The Black Cat (Short story)
The black cat wasn?t just a cat; it was her past, present and future; her source of strength in her gradual transition to the unknown. By merely staring at its spooky eyes she could relive her life.The cat was hope symbolized. Even as she wallowed in the ashes of her past, she never lost sight of the dream that someday, when it was all over, something beyond human knowledge and experience would happen and rekindle the fire.
She called the cat to the inner room.
The only source of light in the room was the sun rays filtering in through the cracks by the closed window. She sat at the end of the bed, legs folded in the manner of a Buddhist in meditation. The cat lay on the other end, facing her. In the dim light, the cat?s eyes shone like crystal balls.
She stared intently at the eyes. And gradually she felt her eyes merging with the cat?s own in a blissful harmony. Then, as her breathing quickened, the four eyes transformed into one powerful sight?into the past?
She leaves the village at the age of twenty with her uncle, a railway worker who lives in the city. As soon as she gets to the city, she grows wings and flies from the guardianship of the uncle. She disappears into the worldly glamour, moving from one city to another and from hotel to hotel, selling?selling to the highest bidders.
Wherever she goes, her impeccable beauty stands her in good stead. She attracts rich and influential men, some of whom propose marriage to her even before they know her name. She plays along with such men till she gets enough of what they can offer. Then she slips off. There is this particular man? He buys her a house. But she eventually sells it off and vanishes, leaving him heartbroken.
Her fortune grows so much that she even sets up a hotel business in Gold City. The business starts on a prosperous note. The sky is no limit to her success, but for her restless nature. She cannot settle down and run the hotel; the business soon folds up and she takes to the fast lanes once again.
She wanders endlessly, unmindful of the effect of time. And before she realizes that age is catching up with her, it has. Her legendary beauty has expired and her feminine charm can no longer lure the men. She is no longer stared at hungrily but scornfully.
She tries to live a normal life in the city, selling cola nuts and cigarettes. But it soon dawns on her she can?t fit in, the city is too hostile for her. So she resolves to go home ? a home she has not visited since she left it many, many years ago.
Arriving home, she is greeted with a cold emptiness. The village has grown into town. Her parents and most of her close relations have died. Most of the living members of the family do not know her and those who know her only have a vague memory of who she really was.It is quite a lowly life. A dilapidated house is the only legacy left behind by her father. Whenever she is not at the frontage of the house selling cola nuts and cigarettes or in the palour praying, she is staring at the cat?s eyes in the dark room?
She was now sweating profusely. And the cat was trembling, trembling? But she was unaware of all these...
A strange sensation is spreading through her entire being?spreading with a sizzling effect. It is like she is evaporating. Then she finds herself out of the room, above the building, above the entire town. She cannot describe her state of being as she hovers above. It seems she is a solid, gaseous and liquid substance rolled into one and dissolved into a powerful ray of light.
As she rises higher, her vision expands and her consciousness becomes limitless. Her range of vision becomes 360 degrees, enabling her to see everywhere and any particular place simultaneously. And she can see through anything. No barrier is thick enough to obstruct her view. Her perception is penetrating, comprehensive and boundless.
She realizes that ?see? is not the right word to qualify her perception. In that state she has no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, no body! She is but a powerful presence without a material substance?a presence that radiates and permeates everywhere.
Rising higher, she becomes freer. The feeling is simply exhilarating. She realizes that her imagination is the actual world of reality. She discovers that what she used to consider as realities are just jumbled images of man?s wishes and fears. In this new world of reality she finds herself reliving all the daydreams she has had, feeling the joy of the experience with her entire being. The impact is direct, intense and complete.
When she experiences music, it is the very best of it that generates through her. Everything comes in its best, purest form, with an intensity that uplifts. The desire for anything is instantly met with ultimate satisfaction. Not the kind of satisfaction that wears away with time, but the type that magnifies. Unlike the earthly reality, where everything, however enjoyable, eventually becomes boring, the world in which she lives now is so exciting and real; there are no shadows to be chased. No secrets, no mystery, but plain reality.
She rises, rises? till she gets to a climax where the motion can no longer be described as an upward movement. It is a movement towards some powerful source of gravitational force. She moves with a gracious speed characteristic of a cloud in the process of culminating into a heavy downpour.
The things she perceives now have no names, for no human imagination has ever conceived of them. No description will be adequate enough to convey even the faintest idea of their nature. As she hungrily savours the hidden treasures of the world of reality, she fervently prays to God to make the experience permanent.
Thunder! It tears the atmosphere with a flash of lightning. The fast flow of the past, present and future blurs, filling her with dizziness that slows her movement.
Suddenly, she is in a whirlwind, spinning fast...faster? Then, like water passing through a funnel, she feels herself pouring downwards. Down, down... She begins to assume a solid form...becoming her material self!
Even as she recoils from the horror of the retrogressive transformation, her body gradually takes form and soon she lost her expanded vision and consciousness.
"Meeoow!" the cat cried, bringing her fully back to her earthly consciousness.
(c) Sumaila Umaisha
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