The Lost Souls of Cats
by Emily Veinglory
The first soul asks, “You’re the cat angel?”
Sign on the door aside, the fur and whiskers usually give me away.
“I died yesterday,” she continues, “and I was gaga most of the last year. My son promised he would look after her, but....”
“But you think...?”
“He put her put to sleep, my Snowball.”
I open the book; it falls to the right page.
“We have thousands of ‘Snowballs’ here,” I say. “There’s only one way to proceed.”
I lead her to the purgatory of cats. It looks like an enormous hall, walls extending into depthless gloom. The cat souls aren’t cold, hungry, or even scared… but they still suffer. Spread to every horizon there is nothing but glowing, waiting eyes. A thousand golden eyes blink and waver, and one glad meow rings out. Snowball leaps from the masses and into her owner’s arms, and simultaneously one of many Snowballs vanishes from the book.
“That nasty boy,” she says. “I knew it.”
Not your fault, Snowball replies. I would rather be with you.
They leave together and thousands of cat souls look away, disappointed again.
God’s concession to the cats is that although they cannot go to heaven of wild cats, they can go to human heaven so long as their owner claims them—no place for strays in paradise.
The second in line insists, “Cinder must be here!”
But none come forth.
“I see the problem,” I say. “Cinders has already gone, with a Mrs. Smyth.”
“That old bat,” he explodes, “always feeding my cat, sucking up to her while I was at work. I paid the vet bills, worried when she stays out all night….”
“You could share her?”
“Are you serious?”
I gave him a look that reminds a soul they are addressing a genuine Angel.
“I didn’t even like Cinders much,” he grumbles. “She wouldn’t sit on my knee, never purred—but wouldn’t let me have another cat. I tried once with a kitten. Cinders beat the tar out of it, stitches and everything, so I gave it away. And here I am for eternity without a cat."
“Sorry, Mr. Pederson,” I reply. “Invite me by some time for a saucer of milk.”
He looks worried.
“Joke,” I say.
Not everyone feels comfortable around a cat angel, or maybe he’s just not a cat person really, but I could see how it was the blood pressure that got him.
The third guy causes lots of interest.
“Spotty, Phantom, Tabby?”
“I love cats,” he explains. “Any kind of cat, since I was a kid. Now let me see; other Blacky, other other Blacky, little Blacky, Fatso, Spike, Tabby, other Tabby, Whiskers….”
The cats mill gleefully.
“Whiskers, how long has it been, twenty years?”
“Whiskers meet Phantom.”
“There was another. I was about seven… small and black. The name escapes me; it was seventy years ago.”
“No….but something like…”
“Sooty, Shadow, Jet?”
“No, wait. That stuff, you know, they used it on stoves.”
“That’s it, Zebo!”
“That’s all,” he says, “until Blacky number four pops off, but he might decide to stay with Judy.”
Thirteen leave, but fifty more new cat souls arrive. Another lady edges in.
“I’m looking for Nibbles… Nibbles?”
“Are you sure Nibbles has passed on?”
She bursts into tears. “I’m sure. I was only ten and didn’t know. Dad said we had to move for his job. I assumed Nibbles would be coming. On the day we got into the car I was saying ‘Where is Nibbles?’ and Dad said he’d run away.…”
I had a bad feeling about where this story was going.
“It wasn’t until I was over forty Mum told me Dad had SHOT HIM. He had taken Nibbles out back and SHOT HIM BECAUSE HE COULDN’T BE BOTHERED BRINGING HIM ALONG. Mummy said she’d thought we could just get another cat, but I didn’t want another cat. I never did have another cat.”
I sense tremulous interest out in the dark.
“Try again,” I said.
“Nibbles!” she called. “I would have stopped him… I would have tried to stop him.”
“I swear. I’ll make it up to you!”
Slowly at first, but quicker and quicker and finally in great leaps and bounds, Nibbles went to her.
Daddy didn’t come, Mummy didn’t come, little Georgie didn’t come, he didn’t even remember me!
“I came. As soon as I could.”
They left together, not looking back. They never look back at those left behind.
Next came a man enquiring for: “Plucky?”
“Always wanted a cat,” he said wistfully. “Mum couldn’t abide them. I got married and Mabel was allergic, so that was that. When she passed on there was this scraggly feral thing. I spent months feeding him and luring him in, almost had him too. Then I found him on the road, stone dead, buried him under the roses. Went into hospital myself not long after, and never came out. Then I heard about this place. I wouldn’t
like to think he was in here…Plucky?”
I took out the other book.
“Sorry, sir. It seems Plucky went straight through to wild cat heaven.”
“With the lions and all? Well it doesn’t surprise me, he was a wild’un. Still, I always did want a cat. Don’t suppose I could take one of these?”
We were fixed with the intense gaze of the almost uncountable eyes of the cat souls.
I have waited many thousand years. No one will come for me.
There is dignity in the request, but desperation also.
I am Bilqis. Take me?
They look to me.
“How could I refuse,” I say.
They leave together. The eyes of the remaining cats fix on me. New hope wells up in those abandoned beyond all hope of remembrance.
“Excuse me,” I say to those waiting. “I must have a quick word with God.”