Mephistopheles rubbed against my leg, and I put Michael's manuscript down to stroke his fur. Mephistopheles was Morgaine's pet or as one person here told me, her "familiar." The chapter on Faust disturbed me greatly, after what I had witnessed this morning at the “Tantra exercises.” Although Michael claimed that the manuscript was not his autobiography, could it be? And if it was, was he the Faust of opera fame? Had he really sold his soul to the devil? Was I in love with a man whose soul belonged to Satan?
This idea on top of everything else that had happened to me in the last couple of days set my mind whirling again. Mephistopheles jumped up into my lap and gazed at me. He also seemed to need comforting. If what I had guessed was true, that Morgaine was being committed to an insane asylum, his mistress would not be returning -- maybe not for a long time. Who would take care of the poor thing? I wouldn't mind adopting him. I decided to ask Michael when he returned.
I gazed into the cat's eyes, one of which was blue and the other yellow, as I stroked his long white fur, and asked, "Are you really a familiar? Or just a cat?"
A thought came to me as though from outside my mind, I'm a magic cat.
Startled, I gaped at him for a moment and smiled. A telepathic cat. Or was I still under the spell of the stuff I ingested earlier today? Well, a telepathic cat was no weirder than anything else in this place. Again I spoke to the cat. "Has Michael a soul?"
I swore it shrugged. Otherwise I received no reply. This business of Michael's soul worried me. I could tolerate the strangeness and paranormal happenings that surrounded him. After all, I lived with someone who was involved in the paranormal throughout my teen years and have always believed in certain aspects of it. But a man without a soul, a purveyor of black magic, went against my Catholic upbringing. An idea came to me. Perhaps there was a way I could test him.
My woolgathering returned to the morning I first met Mephistopheles. I had run out of the house and kept running after my experience with the ladies and their “Tantra exercises.” I wanted to clear my mind of the "mead" and marihuana fumes. Michael's estate is huge. There are paths everywhere, so I followed as many as I could until I ran along one that ended at steep ravine. By that time I was breathing heavy and was ready for a rest.
I sat on a rock and gazed out at a lovely panoramic scene. I was gazing at woods and a small
stream. In the distance, peeking over
the horizon across the
The beauty of the spot calmed me. I decided that I had imagined the floating business. It was probably a hallucination caused by the Mary Jane fumes, "mead" and the sexual tension of the "Tantric exercises." Well, I told myself, it has been quite an experience coming here. The Tarot cards had it right. I had let myself in for an adventure.
I leaned back with my eyes closed and let the sun warm my face. Something brushed against my leg. I looked down. There was Mephistopheles. Of course, at the time I did not know his name. "My, aren't you a pretty one," I said as I reached down to pet him. "I wonder who you belong to." The cat purred, and I thought about Morgaine. "Now what is about you that reminds me of her? "
After a few moments, Mephistopheles wandered away. He headed down a path that I recognized as ending up at the mansion. By this time I was rested and felt better, although somewhat embarrassed about my behavior earlier. What would I tell those women about why I left so suddenly? Perhaps I could say that I felt ill. Yes, that's it. I'll say I was suddenly nauseous and needed to get some air. That settled, I followed the cat. Nonetheless, I soon lost sight of him as he scampered ahead.
However, when I entered the mansion through the front door, he was sitting in the middle of Michael's foyer facing the door as though waiting for me. Also strolling through the foyer was Sylvan Marcrome.
"Hi Melody. Out for a walk on this fine day? "
"A run. And now I'm starved for lunch."
"Great, that's where I was headed -- to the kitchen. Join me?"
"Sure. Say, do you know who owns that cat?"
"Mephistopheles?" He jerked his thumb disdainfully at the feline. I nodded. "He's Morgaine's familiar. I wouldn't go near him if I were you. He's liable to scratch you. Personally, I'm frightened of him."
"Oh." I raised my eyebrows, hoping he would explain why he feared the cat. He said nothing, however, and simply led me by the arm to the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder to scowl at Mephistopheles.
