The cat of the family had died. It had died of pure old age. This event, so common in many other places, entailed a practice which was out of the ordinary for most mortals, since that family, as the house itself, was far from normal.
The building, odd and deformed, had been enlarged over countless years with the addition of several rooms and annexes. But this chaotic succession of new wings and floors respected a norm: to keep the East side always unaltered, where sunrise takes place and sunset never shows.
There they stood, all gathered, beholding the soft bunch of hair which no longer ran, played or breathed. Death had come to it, fatefully laying the shadow of oblivion upon its body. Deeply affected by the experience of death, everybody was pondering about the lives they were leading and the magnitude of the inexistence mirrored in the memory that gripped each and every one of them. Their worst nightmare was as real as life itself, but they had managed to bring it to a stop.
After clearing the dining room table of utensils and food, the members of the family gathered around it, as they did every time something of that nature occurred. After placing the cat in the centre of the huge cedar board, they began reflecting on its life. Obviously each one had had good and bad times with the animal, as it was a volatile and irrational being, but generally they believed it had been a pleasant company, and more importantly, they thought it had been of great help in keeping that huge house free from vermin. Once each member announced their vote, it was decided that the cat should be part of the family, thus binding its life and death to that place for ever. It had earned it.
After the verdict, it was the one who seemed to be the youngest of the family who, fulfilling his role, got up and went out of the house through the thick wooden door that was the only external opening in the whole floor. Upstairs there were narrow windows which lit the different rooms. He only carried a small spade in his hands, nothing else. He walked a fair distance until he got to the wall where the day begins, and went under the veranda that kept that corner from direct sunlight, stopping after he counted twenty feet. There he bent over and drove the object into the ground, taking a big spadeful of earth with each stroke. He did not need much effort to accomplish his goal: infants’ bones are never buried very deep. He looked in the jumble for the skull of one of the children who had died to lengthen their lives. He took it and then covered the anonymous grave that is given to those who die without having been consecrated with a name. Back inside, he put the spade in a large chest and then placed the skull on the table, where the rest of the family patiently awaited his return.
An old man then took active part in the newly initiated rite. His aged face did not seem to match the strength of his legs, since he showed a vitality that seemed to go against the age that the eyes of a stranger would have assumed, although it must be said that whichever such assumption had been, it would have been far from correct. Just a few steps took him to one of the wardrobes that abounded in every room. He opened it and got hold of a fairly big ball of what apparently was wax. It was made from one only taper, whose thinness allowed it to be rolled up, unlike regular candles. He put it on the table and cut a large piece from it, tying it around the skull through the different holes. A woman then put the skull inside a bronze basin and poured a spoonful of a rare type of oil on it. Meanwhile, everybody intoned a strange guttural chant that they repeated endlessly, sinking the place in absolute darkness that was beyond time and understanding. In the end, the darkness exploded in an incredibly blinding flash of light and the cat came back to life, first meowing frightened and running away terrified moments later. It would be back soon.
On the table there lay the basin, but its contents had been altered. The bone of the skull had become pure crystal. Everything had turned out well; the rite had been successfully performed once again. They took the strange residue and walked to one of the wardrobes, opening it and exhibiting dozens of skulls exactly like that one.
Life and death are linked for all of us, since we die because of having lived and we live because one day we will die. But perhaps the ties that bind both ends have been altered in that place, for on the left side of that gloomy wall, eleven generations share something more than a cult and a home, where death is a blank spot in memory, a flash, and nothing more.