[image description: An inky cat – almost a silhouette – sits tall in profile, a glowing red-orange circle (with curled banderoles from at top and sides) haloing her head. Behind her, an almost card-like scaled golden background, and behind that, the deep blue-black of space. Text reads, “160, A VOID ~ THE SMALL CAT OF BEING MISUNDERSTOOD ~ after the great Théophile Steinlen”]
• • • • •
The first thing she remembers is warmth, tiny bodies crashing over her own as they fought for a share of their mother’s milk. Warmth, and a purr that was the world, the sweet vibration of a mother’s love. The voices in the distance barely registered with her:
“One cat was one cat too many. You can’t keep six of them. Those kittens have to go.”
“The kittens or the whole damn cat! One or the other!”
Then she remembers hands, grabbing her and pulling her away from her littermates, from her mother, stuffing her into a cold, rough sack while her mother meowed piteously in the background, broken-hearted and confused. A door slammed. The meowing stopped. And then there came cold, freezing cold, and wetness, and one by one her brothers and sisters stopped moving, and still she fought, furious, cold and wet and tiny and angry, until again, hands, pulling the sack out of the water, pulling the surviving kittens out into the light.
After that came warmth again, and bottles held by human hands, and fosters who cared so much about the tiny lives in their care, but who knew from the beginning that they couldn’t save them all. After that came open eyes, and light, and a world. A world so big and so filled with beautiful things…for the cats who got to leave the shelter. Her brother, born with a white patch over half his face, got to go. Her sister, calico and striking, got to go. And she, black as midnight, stayed.
“We’re sorry, sweetie,” said the volunteers, after yet another open day when no one took her home. “It’s hard for the black cats. They don’t understand how wonderful you are.”
And she purred, for them, and she played, for them, and she stopped trying to be charming, for the people who came every second Saturday. She didn’t need them to understand her. She wasn’t going anywhere.
She spent her whole life at that shelter, and when new black kittens came in, she taught them how to be cute and coy, how to flirt with the potential adopters. How to find themselves a home. And one night, when she went to sleep, a strange dog was waiting for her.
“Hello!” it said. “Hello, I love you!”
The dog, it transpired, was named Adora, and Adora was a small god. Not a large god, not life or death or anything of the like, but a small god, of imaginary friends. And the cat, who had never had a name she truly felt was hers to keep or claim, had done enough for the kittens in her care, the misunderstood and the overlooked, that they were offering her the chance to be the same. She could be a small god. She could choose her portfolio. She could do anything.
Anything but go back to the shelter, where her unbreathing body had already been found by a weeping volunteer. That time was finished.
She looked at the dog. She looked at the crying people who had been her only friends. She wrapped her tail around her legs.
“I am A Void,” she said, “and I will be a small cat for the misunderstood.”
She takes her duties very seriously. She is with those who are judged unfairly, who speak too fast or too loudly or not enough. Who are out of step or out of fashion, who never get their points across. She is with them all, and while she does not love as freely as Adora, she cares for all who bear her banner. She cares so very deeply.
But she cares for the little black cats most of all.