Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both
Eerily dark, my surroundings haunted me, frightening. It wasn’t night, but the sky was dark grey with only a smattering of light in the distance. The sun should be setting, but there was no pink tinge to the sky, like the dome over me had decided it didn’t want colour.
I stumbled over a root and my hand connected with the rough stone wall of a tower. From the top, the entire countryside would be visible. It was old, ancient, from a time before airplanes and cars, before guns and cannons, before much of anything. Archer slits would accommodate a rifle, but was obviously not the intent.
Shivering, a chill swept down my spine, as though a million graves were connected to this wall and I had just disturbed every last one.
Why was I so frightened? I’d seen this tour a hundred times in the daylight. Tonight however, it was utterly inhospitable.
Despite the tingling in my fingers and spine, I kept my hand on the tower face, following it around to the tight narrow stairs that led to the top. I’d climbed them before, but again, they seemed alien tonight. If I believed in magic, I’d think some was definitely at work here, opening a door to the past.
I almost fell down the stairs as jumped at the sound. My ankle twisted and I slid to my backside, head knocking into the stone wall.
“Ow.” Tears sprung to my eyes and I cradled my bruise while they fell down my cheeks. Wiping them away, I looked around for the cat. The dispersed light made seeing difficult, but I eventually made out a black bulge at the top of the tower. Climbing again, I reached out, expecting the cat to run.
She hissed and swiped a paw at me, claws out.
“Settle down, I’m not here to hurt you. I want to help you down.” I held my hand still, and she looked at it, slowly approaching and touching me with a cold nose.
At the contact, my world spun. The sun flared bright and the old trees on the plain were suddenly young with bright green leaves.
The cat jumped into my arms just as I heard a man shout. “Ho! Halt!”
Catching the feline, the world shifted once more, back to the cloudy, oddly lit evening I had been so tentative about entering. The cat curled quickly, breath coming fast and fur slowly starting to lie down on her back.
“What was that?” I asked her, scratching behind her ears.
She didn’t answer, of course, closing her green eyes and purring.
Once I had her home, she sat and looked out the window, staring into the distance. I had the odd feeling this cat was more than she seemed. What did she see out there? That strange place I’d glimpsed and the angry man? Or was she puzzled to be here now?
“Tell me, Magic, are you happy here?”
The cat jumped from the sill to butt my legs with her head. I took that as a yes.
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Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com