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Prologue
 
 
         
 
NIKKI HELD HER DEAD SISTER IN HER ARMS, A CAT NAMED MEDEA. The witch, Dima, frowned at Nikki, who was 16-years-old. It was only because of her youngest daughter, well now her only daughter, that Dima attended this makeshift funeral. She should be working. It was 1949, and the great war was over in Europe. There was money to be made dancing with solders just returned home. Most paid good money for Dima to gaze into a crystal ball and tell the men their futures.

Bah, this is a waste of my time, having a funeral for Medea. Dima frowned at the dead Abyssinian cat. The different-colored eyes were glazed over in death and the tongue was hanging out. Dima quickly turned her head away. She felt guilty for having cast a spell on her oldest daughter to begin with. It was for her own good. She may have been just a teenager then, but the mafia wanted her dead.

Almost 24 hours passed since Nikki found Medea dead in the backyard. The girl had run into the house screaming, carrying her dead sister in her arms, the cat’s arms dangling and the head hanging. The eyes were open and still. All the life was gone from them. Nikki had been hysterical until Dima slapped her.

Once more, Nikki cried over her furry sister. The girl seemed to like her sister more now that Medea was dead.

Dima yanked a shapeshifting stone from her pocket and ordered the stone to shapeshift into a shovel. She then dug a small grave.

Nikki dropped to her knees and gently placed her sister in the shallow grave.

The emotional upset of seeing her youngest daughter lying dead with a pile of dirt beside the open grave, caused Dima to transform from a 19-year-old to her true self, a 129-year-old hag. Quick, she grabbed the shovel which then melted into her hands, and reformed as the shapeshifting stone. She clutched the stone and spun until she was once more a 19-year-old beauty.

It was almost midnight at the small, private Russian Molokan Cemetery located at 75th and Maryland Avenue in Glendale, Arizona. There was a full moon, so there was plenty of light shining on the grave.

“Why couldn’t we have a coffin?” Nikki again asked.

“Your sister always liked the dirt. Remember how she would dig with her claws?” Dima said.

“Yes, but that was so she could use the bathroom outside,” Nikki pointed out.

“Well, you really shouldn’t cry over a sister who used her tongue as toilet paper,” Dima said. “Medea was inferior.”

Nikki glared at her. “Medea was a cat because of you.”

“Well, if Medea not been an outdoor cat, but stayed indoors, she might have lived a few years longer, if not for you,” Dima said.

Now it was Nikki’s turn to look guilty.

The moon moved directly above them, signaling that it was now midnight.

Dima screeched and pointed at the grave. Moonlight was shining on the cat, which had transformed from a brown Abyssinian cat into a black kitten.

“Medea’s come back to life!” Nikki clapped her hands with joy.

Dima, on the other hand, was so shocked that she dropped Pompeii, her shapeshifting stone. She again transformed from a 19-year-old-looking young woman to her true age of 129 years old. Her boobs were sagging past her waist. Her hair was but a few sparse white hairs. Dima lifted her head so that she could see because her wrinkly eyelids blurred her vision, not to mention the cataracts; oh, the cataracts, and the arthritis in her gnarled hands. Her back was hunched over. Dima ached with more than a century and a quarter of living, and none of it as the granddaughter of Catherine the Great of Russia. Dima was born with signs that she would be a witch, which freaked out her royal family, so her bastard mother threw her away.

Well, enough of bad memories. Medea was reborn!

The kitten sat up and stretched, arching its back. She wasn’t exactly a newborn kitten. Medea appeared to be the size of a four-month-old kitten.

Dima stooped to pick up the shapeshifting stone.

The kitten was faster and jumped on the stone, sitting on the rock.

Dima jumped out of the way because the kitten scratched at her ankles.

Dima growled low in her throat. “I see dying hasn’t improved your bad manners, Medea. You are still headstrong though you must weigh all of three pounds. Move, or I’ll smack you with a newspaper.”

Seventeen cats, some old, some young, surrounded them, hissing at Dima. Of course, the cats attended Medea’s funeral. She was their leader.

Traitors, Dima thought. The older cats had once been loyal to her, but that was before she turned her daughter into a cat.

Dima took a step back. Medea may have been reborn as a black cat, but her eyes were still the same, one eye being amber in color and the other eye emerald-green. The two different colors were a sign of magic. Medea was still a witch and power still flowed in her kitty veins.

The kitten laughed. “Come now, mother,” Medea said in a kittenish, human voice. Medea apparently had the memories of her past life. “It won’t hurt you to stay your own age, for an hour or so. This is my wish for my birthday.”

“You don’t get a second birthday,” Dima said.

“Yes, she does,” Nikki said. “Medea has now been born twice.”

“Yes, but only once as a human,” Dima said. “Cats don’t have birthdays.”

The cats growled at Dima, taking a step closer and showing their teeth. The cats had traveled with Dima from Italy to the United States, from New York to California, and then to Arizona. Two of the cats were from Russia, her native land. Some she had picked up in Italy. Others were the offspring.

Last time I was mean to Medea, the cats almost scratched my eyes out, she thought. “Okay, Medea, I will stay as the real Dima, but only for an hour. Now give me back Pompeii.”

The kitten jumped off of the shapeshifting stone.

Nikki grabbed the rock and shoved it in her pocket. The shapeshifting stone glowed in her pocket.

“My sister and I know that you never keep your word, Mother,” Medea said. The cat stressed the word Mother since Dima insisted both she and Nikki call her by her name. Their mother pretended to be their sister.

“Well, let’s be quick about getting home. I need to change back before I die from old age.” Dima walked with a humped back in the direction of the cemetery exit.

The kitten jumped on the back of the largest cat. Medea rode the Bengal cat as if she was a queen.

Nikki marched beside them.

The sisters walked slowly behind their mother who hobbled like the ancient she was.

Dima lagged behind, limping with old age. Her heart thumped with worry. She feared that Medea was even more powerful now that she had died and come back to life. The girl, er cat, knows more about death than I do.

As Dima made her way between the cemetery headstones, the hair rose at the nape of her neck. She swore she heard whisperings coming from the graves.

Dima had the gift of token-object reading. Huffing and puffing, on the verge of a heart attack, she caught up to Medea and placed one hand on her fur. The other hand Dima placed on Nikki’s shoulder so she wouldn’t fall.

Dima screamed and removed her hand from the kitten as if Medea burned her.

I saw their deaths, Dima thought and closed her eyes, shivering with fear. They had passed three graves with Dima touching Medea. She had seen how each person buried in each grave had died, brutally, painfully, and alone.

The kitten grinned at Dima. “So now we know, Mother, that what you fear most is death.”

Nikki giggled in that evil way the girl had. “But Medea, we have always known that Mother is petrified of dying. After all, she, spends most of her time transformed into a young woman. She is scared to death of growing old.”

Dima smiled at the backs of her daughters because she had the last laugh. Nikki had the short lifespan of most humans. It was apparent now that Medea had the nine lives of a cat. She had used up one life, which left her now with eight lives. Let’s see, that would be around 16 to 18 years for each life, 20 if Medea was lucky. Dima snorted. I am immortal. Pompeii kept her young both inside and outside, which is how she gave birth twice when she was well beyond the normal child-bearing age. She was 112 years old when Nikki was born and 98 years young when Medea was born. Because of my shapeshifting stone, I will never die.

“Mother looks sad because she is ancient,” Nikki said.

Medea meowed in agreement.

Their lives are temporary, Dima thought, just for an hour or two, compared to eternity. She wiped a tear from her eye, thinking, of the loneliness of the ghosts in their graves. Maybe she should have lots of children.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    
 
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