Life, Love and Loss
A collection of short stories I have written based on concepts. Fear, loss, sickness, pain, and love. Some are based on my own loved ones.
What have you learned
Mans best friend
The old God
Simplicity of a dying light
The creation of evil
The final journey
6th-year creative writing piece based on a comic I read online the year prior.
A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for three he stays.
First, he was a tiger - an elegant creature whose body was adorned with a mirage of black stripes against a sunset canvas. Within his big round eyes, greens and yellows danced to the rhythm of his beating heart. His body, though equipped with bulky powerful muscles making him quick and agile, was armed only with his paws concealing retractable claws and powerful jaws, lined with fangs.
He spent dusk chasing butterflies and fireflies as they danced through the air with entrancing grace. Their bewildering beauty astounded him but he could never touch. Each night he gazed upon the navy-blue sky, perplexed by the shining stars, wondering how the fireflies flew so high.
I watched over him throughout his life as he wandered the vastness of the land. The prairie had much to offer him during his journey through this life but not the next - only enough to aid him with this mortal form. When his time came, and it did, I asked him; 'What did this life teach you?' He raised his head as he looked upon me with tired eyes and simply replied 'Beauty.'
Second, he was a leopard - a graceful animal painted with the light of the silver moon behind black spots that decorated him from head to toe. His eyes no longer tired as they danced once more with more colour and life than before. His fur once short, now long and thick to protect him from the harsh cold he must endure.
He cautiously leapt from one ledge to another as he chased the snowflakes that descended from the heavens with bewitched enchantment. Glistening crystals captured his attention as they slowly drifted to the ground. He knew they were ever so fragile that no matter how softly he touched, their uniqueness would be forever destroyed. On occasion, at certain times of the year he sat, perched upon his favourite rock and gazed at the flurry of colour that danced upon the starry night sky. Each colour captivated him as it moved across the navy sea as he had never seen pigments so vibrant nor anything rule the heavens like so. Often he wondered about the butterflies and fireflies, 'would they return to earth?' he questioned but never did he find the answer.
Once again his life drew to a close. I approached him where he lay and once again asked 'What did you learn?' Once my cold voice reached his ears he realised it was time and lifted his head to speak, 'To be gentle.'
During his third life, he was given the form of a lion - a strong majestic being armed with powerful jaws and dangerous claws, adorned with golden tresses that crown him king.
He spent this life bending to the whims of mankind, subject to his trainer's whip, preforming tricks for circus crowds.
When his third life came to an end he was waiting for me. I stood along side him and followed his line of sight to a hole in the tent where the star light flooded in. His voice cut through the silence, 'You need not ask what I learned this time.' He turned to face me and continued, 'The value of freedom.'
His fourth life ended before it began. Surrounded by his brothers and sisters, a litter of six kittens were stuffed inside a black bag then thrown into the canal. Their cries drowned along with their bodies. From this tragedy he learned the value of life.
His fifth life granted him the form that of a house cat with a sleek figure and beautiful short black hair.
Unfortunately, his fifth life also ended prematurely as a bitter, unforgiving winter struck and as he took refuge under a large man-made contraption it began to move, thus crushing him under the wheel. I walked over to his mangled body and cradled him, 'What has this life taught you?' I asked softly, he replied with his last ounce breath and glassy eyes, 'Caution.'
During his sixth life he was gifted with stripes he once knew but a new canvas was painted along his back with the colours of the evening sky, blacks and browns blended to tell the story.
His sixth life was spent within the shadows of the city, lurking in alleyways, hidden from the beauty of the world. He stood on the side lines of life and watched as people went by. A vile sickness struck him from the disease-ridden space he was forced to call 'home'. Often his mind cast back to the fireflies high in the sky and the frozen flakes that came back down, he wondered if they were still there.
His time was gradually coming to an end with this illness that riddled his body, 'What has this life taught you?' I asked, 'The meaning of regret.'
In his seventh life he was a creature of beauty with elegant long silver fur and perfect pose.
His owner thought of him nothing more than a possession to be groomed, a prize on display. They used him in showcases and beauty pageants more often than not and then even more so when he won 1st place.
