The kitten has no place in this swamp among the snakes, mud, and gators that dwell in the murky waters. If it stays any longer, it is sure to be eaten by the gator already eyeing it with beady eyes. But the girl is on her way, calling the kitten’s name and picking her way through the glue-like muck. If she hits the wrong spot or makes a wrong step, she’s dead.
But she skips over a particularly murky spot and lands securely next to the cat. She picks her up, but instead of relief she feels hot breath on her neck.
“Hello, little girl.”
“I don’t like that man.” That’s what her grandmother had said as she’d closed the door behind the stranger who’d come seeking the wisdom of the local witch doctor. It was the first time she’d ever spoken ill of a patient. It was their job to heal, not judge, she’d often told the girl.
“But someday you’ll learn to feel the soul of the people we treat . . . and his was dark.”
Her grandmother went about cleansing the air of the client’s energy, mumbling about the falling night and dangerous woods and the drunk man with a dark soul wandering in the swamp where it was so easy to get lost. “It’s a shame that no one would miss him if he never made it home.”
She said these things under her breath, almost to herself, but as she bent to light a candle, she turned to her granddaughter and winked so quickly it could have been a trick of the light. The girl knew it wasn’t.
Wandering slowly to the window, the girl opened it just a crack, and waited.
“Grandmother, Cypress slipped out the window. I must go find her.”
The woman nodded knowingly, “Yes, you must.”
“Where do you live?” The man whispers. He’s too drunk to remember seeing her only minutes before. She stays silent. With a tingle, she sees what her grandmother was trying to tell her. She reads his heart, feels his soul. He should not be allowed to leave this swamp. She gently tosses the kitten to safety and it sprints toward home.
She turns toward the man, palms out, fingers splayed. Let your intentions flow through your fingers, she heard her grandmother say. There’s an explosion of light. She never touches him but he takes a step backward, toward the marsh, and the muck, and the gator. He stumbles, loses his balance, reaches out to her. But she’s already turned away, picking her way toward home as the patient gator finds a better meal than the kitten would have provided.