The broom flight home was over almost before I knew it had started. Sweepy barreled across the landscape so fast that everything below us turned into a blur. I spent every other heartbeat of the short trip certain we were going to crash into something and be squashed flat as a pancake. The other half of the time I was wondering how September could sit on the front of the broom so calmly without falling off.
Neither of those worries proved to be a problem though. True to Grandma Apples’ word, Sweepy got September and I back to my home safe and sound. The broomstick even gave us a little bow after we climbed off in my backyard. She then zapped back into the sky, as fast as she arrived, leaving me alone with my empty house and my new, magic, talking cat.
“What was Grandma Apples talking about with ‘meeting my shadow’?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” September said. “I guess it’s a witch thing.”
“We should probably get inside then,” I said. I thought of Peter Pan and the trouble that he had recapturing his missing shadow. If I had to manage something like that, I wanted to be in a nice small room when it happened.
Of course it was also possible that the shadow Grandma Apples had spoken of was something out of horror movie. I didn’t get to watch a lot of those, but I had the general idea of how awful they could be. That didn’t seem to fit with how Grandma Apples had spoken of it though. And she’d said I would meet something else at dawn, my ‘seeming’, which I had even fewer guesses about what I should expect.
“Is it ok for me to go in with you?” September asked. He sat back and shifted his weight from one front paw to the other.
“I’m not going to leave you out here!” I said and scooped him up into my arms again. I guess that was the right answer because he relaxed and started purring in response.
Together, we went into my house, and up to my room without delay. Mom usually leaves me a note about what’s for dinner, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. Between the broomstick flight and the excitement at finding out that witches were real and cats could talk, I’d left my appetite somewhere far behind. It would catch up to me eventually, assuming that my shadow didn’t eat me first.
“What happens if I don’t see my shadow?” I asked September.
“Maybe that means you’re not a witch?” he said.
“What did Grandma Apples mean about you fading away?” I asked.
“I guess I’m your familiar now,” he said.
“That’s like a witch’s pet right?” I asked.
“I think it’s more like a helper,” he said. “I’m supposed to do things for you that you can’t.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Well I’ve got claws,” he said and flexed his tiny paw to show them to me.
“I don’t want you to claw anyone for me though!” I said. That was mostly true. There were a couple girls at school who could use a good clawing, but I wouldn’t want September to do it for me. They’d be worse to him than the Boggins were.
“That’s good, cause I’m kind of bad at it,” he said. “I can talk to other spirit creatures though.”
“Spirit creatures?” I asked.
“Talking animals and other spirits,” he said. “Pumpkin said he does that kind of thing for Grandma Apples because witches don’t know all their languages.”
“How many languages do you know?” I asked.
“Three,” he said. “Cat, Human, and Bird.”
“Human’s have more than one language though,” I said and asked. “Hablas español?”
“Oh, I guess I’ll have to learn those too then,” he said.
“That could take a while,” I said and suppressed a laugh at his expense.
“I learned Human and Bird pretty quickly though.”.
“We’re speaking English, not Human, but otherwise you speak it very well.” I said.
“Thank you!” he said. “I think I’ll get better at it now that I have someone to speak to.”
“Who was taking care of you before?” I asked.
“Taking care of me?” he asked.
“Yeah, feeding you and stuff.” I said.
“Oh, no one,” he said. “After my litter broke up, I’ve had to just find things on my own. That’s what got me in trouble with the Boggins.”
“You haven’t had anyone for your whole life?” My heart felt sick at the idea, but I knew that happened to a lot of unwanted pets. That September was still alive despite the neglect he’d suffered had to be a minor miracle of some kind.
“I thought I was ok going it alone, until today.”
“That sounds terrible, so no more of that ok? Should we go get you some food? You must be starving right?” I asked.
“I don’t think we have time for that right now,” he said and pointed out the window where the sun had just finished setting.
I looked around my room to see where my shadow was and saw that it was in its normal spot, underneath me and moving as I moved.
I waved my hand back and forth, and the shadow hand followed suite. I was just about to declare that Grandma Apples was wrong when I heard someone speak in my own voice.
“You probably want to stop doing that,” my shadow said. I jumped up and the shadow moved to stand against the wall right where it should be for the light that was being cast in the room. The shadow was still flat and featureless, and still following my movements exactly, but seeing her in my room felt alien and terrifying.
“Why, what’s going to happen?” I asked
“Well, if you keep moving my arms around, then I’ll have to start moving yours,” she said.
I watched as my shadow brought her hands together and cracked her knuckles. I looked down and found my own hands doing the same thing.
Except I’d never told them to move.