9 Lives – Part V of Horror SeriesFeb 18th, 2010 | By Angela Nichols and Chris Deal | Category: Series, Troubadour Horror Zone | 737 views
Troubadour Horror Zone: This is the fifth part of our new horror/thriller series, featuring creatures or myths. We will be posting a new story each week, written by a different author each time, with an introductory essay written by Chris Deal. This week the theme is about a cat being a witch’s familiar, and the story is written by Angela Nichols. Not all our stories are about the scary aspects of horror themes. Some, like this one, will have a more humorous take.
Essay on the witch’s familiar: by Chris Deal
Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human, while its paws were like tiny human hands. It took messages betwixt old Keziah and the devil, and was nursed on the witch’s blood, which it sucked like a vampire. Its voice was a kind of loathsome titter, and it could speak all languages.
The Dreams in the Witch House, H.P. Lovecraft
The figure of the witch, a human with access to supernatural abilities, a sinister figure out to do harm to those that have slighted them, has long been a part of the public’s imagination, as well as having analogues in virtually every culture. Today, though, when considering the witch as a figure of horror, it is normally through the Western European interpretation of witchcraft, generally portrayed as an old hag, and that Western European source of witchcraft is where the figure of the familiar came from.
The witch’s familiar is a being, normally presented as an animal, though they have been presented as demons or people, who are bound to the witch. In the Western European tradition, where the witch gains their power through a pact with the Devil, the familiar is given to the recipient of the magic as a sort of servant, and the familiar can act as an intermediary between Satan and the witch. Generally, the familiar will be bound to the will of the witch. The familiar is a supernatural spirit that would take the form of an animal, most commonly a cat, traditionally a black cat, but owls, dogs, even toad, snakes, and ferrets have been seen as witch’s familiars in folklore and fiction. It should be noted that it wasn’t up until the 19th century that the familiar began to emerge as an item of research in academia.
The familiar animal would be seen by those in the area generally as a normal animal, save for certain rumors that would emerge, such as the idea that the animal would consume blood, that of the witch, of local innocents, or the victims of the witch’s magic. Some traditions held that the witch would have more than one familiar, that each animal considered a familiar would have unique powers and properties to help the witch in their deeds.
The figure of the familiar has spread through fiction. In H.P. Lovecraft’s story, “The Dreams in the Witch House”, Brown Jenkin was Keziah Mason’s familiar, a small rat with the face of a man. The “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman features beings known as Dæmons, animals that belong to a person and are in fact representations of their souls. Variations of the familiar belong not to witches, but vampires, and are portrayed as human servants of the vampire. This figure is represented best by R. M. Renfield in Stoker’s Dracula, a character trope that is almost as common as the vampire itself, portrayed most memorably by Tom Waits in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of Dracula, as well as recently being seen in Let the Right One In’s Håkan, a servant of Eli, in the Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston in the person of Philip Sax and many others. The Renfield has become a synonym of the familiar in supernatural fiction of late, and the familiar itself seems to be holding strong in fictional portrayals of the supernatural.
Witch’s familiar story: 9 Lives by Angela Nichols
I had a decision to make.
My name was Missy; in my last life. You see, I am a witch’s familiar. My form is that of a domestic cat.
I awoke from the accident dazed. I remembered being on the operating table, but now I was curled up in my best friend Brenda’s arms.
“I couldn’t let you die Paula.”
I tried to speak but all I heard was mewing.
“I can hear your thoughts, Paula. You are my familiar now.”
“You mean like black magic and witches?” I thought.
“Oh, all of that stuff they teach in school isn’t completely accurate.” She smiled brightly. “I’ve wanted to tell you for so long!”
Apparently my best friend came from a long line of witches. I looked in a mirror as she carried me upstairs to her room. I was now a calico.
“So what happened to me?” She looked at me for a long moment.
“Now, don’t freak out on me…are you sure you’re ready to find out?”
“Yes,” I nervously licked my shoulder.
“You were shot; by Eric.” She began to tear up. “When it looked like you weren’t going to make it, I couldn’t just…”
Eric? My boyfriend Eric. I sunk down on the bed and almost started yowling. She started to pet me.
Not long after her 25th birthday I broke my leg. I was 25 too, but had spent 10 of those years as a cat. My feline body was starting to give out on me. When she brought me home from the hospital we had a talk.
“You know, Paula, you may not have long in that body.”
I shuddered. I’m your familiar; doesn’t that mean I have some magic?
“Actually you do. I can help you transition to your 2nd life.”
You mean the whole 9 lives thing is true?
“Well, at least for familiars.”
“You have to take care of any unfinished business.”
“What do you remember?”
Pictures flooded my mind. Good times at first; our first date, our first kiss. First argument. First time he hit me. First time I caught him with the heroin. The pain of the gunshot. He shot me because I said I wouldn’t be there when he got back. He didn’t even call 911.
“There, there, Paula. The hard part is over. Now you just have to decide if he is going to live or not.”
My eyes widened and my ears went flat as she brought out a cage with a rat in it. Its fur was a color I had never seen on a rat and as I looked in its eyes I noticed they were like Eric’s. He looked terrified.
I stood up and moved closer, sniffing. He squeaked. He was so much less intimidating, it calmed me.
I’ll bet you think you’re just having a bad trip, huh Eric?
I looked up at her.
Will he stay a rat?
“That’s my girl.”
I must have died in my sleep that night because I went to sleep a calico and woke up a sleek Siamese.
“I guess I should call you something different now; it’ll look less weird.”
I hopped into her lap. It was tricky because I was small again.
Ok…how about Yum Yum? Like the cat in The Cat Who series?
