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Shade, a Ghostly Cat Tale by Karen A. Lynch

Sara loved fall best. The beautiful foliage, the crisp air, the bright blue skies all conspired to make her happy. Besides, fall was the beginning of the holiday season, starting with Halloween.

Halloween was also a favorite of Sara’s. Every year, she gave careful consideration to the costume she would wear. Luckily, her Aunt Elie, who lived with her family, was a skilled seamstress and could make most any costume Sara desired. This year, Sara would be a fairy princess, complete with jeweled crown, gossamer wings and a magic wand.

Aunt Ellie’s husband, Uncle Joe, also lived with her family in their big house that faced the town square. Uncle Joe loved to tell stories. Sara was sure he made them up as he went along, because he never could tell a story the same way twice.

Just the other day, in honor of Halloween, Uncle Joe told her the story of a cat name Shade.

How could a Halloween cat be anything but black? Shade was black as the night, with beautiful mahogany brown eyes. His meow was hushed and he walked on silent, velvet paws that left no prints, for Shade was a ghost.

It was said that Shade lived in the abandoned, and some said, haunted house, that was across the square from Sara’s home. That he roamed the night in search of the spirit of the child he once belonged to and was lost. Some nights, people swore they could hear his lonesome wailing, a melancholy sound that drifted across the night air.

Shade was a story without ending, because, Uncle Joe said, a ghost story is without end.

Sara laughed. A ghost story is a tale without end…only Uncle Joe could come up with an idea like that.

Halloween night arrived. Sara’s Dad drove her to the school gym, where a costume party was already in progress. Her gossamer wings had proved a problem where her seat belt was concerned. But, she made it.

The gym had been decorated in sections, all spooky. There was a cave that bats flew out of as you walked passed, a cemetery, where ghosts and skeletons rose up from behind the tombstones, and a haunted house.

Sara stood before the haunted house. It gave her an eerie feeling.

“You think that house you live across from is really haunted?” A voice from behind her asked.

“Don’t know,” she replied to the boy, dressed as a vampire, that she recognized as a classmate. “I’ve never been in it.”

“I have,” he said. “and its spooky as heck. Got out of there in a hurry, I did!”

“Did you see a ghost?” Sara asked. “Did you see the cat?”

“Nah, I didn’t see anything. It was just creepy, that’s all.”

It was still early when the party ended, so some of Sara’s friends suggested they go trick or treating house to house.

Sara called home and got permission to join them, but was told to stay with the group no matter what and to be home by eight o’clock.

In the Halloween spirit, most homeowners had turned on their porch lights and welcomed the ghouls, ghosts, witches, clowns and one very pretty fairy princess as they went about, door to door, filling their plastic pumpkin baskets and bags with treats.

When the tower clock on city hall chimed eight o’clock, the group was almost to Sara’s house.

“I have to go,” she said, as she bid them farewell and started toward home.

Before she realized it, she was in front of the old, abandoned house. She had never really seen it at night, and as she looked at its dark foreboding facade a chill rain down her spine.

She heard a rustling sound, and thought she saw something dart through the tangled underbrush.

Could it be the cat? Sara thought. The thought drew her in, and before she knew what she was doing, she had opened the creaky, wrought iron gate and let herself into the front yard.

Go back Sara, her inner voice warned…go back.

But, Sara coould not go back, something drew her on, and now, she was at the front door.

She turned the knob and the door began to open. What am I doing, she thought, and started to retreat.

“Meow!”

The sound startled her, but drew her back to the door. With shaking hand, she again grasped the knob. The door opened at her touch.

“Meow!”

“Here kitty…where are you, kitty?” She heard herself say, as she stepped inside what was a large foyer. From the light cast by a streetlamp out front, she could see that the furnishings were very old, and very dusty.

“Meow!”

