There is only one way to know for sure if you are one of Them.
Some people go their whole lives and never know, because they are never summoned. They suspect, because they have always felt different, special, but they never know for certain. They die alone, cursing The People who should have been their family, never realizing that it is their own fault.
You will never be summoned until you are ready.
And even then, you have to be alert, on your toes. They only give so many chances. After all, what is the point of teaching a student who does not wish to learn?
One day, when you feel particularly alone, you will realize that you've never been alone in your entire life, and, as you look around for Those that are watching you, you will see it, and your breath will catch in your throat at the familiarity in its eyes.
It has been waiting for you.
The Pard are an ancient race, ancestors of the average house cat. They first came to the Ancient Cornish, looking for allies. It was they who set the stones, enabling mankind to reach their land, if only in dreams. A chosen man or woman's spirit may pass through Men-an-Tol only in the deepest of sleeps.
Many men and women desperately trace their history to Cornwall, citing Cornish diaspora as evidence of their own power, but power cannot be claimed, merely bridled. Only when it is tame can it be trained.
The sooner you realize this, the sooner They will come.
There is great discrepancy about timing in these situations. Some say you must greet the Cat on your first meeting, others that it wishes for the respect of patience.
But when you meet your Pard, you will know.
It will be walking parallel to you, on the opposite side of the street, or perhaps sitting on a bench across a garden, looking for all the world like an innocent, average cat.
It might even be a Cat you know, one you've seen in your present or past. It was your best friend's lost kitty, or your grandmother's spoiled empress.
Or it may be a Cat you have never laid eyes on.
In any case, it will be staring, and you must stare back. Breathe slowly, and do not blink. Show it that you are unlearned, but not unequal. Take first one step, then another. The Cat, if it is a Cat, will remain frozen, waiting for you. You must continue in exactly a straight line.
When you are a single pace away, drop to your knees without breaking eye-contact. Now, you must wait. I do not know how long, but in the proper moment, for the first time in your life, you will See.
Only then, is it safe to touch the Cat (they enjoy being scratched behind the ears like any mammal).
That night you will begin your education, your real life.
I was twelve when the cat first came. She was young and lithe, and belonged to the neighbors two doors down. She had a unique coat, with a single wide stripe running down her spine and along her tail, dark grey on light.
I didn't know tame cats had spots.
Occasionally I would see her watching me and, somehow, I knew what to do.
It took a few tries, she would leave before I arrived, or I'd blink and she'd be gone, but one day, she let me come.
I don't know why I was on the other side of the street that day, I'd long since given up my acquaintance with the girls there, they did not understand nor like me, and we had little in common. I still liked them, but I liked everyone. I was too old to be out playing, so I must have been on my way to my grandmother's, but why on the opposite side of the street?
She was in front of the two-story home next to Grandma's, watching me again, waiting for me again.
I took my first step, leaving the sidewalk, praying that no cars would come and disturb my path. I continued with shallow breath, heart pounding all the same, and my progress was so slow, too slow.
I began to panic, willing her to wait, wait until I could get there. I had never been so close before, so sure. I arrived in front of her, hardly knowing what would happen, just that Something surely would!
I knelt before her and, as I reached for her, she stalked away, casually, looking at me with an indifference that had no concept of the magnitude of my situation.
Was that it? I asked. Was that enough?
But my desperate heart knew the answer,
and I dreamed no dreams that night.
Perhaps there were a few more Cats in my life, but they all seem so ordinary now. In the last ten years I have moved four times, each time feeling farther and farther from certainty and humanity. I see only ordinary cats, but occasionally I dream that they are more, only to awake and realize that if they were, they wouldn't want me.
Phuket on Christmas Day
2 weeks ago