I wasn't at all surprised to hear him speak. He'd always done his best to communicate, approximating multi-syllable words like "hungry." I picked him up and stroked his fur. It was all smoothed down, almost as if wet, because he'd been swimming through the dark beyond. His eyes were wild with what he'd seen, or what he'd been unable to see. I petted him and called him "my kitty" and "old fuzzyhead" the way I used to.
All I could think of was how I'd been mourning the recent loss of my other cat, the last one, and how I'd been feeling alone. "How could I think that when I'll always have you?" I asked him.
On waking I took him with me, a small warm presence who will always be at my side. Once I wrote this about him:
My cat has nightmares. This I know by how
he lifts his head from slumber, turns it side
to side while blinking, body still supine
as if still sleeping from the neck on down.
I know it by the way he issues forth
a plaintive call as if say where am I?
or to bring me to his side the way
a child beckons parents in the fearsome
dark. I know it, too, by how he likes
to be picked up, embraces me, and rests
his head upon my shoulder, softly purrs
as if to say it all was just a dream.
What could so strain a feline mind is likely
something I will never know. I wonder,
does he see his sister's death, the shining
chrome that knocked the life from out her head
the way a flame, when blown, departs the candle?
Or is it just some rival beast, a dog
perhaps, or nasty tom, who plagues his rest?
His brain, all cerebellum, no cerebrum,
lacks the convolution needed for
such pondering. He seeks alone the comfort
I provide, then lies content, far more
at peace than you or I will ever be.