In the beginning, there was nothing - isn't this the way it's supposed to go?
In the beginning, there was nothing - it's such a fickle phrase, you think, because there has always
. Despite the nothing, the negative, the empty being exceedingly powerful, there is always you
You cannot recall your birth. You cannot recall your father, but you aren't convinced that it matters, a biological given or otherwise. They never talk about him - they talk about your mother, though, all lachrymose reverence and a condescending, pitiful sort of admiration. You cannot recall her face, but you're almost
certain she had one, once. She is intangibly hazy when you think on her, this entity - this faceless, cemeterial thing
, feline-fanged in memory. You remember her voice, though - remember her cooing my little kitten, my kitten, little kitten
down at you, over and over. Or, no - perhaps it was kitty
. Perhaps it was nothing at all.
to tell you. They try, but you are too young to know the finality of death, kitten; too young to know that some beasts are given names and that this one branded itself suicide; too young to know that you are nothing more than the collateral damage of abusive alcoholism and latent codependency. It's no story fit for a child, so they skirt about it's edges - your father loses custody of you during investigation into his role in your mother's
death no no that's too harsh she's just a child
/ temporary absence, and from then on, you belong to the orphanage, or so they say.
You never recognise the gravity of their soft dismissals - or perhaps you do, but choose to ignore it. Instead, their roundabout phrasing is taken as reality and, fulled by their evasive, inconsistent alibis, you piece together your own conclusion. As far as you are concerned, your mother works with the Ministry of Magic someplace fancy in Europe, a lead-figure in the development of technomagic or something
expensive, and she's coming back for you. She's coming back soon. You cannot recall when your conclusion diverged into a concrete, unmovable truth, but, kitten, she promised, she promised, she promised
, didn't she?
that she promised to return - you even hope she does, sometimes - but, spoiler
, kitten: she will never come back for you.
Some days, you pick at pock marks and will yourself to believe that you are a constellation, not a consolation prize. Happiness is nothing more than a brain-born chemical but, oh, kitten, the things you'd do for it, back then.
Kitten, there's something you need to know - external factors are temporary. You are and will always be a constant. You slip through foster parents' hands as quickly and abruptly as the rain, the faultline between one family and the next - you don't need them. You should wait here, where your mother left you - where she expects
you to be
/ when she returns. You flee the safety of foster carers time and time again - you've padded your skeleton with these gaps, these craters, these fractures of concrete, these open-ended questions. They lead you back here every time.
Your reception is colder each time you return, the wind a half-frozen lick behind the ear, familiar and impersonal, but in spite of it all, in spite of belonging to no one, you survive.
Oh, kitten, you survive
- do you not realise how strong you are?
You're not upon the usual spectrum, or so they say - the orphanage is no place for squibs
. Perhaps you should've known that you weren't like the other children. A witch nary thought about breathing, the inflation of their lungs; a witch nary thought on the fact that those skeletons were inextricably theirs; a witch nary needed to know the limitations and boundaries of their own body; a witch had nary a need for your shade of independent ferity because they'd always have magic
to do their surviving for them. The other children had been doused in it, this crawling, latent energy
- it is something you've always lacked, kitten. You are all pale heart, failed start, stale art - you are not good enough for them, but you do not give in easy.
They try to put it lightly, at first. They try to convince you to go quietly; try to convince you to give in and that this will be better for you in the long run but no - kitten, you string your bones together tightly, ready for when the wild hunt comes, a feline-fanged inheritance just below your skin. You were raised on a basis of impermanent material possessions and impermanent people, immoral dismissal, inhumane disregard. You have never trusted the same way others seem to - you cannot afford to when the company you keep is so temporary. You are no cut from the dream-peach, but just as much blood; just as much bite
- you fight and you fight hard
when they grab you, intent on delegating you to your rightful place in some muggle
-world institution like the swine you are. You scratch and snap but they have their spells and curses
and they do not have to touch you to restrain you - it takes barely a few words to steal you away from the only place you have ever known.
The sun dies in the early hours of the morning - quietly, in it's sleep. You are dragged from the orphanage early, too early, and the light has barely let it's fingers grasp hold of the horizon; has not yet pulled itself upwards, a vision of goldstatic exposure, and you are escorted away beneath the ethereal, parable requiem of a sun too dim to see at all.
The removal of an orphaned squib is hardly an eventful affair - you are handcuffed as a precautionary measure (a form of restraining you that you presume is considered acceptable to muggles
) and taken from the world you've known by only one man; this is their first mistake. He talks to you - says that you remind him of his daughter, Emily; that she is a half-blood; that she only sees her mother on the weekends, as though it makes a difference to you. This second mistake is the nail in the coffin.
