It is Yule season and there is still a pandemic happening. We must be careful, even though we are Vampires.
This evening my friends Constantine and Randolpho dropped by for a small gathering. They are part of what is called a bubble. That means we stay inside and limit our exposure and pretend we are not Vampires.
Randolpho came in first and put a case of spiced blood from Dave’s Bottle Shop on the kitchen counter. “When I was at Dave’s I heard the most interesting conversation. A couple of guys were talking about string theory and time travel. They said it wouldn’t surprise them if time travelers showed up before 2020 is done. It was sort of a joke, but hey, nothing would surprise me right now,” he said as he took off his coat but kept on his ridiculous hat.
I had no idea what he was talking about. “What is string theory?” I asked.
“From what understand, string theory means we’re not sure if if time travel to the past is physically possible. Time travel to the future, outside the usual sense of the perception of time as we know it, or maybe even time as we can’t truly perceive or understand, is an extensively observed phenomenon and well-understood within the framework of both special and real relativity. I guess that means it is all relative. Ha.That said, making one living being advance or delay more than a few milliseconds compared to another living object is not possible with current technology. As for backward time travel, that is time travel into the past, it is possible to find solutions in general relativity that theoretically allow for it, for example something like a rotating black hole. Traveling to a random point in spacetime has very limited support in theoretical physics, and is usually connected only with quantum mechanics or wormholes,” said Randolpho.
“Wormholes? What do worms have to do with anything? I do not understand.”
“Worms make long twisting holes that transport them from one place to another. It is like an expressway through the universe, or a secret passageway.”
“What about just being in a parallel universe rather than traveling in time over one straight timeline?” Constantine asked.
“What is a parallel universe?” I asked.
“A parallel universe is a concept that suggests therecould be other universes besides our own, where all the choices you made in this life played out in alternate realities. It is facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse. For example, in our universe it is a fact that you were locked, against your will, in a crypt for 300 years, thus skipping the 18th– 20thCenturies. In another parallel universe you might have not been locked in the crypt and continued to live as the Vampire King. In another universe there are no Vampires and you’re just a regular guy,” said Randolpho.
“I feel like I am in a parallel universe right now,” I said.
“You never know,” said Randolpho.
“What do you mean I never know?” I asked
“You wouldn’t know what you’re doing in another universe,” said Randolpho.
“Of course not, that would be too easy. What about cats? Would my cats be there? Tell me that,” I said.
“I don’t know. The laws of physics don’t apply to cats,” said Randolpho.
That was one point we could all agree on.
This morning my beautiful Vampire lover Gillian told me to be quiet because she had a Zoom meeting.
I was not making noise.
“What is a Zoom meeting?” I asked her.
“An online meeting. We can’t meet in person anymore. With Zoom we can all meet on and see each other.”
“What is the purpose of this Zoom meeting?”
“My book club. We’re reading Great Expectations.”
“I would imagine you would have great expectations when starting a book.”
“Vlad, darling, Great Expectationsis the title of the book. It was written by Charles Dickens. Remember? He wrote A Christmas Carol. You know, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts.”
“As you recall my dear, I missed the entire 19thCentury.”
I kissed my lovely Gillian and sent her to her Zoom meeting. I went into another room so she would not hear me. I am a Vampire. I am quiet. I do not know why she is concerned I will bother her during her meeting.
I went to my comfortable chair and started to read A Christmas Carol again. I wonder if in a parallel universe this story has Vampires in it.
After Gillian’s meeting she came in and told me all about it. She is a woman so she must always tell me all about it but I do not mind.
“Lydia’s computer was hacked,” she told me. Hacked?
“That is odd her cats would vomit on her computer,” I said, trying to show some sympathy (something else females like.)
“No Vlad. Not that kind of hack.”
“Someone hit Lydia’s computer with a hatchet?”
“No, they got into her Facebook account.”
At that point I decided not to explore this subject anymore.
“That is sad for Lydia,” I said.
