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NINE LIVES OF XEN: Chapter 25, Xen’s end

The final chapter of the fictitious series, “The Nine Lives of Xen”

The baby was silent. I was unnerved by the contrast of the cacophony that had been emitting from the tiny creature to the calm it now possessed. I watched the steady movement of its chest while it slowly breathed in and out. It fell back asleep. 

It woke up with my paw placed on its mouth and stared up at me. The eyes were the same. They were her eyes. I moved my paw and it just stared at me. She stared at me; it must be a she. She didn’t look sad, worried or even happy—just inquisitive. I stayed there until her eyes closed and her breathing evened out. I left the room and made my way back to M.

Watching M. sleep, just as peacefully as the baby, I knew that whatever happened—whatever I chose to do—this would be the end. I would never see M. again. I failed to take the easiest route. If I harvested those precious years I could have … what? Cured her? Prolonged her life? Been with her? It all seemed selfish. I was willing to take an innocent life so that I wouldn’t have to be without M. I was tired of justifying my actions. If I truly wanted to help, if this was really about M. and not just what I wanted, I had to remove myself from the equation. I thought about it long and hard while I watched her sleep. It gave me an idea.

Until recently I did not know if it was even possible to transfer life from one being to another. I heard the tales, so there had to be a precedent at some point in time. But this—this thing I was planning—wasn’t something I heard of anyone trying. I now know it is in fact possible to transfer life that has been taken from one being to another. But what if, instead of transferring life, it could simply be surrendered.

I knew I had hundreds, if not thousands, of years stored up in my little body. Even if they didn’t equate to actual human years, it must have some sort of impact on her. Could it cure her? Would she live for hundreds of years? I could only speculate; I wasn’t going to be around to witness it.

I jumped onto the bed and gently made my way over to her chest. I didn’t know what to do. Was this even possible? I opened her mouth and stared down, but instead of willing her life to come out of her body, I thought about my own life leaving my body. Nothing happened. 

I looked up from her mouth and wanted to apologize. I wanted to somehow communicate I knew I had failed. But looking at her made something catch in my chest. I felt a tugging sensation that could only be expressed as heartache. I closed my eyes and kept a picture of M. in my head. Her eyes catching mine that first day. I felt the tug grow stronger. I pictured her happy and healthy, and the pull became overwhelming. Suddenly, my mouth sprang open and a silvery stream of light came pouring out. It wasn’t the same as the life I transferred so many times before. There were golden strands woven into the light. And it didn’t pour into her mouth; it surrounded her, seeping into her skin and flowing around her.

Then I witnessed my life—everything that had ever happened: the Pyramids being built, the slaves, the Celts, Italy, Rome, Ireland, Scotland, every place I had ever seen. Every fight I was a part of. Every alley I slept in. The shabby man looking me in the eye. The trip to America. Henry, New York, New England. Greendale. The man in the suit. It all rushed past. It felt like I was breathing and exhaling at the same time.

I saw me seeing her for the first time again. I felt like it was the first time.  My eyes watered with the pain and joy of our first encounter. I felt light-headed and almost broke off the connection when I saw a memory that wasn’t mine.

The setting was familiar. In fact, I just saw this but from a different angle. This was the scrap of life I accidentally took from M. I could feel her frustration as she sat in a Greendale office. It was that first day. She sat there and wanted to be angry with someone when she looked down. And there I was. Seeing me made her feel … loved.  She knew. This whole time she knew. All of the sunsets and architecture and wonders of mankind that I just re-witnessed could not compare to the feeling of that memory.

I cut off the connection just short of giving her everything. I left myself just enough—just enough time to say goodbye and get far enough away before the end. The last thing she needed was to wake up and find me here.

I curled up next to her on the bed. I nestled my head under her clinched fist and let myself enjoy our last visit. I left myself just enough time to have this moment, but not enough to second guess my decision. 

I felt tired and there was a strong temptation to fall asleep. I caught myself drifting when I felt a scratching behind my ear. I pushed my head into the scratch and felt a rumbling deep in the back of my throat. The sensation was new and irreplaceable. Also brief, I sprung up; I looked down and saw her fingers working back and forth as if she were still petting me. Her hand was no longer clutched in a fist.

Her eyes, still closed, fluttered. I ran out of time and jumped to the window; I looked back one last time. Her hand stopped its unconscious motion but remained open. I forced myself to finally look away and jumped down from the window sill.

As cats are prone to do, I landed on my feet, but they were shaky. I didn’t have much time, so I headed into the woods and kept thinking about everything I could have done differently. Mistakes I could have avoided. Then I thought about her hand opening; I thought about the life she was about to have. It made that last trip not so lonely. To the best of my recollection, eight people had given their lives since I first met M. It was only fair I gave her mine.

The End

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