Hi all! Trying something a bit different today, since my brain has apparently decided to go into writing mode and is jamming all other artistic signals. I’ve been musing on the story behind my Girl and Her Cat illustrations and I’ve decided to start writing short excerpts to accompany the series. Nothing scheduled, just something to keep me focused on my current projects when the writing urge seizes me, rather than wandering off and embarking on yet another unfinished novel! I hope you enjoy it =)
In the silence of the library, a cat mewed. It was not a loud sound, and it took some time to wend its way between the rustling rows of books. By the time it reached the ears of the library’s sole occupant it was faint and indistinct, as though it had gathered dust from the shelves as it passed. Nevertheless, the woman looked up from her book. Her sharp eyes widened.
“That can’t be! Now?”
Letting her reading glasses fall against her chest, she glanced around, as if for someone to confirm the evidence of her own ears. But the crackling fire, the ticking clock and the whispering volumes gave her no answers. The mew came again.
Fingers suddenly clumsy, the woman marked her place with a raven’s feather and pushed her armchair back from the table. She stepped away from the circle of firelight, moving out across the lowest level of the library. Ring upon ring of bookcases, flight upon flight of stairs, gallery after gallery of deep-carpeted landing were all about her, cloaked in preserving gloom. And now, somewhere, there was also a cat.
The woman halted in the centre of the mosaic floor, closed her eyes and murmured. A ball of emerald light swelled at her forehead, then broke loose to bob a little way ahead of her. It led her to the foot of the sweeping double staircase, up to the left, past banisters that gleamed with golden-green reflections and along corridors that soaked up the radiance like ink. She climbed spindly spiral stairs, barely distinguishable from the cobwebs that swathed them, and negotiated a labyrinth of mahogany. Mostly, however, she passed books. Open, their pages turning to rhythms of their own, the susurrus of knowledge surrounded her as she climbed. And still the small feline cries cut through it all.
At last, she reached a place that was utterly unknown to her. She who had walked the bookcases for over two decades followed her little light into an alien space between the shelves. Dress catching on her knees, she crawled through into what looked like the attic of a common cottage. The scent of dust and ancient straw clogged the back of her throat. She had to blink at the sudden change of air before she could make out the box standing on the bare boards. But it did not take even a blink to spot the kitten. It all but glowed. White. Sitting bolt upright in its box of straw, it regarded her with piercing violet eyes. “What took you so long?” its mew seemed to say.
Cautiously, the woman approached. The cat rose and arched its back, daintily stepping aside to reveal its charge. Nestled in amongst the browning straw was a human baby. The witchlight flew down to hover over the infant’s face, causing it to screw up its eyes, although it did not wake. The woman lifted the child, scanning its features in the dimness. On its forehead was the faintest of white marks. As she touched it, it glowed purple, eliciting a green glimmer from her own third eye. The witch’s gaze met that of the cat. With humble ceremony they bowed to one another.
The witch crawled back out into her library, her infant successor swaddled in her arms and the child’s familiar following at her heels. Behind them, the entrance to the attic melted away as though it had never been, and a farmer’s wife’s hysteric cries on discovering an empty cradle went unheeded.