Cat Napping

Out on deck, he looked to the west, where the sky was still showing some colour of the sunset. The Eastern Frisian Islands, in whose lee he had decided to heave to for the day, were just a darker smudge against the grey of the water. He took a couple of quick compass bearings and a sighting on the few stars that were showing and nodded in satisfaction. “A couple of hours should see me in Bremerhaven,” he muttered.

As he prepared the sails, he noticed a dark shape in one of the coils of rope. “Bloody seabirds,” he muttered, taking the lantern over for a closer look. As he approached, the shape moved, revealing itself to be a large black cat. Nathaniel jumped back, startled, “What the blinding blue blazes…?” The cat stretched luxuriously and fixed him with a rather disconcertingly intelligent gaze from its one good eye. Nathaniel approached cautiously. “Well, hello there. Where the hell did you spring from? Have you been on board since I left port? And if so, what have you been eating?” The cat stared up at him smugly, and then started washing itself, licking its paws and dragging them over its head. Nathaniel crouched down and offered his fingers towards the cat, which looked at them disdainfully and continued its toilet. “Well, if you have been here since I left London, I don’t know how you’ve stayed out of sight so long. But, never mind. Welcome to the crew of the Bold Admiral. Please help yourself to any rats or gulls you can catch, but I don’t think there are many of the former, what with me not having any normal food on board.” The cat stopped cleaning itself and looked up at Nathaniel with an expression that seemed to convey the thought of “Are you kidding me?” It stretched again, and then turned around for a moment, digging its face into the rope coils. It turned back to Nathaniel, but this time with a small roll of paper in its jaws. It trotted forward a few steps and dropped it by Nathaniel’s feet, then sat down and looked at him expectantly. Nathaniel stared. “You’re not just an ordinary cat, are you?” He picked up the roll of paper and unfurled it, standing closer to the lantern to see it better.

A few moments later, he burst out laughing, kissing the paper, breathing in its scent and hugging it to his chest. He looked down at the cat and laughed some more. “Definitely no ordinary cat! Well, any friend of Val’s is a friend of mine, so welcome friend, and if you are some kind of shapeshifter, feel free to change.” The cat just stared at him, “Guess not.” He reached down and this time, the cat deigned to be scratched behind the ears. “OK, friend. If you can stick around for a couple of hours, I’ll be in port soon, and then you can have the freshest fish I can find.” The cat looked up at him and seemed to nod. It wound its way round Nathaniel’s legs once, and then trotted down the companionway into the cabin. Nathaniel followed it and laughed as it jumped up and made itself comfortable in the hammock. “Ok, make yourself at home, but I’m afraid I’m not much good at warming the bed.” He sat down and pulled a sheet of paper out of the desk drawer, picked up a pen and began to write. “Oh, my dearest, sweetest friend. I should know better than to underestimate the ways of the feline…” A few minutes later, he secured the note with a paperweight, and then went out on deck, whistling happily, and prepared to sail for Bremerhaven…

Dreams are strange things.  Some are random and bear no resemblance to what I once regarded as reality. Others seem to be made up of fractured images from the previous day’s experiences, somehow taped together into a semi-sensible narrative.  Still others seem to tell a story, a consistent story even, so far as any dream can be considered consistent.  A few weeks ago, I had some dreams that seemed very real, as though there were some alternative reality in which I was not ship-wrecked and made my way safely to Bremerhaven.  It was all so real – the docks, the streets, Katharina’s apartment, the girls at the Blumengarten.  After all the strange things that have happened, and the fractured nature of time and reality since then, maybe alternative realities are possible.  Maybe somewhere out there is another Nathaniel, who even now is on his way to finding Katharina.  If so, I hope he succeeds. It would be too much to hope that he could somehow communicate with me so I could know what happened too.  Maybe that’s where these dreams are coming from.

Last night, I was tired after battling bugs and frenzied thieves.  Somehow, I thought I might dream of that, but I did not.  I have no complaint there; experiencing it once was more than enough.  Instead, I dreamed again of that voyage to Bremerhaven, except it was somehow earlier in the narrative than last time.  I was anchored off the Eastern Frisian Islands; preparing for the last leg of my journey to Bremerhaven.  I found a cat on board, which would have been unusual in itself, for I had no rats on board nor any normal, human food for them to eat.  And, it proved no usual cat, for it bore me a message from Valene.  In my dream, that was a welcome relief, for I had feared her lost when the Nexus took London.  And now, in the waking world, I find that my dear friend is here on this strange island, albeit somewhat changed in appearance. Maybe some day, I shall ask her if she ever sent me a note via some magical cat. On the other hand, perhaps I won’t, just in case she says that she did, in which case, I fear my grip on reality might be shaken further. That said; I am somewhat surprised that I have any grip on reality at all. If the events of the past two years didn’t break my mind, maybe nothing will. Perhaps I should not have said that; the universe might take it as a challenge.

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