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“Other Side of the Fence” – Fiction by Anna Tizard

Chat au Clair de Lune - Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, circa 1900
Chat au Clair de Lune – Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, circa 1900

 Anna Tizard‘s “Other Side of the Fence,” from our Summer 2014 issue, shows us the world through the eyes of a feline figure with a curious past who traverses the boundaries between the mundane and the magically macabre.

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“Nick. It’s a misty night. Come on.”

“Nah, nah – it was her mist. I saw it rise. She’s a shape-shifter, I’m telling you.”

“Yeah. Just like that frog the other night from the pond at number six. Right idiot you made of us, getting caught in that hedge! I’m still picking thorns out of my sweater…”

The voices faded, muffled by the mist as I eased through a gap in the fence and shuddered the woody grit off my fur. Fences: most human folk just see barriers, separating devices. Opportunities, gaps, hidden places, perhaps a high viewing post; these are the fences held in the eyes of cats, immortals, and perhaps those two chasers back there, human by the look of it, their eyes widened by a preternatural curiosity.

If there was still a trace of my own mist clinging to my back legs, I wouldn’t have known it. I was too distracted by the sponginess of the grass beneath my paws, the newness of it all. The lowness of the twilight sky, a blanket of slate-grey with just a glimmer of blue and pink in it, swallowing everything into itself. To sniff the air was to have those colours wash through me, the scent of rain one and the same thing as my anticipation, and that first pinch of hunger.

At the tremor of those clumsy footsteps behind me I scattered up a tree, startled by my own agility, until those booming voices moved off, still bickering. For the first few hours of my life as a cat I didn’t test out my new dexterity but sat tensed as a watchman over those rows of rectangular gardens as the shadows unfolded themselves like some ancient leather-bound book falling open over everything.

This is the way I have learned to remember it, running a claw over the past. At the time I didn’t have enough experience of old books, blankets, or even humans to see it quite that way. But age and experience can help you piece together what was violent, fragmented, nothing more than imprints in the mud quickly filling up with rainwater.

What little I did know at that time spun back to me soon enough, though, shivering the very dew off my back as I dug my nerves deep into the branch beneath me.

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