My name is Yeremey. I am the witch’s cat. I have seen things that would make your whiskers curl, I can tell you.
It’s not really true that she eats children, although she’s given me a few bones that were a bit suspicious. They smelt…well you know… childreny.
I have a place by the stove, an old blanket of knitted squares. It’s a nice home for the two of us, mostly. Jars of pickled vegetables on the dresser, a warm place to sleep by the fire.
We live in the forest, the holy forest. Mists of dragon’s breath wreathe it in autumn. In winter it is covered in a blanket of pearls, crystals rest in the trees. Within them I can read what’s been and what’s coming. I am Yeremey the witches cat, black as the sky when the moon shuts her eye.
Refugees come to us from one world or the other. We are the gate between. A hostelry on the highway, just as the way divides.
The woman hesitated as she lifted her foot. Her boot heavy with forest layers, her back aching with the weight of her life. A moment ago this looked like a strange little cottage. A moment ago she was one of a crowd pressing forward, survivors of the sea.
She wasn’t expecting the mosaic floor and lovely old building like the ones in her own country, and arches leading along a colonnade and an eerie silence.
At the moment of stepping she paused, poised between then and now, between what was and what was coming towards her in great waves, a step with echoes of the past clinging to it like seaweed.
There was never really any choice. Onwards was always the only bearable direction. But still in the moment before she placed her foot there was a hint, a hope of freedom. A hope that her life might encompass choice.
As her boot hit the ground the sounds pressed in. A multitude of languages, children crying a tumult of need echoing down a corridor.
A young man came out of a door.
‘Ah’..he said with exhaustion in his eyes, ‘welcome. Is there anyone with you?’ He meant children or a husband.
She shook her head and looked down. He thought she didn’t understand.
‘Are you alone?’ he said slowly
She nodded. He came smiling towards her and led her by the elbow, trailing behind her came the shadow of her babies.
A black cat came through the arches from a sunlit patch of grass.
It walked ahead of them as if leading the way, its tail raised.
As she sat on her bed alongside all the other beds. She looked up at the vaulted ceiling of the church now full of displaced people. In the faded mural painted on the ceiling, she could see a cherub, a child’s face with wings.
A young woman brought her a plate, on it a piece of bread and an apple.
‘Thank you,’ she said squeezing the young woman’s hand.
The black cat rubbed his head against her bare leg. The image of her child, limp, blue, sinking into the sea, transformed for a moment into a baby, with wings laughing and floating away into the sky.
The cat jumped on her lap, she stroked it, she was exhausted. She lay down and fell asleep, with the cat curled up beside her. She dreamed she was in a cottage, that skittered this way and that. She dreamed her mother and father, walked like zombies into a cauldron and came out again good as new. She heard her son whisper her name. She stared into yellow eyes and asked ‘who are you?’
I am Yeremey the witches cat, black as the sky when the moon shuts her eye. I purr when the nice ones rub my head. The cruel ones kick me out of the way. Dangerous to do that to Yeremey the witches cat, very, very, stupid.
Deep in the forest along the way there is a stove.
‘Come help me’ it says, ‘I am full of baked loafs all brown and ready. Take them, empty me out!’
The kind ones do, the stupid ones don’t and where do they end up. In the oven, down the well, lost for ever falling to hell.
There is an apple tree too laden with fruit. ‘Help me, help me, pick my apples. They are ready and heavy’….The kind ones do, the stupid ones don’t and where do they end up?
Dead in the forest, dumped down the well, lost for ever falling to hell.
What do I care? I walk like a shadow through the trees at night. I go into bed rooms and into dreams. I wind the night and the evermore together. I wind the pavements and the caves, the trees and the lamp-posts together in the night world. My eyes are as yellow as sulphur. Yellow as gorse flowers and flames.
I pad silently through the gate that makes bones creak and sinews scream. I am not afraid. This is her house of bone, with a bleeding leg as the door post, a smiling skull at the door. She sits with her nose in the ceiling, her hand stirring the pot. Her house is never still. It turns this way and that.
‘Stay house, stay as you mother made you, with your back to the sea and your front to me!’
A woman came here once. All tear stained face and muddy feet.
‘I want some light she said, my fire has gone out.’ The witch invited her in and asked, ’Are you doing a deed or fleeing a deed?’
The woman gave me cream, I licked her nose and told her a dream.
The witch bade the woman to wash her children. She did it without a stir. The worms, slugs, beetles and frogs, mother calls her own. She washed and dried them and brought them to be read a bed time story. Together we tipped the witch into the fire.
You see the morning is wiser than the evening. I am Yeremey the witch’s cat, black as the sky when the moon shuts her eye.
Sarah Deco April 2017