Nine-Tail Cat

Zijun Fan

People always say that cats have nine lives, but they never know that there are cats with nine tails. I heard the story about the nine-tail cat when I was ten. It was at the eve of Chinese New Year, after dinner, I was sitting by the table listening to my grandpa to tell the interesting traditional story. However, this time, the fairy tale sounded so real. The story started like this.

"Buddha said, in the world anything which has seven orifices can practice immortal, so-called Qiqiao, which in today's world is called living beings, and cat is one of them. According to the old say, cats can gain a tail every twenty years, when it comes to the ninth time, it can arrive to a certain level to become a immortal." Grandpa continued:


"But the ninth tail is not easy to grow, when a cat has eight tails, it will get a hint from the Buddha, it must go to complete a person's desire or wish, and for each with, the cat must lose a tail to achieve, so it has become almost a dead circulation for cats. Although the cat has eight tails, people do not know how many years they have lived and how many wishes they have completed. They also have complained this to Buddha once for how many years they can practice the enlightenment. The Buddha  only smile and never reply." Grandpa paused for a second and mysteriously said: "In fact, I just heard this from my grandfather, since none of us has ever actually seen the cat before. For cats with eight tails, they don't give them to just anyone, they only complete wishes for their first master and his offspring. If you can ever meet them, they would help you make any wish come true.

In the past, we have heard that there was an eight-tail cat in the village, it was said to be hundreds of years ago, a juvenile in the village had a very big cat, almost big like an ordinary dog, but it had snow white body with a thick and long tail. People usually saw this as the king of cats. After the boy died, the cat was gone and few people had claimed that they had seen the cat, and the offspring of juvenile had not only made a very successful business, but also gradually become a famous family in the village. Everyone thought that this is the result of the blessing of the eight-tail cat. But the young generation would not tell the secret of their success and the cat." then my grandpa smiled and let us play with fireworks after the dinner. Then I thought it was the end of the mysterious story.


Juvenile and his cat

Then it was summer in the middle of June, my cousin and I decided to go to the mountains alone to pick up some mushrooms and berries.

It started raining before we arrived at the middle of mountainside. So we had to find a place to avoid the pouring water. The sky was grey, and the air was depressing. I almost forgot it was in the morning. Then I vaguely heard the howl of wolf, usually the wolf would never go out during the storm like this. But my suspicion was confirmed after the second howling. Before we moved on, four wolves surrounded my cousin and me. It was not our first time of seeing the wolf, but usually after my parents back, I never met a wolf by myself alone. But this time, we could really become lunch for the wolves. My cousin and I started trembling, I cannot tell it was because of cold or fear. The wolves were getting closer to us, their hairs sticked together in the rain and I could even see their ribs. It looked like they were hungry for a long time and were long for anything to eat. I saw my cousin closed his eyes and I could not move my feet to run away.

At this time, I saw a wolf walked back suddenly and growl with his mouth, I could hear threats and fear from its voice. Then I saw it!

Its length was longer than I could ever imagine, almost could be regarded as a lion. Its hair was white and pure as snow, it seemed that rain cannot touch its beautiful hairs. Its eyes were like two black agates, shining with unknown light. However, the most notable thing was its tail, it was eight stick tails! I suddenly remember the story grandpa had told us, eight-tail cats usually appeared during unusual rainstorms, and would look for the need to achieve the aspirations of the people.

The wolves were terrified and ran away quickly. The eight-tail cat walked in front of us. Facing to it, I almost forgot I was a human being because it was not like any other creature, it was like deity, I felt so small in front of it. But I also wanted to have it, since it was so beautiful and pure.

It shook its tails and head, had a long body stretch and then looked at us. My cousin looked me and I looked at him, we both did not know what to do, since all this happened so fast. At this point, I just remembered grandpa also said eight-tail cat only would help its master's offspring, which meant either my cousin or I could maybe be the juvenile's offspring. But we were both not sure about this and whether it would help us make our wish come true. Then we carefully asked " can I touch your hair?" Then it closed its squint eyes, waiting us to touch it. At that time, the rain has stopped, and the sun came out, its white hair was translucent under the sunlight. We used out trembling hands to touch the hair near its neck. I had have touched a lot of things before, like silk, satin, china, or baby's skin. However, the hair of eight-tail cat felt like nothing of those. It was a feeling I cannot describe by simple words. I did not know how to express that feeling, but I knew it was very comfortable and light and I could not stop my hands petting it. Then it ran away soon, maybe because it did not like being so close to humans.

