WCC December - In transit

Nine Life Cat

*****

There were four of them and he was the only male. So they called him Him.

The first of his siblings was Big Sister, who took most of the place and kicked at them if she felt they moved too much. She had no patience and no sympathy, though authority and assertiveness she had in plenty. It made her the first and, in his opinion, the worst bully of Him and his siblings' lives.

Even Calm Sister was unnerved by this bossy attitude, but she did nothing except keep out of Big Sister's way. Calm Sister liked nothing better than quietness. Sometimes, she was so quiet herself that it was easy to forget she was here in the first place.

And the last one was Shy Sister, who took the brunt of Big Sister's moods. There was nothing to say about Shy Sister, except that her whimpering sometimes grated on his own nerves, and he was the most patient of them all.

Him thought it wasn't wise to endure in silence; it only served to fuel Big Sister's aggressiveness. The trouble was that she deserved her name; even Him couldn't match up to her size, and he was male. He didn't know if it meant something unflattering about her or about him but he did know that it meant swatting her when she exasperated them provoked a reaction much more violent in retaliation.

That was something the three of them had learned very early on.

It was hard living with his three sisters in such an enclosed space. Sure, it was comfortable and warm and safe, but it was also boring and cramped and mostly occupied by Big Sister anyway.

Shy Sister seemed to content herself with the small-small place she had been attributed by default, just because, well, they couldn't kick her out, so she needed at least some space. She had not much, of course. Not enough, surely, but she had no resolve to make her battle for more.

By means unknown to Him, Calm Sister had managed to make herself a place large enough to fit her without having to fight with Big Sister. She had not much for sure, but she had what she needed. So she made herself silent and inconspicuous. Calm Sister never attracted attention to her voluntarily.

The rest of the space, Big Sister and Him shared. Sometimes she had more, sometimes he had more. It depended on the days, of their resistance, of their will to fight.

But that was only at the beginning.

Soon, they were big enough that space no longer existed between them. They were so close it was almost unsupportable, but they managed to find a position that satisfied everyone. Big Sister was still the bully, even when close proximity should have favored helping each other out, and Shy Sister still was the unwitting receiver of those affectionate gestures. It was never done with real malice, but Him knew enough about Big Sister and Shy Sister's respective constitutions to sense the latter ended more often than not with bruises.

And there was one day when they couldn't fit anymore.

Big Sister pushed and cried and hit them, and finally, after a while, she was gone. It was horrible, because her head disappeared first, and for a moment the only thing that stayed inside was her legs which kicked restlessly at them. Calm Sister waited for some time and then, curious, followed.

There was no way Him would go and leave Shy Sister alone in there. He knew her, and he knew that she would never want to get out of the security their temporary abode had held if no one coerced her into it. But Him held firm; he pushed, nudged, swatted until Shy Sister finally made a timid venture outside. She was much more passive in her leaving than their sisters had been.

Before going himself, he verified they had left nothing; he wondered how they would feed themselves without the ready abundance that had assisted them those past weeks, and if he would be able to find his sisters when he left too. Would they even land in the same place? But he shrugged the worry away and headed out.

It was a painful process, for the exit was tight and long. For some periods of time he could do nothing to speed up the process, and he had to let himself be transported by the natural movement. The sensation wasn't agreeable, and he hoped he never would have to repeat the experience.

And suddenly there was a horrible coldness coursing through him as he finally attained the outside. There was too much light; even from behind his closed eyelids, his head hurt from the brutal change. And pain, awful, blazing pain soared as something made its way through organs he didn't know he possessed. Air coursed down to his lungs, and he wailed for the first time in surprise and in ache. The sound – the first he had ever heard – pounded on his fragile eardrums and he regretted his own action.

Something hot and wet came and brushed his back: it was the first agreeable sensation he had felt since he had come out and he reveled in it. The thing came again and left again, only to come back, and back, and back, spreading warmth all over him. When it stopped, something else pushed him in a direction and he resisted it, uncertain that it was wise to allow anyone to govern him in such a way.

But the smell was too enticing. There was an odor he recognized from the thing who had brushed him, and he loved it without being able to explain why. There were also the scents of his three sisters, which he had never smelled before, and sucking sounds. The only thinking he could do now concerned his hunger. He found a teat and closed his mouth around it and – sucked. A liquid went down his throat too fast and he choked on it; it hurt like hell, because the liquid was hotter than anything he had ever gulped down but Him kept going. It was so good to eat after that awful experience he had just gone through. He sucked and sucked and sucked. Finally, his mother – he had given an identity to the odor – gave him a little push with her head.

He wailed, and heard an unknown sound above him. It had no form, it meant nothing. It just kept going, the same sound repeated ten times or so, cascading to his ears. When it finally stopped, Him was picked up by a strange thing who felt like his sisters had in the past, when their fur had not been there yet. Except that they had been wholesome while this thing had four long gashes in it, and it was able to lift him in the air. The movement made his head spins and he cried in anguish.

"Look at this one," a voice said.

Him cowered as far as he could, but another thing without fur came to cut his escape route.

"He's the only male, Great Wife," the voice said.

"Let me have a look at him," another voice ordered, and this one was a good one, low and calm and appeasing.

The thing that had held Him passed him to another one. It looked the same and yet it wasn't. The five things which had been separated – were they the head and the legs? – were longer and smoother. It smelled strange but agreeable.

"He is interesting," the good voice commented.

Curious, Him opened his eyes. At first, everything was blurred and he could make nothing out the strange shapes that wavered before his sight. When it finally settled, he could see a face above him, something strange that looked nothing like his sisters probably did, for it has no fur except on the top of its head, and it was bigger than Big Sister, much, much bigger.

"Ah." It said, and the corners of its mouth – it had to be its mouth – went up. "You are not supposed to be able to do that before a few days."

He mewed.

"Yes, you are indeed an interesting little thing. I could feel it immediately. Who would have thought Bastet would grace us with a nine-life cat?"

He mewed again.

"Great Wife Nefertari, are you sure it is one of them?" the first voice asked.

"I am never wrong," the face said sharply. "Do you think Ramesses would like me half as much as he does if I was?

"You know not what I am talking about, right? And yet you understand me. No cat understands the tongue of men except for the nine-life ones, that Bastet sent to us for communication with her. This is your first life, so it is logical that you know nothing of magic yet," she said. "I shall teach you and I shall name you. But all of that will come in time. For now, remember one thing: death and birth will be transitory for you and until your ninth life, you shan't be in any worry about them."

*****

This story has been written for the Writing Challenge Contest of December. The cat's name is Bastetson, and his first incarnation was as a favorite cat of Nefertari, the first wife of Ramesses the Great. She was a medium and she taught him a lot.

I hope you liked it and that it fits the prompt.