By Rachel H Grant
Irina walked slowly through the old house, brushing her wanton dark curls from her face, brown eyes glowing with fervent fire. The creak of ancient floorboards sung a story beneath her feet, the beat of time sending shivers up her legs. Old pipework groaned, a poem of the passage of life. The new house was medicine to her soul, a powerful place in which to finish her novel.
Her beloved tabby cat Tabitha had peacefully passed away only weeks ago. The novel would be a celebration of her life; the story of a cat lover and sanctuary manager who learned to talk to cats, using the ancient language of telepathy.
Walking down the stairs in time to its creaks, Irina suddenly stopped. She could hear a cat purring. Irina hunted through the house. However there was no cat. An imagination on fire, that was all.
That night, Irina awoke abruptly, jumping as if she had heard a shot. She had felt a cat kneading the blankets next to her. She turned on the light. Nothing there.
Over the next few days, a pattern formed: distant purrs and night-time kneaders. Never a cat in sight. Was the house haunted by a feline soul?
It was New Year’s Eve. Irina sat alone but not lonely, her fictional characters chattering in her head, a strange solace. Absent-mindedly she moved her hand to stroke Tabitha, and then stared at the empty spot on her lap as tears finally formed in her eyes.
Then she heard it, punctuating the quiet atmosphere of the house like a drum.
A miaowing coming from her bedroom. She ran upstairs. However, despite searching the entire room, including removing all boxes from the wardrobe, there was no cat to be found.
That night, Irina again felt a cat kneading her blankets. This time, she did not even bother turning on the light.
On New Year’s morning, a crimson sunrise greeted her. As she set the coffee machine to go, Irina turned round in soul-slapping surprise. Someone – something – was scratching her back door.
Nervously, she opened the door. A large tabby cat confronted her, marching in as though he lived there. Irina smiled. Was this her ghost? But how could he have hidden from her?
Irina named him Zac. Despite attempts at advertisement, no owner materialised. Her local vet scanned for a microchip, but there was none. He was hers, and how her heart hiccupped with joy at the prospect of keeping him!
The midnight miaows, nightly kneading and distant purrs all disappeared. In their place, a real live cat had claimed her heart and secured his food dish.
Irina finished her novel. She typed the last line, then bounded down the stairs, Zac in tow. Time to relax. Zac curled on her knee, as a crimson sunrise shimmered in her chest, rays of celebration in her heart.
In Irina’s office, the computer keyboard lay lifeless, until one black whisper fell on the letter T. A sound of purring whispered in the room, and then all was silent. The room was empty. An old soul lingered for one minute longer, eyes glowing with supernatural gold. Then it was gone.
Downstairs, Irina’s smile was stuck on her face like a stamp. She thought of the last lines of her book, and wondered whether she should reword them. “A love of a cat endures long after their death, like a a sun that can never burn out. Feel that love, and you will never be alone.”
A stray draft tousled her hair, then was gone. Zac slowly licked her hand. Peace claimed the house, like a cloud of serenity, raining down silence. Irina closed her eyes, contentment caressing her heart. It was a new year, time for the ghosts of yesterday to go home. New days would come, and with them new dreams. Zac began to purr, a song for tomorrow.