It is your threats that prove to be his unmaking. You start small - the first few are passive and barely-breathed, but they grow, fuelled by self-preservation. He's spoken of his daughter, so you use it to your advantage, a bid for freedom - you'll say that he pinned you down. You'll say that he touched
you - that he said his daughter's name while he touched himself
, will testify
to it - if he doesn't let you go. He blanches, and you already know that you've won.
The moment your handcuffs are removed, you are gone, taking to the streets.
The streets are no place for a child and, kitten, you are starving. This hunger is persistent; it fills your mouth and throat and lungs, channelling it's craving emptiness through your veins.
Innocence is a weighted virtue and it is one that you quickly discover you cannot afford to possess, here. People are temporary, kitten - you start small. You begin with minor things that aren't easily missed - change, fruit, candy bars, something - anything
- edible; you progress up to bread loaves, milk cartons. Jewellery, eventually. Wallets. Your thievery is a passive thing - always subtle, always concise, done in passing. You keep your eyes forward. Nobody is supposed to watch what they're walking away from.
The body casts shadows in daylight - this is important, kitten. Your shadow is the difference between detection and anonymity, so you learn to take the moon hostage and operate beneath the cover of her dim glow; you make her your home, sundered in lung-sent young debts, sunsets. Baby fat is razor-cut from your ribs by constant motion, your bouts of starvation. Come night, you wisp down, lucid and pristine and incorporeal in a sea of faces, just another street-stray, and take what you will. It is an uneasy arrangement - your throat is bared to the teeth of a knife on multiple occasions - but you always find a way to land on your two feet.
Most aren't so reckless as to risk a lawsuit, so you learn to use your youth and femininity wickedly, too - it's not much, kitten, this minor degree of security, but it's enough.
You knew a boy, once, though.
That's the end of the story.
You used to know a half-blood boy, a kid in the neighbourhood, two years younger than you. You find him curled up, shiver-light and pathetic, so you feed him; you tell him it's safe here, with you. He believes you, too, right up until a heist goes wrong and you leave him to be snatched by juvie in your place - young as he is, barely eight, his magic is no match for theirs. You think they sliced him up for moondust because you never see him again - you factory reset, his beat most final, a universe impermanent and dying.
His memory has a terrible habit of staying around far too long, skin, a thin grin, sinking, sink in, sin king - the moon, for a time, stops rising in the headphone cords of your heart and your mouth stays below the horizon, and you're not sure you've ever felt this lonely. You cry for him - it does no damn good, kitten,
so why does it hurt
People are temporary, kitten, but you knew this already, didn't you? You learn to restart, here - you learn this now, and you will never stop relearning it. You try new tides, up your pixel resolution, dust off his debris - this life gives you no time for mourning. Survive
- survive until your mother comes to get you because she promised, kitten - she promised, she promised, she promised
You almost believe it.
You are still young, inexperienced; you are a squib in a wizards' world, kitten, and you cannot avoid juvie forever.
They catch you with three wallets in-hand - expect you to go quietly, like some little lamb to the slaughter. You fight on instinct, because your roadkill heart is still beating with all the bitter, feline ferity of a life you never got to live. You writhe, hiss, spit, claw
, but they get you by the scruff, use magic to their advantage - they steal you away by merit of their blue-blood, their purity, the natural abilities that you never had the luxury of.
This institution is a foul place - an abusive government-owned home for the orphaned and the delinquent. There is no delicacy in it's cold edges, white ceramics - staff are polished; blank-slate; scornfully expressionless. The gravity of your situation doesn't register with you, not yet, but it's hard to intimidate when you have a voice like a canary song-bird and your threat leaves you with a split lip and a black eye.
Staff keep facilities sterile enough to appease the state, keep the healthy on display, blackmail those that threaten to reveal it's nature - behind the scenes, children, here, are all s(k)in and bones, weak of hypothermia and muggle ailments. You're certain
the government know - they have to
, what with their magic - but, here, kids are either orphans or criminals and who cares about those, anyway
? This world will not let you forget your heritage, kitten. They use squib
in place of a name, beat it into you, spit it like it's an insult - like it's a death sentence.
You are worth less than they feed you, and, kitten, you've never felt smaller than this.
The woman in charge, some administrator
, she's harsh on you - she's harsh on you all, bitter, corrupt. There are bruises, mottled peninsulas strewn down your arms for all the times she's grabbed your wrists and dragged you by them; left muted rivers right down to the bone-coasts, blue seas singing to the seas of an arm's length. Usually, it's your remarks that earn you your unsought beatings; sometimes, it's your independence, the wandering off, the climbing; sometimes, it's nothing at all. You can barely tell the difference, anymore.
When you look for long enough, you can see the ridges of others kids' spines. Day in, day out, you watch them, some younger than yourself, gag and heave, bones visibly hitching inward with reflexive retches or wheezes or coughs. They are awash in the hide-and-seek paranoia of this impersonated rehabilitation and the red shimmer of harboured nightmares - before long you, too, can count the notches between your ribs.
