By Rachel H Grant
Sean fingered his old teddy, its stuffing enfolding his fingers, beyond repair but not beyond love. He looked out the window at the cold Halloween night.
A shadow accosted his eyes, forming in to a cat. Its bright yellow eyes looked at him through the window, as it began to mieaw.
Curious, he opened the window. The cat jumped up, purring. “Come with me, there is something to show you.”
The cat had not spoken out loud, but the words formed – perfectly – in his head.
In Sean’s seven years, he had never known a cat to speak with him. He smiled. This could be a new friend.
Hastily, he threw on his jacket and then leapt out the window. The cat ran ahead of him, looking behind to ensure he followed. They crossed the High Street then traversed a small lane which led to a wood. Sean hesitated. Should he really enter a wood at night? But with the cat, he felt somehow safe.
Safer than going trick and treating, with the school bullies at large.
They wound their way through the trees, until they were on the other side. A standing stone circle glowed in the light of a fire. An old lady in a black cape tended the flames.
The cat looked at him. “This is the village crazy cat lady. Every village has one.”
“Have a seat,” the woman said to him. “I see that the cats have chosen you. You must be very special indeed.”
Nervously, Sean sat on the grass. A dozen or more black cats were sitting around the fire. He didn’t know there were this many black cats in the village.
“We are here to work with black cat magic,” said the woman.
Sean looked at her, alarmed. “Are you a witch?”
She laughed. “Make a wish! Breathe it in to the flames before you.”
Sean closed his eyes. He wished that Neville would stop bullying him. As he opened his eyes, he could see black cat shapes in the smoke above the fire.
He began to feel sleepy, the heat bathing his brain with blessings. Or that’s what it felt like. Perhaps this night would never end, no school tomorrow, no school ever again.
The black cat was nudging him. “Time to go home to bed,” she murmured wordlessly in to his eyes.
The woman laughed again. He wondered whether she were mad. “I will walk you home after I have smothered the fire. It is Halloween after all. Not a night for young children to be wandering around with only a cat to protect them! Even if they are magical.”
The next morning he wondered whether it had all been a dream. His teddy lay on the floor at the foot of his bed. He picked him up and smiled. The dream had been good, but it was time to wake up.
That day, Neville came up to him in the playground. “I’m sorry I’ve been hard on you. Let’s start again. Friends?”
Sean swallowed his pride and beamed. “Yes, yes!”
He ran home happy that afternoon. A black cat crossed his path, then was gone.
When he reached home, his mother was smiling. “Surprise!” She was holding a box. Inside there was a small black kitten.
“You’ve been asking for a pet for a while, so…”
But he heard no more. Gently he picked up the kitten, and softly said, “Teddy.”
The kitten meowed in return. A fire lit in his heart, a bonfire that could never be extinguished.
He looked in to the kitten’s eyes, and saw only magic.