Cara Stanton didn’t fit in. She never had. She never knew why, was it the way that she talked? Was it the way she presented herself? Nobody knew the answer, all she knew was that she was different. And for some reason people avoided her because of it.
That meant she was used to being alone, too. She at least had her family growing up, but not really having any friends to call her own put a gap in her heart she didn’t know how to fill. She learned to get over it, but the emptiness and longing never truly left her alone.
Now she was here, at 20 years old walking to her apartment after work when she noticed a white cat across the street licking up muddy water from a freshly made puddle on the sidewalk. She looked at it sadly, then made the quick decision to cross the street to help the feline. She made it, then stooped down to its level and poured some water from her water bottle into her hands for it to drink. It looked up at her, then at the water, and slowly brought its head to her hand, lapping up the clean water gratefully. She reached out to pet the cat while it drank, her hand brushing the smooth fur as it finished the water in her hand.
“Good kitty,” Cara cooed, a smile on her face. It looked up at her, its bright green eyes shining as it turned and looked behind it at the alleyway, then looked back at her.
It looks almost as if it wants me to follow it, Cara thought. She watched as the feline turned around and started to slowly walk down the alleyway, stopping to turn around again to look back at her.
“Do you want me to come with you?” She asked, making eye contact with the cat as it seemed to nod its head. Am I crazy or did that cat just…nod? No way, I must have finally gone insane. She laughed lightly to herself. “Alrighty then kitty, let’s see where you take me.”
She had been following the feline for some time now, through alleyways and winding roads. She wasn’t sure where they were headed but she didn’t mind, she didn’t have anything else to do anyway. A boring receptionist job and being enrolled in sophomore year of college didn’t leave much room for excitement in her life. Not to mention her lack of friends meaning lack of things to do.
“Where are you taking me?” Cara looked down at the bright white cat in front of her, as if she half expected to get a response from the animal. Its vivid eyes sparkled as it stopped to turn around and stare at her, and Cara thought she saw a hint of playfulness in them, as well as a smile on its face. That can’t be right, she thought, it’s only a cat. How silly of me. Again, I’m going crazy. She snorted to herself, then looked on as the cat slowly turned around and started onward again, as if expecting her to continue following it, to which she obliged.
They finally came to a stop at a crossroads, and it was somewhere she had never been before. she looked ahead at the two paths that lie in front of her, the one forking left went into what looked like dead woods with thin, leafless trees, whereas the path on the right was filled with lush green bushes, wildflowers, and full plants. It seemed as if the woods were split right in two, one side being still and lifeless, and the other full of color and movement. Cara stared at the stark difference.
How is that… possible? The trees are touching, how is one side dead and the other alive? It looks like something out of a fairytale. She thought to herself, and that's when she noticed something move out of the corner of her eye. She looked down quickly, noticing it was only the cat, and that it had started walking on the path to the right. The cat made it halfway down the walkway then turned around to look at her once more, its eyes flashing the same shine she had seen before.
Why not, Cara thought, as she shifted her attention to the path on the right, It looks beautiful, and I could use a walk. She took a few steps forward on the path, noticing as she passed into the threshold of the living forest. She watched the dead trees fade away as she kept walking, and it felt like something in the air had changed.
She took in her surroundings. I didn’t realize there was a forest this close to the city, she thought. The gusts of wind were a little chilly, the goosebumps rose on her skin as she watched the leaves dance in the wind as they fell.
“It’s beautiful,” She said aloud. Being cooped up with so much work didn’t usually allow time for her to get out in nature, but she made a silent vow to definitely do it more often.
“Thank you Mister Cat,” She said with a smile as she looked down at the animal, but to her surprise it was nowhere to be found. A frown formed on her face as she turned around, looking at the path from where they came, but saw nothing.
She turned back around to see that the path in front of her and her surroundings had completely changed. It was like she was suddenly transported into the sky, instead of green forest and wildflowers all around her, there was blue filled with clouds. The dirt path in front of her was gone, and in its place a wide white marble walkway that seemed to go on endlessly. Cara whipped her head around behind her, and that forest was gone, too. The marble walkway stretched behind her so it seemed like she had been walking on it for a long time.
She looked up at the sky all around her. “Where…am I?”
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Stanton,” the man in front of her said, his voice laced with sadness.
Mrs. Stanton looked up at him, his face and black attire looking fuzzy as the tears threatened to spill over onto her face.
“She was a lovely girl,” said a woman from the right.
There were hands on her shoulders trying to comfort her, people trying to give their condolences. But none of their words would ever bring her daughter back.
The funeral started as Mrs. Stanton made it to her chair in the front row of the small building. She gazed sadly upon the casket in front of her, lilies and roses adorning its lid.
“We gather here today not for good news, but for tragedy…” The man at the podium spoke, Mrs. Stanton half listened as her mind was clouded from grief.
“What happened two weeks ago was unexpected, you never know when you can be crossing the street and the heavens finally decide to take you as one of their own,” The speaker continued, and Mrs. Stanton looked up at him, her face red and stained with tears.
But why… Mrs. Stanton thought, but why did it have to be my daughter?
The man at the podium continued to speak as Mrs. Stanton tuned out, her thoughts too foggy.
I don’t know why the heavens decided to take you, but I hope you’re doing well up there, dear Cara…