Chosen In a place where dreams collided, Grizabella stood, transfixed and confused by the images that appeared both before and behind her eyes. Pictures formed and morphed, replacing each other in a tapestry that told her life and the journey that had brought her here, in technicolour detail. She watched the emotions like strands of ribbon, the mixture of kindness and hostility from the other cats. A tom swam into focus, lithe body topped with a tabby mane, pulled contemptuously away from her like protection from whatever bad influence she exerted. A grey tom, strong yet gentle, but with a hard look on his face as he acted protector from her. Kindness came from youngsters, obviously still unknowing, their mothers not yet passing on the inbred prejudice. white paws still gentle reached out to her, a queen barely more than a kitten, but whose white fur reflected the moonlight, like a halo to tired eyes. Finally she saw the tom, whose body seemed to old to exist, yet somehow his mind seeming infinitely older, who had led her to this place. She saw them all, reds and whites and blacks all melded together as the image became brighter, so bright as it stretched and moulded that it’s edges blurred, fuzzing on it’s lines as it came infinitely closer until it......shattered.
Far below, dawn chased the darkness from the junkyard with dirty grey light, horizon tainted by a thousand cars, and a thousand, thousand people. Most cats had already left, gone to greet their owners with the dawn, no evidence of the night’s activities except an air of magic, and a film of dew. Some however stayed, kept still even with the promise of morning. Tugger half sat, half laid, lazy paws tracing a pattern on the drainpipe.
“How far do you think they’ve got?” he asked, tossing the open question down to the bodies below.
“To the end of the road, before they took an ‘accidental’ wrong turn” Munkustap called back. They spoke of a group of youngsters led by Mungojerry and Rumpleteaser, vivacious twins with a nose for trouble and often, more spirit than sense. There were rumours of an alignment with Macavity, but Munkustrap was lenient, he thought of them as mischievous young ones, not the true evil that made up McCavity and his minions' depraved personalities.
“So what do you think?” Munkustrap did not have to say about the ruling, everyone knew that the night’s events boiled down to only one.
“We’re not to question Duteromy’s ruling.” Tugger said, suddenly feeling the strange role reversal. “Hey! You should be saying that!” Munkustrap rolled gently onto his back, before flicking back up the other way and grinning at his friend.
“Oh, I don’t know, somehow this maturity suits you, maybe you should be keeper of the kittens.” He looked Tugger over, coarse black coat and eccentric mane “well, maybe not.” His face grew more sombre as his eyes searched the last pinpricks of stars, already almost washed away by the daylight. “What do you really reckon is up there?” He said.
“You’re the apprentice” Tugger replied, “you tell me”.
“Sometimes I wonder if old Deuteromy even knows” Tugger looked surprised and laid curious eyes on his friend.
“I don’t know if he remembers” Munkustrap explained wistfully “or if he ever knew at all.” Their musings were interrupted by pink ears, preceded by a pink nose, emerging from a bolt hole. Victoria seated herself elegantly, sitting with her tail wrapped around her back paws, while she gracefully washed the front ones.
“Still haven’t gone home?” Tugger asked. Victoria arched an eyebrow at him, now his thrusting and posing at the Jellicle ball was over, she regarded him much more coolly.
“Evidently” she said, she was younger than her poise suggested, but she had confidence and was unafraid of these two, no matter how powerful they may be. She was well aware of the power she exerted over some of the younger males, she was a beautiful cat, Munkustrap had to admit and singular in her colouring among the tribe. but he was also aware of her standing with Deuteromy, who looked on her favourably as a goddaughter and would need to look at any potential mate even more favourably still.
Before he could throw in a remark however, Jennyanydots bustled up to him, the motherly cat flicking her paws in a fashion that could only mean one thing, trouble.
“You are not going to believe this!” Jennyanydots practically crashed into Munkustrap before she halted, her back leaning heavily against the drainpipe as she gasped for breath.
“There’s a Queen, gone into labour on the boundary.” She forced out. Munkustrap sprang up, muscles tensing for action.
“Where?” He asked, feet trying to move before he even got an answer. Instead of replying, Jennyanydots bounded east, in the direction of the female, with surprising speed considering she had been breathless a moment before. Munkustrap followed, long graceful bounds quickly catching up until they ran shoulder to shoulder. Tugger and Victoria looked at each other, and dashed after them.
Grizabella’s world had become a noisy cacophony of light and sound. Images moved from clarity to bluriness, from sense to nonsense. For a moment, happiness’ true meaning was in her grasp and then, ever elusive it slipped away. the place was beautiful but teasing, and she did not want to stay until she felt herself being pulled away, and she clung desperately to the ever changing scene. still she felt herself slipping, her mind..ripped away.
The Queen was found just beyond the boundary of the junkyard, as the four skidded to a stop, they saw her laboured breathing, and the tremendous effort she was exerting for her kittens. a closer inspection, revealed matted fur, that may have once been silver tabby, but was now so muddy it was unrecognisable, her body was painfully thin, with her belly seeming grossly swollen in contrast, a bleak testament to a mother’s sacrifice, and sad defeated eyes that called for pity, so deep was the sorrow they contained. Munkustrap cautiously sniffed her body before announcing.
“Not one of us.” Tugger nodded.
“Another tribe?” He suggested.
“Not that we know” Munkustrap replied, “I think she is just a stray.” Meanwhile, both Jennyanydots, and Victoria had gathered by the queen’s head.
