The Spectral Cat

By Joyce Jacobo

[Author’s Note: I originally wrote this piece around Halloween, while experimenting with cross-genre works. Hope you enjoy it!]

I decided to write a short fiction about The Spectral Cat. A limber creature whose body appeared as if formed from the silvery fog that lurked around cemeteries, and whose eyes shone brighter than twin harvest moons. In fact, the beginning of my tale found her prowling about upon a spike iron gate to a nameless cemetery in the evening, deep in a forest gnarled with willowy trees that had, through the years, gained and lost many names as well.

                It was the promising start.

                But cats, as you know, are independent and free-spirited, obeying their own rules—particularly the ones from those lands only guessed at by the living.

                So, rather than stick to the confines of my prose, The Spectral Cat decided . . .  decided . . .

    to break . . .

         away from me and go . . .

                           pitter-patter                           pitter-patter

                                             in the form of a poem

                                    off                               

                                                          deeper into the woods

                Eager to reclaim this character and return to the graveyard, I chased after and demanded that she come back to me. However, I should have remembered that no one ever really tells any cat, especially The Spectral Cat, what to do. And, as if in a show of defiance, once . . .

                     once again . . .

                          oh dear . . .

               The Spectral Cat went

                           pitter-patter                                       pitter-patter

                                away until

                                       I came to an old house

                                           overgrown with vines

                        like a forgotten memorial

                            that surprised me

                                 but which The Spectral Cat approached

                                           in graceful bounds

                I opened the entrance to the slanted picket fence at the front and crept with care through a yard filled with weeds, where the sharp edges of objects I could only speculate about jutted upwards. The Spectral Cat mewled as she leapt onto the welcome mat upon the porch, turned to regard me with her narrowed harvest moon eyes, and then . . .

       and then she slipped . . .

          sigh . . .

                 pitter-patter                              pitter-patter

                          right through the door

                                           and into the house

                A chill went down my spine, followed by a dreadful sense of foreshadowing (because I knew just how many peculiar things could happen to anyone who wandered into a random abandoned house like this in a short story). Then again, my narrative now had sections of poetry as well, thanks to that elusive Spectral Cat, so I was unsure exactly what might happen because of it.

                Just maybe, I thought, I could stay safe by playing her game

                     the game of The Spectral Cat

             I tried the door

                found it unlocked

                    and slipped inside

               The first thing I noticed was soft music

                  as if from a phonograph

                     although I failed to recognize the tune

I was sure The Spectral Cat knew it well

                Then I heard the crackles

                  of a fire in full bloom

                      and noticed a soft glow

                         from a room just off

                           the main hallway

               And then I heard someone

                        who hummed along to the melody

Not The Spectral Cat

                I peered around the doorframe and glimpsed a parlor room

                   comfortably furnished with a rug

                                                                a couch

                                                            and shelves

                      that held various books

                                    (and items in glass bottles)

                                           along the walls

                My attention soon turned to an Old Spectral Man

                  as he creaked back and forth in a rocking chair

                      and stroked

The Spectral Cat

                “Where have you been, oh my pretty little kitty cat?”

                                       The Old Spectral Man asked,

                                          while he scratched The Spectral Cat

                                                behind the ears

                                                     and laughed

                “Have you been to steal away the milk

                   of the dairy cows again

                     in the barn of that old farmer

                         from the next valley?

               Or perhaps you tormented those screech owls

                    that never left you in peace at night

                        when you were alive?”

                Or maybe you just tempted a curious mind

                    to follow you home—

                           here to become my servant forever

                              at the stroke of midnight

ten seconds from now!”

                The Old Spectral man twisted towards me with his one, swollen, golden eye, and he cackled in crooked glee.

                Within seconds, I had scurried out the door, rushed across the yard, and fallen onto the dusty path—just as what sounded like a distant church bell sounded. As the gongs faded away, I turned over and saw that the house was gone. Even the picket fence and the yard had vanished. In its place was a tombstone, with the impression of a feline at the top, set among some charred pieces of wood and the decrepit remains.

                I realized The Spectral Cat had never been mine to claim. Instead, she had almost claimed me.

                In the end, though, I supposed she had given me a story to tell in a special way.

                So, I paid my respects to the gravesite

      and whished-whished

                      whished-whished

                                    away into the night.

6 thoughts on “The Spectral Cat

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