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In Shardai, a cat’s death leaves his guardian grieving inconsolably, until the cat returns to earth to find her.
The council of cats sat in a round circle. There were nine, representative of a cat’s nine lives. They wore gossamer robes and the table at which they sat floated in misty clouds, the sun occasionally peeping through to warm their silken fur. In front of them a magnificent white cat with glowing green eyes stalked back and forth.
He rose on his hind legs and placed his paws upon his sleek thigh bones. “I must go back. She weeps so.”
The elder, a dignified Abyssinian named Ramses, gave a weary sigh. “We have been through this, Shardai. You spent twelve years with her this time and seven before that. Do you forget she had you killed?”
“That was a shock,” Shardai admitted, lashing his tail, “but in her mind she was saving me from pain and starvation. The tumor had grown large inside my chest.”
A petite silver tabby, named Lolita, who had always been enamored of the big white cat, spoke up. “She should have known better. I would have known better. We all know Shardai is a great fighter, who fights even death. You would have preferred pain and starvation to the ignominy of being put to sleep by a mortal vet.”
“She knew,” Shardai said quietly. “But she couldn’t bear my pain. She wished this for me,” his paw made a sweeping gesture around him.
A hundred feet below the clouds thousands of cats roamed and played. An occasional dog or horse was visible. Many stood at a golden gate, eagerly awaiting their guardians who would soon pass over. The gate opened onto the rainbow bridge which connected Catarau and Heaven.
Cats that had used up a life on earth and passed on to Catarau had a choice. They could live eternally among their kind or cross over the rainbow bridge to be with their beloved humans.
But no humans could live in Catarau. Some people had brought great love but many more had maimed, killed and starved the feline species.
St. Peter, who respected their no-human rulings, often would stop on the other side of the bridge and call out the list of coming souls to the cats and other animals that clustered around.
The elder rapped on the table with his paw, drawing the council’s attention back to the matter at hand. “If that is what she wanted for you why this desire to go back?”
“Her faith is weak. She is tormented. She will never know if I passed through to the other side or if I will be eternally caught in that one moment when I felt the pain of the needle passing into my muscle then looked into her tear-filled eyes with surprise.” He gave a small cat laugh. “She fears I fight on still.”
“But that is silly,” said a beautiful Seal Point Siamese admiring her gleaming curved claws as she unsheathed them.
Shardai gave a shrug of his powerful shoulders. “Humans are not rational creatures. Look,” he pointed through the mists to a spot on earth that he had once inhabited, “even the dog pines.”
The council looked down at a liver-colored spaniel that lay with his head between his front paws, his chocolate brown eyes filled with sadness.
“Stay, Shardai. I could make you forget your wearisome human,” Lolita batted her eyelashes at him, her manner coquettish.
The elder said sternly, “Lolita, a council meeting is neither the time nor the place for your goings on. If you are going in to heat, I suggest you join one of your love sick admirers on the green.”
The council collectively stared down into Catarau’s lush meadow, dotted liberally with catmint and a hundred other herbs and flowers designed to entice a feline’s senses. A dozen toms in assorted colors sat a hundred feet below the council, looking up, waiting expectantly.
Shardai laughed. “You don’t need me little one. But I thank you for the singular honor.”
“Then you are going back?” she asked.
“With council’s permission.”
The elder looked at him gravely. “You know the risk you run.”
“Once you leave this holy place and return to the human’s earth, we can no longer protect you. If you are starved, tortured or gassed, we cannot interfere.
Travel through space is less than a perfect science, especially for cats and there is no guarantee you will ever find her. Earth is a large place. And even if you find her what are the odds she will know you?”
“I will know her,” the big cat said quietly. “That is all the matters.”
“What if you find her and she gives you away?” a beautiful Mau named Nefret asked worriedly. Shardai’s human ran a small cat rescue. Stray cats passed through her portals regularly.
“She will know me,” the white cat said stubbornly.