“She changed her password. Everyone else is doing ok,” said Gillian then she continued to tell me all of the news from the ladies in her book circle.
Suddenly my two cats started to run all over the house. They ran up and down the stairs, then around the downstairs meowing and racing about.
Gillian laughed. “They have the zoomies.”
I was confused. “The cats have a meeting?”
Gillian just smiled and kissed me. “You’re so cute. I love you Vlad.”
“I love you too Gillian, always and forever,”
It always comes back to cats.
Time Travel, String Theory, String Cheese, cats… everything in the universe all ties back to cats.
Now I will go put up a string of Christmas lights on the front of my house in honor of the Yule Season. The cats will no doubt come out with me to watch and try to knock down my ladder.
I wondered if I could travel back in time and change anything. Would I skip being locked in a crypt for 300 years only to find myself in the 21stCentury? Would I take back my title as King of Vampires?
I picked up the lights and called the cats to join me.
I think I shall stay right where I am, at least in this universe.
A Christmas Journey (with Vampires, a cat, a train ride and a fight)
People don’t know who or what we are. We’ve kept it that way for centuries, as stories and myths over ride any sense of reality in the minds of men.
In December of 1875 tragedy came into our lives. My best friend Isabelle fell under the spell of rogue Vampires and almost killed my brother Max’s best friend, who was the son of my parent’s closest regular human friends. You see, for those of you who are new here, we’re Vampires. As part of the Modern Vampire movement, we go by the rule that nobody is ever turned into a Vampire without consent.
Anyway, scandal was the only word for it. My parents were upset at the prospect of Isabella or any of her rogue friends contacting, or corrupting my brother Valentine or me so we were to be sent away for a few months to keep us out of trouble. The plan was to send us to New York to say with my Grandmama Lola for Christmas. I was sixteen and Val was seventeen, and the prospect of the big city was more exciting than anything we’d ever experienced. Best of all it got us away from the eyes of our parents.
Yet, Val and I were also angry that my parents had so little trust in us that they thought it necessary to ship us off clear across the country. After all, we were practically adults. In fact, in most circles at that time we would have been considered adults who could get employment, get married or live independently.
My father’s friend Nathaniel Chase agreed to take Val and I from California to New York City on the train. Nathaniel had his own private luxury car so nobody thought there would be any problems. Nathaniel was the very image of the sophisticated and charming Modern Vampire. He was also cunning and dangerous in his own ways – enough to take care of two over active Vampire teens. What trouble could a couple of teens get into when watched over by a four hundred year old Vampire?
On the first night Val and I explored the train. There were dining cars, first class, second class, other private luxury cars and all sorts of interesting people. Nathaniel was busy with “business.” Unfortunately that didn’t last for long. He was scolding us for getting too friendly with people, running, sticking our heads out the window and laughing too loud. That was just the short list.
On the second night he caught Val in an embrace with an attractive woman from San Francisco. That didn’t go over too well either. Val used the excuse he was just being a Vampire. Nathaniel knew better.
On the third night there was a party in another private car in which there were plates full of beautiful treats. I had my first eclaire. It was huge – the size of a man’s hand. That with a stomach full of warm blood (from a handsome nineteen year old who claimed to be the son of a famous minister), a bottle of sparkling pink wine (which I wasn’t supposed to have) and sugar (which makes Vampires absolutely ill) had me throwing up most of the night.
By the time we got to our first stay over in Chicago, Nathaniel Chase was ready to lock the both of us up for good. But he didn’t.
We stayed in a large new mansion built after the great fire of 1871. It was there for Vampires of our rank. Val and I were in heaven. Off of the train with Nathaniel gone most of the time!
Nathaniel had given us a full set of rules and warnings. Bite only on the wrist, not the neck. Don’t go into questionable parts of town (he supplied coordinates.) Do not talk to Vampires you don’t know. Don’t be turned by a pretty face. Watch for Vampire Hunters. Stay close to the house. Shop, have fun, act normal. Under no circumstance let anyone suspect you are different. Don’t act like children.
