Susan sat back and admired the trunk, now in place under the living room window. It had been a chance find in the local junk shop, but just the thing she had been looking for. It had been a bargain too, as the shop keeper had no key for the complicated looking lock and since she wouldn’t be able to store anything in it he dropped the price for her.
Susan’s ginger cat, Bertie had followed her indoors as she lugged the trunk from the car. He leapt onto the dining table to watch as she rearranged the sitting room furniture to accommodate the new object. When she was satisfied with the new arrangement, Susan placed a large vase with two wooden bowls on either on top of the closed lid.
Bertie jumped off the table and approached the trunk cautiously. He sniffed around the base and rubbed his face on the corners. He prodded the iron work lock with an inquisitive paw then sat back on his haunches observing the trunk intently.
Susan sat on the edge of the couch watching him. Bertie tilted his head to one side as if considering something, then mind made up he jumped into the top of the trunk. The vase wobbled as Bertie crouched down between it and the bowl next to it. He peered down the back of the trunk. Then he stood up and moved to the other side of the vase. He turned round and crouched down again staring at the lock on the front of the truck. He reached down with his paw and prodded the lock. Then he jumped down and started to attack the lock from the front.
Susan knelt down next to Bertie, who was now clawing frantically at the lock. “What are you doing, Bertie?” Susan said to the cat, gently pulling him away. Bertie let out a low growl and lashed out at her. She let go of him but not before his unsheathed claws scratched the back of her hand. “Hey,” she exclaimed. “What was that for?”
But Bertie had resumed his assault on the lock. He had both front paws on the top of the lock and was pulling with all his might. Susan could see the muscles in his back straining. There was a loud click. The lock opened and the lid of the trunk sprung up. Bertie fell back, but immediately righted himself. Susan just managed to catch the vase before it tipped over. The two bowls rolled onto the floor, where they clattered on the tiles until they came to rest.
Susan set the vase down and pushed the lid back. She and Bertie peered into the trunk. It was filled with embroidered fabric which was faded with age. Bertie jumped inside and began pawing amongst the material. Susan reached in and drew the nearest piece aside to reveal one end of a tightly wrapped package. Bertie turned to face the object, back arched. Susan gently pulled back the rest of the coverings.
The package was about 18 inches long. It was bound in strips of what looked like linen in an elaborate crisscross pattern and it had.., “Oh,” Susan gasped, the head of a cat. Susan picked it up gingerly and laid it on the floor. Bertie snaked his way out of the trunk and sniffed at the object.
“I think it’s a mummy, Bertie,” Susan touched its face gently.
Bertie hunkered down on the floor next to the cat mummy, his chin resting on his outstretched paws. Susan stood up wondering what to do with their find. It gave her a vaguely uneasy feeling. Bertie seemed transfixed.
Bertie continued his vigil for the rest of the day. Susan left him to it. She had a report to complete.
Later when Susan was preparing for bed, Bertie was nowhere to be found, which was unusual for him. She opened the back door and called to him, rattling the box of Cat Crunchies loudly, but even this failed to solicit a response. She sighed, locked the back door and went into the sitting room. She picked the cat mummy up from the floor, looked at it for a moment and laid it back in the trunk, closing the lid carefully.
Morning came and there was still no sign of Bertie. Susan had had a troubled night. Fragments of her dreams came back to her, convincing her that the mummy had to go. The obvious place that occurred to Susan was the British Museum, which fortunately was only a couple of tube rides away.
Susan took the cat mummy out of the trunk and wrapped it in one of the pieces of embroidered cloth. She laid it aside while she checked the trunk for any other objects, but there was none. Putting the mummy in a Tesco bag seemed disrespectful, so Susan took her small haversack instead. Fortunately the mummy just fit. It wouldn’t do to cross London with the cat’s head poking out of the top, Susan thought, smiling wryly to herself.
It was almost 10 o’clock when Susan arrived at the grand entrance to the British Museum which was flanked by a row of thick Grecian columns running the length of the frontage at the top of the wide stone steps. As Susan approached the building, she glanced to her left where a woman was singing in a lilting voice.
The woman was singing to a row of seven or eight cats which were lined up on the low wall at the side of the entrance. In the centre of the row was a ginger cat which looked very like Bertie. She took a few steps towards the wall. It was Bertie! What on earth was he doing here?
She hurried forward and then paused. The woman stopped singing and came towards her. None of the cats moved.
“One of them’s yours,” the woman announced.
“Bertie,” said Susan, holding out her hand to him. Bertie didn’t move. He stared right through her as if she wasn’t there. She turned to the woman.
“He’s become a Trapped Cat,” she said, nodding gravely.
“A Trapped Cat? What are you talking about?”
“You have the answer in that bag of yours,” the woman gestured to the haversack. “Clever girl, you’ve done the right thing.”
Susan frowned, “I don’t understand.”
“You have a little trapped soul there in your bag and it won’t release Bertie until it’s been freed. Take it in and ask for Mr. Jeffries, he’ll tell you what to do.” Susan looked at Bertie. “Don’t worry, luvvy. He’ll be fine here with me.”
An hour later Susan emerged. She walked over to the wall were the woman was holding Bertie in her arms. Susan opened the empty haversack and the woman lowered Bertie into the bag. Susan patted something in her coat pocket and smiled at the woman, who nodded back.
Susan made the journey home all the time carefully cradling the haversack in her arms. Bertie remained silent and unmoving. She helped him out of the haversack and laid him on the couch beside her. All she could do was wait.
At the stroke of midnight Susan was in her back garden next to a small hole which she had dug in the flower bed earlier that evening. She took the package she’d been given by Mr. Jeffries and placed it carefully in the hole. She pronounced the guttural sounding words which he had made her memorise, then she filled the hole in. She stood for a moment, contemplating. Then she turned to see Bertie gazing at her from the kitchen door. He meowed loudly and trotted towards her. She picked him up and carried him inside.
©2018 Chris Hall