After many gruelling years of pageants and contests his life drew to a close once more. 'What has this experience taught you?' I asked as I clasped his head in a comforting fashion, 'What it is to be used.'
He was gifted with a fleece as white as snow, at perfect length and smooth to the touch. He was unfortunate with his eighth life as he found himself locked within a lonesome cage. His gaze travelled past the metal bars to others deemed unwanted, trapped within isolated boxes for most of their lives. His lonesome confinement was torturous as he soon realised the only escape from his prison was to enter another. He watched as human after human walked through the door and picked a pet based only on appearances and as he was no longer in his elegant form he knew this hell would be for eternity.
One day a young woman came sauntering through his only exit and began browsing with a saddened expression until her eyes met with his, her eyes sparkled as she watched the lively colours dance around in his irises. Soon after her visit, she returned to him with a carrier of a sort and little did he know that he was off to see his new home.
She threw the front door open with obvious enthusiasm, 'Welcome to your new home!' She cheered happily, sadly her enthusiasm was not reciprocated. At first, he was hostile towards her as he did not know her true intentions. He hissed at her when he felt threatened by her close proximity. She offered him a treat within her hand, but he would not accept it. She remained persistent in gaining his trust as he patiently observed her actions as she offered her hand to clasp his head, he recognised the gesture that I once exposed him to and hesitantly granted her permission. Her smile reached her eyes as he began to purr.
Gradually over time, and with a bit of effort, he began to tolerate her. She lay unconscious on the sofa with a blanket draped over her sleeping form while he lay on the cold hardwood floor observing her. Quietly he crept towards the girl within slumber, as he was but a whisker away from grazing its surface she awoke, startling him with a yawn. He prepared to flee but was rendered motionless as her slender arm snaked around him and picked him up then placed him on her lap. His heart began to race as he was placed into her arms, the strangling feeling of confinement overwhelmed him but as his anxiety reached its peek she began to softly stroke his fur in a tender, comforting fashion whilst speaking to him in a soft, tender tone. Her actions proved more than enough evidence to him that she was of no threat to him and as a result since that day he was no longer weary of the woman's presence, in fact he came to enjoy it.
He began to understand what the meaning of 'home' was. She never once treated him as less than equal. To her he was a companion, a housemate, her family. 'Thank you.' He whispered as he nuzzled into her as she held him close to her heart, 'I can only thank you.' Not only did she teach him what it meant to belong, to have a home, but she also taught him to love.
In his final moments with his last ounce of strength leaving his frail body, he turned to me and said in a meek voice 'I have finally learned this lesson.' I nodded to him as he was cradled in her arms for the final time, he closed his old clouded eyes and made a silent wish 'I would like to be by her side once more... if she would allow me.' Slowly his breath ceased to exist as his mortal body went limp, the lowly cries of the woman echoed throughout her now lonely home.
An age had passed since that day. I watched as a mother and young daughter sauntered happily through the park, 'Oh, look mummy!' cried the little girl as she squatted down. Before her sat a creature dressed in a coat of long ginger fur with eyes that danced with the colour of yellow and green, 'A kitty!'
Todd wasn’t a young dog; his fur of charcoal held ashen and snowdrop strands. His orbs that shone bright with the sweetness of syrup had dulled with a foggy cover. It took him an age to fall asleep at night and just as long to get out of bed.
He accompanied his owner on his journey into the fields - once, he could chase the sheep into their pens without fail. Now, he rests by the farmer's feet, panting as though he had run a thousand miles.
A hand reached down to clasp his head gently; “Good boy,” the farmer spoke with his voice as soft as silk, “Very good boy.” Todd pressed his snout further into his owner's touch, he himself expressed his joy with a smile of a sort. Though the corners of the farmer's lips curved upwards ever so subtly, his eyes crinkled at the corners and liquid threatened to spill over the edge of his eyelids. Todd could not understand why.
Todd was the definition of man’s best friend.