Val and I did all that and more. We were the perfect little citizens. At parties everyone commented on how charming young well-mannered people we were. I’m sure that warmed the cold heart of the old Vampire Nathaniel Chase.
On our fourth day in Chicago Val and I were walking along at dusk when we heard a great commotion coming from a warehouse. And you would be right if you guessed we were in a part of town we shouldn’t have been in.
Inside of the building a large group of men were standing in an impromptu arena yelling and cheering. We thought it might be a boxing match until we realized it was a dog fight. Beasts of all sizes had been brought in to tear each other apart. We could smell the blood and the fear in the dogs. We could also smell the excitement and blood lust in the men who watched the fights. I held Val’s arm, utterly appalled by what I saw. Ears were torn off, bowels were torn open and dogs howled and whimpered in pain.
Then just as I thought I’d seen enough a large man held something out to five growling dogs.
“I present you Lucifer. Tonight you will see before your very eyes these dogs devour the devil.” And he held up a black kitten of about 5 months who cried with pitiful mews of fear. My cold blood boiled.
Hiking up my skirts I climbed the ropes around the arena and entered the ring. I yelled at the man to put down the cat. He laughed. Then I growled at him showing my fangs. In horror the man lashed out striking me across the face. His large ring made a gash across my cheek. Val jumped the ropes and came to my rescue. Knocking them man down he was about to tear his arm off when someone grabbed us up by our collars and threw both of us out into the snow.
Nathaniel Chase and two other Vampires stood there looking at us in disgust. We could hear the commotion inside of the warehouse grow louder.
Nathaniel pulled me to him and yanked me into a waiting carriage. “You could have had us all killed.” His coat smelled slightly of patchouli and roses. I saw a long light brown hair against the black of his jacket. He’d been visiting a woman. I should have known.
“You were with a woman weren’t you?” I glared at him with the triumph of someone too stupid to know what I was saying.
His eyes lit up with a fire and he pulled me around in front of his face holding both of my arms like vices. “It isn’t just small animals that they kill. They kill what they do not know or understand. They kill what they fear. They kill anything they see as evil.”
“But they’re evil themselves,” I stammered back, unable to move or remove myself from his glare.
“No, it is their world, so be it if it is ruled by ignorance and superstition. You must NEVER show yourself for what you are. Never. So help me God Juliette, if you ever do anything like this again I will make sure you will spend the rest of your days drinking rancid blood out of a gourd, in a dungeon so deep you’ll forget there are stars in the sky.”
He let me go and turned to my brother. “As for you Valentine. I have no words to express my disappointment in you.”
One of the other Vampires, an elegant looking man called Joseph pulled a small black kitten out of his coat pocket and handed it to me. “I believe this is yours. Do not forget the price you paid for his freedom.”
All the way back Nathaniel lectured us on responsibility and stupidity. When we returned to the house he vanished into the study with the two men. We were told to go to our rooms and stay there until midnight.
I lay on my bed and cried my heart out. Val came in and sat quietly next to me. We were utter failures.
When the large clock at the end of the hall struck midnight we left the room and went in search of Nathaniel Chase.
On the balcony he stood cradling the sleeping kitten in his arms. He quietly sang to himself in Welsh the old song “All Through the Night.”
All the stars’ twinkles say
All through the night
“This is the way to the realm of glory,”
All through the night.
Darkness is another light
That exposes true beauty
The Heavenly family in peace
All through the night.
“You have Lucifer,” I said stroking the purring kitten under his chin.
Nathaniel gave me a rare smile. “His name is Gabrielle now. He’ll go where I go. Do you know who Gabrielle was.”
“I believe an arch angel,” said Val.