The sound seemed to be coming from the top of the winding staircase that began in the foyer and rose to the second floor. She placed her treat-filled, pumpkin basket on the floor, switched her magic wand into her left hand, grasped the banister along the wall and started up the stairs.

“Here, kitty, kitty,” she called, as she made her way up the steps and to the second floor.

Another “Meow!” came from the dark hall.

“Please, come here, kitty,” Sara begged, afraid to go any farther. “Here kitty, kitty.”

Sara could see that one of the doors was opened, light from the streetlamp illuminating the open doorway.

Suddenly, the front door slammed shut.

Sara screamed in fright, and for no apparent reason, ran to the light and the open door.

Once inside, she realized it was a child’s room. A canopy bed sat against one wall, stuffed animals set up against the pillows. Bookcases set on dressers and a desk lined another wall. The shelves filled with books, pictures and assorted treasures a young girl might collect. An open chest along another wall held dresses and on a shelf above the dresses sat some dainty hats and purses. There was a white child-sized rocker with a pillow covered in a fabric that matched the old-fashioned floral wallpaper and windows framed in lace curtains. It was a charming, if dusty, room.

Curiosity drew Sara to the bookcases and to the pictures on the shelves. There were lots of family pictures, but one, especially, caught Sara’s eye. It was a picture of a blond girl with blue eyes, who looked a lot like Sara and who Sara figured must have been about her age. In her arms was a handsome black cat with beautiful mahogany brown eyes.

“Oh, dear,” Sara thought out loud. “It’s Shade.”

Sara knew the picture had to be 50 years old by the dress the girl had on and how she wore her hair. So, there was no way the cat in the picture could still be alive.

The cat…Sara had forgotten about the cat. She turned to the door and there, sitting on the rocker, was a black cat with mahogany brown eyes.

The sight of the cat caught her breath.

“Don’t be afraid, Sara,” the cat said, kindly. “I am sorry if I scared you.”

“You can talk!” Sara said in amazement.

“I can do a lot of things,” the cat replied, “but, wanting to scare you isn’t one of them.

“The girl in the picture was my best friend,” he said, with sadness in his voice. “Her name was Laurie. She got very sick. They took her to a hospital to get well, but Laurie never came home.

“For all of these years,” he went on, “I have waited in this house for her return. It has been a long time and I have been very sad and lonely.”

“I don’t think Laurie’s coming home, Shade,” Sara said.

“You know my name,” the cat said in surprise.

“My Uncle Joe told me your story,” Sara replied. “I have always thought it was just another of his made up tales. But, you are real…then, again, maybe not really, real, are you?”

“I’m afraid not…real, that is,” Shade replied. “But, I could be again, if someone loved me enough to make me their friend and care for me. I miss all the good things a cat and its human share…especially, the love.”

Sara approached the cat. “I could love you, Shade. I, too. need someone to love and care for…a dear and special friend.”

She reached to stroke the cat’s head, but when she did, there was nothing but air.

Sara jumped backwards, almost falling over a toy lying on the floor. She steadied herself and looked at the cat, which she could still see but not touch.

“Fairy Princess Sara,” the cat said, “if you want to be my friend, wave your magic wand over me and say, ‘Shade, no longer will you be a shadow in the night, but my Shade in the light of day.’

“If you believe the magic, Sara, it will be as you believe.”

Sara raised the magic wand. Waving it over the cat, she said, “Shade, no longer will you be a shadow in the night, but my Shade in the light of day.”

As the magic wand moved through the air tiny, sparkling stars fell from its tip and over the cat. They merged in one bright light, and then, along with the cat, disappeared.

In place of the cat sat a black kitten with beautiful, mahogany brown eyes.

“Oh, my,” said Sara, as she bent down and reached to pet the kitten. This time, her hand stroked its soft black fur.

“Oh, my wonderful Shade,” she said, picking up the purring kitten and holding him close. “You are the best Halloween treat, ever. Let’s go home.”

Karen A. Lynch, Copyright 2008




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