My beautiful Bengal Cat, Savannah, is still missing. It’s been over a month now, and my husband and I have pretty much lost hope about getting her back. I still am re-posting and resubmitting lost pet reports though.
Our other cat daughter, Tybee, has been acting different lately, not much like herself. She is normally quiet but now is more vocal. She was not big into snuggles but now sleeps and cuddles with us. This sparked a slightly morbid theory/joke. I hypothesize that Savannah passed away, and her spirit possessed part of Tybee. They share the same, adorable body now. This would explain the Savannah-ish behavior and Tybee’s newest napping spots, which were Savannah’s
And I call this supernatural, hybrid, manx/bengal/ghost mix: Tybanna
If that’s not weird enough, the craziest thing happened to me last weekend. My favorite necklace has been missing for months. It is a simple piece, a little, glass, good-luck cat (maneki neko) bead on a gold chain. The trinket was actually part of a set of earrings Nick bought for me while in Japan. I lost one earring and decided to thread the remaining kitty onto a necklace. I looked high and low for it, and I even searched all my stored handbags on Saturday morning to see if I took-it-off and stuck it in my purse at some point.
When I turned-off my bedside lamp before going to bed, I saw a flash of light. It looked like a spark or the shimmering fallout after a firework. It landed between the bed and nightstand. It startled me. I thought it was some kind of freaky, electrical problem, so I looked to see where it landed. I found that necklace draped on the bed frame exactly where the spark landed! Tybee must have knocked-it off the stand when waking me up one morning, and I think Tybanna helped me find it.
The situation and the necklace itself reminded me of part of my first novel, Bakeneko: Mariko’s Dream. The main character, Mariko, is a bakeneko (a demon cat with many abilities including entering dreams), and after many years of running away from his past, his evil brother and the fear of his abilities, he meets a little girl named Celeste. The girl has an unfamiliar, magnetizing aura that pulls at Mariko, and he eventually engages the girl and becomes the family pet.
After entering Celeste’s dreams a few times, he gives her his only keepsake from his original owner, a hand crafted charm made to look like him as a maneki neko. My story of Tybanna and the necklace seemed too good a crossover not to post an excerpt from my novel. Enjoy:
Mariko grinned with a maturity Celeste had never seen before. Was he wearing his true feelings that far out on his furry sleeve, or was he simply not hiding his many years on his face? Both perhaps? Celeste closed her eyes, anxious to see what her present could be. Mariko pulled a small parcel from out of nowhere. It was the same one he retrieved earlier that evening from the alley. He used a single claw to slice the package open and pulled out its contents. Celeste felt Mariko loop something over her head, and she could feel a chain or string pulling back and forth around her neck, as Mariko tried to tie a knot or hook the clasp. Even with special abilities, it was still difficult for him to complete tasks that required fingertips and thumbs. She was growing impatient, and she had to fight her childish urges to ruin the surprise and open her eyes. Just before the waiting was unbearable, Mariko was finally ready to reveal his present. “Okay, child. Open your eyes.”
Celeste looked down, and she was speechless when she saw her gift. It was a necklace with a kitty cat charm dangling from the delicate, gold chain. The trinket was a perfectly round, porcelain bead, except for two short ears pointing out at the top and a stubby round tail protruding from the bottom. The bead had no hook to attach the ornament to the golden string. Rather, the chain was rigged through the center of the bead, looped into a crease around the tail, and pulled back through the top. The tiny, spherical cat had a brown spot on its left ear and orange markings on the top of its head. A dark spot was painted on the right shoulder and an orange one on the left hip. The tip of the tail had a dab of both colors. Celeste recognized the tiny figurine immediately. “It looks just like you, Mariko! This is so neat!”
She continued to inspect every detail of the unique bead. This miniature Mariko was wearing a red collar with a gold, swirly design a golden bell. A bib curved beneath the choker, and it had a colorful hem with a pattern that matched the collar’s markings and the scarf’s colors. Celeste couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been to paint such a beautiful, intricate design on a tiny bead. Even the less ornate details, like the cat’s face and spots, would take a very steady hand to create. One of the rounded paws was raised above his face, and the other was holding a gold coin by his side. Celeste was smitten with this token, but it was obvious that she didn’t understand the symbolism of the tiny cat’s attire and unfamiliar pose.
“It’s a Maneki Neko,” Mariko explained, answering Celeste’s unspoken question. “A good luck cat. These charms bring good fortune to those who keep them. The coin he’s carrying is a koban, and it represents wealth.” Celeste stared at the little, cat trinket. “Really? A good luck cat?” The girl liked this idea much better than the traditional charms she knew of, rabbit’s feet or four leaf clovers. Mariko continued, seeing how interested the girl was. “They’re are also called beckoning cats because of their raised paws. In old legends from my homeland, special cats were honored after beckoning humans from danger. ” Mariko’s smile weakened, as he tried to repress a sudden surge of remorse. “Mistress made this in my image long ago,” he cleared a lump in his throat. “She was quite the jeweler, and this was one of her favorite pieces.” Mariko realized by the fallen expression on Celeste’s face that he appeared to be very sad. He shook his head and lightened up the mood to assure her he was fine. “Anyways, I want you to have this. It just seems fitting that my new, little mistress should have my keepsake. It has a lot of history, you know.” Celeste was captivated by Mariko’s story. It was attention-grabbing, and it was one she had never heard. “Tell me more,” she begged.