“Gabrielle was a messenger. So is this little beast in my arms, brought to us in order to teach the two of you humility. But also to teach me what good hearts you have. Compassion is a rare and wonderful thing. It can also be a danger if you react in fear and by letting your heart lead the way.” He held up a hand knowing what I was going to say. “Your heart and the feelings of your heart are important. But you must be smart. You must not be like your friend Isabelle who turned a man into a Vampire, almost killing him and committing his soul to Hell. She claimed it was romantic but it was cruel and selfish.” He handed me the cat now called Gabriel. “Take care of this cat until we get to your Grandmama’s, then he is mine. And Juliette, remember that we are like dark angels who inhabit the night. No matter how much good we may do we are still to be feared by those who are not our kind.”
Gabrielle lived for another twenty two years and went everywhere with Nathaniel Chase.
Val and I got to our Grandmama Lola’s house in New York City by Christmas Eve night.
Nathaniel Chase still doesn’t have much confidence in me. I made mistakes with my heart over the years, as did Val. But we learned that we must keep our hearts to ourselves and take action with our brains and with conviction and with deliberate action.
A few weeks ago I visited Nathaniel, along with my brother Val and my husband Teddy. He still looked the same as he did in 1875. He still has a black cat. The current one is named Michael. They’re all named after angels. Small dark angels of hope and love.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from all of the Vampires and their cats.
A sense of foreboding surrounded me. I could feel the darkness and cold grievous glares of unforgiving eyes in the darkness. The anguished cries grew louder and louder. There was no escape. No place to run. I knew I must take action. It was time to feed the cats.
I am now 677 years old. Earlier this week I got out of bed as soon as the sun went down, then I put on my jeans and a tee shirt. That was not what I would have worn 677 years ago.
After being locked in a crypt for three hundred years, missing the 18th– 20thcenturies, and coming out now I find fashion and clothing these days extraordinary and at times baffling.
Zippers. I have no words for zippers. I do not know what I would do now without zippers.
Shoes called sneakers. Sneakers. I like the sound of that. Sneakers.
As a Vampire I appreciate clothing that is easily removed. I appreciate women who do not wear thirty-seven layers of clothing during the day and night.
Of course when I was King of Vampires I dressed better than most. I mostly missed the clothing I wore at the time I was kidnapped, locked in a crypt, and left for dead with a stake in my heart. It still hurts when I think about it.
This is how everyone dressed when I was born.
This is how I dressed at the time I was locked in the crypt. I looked better than this. This picture is not of me.
This is how I would have looked had I been out of the crypt during the 19thCentury. It is close to my likeness.
This is an image of my friend Randolpho and his ridiculous hat in the 1850’s. It was a time I wish I had not missed.
This is how I look now, but this picture is not of me. It is how men look now. I do not have dark hair or whiskers. I might grow whiskers. It is difficult to have whiskers when one is a Vampire. I do like the dark glasses and wear dark glasses always.
This is how couples looked in 2019. Notice that he is not wearing tights. There are creatures called Superheroes who DO wear tights but in this century they look extremely ridiculous.
This is how couples look in 2020.
Fashion is one change I can live with as long as there are zippers.
Technology makes our lives easier. The clothing is also easier. One would think that it would be the opposite effect.
The days have started to cool. The election; the celebration of death and monsters is almost upon us. No, that is not right. The celebration of death and monsters is Halloween. The election is the day to attempt to rid the land of monsters yet I do not see that happening. It was easier when I was King of Vampires. Then again there have always been an abundance of fools and an abundance of those who wish to have that job.
This year has been the second United States of America presidential election year since my liberation from the crypt in which I was trapped for those long three hundred years. I live within the United States of America and have lived here long enough to become a citizen of this country so I will vote. Gillian my Vampire lover told me that if we go to the local voting center the Sunday before the official Tuesday election day that we can drop off our votes and not wait in long lines.
I feel excited to vote yet no so much as I believe that people are too sad and too angry to make intelligent decisions. Gillian said it is because I did not live among people during times of great revolution and during the World Wars, or live behind a curtain made of iron, or in a land with a dick tator. I do not know what penis shaped tubers have to do with being an evil leader but it seems to somewhat make sense that that is the name in which someone like that was given. As King of Vampires I would never been called evil or unjust. Gillian says I need to read more and brought me a large bag of books which I shall start reading tonight.
