This story is by Nancy Ruan and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I cannot let this cat get away.
It must have been at least 10 minutes since I started this wild goose—cat chase, and all I am doing is blindly chasing. I have no idea how I ended up in this park and only noticed now that it has become nighttime. If I didn’t know that I hadn’t been regularly running for far too long ago, today definitely tells me this as my knees want to give out more and more with each step I take.
Light rain has started falling, and I know for sure that the journey is going to take me somewhere. I must keep going. This pursuit is aligning with the family legend that my mom tells me while growing up. A legend that has been passed down for generations. That if I stay out too late, especially on a rainy night, the family cat, a black cat with a cloudy white patch on its back, will lead me to a place far away and would never be able to come back here.
This must be a signal from her somehow. Tomorrow would be the first anniversary since her passing and…how I really want to see her so badly. I had brushed off her concerns for me the last time I saw her, and I really wish I could have told her “I love you” and have said a proper goodbye.
The only problem is that I do not remember exactly how it ends from here. The rain becomes heavier as I try to avoid slipping but it seems the gap is only growing bigger. I take another step and my ankle buckles under the pressure, as if my body is punishing me for pushing it so far. I fall and fail to remember how to fall safely in time before my body collides with the floor before seeing darkness.
“Why is this place so misty?”
Where can I possibly be? This place is shrouded with what I imagine clouds would be like. There is literally no path. Everything is wide open. So this is the place that we would have ended up in if we stayed out too late as kids.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don’t feel any pain. Nothing aches, and I can run without my knees cracking and with no worries. I feel a sense of vitality that I have not felt in a long time. Like I was sent back in time and feel-
“Reminds me of when you were a kid.”
Time freezes. Absolutely freezes like winter winds blowing against my back.
Someone has got to be playing a trick on me, because…there is no way. Just no way I would forget her voice.
“Nadine…it is me.”
I slowly turn around to see that…it is her. And I swear it was the cat I saw who is by her side. I had told myself that I would never forget her voice. Recently though, I started having doubts about whether I really remember how she sounded like, but here she is.
She looks over toward the cat and smiles before thanking them.
“Remember that you only got a few minutes.”
I watch the cat disappear, leaving the two of us alone. What should have started with fond hello’s and “I miss you, it’s been so long” was instead silence. I am happy to see her after so long but am very lost for words about how this situation came to be in the first place.
“You remembered the legend.”
How could I forget? It was one of the reasons why I never stayed out past dark even into college. It is the very reason I even chased after that cat before landing here. I also realize that…I have no idea what is going to happen now. Am I going to die now?
I want to speak but it is difficult to even breathe, let alone talk, so I can only nod.
“You’re not going to die.” She opens her arm for me. “I wanted to check on you, so I asked our family cat to help me find you.”
She doesn’t need to say anything as I run into her arms for a hug. I still am congested from all these emotions, but I still say “I missed you” even if it sounds like a garbled mess.
“I’ve missed you too.”
There are so many things I want to say to her, at least I thought there were, but I cannot pull myself together fast enough to remember any of the burning questions I may have had.
My voice hoarse, I couldn’t hold back the tears as they continued spilling.
“I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
“I know.” Her hands continue rubbing my shoulders in comfort.
“…I know.” There isn’t much time left as I feel her hug tightening around me.
“I’m glad I got to see you—We, are doing okay.”
“That’s all I can wish for.” I feel her kiss on my forehead and wish this moment can last longer.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there longer for you over there.”
“It’s okay, mom…” I push through the additional rush of sadness. I hold onto her tighter.
“You tried your best.”
We say our “I love you’s” before the cat reappears behind her, and I know it is time for us to part.
“Say hi to everyone for me. And for them to take care.” She turns to follow the cat as I nod in response.
“Take care too…mom. Thank you.”
They disappear from my sight as we whisper our last goodbyes, and I feel a heavy weight lift from my heart as the world turns into darkness once again.
Saying goodbye really is what I needed the most. And my life continues to go on.