At the age of two weeks, Todd’s eyes opened for the first time. At first, the golden sunlight was overbearing to his sensitive orbs. Two shadows obstructed the sun’s powerful beams; shrouding the young pup in grey.
“That one,” A voice unlike any he had heard before called out. The other form’s features contorted, visibly confused by the inclination. “You want that one?” The newcomer just stretched his lips and nodded.
“He’s going to be a good one. I can tell.” Todd didn’t understand their words, expressions, or anything around him, but he felt a bond with the stranger, strange as it may be, and watched as the two faded out of his line of sight.
At the age of eight weeks, the memory of the stranger had long since faded into the back of Todd’s mind - or so he thought.
The young pup lay among his siblings, the excitement of the new day filling their beings with energy. In the distance, two voices could be heard: one that each of the pups recognised as their caregiver and charged towards the gate of at which he would appear; the other was familiar to Todd but unrecognisable. As Todd too began to trot over to the gate where the newcomers would soon arrive, he stumbled and fell behind, resting himself on the soil where he landed.
Two forms stood at the gate: one a tall stranger with a long brown coat and a large hat atop his head; the other was the usual man who came to take care of them. The stranger’s sight cast over the excitable pups before him, unable to see the pup of his choosing. Lifting his head from the little creatures at the gate, he saw him. Todd sat lonesome on his backside with his ears flopped over and his head at an angle.
The stranger stretched his lips and his eyes softened. Strange as he may be, this man would be the one to give Todd a home and a purpose.
At twelve weeks, Todd began to teethe. His gums itching to be broken - to unveil his set of gnashers just another chew away from being released.
The farmer was shocked to see that Todd had not only chewed his old wellingtons, but also the coffee table and a bit of the carpet. He chuckled wholeheartedly to himself; “Just as well.” His voice was cheery as he rubbed the pup's head in a gentle affectionate way; “I wanted rid of the carpet since the wife picked it out. As for the table, it was ready for the bonfire.”
Normally he wouldn’t praise an animal for demolishing property but Todd was special. The farmer hadn’t touched the wellingtons behind the door since before Todd was brought home. As for the coffee table, he would stump his cigarettes out atop its surface - the carpet? The farmer would trudge his boots, thick with earth, over its face.
At fourteen weeks, the farmer decided to take Todd out onto the fields, the pup bounding lightly with excitement - his grin infectious. “You’re going to love it, Todd.” The farmer let his hand rest upon the pup's head. “You’ll be a fine dog yet.”
The two were out from dawn until dusk, with Todd greeting all the farm animals with a sniff to the nose and a lick to the leg. He accompanied the farmer throughout his daily tasks making the day pass quicker than ever imagined and feel far less lonely.
By the time they returned home, the sky became dark as the deep ocean. The sky sparkled as fireflies took over the air and danced with entrancing grace. Todd enamoured with their beauty had never experienced a creature so small and delicate that possessed such power as to glow.
By six months, Todd was a natural. He herded the sheep without a single one falling out of line, he too helped the farmer dig plots for the carrots and potatoes. He truly was a special creature and the farmer knew it.
In time, the farmer lost plenty. His children had long since flown the nest and his wife became very ill. She soon became bedridden with a fever, unable to eat or drink.
The farmer sat with his head in his hands, emitting strained, muffled sobs.
Todd stood on the sidelines, watching and waiting, trying to make sense of it all. Quietly, he crept behind the sofa and over to the stairs. Swiftly he began to climb. As he reached the second floor, he came to a hallway with each floorboard creaking under his paws. A door lay ajar, inviting him inside. Upon entering, he saw the farmer's wife laying atop the bed - her breathing ragged and uneven. “Todd, is that you?” Her voice became raw as she whispered her call, “Come here, Todd.” At the command, he crept over to her bedside.
