IT Might Be Murder
It was an unusually warm night in October the first time I saw the cat. I decided to take a walk to cool off after I killed my husband. The air seemed to pass in waves above my head and colors wafted gently across the moonlit fields.
John thought I was cured of my illness and had insisted that a move to the country would do me a world of good. I tried to tell him I was not ready but he wouldn't listen. He never listened, not even to good Doctor Fredricks who had helped me so much. John was impatient but I don't think it would have made any difference. I would have killed him anyway.
As I walked off down the road swinging the bloody axe in my hand, I felt something watching me. Though I glanced right and left,I saw nothing until I heard a rustling in the branches above me. There, silhouetted against the full moon was the unmistakable form of a large feline. A chill ran through my body as though I hand been touched by the icy hand of death. I laughed out loud at this thought since I was the icy hand of death. Spontaneously, I threw the bloody axe at the black form . The blade missed the animal and lodged in a thick branch of the oak tree.
The cat yowled and pounced down onto my shoulders. Sharp claws tore through my blouse as it clung there on my back.
The pain cut through the fog in my mind and I woke to the harsh reality of my actions.I stiffened as a corpse in the rigors of death. The black cat wrapped itself around my shoulders and began licking the blood off my cheek.Somehow, it soothed and comforted my raging spirit . I reached up and stroked the creature and once more began walking away from my crime.
I had nothing but the clothes I wore ,not even my shoes. The inclination to kill John had come over me, as it always did ,at bedtime. It was at bedtime that the memories would creep into my mind. John standing over my mother's body with a knife in his hand. Me watching him from under the bed,my six year old mind rebelling at the sight.The sessions with Doctor Fredricks had opened the doors shut by shock and horror . Now here I was walking in a strange land with nothing and no one but my new cat.
I turned around for one last look at John's dream house. The light in the room upstairs where I killed him flickered and went out.In my mind, I saw his darkly handsome face ,younger looking than his forty years, asking me to marry him.
"I have watched you grow into a beautiful young woman." he had whispered after my release from the institution.
"I have spent so many hours with you in that place, just waiting until you were free . I love you Ludia. I want us to be together
That was before I started my weekly sessions with Doctor F. That was before the bright flashes of horror began .
The cat began to purr. I pulled it down into my arms and kept walking. Presently a weakness of body and spirit began to overtake me. I looked around for someplace to rest for a few moments. Just off the dirt road I spied a fallen tree and headed for that with what seemed the last of my strength. I sat down on the log with the cat in my lap.For the first time I realized how completely alone I was. My mother was a Russian immigrant whose parents had come here as indentured servants. They had lived and worked on a chicken farm in Rhode Island . They called my Grandmother Baba Yaga because the farmers said she was
like the witch from Russian fairy tales. She was not a white witch. She used her secret ways to get her family released from servitude. The chicken farmer was glad to see her go after hundreds of his chickens died one cold night for no apparent reason.
After Baba Yaga and my grandfather died in a fire, my mother was all alone . I never knew my father.Thus there was no one to take me in when Mother was murdered. No one could have kept me anyway due to my peculiar and violent nature. The only one who followed me from place to place throughout my childhood was my mother's murderer. Why? I can only suppose it was some
strange fixation. Just as he had killed her for her rejection, perhaps he gained some feeling of power by possessing a part of her.In any case he also gained the inheritance left to me by an unknown benefactor. My head was spinning with a multitude of thoughts and memories. Suddenly I felt so sleepy,I just had to lie down. Somehow it was as if the cat read my thoughts. It twisted in my lap and sprang away into the bushes.I cried out in anguish.
"No,you can't leave me now!" I yelled as I jumped up and ran crashing through the bushes after him.
I could hardly keep up with him in the dark woods. Branches tore at my hair and clothes as I ran madly after my only connection to this world. Loud voices in my head warned me that his loss would mean my death. I splashed across a small stream and fell
gasping in a moonlit glen. There sitting in the doorway of a tiny cottage was my cat. He calmly licked his paws and stared at me with glowing red eyes. In fact a red aura was around everything in my view. I stood up slowly and approached the doorway.
My pet turned and sauntered inside. I cautiously peaked in. There in the dying glow of the fireplace was an ancient woman
lying on the floor. I nearly screamed but the cat told me to be quiet. He told me to go to the old crone and take her in my arms.
He made no sound but I heard him anyway.
I knelt beside the old lady and took her head onto my lap. It was wonderful. A feeling of deep love and belonging overcame me.
I knew it was the same feeling I had only felt with my beloved mother. I sat there in the embered light in my ragged bloody clothes and cried.My tears fell on the woman's face in rivulets of red. She sighed deeply and opened her eyes. I was not afraid. How could I,the icy hand of death be afraid? She smiled a toothless smile and reached up to touch my cheek.
" It is your grandmother,Baba Yaga, my sweet."she whispered.
"You are here to take my place my dear." Grandmother said.
"Now pick me up and lay me down
and put on my old wedding gown.
It's time to take another mate
to seal your future and your fate."
I lifted the hollow visage of my grandmother onto the dying embers just as the cat instructed. Instantly the paper skin and flaking bone burst into flame with a horrible screaming wail. The cat laughed and led me to the corner where a white dress hung on a wooden peg. I shivered as I felt my grandmother's presence inside of me. Wearing the dress ,I watched myself in a piece of broken mirror to see what I would do next. I began to chant a rune in a sing song voice which seemed to please the cat .
He spun around in a mad dance ,stretching himself out higher and higher toward the thatched roof. Before my eyes he began a metamorphosis beyond belief. There in the flickering light of my grandmother's funeral pyre John's face started to form.
I was at once both frightened and intrigued . In seconds the cat had become the image of my dead spouse. I wanted to run out the door but John,the cat stopped me.
He came to me and soothingly took my hands in his strange clawed ones.
"Be still and listen." He purred.
"Repeat these vows and we shall be soul mates forever ."
Therein followed a repetition not unlike typical wedding vows after which my grandmother's voice pronounced us beast and wife.
A great joy filled my heart and I grabbed my new mate's paws and began to dance madly around the little cottage.
Wearing my new dress,I accompanied my husband back to the dream house. Strangely,there was no evidence of the horror I had committed against my old husband. I did not bother to wonder who had disposed of the body as I assumed it was my good witch,
Baba Yaga. Finally I have found the love and peace I always wanted.
Postscript by Doctor F. I have visited my young patient in the country and am very pleased. Ludia has adjusted well to her marriage and seems to be very much in love with her adoring husband. Strange side note, I never noticed John's unusual hands before. Rather catlike in appearance, I assume it is a birth defect. No matter, I have happily been proved wrong in my diagnosis of criminal insanity . Case closed.