FALL REWIND — HEXES, THE SUNDAY SPECTRA: Requiem for a Black Cat

R E Q U I E M      F O R     A     B L A C K     C A T

My beloved and ancient black cat Flood died in June. He was about 18 years old, the longest-lived cat that I ever knew. Flood’s death was hardly unexpected, but it was still pretty sad. I had spent more than a third of my life with that damn cat. Flood and I had lived together in five separate locations—four apartments and one house—and he had shared his feline dominion of those various homes with a total of 8 other cats. (Human total, 6.)  And through it all Flood had been a steadfast familiar, staring out at danger and terror and uncertainty from the safety of the shadow he always found, his eyes wild and huge and unblinking, his poor coward’s heart pounding and pounding in the dark, my poor Flood. The killer black cat that slew all the human women and rattled every nervous child who crossed his path was in reality just a big pussy, he was a real ‘fraidy cat, my Flood.

It was okay. I kept his secret for the most part, I played down his cowardice. I nodded to the slain women who affectionately stroked him and told the hesitant children that yes, Flood is wonderful and friendly and so good with people but often I wished he were just a bit more Black Panther than Cowardly Lion. The fucking Black Cat was afraid of the dark.

“So what’s so terrifying?” I asked him. “What’s out there in the dark?” Everything Flood purred bugs ghosts sounds wind birds smells and other cats, mostly. He purred, he slept. Fucking cat. Some sidekick he was.

So I taught Flood a trick so he would always have a safe perch. I would hoist him to one shoulder and he would grab hold, catch his balance, and sort of sling-grip himself across my shoulders. I could get up, walk across the room, take a piss, come back, light a cigarette, etc, and Flood would still be sitting on my shoulders, digging in with his claws, sure, but purring loudly, oh yeah, he was getting to ride the smokey giant. This started when Flood was a kitten and continued for many years; I hadn’t performed this “trick” with Flood all that much in the last five, and in the final months of his life I had begun to lament that I did not have easy access to a photograph of Flood on my shoulders. (By the time he was 18 years old I would be damned if I would stage one with his old bones.) Anyway, this is a panel by Bernie Wrightson from Poe’s THE BLACK CAT, and Flood and I looked something like this:

Flood wasn’t a total wimp. He got turned on by spectacular escapes for purposes of exploration. In his prime he could leap like a goddamn mountain lion, long black flash sailing through the air. And he could charm everyone, the fuzzy black bastard. All except one person! My son, Damien. He was not crazy about Flood, oh no. Damien was not.

Flood stands guard over Damien

Damien didn’t like being rubbed or touched by Flood. Poor kid. The smallest and youngest need someone to kick. Anyway. As Flood grew weak in his final weeks, Damien often asked me what Flood would look like in the ground, once he was dead, as Damien was aware via my gently shared plans that we would take care of Flood until he was gone, and then we would have a funeral for him in the woods, with a grave so he and Dakota might visit Flood whenever they wished. “But what will he look like in the ground?” This satisfied him, sort of:

Then, Flood died.

Three Feet Down, Maybe

So Long, Buddy

†  †  †

So it’s all done, and the kids and the Warrior Woman go back to the house but I am hanging graveside for a bit, hanging with Flood, now a true ghost and shadow cat. The cross thing was a happy accident from the pieces of broken paving donated by my neighbor, THE CROSS was a touch the kids appreciated. I was more concerned about the stones preventing animals from digging up my poor cat. And speak of the devil, there came the crunch of an animal in the woods as I stood by Flood’s grave. It was a deer, circling around. Deer are very common where I live, so the moment didn’t bowl me over with “magic,” as in, “and oh, the animals of the forest came to pay their respect to noble Flood,” or some such nonsense. No, it was a goddamn deer crunching around in the woods, and I stood by my dead cat’s grave and smoked my cigarette and waited for the deer to go away.

It didn’t go away. It kept circling closer, closer. So I thought, Fuck it, take a picture.

Nothing, not even close, except for that last one. That little bright spot is the doe’s eye, looking at me. She kept nosing closer and closer and so yeah finally, it was weird. “Is this the spirit that has been chasing my poor cat his whole life?” I said out loud. “Is this it?” I asked Flood. “This the creep?”

Flood didn’t seem to think so. He had been so tired.  It seemed ok. The black cat was finally not afraid.

†  †  †

Text © Simon Drax

Image Credits

Cover Illustration by Audrey May Erickson | Black Cat posters and Bernie Wrightson illustration via Golden Age Comic Book Stories | Cat Skeleton by Alisongrl | All other photographs by the author

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