I know my head will feel as if it is full of maggots but I shall read of evil but also read of redemption and short lived celebrations. We live in a world in which women no longer wear thirty seven layers of clothing or have children until they die. Yes, there was a time when a man would marry a woman who would then give birth to child after child until she died. Then he would marry another younger woman who would then give birth until she died. There might be three, four or even five wives. That would continue until the man died or his current wife poisoned him. It was no way for a woman to live.
Vampires have always married for love. That is a concept which took centuries to be adopted by the general warm blooded populations. Even now there is much fighting over what women are allowed to do. This makes no sense to me. I say if someone tells a woman what she can do or can not do than his head should go on a pole. Maybe it is not only my cuteness, golden hair, or muscled arms and shoulders that make women attracted to me. Maybe it is my mind.
So out I go now to look for blood. I shall wear my mask and be a modern man. There are times when I just do not know. I just do not know at all. At least I have cats. Cats always know. Cats know everything.
My phone dinged with another text message. I really needed to mute the sound.
Jay: I am so sorry about Ryan.
Me: Thank you.
Jay: I saw your photo. Your still hot.
Me: You still can’t spell.
Another old boyfriend I’d have to block. They came out of the woodwork like rats, only they were middle aged men, all divorced, widowed, never married, and looking for any excuse to get laid.
The messages ranged from sappy memories of times that never meant much to me, dick pics, apologies, propositions, apologies for past bad behavior, and whiney threads of what could have been. I blocked them all.
Mike: If you need anything call me.
Me: Who is this?
Mike: Mike Johnson
Me: What are you doing now?
Mike: Thinking about you.
Me: I mean, are you working? Retired? Married? Single?
Mike: Semi retired. Semi single. Rich. Still have my hair. Still in the area. Still thinking of your hot body next to mine. I never forgot. Never.
Me: OK. Remember, you dumped me.
Mike: I was young and stupid. If you need anything, and I mean anything.
I blocked him. That made nine. There were more out there and I hoped they’d all keep their thoughts to themselves. I’d dated a lot before I met Ryan.
Them: I think about you all the time.
Ryan and I had thirty one years together, two wonderful children, and now I had to figure out what was next. Or maybe not.
It had been five months since Ryan passed. I wasn’t so numb anymore. The kids were grown and handling it ok. I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself for breaking down. I had to be there for them and my grand kids. I didn’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, and Ryan wouldn’t have wanted me to.
Then I received an email from someone I used to know.
Dear Colette, I was saddened to hear the news of Ryan’s passing. We had worked together on research projects for years and become friends. He spoke often of you and your children.
I didn’t get back to you because I also had Covid-19 and survived it.
It took a while for me to realize that Ryan’s Colette was you. I never told him I knew you.
I sat looking at the computer screen growing numb. The email was from Ian Locke, the one who got away. At least sort of got away. We parted ways because due to the old “wrong time, wrong place” type of situation.
Ian continued with sweet thoughts and good memories of my husband. It was exceptionally touching and weird. I never made the connection when Ryan spoke of Ian. They were never in the same city, and usually they were out in the field or in the lab, so we never met.
Then my phone vibrated and I answered the call. It was Ian.
His voice immediately brought me back to a time forty years ago when we were in college. We were just babies, or at least adults who didn’t know how to be adults yet. It was a time to experiment and flounder.
We talked a bit about Ryan and our children. We both had two. I had two girls. He had two boys. They were all doing great and in college. We spoke of our careers.
Then Ryan said, “I’m getting a divorce. I’ll sign the final papers next week.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“She had been cheating on me for years. When he passed away she wanted to patch things up but it was too late.”
Suddenly I wanted to throw up. I wasn’t so stupid that I didn’t know where this was going. I had no idea, but I wasn’t stupid.