Your mother, she's coming for you, isn't she? She'll get you out of this, eventually. You just have to weather the storm until then.
This isn't you. This isn't you
, kitten - you have never been this spineless, but here you are, down-turned lips, doe-eyed and dawn-tongued and helpless
as you wait. You have walked this fragile line before interdependence and independence and kept your head down for over a year, and yet, you nurse today's wounds with a uneasy resignation, crack your shoulder back into place with a strangled hiss of pain.
It's time to stop waiting, kitten. Your mother isn't going to save you - not from this place.
It takes you months to find your lifeline, months, months
of impersonating innocence, learning every intricate detail in this place's structure; months of perching in the rafters come nightfall, observing, ready for opportunity to rear it's head. It comes with an overheard phone call - a proposed transfer of money, a manipulation. The administrator, the heartless bitch that holds you here, embezzles the institution's funds as you watch from above. It's a pressure point - it's something
You should've waited. You should've waited for more evidence, kitten, but you are desperate to taste freedom and you confront her here, tonight, boasting about your findings, convinced it will be enough to save you.
Magic is your unmaking again; it's levicorpus
, this time - she leaves you to suspended by your ankles until, unconscious, you are crammed into a burlap sack. You should've learned by now, you should've kept to yourself, you should've kept quiet, you should've, you should've, you should've-
The administrator will not risk you relaying the crime. She dumps you in the river like some unwanted house-cat and she, a pure-blood supremacist, doesn't use magic to restrain you any further. Instead, she leaves you to drown, a crude insult to your heritage; your filthy squib blood
The water floods in, makes it's home in those thin, blue veins of yours and you splinter beneath it's weight on your lungs, but you do not know how to die quietly, so you fight - you thrash violently
, tearing at imagined walls, hissing, spitting
, an entire plague-bodied snarl
. You have never known fear like it.
There is blood - you break tooth and nail in this desperate grapple to tear yourself free. By the time you split the sack open, you are shiver-light and choking up water, lungs weak of blue - kitten, you will never stop wringing river-water from your bones.
Underestimation is your inheritance, kitten. It's been this way since you turned eight, orphaned, a squib. You will face prejudice for the rest of your life on the basis of your blood - this is not the first time, and this will not be the last. You are the byproduct of something faulty, something impure, something wrong
and this is not your fault but oh, kitten, they will make
it yours. This, kitten, is something that not even your mother could save you from.
The administrator wipes you from government files, refuses to acknowledge the fact that you've ever existed; she covers up your presumed death by erasing you entirely. From here, you are a ghost, a gaunt bone-shell, a bruised-wrist sanctum disconnected from the city's radar. You've forgotten what freedom tastes like, now, but you will relearn - from here, kitten, you call yourself Cat.
Selina Kyle is gone with the file.
You're back to the streets, now, Cat; this is where you intend to stay.
By the time you are thirteen, you know how collarbones crack and the way spines split; know how to load semi-automatics; know that wolves shed their skin and take the shape of men. While most girls paint their lips red, you paint your knuckles crimson-cold, embittered by the prejudice towards your blood. You are a disloyal, roaming ghost these days, incorporeal in the dusk light, nebulous through the making and unmaking both.
You align yourself with petty thieves, crooks, arsonists, murderers - it's for survival's sake, Cat; learned tactics. Your face is well-received in the criminal underworld, which is a foundation you may fall back on if things get out of hand. The impermanent company you keep is ruthless, so you learn to weave your lies intricately, laden with quick getaways and diversions. You fix your body clock, wake up first, plot escape routes like a pastime; you wake to flat hearttones and pavements, solidarity in your independence, the money earned from last night's heist yours to keep.
You cannot afford to look after others before yourself, Cat - rule one, always look after number one. You harden, grow outwardly selfish, cold. You deny yourself the luxury of acceptance outside the criminal underworld because you know how it ends, Cat.
This isn't to say that you do not remember friends, last names, phone numbers, birthmarks, kindness, but you, Cat, are a constant - they are not worth enough to cost you your self, or your sanity, or your survival.
Do not forget that.
Fourteen, and you learn that womanhood is blood and pucker-up lip gloss - fourteen, and you know the violence of a fouled river so sickly dark, the monthly fruit of a womb emptied like a gourd, the unsought catharsis of two X chromosomes and your punishment for Eve's maternal sin. Men tell you smile, girl -
beauty is in the lips
The streets taught you well. You cut out the tongue of a man who tries to kiss you.
Fifteen, and you move with anonymity, light-footed; you learn to go undetected, be subtle, be agile because this is the most effective defence against magic that you're capable of. You make use of fire escapes, balconies, windows - petty thievery isn't always enough, so you slip in and out of houses, now, and take what you will.
