It’s hard being scared all the time. When you’re alone in the world though, it’s hard to be anything but scared.
I never knew why I was left alone under milk crate when I was kitten. I wanted to think it must have been to protect me, but after a while I started to wonder if it was because I’d done something bad.
I was wrong about that. No one deserves to be left alone, and whatever the reason was, I didn’t wind up being protected at all. At least not until I met Penny.
Once my witch showed up, everything started to get better.
I could say that Penny wasn’t like other witches, but then I guess that witches are pretty different from one another. For however true that might be though, I don’t think any other witch woud have stopped and saved from me from a trio of boggins who wanted to skin me for my magic.
All cats have magic of course, but, like witches, each one of us is different. In my case, it turned out that I was able to become a familiar. That’s kind of like being a pet, but also kind of like being two parts to one bigger thing. If I listen closely I can hear Penny’s thoughts, and if I think loudly enough she can hear mine.
Of course I can also just talk to her if she’s nearby. I guess that’s something else that other cats don’t normally do but I find it pretty easy. It helps that humans are always talking so much, so learning their language is simple. Speaking it is pretty easy too, but I learned early on that it can be a mistake if the wrong people hear you.
That’s how the boggins caught me in the first place.
Even with Penny to take care of me, I try to be careful about letting too many secrets out. She’s just a beginning witch, and while she could definitely handle the boggins if they tried to cause her trouble, there’s a lot worse things than boggins out there, and I don’t want any of them learning anything about her from me.
To help with that, I decided that I should stay out one night and hunt the spooky flies and night are mice that sometimes prowl the night in neighborhoods like Penny’s. I was a cat after all and that kind of duty was mine to deal with. My claws were sharp, my eyes were clear and my pounce was like the wind.
As I stepped out into the fresh night air though, slipping through the crack of the door as Penny’s Dad closed it for the night, I discovered something though; I had made a terrible mistake.
After a few months with Penny, I’d managed to forget one of the first things I’d learned as a kitten; it’s dark and night, and there are scary things that live in the dark.
“Don’t worry September,” Penny said from right beside me, “We can be pretty scary too.”
I couldn’t see Penny, but that didn’t worry me. Spotting at a shadow at night is a little more than even my eyes can manage.
“You came out with me?” I asked, wondering if Shadow was going to head off on her own mission. I hoped she wasn’t.
“Yeah, Rosie and Betty are talking enchanting stuff and I guess Penny and Seeming can keep up with it, but it just goes right over my head,” Shadow said. “So what are we keeping an eye out for?”
“Nightmare mice,” I said and started sniffing the air to see if I could catch the traces of any unwelcome scents. For the most part the olfactory landscape was benign. A few new birds had entered the neighborhood, the Haldermans had picked take-out Indian food for dinner, and Mr. Rush’s car was leaking oil again. There was no sign of nightmare mice but there was a puzzling scent there that I almost couldn’t catch.
“What’s a nightmare mouse?” Shadow asked.
“Little bits of bad dreams,” I said, trying to catch another whiff of that scent and failing. “Most dreams stay inside the dreamer that made them up, but sometimes small pieces get out and scurry off to cause problems.”
“That sounds like it could get out hand pretty quickly,” Shadow said.
“There’s not much too them,” I said, “and they usually get gobbled up pretty quickly.”
“What happens when they don’t?” Shadow asked. She was looking around on the ground for nightmare mice that I knew she wasn’t going to find.
“I guess people have more bad dreams than they’re supposed to?” I said. The faint traces so of the unplaceable scent were making my whiskers twitch. I couldn’t get a good nose full of it, but I knew the person the scent belonged to, I was sure of it.
Without explaining things to Shadow, I bounded out across the lawn and onto the street to find the newcomer. Penny was wonderful, but no matter what form she was in, it was like the nose on her face was there for decoration purposes only. I’d tried to explain to her how you could smell things even if they were downwind of you, but getting her to do it seemed more than my human could manage.
Out on the street, I caught a better trace of my quarry. It was still a flat scent, too little for me to tell much about them, but I had a better idea where they were.
The Looking Tree.
It was the best spot in the neighborhood for seeing everything that was happening and all of the smells from the various houses passed by there. If someone was searching for something around here, that’s exactly where they would be. The only problem with it was that sneaking up on the Looking Tree was all but impossible.
I tried my best anyway, but by the time I got there all I saw was a quick blur of something black retreating as fast as my eyes could follow.
“Who was that?” Shadow asked.
I was about to say I didn’t know since I hadn’t gotten a good look at them, but then their scent filled my nostrils and I knew exactly who it was. I hadn’t seen them since I was a tiny kitten, not since the worst night of my life, but I knew I’d remember them always.
“My mother,” I said. “That was my mother just now.”