Did you ever feel the need to jump off a high place and end your life?
At 18, I stood near the edge of my college building. Not on the edge, I didn’t want to attract attention, and it was late at night. I just wanted it to be over, to let the night take my pain and sight away.
“If you don’t jump now, you’ll never lead a normal life again,” said a voice from behind me.
I started, looking around and seeing nobody. The door still remained shut and jammed in case someone came up.
“I’m Jeremy Monroe,” the British sounding voice said again. This time I found the source, but couldn’t believe it. A large black cat walked up to me rubbed itself on me, and said, “I told you.”
I sat down on the roof.
“Why are you going to end your life?” Jeremy asked me. It sounded like his voice came from him, but his lips didn’t move. He sat patiently near my feet and cleaned himself.
“You’re a talking cat,” I stuttered.
“Oh? Is that all that’s holding you back? Your reasons for ending it all must be weak if all it takes is one talking cat to stop you,” Jeremy quipped at me.
“Are you…look, my reasons are my own,” I huffed. My reasons seemed dumb in the face of a talking cat, to be honest. The suicidal thoughts came at inopportune times and then fled just as fast. They were coming more often after high school had ended. My grades were just as bad, my mom didn’t care, my friends half left to other parts of the country, and I was stuck at this community college.
“So you’re not going to jump then?” the cat asked.
“I guess not,” I sighed. Whether it was because of Jeremy or I was too afraid was up for debate.
“Good, then let’s head home on this most glorious of nights. One of the many days in your new life,” Jeremy said walking towards the toward and waiting.
I followed him, removed the door barrier, and headed back inside.
“What are you?” I asked as he trotted beside me through the empty halls.
“I’m a cat, obviously, but I understand your meaning. You want to know why I’m talking to you. We’re always around, watching you, measuring your strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes we find the perfect opportunity to open up. They don’t always hear us and sometimes things end differently. People are at their most vulnerable when they’re at the edge, metaphorically or otherwise. But they’re also incredibly open to new ideas and things like us,” Jeremy explained.
“Like talking cats?” I asked.
“Who said we were all cats?” Jeremy replied.
“This is all…pretty confusing,” I admitted, “Where are we going?”
“Home, I assume, I’m starving,” Jeremy said, little paws scampering ahead of me.
Walking home in a puzzled silence my mind wandered into territories such as, “How crazy am I?” and, “When is this cat going to tell me to kill my mother?” It was a powerful feeling of elation and anxiety. So much so that walking by a couple making out on a park bench didn’t bother me. I had tried my hand at relationships, but I felt like a failure in each one, possibly because I felt like a failure that led to the end of them. A warm feeling came over me though, I actually smiled at their happiness.
The house was cold and empty when I got home. The counter had an empty bottle of wine and half an Ambien. I sighed, as my mother had surely drank herself to sleep . I had once considered taking a bunch of that same mixture as my way out, but I considered that plan too weak, as I could throw them up while asleep.
I found some packaged slices of ham that Jeremy eagerly gobbled up and put down a bowl of water for him. After he was finished, he seemed content to lay on the top of the couch, his tail twitching on my shoulder, and completely ignored any more questions I had for him. I resigned myself to getting to sleep on the couch as well.
As I was slipping away into a dream of flight in stormclouds, Jeremy woke me up with a hiss. His back was arched and his fur was bristled. A rumbling growl in his throat as he stared in the direction of the backdoor.
Pale moonlight filtered around a large shadow through the glass back door. Someone stood on the other side, rapping on it, a clinking and leathery sound that echoed through the house.
“Come here,” a man’s voice drawled “Come here and get your medicine.” He whipped his arm and a bottle smashed on our cement patio.
“Pick me up,” Jeremy said between growls.
“Don’t scratch me,” I said, picking him up and moving towards the stairs.
“No! We must fight here and now,” Jeremy said. “They know you can see them, they smell your fear, and they’ll come at you when you least expect it. This may be your easiest fight,” he continued.
“What do I do? That thing out there is seven feet tall,” I shuddered. The thing at the door smiled. Such a perfect and inviting smile, if it weren’t for the black studded belt in its hand.
“Think of a weapon, feel it in your hands” Jeremy said.
I thought of a variety of things, but one idea came to the forefront very quickly. Something I wished I had and vague memories of revenge. Jeremy was gone from my hands and a smooth white baseball bat was there in place of him. I walked carefully toward the glass door, and the shadowy creature outside walked into my backyard, beckoning me to come out.
What was I doing? I was tired, clearly seeing things, but I stepped out, my shoes crunching on broken glass.
The man, for I could see him more clearly now, snapped the belt in his hands.
I went for him.
To say I was shocked when his belt inflicted a searing pain on me and I ended up face down was surprising to say the least. I spit out a mouthful of dirt and scrambled up again, but he didn’t swing on me.
“Is that all?” he drawled, and grinned those perfect white teeth again.
I rushed him again, but this time as I got close I saw something else in the figure’s face. Something familiar, begging for release.
My swing hit this time, the hand holding the belt dropping useless to his side. I didn’t wait for another opportunity, and swung again and again. Where blood should be dripping, instead the shadows covering him flew off.
Through blinding tears, I kept swinging as the person became clearer, and finally they stopped moving. My father lay on the grass before me, pristine as the day he was laid in his funeral casket.
“The demons closest to us move in first,” Jeremy whispered, having resumed his cat shape. “We know they are there, and they lurk closest to home,” he said.
“He wasn’t,” I sobbed. “He didn’t beat me though,” I said.
“Like the way you wielded me, sometimes our weapons manifest in different forms. Words can hurt just as much,” Jeremy replied.
“I loved him,” I said.
“You can take this with you, but you have to accept the whole. The darkness with the light,” Jeremy said. “I can’t make this choice for you. Sometimes it will make you stronger, sometimes weaker. And sometimes,” he said looking at the body, “you end up like them.”
I touched my father’s body, and felt something flow into me as it dissipated. He was not a bad person, deep inside. He didn’t beat me. I felt like he thought he was doing the right thing most of the time. But I didn’t have to forgive his denial of who I was, if I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to let it consume me either. I could accept him for who he was.
Jeremy nuzzled me out of my thoughts, as I sat in the dewy backyard under the starlight. His chest had a white spot on it now, no longer the pure black cat I had met on the roof earlier tonight.
“We all have our limitations,” he noticed my stares. “I happen to have a few more.”
“What other things do I have to be aware of?” I said regaining my composure.
“Not all darkness waits outside your doorstep, and not all is yours,” Jeremy said. “It’s going to notice you now. It’s going to smell you, watch, and wait. It will tease your senses, but you’ll see it as it sees you.”
“That sounds…terrifying,” I said.
“You have no idea,” Jeremy replied, and trotted back inside the house.