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The Cat and his Flower

by S.D. Kang 10 months ago in Short Story · updated 6 months ago
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A Story of a Rare Friendship

As she sighed, he could feel the cold air filling up her lungs, but couldn’t smell much.

How come marigolds don’t grow in winter? He asked, slightly bored.

“For the millionth time, they are summer flowers. You ask this every winter.” She said, not unkindly. “Now be quiet, we need to finish inking at least 20 pages tonight or we might never again have a chance to work on another Indomitas comic book.”

Be quiet? You are the only one of us capable of making sounds. He casually mentioned. Why do we need this dumb job again? Aren’t we what they call a millionaire?

“I like this normal life thing. Plus, you were the one who said we should be more low-key. Who is going to ever suspect that the inker is a real witch?” She set her pen down and sighed. “Even though I am not a real witch.”

Still, that’s what they will brand us and burn us as if they ever catch us.

“Whatever, I’m going to go get some coffee.” She said as she got up from her cubicle and walked towards the office kitchen.

It was a terrifying thought. In the way society currently was, one would think that witch hunts were a thing of the past. However, even back then, it had just been a bunch of sad men on high horses trying to eradicate those they didn’t understand. It usually had to do with moral panic and mass hysteria, not a lifelong devotion or careful planning. He had laughed at the idea of people giving their lives to some deranged cause of hunting down other humans, who supposedly could use magic. It all seemed ridiculous. That is, until the day that they had come across four particularly tenacious individuals in the late 1840s, back in France.

They had escaped alive, but just barely. That had been the closest they had ever come to real death, but she didn’t fully see it. She got knocked out with the first strike to the head. He had taken over for her and gotten them out of there. He didn’t blame her for not being as afraid as he was. After all, it had been over 170 years ago, and that had been the first and last time they had seen these hunters. Surely, they died of old age by now. Not to mention that they had moved around and changed their identities quite a few times since. Now, here in the States, people had this weird fascination for witches and magic, they thought it was cool. Something about pop culture or something.

“Hey, Helen! Saw in the office calendar that it was your birthday last week.” Alfred, her coworker, said as she poured herself some coffee. “How old are you now?”

“Uh- thirty four.” She answered without turning to look at Alfred.

I think you missed a four hundred there somewhere.

“Wait, what? You are thirty four? You are older than me?” Alfred exclaimed louder than he probably should have in the office. “You look way younger!”

“Well, I did make a deal with a demon when I was little so that I would stop aging when I reached my peak.” She said without losing a beat.

It hadn’t actually been a deal. Maybe that’s why he had felt so much guilt. She had been just a kid. Her not aging after she got to her 20s had just been a side effect that neither of them could have predicted, just like everything else that came with longevity. She just smelled of marigold, and that’s all he wanted to smell before he perished. He didn’t know she was going to take him in, and neither of them could have known that they would be stuck with each other for eternity.

“Ha! How do you come up with those jokes so quickly?” Alfred laughed as he stirred his own coffee. “Well, better get back to work, yeah? Good luck inking those new pages.”

“Thanks, I’ll need it.” She said before sipping from her mug.

You know, one day you are going to say that to the wrong person, and they are going to know.

“They are not going to know, how would they know?” She asked before finishing what was left on her mug and pouring herself some more. “Don’t worry so much.”

Just be careful, Mari.

“Okay, mom.”

By the time she had finished inking all of the new pages, it was already dark and everyone else had left the office. She started to pack as she hummed a folk song that they had picked up during their time in Greece in the early 17th century.

Do you ever get tired? He asked. Over 400 years in her body, but he still couldn’t read her thoughts.

“Yeah, man. I’m pooped! My hand might have hardened in this pen-holding position for the rest of time.” She answered as she put on her backpack and walked out of the office.

Do you ever regret it, Mari?

“Okay, what’s going on? That’s the second time today you called me by name.” She mentioned as she made a turn to the right, onto the empty avenue. “Also, unrelated, but do you remember my original name?”

To be honest, I always just thought of you as Marigold. Mortal names that come and go had no importance to me. Does that upset you?

“No, was just curious.” She said as she crossed the street and made her way through a park. “And no, I don’t regret it.”

But given the chance to redo it, would you take me in again?

“I mean, I was four, dude. And you were a cat.” She said with a small chuckle as she crossed another street. “Did I ever even have a choice?”

I looked nothing like a cat.

“Sure, But I was four, I just assumed you were a really ugly cat.” She laughed as she turned into an alley and went down some steps. “A weird, ugly cat that wanted to smell marigold flowers.”

It’s a good smell.

