Number three in the series of Flash Fiction challenges.
C is for Cait sìth.
The cait sìth (pronounced cat-shee) is a fairy creature from Celtic mythology, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. It’s present in both Scottish and Irish mythology, and is often believed to be able to steal your soul if it walks over your corpse before burial. Another legend holds that it’s actually a witch who can transform into a cat nine times, before becoming trapped in feline form.
I’ve chosen to explore the legend of the King of the Cats, which is sometimes also merged with this being.
C is for Cait sìth
There was a cat on the garden wall. It sat, a large black shape, and peered into the small bungalow. The white blaze on its chest seemed to glow in the moonlight.
“Who’s cat is that?” the husband asked his wife.
She just shrugged.
“He’d better not bother our Lola,” he grumbled, went out and chased it off.
The next night, it was back with two ginger toms, one on either side. All sat vigil on the wall, silent and motionless. When the husband chased them off, they were reluctant to go.
He tried to keep Lola indoors the next day, but she wailed and cried until he relented and unlocked the cat flap. When she came in that evening, there were five cats on the wall, watching her.
“Is she in heat, or something?” he wondered.
“We had her done as a kitten, remember?” his wife said. “Besides, they’re not chasing her. It’s like they’ve come to visit.”
He chased off four of the cats, but the original, the big black one, refused to move from its spot on the wall. It was still there when he went to bed.
The next morning, he threw back the curtains and shouted in alarm. The black cat was still there, unmoving. But now cats covered every inch of the low garden wall. The grass of the neatly trimmed lawn was invisible beneath the carpet of cats that had gathered. The flowerbeds sprouted cats where the prize roses had been, and only a narrow path led from the front door to the feet of the big black cat that had started it all.
He flung the door open, expecting them to flee, but they all turned silently as one and fixed him with a look so penetrating he stopped in his tracks. He didn’t see the big black cat stalking towards him until it sat at his feet and stared into his soul.
“The King of the Cats is dead.”
Cats can’t talk, he thought. This is a trick. A prank, some sort of joke. A brushing against his leg made him look down to see Lola rubbing her head against him.
“I have to go,” she said. The mass of cats parted to let her through, and she stalked among them as their Queen. Just as she reached the end of the garden, she turned back. “Thank you,” she said, blinked long and slow, and hopped over the gate.
The cat Lola in the story is inspired by my own cat of the same name. I don’t believe she’s next in line for the throne, although like all cats she certainly expects to be treated like royalty. She also will not stand for being locked indoors, regardless of the weather or any supernatural happenings.
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