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Yowl of Yowls

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There are many, many books in Aziraphale’s collections. The front rooms are utterly filled[1] with rare and unusual books both new[2] and old. Not that he would choose to part with any of his books without first engaging in a struggle with the potential customer bordering on getting involved in a land war in Asia, but there are some in his collection that he loves to the point of covetousness, even after actually owning them.[3]

 

Crowley delights in stealing rare books from the collections of people who bought books speculatively for the resale value instead of for the pleasure of owning them, and then particularly delights in gifting them to Aziraphale.[4] Aziraphale, for his part, firmly pretends to believe Crowley when he tells him that that he’d just happened to find each one in an estate sale or at the back of a charity shop or left behind on the tube.

 

There is a special chest at the back of the shop’s attic that not even Crowley knows about. Not that Crowley would be much interested in most of the contents - he’d been there for the collection of most of it, but then he’s never had much interest in human records and fictions, and definitely not in Bibles, which is a curious mix of both. But Aziraphale keeps them all to himself, just the same.

 

This chest contains Aziraphale’s collection of Infamous Bibles, the best known of which were the Unrighteous Bible, the Wicked Bible, the Discharge Bible, the Treacle Bible, the Standing Fishes Bible, the Charing Cross Bible, and the second rarest, the Bugger Alle This Bible.[5] If there was ever going to be a Bible that Crowley would appreciate, it would absolutely be one with an indelicate error.

 

The prize jewel of the collection is, paradoxically, so special precisely because it is alone in what it had not gotten wrong. It was what would have been known, had anyone but Aziraphale himself known about it, as the Feline Bible.

 

The Feline Bible’s chapters and verses had been (mostly) copied faithfully by an Orkneyan monk under the influence of both a longer than average Scottish winter and an exceptionally powerful affection for an enormous grey cat named Solomon, his only source of companionship and warmth in the scriptorium during many a lonely day of copying. Solomon would mewl piteously from the floor until he was allowed to jump up, curl up on the appreciative monk’s lap, and go to sleep for five or six hours.

 

This monk had written a noticeably different version of the Song of Songs in the otherwise perfectly copied Bible he was working on that year.[6] Aziraphale, passing through after miracling a barren rock into a green field, had stopped by the monastery and fallen in love immediately. He’d had to bless two springs into perpetually being hot enough for a nice bath in January, cure the withered hand of the abbey’s best illuminator, and promise a sainthood to a member of the abbey in order to distract the abbot enough to give it to him as a precious souvenir. He hadn’t actually thought that last one was going to happen in the abbot’s lifetime, but as we shall see, it was already a done deal.

 

Now, as for the reason why Aziraphale had simply had to possess that particular Bible - it is a truth universally acknowledged that humans get an awful lot wrong: they are not the centre of the solar system; the earth is not flat; vaccines work; and cilantro is not a garnish but is instead a poison. But the greatest and most incorrect anthrocentric assumption in all of history, a mistaken premise which most flies in the face of conventional religious dogma,[7] is that humans were made in God’s image.

 

The Almighty is, of course, utterly incomprehensible to any mortal mind, but in a universe that contained quasars, axolotls, and ducks, one form was pretty much as likely as another. It wasn’t axolotls. It wasn’t ducks. It definitely wasn’t humans.

 

It was cats.

 

The Egyptians had been one of the Lord’s favourite civilizations due to their extreme veneration of cats.[8] They had actually got it right, 4500 years ago, but as the hieroglyphs were neither uncovered in a timely fashion nor translated correctly once they were, the world turned on in ignorant misconception, much as it always has and always will.

 

This is also the reason that demons take the form of cold and slimy things - frogs, lizards, chameleons, fish, flies, and, well, snakes - creatures that are reviled and despised by humans, creatures that are hunted and killed by angels and cats alike, creatures which spend their existences in the undergrown depths and in cool caves and in water.[9]

 

Another thing humans have got the wrong way round: Hell isn’t hot. Hell is damp. Hell is clammy. Hell is… moist. Keeping a bathtub around in the throne room is both recreational for the senior demons and a convenient extremely amusing torture device for any captured angels.

 

Would you like a peek at this lost chapter? Would you like to glimpse the face of God in the face of a little whiskery muzzle?

 

Let us use our powers of readerly insight to peek into Aziraphale’s bookshop and read this lost volume to satisfy our curiosity.[10] Satisfaction, as we all know, has the power of resurrection[11] for those who indulge:

 

 

An Alternate Song of Songs

 

O groom me with the lashes of your tongue!

For your love is better than cream.

 

Your cheek oils are fragrant;

your scent is poured out against the calves of your beloved;

therefore wise people love you.

 

Lead me after you; let us curl up together.

The wise woman has brought me into her cottage.

 

I am very dark, and lovely,

O sons and daughters of queens,

like the void in which the stars are hung,

like the curtains of the night.

 

Tell me, you whom my soul loves,

where you groom your nether eye,

where you lie down at noon;

for why should I be like one who licks herself

beside the plates of your companions?

 

If you do not know,

O most beauteous among felines,

Let me sing of your glory in the moonlight.

