My Strongest Quality 

Inspired by a writing prompt on Reddit. 

The world is a wonderfully confusing place. There was so much mystery surrounding the human race and the universe that we inhabit that sometimes, it felt as if we would never have all the answers. With every new discovery, countless questions would crop up, each with their own answer and set of follow up questions. The occurrence of familiars is quite a popular field of study, as nobody could possibly know where they came from or how exactly they manifested. Familiars tended to manifest during a persons life when they were just an inch away of finding themselves. They always took the shape of a creature that best physically represented their person’s strongest, or greatest quality, and served to fulfill a role in that person’s life that no other human being was capable of filling.

I got mine when I was 21.

Most everyone I know had one already, save for a handful of stragglers like myself. My mother’s familiar is a cute dog with an alpha personality. They lead their ‘pack’ together well. Leadership. My father’s was a dark, sulking thing that I had difficulty comprehending. Truthfully, I had no idea what kind of creature it was supposed to be. I just know that it’s an ugly, unfortunate creature. It’s aggressive, and only seemed to want to pay attention to my father to feed his ego and snapped at everyone else, even if they meant no harm. Narcissism.

I had wondered what mine would be for a long, long time. My best friend, Jessica, has a familiar that was a quiet, sketchy cat, small in stature and slow to warm up to new people. It seemed strange for Jessica to have a familiar like that, since she’s an aggressive, in your face sort of person. Her familiar, however, never voluntarily left Jessica’s side, and cried loudly when Jessica wasn’t around. Fear of abandonment.

Even my girlfriend, CJ, has a familiar. It’s a pitch black pygmy owl, affectionately named Tyrion, after one of her favorite fictional characters. I like him well enough, and he seems to like my company, and likes to softly hoot at me every so often. Oftentimes I would catch CJ reading to Tyrion, or nestled in the blankets watching some sort of documentary together. Tyrion even likes to perch on my shoulder and stare thoughtfully at whatever I’m reading. Pursuit of knowledge.

I’ve never been the sort of person to try to force my familiar to manifest. Some people did, by acting like someone they weren’t or trying entirely too hard to focus one aspect of their personality they thought was the best. I just simply figured that it would happen when it happens, and sure enough, it did. Like a lot of people, I just didn’t get what I expected to.

CJ constantly told me that my familiar would probably manifest and show my innate goodness. My generosity. My curiosity. My optimism. My ambition. My talent for cooking scrambled eggs. My bedroom skills. My good looks. She had an endless list of my good qualities and my bad, and would rattle them off while I sat quietly, a half-genuine smile on my face.

I thought that my strongest trait might end up being something like a physical manifestation of my anxiety. Maybe my depression? I wasn’t sure. It could have been my indecisiveness. For all I knew, CJ was right. It could be my generosity. I couldn’t count the times that someone needed help and I went out of my way, even going as far as to make myself broke for the week, trying to help them. It wasn’t hard to decide to do that, after all. I often offered whatever I had that would help, even if it’s all I had left.

So I continued to be generous. I continued to work hard every single day, and play hard when I wasn’t working. Sometimes I thought I would get a sleepy sloth as my familiar, since my life progressed slowly and I was always so keen to sleep. It became a running joke between CJ and I.

Life went on. CJ got a good job right out of college, and I moved in with her. The landlord was happy to have me, but CJ’s awful neighbors tried to push me out immediately. They couldn’t stand the thought of a lesbian couple living next door to them. Too bad, so sad. I was there to stay, even through the hateful propaganda taped to our door and the slurs whispered in our ears as we passed through the hallway.

I played housewife for a while before finding a job, and it only took six months for me to be promoted not once, but twice. Everyone loved me there. My bosses loved how hard working I was, and CJ loved me too, and told me every day how proud she was of me.

I liked my life, but seeing others with their familiars often made me feel… empty. Like something was wrong with me.

I’ll never forget when my familiar finally manifested. I’ll never forget the look of shock on CJ’s face when she found me sobbing on our bed, red faced and completely a mess while my familiar trilled soothing sounds in my ear. I’ll never forget how she couldn’t speak, just stare, when my familiar looked up at her with an apologetic expression. I’ll especially never forget when I had to tell her what my strongest quality was, the quality that created my familiar, the one that would break her heart.

I had a normal day. Work went by as slowly as it always did, and my coworkers were as chatty and bushy-tailed as usual. When I got home, CJ wasn’t back yet, so I laid down to rest for a while. Inevitably, I fell asleep. Within the hour, I was awake again, my mouth dry and with the taste of dissatisfaction. Everything was just as it should be. As I checked my phone and scrolled down my Facebook feed, emotionless as reading about other people’s accomplishments, a heavy weight landed on the bed.

At first, I was scared, and didn’t look up. Tyrion certainly didn’t weigh enough to land on the bed that hard, and besides, he had gone to work with CJ that day.

Slowly, I lifted my head, staring vacantly at the creature now perched on my bed. It was a cat, but..

The cat. He was gray, with beautiful golden eyes. He gazed at me with eyes that held very old knowledge. But.. his beautiful long fur was matted in places, and one leg seemed to sit at a strange angle. One of his ears had a tear down the center. His nose was runny, and those beautiful eyes of his were glossy.

I stared. He stared back.

Then he spoke.

“… You hate me.” His voice was cracked and broken, but almost charming. “You hate me, don’t you?”

“What?” Of course I didn’t hate him. Looking at him made me feel… whole. Like I.. loved him more than anything. Was this how CJ felt when Tyrion appeared to her? I put down my phone, drawn to the scraggly cat in front of me. I reached out, stroking his fur gently.

“I.. I don’t hate you. I’ve been.. waiting a long time for you. Oh, you’re so beat up..come here, let me hold you.” My voice was honey sweet and thick, the same voice I used when CJ cried.

The cat accepted my strokes, then carefully walked closer to me, his eyes seeming to leak with tears. Could familiars cry?

He curled up on my lap, careful of his crippled leg. We were both silent. As I held him and felt his presence, I wondered what he could possibly represent about myself. Almost as if he could read my mind, he lifted his head and looked up at me.

“You want to know what part of you that I am.” It was a statement, a matter of fact. The cat was right. I did.

“I am your hatred for the beauty that you can’t see.” The cat continued to stare.

“My hatred?” Throughout my life, I had never truly hated anyone or anything. There were moments I thought I might be a hateful person, but the feelings were always washed away since I never did see the point in feeling hatred towards anyone. I sat with the raggedy cat for quite a while, idly stroking his fur as I pondered what ‘my hatred’ could refer to. The cat sighed and laid his head down, tail flicking as he let me work through it myself.

It didn’t take long for me to realize what he had meant.

It was only natural that I wept with both realization and with fear.

I hate myself more than words can comprehend.

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