Twilight in Nightcap National Forest had passed when I first saw him on the fence stump in my front garden. He wasn’t trying to get my attention, though plonking my teacup onto the kitchen sink with a clang didn’t stop the strong feeling of presence. Something in his eyes made me look, and then again. He perched upon the old stump demurely, his scruffy thick fur and whiskers gently shimmering in the underexposed picture I was staring at. How did he do that? There were no stars, moon or magical tripwires set out tonight. Cats cannot glow in the dark. I blinked. He was grooming himself, the shimmering gone. I was reaching for another teabag when a deep, well spoken voice asked me if he could come in, if I would be so kind. I peeked around the breakfast bar. The TV was on mute. I stole a glance out front. A swift glimpse into the swirls of my seeing-bowl. Nothing. I backtracked to the laundry to scan the yard. All was quiet. The Tom sat proud upon the stump, his brilliant black fur draped about his shoulders complimenting his white undercoat. He was very handsome. We eyeballed each other. Then he leapt from the stump and stood up on his hind legs. My mouth agape he swaggered on over to my door. Dumbstruck, I unlocked it. This night was most peculiar.
‘Felix, at your service,’ he announced with a bow, continuing right into my lounge room.
I took a breath. I should take precautions. You see, witches are not ordinary folk. We may look like everyone else, but I can assure you that we are very, very different. And there was something very, very different about this cat. Along my hall live my thousands of books. I poked through some pamphlets and popped out my book of protection spells. My silver banishing flask came too.
The cat sprawled in my recliner. His presence had not affected the chessboard. An enchanted game, it was gifted to me by my circle. Practice they insisted, will keep me on my toes. The dratted thing had beaten me twice already yet Mr Cat was having much more luck. Like the Cheshire Cat with a good dollop of Huckleberry Finn mixed in.
“Ha Ha!” he swished his tail and sent the black knight galloping in to devour the White King. Oh the nerve! Felix looked up at my astonishment. With one hand clawing into the book of dispelling and the other in a vice grip around my flask I readied myself.
“You won’t need those,” he said, sitting up.
“Who are you?” I barked. “What, are you?”
We drank our tea as Felix conversed about labs, chemicals, tests and trials. Flashbacks of news reports about explosions, car crashes and ASIS crowded the warm air. My head began to swim with information overload. How extraordinary I thought. I must be mad.
“You are not going mad,” he purred, placing his teacup in its saucer.
His calm green eyes rested on mine. Then I began to see. Such a very long time ago, I had …
“Sam sent me here.”
“… a granddaughter.”
I did not need any protection from him. Felix was not a mage’s scouting minion or a trapped witch or cursed entity. He was my Granddaughter’s secret science experiment. Sam was wise to send him here. The Forest has lots of hidden nooks and crannies.
“Hmm,” I said, “We will need to change your name.”
“The name, Felix, it means ..”
Published in Northern Rivers Writers Centre Magazine, Northerly Jan/Feb 2016, page 14.
©Cath Piltz 2016