A Cat’s Calling Unanswered

In a forest clearing under the blinking stars on the night of the witch’s thirteenth birthday a cat emerges. With an air of importance he plods along through the rolling fog toward the center spotlight. The cat is as dark as the void is deep within its heart, waiting and yearning to be filled with the rushing wave of meaning promised to him upon being branded as this girl’s familiar. As crucial as this ceremony is, he nevertheless arrives fashionably late, as is customary for cats to do.

After all, he cannot seem too eager, even though his whole life is about to change.

It is the cat’s fate, his destiny, to step into the light, become imbued with purpose, and pursue its path of connection and enlightenment as it would unfold enmeshed with the witch’s own magical and spiritual transformation. Every witch follows this tradition and every girl walks away proudly renewed with her perfectly tailored familiar, be it a cat, owl, bear, or some other fourth thing that this cat could not bother to recall now. Witches and familiars become one with a bond deeper than any other, the pair greater than the sum of their skills alone.

However, the double-trouble catch in this case means that despite the surge in this duo’s strength, their weaknesses are also exacerbated. The greater the power the greater the risk of a proportional fall. Witches and cats must work together to compliment the other or else face the ultimate price should they ever find themselves unprepared if and when they dare to venture beyond their neck of the woods…

The cat quietly and happily meows a little tune aloud as he makes his way. He has been waiting for this moment, this day, this life, and he wants to savor every precious second. You only have eight lives once.

In his way lies a little sleeping hedgehog. His nose quivers and his breathing quickens as he senses the presence of the cat, but he mistakenly concludes it to be a dream and snoozes on.

Earlier that day this hedgehog had decided to try turning left on his daily stroll rather than his typical daily right choices. As luck would have it, he tripped over a tiny rock he did not notice amidst the unusual thickness of the fog that day and tumbled down a hill, landing in a foreign spot. Frightened and alone, he became so overwhelmed that he passed out from the stress and now naps with determined anxiousness.

The cat does not see this pocket-sized creature as he steps directly onto his back. With a loud hiss the cat sharply draws back his paw full of quills, each now growing to the size of a porcupine spine right before his eyes, and freezes mortified in place. The hedgehog startles awake, jumps a foot into the air upon seeing the cat, and careens blindly forward.

Tears involuntarily flood the cat’s eyes and he angrily attempts to blink them out. Nursing his injury the cat tries to pull out the spikes with trembling nibbles and licks at the pain in vain before noticing a deeper sort of mental anguish settle in. The budding fire warming his soul is now reduced to a mere flicker before extinguishing itself completely with a resigned sigh accompanying a metaphorical puff of smoke. The cat is confused.

“A hedgehog?!” the cat hears a girl cry out through the mist. “How could I get a hedgehog? That’s not even possible!”

“M-maybe it’s a mistake,” a woman reassures hesitantly.

“Maybe it’s what the universe thinks you need,” a man speaks slowly.

“But it’s… I… What?!” the girl pouts.

The cat tries to blindly take a step toward the direction of the voices, but flinches in agony upon contact with the ground. The spikes are stuck in deep and he is too curious about the conversation to devote all his focus to properly attend to his paw.

“Go on up to it,” the man says encouragingly.

“No dear, she should wait for a cat or something more… traditional,” the woman frowns more certainly.

“She’s already been waiting! What else can she do, dear? Just stand there?” he replies incredulously.

“It has to be a mistake!” the woman insists.

“The clearing doesn’t make mistakes! It always brings you exactly what you need, even if you don’t think it fits at first. You always thought you’d get an owl, now you’re inseparable with cats,” the man points out.

“It’s different this time! Witches don’t have hedgehog familiars. It’s absurd!” the woman exclaims. “They’re too sensitive! How are they supposed to protect her when they’re so small and anxious all the time?”

“There has to be a reason,” the man insists.

“Please, stop!” the girl screams. “You’re scaring him.”

Something is wrong, the cat notes. The connection that was building is now crumbling.

“Hey, come here, little guy. Yeah, that’s it. I won’t bite,” the girl sings sweetly to the hedgehog. A bit of scampering is heard with some mumbling in response and soon the voices fade into nothingness.

The cat tries to process what just happened. He meows curiously, but is met with a sickening silence.

She… left? Without me? How could she leave me and take that… thing… instead? Can she do that?

The forming bridge within him feels broken. There is nothing left but ashes, remnants of a future never realized. What had so clearly been laid out before the cat is now erased and replaced with…

With what? The future he has been waiting for for his whole life just… stopped.

Can it do that?

“I’m off my path! How did this happen? What am I to do now that I’m off my path?!” the cat wails to no one. “It’s all because of that stupid hedgehog!”

With a shriek of frustration he charges off into the night limping through the forbidden part of the woods. He is met with a sickening roar, several fatal claw scratches, and the end of his second life.

After a reasonable amount of time following the regeneration process, he curls onto his side and peeks up at the stars. They seem to be mocking him with their dazzling, magical, and infuriatingly optimistic twinkling.

Since he was a kitten he believed he was destined to live out nine full lives with his witch. Now he is down two and no one to share them with.

What am I supposed to do now?

He wallows in self-pity all night, grieving the life he never lived with the purpose he never got.

As light begins to trickle in through the fog, the cat grows tired of his own spiraling and leans into action.

What a ridiculous notion, being given a purpose, he purrs. Why should I have to wait around and get mine the way someone else decrees it must be done? I’ll go get what I want my way on my own terms!

Refusing to yield to the thought of his prized familiar role being replaced by some mousy little thing, he sets off determined to reclaim the status that is rightfully his. His so-called fate at least owes him that much.

A new dawn brings a new cat. Seven lives remain and Septimus is now his name.

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