“What does it even smell like?” She asked as she got her keys out of her pocket and started to unlock the door to her building.

Smells like you.

“So, sweat mostly, and a crippling social anxiety induced from not wanting to go through outliving my loved ones again?” She asked in that sarcastic tone she always used since her teens.

He knew she was joking, but he didn’t really know how to respond.

If you knew what you know now. He asked after a pause. Would you still have taken me in?

“I think so.” She said, without losing a beat, with that carefree confidence of hers. “I mean, if it wasn’t for you, I would have just died as a poor farmer’s daughter in that shit hole.”

But her mask faltered for a second.

“Like my sisters and mother.” She said as she went up the stairs and reached the door to her flat.

She sounded so vulnerable right then that it hurt for him to hear.

“Plus,” She started, picking her perky mood back up as she entered her flat and threw her backpack onto their couch. “I would have never even known what comic books were, so that would have been a real tragedy.”

She went to the drawer on her bedside and pulled out a bag of marigold buds that she had dried all throughout fall to keep some during the winter for him.

Thanks.

“Don’t worry, yeah? I will always pick you. Always take you in and always protect you.” She said as she took one of the buds and sniffed at it. “But seriously, these are odorless.”

Only to your human nose. He said as he thought of that four year old girl wanting to protect a monster she should have been afraid of. Once the farm had become hers, she had planted marigolds all around, just because she knew he liked it. For what it was worth, he missed that farm.

As she laid down to sleep, he thought he had heard something outside her window. But when she turned off the light on her nightstand, he definitely heard something outside her door.

Mari, they are here!

“Who?” She asked, already turning to grab her sai daggers from the time they had spent in Japan.

The window burst into a million glass shards. She immediately flung her blanket towards the window and dashed to the door.

They are at the doo-

The door opened just a little as something was thrown inside of her room. Before he could warn her, their world exploded into a white light and her ears started to ring.

Stay calm, that was a flashbang!

She jabbed forward, towards the door despite not being able to see much nor hear much. But someone grabbed her wrists and painfully twisted it, disarming her right hand. She kneed the person and tried to jab with her other hand, but someone grabbed her from behind.

“Seal her.” A man said in an alarmingly calm voice.

As her vision started to slowly come back, she saw two men with bright white lights as hands. They touched her arms and legs, and found that she could no longer move them.

“For witch hunters, you guys sure seem comfortable using magic.” She spat out. “I don’t know a single spell, so who is the real witch here?”

But he noticed that they were all in red robes with a golden cross on their chest.

Mari, these aren’t hunters. They are Holy Inquisitors.

But hadn’t they disbanded?

“Inquisition, huh?” She noted, her heart pounding away. “My, you boys are a long way from home.”

A woman walked up to the man giving the orders and whispered something in his ear.

“Yes, I see that.” He responded and kneeled near Mari.

Let me take over, Mari. I can get us-

But before he could finish that sentence, the man threw some water on Mari’s face.

It burns! I can’t take control!

“Holy water.” Mari noted with a scoff.

“We are not here for witches, girl.” The man said, still as stoic as a statue. “We are here for demons. There is one in you and it seems you are aware.”

“We never hurt anyone.” She said as he started to feel her panic taking over her heart. “Just let us go and you will never hear from us again.”

The man sighed and poured some more holy water on her head.

It hurts so much! I don’t know how much more I can take.

“That’s not how this works, girl.” He said as he motioned with his finger, making his three companions start reciting something in Hebrew. “We don’t normally do this. But from the humble way you live, and there being no signs of magic in you, we are giving you a chance to redeem yourself. Renounce the demon.”

Do it, Mari. Renounce me now, or they will kill you!

“He’s not a demon, he’s my cat.” Mari said before spitting into the man’s face and smiling. “I will always protect him.”

The man nodded in understanding without even wiping his face. He put a pistol inscribed with crosses and other holy symbols against her forehead.

“Then may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

I’m so sorry.

He opened his eyes and saw himself at the shores at the edge of reality. He had regained his original form from before he was cast away. It was strange having his own body again.

“Are you coming?” The short and chubby middle aged man in the boat asked.

“Yeah.” He said, recognizing Death from ancient times and getting up.

“What about your little friend?” Death asked, wiping his moustache with his hand before pointing towards the ground behind him.

He turned to find a flower pot with the most beautiful marigold flower, glowing blue as all souls did. He smiled and picked her up, ever so gently.

It was his turn to protect her now.

Short Story

About the author

S.D. Kang

Dreamer by birth, Writer by choice.

https://sdkangbooks.wordpress.com/

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