By Rachel H Grant
Sarah’s three cats relaxed by the fire in a way that only cats can, a tapestry of black and white woven together in to a feline spell. Alice, Amy and Arnold brought untold joy; Sarah was so pleased that she had attended the Cats Protection open day the year before, looking for a kitten but taking home three adult siblings instead. A blessing in fur and whiskers; a vision of contentment and catnip fun.
However fun fled that night as Arnold disappeared. He did not come for breakfast the next day; he did not come for his evening meal. Still he did not appear the following day, or the next. Weeks passed, mutating to months, hatching as years. He was gone.
Sarah dreamt of him most nights. He was standing, still and regal, in a stone circle. Then he turned and was gone, merging in to the dreamlike mist all around.
With quiet desperation she searched online for stone circles in the area. There were three in a ten mile radius. She visited the first two to no avail; however at the third circle she found his red collar. Sarah ran through the surrounding woods, calling his name. But there was no sign of him.
Arnold sniffed his way round the stone circle, the air alive with feline wisdom. Shivering in a wind that felt as cold as centuries old snow, he could hear ancestors whisper in his ears. It could have been any day, but it was this one. A day that destiny would devour, like a vulture on its last meal.
The temperature suddenly changed, from cold to warmth in a second. Arnold sniffed the air, surprised. The day felt … different. A black cat approached from the other side of the circle. Its eyes glittered in reflected sunlight, like mirrors to another world.
Cautiously, they sniffed noses. “I am Adele, and I have come to get help from this magic stone circle. A cat who lives on my street told me about it. The circle sends you to another time. Watch, I will leave now and I will disappear, to find a better home.”
Adele walked slowly between two of the stones, and was gone.
Suddenly, Arnold was back at the first stone he had sniffed. Time shifted beneath his feet as the world plunged into darkness, stars above like the light of better futures, beacons of hope for the lost soul.
He began to sniff his way round the circle again. Another cat approached, eyes like full moons in the dim light. “Hello, I am Jasper. I have come to this magic circle to be free.” Jasper then walked out of the stone circle and was gone.
The grass moved beneath his feet, and he was back at the first stone again, the world spinning as grey daylight overtook the night. A light rain fell.
A grey cat who matched the sky above approached slowly. “Hello stone circle cat, I am here to request its magic. A new time and a new owner!”
“What is this magic?” asked Arnold.
“All the local cats know about it, not happy with your current home, you come here. You will find a better one on the other side of the circle.”
“But I am happy in my home,” pondered Arnold. “What will happen to me?”
Arnold skipped round the circle, then returned to the first stone, to begin his exploration anew. He did not know that he was in a time loop, but he sensed that something was not right. It was like he was trapped in the largest cat basket ever, he could see out of the circle but he could not walk free.
Sarah stopped her search for Arnold. He was gone. She learned to live without him, but would never forget, another feline footprint in that part of her heart that almost but did not break. How could it break when there were still two beautiful cats to look after?
So Sarah, Alice and Amy continued their lives together, curling up at night to dreams they did not remember, meeting Arnold somewhere cold, a frozen feeling in their hearts that evaporated with the dawn.
Years passed; Sarah’s hair turned grey as the cats’ whiskers grew white and their eyes saw less and less. The arthritic felines still slept each night on Sarah’s bed, the slumber of the old, a sleep from which one day they might not awaken. Then that day came, both cats sleeping their forever, bodies still and cold. Sarah awoke to the pain that all pet owners must one day face. She picked up a stray whisker, as the tears fell.
Arnold had been in the stone circle for days now, and finally pangs of hunger broke through the mysterious unease in his heart. He must eat.
A white cat approached him across the circle. “I am your guardian cat angel,” she purred softly. “I have come to send you home. Exit the circle by that stone there, then go home.”
“Home? My own home? Not a new home like all these other cats I have met?”
“Your home,” said the cat with her deep green eyes on his. “Go now.”
Arnold ran and ran. He could not wait to leave the stone circle behind. Then he was there, at his house and sprinting through the cat flap.
Sarah sipped her cold tea, then heard the sound of the cat flap. She froze. It was a week now since Alice and Amy had slipped away. Who then was coming through the cat flap?
Slowly she walked to the kitchen, then stopped in disbelief, turning to dizzy delight. It was Arnold! Looking not a day older.
Sarah hugged her cat as though she had not seen him for years, as indeed she had not. “Arnold, my Arnold.” Grief melted as happiness hugged her heart.
Tears streamed down Sarah’s face, joy and grief intertwined like the ribbon of life. Arnold sniffed her hair, his knowing eyes sparkling. Magic misted the air around them, as miracles unwound in their hearts. It was a day of destiny; it was another chance at love; it was a cat spell in freefall.
A few miles away, a stone circle sparkled under the sun, secrets hidden deep in its stone, mysteries silent as the sky above. Slowly, a stray cat entered the circle, hope in his heart. A better destiny would dawn.