My name is Inges, so you’ll already know I’m not a good cat - no cat of moral standing would own up to such a name.
This is my story. I didn’t write it for you. I had it taken down - the most part, anyway - at the house of a great man in London, long ago. It was to help me remember, at a time when I knew that I might soon forget. It’s very easy to forget, and some things must be remembered.
If you are to read this tale, then we should probably get some things clear from the start. Our world - the cats and the other imps - is not like yours, so I have made some changes to help you make sense of it.
For your understanding, I live in a parish you call Fewston, in a place you call Yorkshire, in a country you call England. And everything I’m going to tell you about took place a little while back in the year you call 1621 - which is the year I call Nine because that’s how many years it was since I was born, and I really don’t have much need of the other 1,612 that came before.
That is your world, not mine. But in this particular year some things happened. Bad things. Things that made your world cross over into mine. And that is never a good thing.
To cut a long story short, I saved some humans from a horrible fate, uncovered a sinister plot that went to the very highest top of society, met two kings, some marquesses and bishops, a great playwright, and all manner of imps. I fell in love, had my heart broke, fought a great battle; and generally put everything right in the end. Some others were involved too, but it was mostly me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘But Inges,’ you’re going to say, ‘you said you weren’t a good cat - so how come you ended up saving the day and playing the part of hero?’ Well - here’s the thing. My fur might be black and white, but morality - for a cat of my nature - is always a little more tabby. Why did I do it? Because there was something in it for me.
You people have a lot of names for us - ‘imps’; ‘familiars’; ‘pets’ - if you’re one of those sorts of humans. But the reality is, we own you. If you’re going to read my story you will need to come to terms with that for a start. Every imp (that’s the term I prefer, but ‘familiar’ is acceptable too. Not pet. Never pet) selects their human just as soon as they are old enough to make a decision for themselves. For us cats, that’s about a week old, when we first open our eyes. In the case of dogs… no, I’m kidding you, they never make a decision for themselves.
You see, the thing about being a cat - or any sort of imp - is that we don’t have souls. Now that’s a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because we don’t have to deal with all the hand-wringing that goes with it - and try doing that without opposable thumbs. A bad thing, because without a soul you can’t move on. When you die, you die. But if you have a borrowed soul you can keep coming back, just as long as the person who holds that soul is still alive, that is. So, our humans are very important to us. That means we need to keep them alive as long as possible.
When my human was facing a particularly nasty end at the hands of some rather intense pyromaniacs, I needed to step in. The others I saved? The other things I put right? Put those down to collateral virtue.
Anyhow, that’s all by way of letting you know what was behind all my troubles. When I told my old friend Vinegar Tom I would be making a human version of the tale of my adventures, he said two things to me. ‘Inges,’ he said, ‘make sure you don’t forget my part in it all.’
That was one thing he said, and the other was: ‘humans are proud, stubborn creatures who won’t take the word of a cat, so you have to show them what happened, not tell them.’
So, I’ll start in the year One, and I’ll show you what happened.