The Dreaming : A Prelude
by Everett A Warren
“So what have you been, then?"
”For the last 144 years, I have been a cat. I jumped through Timehenge, you see."
"Timehenge? Oh, I see. You mean Stonehenge, of course. You dreamed you were a cat playing in the ruins."
"No, I mean that I dreamed I was a cat and I used the Henge to travel back in time. And for every night, more than fifty two thousand of them, I have been having a continuous adventure as a cat, black as night, with eyes ice blue, and a shock of white fur atop my head."
The old man sat back and thought a bit, then answered carefully. "Well then, I suppose a hundred and a half years are a bit old for a cat, so one should have had their hair gone to white by that time." He puffed on the pipe, blew one of those oddly coloured smoke rings I had liked since as far back as I could remember, and scratched self-consciously on his own snow hued scalp, that is, white where it wasn't balding. "Dreadfully old cat, indeed, my child."
"Well, it is a special cat, grandfather."
"Pshaw, are you trying to say you still have these dreams now?"
"Indeed, last night as well as all of the fifty..."
Grandfather waved a hand at me. "I know... fifty two thousand five hundred and ninety six nights." He smiled in such a way that I don't think he believed me entirely. I did the math like he trained me to, imagining the beads sliding in my head. I kept a fairly accurate log, so only needed to account for the most recent weeks.
"Just fifty two thousand, four hundred and four nights, grandfather. I hadn't been quite literal on the number of years."
"Ah, I see. Fifty two times and some, you have done better than that wile woman fighting for her life. And you just a child, not more than nine years old."
"Ten and a half, grandfather. And Scheherazade has outdone me a thousand times, for I can tell but one tale. It is simply a very long one."
He looked at me, as if to laugh, then refrained when he saw the seriousness of my expression. "So tell me then, son of my son, tell me something wise. For I am nearly eighty winters, and you, as a cat, are far my senior. One can not live for almost a hundred and forty four years without learning a thing or two, even if one is a cat."
"Oh, I daresay not, grandfather. I have learned so much. I have seen the grand treasure of Naerducca. I have crept through the jungles of Galom, where one is both the hunter and the hunted. I have translated ancient parchments for the elders of Dis. And I have lead the armies of Karadior in grand victorious battles."
I paused, walking about the bed where grandfather was propped up. "But one thing I did learn seems rather simple compared to all that, but I think it to be of more importance than which colour suit to wear when attending the harvest ball in Makazaar, which has oft been a matter of life or death. You mentioned your age in winters, grandfather?"
"Yes, impertinent child, I did," he answered with a note of humour.
"Well, the way I figure it, being ten and a half and a hundred and forty three and a half, I am one hundred and fifty four springs old. If one focuses on the winters of one's life, than that becomes the bigger influence. I prefer the sense of renewal and rebirth that comes with the spring. Ahh. Here is mother. Goodnight grandfather."
"Well now, father. You must get your rest." Mother took his pipe from him, emptied it and cleaned it and set it on the rack. "My, you look introspective tonight." She straightened grandfather's covers as I was hustled by the nurse off to my room.
Copyright (c) 1996 Everett A Warren
You can find this story in my collection, Cautionary Fables: Warts & All, available on Amazon.com or by order from your local bookseller.