Words

A Thousand Cats

“I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.”
Neil Gaiman

Temple cats, of course, are worse than average cats.

Rishi watched the temple cats lazing in the sun and wondered what it would be like to have fur – surely you would never be cold, but were you ever too warm?  The way the cats soaked up the desert sun you wouldn’t think so.  And what of whiskers?  It must be divine intervention to have whiskers that allowed you to know exactly where you fit in the Universe and just exactly which bolt holes were safe when you needed to run.  Claws – sharp and cruel to protect yourself instead of useless fingernails that broke and tore as you scrabbled away from the cruel merchants who hired younglings for their dirty jobs and then barely paid in enough bread to quell the pains in your stomach.  Yes, indeed, to be a cat must be a divine blessing.  What would it take to convince the gods to make Rishi a cat?

Asroth opened one lazy eyelid to regard the young human who was thinking so loudly about the glory of being a cat.  Was it worthy?  Perhaps.  It didn’t look terribly healthy, and it clearly didn’t know how to clean itself.  Asroth prompted Garibaldi to view the human child as well.

“Thoughts?” he asked, “It wants to become a cat.”

“It looks scrawny,” Garibaldi said dismissively, “But maybe it would fatten up on mice.”

“What wants to become a cat?” piped a new, young voice.

“The human child.”

One by one the temple cats opened their eyes to regard Rishi, considering.  Rishi, for her part, was becoming quite uncomfortable as she noticed each set of unblinking eyes settle upon her.  More cats appeared on the temple steps, slipping out of the temple doors, over the temple walls, and around the street corners.  Soon there were hundreds, maybe a thousand, considering her.

Rishi looked around her, swiveling her head left and right, no one else in the market was regarding the spectacle of the temple stairs full to brimming with cats of all colors and patterns.  The tawny temple cats had been joined by gray and black and white cats of all shapes and sizes. The noise of the shopkeepers and city folk was muted, and it felt as if there was a vibration in the air, and Rishi felt as though the gaze of the cats was squeezing her chest so couldn’t breathe.

In that moment a figure stepped out of the temple doors.  It was the high priest of the Sun God, in his weekday robes.  He was the only one who seemed to notice the cats, and several temple cats began to rub against his legs and mew as if speaking to him.  He looked bemused, but then centered on Rishi, standing at the bottom of the temple stairs in her ratty tunic.

“It looks as though you have a choice to make, youngling.  Come inside.” and the priest held out his hand to Rishi.

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