Death has always been at my heels, nipping at me with its frigid fangs. I gradually lost the ability to feel, starting with love and ending with anger, but that's the effect of watching the various people you cared for die before your eyes because you cared for them. Death and I are all too familiar, his cold hands always sitting on my shoulders as he whispers his persuasive words that make life feel pointless.
Before I knew it, I was among the departed and for no significant reason other than the misfortune of being at the right place at the wrong time. It's almost laughable really, seeing how a simple stroll turned to such a bizarre series of events leading to the birth of my current self, a simple cat. My life before was empty, but repetitive, making the process of Soul Judgement far simpler for the Yama in charge. Emptiness lead to Purgatory, which in turn lead to my current predicament, but let's not rush into that just yet.
For the longest time, I drifted around the Realm of the Dead with no real purpose. I don't know how much time passed while I wandered, but the Realm of the Dead's flow of time is rather screwy, so that's considered understandable by most denizens. There was never a more dull period of my existence than the time spent wandering, so dull in fact that I began to lose myself bit by bit as what I can only assume were centuries passed. It was then that I was finally selected for reincarnation with no memories of my past life and a fresh start as a blank slate. This was when my misfortune came into play once more.
Reincarnation is a rather complicated process. First the soul in question is purified in a manner befitting the severity of their actions, in my case that meant being held under warm water without permission to get out. After purification, the soul is sent before the seven Yama, judges of the dead who determine where the dead go or if they are even ready for reincarnation in the first place. I was deemed ready and thus my days as a soul came to an end and my days as a new person began... At least they should have.
I awoke unable to see, barely able to move and weaker than I had ever felt before. I couldn't tell where I was, only that I wasn't alone. Something fed me, forcefully, and I had to resist the urge to bite through the rubbery nub that had been placed in my mouth. I let out an annoyed groan, but what came out was a frail mew, and I received a callous feeling blow to my head before my strength faded along with my conscious.
I awoke again and realized something was wrong. My chest burned and it felt as if liquid was sloshing around within my tiny lungs. My nose was stopped up and I could barely open one eye, the other sealed for one reason or another. I knew someone or something was carrying me and covering me in something thick and probably warm, but all I could feel was a mind numbing cold that pierced deep into my bones. I could tell that I was deathly ill, my strength from before required to keep myself awake and barely much else. I could feel myself fading in and out of conscious, by barely moving and before I knew it, I was fully siezed by the cold and the darkness it brought.
Let's try that again shall we...?
The first thing I understood was warmth, soothing heat that thawed at my frozen self. I groggily opened an eye and found myself cradled near a fireplace. I was still weak, unbelievably so, but the cold was gone and so was the wet pain that had been in my chest. I could tell I was swaddled in blankets and that I was in the arms of someone, but not much beyond that. I yawned and, again, a mew came out before the gentle heat lured me back into the world of darkness.
When I next returned to the waking world, I was on the wooden floor of a cottage. I could barely stand, but I blamed that on the residual weakness I felt. I looked around slowly to take in my surrounding when I heard, rather felt, the tremors of something moving about before I was picked up and held eye to eye with a person with pointed ears and violet eyes that seemed to pierce through the very fabric of my being and instill a deep fear of something I couldn't describe in me. They said something I couldn't make out, a jumbled mess of long polysyllabic phrases and flowing sounds that meshed into an incoherent mess before setting me down and leaving the area. It was then that I felt as if a fog was lifted from my mind and suddenly I remembered.
I remembered dying alone in a small, cramped space. I remembered waking up in the land of the dead and wandering aimlessly for a great deal of time. I remembered being reincarnated and coming to as a... I looked down and saw jet black fur with tiny paws connected to them. I attempted to raise my arm only for the paw to rise in its stead. I raised my other arm only to fall over because both paws were now off the ground. The realization finally hit when I decided to speak.
"Mew...!" I blanched and felt all of my strength fade after I emitted a hideous cry.
I came to and found the person from before staring at me in an unnerving way. They wore a lackadaisical smile and had their violet orbs trained on me as if I were a research specimen. I shivered in fear and backed away just as they spoke.
"You're one of the returned, aren't you?"
Returned? The hell is that? I made the mistake of turning my head to the side in my confusion, earning a more eerie smile.
"The fact that you understand my words means you are indeed." No, I was genuinely confused, what's a returned? Are you referring to those who were reincarnated or something else? "Could it be you don't know what you are?"
I, against my better judgement, nodded. The unnerving smile turned into pursed lips and the person closed their eyes, releasing an agitated sigh before focusing on me once more.
"That makes things complicated. Are you not one whose life came to an end and returned as another in their stead?" I thought about it, looking back at how I came into this world, then made the best 'sort of' gesture I could in a feline body.
"What exactly is that supposed to mean?" Ah, shouldn't have expected that to make sense. I tried nodding yes, then no.
"That makes less sense." I tried a slantwise nod only to receive a withering look. "How am I to interpret that?"
I met the withering look with one of my own. I'm the one trying to answer the question, the least you could do is ask for clarification rather than not trying to interpret what I'm trying to get across.
"Maybe if you could speak this would be easier." Yes, very much so. I nodded with an expression that could have been described as impudent. "Quite the attitude you have..."
You be quiet, I'm trying! I hissed only to hear a deep growl ring from my throat and paused. The figure also paused and the smile returned. "Speech may be much better than I had anticipated." They muttered something foreign and I fainted from the bizarre feeling that permeated myself.