The next few days, my cousin and I played with the eight-tail cat all the time and nobody was ever suspicious about the cat, since not everyone can see its eight tails I thought. At first, it was reluctant to play with us, but later it got used to be touched and hugged. I thought it could get alone with human beings. For these days, I could not help thinking about the wish and who was the offspring of its master. Then I figured out it probably was my eight-year old cousin, because I could see that the cat stayed around my cousin most of the time. My cousin and my family were both rich in the village, it maybe from the help of the eight-tail cat, but we never knew it. Our parents never told us about it and what they only said was that there existed such spirit and its legend story.

My cousin and I had actually talked about the wished before we went to bed, for eight years old and ten years old children, we really did not have many wishes. Well, I meant we had but not that big or important. Personally, for myself, I may just ask for not going to school or not needing to listen to my mother chattering every time. My cousin, he said he also did not know what to ask and he thought the eight-tail cat was very pathetic, since it did not know when he can fulfill the last task to grow the ninth tail.

The next day, it kept wagging its tails and squat down at the door. I knew it did not want to stay anymore. I guessed what it wanted was to finish the wish and leave and then repeat the endless practice. Then I turned to look at my cousin, I hoped he could think of one wish and make the cat happy. Suddenly, the eight-tail cat stepped in front of my cousin and opened its mouth, saying "Give me one wish and I will satisfy you." We were both surprised because it was the first time I heard a cat speaking.

My cousin looked at it innocently and asked: "Is it right? All wishes can come true?" it did not answer his question, just nodded its head.   

" Then, my wish is that you can have nine tails." My cousin said word by word.

The eight-tail cat frozen there, its black agate eyes filled with doubt, then coming with full of appreciation. At that time, the eight-tail cat finally understood the meaning of the Buddha's task and smile. Only when it met the person who was willing to sacrifice his own desire and help eight-tail cat to complete the task, it would have grown the final tail. Most people were selfish and they took the wishes from the eight-tail cat as granted, and they never considered about the eight-tail cat's feelings.

The eight-tail cat got up slowly, walked towards my cousin and licked his hand. I saw tears in its eyes. Then I saw it was growing the ninth tail and it was no longer eight-tail cat. There was light flashing around its body, I can see its hair glowing and its sincere smile on its face. It was the most magnificent time in my life. The light was so strong, so the next day, people in village all talked about the unusual light. Then the nine-tail cat walked around my cousin and I for 3 times, it seemed like it was blessing to us, and then it ran away. We never saw the nine-tail cat again. But I always believe that it would watch us in the sky and protect us.

After this unbelievable moment, I asked my cousin how he came up with the wish. " I thought you would ask for more toys." I said.

" I think it already saved our lives form the mouth of wolves. I think I should do something for it, and I know he would love to have one more tail. I really don't need anything more." My cousin answered, he was really calm and grateful for what just happened.

My cousin and I never told the story to other people; we kept this secret between us. Each year, we still heard the story about eight-tail cat from elder people in our family, about how the cat helped people and if they could meet the cat one day, they would ask to live longer.

Year by year, my cousin and I both grown up and had our own families. We did not become the most successful and richest people in our village, but we were the happiest families in the town. There was always help when we need. Every spring festival, we would tell our own eight-tail cat story to our grandchildren. My cousin always said: " if you have any chance to encounter an eight-tail cat, always remember to mention the ninth tail to make its wish come true, because the eight-tail cat are lonely wandering in the world."

One day, my cousin came to me and said: "I dreamed yesterday, and it said it was coming to pick me up."

"Who?" I asked.

"The nine-tail cat, remember? It saved us when you were ten and I was eight." he said.

"I think you just miss it so much, of course you would dream about it."

"No, no, this time is different, I can really feel it, like the first time I touch its hair." My cousin continued, "You know, I am already 88 years old, for my lifetime, I don't make great success, but my life is happy and peaceful. My children are also very good to me. I am pretty satisfied and I think all this due to the nine-tail cat. My last wish is to see it again."

That was the last conversation between me and my cousin, the next time I saw him was at his funeral. It was in the evening, I was in the backyard of the room where my cousin's body was. Suddenly, I saw a strong light shining from the room, and a shadow of a cat, with nine tails. It was just like the light 80 years ago. After 10 seconds, the light was gone and it was dark again. Even though I did not see the figure myself, I knew the nine-tail cat was coming to pick up my cousin. He was right, the dream was right. The nine-tail cat would never forget the person who made its wish come true.

That is my story about the nine-tail cat.