The two sat and watched the recovering ocean sky evolve from angry gray to nighttime black to a hazed sunrise of pink and orange, and Mariko filled Celeste’s imagination with old tales from his homeland about the beckoning cat. He told the story of Usugumo, the lovely oiran from a town called Edo. “What’s an o-ree-an?” Celeste interrupted. “Oh,” Mariko stopped. He forgot that Celeste wouldn’t know anything about ancient Japanese culture. Then he realized that the most direct translation he could think of, a courtesan or concubine, was not appropriate for a small child. “Well, umm, an oiran is kind of like a geisha,” he answered. Celeste’s eyes widened with awe. “You mean those pretty ladies in the fancy robes and white make-up?” The cat was surprised she knew what a geisha was. “Yes, child. The robe you speak of is a kimono,” he affirmed before continuing his storytelling.
“She was wealthy and popular, and with that came jealously from the other women she worked and lived with. Though Usugumo had so many admirers, her best friend and companion was her pet cat. One night, the cat started acting strangely. He was tugging at her kimono, pacing around his master and meowing frantically, like he was trying to tell her something. The people of that time and place were very superstitious, and the cat was beheaded, because the people feared that it was possessed by an evil spirit.” Celeste looked upset to hear the cat was murdered, but Mariko didn’t stop. “Usugumo’s cat’s head flew high into the air and caught a poisonous snake in his teeth. It ends up a resentful rival hid the serpent in her quarters, in hopes of sabotaging Usugumo, and the cat saved her. Usuguno was beside herself with grief, so one of her devoted customers made a statue in the cat’s image, to cheer the woman and honor her cat.”
Then he spoke of an old, poor priest who ran a desolate temple outside of Western Tokyo. He didn’t have much, but despite his poverty, he still kept his loyal cat, Tama. One day, a wealthy, government official passed the temple during a terrible rain storm. When he sought shelter under a cherry blossom tree, waiting for the storm to pass over, the government official was captivated by a strange cat. It looked as though it was waving to him, so the man decided to get a closer look at the odd cat, assuming its bizarre behavior was just his eyes fooling him. The moment the man stepped away from the tree, lightning struck the very spot where he had been standing. Drenched and bewildered, the politician followed the cat, and the priest offered shelter to the politician. The two men became fast friends, and the government official was so impressed by Tama’s rescue and the old man’s hospitality, the wealthy man made that holy place his family’s sanctuary, ending the priest’s poverty.
The last legend Mariko told to Celeste was about an elderly shop keep. She loved her cat like a child, for she never could have children of her own. The old lady was penniless, but she cared for her beloved pet as best she could. Eventually, she became so broke that she had to get rid of her cat, and it saddened her heart to lose her cat. One night, the cat came to the woman in a dream and told her “Make my image in clay and place it in your shop window. Do this, and good fortune shall find you.” The woman did exactly what her cat instructed her to do. She sculpted and painted a statue in the image of her dearly loved cat, and business blossomed.
Celeste loved these stories and listened very intently. When Mariko finished, she had to know something. “Mariko? Are you a Maneki Neko?” He should have seen this coming. The girl sensed he was different, even magical, but he was not merely a good luck cat. Though, if and when these legendary felines existed, there was a good chance they were like him, supernatural spirits with more potential than the average house cat. He decided to answer a question with another question.
“Do you think I bring you good fortune?”
“Of course you do! Like Grandmamma said, you are like a guardian angel!”
“I’m no angel though.”
“But you’re not just any regular cat either.”
“I suppose you’re right. You have uncanny insight.”
“Mariko, will you be my good luck cat forever?”
“Like I’ve said before,” the cat sighed. “As long as you want me, I’ll be here.”
The dream started to disappear gradually and fade out as Celeste began to stir in her bed. Her eyes opened slowly, and she turned to check the time. It was a little after three in the morning. Mariko was pretending to sleep against her side, and she was relieved he was there. “I just had the strangest dream, Mariko,” she whispered. The girl thought back on the nightmare and its much brighter ending. It seemed so real to her, but obviously it was just a dream. She smiled and ran her fingers through a patch of fur on the cat’s side. He rolled on his back, begging for a tummy rub while sleeping. She obliged, and his back foot twitched when she found just the right spot next to the orange marking on his hip. The warmth of the bed and Mariko made Celeste drowsy, and it wasn’t long before she was asleep again. Mariko sat up, stretched and yawned. He hopped down from the cozy bed and searched the messy floor for the parcel he retrieved earlier, before the nightmare. He found what he was looking for and opened the package. He held the necklace above his head, watching the itty bitty cat twirl slowly in the dim light. Mariko placed the necklace in Celeste’s open palm and went back to sleep.