Author's Notes: Hopefully this will be the finish line, (fingers cross, circulation cut
off, fingers fall off, type with nose) . So here they come, final thanx.
Dyce & Missiemeow, who give encouragement with cheerful phrases(kickass
poem?) Everybody who ever bothered to read this, and whoever invented
inflatable eggcups. Sorry about this part, when we passed the sign
saying sanity, I was looking at my watch.
P.S All the pubs mentioned are real, although I’ve been a bit ‘liberal’ about their locations, in real life, most are in London and a valuable navigation tool.
P.P.S I’m beginning to notice distinctly Alice in Wonderland tones arising here, sorry guys, it just kinda came out this way.
The calls quickly brought others running, Misto stood alone in acircle, a look of pure pain contorting his features.
“What is it?” Munkustrap asked, trying not to startle the already distraught Jellicle.
“Jemima, she just kind of disappeared. It swallowed her, oh sweet heaviside, it swallowed her!”
“What swallowed her?” Munkustrap did not like the way this was going, from the corner of his eye he could see Jennyanydots being restrained, obviously ready to come and shake the young tom into telling her what happened to her daughter.
“The mist, it came to her, she tried to fight it, but it swallowed her!”
“The mist, like the thing Jemima was fighting before? When we found her?”
Misto merely nodded mutely, tears making fast tracks from his eyes. Behind Munkustrap, the crowd swiftly parted, allowing Victoria through. She made a beeline for Misto, gathering the young tom to her.
“Where is she?” Jennyanydot’s asked, her own voice strangled.
“If only we knew” Munkustrap replied sadly, shaking his head. “If only we knew.”
Nobody knew where Jemima was, including her. She had quickly tired of walking into things in the pitch blackness, so she had returned to the solitary shaft of moonlight that illuminated the ground like a spotlight. She was frustrated, there was no way for her to search this place, her senses, acute as they were, could begin to cope with a total lack of sound, of smell and of light. Even her whiskers seemed muffled, as if they were wrapped in a thick duvet. The only sense that seemedto be working was her unique sense of time, that indeed seemed stronger than ever. ‘Lot of use it is’ Jemima thought bitterly, ‘knowing the hour is really going to help me get back home.’ She smiled sadly, ‘Mum must be going frantic by now’ she thought, ‘she’s probably shaken poor Misto to death!’
Absurdly, the thought made her smile, and the image of her parent and her friend comforted her somewhat. Without really thinking about what she was doing, she sat down. Feeling suddenly strangely fatigued. Unconsciously she curled up, her tail just tickling her chin, and her eyelids drooped lower. ‘It’s all so strange....as if....’ The thought never got finished, the pull on her eyelids drew them closed, and whatever image she had seen turned inwards.
The tingling woke her while it was still dark, a sensation ran up her front leg, for all the world like a million beetle legs. ‘Ugh’ Jemima thought, quickly standing, she examined her leg and found nothing. ‘What the...?’ Jemima thought, she was about to put it down to cramp when suddenly the leg began to burn, a million hot needles penetrating her skin. Automatically Jemima mewed with pain, and turned her paw over.
The mark, that she had almost forgotten about, burned brightly, the charred flesh seeming to glow with a white light all it’s own. Pain threatened to engulf all of Jemima’s senses, but with supreme willpower, she turned them outwards, feeling for something, anything, that could explain her agony. That is when she felt it. No particular sense told her they were there, the information simply arrived in her brain, and she processedit before she wondered at it’s origin.
They’re here’ she thought, quite who they were she had no idea, but nonetheless, the sensation of their presence was both familiar, and terrifying.
“Stay away” she hissed, wondering at the venom in her own voice. A shadow seemed to move, but before it could touch the light, it hissed as if it had been burned, and stepped back into the darkness. ‘They’re afraid of light’ Jemima realised and at the same time a much more puzzling revelation ‘what is power for me, is death to them.’ Even in mortal danger, she took a second. ‘Where did that come from?’ she wondered. She sat again, ‘at least I am safe here’ she thought, and as she sat, she watched the shadows move in the darkness.
When something that Jemima thought must equate with dawn finally broke, the shadows quickly dissipated. She had had little asleep, afraid to drop back again, even if she was in what seemed to be a safe haven. Sighing she stood, lamenting her aching joints. At least her arm had stopped hurting, although it had burned more, and the crescent had been replaced with what could only be described as a half moon shaped burn. The place that she looked at now, was nothing like it had been atnight. If she hadn’t known better Jemima would have said she had been moved. She was now at the end of what seemed to be an alley, leading out to a maze of seedy backstreets. Nothing was familiar here, but at least Jemima found all of her senses working. Indeed among several more unsavoury smells, Jemima found something uniquely recognisable, the smell of that great human favourite, Liquor. Jemima had been around many pubs in her time, be it with Uncle Skimble, whilst he ‘borrowed’ a bottle of scotch, or at the knee of Great uncle Gus, as he told enthralling stories of his theatre life. One thing Jemima knew for certain, where there was beer, there were people, and possibly a chance of getting home, or at least finding out where she was.
Nose leading the way, she walked towards the source of the intoxicating scent. The streets curled and seemed to almost double back on each other, but with implicit trust, Jemima followed her nose, sure soon enough it would lead her to the source of the smell. Her trust was not misplaced, as she rounded a corner, she found a grimy building, set back slightly from the street, it’s door wide open. A rusty sign above the door proclaimed, The Victoria.