Later that week I found myself sneaking out of the house and falling for a ginger tabby tom. I ended up having 3 kittens.
“Well, we have to do something about these kittens…unfinished business.”
I know. When they’re old enough you can adopt them out.
Are you ok? Brenda was glad the thought link didn’t go both ways. Then I would have known she killed that tom so there wouldn’t be any ‘unfinished business.’
“Just tired. I’m trying more difficult spells. It takes a lot of energy.”
The kittens were given good homes so a few years later when I was 13 I went to sleep and woke up as a tabby.
Brenda really looked up to her mother growing up, and as she got older she began to enjoy the power her mother was teaching her to control. Her mother was the source of all of her knowledge; she had an extensive collection of books on witchcraft and loved to take Brenda on ‘antique shopping’ trips to find items meant to enhance the powers. What Brenda never understood was that the more powerful and dangerous the spells you attempted the more attention you received from the Underworld. When her mother passed on it was just the push the Underworld needed.
A strange man showed up at the funeral. He had dark hair and eyes and what you could call a dark manner about him. I don’t know how else to describe it, you just feel it when you are near the person.
“My condolences” he said to Brenda.
“Thank you. I just can’t believe she’s gone.”
“Not entirely. She still has you to carry on her work.” At this point Brenda’s eyes glazed over.
“Well, there is that. How did you know my mother and her work?”
“You could say I was her consultant.”
Brenda thought for a moment. “Yes. You could help me…um?”
“My name is Damian.”
Shortly after that she started getting more involved with her spells. Some of the ingredients smelled terrible. We discussed this and she was kind enough to put in a cat door. I didn’t go out of the yard much, though. I even got a bad case of fleas that caused me to be so anemic I was too weak to fight off a stray cat that attacked me one night. Brenda rushed me to the vet, but I was pretty torn up. She was very apologetic the next morning when I woke up a Maine Coon.
Damian gave me the creeps, big time. I began to spend most of my time outside.
I found I was a good hunter and developed a taste for mouse. One night I was chasing one and felt someone watching me. It turned out to be a black and white tom. No, I was fixed at this point, (something Brenda started doing as soon as possible) but we began hanging out.
Of course, we WERE living like alley cats; tipping trash cans, raiding picnics, etc. The long hair didn’t help either. Brenda was barely out of the basement these days. She and Damian began arguing a lot. What I didn’t realize at first was that they were arguing about me.
“We could just kill her, you know.”
“Damian, there’s no way to be sure she’d come back as a black cat any faster that way.”
“So then we get another cat.”
“It would take longer to bond with a new cat, and you know it. Paula and I grew up together. The bond is the strongest we are going to find.”
“Maybe you just don’t want this enough.”
She fell to her knees. “No, Damian, don’t leave me. I do want to be with you and join your coven.”
“There she is now.”
I walked into the kitchen to see Damian smiling and Brenda, again with glazed over eyes, coming at me with a kitchen knife. I ran blindly terrified out of the house and ended up getting hit by a car.
This time I woke up a Persian. This life wasn’t long at all.
For one thing, Persians are notorious for breathing problems due to their breeding. Then the tom didn’t recognize me so I had to try to fend for myself; I didn’t try very hard. I was also the equivalent of 3 months old again and didn’t ever want to go back to Brenda’s. I ended up getting very sick. I gave up. When I could feel the end coming I went looking for a place to die where they couldn’t find me. As fate would have it, I ended up outside the apartment building of a kind stranger. He tried to nurse me back to health, but was too late.
When he took me in to the vet’s to be put down, they were there to collect my body. I don’t know how they knew where, or when, to find me.
When I didn’t come back as a black cat for this life Damian broke my neck.
So there I was jet black and aware of Damian’s cruelty. I heard Brenda calling me as I ran out the door.
I ended up with the kind stranger. He didn’t know I was the same cat, of course.
It turns out his name was James. We hit it off right away. Maybe he could sense my former humanity as I listened to him because he began to talk to me like a girlfriend, telling me his thoughts and dreams. He called me Missy.
After about a year things took a nasty turn. They came after me.
Apparently I was old enough for their biggest spell yet. A final sacrifice to join a coven; no ‘unfinished business.’
There was a fight, but Damian hit James with some kind of spell that threw him back into a wall, hard. I clawed and bit as hard as I could. I thought I had lost James as they carried me back to their house, but he came after me. They had cut me badly for the spell, but what I do remember is seeing her bloody and broken on the floor.
“I interrupted whatever they were attempting, Missy. The guy got mad and killed the girl. You’ll be ok now. Just hang in there.”
By this time I was wrapped up, in his car, on the way to the vet’s. I also wanted very badly to sleep. The last thing I remember thinking was ‘no unfinished business.’
I don’t know if I was just dreaming, but I was drawn to a bright light.
Wait! I have one more left!
“Yes, you do” said a feminine voice. “I have been watching you since you became a cat. You didn’t have a long human life or a very good chance at nine happy, long cat lives. I have decided to let you choose: how will you spend your last life?”
“That is one name I am known by.”
I don’t know what to say. I am… honored. How is James?
“He is grieving Missy. I approve of his nature.”
He won’t recognize me…
“You choose to be human?”
I want to be there for him like he was for me.
“It is granted.”
I found myself at his door, as a human. My heart racing I rang the doorbell.
“Can I help you?”
“Hi.” I was trying to think of something to say, but he was staring at my eyes.
“I’m sorry, miss…but have we met?”
That was all the push I needed.
“Missy. My name was Missy.”
Of course his jaw dropped.
“Please, let me explain…”
He took a long moment to think about it; then held open the door.Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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