“She gave Ryan Covid-19. She gave it to me. She and I survived it. I’m sorry. I am so angry. I lost my friend. I lost all sense of trust. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”
He shouldn’t have been telling me that.
I thought of the research trips. I thought of the times he had to stay a few extra days. I thought of him dying in our spare bedroom where he’d quarantined himself.
Ian continued. “Renee lost it when Ryan died. She was hysterical for weeks, then she finally told me about everything. I didn’t want to believe it but then I saw the texts, the emails, the photos. She said she was going to tell you. I told her no. She said she needed to tell you. What a cunt. I didn’t want you to hear it from her. I am so sorry Colette.”
“Ian,” I said. “I want to talk to you more. I want to see you, but I don’t know… could you call me back in a few weeks? Will you call me in a few weeks.”
“I’ll talk to you soon. It’s good to hear your voice. Call me later.”
I hung up.
I haven’t heard from Ian. It has only been a week. I did put my house up for sale. I’m looking for a beach house, closer to my kids.
Nobody knows about my conversation with Ian. I don’t plan on telling anyone.
2020 is almost done. Next year should be better. Maybe. Either way it will be a new beginning for me. I tell myself that. Maybe I’ll convince myself. Maybe.
For those who want something a little more cheerful read the following story. It is an oldie but a goodie. Have fun. Stay safe. WEAR YOUR MASK.
The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)
Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?
“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.
Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.
For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.
He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.
Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.
“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.
As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.
After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.
He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.
Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.
After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.
The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.
He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”
Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.
The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”
“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.
“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.
“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”
At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.
The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”
Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.
“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.
Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.
“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”
“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”
“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”
“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”
“Give me the cat.”
“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”
The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”
“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”
“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.
“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”
The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”
The kitten just purred.
Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.
He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.
He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.
The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.
Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.
Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies.
He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke. It was no use. Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”
Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”
But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.
And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.
My cousin Rachael died last week. Her house was burning. She and her dog were found dead in her swimming pool. Her body was wracked with the effects of an advanced case of Covid-19.
The weird thing about is wasn’t the house burning, or the Covid-19, or even the fact that her hands were bound behind her back. The weirdest thing was that her dog was in the pool with her.
The fire wasn’t part of the wild fires that are blazing all over California. It was arson. Someone had poured gasoline all over her garage, lit a match, and left her alone coughing and barely able to function.
Rachael refused to go to a hospital. She’d rather be in her own bed in her own mansion. If she was going to die alone she said she wanted to be with her nasty little dog Chatsworth.
Chatsworth was a beautiful fluffy brown and white spotted animal of unknown heritage. He hated everyone except Rachael. He loved Rachael.
After Rachael died her attorney came to my house with a box. The box had holes in it. Inside of it was a cat with singed fur and whiskers. He was a large gray tabby with a white mask on his face and chest, and white paws. He’d belonged to Rachael’s ex who’d broken both of his legs in a car accident one night after they’d had a huge fight over Rachael’s callus attitudes over his place in her life. He never spoke to her again and moved out of the country.
The cat’s name was Zoomie. As soon as I let him out of the carrier he started to purr. I wondered how that cat could be so mellow and happy considering who he’d lived with.
Rachael wasn’t a nice person. In fact she was a first class raging bitch. The short list of words to describe Rachael were mean spirited, narcissistic, disingenuous, a first class liar, and a control freak. She hadn’t always been like that, well maybe she had, but it just got worse as she grew older, especially the past sixteen years.
Despite her faults (though she saw none) she was incredibly successful. Rachael lived one of those charmed lives where everything seemed to come easy. Fabulous opportunities seemed to come out of the blue. Men went crazy over her no matter how badly she treated them. People were fascinated by her. She rubbed shoulders (and more) with the rich, famous, and powerful. Rachael had done well and was fabulously rich herself. When she died she owned the home she’d died in, plus three vacation homes all free and clear. She was worth millions.