Her eyes lacked the life they once held, Todd could recognise this. He lowered his ears as a sign of respect and raised his paw onto the bed. She chuckled lightly, but even that turned into a terrible cough. She placed a hand over his paw and offered him a small smile; “I won’t live forever, Todd. You know that.” Todd could sense it, as horrible as it was. “You’ll have to take care of him, can you do that for me?” Todd scooted forward as he licked her hand, the gesture a sign that he could understand her words and their meaning. Her lips stretched farther and a stray tear fell from her eyes. She reached her arm under her pillow and pulled out an unfinished knitted bear. “This is for you,” she spoke sullenly, “Keep it close.” With a final pat to his charcoal ears, she kissed his forehead and rolled over to face away from him as a fit of coughs overtook her speech, and rest was certainly needed.
Todd watched on for a moment more. He watched as her chest rose and fell with each laboured breath. The reality of what was sent pain through him as though a viper had poisoned him. Slowly he made his way to the door, allowing the woman to rest. As he came to the first floor the farmer remained where he left him. Todd picked up the farmer’s cap within his mouth and sat next to him. “Not today, Todd,” the farmer meekly spoke. A paw placed itself on the farmer’s lap. Todd dropped the hat to the floor and pressed his snout into the farmer’s hand.
A month later, the rain poured. Its droplets fell as soft as thunder, but to the farmer and his dog, the weather was of no concern.
They stood with a stone affront of them - the other folk had long since left. Flowers of all sorts and arrangements surrounded the grave before them. Todd sat silently; his ears fell flat against his head. The farmer, with his suit soaking through to his very core, wouldn’t budge. That night they stayed by the grave in complete silence, almost as if they were waiting, hoping, that she would make a sound.
An age had passed since then.
As darkness engulfed the lands and Todd’s weary bones began to ache, he hobbled into his bed. His back legs began to drag against the Oakwood floorboards, making his journey ever more challenging.
The farmer threw a few logs into the fire, a pipe hanging on his lips as thought engulfed him. A ghost of a touch lightly grazed his shoulder; peering round he saw the portrait of his wife upon the wall. His brow creased with conflicted emotions swirling within his head. He didn’t want to admit it, but Todd won’t live forever.
A few days passed with Todd growing ever more frail. Though his stomach begged for food he couldn’t find the energy to lift his form from the bed. “Come on, Todd,” the farmer pleaded. In his hand he offered a piece of beef for his companion - yet he remained still.
The lack of response from his faithful companion sent the farmer into a frenzy. The tears would never cease at the rate they were flowing. He cast the food aside, crying urgently for a response. He crouched down into the bed with Todd and confirmed his greatest fear. Todd was gone.
His final action, though the farmer would never know, Todd pushed his favourite toy towards him as a means of comfort. As he too had once found comfort in that same unfinished knitted bear.
“When I get my energy back,” she began with eyes as heavy as steel. Her gaze traveled far beyond the windowpanes and focused on the droplets falling from the heavens, “I want to walk in the soft rain.” Her vocals strained and heavy. Heavy with emotion and tense from pain, she took a deep inhale of oxygen into her lungs but soon burst into a flurry of coughs.
Arriving in hospital, all seemed lost. Her breathing so laboured, her throat raw. Panic shone through her eyes like a beacon of terror. As the doctors rushed her out of the ambulance and into a room she never stopped searching. They tore away her only comfort - her daughter. She was guided by their forceful hands in the opposite direction. She cried, screamed, pushed, and shoved them, but they wouldn’t allow her to be by her mother's side.
A deep chill ran through the hospital as unbeknownst to the doctors and patients, a figure draped in a cloak of shadows moved slowly through the barren hallways in pursuit of someone. It’s expression blank of emotion. It became numb to this kind of work - dead in a sense. Another day, another job, that’s just how it had to be. There was nothing different about this soul from the last or the next. That’s how it was meant to be. It's just business but every so often, a soul unlike any other emerges.
The figure’s footsteps halted, its destination wavered as the sound of teardrops falling onto the cold unforgiving floor caught its attention. Curiosity piqued its interest as never had such sounds been so late at night, most families of this type of person were long gone.
It rounded a corner where a doorway flooded with many bodies sobbing violently. They were seeking consolation in each other. It crept closely to inspect those weeping: as it peered into their hearts, searching for their cause, it faltered.
