Short story based on the fable, "Aphrodite & the Cat"
| “So as I was saying,” he began, but then suddenly stopped. She was not paying any attention to him. She was looking past him. Her eyes were focused on the other side of the room. He tried to follow her gaze but he could not see anything there. “Sweetheart,” he said. “Is there something wrong? What are you looking at?”
“Shh!” she hissed, without so much as turning to face him. She slowly rose to her feet. Only she did not so much as walk as crawl -- onto the dining room table. Her eyes were fixed on something. She climbed over their plates, scattering food, knocking over goblets of wine.
Finally he looked and saw what it was that she was so focused on. A tiny little mouse suddenly darted across the floorboards.
“Ha!” he laughed. “Silent as a mouse!”
No sooner had he said the words than she, his beloved wife, suddenly sprang from the table. Even though he had seen many strange things in his time, he had never seen anything quite like what he saw that night. For seeing his wife crawling on the kitchen table was one thing, but seeing her leap from said table and transform from a woman into a cat was something else entirely different. Even as she leapt he could see as if in slow motion the change taking place. Her soft and supple skin was suddenly covered with fur. She sprouted whiskers under her nose. And when she landed on the kitchen floor, she landed on all fours.
She pounced on the poor little mouse and batted it with her paws. The mouse was dazed as she toyed with her prey. She picked it up with her teeth and carried it over to her master. It was all he could do to just sit and stare in disbelief as she dropped the mouse at his feet. The poor rodent appeared to be dead, but then it stirred as if from a dream and quickly scurried away. She let it go.
She climbed onto her master’s lap and gazed deep into his eyes. She tried to beg for his forgiveness but when she opened her mouth all she could do was meow. Not that it mattered. He was still in shock which was understandable, given the circumstances. He was probably about as amazed as any man would be after having just seen his wife suddenly transform into a cat right before his very eyes. He stroked her fur and he could feel her purr beneath his fingertips.
He looked down and suddenly realized that he was stroking his wife’s lovely hair. She was nestled at his feet with her head in his lap.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how. What could I possibly say?”
“It’s all right,” he said, hardly believing the words that he heard coming from out of his mouth: “I understand.”
“I just want you to know,” she said, with tears in her eyes, “That my love for you is stronger.”
“I know, my love.”
“No, you don’t understand,” she said. “My love for you is stronger than my need to kill, even though it is in my nature. It is also in my nature to love. When you shot me with your bow and arrow, the wound went straight to my heart. You thought that you had nursed me back to health, but the truth is that I died. Your love killed me. But as I am sure you already know, all cats have nine lives. I still have one more left to give, and I want to share it with you.”
“One lifetime with you will never be enough to show you just how much I love you sweetheart.”
And so they lived happily ever after – or at least, for the rest of their lives anyway. But then one day she became sick, and they both knew that she was not going to make it. He stayed by her side until the very end and held her hand as she passed away. He could feel her spirit departing from her body, and he knew that she was really truly dead this time. Still, in the back of his mind, he liked to think that maybe she had somehow miscalculated, maybe she still had one more life left to live. But then he looked down at her body and watched as it changed back into a cat. A dead cat.
He buried her in the garden, among the daisies and day-lilies that she had loved so much. All the while he kept praying, he never gave up hope. “Please come back to me. Please come back. I love you.” But the cat never moved, even as he proceeded to build a mound of dirt over its head.
Sometimes at night he would awake with a start and think that he had heard her meowing outside. He would leap out of bed and rush over to the window, hoping to see her again.
But she was never there.
He got on with his life as best he could, but without her he could feel himself slowly wasting away. He was dying of a broken heart. His only hope was that he would dream of her, and that he would never wake up. He missed her feline ways, the way that she would purr when he stroked her hair, or how she would lick her hand to slick back a stray lock that had fallen into her face.
Every night he prayed the lord his soul to keep. One night his prayers were answered. She finally came crawling back to him. She climbed into bed with him as he slept, even as he dreamt that he was holding her in his arms again.
When he died that night in his sleep he had a strange smile on his face. For as far as he knew, they would be together, forever.