At one time Rachael and I were close. She thought so until the day she died. I’d been done with her for years.
So, back to Zoomie and my household.
I had no reason to ever be jealous of Rachael or her success. I had my own sort of charmed life. Sure it wasn’t perfect by we’d done very well. I was married to a rock star – yes a real rock star. Ben and I had met when I designed his first album cover. His band became a world wide success with hit after hit. My design career took off. After being friends for years, it turned into more than friends, then marriage, then two children.
Now the kids were in college and Ben was making cute “at home” videos with the kids and his band members. I was just hanging out and working on some illustrations projects. We were good. We had work. We had love.
We also had a new cat. Zoomie got along with the two cats and two dogs we already had. He was a wonderful animal.
So far so good, until my brother Jackie called in hysterics. He missed Rachael. He couldn’t get over the fact she was gone. The police had been by to question him to find out if he knew anyone who’d want her dead. He didn’t know anyone. He was freaked out. Completely freaked out.
I thought of a lot of people who would have wanted Rachael dead, starting with my husband.
At one time Rachael had tried to seduce Ben, then when he resisted her charms she moved on to his band members. Eventually the drummer Scotty spent a sex and drug laden weekend with Rachael. When it got too weird he went home. She spread dirt in the media about him and threatened to say she was raped. Then the nude photos started to show up. Yes, Rachael had hidden cameras in her bedroom. Of course she did.
But that was mild compared to her other bad deeds. She had a long trail of carnage she’d caused including broken marriages, ruined careers, public shame, and a list of horrible things that nobody would every want in their lives.
I told my brother that he’d be fine and decided to ignore him next time he called. I had three other siblings and a dozen cousins. All of them agreed with my take on things. She’d hurt all of them over the years in one way or the other. The only good thing about the pandemic is that nobody had to go to a funeral and tell lies about what a wonderful woman she was.
Ben was sitting at his piano working on a song with Zoomie sitting on the bench next to him. Suddenly Ben stopped and called me into the room.
He had such an odd look on his face. Then he said, “Zoomie talks.”
“Of course you do sweet boy,” I said to the cat and rubbed it under the chin.
Then Zoomie looked up and me and said in a high kind of strained whispery voice, “I can talk. If you sit down next to us I’ll tell you what happened to Rachael.”
I had to catch my breath. The cat talked. Zoomie REALLY talked.
“Sit down. I have to tell my story. Talking isn’t that easy for me so I’m not going to say it all twice. I mean, I love you guys and all more than I can say, but talking isn’t my thing. OK, where were we… sit… Rachael. I’m going to tell you about Rachael.
Rachael was doing good. She had a nice life but she wanted more. It was like she was tired of being at base camp forever and wanted to make it to the top. She’d do anything to get there.
When I met her was when her then live-in man Ian adopted me. I liked Ian. He was a great guy. Rachael had him around because he had this great English accent, a great body, and the sex was good. Ian was also successful so he didn’t expect anything material from her. He wasn’t no boy toy if you know what I mean. Anyway, Ian started to ask her to be nicer to him and everyone else. Rachael would have none of it. So one night Ian left. He left without me because he was moving to Brazil. Who the hell moves to Brazil? Anyway he couldn’t bring me with him.
Rachael wasn’t bad to me. I was fed. The staff gave me a lot of attention. I would wander around the house looking for a portrait like in that story about the Dorian Gray guy, you know where he stayed young and beautiful while the picture took on all of his ugly shit. Oscar Wilde wrote it. You know it?”
“You can read?” Ben asked.
“Sure I can read. I’m a smart cat. Anyway I never found the picture, but it was still so weird the way good things kept happening to Rachael. I mean, nothing bad ever happened to her. Then one day I was sitting on the balcony watching that fucking nasty little Chatsworth sitting by the pool licking his balls. Then he got up and stretched. These wings, like a leathery bat came out of his back, then his whole body transformed into some gosh awful humanoid demon form.