“Here granny,” cried a little girl with a grin so wide, “I drew this for you.” The little, old lady’s attention was pulled from the television set, her lips curved upwards at the corner as the little girl, no older than the age of eight, handed over a scribble.
The old woman adjusted her glasses, then held the paper at arm's length to see: “Oh yes.” She replied simply, her lips stretched to show her satisfaction.
She placed the paper on the arm of the sofa as she prepared to stand. The action so simple and yet so difficult; as arthritis and rheumatism riddled her joints, making the movement ever so painful and her joints so stiff. With a grunt and a hiss she stood - she lifted the drawing within her hand and inspected it once more with a brighter smile before she shuffled over to the far wall, above the fireplace, and pinned the creation for all to see.
The cloaked figure stood and watched on as the group continued to restlessly shift. Their eyes red and puffy with tears, and their faces soaked with sadness. It set its sight on the next person in the room;
Two folk saunter through a quiet market. The one pushing the trolley appears around the age of 14. His grandmother journeyed ahead, leaving him in the dust.
Ahead, where the little, old woman stalked the various goods, assessing the fruit with a scrutinising eye. Holding the object of her attention at arm's length, then at a closeness that could look strange to onlookers, she placed the item back upon the shelf and continued forward.
Reaching the fish counter, she looked over the various specimens before her; “Can I help you?” The man behind the stall spoke, she nary heard a word that the man said and continued to brows.
The youngster stood beside her, a tug on his lips. “Granny,” he called loudly into her ear, startling the woman lightly, her head turned in her direction for but a moment before returning to the fish before her. “Granny!” The boy called a little louder for her to hear.
This time around she heard the call and hummed lightly to show she was listening. “What are you looking for, granny?” A moment passed without a sound. Then the woman began to point. Perplexed by the action, both the fishmonger and teenager pointed to different fish to see which one she wanted. Each gesture earned a shake of the head.
Eventually, after pointing at every specimen, they found the one that she wanted. She offered the man a small smile that held a mixture of meanings. An apology, for her poor hearing; a thank you, for his patience; and with that, they went on their way.
The figure scratched at their nape, not for satisfaction but rather out of habit. It turned to the next person in the row, of which was holding their head within their hands.
Music filled the stillness within the car. Within the driver's seat, sat a man with a cigarette hanging on his lips. He honked his horn for the third time, yet no appearance. With an elongated sigh, he turned the ignition off, stunned out the remainder of the fag, and left the car.
He approached the buzzer within a few great steps. He pushed the button to allow access into the stairwell, but to his dismay, there was no sound. He grunted, pushing the gate aside, and strode up to the living room window. Peering inside he could see the distinguishable figure that was her, the little, old lady. She slouched in her seat, her dog on her lap, her cat on the arm of the chair, watching the television.
He knocked on the window with three loud bangs. Startling the little lap dog into a flurry of yips, the woman’s attention snapped at the window to the shadow staring in.
She pushed the blinds aside and recognised the familiar face. In a hurry, she rushed to her intercom and granted him access.
As he entered her home, she rushed to get ready. The man tripped over her dog as it too rushed to find something it wasn’t quite sure of.
Once the little, old woman found her coat, purse, and bag, they were off. She jumped into the front seat, slamming the door with a newfound strength - that she only seemed to muster when opening or closing a door. The man had to help her clip her seatbelt before they could set off.
He offered her a small smile, one that disappeared into the untamed mess that was his beard. She hummed a tune to herself as she peered out the window. Her lips curved at the corners, content with living.
The figure felt sadness that it should not be feeling. Going against itself to gaze into the next.
A woman lay exhausted, her appearance drained, and her hair strewn in every which way. By her hospital bed, sat her partner and child waiting.
A frail, little, old woman clutched tautly onto her bag as her daughter escorted her into the room. As her eyes met with the forms she knew, she charged forward with speed unlike any other.
Her sick daughter sat upright, “How did it go?” She quickly ushered out with panic lacing her vocals.
The old woman ignored her question and instead asked about her own health.
“Don’t worry about me,” the daughter spoke with earnest, “did you get your results?” The question hung in the air like a bad smell, leaving everyone with their attention on this little, frail old woman.
