Once there was an old woman who lived alone. There came the day when she was bedridden and it was time for her to pass on.
But before she closed her eyes, a cat with golden pupils leapt onto her lap and and purred. “Oh,” said the old woman, “You are the cat that visits the dying.”
“So I am,” said the cat. “Please do not be alarmed, for I have a proposition. If you become my bride, I shall make you young again, and eternally young, and time shall stop for both of us. The only catch is this: we must meet once every day when the noon sun hangs above our heads and our shadows remain below our shoulders. Any time before or after we must part, or misfortune will befall us both.”
And so the old woman agreed and married the cat, and she became young again. Her husband the cat took her to a beautiful palace with golden gates and an endless meadow of flowers. Human servants bowed before her and fulfilled her every need and want. And every day, when the sun hung above their heads and their shadows remained below their shoulders, the cat and his wife met. He sat on her lap as her fingers combed through his fur, and he told the most marvelous of tales that enthralled her. And every day they parted, she to her palace, and he to the lonely tower that no one else may enter. Many, many years passed like this, and neither the woman nor the cat ever aged.
But as years stretched on, the woman began to yearn for the cat’s company more and more. Noon was never long enough, but out of respect she heeded the cat’s conditions.
Until one afternoon on the last day of autumn, the woman could not stand it any longer. The days grew shorter as winter approached, and she longed to be with her husband.
“Perhaps,” she thought, “If I accompany him for just one night, it would be alright. I will be quiet so not to wake him and he will never know that I was there.” She followed her plan and that night she stole silently into the cat’s tower.
When she entered the cat’s chambers, however, she was surprised to find a young man sleeping there, and she let out a small gasp. The man awoke and looked at her with sad, golden eyes. “Do not be alarmed, love,” he said, “Long ago, I was cursed to live as a cat, and to live forever I must marry those who are dying and keep them in my palace for eternity. Eight times I have done this for the sake of eternal youth, and eight times I have been betrayed. This is the ninth, for you have broken the deal that my curse dictates. Goodbye.”
And the woman woke up in her own home, old and weak, with no one around. Her heart ached, saddened by how she betrayed him, and how he betrayed her. For days she could not rise for food nor water, and she flickered between life and death.
One winter’s night, she was lying in bed when she felt something settling gently next to her.
“Why are you here?” she whispered to the cat with golden eyes.”I have broken our promise and cannot help you anymore. Go marry some else… and please… treat them well, and live long, and be happy.”
But the cat stayed. He said, “Life without you is nothing. An eternal life without you is eternal nothingness. For my time with you was different from my lives before when I married only to exist… but you made me live. Please forgive me for my shallowness and let me live with you one last time.”
She forgave him, for what he had said to her, she wanted to say to him. And together they lived this last life.