Beer Fiction – Black Cat

Why do cats sit for hours and stare at the thresholds of one room into another? Perhaps it’s due to an old promise.

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[Author’s Note – if Oliver Gray didn’t invent Beer Fiction he certainly embraced and championed it. Struck by the torrents of same-old-same-old beer reviews out there, Oliver would often offer a different perspective –  he would open a beer and write a story based off of it. Sometimes the story was just a play off of the title, but a lot of times he tried to capture his experience of the beer (did he like it, hate it) within his words, and as a writer he always seemed to succeed. Check out his story from his experiences with a certain Dogfish Head beer that I was fortunate enough for him to have written for a guest post on my blog.

I’ve tried on occasion, but haven’t done anything along these lines in awhile, but this one spoke to me pretty strongly and since it is the Halloween season, I thought it seemed very appropriate.]

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The man walked out of the kitchen and through the dining room. The cat, always alert, was already aware of his approach from the vibrations softly reverberating out through the wooden floor beneath him.

As the man crossed the threshold between the dining room and the hallway he spoke out loud to the cat before turning down the hall. The cat, requiring nothing from the man at the moment did what most cats do –  heeded him no mind but instead remained focused on the passageway the man had just transverse.

The hallway was now quiet and dark except for a small streak of light and the sounds of running water, and the cat thought that soon he would be able to rest for the night after all the dwellers of the house retired to their beds.

But just as the cat began to close his eyes he caught sight of something. It was the faintest of movements that would have been imperceptible to most anything else, a dark shape that had begun to appear in the threshold between the dining room and the hallway where the man had just walked through.

The cat froze and stilled its breath as the mist swayed from side to side as if curiously surveying its surrounds. Its movements were both convulsive and fluid all at once as some of parts of the mist slowly drifted from its main body like dew fog creeping through the grass on a chilled morning, while others swirled and eddied much like the smoke from the man’s pipe.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

Finally, as if satisfied by the situation, the mist continued to flow from the opening between the two rooms until it was fully formed in the hallway. The cat watched patiently as the mist coalesced in front of it, some areas appearing nearly transparent through its vapor, while other parts were as dark as the blackest night the cat could remember.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

“Welcome traveler! Have you journeyed far this evening?” the cat greeted the mist in a language long since forgotten by all but those who had promised to keep watch.

The mist responded quickly to the cat’s introduction by pulling back several inches, its undulations now less rhythmic as they became more erratic and frenzied.

“Be calm, be calm,” the cat continued, attempting to sound as reassuring as possible. “I only wish to talk.”

The mist continued its frantic convulsions for a bit and then seemed to relax, allowing itself to expand and drift slightly towards the cat’s position.

“Ah, but I see you are young gentle traveler and no doubt weary from your trip. Therefore, I will be a generous host and bid you rest a bit. But once rested, I’m afraid that I must ask you to continue on your travels elsewhere or better still return to your own home.”

The mist floated motionless for a few seconds and then started to slowly drift down the hallway only to stop when the cat quickly sprang to its feet.

“I have shown you more graciousness than is normal for my kind or my post, young one. Surely you would not be so insulting as to return that graciousness by disrespecting my wishes?”

The mist halted its movement quickly, its undulations suddenly becoming more steadied and forceful.

“Stay? No young traveler. That I cannot let you do. You will take my offer to return home, which sadly I most now say is no longer a request.”

Just as the cat finished his sentence the mist began to swirl, violently folding in on itself, all hints of transparency gone while at the same time slowly growing in size until it was slightly larger than the cat itself.

The cat backed up one step not in fear, but to better position himself to drop into a crouch, his ears dropping back against his head which caused his eyes to pull back into slits. “That would be unwise of you little one. For although I too am little, the blood of the first cat flows through me. My claws are shape, and my spirit is bolstered by all the cats that have come before me and I have NOT forgotten my duty.”

The mist froze motionless almost as if startled by the cat’s words. After a few tense seconds the mist’s swirling began anew, but this time almost in reverse as it began to recede back into itself. Once back to its original size the mist pulsed from side to side slightly as if unsure of what to do next.

The cat turned its head slightly in puzzlement at the mist’s motions. “Duty? You ask of my duty? Do they not tell you the stories anymore where you come from? Do they let their young ones travel in ignorance?”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

The mist just hung there, slightly hovering inches off the floor as if it did not have an answer for the cat.

“Ah, such as it is here I’m afraid,” the cat raised its long body back up in a stretch before sitting itself down on the floor. “Then I guess it is up to me, young one.”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

That is until one day another animal, who would later be called man, rose up from the rest with their ability to fashion tools and harness fire. While many of the animals thought that one day they would rule supreme, it was man, who proved the most resourceful and before long began to hold dominion over the world.