We asked Mrs. Martino to make sandwiches. As we ate them on the patio next to the pool, we self-consciously discussed the weather for a while and lapsed into silence. After a while I asked Sylvan whether he disliked all cats or just Mephistopheles.
"Cats make me uneasy. They can see the dead, you know. Like snake and bats, they're creations of the devil."
"You mean they see ghosts?"
"Yes. Haven't you ever seen a cat stare at nothing intently and sometimes meow at empty space. They do that when a phantom appears to them."
I did not comment, but smiled to myself. I knew cats acted this way. It was probably simply instinctive behavior. I owned a cat once. Right before my eyes, she was smashed flat by a tractor-trailer as she crossed the highway in front of my building. I was so devastated that I vowed never to have a pet again.
After a while we were joined by Father McGuillicutty. He and I discussed our views of Catholicism. I stated that I was had my doubts about the infallibility of the pope after delving into Church history during the Medieval period. We debated this topic until the Tantric-exercise ladies descended upon us chattering away as though they had been doing ordinary Aerobics. I apologized for leaving them so suddenly and gave them the excuse I had decided upon, that I had become slightly ill and needed to get out in the air.
Chung Lee said, "I don't doubt it. Tantra can be overwhelming at first. We really should start you out with the basics. Tomorrow I'll teach you some beginning exercises in private."
"Well I . . . uh . . ." I tried to think of some excuse to get out of it.
Mildred Hoffstator came to my rescue. "Oh Melody may be busy tomorrow. I'm sure Michael will be back from the institute and will be taking up her time."
I smiled my thanks at her.
* * *
After lunch I retired to my room and laid down for a nap. About an hour later, when I arose, Mephistopheles was at the foot of the bed staring at me.
"You are magic. How did you get in here?"
My door was closed and locked. The door to Michael's room was also closed. I glanced at the French doors leading to my balcony. Perhaps he had got in that way. They too were closed.
It was still early so I picked up Michael's manuscript and began to read about Faust from the point I had left off last time.
My room faced west so I had a beautiful view of a gorgeous sunset behind the round peaked Catskills. The sky slowly went through the gambit of gold, red to scarlet and finally a deep purple twilight. Soon I found myself in the dark as the stars blinked on, first Venus and then several others of the first magnitude. I came in from the balcony and turned on my bed lamp.
When I found Mephistopheles staring at a dark corner of the room, I recalled what Sylvan had said. The cat mewed softly, and I followed his gaze. The shadows in that corner were deep. Yet, it seemed that I saw something man shaped that was even darker than the corner’s intense blackness. I squinted to see whether I could determine exactly what I was looking at. It, whatever "it" was, seemed to move. I shivered and mentally screamed, too frightened to let out a sound. Not again! It all came back to me, the horror of that evil incubus pretending to be Steve and how it seduced me.
A sound seemed to emanate from the sinister darkness. A low-low whisper, so low I could not tell whether it was real or in my mind, seemed to say, "Beware. Beware the sorcerer."
Although I was terrified almost to immobility, somehow I sidestepped to the light switch and turned on the overhead light. The sudden explosion of brightness lit up every part of the room including the dark corner where Mephistopheles and I thought we saw a phantom. Nothing was there except a floor lamp that might be mistaken for a human shape in the dark.
I giggled with relief. Jesus, I thought, you've got to stop this imagining that you see stuff that's not there and hearing things that can't exist. You'll drive yourself crazy.
I glanced at my watch. Michael's servants would be serving dinner soon, and Michael had not returned as he promised. I prayed that he would be back tonight. I didn't know what I would do if I had to spend the night alone in this house.
I had dinner with the usual group and returned to my room about eight. Michael was still out. I took out his manuscript and continued reading the chapter on Faust. I made darn sure that every light in the room was on. Mephistopheles curled up nicely in my lap.
The Morgaine Series of E-books can be obtained at Renaissance Page Turner Editions On Page Turner Editions, click on Futures/Past SF/F/H and then on Fantasy. At other booksellers, search on Author - Vadalma. Also available on Page Turner Editions and other booksellers, Raven Lenore, Psychic Investigator, a series featuring the character Raven Lenore from the Morgaine series.