“Poor dear, she’s so weak.” Jennyanydots said pityingly, she looked at Munkustrap, “She won’t make it if she stays out here.” Munkustrap gave Jenny a look which spoke a silent ‘no’, but he was unprepared for the steady steel gaze of Jennyanydots’ green eyes, joined by Victoria’s azure ones, both reflecting the fiercely maternal instinct the Queen’s plight evoked in both of them. Staring into those eyes Munkustrap felt himself giving ground.
“Oh, just until she has had the kittens.” Victoria’s and Jenny’s eyes dropped back to the Queen. “Tugger,” Munkustrap said, “help me carry her in.”
It was late morning by the time they had got the Queen to the relative safety of the junkyard. She had settled on a pile of cushions in an old pipe, too exhausted to speak, merely nodding in response to their questions. her brow creased and she cried out as another lasso of pain swept through her.
“It’s all right dear, it’s all right.” Jennyanydots soothed the cats brow, whilst Jellylorum, who had quickly come to see what the commotion was all about helped o ease the cats pain. Many others had joined her, and outside they waited, anxious for news. Victoria had slunk into the shadows at the back, afraid slightly of what was happening, and lacking the experience of the older cats. There Jemina and Mistoffles had joined her, and the three sat in silence, comforting each other.
“She’s so close.” Jellylorum whispered, Jennyanydots nodded back, but her eyes we’re sombre, they both knew that the chances of the kittens being born alive from such a sick mother, were slim.
“Just a little more my love” Jennyanydots’ said. The mother gave an almighty push that seemed to send aftershocks running up and down her body.
“A head, I see a head!” Jellylorum exclaimed, Jennyanydots smiled.
“Not long now dear.” The first kitten was born, followed quickly by the second and third. The Queen seemed to relax for a second, before her features contorted with another contraction, her body shuddering with the gesture.
“Just one more,” Jellylorum said, the Queen gave her a hopeless look before drawing in another breath, and with one final, tremendous effort pushing the kitten through, collapsing back with a shudder. The Queen turned her eyes to them, and weakly, finally found her voice.
“remember, revive, restore, equilibrium” she said, she looked at her kittens and smiled before she lay back, letting out one long juddering breath that was her last. Jennyanydots watched as the Queen’s eyes slowly closed, already filmed in death.
“Oh my god” she breathed, a similar exclamation came from Jellylorum. Jennyanydots looked up, her eyes questioning. Jellylorum returned it with a look of pure wonderment.
“They’re alive” she said gesturing to the kittens. “They’re all alive.” There was a silence then, only broken by the rustling of the kittens movements, and the lapping of Mistoffle’s tongue, as he licked away Victoria’s silent tears.
Grizabella felt a pleasant sensation, she was floating, not on water or air, but simply on nothing, her mind freewheeling, the impossible now as seemingly plausible as night and day. She was content to stay in this tranquil paradise forever, but she felt something pull on the edge of her consciousness strange, yet achingly familiar, gently tugging her downwards, and she knew somehow she had no choice but to follow, leaving her cozy hole in non-space.
It was several hours before Munkustrap returned from his errand to fetch Old Deuteromy, he had left almost as soon as he and Tugger had carried the Queen into the junkyard, but his Grand sire’s erratic sense of time, and shuddering walk made the journey back from the vicarage take longer than it should have. Indeed, with the short winter days closing, the sun was just beginning to dip as the cats climbed the ramp to the junkyard’s interior. The minute they arrived, they could tell something was wrong.
“What happened?” Munkustrap asked as he climbed in and surveyed the cats before him. Jennyanydots looked up, her eyes slightly puffy.
“She had the kittens” she replied, “they were fine but she.. didn’t make it.” Her eyes dropped and Munkustrap looked at her sympathetically, although no one had known the Queen, they felt somehow responsible for this cat, who had given up hr life for her kittens on their territory.
“Where are the kittens?” Deuteromy asked, Jellylorum answered.
“They needed a nursing mother, we found one for them to stay with until you arrived.” Jellylorum looked fearfully at the old tom, he wouldn’t, he couldn’t send defenceless kittens away.
“Then they must stay with her, take me to them.” Silently the procession led him to the cosy nest, where the four newborns nestled with some slightly older kittens. The mother looked up at him, with a blissfully maternal expression, common to almost all mothers. Deuteromy studied the kittens carefully, before his eyes settled on the last one, and a slow smile spread across his face. He looked at the band of cats gathered behind him, and said.
“They may become us” a visible sigh passed through the tribe. “Did the mother give names?” he addressed Jennyanydots. The Queen shook her head, but said.
“She said something before she died, ‘remember, revive, restore and equilibrium.’”
“Not normal Jellicle names, but as good as any.” Deuteromy smiled he looked at the kittens and pointing to each said “Remember, Revive, Restore” he looked at the fourth, and you shall be “Equilibrium.” He straightened up, smiling at his tribe “they are safe now, go attend to your duties and your families, and make sure they stay that way.” Deuteromy turned away from the nest, casting one last lingering look over his shoulder at the fourth kitten.
Late that night, while most of the Jellicles either slept or worked, there was a solitary stirring in the kittens nest, the mother cat slept soundly, her natural and adopted children curled tightly around her, as Equilibrium stirred. Her eyes still unopened, she gazed at the night sky out of the hole in the front of the nest, her mind telling her what she would see. The other presence that lived in the back of it silently stirred, rejoicing in her second chance to live, in the subconscious of this kitten, and repeat once again true moments of happiness inside her.
With a yawn, the kittens conscious mind, and her subconscious lodger, both fell into a deep sleep.
Whoa, that was deep!