**Spoiler** Don’t read if you haven’t read the book! 🙂
I’ve been asked a lot how Elizabeth Peterson ended up with first Taryn and then Aaron as a pet after her soul had been transferred into the body of a cat (through the Circle’s transference spell that Aaron witnessed). Here’s what happened:
She dreamed she was a cat that dreamed it was a beautiful woman with long, graceful limbs and a love for ballet. She floated across a dark wooden stage, chasing a single spotlight in a series of pirouettes. Dip in a graceful plié. Arch the back, neck straight, arms in an elegant semi-circle, face toward the empty auditorium. No applause; the only sound came from her toe shoes tapping on the worn, wooden planks and echoing in the still air.
Pirhouetting back across the stage, the frantic revolutions spun her hair free of its bindings to float in an auburn haze before her eyes.
Sharp pain and she fell, shrinking as she reached the floor, until she was as small as a dainty cat. Stretch one leg, then the other. Now the back legs… Back legs? She stood on four legs with petite paws, covered in tawny fur. She opened her mouth to scream, and meowed instead. The sound echoed, and the auditorium melted away.
She stood in a cold room with rough stone walls, a large slab of raw granite before her. There her body lay, bare skin gleaming like opals in the firelight from the torch on the wall. Hair like flame spilled over the edge of the altar; her grey eyes stared sightless and dull at the low ceiling. Blood like rich wine flowed from the altar to the floor in a river of crimson. Her life’s blood.
My baby! she screamed; a feline yowl screeched from her throat, and she realized what he had done. She was betrayed. He had taken it all: her love, her child, her life—all running toward a rusty drain at the base of a blasphemous altar.
She ran; ran on all fours, her spirit awkward in the tiny body. But the cat’s instincts saved her: dodge left dart forward hiss scratch bite rip claws into hated flesh and they were free. Free in the forest.
Driving rain came in the predawn hours. The cat had been someone’s pampered house pet at one time and had few outdoor survival instincts. Unable to find adequate shelter, she huddled under a shrub that provided little protection from the elements. Hunger gnawed at her stomach; the Circle had not bothered to feed the animal after its capture and no prey wandered the woods during the storm.
A struggle for dominance ensued as the storm moved from a steady rain to a downpour complete with thunder and lightning. She wanted to run, seek better shelter, but the cat was frozen in place, petrified by the tempest. Its fear held them captive under the shrub until the squall abated near dawn.
They were soaked and starving, but had fresh water aplenty, another necessity the cat had been denied. It drank its fill from a puddle on the forest floor, and she shuddered inwardly at two earthworms at the bottom.
Hunting came naturally enough to the little animal, but it had no skill. An occasional mouse or bee in the house had not prepared it for fending for itself. Hunger drove it to wolf down several slow-moving flies that had yet to succumb to the cold weather, but when it nosed at the decaying remains of a raccoon, she drew the line.
It didn’t take much effort to override the cat’s psyche; weakened by malnutrition and mistreatment, it proved no match for her own instinct for survival. She drove it relentlessly through the woods, relying on her knowledge of forest navigation to get them to civilization. Several hours later they came out onto a hunting trail that had fallen out of use over the last few years. She knew it well, however, and followed it easily. It came out of the woods behind Sutter’s Inn, Mills’ one fine-dining restaurant.
Exhaustion tore at the cat’s frail, misused body, but she pushed it on … and on … and on, at last ending their journey on the porch of a small house. There was no bell, only a knocker mounted to the front door inside the screen. She feared that if she let the cat just lay down and sleep, it would be hours before they were found by the mistress of the house.
She pulled the cat toward the porch railing, and with the last of its reserves shouldered a dead potted geranium off the railing and onto the porch. Hurried footsteps, muffled oaths, the rattle of a security chain, and the slide of a dead bolt being thrown open—and there she was: deliverance personified.
The young woman first took in the wreckage of her pottery with a resigned frown and looked up to see what had caused it. She saw the cat. Her mouth puckered into a startled O, a her brows drawing down.
The cat could hold on no longer. It swayed and tumbled from the railing. The woman caught it before it hit the porch. Consciousness slipped away with the cat as the mistress of the house took them inside and wrapped them in dry, fluffy towels.
The little cat’s paws twitched as she dreamed, safe and secure in the house of her fiancé’s childhood friend.
©2006 Sharon Gerlach