scraping my paw against the crease of the door. My humans always felt the need to dawdle when it came to letting me outside. When they simply took too long, I would run up to the second floor and scoot out the window with the broken screen.
“All right, all right.” The door slid back. I was out before the human had even finished opening it. I stood on the back step for a moment, scenting the air, a privilege I had been robbed of behind the window pane, before descending down the steps and crossing the lawn, towards the thing that drifted aimlessly. The more proper term for it would be ghost.
It was a human term, a term my species didn’t use. We called them the lost ones, and we saw them so much they became an ordinary part of the landscape, like a scrappy tree or a patch of grass. Oftentimes I stayed out of their way, which tended to contradict with the human lore that we cats were meant to drive away dawdling spirits.
In reality, we merely acknowledged the other’s existence. Lost ones were the spirits of humans who clung onto their lives in the events of their deaths, oftentimes because they died young or violently. They floated around carelessly, waiting for someone – or something – to claim them. They seemed to catch on quickly that we could see them; sometimes they tried to follow us around or ask for help. As long as they stayed out of my humans’ home, I didn’t care. They were slow. I could outrun them.
What concerned me was the things that came to claim the lost ones.
There was always two, just two. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were, but they were always rivals. One, I suppose, could be considered the demon, and the other could be seen as the angel. It was sometimes hard to tell which one was which, since either or could be ruthless and unrelenting in their recruiting techniques. But there was one distinct difference: the demon was afraid of me, of all cats. The angel was not.
I wasn’t sure what happened to humans whose spirits did not linger, but it seemed that those who stayed between the two worlds were free game. I tended to stay out of their way, watching them play tug-of-war over a particular lost one. One always won. I never cared which; it was the fight that was the interesting part.
But this lost one was different than the others.
I approached it cautiously, sensing that it was unlike the listless ones that had come before it. It shied away from my presence initially, but then came towards me, its mouth opening and closing in a silent sound of recognition, shapeless hands moving towards me, passing through me, attempting to touch me. The contact chilled me to the bone but I didn’t move. Its face made of fog twisted in pain at the realization that it could not pet me. I wished I could’ve comforted it.
Instead I stepped away from its chilling hands, beckoning it to follow me. It seemed confused at first, drifting back and forth at the bottom of the hill, casting its faint eyes towards the house where it lingered. I gave a noise of irritation and jerked my head harder in the direction I wanted to travel, towards the old sycamore tree on the other side of the field.
I had been warned that this would be the hardest part. A lost one lingered between worlds because it was clinging onto something from their past life, which is why they often grew stuck in certain spots. I had managed to keep it out of the house, but it still lingered on the border, unwilling to let go.
The lost one and I stared at each other intensely for what felt like hours. Birds stirred in the small tree to my right. A human stepped out onto a nearby porch to water some withering basket plants. Far away, a dog was barking at something. The dampness of the grass was beginning to cling onto my fur and soak through to the skin, making me shiver.
Finally, I jerked my head again. This time, the lost one followed me.
Our trip across the field was slow. It didn’t know how to move as well in its new form, and I kept having to pause and glance over my shoulder to make sure it was still there. The farther we traveled, the more I felt its presence. The demon. It was starting to close in. Sometimes I caught glimpses of its dark mass hopping from place to place, watching the lost one like it was a beloved pet trying to run away. I knew it wouldn’t approach so long as I was with it, but it still set me on edge. My claws were permanently out now, ripping into the grass with each step I took.
When we reached the sycamore, the demon attempted to make its move. It lunged out for the lost one, moving gracefully, like a dark snake slithering through the grass. I put myself in its path and bared my teeth. It was quick to back away from my challenge.
I returned my attention to the sycamore tree. Just as I had arranged, the angel was waiting for us. It dark like the demon, but held much more poise and elegance than its competitor. It towered over both of us, and the lost one trembled in its presence.
The angel softened at the sight of a new spirit to claim. Silently, it offered its hand. As if hypnotized, the lost one was quick to comply with its silent command. And then . . . nothing. The lost one was gone. I stood alone at the sycamore with the angel, the demon lurking somewhere in the shadows behind us.
I thank you, it told me. She will live happily in my world. You made the right choice.
I dipped my head in recognition and gratitude, but some part of me still felt empty, like the angel had taken a piece of me as a kind of payment. When I raised my head again, the angel was gone. So was the demon.
My trip back to the bottom of the hill was silent and quick. It was cold outside, and I knew it would be logical to go back to the door and wait to be let in, but I couldn’t bring myself to enter the house.
Instead, I sat at the end of the lawn, staring out across the field, watching as the old sycamore’s leaves were torn away in the wind. When I grew tired, I curled up in the grass to sleep.
The front door banged open. “Louise?”
“In here,” she called, never raising her eyes from her mug of coffee. She only lifted her head when her husband entered the kitchen, toting the milk she had asked him to run out and grab.
He glanced around the house for a moment before asking, “Where’s Cosmo?”
“Oh, where he usually is this time of day.” She hoisted herself up from the table and joined him at the back door. At the bottom of the hill, they could just spy a mass of smoky grey curled up in a patch of tall grass.
“It’s cold out,” he grunted, stepping away to see what was in the fridge. “Thought he’d be in.” There was some shuffling. “Are you all right with meatloaf?”
She made a slight humming noise, staring out across the lawn. It had barely been a month since their daughter had died from being hit by a drunk driver. Every day since her death, their cat, Cosmo, had sat at the bottom of the hill. Sometimes he wandered across the field, but he always returned to the end of the lawn. She supposed it was proof that cats could feel grief. After all, Cosmo had truly been their daughter’s more than a family pet.
Finally, she turned away from the door. He would come in, eventually. He always did.
“Meatloaf sounds great.”

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