Clarissa peeled open one eye lid, the slightly milky orb rotated in its pit, light glinted on glutinous fluid. All seemed well, she doubled her vision. In the old fireplace the logs were burned away, red embers and grey ashes shifted in the air flow under the great black pot.
Findle, slept still, his ears twitched now and again as did the shining threads of his whiskers. She understood, deep inside the glossy black head he roamed in lands that she knew nothing of and communed with spirits beyond this realm. For long moments she observed, her eyes piercing and her thin lips pursed. Bony fingers smoothed the glossy pelt as she pushed aside the blanket and swung grey, mottled legs around. Skeletal toes searched for her slippers, they had crept under the bed again and she had to hook them forward, tutting and huffing the while.
A bat shot past the uncurtained window, a dark flash against the moon. The night creatures were stirring; they knew. She grinned. The owl in the pines cried out just once and Findle shifted.
“It’s alright kitty, sleep on kitty. Sleep on my dear.”
Moonlight sliced across old boards and ran in a pewter slash up the rear wall, it was enough to illuminate the task. She must be quiet, the cat was easily disturbed and it was essential that he didn’t stretch and murmur before leaping down to set about his nightly wanderings. He must sleep on. It would have been easy to administer a draught of something to keep him sleeping for days but she had no way of knowing how that would tangle the pathways of his subconscious and they must be clear for she would walk them tonight, she would visit the magic places and she would become one with him, her familiar, her soul mate.
It was forbidden of course, against The Craft and surely against nature. She could shape-shift and had become feline before but that was not enough now, now to be a witch in a cat’s coat was not enough now she must be cat, wholly. That he was young and spritely, nimble, lithe and healthy was an insult to her wasted old frame. If she had still had her other cat, Merlin, then she would have mixed up a potion, once the cards had told her the end was coming and together they would leave and enter the darkness but this cat, full of life, filled with energy had brought forth envy. Why should she die, fade away in pain and leave all the things that she had planned undone and he would live on, another nine times, nine incarnations, nine existences. He would move on to another of her sisters, taking with him all her wisdom and arcane knowledge, like the cottage he would pass into other hands. No, she wanted more and he was the answer. This stupid human body would be no loss, it was badly designed, full of flaws and inconsistencies whereas the feline form was perfect. The wondrous shoulders, flexing under their covering of shining silken fur, his fine head, carried proud and haughty, ears that zinged with sound and his eyes, those eyes, shining with magic in the sun and deep pools of mystery when the moon kissed them.
She dragged the pestle and mortar across the pine table, the packets and bunches of herbs were ready and she mixed them. She measured carefully, tiny grains and minute amounts. The grimoire that she used was fragile with age and she handled it gently but, if all went well she wouldn’t need it again after tonight.
It was ready, she lifted the goblet and strode to the bed. Gently she woke the sleeping cat, “Hush Findle, quiet now.” Before he could protest she squeezed the soft tissue of his cheeks and poured half of the liquid into the pink void of his mouth. Slamming his jaws together she massaged his throat until she felt the swallow. Now, it would be now. With a last look around her dark home she threw back her head and gulped down the rest of the drink.
The vortex opened, the evil spiralled upwards, great beams and flashes of blood-red light spun and sparkled. The air-filled with the smell of burning souls and the screams of the damned filled the night. The bodies on the bed turned and flowed and melded, liquid, gas, liquid, a cloud of yellow vapour a sea of writhing serpents and then they were gone.
The sun found a deserted cottage, a rose rambled door hanging open and on the bed a small red stain but of the old witch and her beautiful cat there was never any sign again.