One little piece of history all cat-owned people eventually stumble upon is the holy status of cats in ancient Egypt. One little piece of everyday life they also stumble upon is that cats have, since then, fully exploited said status. The ancient Egyptians made sure to record this on frescoes and wall carvings in temples, tombs and papyri. The ancient maus were immortalized lounging under their humans’ chairs, on tables, on laps and shoulders. Pretty much what they still do, five thousand years later.
The first recorded cat name is Nedjem, meaning “Sweet One.” Which, of course, would fit very few cats, but I guess chiseling the hieroglyphs for “Spoiled and Ungrateful Spawn of Bast who Shred all the Papyri and then Peed on Them” might have been too much trouble. So when I set out to write about a cat in ancient Egypt, Nedjem was the perfect name.
But the cat needed a human to steal noms from and warm his paws on during those chilly desert nights. Since he was, obviously, a Very Important Cat, he couldn’t choose any peasant for this job. So, Ankhu, the High Priest of Anubis, came to life and assumed his duties of spoiling Nedjem. In return, Nedjem has followed him in all sort of adventures in Egypt, among the dead and even in the realm of the gods. He helped and saved him quite a few times because, in his house, he has all the food he can gorge and all the papyri he can shred. He also loves the old guy, but he’ll never admit to that. Unless there are valerian roots involved. Ooooh….
But a High Priest’s duties do not include litterbox cleaning, so another human was called forth: Ankhu’s servant Khemes, who’s left leg was badly injured by a crocodile in his youth. His tasks include cleaning after the cat’s mess and complaining non-stop about him, because he very clearly dislikes the cat. No, he didn’t cry his eyes out when Nedjem died. He’d never do that. Really.
Ankhu thinks he names all his cats Nedjem. What he doesn’t know, though, it’s that Nedjem keeps returning to him, life after life times nine. The High Priest does not believe in reincarnation; such a concept did not exist in their philosophy. From some divine whim, however, Khemes found out, and has assumed the duties of returning the cat’s next incarnation back to his master (Khemes’ master, that is. Nedjem doesn’t have one. Duh). He considers it a favor of Bast while, in all likelihood, is Bast’s prank.
I have many stories about those characters in various WIP stages. Quite a few of them are already published, some awaiting publication, and I hope more will follow. Eventually, I hope to finish a novel about them and an anthology with all those short stories.
The High Priest’s Cat, Our Haunted World Anthology from Whitlock Publishing.
What the Carp Saw (and Couldn’t Tell While still Alive), ASIM #56
Make None to Weep, A Quiet Shelter There anthology, from Hadley Rille Books.
Scars of a Certain Value in a yet untitled Cthulhu anthology from Otter Libris (forthcoming in 2016).
The Last Dues Owed, in Cirsova Magazine for their Winter 2016 issue.
Pinch of Chaos, “In a Cat’s Eye” anthology from Pole to Pole Publishing.
Last but not least: the awesome art you see at the side of this post, featuring Ankhu sans Nedjem, is by awesome artist Storn Cook. The piece was commissioned by the Liberty Halls Forum Overlord Mike Munsil as a prize for an in-forum writing contest. In short, my story featuring Ankhu won, and this gorgeous art was my prize. 🙂