Her wrinkled brow furrowed lightly, almost undetectable. She could not answer, for her voice held no power.
Her other daughter, of which stood silently, pressed a hand onto her mother's shoulder as a means of support. When she still would not utter those life-changing words, her daughter had to step in. Three little words that could render the strongest man to a withered soul, “The cancer spread.” The room fell silent, the atmosphere began to feel heavy.
That tiny, little lady stopped dwelling on her own health and began fussing over her daughter's poor health. “I told you,” she spoke with utmost seriousness, “it’s those vitamins that gave you an aneurism.” The claim was comical, yet, no one could laugh.
It's hood cast over its features, yet the shadows couldn’t shroud its sullen expression. It was time, as unfortunate as it was. The old lass had led a life full of sorrow, joy, struggle, and pain, it was time to let her rest... and so, he set off in search of that tiny, little woman.
As death reached the doorway time began to slow. It lingered at the foot of the bed, watching as this creature writhed in pain. As it gazed deep into her heart her memories flooded the room.
It was her birthday.
Presents of all shapes and sizes were thrust into her grasp. Her expression held a mixture of emotion, surprise, joy, excitement, and worry. She never wanted to be made a fuss of.
The final gift that was placed within her grasp wriggled the box with every movement. A symphony of cheers, “Open it.” They called with excitement that ran so deeply, its roots pierced the floorboards.
Without much hesitation, she pulled the lid off to reveal a creature of fair length fur. Her lips quivered as they were pulled into a smile, her voice failing her. Her eyes began to water as she held the creature within her arms. She stroked his fur so softly as though she feared he would crumble beneath her touch.
Upon the wall lay a shrine dedicated to her lost companion of many years. Though her loss was very new, her heartache still all too real, she instantly adored this new friend. Her love, kindness, and warmth shone through her orbs like a beacon.
It was her wedding day.
She waded through thick snow and ice as a harsh unforgiving winter took place. Most folk would have taken refuge indoors and waited out this terrible storm. On that day she would be wed, and her excitement shown through her features unlike any other. Warmth, love, and kindness radiated through her smile as though the world was the softest place to be. She stood for a picture to commemorate that fateful day.
It was a rainy, bleak day.
The sky howled its melancholy tears, yet the water fell ever so slowly, softly. The little woman sat defeated, tired within her seat, staring out into the distance. Around her gathered her children.
This time, no mask of calm strength, instead she sat as she was - a frail, sick, dying woman.
Her fatigue grew ever more as the cancer spread. Her feet had swollen to the size of golf balls preventing her from straying farther than the front door - most days even to journey to the kitchen was a stretch.
With her gaze staring into the brewing storm, she longed to feel the droplets fall onto her skin. She didn’t want to be wheeled in a chair - no, she hungered to walk, to run. However, with a veil of fatigue and shackles of pain around her ankles, she was rendered helpless, hopeless, lost.
A curtain call, one final bow, she made one last meal for her children and their children. She walked her dog for one last time and gave the cat some cream. She put out food for the birds so they wouldn’t go hungry in her absence.
The figure’s brows creased, it’s features began to sink. With every job, it felt the weight of the world upon its shoulders. It never gets easier, especially in this case. It approached her bedside in slow steady strides: after all, it had a job to do, and it would do so elegantly.
As breath became ever scarcer and her agony increased, the cloaked figure held out a skeletal hand as a silent gesture for her to take. The room seemed to fade away into bright light as she too reached out a frail hand. It’s beam welcoming with its warmth and glow, she felt the burn of her lungs dissipate and her pain became numb.
With her hand firmly in his, he helped her to stand. Below her bare feet, no longer the cold tiles of the hospital floor but thick, lush grass.
Holding her arm as she regained her strength, a coy smile stretched upon her features. A few droplets fell from the heavens and into her head. Blinking once, twice, and then a fifth time, she felt the rain as it began to fall. The shackles of her earthly burdens fell with a mighty thud.
Death held her arm as he led her through the meadow, her final journey close to an end, and never had death felt more alive.