 

I compare you, my love,

to a lion among the beasts of the fields.

Your cheeks are lovely with whiskers,

your neck with a ruff shining like jewels.

 

The wise woman will make for you ornaments of gold,

studded with silver.

 

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;

behold, you are beautiful;

your eyes are doves.

 

Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.

Our couch is soft and warm;

 

the beams of our house are cedar,

and good for clawing;

our rafters are pine,

and good for clawing.

 

I am a cat of Sharon,

the catnip of the valley.

 

Sustain me with chicken;

refresh me with egg,

for I am sick with shed hair.

 

His tail is under my head,

and his right paw lies across me!

 

I adjure you, O sons and daughters of queens,

by the hedgehogs and frogs of the field,

that you not stir up or awaken my love

until he becomes hungered

or the sun moveth in the sky.

 

The yowl of my beloved!

Behold, he comes,

leaping over the hedges,

bounding across the fences.

 

My beloved is like a frog

or a young lion.

Behold, there he stands

Atop our wall,

gazing through the windows,

Poking a paw through the lattice.

 

My beloved meows and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my sleek one,

and come away,

for behold, the snow time is past;

the rain is over and gone.

 

The grass appears on the earth,

the time of yowling has come,

and the voice of the flightless dove

is heard in our yard."

 

My beloved is mine, and I am his;

he grazes my chin as I graze his.

 

On the wise woman’s bed by night

I sought him whom my soul loves;

I sought him, but found him not.

 

I will rise now and meow about the city,

in the streets and in the squares;

I will seek him whom my soul loves.

I mewled for him, but found him not.

 

The watchmen found me

as they went about in the city.

“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

They chased me and threw their shoes at me

They pursued me with brooms

They set their dogs upon me.

 

Scarcely had I escaped them

when I found him whom my soul loves.

I pounced upon him, and would not let him go

until I had led him into the wise woman’s house,

and into the chamber of her who feeds me.

 

Behold, you are beautiful, my love,

behold, you are beautiful!

Your eyes are peridots

Big like the sun.

Your fur is like a flock of sparrows

Leaping after seeds in the grass.

 

Your teeth are like sharp needles

that do not bite during washing.

 

Your lips are furred with a silver sheen,

and your mouth is lovely.

Your cheeks are like halves of an egg

Under your whiskers.

 

You have captivated my heart, my tom, my queen;

you have captivated my heart with one glance of your golden eyes,

with one flick of your ear.

 

How beautiful is your love, my tom, my queen!

How much better is your love than milk,

and the fragrance of your cheek oils than any spice!

 

Let my beloved come to his garden,

and eat its choicest birds.

 

My beloved is radiant and bright,

distinguished among ten thousand.

 

His head is the finest gold;

his locks are wavy,

White as a dove.

 

His eyes are like fresh pools

Or running streams of water,

bathed in milk,

sitting in a sunlit patch of grass.

 

His mouth is most sweet,

and he is altogether desirable.

This is my beloved and this is my friend,

O blessed kittens of queens.

 

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If a tom offered for love

all the riches of the heavens,

he would be utterly despised

By those who have no wisdom.

 

O you who yowl in the gardens,

with companions listening for your voice;

let me hear it.

 

Make haste, my beloved,

and be like a springing lion

or a young kitten

on a hill of washed clothes

In the sunlight.

 

 

No, even if he’d known of its existence, Crowley would never understand the private delight Aziraphale felt at possessing the only modern bible with an entire book dedicated to the adoration of the feline form. But then, he wouldn’t - as the poet nearly said, all that hisses is not cold-blooded.

 

 

 

[1] Brimming, really. Possibly even bursting.

 

[2] Aziraphale considers anything written since 1800 new, but most of everything written within the past fifty years distressingly awful. [a]

 

[2a] Especially this work you are reading now.

 

[3] Angels, being immortal, were not subject to the Seven Mortal Sins, which was a damn good thing. Relatively speaking.

 

[4] Crowley would usually replace them with copies of The Da Vinci Code. The illustrated version. He really could be an utter bastard sometimes.

 

[5] Further details regarding these may be found in the excellent history of Armageddon chronicled by Messieurs Gaiman and Pratchett, in the bit about the publishing of Agnes Nutter’s first book of prophecy.

 

[6] Shadwell would have been eager to count nipples in this situation. The reader is encouraged to consider whether he would have been comforted to have come up with a total of twelve between them.

 

[7] A word which is probably not as funny in this context as the author thinks it is.

 

[8] Up until the business with enslaving the Hebrews, that was. The Almighty had been in a bit of a “drown everyone who annoys Me” phase back then.[a]

 

[8a] This has mostly passed. But you’ll never find a true Bible scholar who doesn’t keep a life vest close at hand at all times.

 

[9] Cats have an extremely strong opinion on getting wet.

 

[10] No, we will not be visiting another room within Aziraphale’s domicile. Not this visit, anyway. Today, we are scholars. And if the chest we are rummaging through is shaking ever so gently, we will assume it is the rhythm of the London traffic.

 

[11] And also frequently results from the latter part of that word. But that is another story for another time.