The professor and the portrait cat is my first contribution to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Friday at terribleminds.com. My stories are child friendly, but terribleminds has an adult content warning. There is a key phrase included which is the prompt for this week’s flash fiction.
Professor Saku lay on his bed in his den at the back of the cola brewery, ignoring the people around him. Aurora was concerned about his continuing indigestion, but he’d had it before and it always passed. He shouldn’t have had that extra helping of fresh herbs at breakfast, he thought. He couldn’t take rich food these days.
His eyes strayed to the picture on the wall. He had no idea where it had come from. He seemed to remember it had been on Lord Mariusz’s wall last winter. Some prankster had removed it and put it in store, no doubt. He didn’t particularly like the cat, a furry tabby, but he liked the view out of the window in front of it. There was a sunlit meadow with flowers, and a rainbow in the distance. Funny to have a rainbow with no rain-clouds, he thought. Artistic licence no doubt. As Aurora and her assistant Wagon continued to fuss him, he could swear he saw the portrait cat sneakily gesture at everyone.
His attendants left and he dreamt for a while. So much change since the passing of Lord Mariusz. Well, since the arrival of the party from the Realms across the Great Sea last summer, really. Only to be expected, once trading had opened up again. It had made it so much easier for Lord Willoughby to take his place. Hattan had changed too; a council of elders from all the houses and trades, an elected leader. It made no sense to Saku. Machines, they were the future. The production line ran beautifully these days. He wondered if he could invent a machine that fixed itself before it went wrong?
His eyes opened slightly and focused on the portrait cat again. Strange. It seemed sleeker than he remembered it. Plain black. Like that cat in the book of Egyptian archaeology the Rajah had sent Mariusz one Yuletide as a seasonal gift. Bastet, Saku seemed to think it was called. He couldn’t remember much else about it. The cat seemed to be beckoning him.
Saku stretched, and jumped into the portrait. Clean warm air and bees buzzing replaced the fug and hum of the cola production plant. The scents of meadowsweet, wild carrot and wild thyme filled his nose and made him bounce with the joy of it. His body felt light, all discomfort gone, and his sharp sight gave a sparkle to everything around him. He could even make out the shape of Mariusz, waving at him in the far distance.
He ran over the rainbow bridge to join Mariusz, who laughed and smiled and patted him on the back. They were immediately surrounded by other friends who had gone before. His son Argon and his wife Miriam, whom he had left so many years before to take up the opportunity at Hattan, slid up to him and touched noses, shy at the contact, but then shy no longer as they leapt about each other. Then they all turned together and raced off into the distance.
When Aurora came to wake him next morning, she found no trace of his body. She looked around the room, seeing the familiar disorder, evidence of a brilliant mind. Half finished projects, rough cut prototypes, diagrams pinned to the wall. There was no sign of the portrait of a cat staring out into a meadow, though. But then, she’d never seen it in the first place.
In loving memory of
2008 to May 3rd , 2013