You feed yourself, first - you will always feed yourself, first, but you give what little you can spare to the stray cats that congregate, matted, mistreated. Really, are they any different than yourself?
Sixteen, and your eyelashes flicker like curling spider legs, each blink a twitch, a prayer for heaven beyond this mortal coil, but it works. You rarely unsheathe from your leather exoskeleton; it conceals you in low-light, renders you anonymous, moving without detection. You are bone, jagged white - bloody and beautiful.
Beauty is not your style, though - not you, Cat. You are not the same shade of meek
that most girls of your age are. You don't care much for the sun and sun again; you don't grasp for that synchronous understanding in southern Summers. There is a separation between you and the day - you have no interest in their craved carousel of matching bodies or compassion in the trace of a palm; you do not care where their glances turn into stares turn into shouts.
Girls spend too much time chasing virginity with denial's rank desperation, seeking absolutes that were never meant to be. Yours is a different sky - your days and nights barely align with theirs. Rich kids can bitch about stretch marks and suicide and scholarships with their pretty little poet fingers but life is all about survival, here.
You live a life of taking all you can, giving nothing back.
You are a product of circumstance, Cat; you are street-bound and stunted, but no victim. You've learned to walk in the shadows, speak through incisions, cemeterial in the vertebrae of the city. A cartographer of bad experiences, a twenty-four-hour nomad, a damaged geode of incomparable pretence, an orphan, a squib, one worldly verve in stereo sound - a good liar always tells the truth.
, Cat - you're nothing, if not a survivor.
: Selina Kyle is played by Camren Bicondova in TV series Gotham
, which is one of the main influences for this Selina. Not only that, but she bears a resemblance to Michelle Pfeiffer, who played Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns.
: Red oak ended up being chosen due to it's affinity for reactive, adaptable owners - red oak is well-suited to those that are "light of touch
," which suits Selina's thieving lifestyle. A dragon heartstring core was chosen mostly due to the debate around Selina's role in Batman; while she was often portrayed as a villain in the earlier versions of Catwoman, she's also been portrayed as an anti-hero in later depictions. A dragon heartstring core is the "easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord,
" which I feel nicely incorporates both incarnations of Catwoman. Not only that, but I feel that the dragon heartstring core's tendency to switch sides suits her well, given that she frequently does just that, aligning herself with whatever or whoever suits her interests best.
: The decision for Selina to be a squib was based upon the fact that Catwoman has consistently kept up with individuals in the Batman universe with all kinds of abilities - the Killer Croc and Poison Ivy, for example - and has kept up perfectly well using only agility and other physical skills.
: A kneazle as her patronus (although this will never be used/implemented, as she's a squib) is ideal because, while it's obviously a feline and that's suits the whole cat obsession, I think the slight feral touch suits her more than a regular cat - kneazles are unpredictable and self-serving by nature, described as "[having] a very high level of intelligence, independent and occasionally aggressive, and have an uncanny ability to detect suspicious and distrustful people.
" It's a fine fit for Selina considering her general distrust of authoritative, government-type figures, and her standoffish mannerisms.
: There have been several depictions of Maria and Brian Kyle - the interpretations of Selina's character I drew on most was Ed Brubaker's depiction of her early years - "Maria Kyle is a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats, and commits suicide when Selina is very young. Her alcoholic father, Brian, is cold to Selina for resembling her mother, whom he resents for dying, and eventually drinks himself to death.
" That being said, I also drew upon the fact that, in some variations of Selina, while both her parents had still died, she cannot remember them, and incorporated elements of both, with this incarnation of Selina having very little but some recollection of her mother.
: Most versions cite Selina's early years being spent in an orphanage, having been abandoned at an early age, usually somewhere around the age of five - in the TV show Gotham
, they reference this as St. Maria's orphanage, so the first section of Selina's freestyle app is based upon her experience there. Her mother was, according to the show, named after the orphanage she was left at, having been "born on the streets and abandoned soon after birth
," which makes it all very cyclic.
: It's a recurring theme in the depiction of Selina's early life that she is, for a time, in a juvenile detection centre "where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be
." Brubaker's take on Catwoman's origins have been quite heavily referred to, here, from the manipulative administrator down to the embezzling of funds, and, eventually, the dumping of Selina in a river to drown.
: In actuality, I could find little to no sources that explain just how Selina's affinity for cats began, but one description of her mother stated that "Maria Kyle was a distant parent who preferred to spend time with her cats
." Building from that, I tied it into the memory of her mother - in being referred to as "kitten
" by her mother, and her mother (in some depictions) preferring to spend time with cats, the idea of cats could be attributed to her memory of home-life, and thus something she'd often think back on. If she associates cats with home - safety, stability; everything she's never had on the streets - then perhaps that gives her a basis on which to found her obsession and, thereby, giving her foundations on which to base her future alter-ego.