Umwelt: Darkness Flows Like A River Episode 16: Puss in Boots

‘The clock ticks ever closer,’ Saleth warns, sweeping the ground with a willow brush, her eyes fleeting a glance at the rising moon before turning a worried gaze upon the cat.

The cat picks careful paws across the swept ground to the centre, at his ease. His eyes are yellow moons reflected. Cold moons, full moons, living moons floating towards her in the darkness. There’s unknown intent in those twin orbs, devilish intent. Did she not have his full measure Saleth might surrender to somewhat of a superstitious shiver. As it is, she finishes with her sweeping and places the broom to one side, snapping her fingers to send it back to their caravan, left behind around camp fires so distant their glow is lost from the horizon.

‘It’s ready,’ she says to him. ‘You may begin whatever it is you insist upon doing this cold, uninviting eve.’

He ignores her peevishness and waits patiently in the centre of the swept circle of dirt. When there’s but a minute left to eleven of the clock he inclines that sleek, black head, rises to his hind legs and gestures with both paws at the ground. The ground lurches, begins to tremble. Tiny motes of dirt shudder across the surface, and there’s a deep groaning in the earth. Then it cracks asunder.

A perfect circle forms about the cat’s hind paws, containing him. Delicate tendrils split from its circumference to form intricate patterns across the swept earth: an ancient tree, an occult symbol, an interconnecting maze resembling the thousands of thread-like veins within the human body.  Then moonlight pours down from the sky and, like milk from a cup, splashes into the pattern of cracks, rendering it a perfect, glowing sigil. It catches the light of the cat’s eyes, reflects within them, stealing his radiance.

His paws sweep through the air once more, calling forth the stopper-ed glass vial bought from Solomon. He holds it as a human might hold a cup. Grasps the stopper between sharp, white incisors and teases it from the glass. Saleth shudders. Something about those teeth makes her warm, turns her innards to fire and silk. She shakes herself. Scolds her foolish body. For all his power, his strength, his ability, this cat is but her familiar.

She’s known him these past twenty years since he chose her, padding into her room on silken paws when she was all of twelve summers old. She’d just gained her monthly flow, and her magic with it. He taught her all she knows, but he’s just a cat. Magic as all cats are, though most choose not to show it.

Fascinated, she watches as he tips the glass and swallows the liquid. He’s shown human traits before. Cats are smart and adaptable; Saleth knows this as well as she knows this cat. But as the moon, the sigil and the cat begin to glow brightly; a tremor of uncertainty touches her heart. This is vast magic. She feels it thrumming through the earth, the air, her skin and bone. It lifts her hair in tangles like branches from a weeping willow caught between the fingers of the wind. Sets her soul to tremble in the bower of her flesh.

And inside her, where her magic is rooted in the deeps of her womb, her womanhood, a faint glisten of gold glows back its own reflection of light, a mirror to moonlight, sigil and cat. Saleth gasps, clutches at her belly; throws an arm across her eyes as the glow of cat and sigil flares suddenly too bright. Becomes a mini moon of light floating above the ground. Within her, the gold, too, begins to float upwards, rising in a multitude of threads. Weaving. Wefting. Building into her, until she’s woven throughout with gold, and burning.

There are double moons. The one above glows soft, warming yellow in the velvet dark of night, the one floating above the ground flares bright white, blinding as magic formed of metals in fire; its edges flickering icy blue. It lengthens, brightens ever more and begins to grow until it is tall as Saleth, then taller. So much taller. Dwarfing her. Her innards of gold flood with darkness, groaning and full, as if that glittering mesh contained the whole of the night sky minus the moon. And Saleth screams with the pain of it, collapses to the ground.

She comes to herself held in a grip of purest iron strength. It feels like waking in her bed at home, though it’s been many a long year since she returned. It makes her want to weep. ‘Wake up, Leek,’ murmurs an oh-so-familiar voice in her ear. ‘Time to wake up.’

She blinks. Raises her eyes. There is her Kitty, smiling down at her, his glorious twin moon eyes glowing feral in the darkness, his midnight hair streaming about her body, like a nest of snakes she could curl up to sleep in, his naked form curled about her own, a shell of muscle and bone protecting her from the ground.

Stunned, filled with light, she places her hand upon the smooth wall of his chest. Beneath her palm his heart beats in solid measures and with each one the light within her pulses, until she feels herself fully awaken. And she remembers.

She’s Leek, once a legal secretary living in a big city, fond of shoes, drink and fun; changed overnight to something different, something more. As were her friends. She clutches at Kitty, remembering them. Remembering how they used their powers to fight unimaginable horrors. How naïve they were. How very lucky. She remembers becoming holder of the Matrix, stolen from the Mother’s secret weapons, her wellspring, the twins Evangelista and Angeline.

And then she remembers him. Her Kitty. He’s an angel, her angel, and they have much work to do. Her friends are lost in this godforsaken pit of a disordered world. Tricked and trapped, just as she and Kitty allowed themselves to be. They made a pact to follow her friends, to find them, to gift them with memories of who they once were, so they can once again fight unimaginable horrors together. How could she have forgotten?

She raises her hand to his face, forlorn and filled with misery. ‘I’d forgotten,’ she whispers. ‘I’m so, so sorry.’

He offers her a smile that holds her hard as the muscles of his body, soft as the strength of his arms. ‘It’s okay,’ he tells her, all his tenderness in it. ‘I remembered for the both of us.’



© Ren Warom 2012


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