A Familiar Place
By Renee Carter Hall
The ghost cat moved through the shelter, her lean form outlined in fog. Here she had waited; here she had breathed her last. There was nothing for her here, so why was she tethered to this spot, doomed to roam a place where kittens were cooed over and other cats found laps to last them forever? It seemed a terrible punishment for a cat who had never known love.
She wandered the rooms. Everything looked faded and far away, as if viewed through cobwebs. She could smell nothing, and sounds were distant.
Then, all at once, something cut through.
She startled. The sound was coming from a wiry old woman gripping a cane with gnarled hands. She had a sharp face but gentle eyes.
The cat froze, confused. No one could see her anymore. Except—
“Yes, I see you, kitty! Come on, now, pretty girl, before they kick a crazy old lady out for talking to herself.”
The woman reached out and stroked the cat’s invisible fur. Soft blue flame washed over the cat’s form, and she arched her back, purring, under a touch that felt like sunlight, like firelight, like home.
The cobwebs cleared. The floor was firm and cool under her warm paws.
“That’s better,” the woman said, gathering her up and pushing the door open. “Now let’s go home and get a fire going. I make a mean fish stew.”
The cat purred all the way home. She had been chosen at last.
Renee Carter Hall’s short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons, Podcastle, and Zooscape. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and their cat, and readers can find her online at www.reneecarterhall.com.