I’m not skittish so I jumped down by the way of a near by tree and went to investigate. The ugly little demon dog thing was still sitting by the pool scratching his leathery hide and sticking his feet in the water.
“Hey, Chats, what’s going on?” I said causally, just acting like the typical disinterested cat.
He looked shocked. I’d caught him in his real form.
“Don’t tell anyone what you see or I’ll fucking kill you,” he said.
“I’ve got seven lives left asshole,” I told him, “but I’m not going to waste any on you. What’s your story?”
“Rachael is my story. She sold her soul for success. It shocked me she didn’t go into politics, but she just wanted to be on the edge. She wanted a reality TV star life and she has it. Hey, I’m having fun.”
“She sold her soul to you?”
“No, to the Devil. I’m just here to make sure the contract isn’t broken. I’m her keeper.”
“No shit,” I said trying to sound like this thing happened all the time.
“No shit,” said Chatsworth the nasty little dog.
So when Chatsworth turned seventeen his dog days would be over. The contract for Rachael’s soul lasted as long as the life of a dog. When the dog died she’d die.
The wife of some guy Rachael was having a long term affair with came by and tossed her in the pool. She would have survived but the guy kicked Chatsworth and killed him. Threw the damn dog in the pool. With Chatsworth dead the contract was up along with Rachael’s good luck. Chatsworth was only ten but that didn’t matter. He was dead so the contract was over. That’s the story folks of how Rachael lost her soul.”
“Wow,” Ben and I said in unison.
“Hey,” said Zoomie, “mind getting me a drink of water. This taking stuff kind of makes me thirsty and make my throat hurt. It isn’t like meowing or even cat fight yowl. It takes a lot out of a guy.”
“Are you a demon?” Ben asked.
“No, I’m just a cat.”
“But you can talk,” I said.
Zoomie started to purr and make biscuits on Ben’s leg. “All cats can talk,” he said. “We just don’t like to. It isn’t easy. You know our vocal cords and lips aren’t really made for it.”
Then Zoomie said one last thing about it. “When a person sells their soul something is sent to watch them. It might be a dog, or a cat. It might be another person, but it is always something. You never know. You just never know. The good thing about being a cat is that nobody can buy our souls or steal them. That is the bad part of being a human. We feel sorry for you. We still love you for the most part because most of you are good. Most.”
I got Zoomie some water and cat treats, then looked over to my two other cats who were curled up on the big arm chair at the other end of the room.
After a few weeks Ian announced he was going to write a tell all book about Rachael. A lot of less than wonderful stories came out about her. I tried to ignore it all.
I did wonder about everyone else in the news these days, in politics, in the media, famous and rich for no real reason. How many of them had sold their souls? How many of them had a an animal or a close friend, a spouse, or advisor who was really a demon watching to make sure the contract wasn’t broken.
I guess we’ll never know, and I know now the cats won’t be talking.
While going through a pile of old artwork I found this large format photo. It is about 16 x 18 inches and printed on heavy paper. It was printed in the 19th – early 20th Century. I don’t know who the photographer was, or who printed the photo. It is an original photograph.
About two years ago I saw a photo of a painting of the exact same scene. The photo was from the late 19th Century. The scene is in the Rocky Mountains, maybe in Colorado. I don’t remember the what/where/who of that painting, yet the image of the winding river stuck in my memory. Then I saw the photograph. It was the same scene, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
I’m putting the following questions out to my readers, and art/photo/Western historians. I don’t know the answers to these questions so any help would be WONDERFUL and I’d be grateful to you forever:
Who was the photographer?
What is the painting I saw of this scene and where is it located? Is it in a museum?
If you know any of the answers let me know. Yes, this is a mystery. Let’s solve it together.
For those of you who came here looking for people, costumes, wonderful faces, character, and cats, below is one of my favorite cabinet cards. I have no idea who these people are or have any background information on the cat. I love how wonderfully casual and loving this portrait is.