The Cat Who Walks By Himself

"He will kill mice and he will be kind to babies... but when the moon gets up, he is the Cat that Walks by Himself." - Rudyard Kipling

It's the full moon that calls to me, full of her promises, remote, comforting. Moonlight washes away the garish colors of day and draws out all the greys and subtle variations in color. It smoothes out blemishes and cracks, makes walls whole. Every woman is beautiful by moonlight. Every man is intriguing.

I walk alone by the river. I gaze at the lights reflected in the water and smile at the couples snuggled together on shadowed benches. There isn't even the sting of loss, not under the full fall moon.

The crisp night air stirs my conservative haircut. I miss my longer locks for a moment and shake it off. But the memory of longer hair sparks other memories and I lose myself in them, staring down at the reflection of the moon on the water.

I remember the long desert night, the heat of the sun almost a memory. The radiant heat from the stones keeping me warm enough as I led my steed from the campsite. His hair gleamed silver. He looked like a creature from a fable. I mounted him and rode the perimeter guard to warm him up. The gentle rhythm of his steps was muffled by the shifting sand. I heeled him into a trot and then a full gallop. The feel of the air rushing through my hair felt like a lover's caress - gentle and soothing. I laughed like a child - carefree and deep. I felt as if I were flying. By the time I returned to camp, the smile on my face refused to be suppressed.

I wandered a little further down the path, stopping to look at the bridge. Her face had never seemed so ethereal, so beautiful as it did the night we stood dropping flowers into the Seine. She told me about a game she first heard of in a children's book. Two people drop sticks into the river on one side of the bridge then run to the other side to see which one comes out first. We played with carnations until we were breathless from laughing. We waltzed to music only we could hear and then retired to the hotel for a late snack.

I walked to the docks. They were deserted except for the shipyard cats. A tabby cat was patiently stalking something across the deck of a relatively small fishing boat. I have played that game myself - stalking my prey across countries. The only difference is, that in the end, I let him live, in a church you can't see from the river.

The general had sent his troops to wipe out my village. While I was away trading for cloth and knowledge, my wife and children were slaughtered. I returned to find them bloated and half-decayed. I dug graves for them and took out the weapon I hadn't had to use for more than a decade. The rasp of the stone against the edge filled the air that seemed dead of al sound. The moonlight gleamed against the blade as I painted my face with ceremonial indigo and donned a persona left behind lifetimes before.

I followed the path of destruction the troops left behind, each new atrocity hardening my resolve and cementing on my mask. I hid in the shadows, denying myself the harsh reality of the day. The people I passed in the wreckage did not challenge my passage nor called out for help. Noise ceased as I passed. Activity stopped. Bloodstained and moonwashed I must have seemed an apparition. The trail led me to the gates of Paris. The army gathered in front of the city parted for me as the sea parted for Moses. My white robes specked with blood seemed to glow in the moonlight and the gates opened to my cry.

The man responsible for my pain stood on the steps of a simple temple dressed in the robes of an aesthetic. His sword and armor were missing. He spread his arms. "Speak with me, Death," he invited. They were the first words I'd heard since I had bid farewell to the traders more than a month before. My voice was raspy from disuse.

"Why should I not kill you now, Murderer?" I asked with no emotion. His eyes met mine and there were no words to say. He could punish himself more effectively than my sword. I sheathed the weapon and turned away. That morning I could not see the sun for the tears in my eyes.

I moved on from the docks, away from the water and onto the streets. Alone, among others, I moved on soundless feet towards landmarks my heart longed to see. The used bookstore I ran with Don was the first.

In the middle of the night we sat surrounded by books, food and notebooks laughing over Fitzcairn's chronicles.

The Eiffel Tower appeared to be next on my list. The lights sparkled on the metal frame. I stood looking up.

I imagined I could hear the fight I could not see. I stayed close to my friend and superior. He was more prepared for the fight than I. He had a longer time to prepare himself for the possibility of losing this friend. He had stood silent second to many more fights. Closed in on herself, the normally cheerful vixen was silent and tense. We both knew that our common enemy would die tonight, by whose blade it was yet unknown, but he would die.

It seemed an endless night. Then, it was suddenly split by the crackling lightening that arced over the city, blacking out half of Paris. The vixen pulled her jacket closer. We waited impatiently for the victor and sighed in relief when it was not our enemy. Two freak storms in one night was too much to take.

I continued on around the city until I was beckoned by the dark doorway of Le Blues Bar. The owner and resident bluesman smiles warmly and offered me a drink. I shook my head and curled up in a corner booth listening to the bittersweet memories from the hands of a master.

Laughter and mourning, business and pleasure mingled together in the smoky, cozy bar. Smooth, mellow blues poured out their pain and pleasure - soothing the wounds they revealed. I was curled up, dozing when the beer miraculously found its way to my table followed shortly by a tired bluesman. The bluesman smiled at me, but asked no questions. In the warmth of the night I fell asleep with him to watch over me.


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