"Briar!" called Lillie. She was looking for her next-door neighbor's cat. Briar's head poked through the bushes and sniffed around. When the glowing green eyes settled on Lillie, she ran up to her and started purring. Lillie knelt down to pick her up, and the mass of black fur squirmed ecstatically in her arms. Neither of them knew then, but Briar was squirming in a special way-the way that grants humans one wish.
"It looks like so much fun being a cat. I wish I could be one," Lillie said, unknowingly setting off the spell. Briar looked straight into her eyes, and she blacked out.
The next thing she remembered was Briar saying, "Howie, Scamper-get over here, fast." Briar talking? Lillie thought. I must have imagined it. She tried to stand up, but noticed that she was wobbly on her legs. What's wrong with my legs? She looked. AAAHH! I'm Briar!
By this time Scamper and Howie, the neighbor's two male orange and white cats, were there, along with a stray white and brown female cat whom the neighbor's three-year-old son had inappropriately named 'Briar's Boyfriend.'
"Uh, Briar?" said Howie. "That's you."
Scamper stopped staring at Lillie long enough to say, "Old Deuteronmy isn't going to like this at all." Old Deut-the Jellicle cats are real?
The brown and white cat piped up, "It's almost time for the Ball. Let's bring her along, and see what to do with her."
Briar lashed her tail. "Okay. We bring her to the Junkyard. How in the name of the Everlasting Cat are we going to explain another me?"
Lillie spoke for the first time. "Um... do I have any say in what happens to me?"
"That's for the main Jellicles to decide," Scamper replied.
"Briar! Quick! Here comes Big Orange!" yowled the brown and white cat. Big Orange was another stray, who lived for fighting. He was the Macavity of the neigborhood.
"Everyone, gather around me! I'll get us to the Junkyard in two shakes of a cat's tail!" Briar said, a little nervously, for Big Orange had bared his teeth. The cats, including Lillie, gathered around Briar. "Jellicles away!" She shook her tail twice, and a fog covered them.
When the fog disappeared, Lillie looked around. Their surroundings resembled the set from CATS, only everything was real. "Blekania! Howdedodat! Treeshash! Chocoblotch! Welcome to this year's Ball!" said a voice that Lillie faintly recognized from her CATS tape. It was Munkustrap. Only he was a real cat, not a person in a costume. "Blekania? How come there's two of you?"
"Hi, Munku," said Briar, whose second name was Blekania. "This is Lillie. She is...was...a human."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, she was holding me, and then she turned into me. I really don't know what happened."
Munkustrap looked thoughtful. "We'll have to wait for Old Deuteronomy to decide what to do with her. Uh, Lillie? You can sit over there, on that tire. In the meantime, on with the ball!"
Lillie went over to the tire and waited while the Jellicles danced and sang the familiar "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" and "Invitation to the Jellicle Ball." She noticed that those were the only ones they did. Then Old Deuteronomy came. He looked a lot like her old cat, Sampson, who had died a few years before. Munkustrap showed Deuteronomy to the tire where Lillie sat, and explained her situation. Deuteronomy's wise face broke into a smile. "Lillie! I remeber you! I was Sampson. Your mother was my human. I was sorry to leave for my next life, but I had to."
Lillie was stunned. Old Deuteronomy was Sampson? As if this day wasn't weird enough already. Gazing into Deuteronomy's eyes, she felt the cat in her surface. She had a secret name. For her Jellicle name, she fell back on a story she had written about Briar being the queen of the black cats. "Birana," she whispered to herself.
"I beg your pardon?" said Old Deuteronomy.
Lillie's voice got stronger. "My name is Birana. I want to be a Jellicle."
Old Deuteronomy smiled, the wisdom of all his lives showing in his face. "You are."
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