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The Black Cat
The Black Cat was the queen of the barn, not even our vicious hunting dogs would dare challenge her while she was in her lair. As long as I can remember, the queen ruled the shadows of the barn. She had no name besides the Black Cat because she was a beast, a demon.
When I dared to enter her realm, first, I had to penetrate through the large wooden door which always squeaked. Our barn had no windows and poor lighting. The lone light bulb only lit a three foot area underneath it. The door slammed behind me when I risked going further and I was thrown into almost complete darkness. The straw crunched under my feet and there was a faint dusty smell in the air. The hair on my neck stood on end and I got the feeling someone or something was watching me. I thought I saw eyes in the corner of my vision but when I turned to look at the eyes, they disappeared.
A few steps further and I began to hear it; the snarling, the spitting, and the yowling. The fear started when the first snarl is heard and grew to panic when the cacophony of spitting and yowling floated from the darkness. I wasn’t able to determine where the echoing sounds were coming from, only that they were getting closer. My heart hammered and my palms would get sweaty. The screeching sounded like it was getting even closer and I wasn’t able to breathe. Suddenly, the snarling appeared right behind me. I never found out what happened if I would stay in the barn longer because I always ran out of the barn, screaming at that point.
That was why no one entered the barn any more. The Queen of the Shadows hardly ever left her lair, because if she did, it was fair game with our hunting dogs. But if she ever left the darkness, she didn’t look much like a queen in the light. Her black fur was matted and flea infested. Chunks of fur were missing altogether, exposing red disease-ridden skin. When she walked, a trail of lice and ticks followed behind. She had misshapen ears and the last two inches of her tail was missing.
This ugly cat was raging war against my family and the rest of the animals on our farm, but that wasn’t the only battlefield I was on, but surprisingly, the Black Cat saved me from both struggles.
At this time in my life, I was in middle school and a part of a pack of cannibalistic spiders. All the girls in my class would paste on fake smiles and would pretend to get along with each other until the moment someone turned her back, we would prey on her. We criticized everything from her clothes to her personality. We were ruthless.
Our worst victim was Edna Grosheim. She was…different. She had huge thick, frizzy black hair. She always wore big boots with a tall heel. The topic we gossiped about most often was her fascination with insects and worms. When she was younger, she used to steal worms from the teacher’s vermiculture system and carry them around. We girls used to say the worms were Edna’s only friends.
Poor Edna never seemed to fit in. It wasn’t easy for any of us though. I am ashamed to admit that I also participated in this defamation. I don’t know why I did it. Perhaps I talked about others so other people didn’t talk about me. Or for a shallow reason like I felt bigger when I made someone else smaller. Are all girls like us?
But I wasn’t happy. I would try so hard to fit in and be perfect, but it wasn’t enough. I knew my friends would talk about me anyway. I felt like I was drowning. No matter how much I tried to stay afloat and have everyone like me, it was impossible.
I might have been a slanderer for the rest of my life if it hadn’t been for the Black Cat. One day after school, my mom dropped me off at home because a vet was coming to look at my horse. It was pouring that day and I ran over towards my house, hunched over to protect my eyes from the rain. I still remember the horrible sound I heard when I touched the door knob.
A fearful, angry cry echoed around my farm. Suddenly, the Black Cat came flying from the forest behind my house. I was horrified to see that the cat’s back legs seemed to be dragging behind her. Her awful squeals continued even after she collapsed in the mud next to the barn.
I once heard that cats were witches reincarnated. I never believe it until that moment. I ran into the house before she would cast a spell on me or something. I closed the curtains and I peeked out a small corner of the window.
Through the rain I could see the Black Cat was still yowling in the yard and rolling in the mud like she was possessed by the devil. Then, our dogs approached. At first, they were hesitant, probably thinking the cat had rabies, but with time, they grew brave. They barked and circled the cat like a pack of wolves, but the cat seemed unable to defend herself. When they started to bite her, I couldn’t stand it. I walked outside and called the dogs off. As much as I disliked that the Black Cat, I was not going to hide in my house while she was ripped apart by my dogs.
In the rain, I stared at the crying cat. Without my consent, my feet started to move towards her through the slushy mud. When I was ten feet away from the cat, my feet stopped. Then the cat noticed me and she finally stopped crying. We stared at each other in silence with the rain falling down our faces.
Everybody thinks they know who they are, but when it comes down to the moments to define yourself, you truly understand who you are. I always thought I was a compassionate person, but when I looked into the cat’s eyes, I knew she was asking for help, but I hesitated. For a second, I thought I saw Edna’s eyes in the cat’s eyes. My whole life I have been repulsed by this cat, and I just couldn’t seemed to overcome the fleas and diseases this cat probably had.
I don’t know how long we stared at each other in the rain. Then the cat meowed quietly. It was a complete plea, and it cut right to my heart. I seemed to snap out of my hesitative stupor and I ran to get a blanket. I carefully wrapped the cat in it and carried her to the barn. I later burned the blanket. Although I was helping the cat, I didn’t want to help the fleas and diseases.
When the vet came, I asked him to look at the cat. He said both her back legs were broken, maybe from a car on the road or some animal in the woods, he wasn’t sure. He put on a make-shift cast and said the only thing I could do was keep her comfortable.
After the vet left, I brought the cat food and water and sat down next to her. As soon as I got over the bald spot and misshapen ears, I realized she wasn’t that ugly. She did have beautiful green eyes. I held my hand out and she rubbed her head against it. I realized she was lonely and just wanted a friend. When I scratched her behind the ears, she started to purr, but it didn’t sound like any cat I have ever heard before. It sounded more like a lawn mower. I laughed, and at that moment I knew the cat was my friend. There is something about laughter that unites even the most unlikely of souls.
The next day at school, I was waiting in the lunch line behind Edna. I was thinking of the Black Cat and if she was okay at home alone. I was staring at Edna’s mess of black hair when I realized something.
“You look a little like my cat,” I said. As soon as it was out of my mouth I wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to offend Edna.
She turned slowly and stared at me. “You look like my bulldog,” she said. We stared at each other for a moment or two, and then burst out laughing. The same thing happened with Edna that happened with the Black Cat. Laughter brought us together.
After that day, the Black Cat and Edna became my two best friends. The Black Cat’s legs never healed perfectly so she walked with a limp. She left the dark barn and started to follow me around because I protected her against our dogs. When she limped around in the sunlight, she didn’t look like a Black Cat, queen of the shadows. She looked more like a Flopsy.
Edna and I became best friends as well. I found she wasn’t nearly as odd as the rumors said she was. It was a relief when I found someone who accepted me for who I was. It gave me so much freedom when I knew Edna wouldn’t talk about me behind my back. I didn’t have to pretend I was something I’m not.
I learned a few things from Edna and Flopsy. I learned never to judge a person by their appearance or by previous misconceptions. I don’t believe gossip I hear about people until I meet the person and I never talk about people behind their backs anymore. I always wait to form opinions about people until I meet them, because you never know when a Black Cat is actually a Flopsy.