But as man grew more powerful and spread throughout the lands they encounted great dangers. Not just the normal dangers brought from everyday living, but other dangers, dangers that traveled in the dark, both unseen and unstoppable.

Where these dangers came from man did not and still does not know, however as oblivious as they were to these danger’s origins, over time they become keenly aware of their existence and the taxing toll they brought.

One day, as the story goes, a priest was visited in a dream by Bastet the Goddess of protection whose worshipers said would often appear to men in a variety of cat like forms, and offered the priest a deal. If mankind would place cats above all other animals, second only to man, the Goddess promised that her and her kind would protect man from many of the dangers that plagued them, include the ones beyond their human perceptions.

The priest waited not until morning, but went directly unto Pharaoh that night and relayed the Goddess’ message. And the Pharaoh, having spent much of his reign watching his people fall to numerous aliments and diseases both known and unknown, accepted the Goddess’ offer and began to elevate cats in his kingdom to a status formally reserved only for the Gods.

“And that was the beginning,” the cat continued a sly smile coming across its up till now serious face. “Soon the number of cats grew in the kingdom. Cats were welcomed in all houses, be it the lowest of workers to the mightiest of Pharaohs. Great images were erected in our honor. We became known as the guardians of the thresholds as our figures adorned the doorways of the most common of buildings and statues in our like guarded the grandest of temple entrances.

“From alabaster to bronze to gold, no material was too valuable or too precious not to be used to fashion into our likeness. To kill one of us, even by accident was to bring death upon a person. We protected man from the dangers they feared, both those they could see and those that they could not, and we prospered.”

The mist, having moved not a wisp as the cat recounted its story, slowly began to pulse ever so slightly.

“No,” the cat said sadly as it bowed its head. “Just as it seems your kind has forgotten to pass on the stories to you, so has it been with man. Although they still adorn our likeness on many of the things they make, the reverence of why they should be doing so has been lost. Our pact has been forgotten by them, our story faded over time.”

“Even by the time of the great death our status among mankind had dwindled. Oh, there were many that still treated us kindly, but others treated us as callously as they treated the vermin that was spreading the sickness within their cities. We were cast out to the streets to fend for ourselves. Children threw rocks at us for sport. Our lives and the lives of our kittens had become insignificant, almost disposable to the race who had once worshiped us. But still we continued to honor Bastet’s promise, to guard the houses of man from the pestilence that would attempt to enter their houses at night.”

And with that, the mist fluctuated violently as if suddenly agitated by the cat’s words, only to finally stop when the cat stood up. “Why? Because Bastet made the pact with the humans. She forged the agreement with her words and bound it with the spirits of all the cats who had come before or have yet to come, and therefore only her words can break it and despite all that has happened, all that we have been reduced to, she has yet to do so. Regardless of what we have become, you will find no cat that will break her promise.”

“So with that said, I have been more than patient with you, young traveler. I have let you stay here longer than I should or than any other of my kind would, so I say for the final time, you will return from where you came.”

The mist did nothing. Not a wisp-like tendril nor a fluctuation from within its dark shape until slowly, quite deliberately it began to recede back to the opening between the two rooms. As the mist began to cross the threshold from whence it first appeared, it began to fade from the cat’s keen eyesight until only a small amount was left.

“Do me a favor young one in return for the courtesy I have shown you tonight. Tell your kind my story. Remind them of the pact my kind has made. Impress upon them that for reasons, that sadly may not even be of their own doing, they are not welcome here. And assure them young traveler, that although mankind may have forgotten our charge, we cats have not.”

The cat straightened up with a sense of pride, “We still guard the thresholds.” With the cat’s final words, the mist totally disappeared into the darkness, back to a place the cat knew not where.

Quite content with itself the cat took a few minutes to do a quick grooming before once again settling down on the hardwood floor. By now the sound of the running water had stopped and the hallway had gone quiet.

Finally, the man came out of the small room and walked into the room where he slept, pausing only momentarily to glance back down the hall and speak out loud in the cat’s direction. The cat turned its head in the man’s direction, not because of the words the man spoke, but to watch as the man walked through the doorway into his bedroom.

And the cat watched, remembering Bastet’s promise. But this time the threshold remained still, so the cat lowered its head and closed its eyes. The dwellers of the house would sleep through the night, so he too could rest for a while.

And just as the cat began to dose off and the last traces of reality slipped from his mind to be replaced by the siren like song of Morpheus, a voice sounded in the distance. It was weak, as if it had traveled untold distances to finally reach him. A voice that he didn’t recognize, but seemed as familiar to him as if it were his own.

“You have kept my promise well, my child. You have earned your rest.”

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Guarding the Threshold…Like every cat does.

Author: Ed (The Dogs of Beer)

Beer Blog focused on Delaware & surrounding area. Drinker of beer. Writer of stuff. Over user of commas. Dangler of prepositions.

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