People often misunderstand what the old saying about a cat having nine lives means. The cats prefer to keep it a secret, as most humans can’t be trusted with information so fragile and precious, but there are exceptions.
The merchant who shares his leftover fish. The young girl that hides littler after litter of newborn ones in her room until they find new homes. The old man with scars who still has enough kindness to open his shed to let them slip in from the rain. Boys, teenagers, mothers, warriors, brothers - some are trusted.
Exceptions, yes, few nowadays and rare, but honoured all the more.
So nine lives there are indeed. Each cat is born with them and no matter the time or place, they are lost easily.
This is where the story ends for most people.
But for those who are trusted, those who wake up one morning and find a weird taste in their mouth, the scent of a forest never touched by human hands in their nose, and a strange lingering touch of whiskers on their forehead - they know the truth.
Nine lives for this world, is what all our legends used to say.
You, friend of cats, know the ancient, almost forgotten sayings.
You know of cat eyes shining in the deepest night when they shouldn’t be able to. You know of cats staring past your ear, at that forbidden spot right by the frayed corner of your vision, and you fear that if you look, your cat won’t be able to stare it into submission anymore. You don’t look. The cat purrs. You’re safe.
The kittens have all their lives still. They do not look at the edgewalking beasts that whisper through their humans’ house. It will take time until they fall, hurt, learn.
The oldest cats know so much that a touch of their paw will make an entire village shudder. Their quiet voices cast spells. Let them roam. You cannot imagine the things that flee from them as they walk in silence.
Cat friend, you know it in your heart.
You know of the paths they walk that human feet can’t find.
You know of the nights they vanish and return with the scent of blood, earth and salt in their fur, and when your fingers touch their coat, a cold shiver awakes your skin.
Sometimes, they hear things. You don’t know what, but you know enough to let them sit in front of your house or room, paws tucked under, dark stare never leaving an invisible spot in the air.
And when you float between sleep and life, when you’re unlucky enough to claw at the edge of death before you’re ready to go…
Then maybe, friend of cats, you’ll feel a brush of fur along your legs. Maybe, just before you startle with awe in your heart and wake once more, the same pair of eyes that should sleep by your side winks at you from another world.