This was the time of the month everyone waited for. It was the time of the cat. Not black cats or orange cats or white cats, but yellow cats. Not everyone could get a cat. Many had tried for years to attract the attention of just one and failed.
Because the yellow cats were a dying race, few came to the surface anymore for capture. But, on this day, the 12th day of June, they still surfaced, though few in number. If they found a match they'd capture, and dive deep again, if they didn't they just disappeared. No one knew what happened to those that did not find matches. Justin hoped he'd be chosen this year. He'd been searching 5 years for a match and so far nothing.
Every year he and his dad would come out on the 12th of June, earlier each year, and search the waters for cats. They were so tiny, and furry. They had big round eyes the same color as their fur, four fins and a long, long tail. It was difficult to find them. It was believed that you had to stir them up, to get them to surface. Even then they might ignore you for someone else. You just had to be in the right location at the right time. Justin never seemed to be.
Father and son always took turns with the poles stirring the water around them along side the boat in hopes of attracting the attention any yellow cats that might be lying just under the surface. After they stirred the water a few times they waited to see if a connection would be established. Most of the time cats surfaced, but no connection was made.
Sometimes it took all day for a perspective youth to be chosen, other times it happened in moments. There was no limited number of choices or a time limit. This was Justin's last year to be a contestant for a yellow cat. So he and his father knew they had to make this last one count.
They'd started working on this plan in June. They realized this would be the only time they'd get a chance to try it out. If it failed then Justin, like his father, would marry and have kids, hoping to have boys. Yellow cats were only attracted to boys. Black, orange or white cats were attracted to girls.
Black, orange or white cats presented themselves in the months of October, September and March. The waters on the 12th of each month changed colors to accommodate the cats for that month. It was a shame really that few females were released to the waters then. There was an extreme shortage of females. Few could be spared for capture. Most were held back for breeding.
Justin stirred the water around him with his pole and watched for any yellow cats to surface. It was 5 a.m. in the morning, the earliest they'd ever arrived for the capture.
The break of dawn was approaching fast and so far few of the yellow cats had appeared, none were attracted to him, but it was early yet and many more would appear as soon as the clear water turned golden. The clear water surrounding the boat slowly began to change colors. The dominant color would soon be golden. The higher the sun rose in the sky, the deeper in color the water became, until it looked like the sun itself.
Justin sighed. How he wished he could just dive into the waters and be with all the new golden cats that were venturing into the area. But he knew better than to even try that. If any part of your body had contact with the water when it was alive with cats you died. He'd watched it happen in the past and knew that the death was quick but it was also nasty. He shivered as the image of the last victim raced across his memory. It had to be painful to burst into flames while still alive.
Something stirred in the water to Justin's left and he stopped stirring and stood ridged, ready to be captured. It didn't happen, the water settled down and he remained alone. This time his father stirred the waves at the other end of the boat shifting back and forth, back and forth...nothing happened. It was time to move on. They had all day to search each location and make adjustments to the plan. They'd decided to move every ten minutes, taking turns with the pole at each stop.
What if he didn't get chosen? A sinking feeling overwhelmed him. He'd become like his father, a breeder. There wasn't anything wrong with being a breeder. But he didn't feel like it was his destiny. All he could do was hope. Something stirred a bit further away, about twenty-five feet from the boat. It was along the left side. He didn't move. Instead he began praying that this time he'd be chosen. The movement stopped and he was left holding the pole with a saddened heart.
All day long he and his father moved along the lake stirring different spots over and over again. He was sure they'd visited every place in the lake at least 4 times. Now the sun was beginning to disappear from the sky. Everyone else had already gone home disappointed. The golden cats had not chosen anyone from the individuals who were present that day. In all the history books, that Justin had ever read, at least one individual was chosen. He couldn't remember what would happen if one was not. It meant something, he just couldn't remember what.
"Dad," he whispered in a frightened voice, "What will happen now?" Was it the end of the world He wondered?
Slowly their boat neared the shoreline; both men gazed at the golden moon in silence. Gently the boat tapped the dock and both men climbed onto the deck. Justin felt his entire life flash before him and he considered the idea of diving into the water ending it all now.
"I'm not sure son, this has never happened," answered his father. He glanced upward toward the moon and gasped. "Something's wrong," he said and pointed toward the moon.
Justin followed the line of his father's finger and gazed at it as well. The moon had changed color, it was sapphire!
"Charles," a shaking voice came to them from the end of the dock. "It's the sapphire moon!"
"I realize that Harry," Justin's father answered, "It's 'Harvest Time.'
Harvest time, the words echoed in Justin's mind. Harvest time meant that all the cats would swim the waters. It meant that many would be chosen; called from their sleeping beds to the waters. They had no other choice, but to follow the command. The cats were harvesting.
Justin gazed into the waters hoping he'd be one of those. Already the water was changing colors. White, orange and black spots pop into sight. No male colors appeared. This would be Justin's last chance. He gazed at his father who looked back with pity in his eyes. It might not happen, he seemed to be saying, look at all the female colors. Already noise could be heard coming from the village. It had begun...
Villagers came by the dozens splashing into the water and disappearing from sight. No one caught on fire and all who splashed into the waves were women, no males had been called.
Justin's father sat beside him on the docks, watching. Both realized that he was feeling as if all his work had been worthless. Now he had to start over and form new breeding teams. Now he might have to breed, instead of making assignments and correcting check lists. With so many less females he had to keep those he had left with child in good health and breed them quickly, there would be no resting, and no off season this year. Love would be an empty word. His was a thankless job, and he knew it. He'd always known it.
Justin sighed in disappointment and looked down at the water. It was deep blue in color all around him. It reminded him of the sapphire moon. The month for sapphire was December, but sapphire captures stopped happening.
Back in the olden days, the days when my father had been young the sapphire cats had stopped coming. The golden seemed to be doing exactly the same in Justin's day. They dwindled in numbers, made few captures and soon would disappear or so the population thought. All were saddened. No one went to the lake in December anymore. Still the waters were blue, but empty. Sapphire seemed to be a male retired color.
Suddenly, Justin felt something tugging at him, pulling him toward the water, promising him that they were one... one being, one feeling, two souls that would become one, were one...
"I've been chosen!" Justin wanted to scream. He was going to be a sapphire cat, the rarest of the line. They were the ones who knew Godly things and were wise beyond their years. Justin was excited.
"Come to me a voice seemed to call. "We've many things to do."
Justin stood and stepped off the edge of the dock. Justin's father watched and a huge smile spread across his face. He realized what was happening. He'd have a tale or two to brag about in the next breeding cycle. He was pleased, at the honor. One of his had been chosen. He puffed up, all proud, and watched the water as his son slipped beneath the waves.
Justin jumped into the water waiting for the sapphire cat to find him. He wasn't sure what would happen, but he knew it'd be wonderful. Being chosen was always wonderful.
It wasn't long before he felt the furry body make the connection to his body along the back of his left arm. A question formed in his mind. It was one he'd never given thought to in the past. It wasn't his question, but it felt like his question.
"Where have you been?" The questioned felt like another voice in his head. "I've been waiting for you... forever."
That's when Justin realized that this connection had been his fathers, but he'd missed it when they stopped coming in December. Now Justin knew what happened to cats that didn't make their catch. They were the same as Justin and his father. They came every season and waited and waited. Because, Justin's dad had missed his cat fewer and fewer cats had been born. The remaining few could only appear at Harvest Time in hopes of rebuilding their numbers.
Justin swam toward the light at the bottom of the lake. A feeling of joy overpowered him. He'd been searching to become a golden cat and all this time he'd been intended to become a sapphire...