“You run a risk, my friend,” Ramses the elder said, his glowing gold eyes troubled.
Shardai swept out his paw. “Look around you. Do you think I want to leave all this? She would do it for me. I have no choice.”
Ramses sighed from deep in his golden belly.
Shardai admired the council leader’s regal golden-brown, black-flecked fur. His ancestors had served the kings and queens of Egypt and been mummified with them when the rulers passed on.
Shardai grimaced maybe there were worse deaths than being put down by a vet. Ramses deep voice cut through Shardai’s thoughts and drew him back to the present.
“We will put it to a vote. All those in favor of allowing Shardai to return raise your right paw.”
Four paws shot up. Nefret’s, Lolita’s, Luna’s and Frodo’s stayed flat on the table.
Shardai felt his muscles tighten, as he looked at Ramses. He was so close. He had to get back to his beloved mistress. He strode round the table till he stood directly in front of Ramses.
The Abyssian’s golden eyes narrowed. “I distrust that look, Shardai. Don’t think to sway me with one of your pretty speeches.”
Shardai leaned his front paws on the table and looked into Ramses eyes, his expression intense, his long tail swishing. “I never beg or plead, though I would in this case if I thought it would get me home to her. Instead, I ask you to remember, fifty years when you died. The boy was what, twelve, thirteen? Trembling on the threshold of young adulthood and he still cried into his pillow every night for two weeks for his beloved Ramses. And even after all these years speaks fondly of you to his grandchildren. The bond was there, Ramses, you knew it, you felt it. You know what its like. There were cats and dogs that came after you over the years but no one took your place. That corner of his heart he locked away and you’ll always reside there.”
Shardai felt the gaze of the council on him, but focused on the Abyssinian, who held his fate in his paws.
A warm light breeze ruffled the cats’ fur but neither Shardai nor Ramses felt it, their eyes locked. The silence stretched out for several heartbeats.
Shardai’s gut tightened and the nerve endings under his skin quivered and jumped. Just as he opened his mouth to hiss out his rage and pain, Ramses shoulders slumped and he threw up his paws. “If this is what you wish, so be it. He stood up, tall and regal, the sun at his back, glistening on his fur as he began to chant:
“For troubled shores now thee leave
Man’s imperfections to receive
With mortals weakened, faulty shell
So shall ye among them dwell”
Ramses paw shot out rigidly in front of him.
Shardai was gone, leaving a wisp of blue smoke floating in the spot he had inhabited only moments before.
There is a place called Catarau, where cats who have died live eternally among their own kind. They are close to the Rainbow Bridge, which they can choose to cross to join their beloved humans when they, too, pass away.
But what happens when the love between a cat of Catarau and his still-living human is so close that even eternity in cat paradise is not enough? When the yearning between them to be reunited once again is so strong that the cat chooses to relive his life again, to face the uncertainties of being sent back to Earth, to find his owner?
This is the story of one such cat, Shardai, a beautiful cat who loves his owner so much, and feels her love and grieving for him so keenly, that he chooses to live again to find her.
His story is heart-wrenching and so real, the fight for survival, the sorrows of his Earth mother who birthed him, the closeness of a litter of kittens and their mother, and the dangers they face on their journey to their own destinies. Not all will survive, but they will meet again in paradise…but meanwhile, for the survivors, there are humans and other animals to face - some are kind, some are cruel.
With a deep knowledge of cats and their ways, Sandra Cox writes a story told from the point of view of a cat that will touch you deeply and stay with you forever. You will never again look at cats in quite the same way. The bonds of love between humans and their animal companions, as well as the love between animals for each other, are a wonder to behold.
I truly recommend this book for young adults, as an eye opener to the wonder of cats, their unique personalities, the dangers they face and the kindness we can show them. I read Shardai with a smile on my face, a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. This is a story that truly deserves to be placed amongst the classics.
Heart & Soul
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