A sequel, of sorts, to all the "Emmet is coming" folk tales from the South.
It's much more about atmosphere than plot.
Martin. Emmet. Ralph.
He was Tom Tildrum, for all that it mattered.
He was a man, he was an office. Immortal, amortal (amoral).
There was life forever but it was not in his bones. It was not in his veins, flowing thick and red.
It was in his power (prestige), the honors of his throne (sick, broken thing that it was).
His throne at Heavensgate, the house on the hill (every hill, the haunted hill, you know the one).
And his cloak wrapped around him in the rain like a pair of brown angel’s wings. A shield against the wet and the cold.
There were footsteps in the mud as he ascended the hill to Heavensgate. Walking up, walking down. He wondered at whose they were as his hand twisted the knob and pushed the door open.
Only the weakly-warm ashes of a dead fire remained in the hearth, but the room was bright despite that. There were the cats (not his, they weren’t; their own, they were, even if they had pledged fealty), and each one of them was aglow like the moon that lurked outside, hiding behind the storm clouds.
“Emmet has come,” they said. Or “Tom Tildrum Bombadilo has come.”
It was all the same. Different face, different name, same… same old man sitting in the same old throne.
“Gather me something to eat, B. W.” He sat down on the old oak chair (throne fit for a king, a king o’ his humble realm), a jumble of tatters, an antique ragamuffin.
He can’t remember how long he’s been king, how long he’s got left. “C’mere, old Mamatoy, creep up here now.” The cat responded immediately, alighting on the old man’s lap and lending his warmth.
(Some people think that cats are recalcitrant. They don’t understand that cats already have a king).
“Another of the come-and-go people came today,” Mamatoy said to him as the he scratched the old tom behind the ears. “
“And went,” Mamotoy confirmed, purring lightly.
“That’s how they do it, I suppose.”
“You didn’t go,” Boress dissented.
“Oh, thank you, B. W.,” the old man said, temporarily distracted. The large cat had returned with a pepperoni roll and two red beet eggs on a plate (how they got along without hands he never could figure out, though they assured him that it was done when he wasn’t around).
He rested the plate on Mamatoy, who didn’t mind at all and would keep the food nicely warm. The old man chewed one of the eggs before he remembered that he had left a comment hanging in the air.
“I did go,” he finally said. “I just came back now, didn’t I? I had to go before I could come back.”
“Truth,” murmured B. W.
Boress arched his back and stretched. He was a liquid with fur and skin. All cats were, even the fiery ones that hailed from places best left unmentioned. “Then maybe that’s it.” He started to knead the rug. “You always come back.” Boress circled twice and lied down contentedly. “That’s why you’re king o’ the cats.”
Martin. Emmet. Ralph.
The old man could hardly remember his name sometimes, between that which was his and those which were held by others before him.
But he could always remember the cats. And the cats, he supposed, always remembered him.