Cheiliúradh Deich Mbliana
The invisible cat leapt into my lap. I was startled. It has been quite a while – many years – since he last visited.
I had never figured out how he gets into my house. Yet, curiously, I had never asked.
I reached down, found his shoulders, and moved my hand up to his head. I rubbed him behind the ears. He buzzed, and pushed his head against my hand. I scratched harder. I felt the scar behind his left ear. Same old cat. Once he felt me scratch the scar, he relaxed and slumped into my lap in his totally feline way. He knew I would not speak until I recognised him.
“Hey Man” he replied.
“I haven’t seen you for a while.” I said, and laughed. His purr modulated. He was laughing too. Most cats don’t have the same sense of humour as people – or, at least, as I do. It seems that invisible cats may be different in more ways than one – apart from talking that is.
“I have been busy. Elsewhere.” He said. He sounded pleased with himself.
“And how are things, elsewhere?”
“Much improved. Your niece is doing well. Well indeed. ”
“That is good to hear, though it still does my head in. She is thirteen years old and still at home with her mum and dad. Yet last I saw her she was a young woman in her late twenties. The portals… “
“She is forty two and has been ruling an talamh na síochána for nearly ten years. That is why I am here. She is planning a ten year celebration. Cheiliúradh deich mbliana. Is mian sí leat a thabhairt ar ais – She wants you to return. Aoi speisialta onóir.
I was taken aback. “Return? Me? An honoured guest? ” Then I surprised myself with the vehemence of my response. “No!”
“Why not?” asked the invisible cat. Though I could not see him, I could hear the puzzlement in his voice.
“I am too old.”
“You are but sixty years of age, and look even younger!”
“You know better than that. I have lived through a hundred and eighty years. Sixty of them here. I go away for a few weeks, come back years older without having aged, physically. But I am old and I feel it. I am not my great grandfather. I have only a quarter of the blood of the Sidhe and my stretched mortality weighs on me. I age normally here. I just want to live quietly into retirement.” And I want to die before my children grow old. No one should outlive their children.
I sighed. “Am I already old and getting senile. Imagining faery stories and invisible cats.”
He leapt from my lap to my shoulder in one fluid movement, evading my hands. Landing lightly, he bit my ear lobe and leapt away again. I put my hand to my ear then looked at the blood on my fingers.
“No. Of course not. Don’t be offended. I didn’t mean it. I could not have imagined you. I could not have imagined half of what I have seen. It is just that I am feeling old, and tired. I have seen too much that I cannot talk about in normal conversations, with normal people and so I don’t know how to be normal any more. I am just writing a story. I hope it will help me make sense of everything.
“Come and stay then. Write it there. The years will go easier on you under different stars.” And it will make it easier for you.” He hesitated then, and I had a skincrawling premonition that this was not an invitation after all, but a summons.
“Easier for what?”
“To give up writing this story of yours. You cannot tell it. Not here. Not in this world. In just a few years time your niece is to become the queen she already is in the land thanks to you and your past efforts. By writing this story, even in the piecemeal way you have been doing it may put everything at risk”. You are giving away too much. We cannot have more people looking for the portals. You have already described with far too great detail the one near Quinn and you have mentioned the hole of the sorrows. No doubt you will, in telling the tale, refer to the others you have passed through. If you provide the same sort of detail, it is just a matter of time before someone else tries to use them. But over there you can write it down. It is a tale well known. Yet everyone would want a copy”.
“I will finish the story. It is mine to tell. I shall finish it here. There is no need to worry about anyone believing it. Hell, even I don’t believe it half the time, and I was there. It will be regarded as fiction by everyone except those who know me well. Those who know I don’t have an ounce of imagination…
I won’t come back there, because if I do I fear I shall never return. This is my home. Here”.
“And besides, motorcycles don’t work over there.”