Slipping inside was easy, and Jemima wove her way in between the legs that covered the floor, trying to find a safe place to sit and listen.
Eventually she settled underneath a beer soaked table. At first, as she listened, she thought the people must be speaking a different language, but soon she realised that they were simply talking very fast, in a garbled tongue. As Jemima slowly began to decipher what they were saying, she heard many cries of “where is she?” and “Why can’t he just make her re-appear?” The people seemed to be arguing, for from the other side of the tables, Jemima could hear other people saying “it’s not his fault, don’t let him think that” and “He can’t find her anymore than we can.”
Jemima listened intently to the arguments, there seemed to be different conflicts at every table, but no clues as to where she was. She watched as routinely, as if of their own accord, a few would swap tables, a second later and the arguments would begin again. She heard a door from somewhere be pushed open. Three children all dressed identically tumbled out, their ecstatic joy a sharp contrast to the prevailing atmosphere. The women serving quickly walked up to them.
“Not yet” she said sharply. The children looked up, and then obeying the command, returned through the door. Jemima watched the pantomime with fascination, unable to know what to Make of the bizarre scene. ‘It’s still not helping me though’ she thought, pulling herself up. She began to walk towards the door, when she bumped straight into a man. walking down the centre of the pub. Jemima looked up, panicked, but the man did not even look down, he just ignored her, as if nothing had happened.
Relieved and slightly shaken, Jemima carried on towards the door. She was startled by the sound of scraping chairs behind her, whirling, she saw five of the patrons get up, they began to walk, in perfect formation towards the door. Jemima quickly pulled herself outof the way, The five walked through the door, the rest of the pub following them with intent gazes. Everything stopped, and Jemima found out what deafening silence meant. For an infinite second everyone stood still, nothing moved, nothing breathed. Then suddenly as if by some silent command had been spoken, everything began again. Jemima quickly noticed that the chairs had been re-arranged as if by magic, and now the members absence was not even detectable. Even more shaken, Jemima headed towards the door. Thinking to follow the men, she sniffed the air outside. She was amazed, not a breath of the men’s scent remained on the wind.
The days passed strangely in the junkyard. In the fourteen days since Jemima’s disappearance so little and so much had changed. Jenny barely ever smiled anymore, and sometimes her eyes would fix on the dawn, asif she hoped her daughter would reappear out of it. Misto worried about her, feeling somehow responsible for what had happened, even though he knew there was nothing he could have done. He missed her terribly, an aching longing like an open wound. Not only for himself but for Vici, who had grown quieter, thinner and had lost the indefinable sparkle she had always had. ‘it’s like part of her is missing’ Misto thought, and he knew exactly what it was. ‘Come back soon Jem, come back’ he thought, all of his own searching, his meditations and his hope had so far found nothing of her. Munkustrap had talked in vague terms of needing a new time keep, but he was too afraid too even broach the subject openly, afraid of what admitting she was gone might do. Only Demeter knew of his private thoughts, and almost by instinct, when one had gone missing the rest of the cats had retreated further into their pairs and their families, the idea of losing someone suddenly a raw reality to them. Misto sighed sadly and walked over to Vici, nuzzling her comfortingly.
She smiled at him gently and liked his face, he felt her rasping tongue scratch his skin, but he didn’t mind, instead he lay next to her, curling his tail about her, and gently grooming her head. She let out a half hearted purr, and then without warning, spoke.
“I don’t see her anymore.” She said. Misto turned sharply to face her.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I used to see her every night, I’d dream about her, but she’s gone, what if, what if I’m starting to forget? I don’t want to forget.”
“You’re not forgetting my love, you just have to have different dreams.
Don’t worry, no one will forget.” Victoria sighed slightly.
“You sound as if you think she’s already gone.” Misto looked at her, and hoped his eyes ran true to his words.
“I still have hope.”
Weeks were passing where time still took the lead. Jemima’s disappearance was still a raw wound, and Munkustrap did not know what to do about it. Demeter came out of there shelter, and gently nuzzled his chest as he remained unmoving, staring at the Jellicle moon. He didn’t want to give up hope of finding her anymore than anyone else, and yet with her missing for six weeks, there was little left to be hopeful for.
In a way Munkustrap wished she had just been taken by Macavity or his cronies. That he could have dealt with. It was the fact that she had just disappeared without a trace that disturbed him most, it was the realm of the mystic, Mistoffles realm, yet neither of them could do anything to help her. She was not dead, of that Munkustrap had to be sure. But they would need a new timekeeper if she did not reappear, and if Munkustrap did appoint someone new, would he be sending a mothe rinto despair, and her friends into grief? Munkustrap sighed, feeling the internal tug of war that had been taking place for several days. Then there was a tug of a more concrete type on his shoulder, and he looked down to see his mate staring worriedly y up at him, her face a picture of concern. Sighing Munkustrap returned back to his home, wondering how he could ever resolve what he should do next.
When the eighth week of Jemima’s disappearance began, Vici felt the change. She could not explain the sensation, the cloying closeness of it, yet she could feel the world seeming to close in. She sighed, the ironic wit her mind seemed intent on developing kicking in, ‘Great, loneliness and lunacy, what a combination.’ She knew that she was not really lonely, Misto was there whenever she needed him, and somehow, the way she tried to be there for him just seemed inadequate in comparison.
‘He is a fine mate’ she thought and then stopped short, a mental double take to check that last thought. When had Misto stopped being her friend and become her mate? She could not say, yet the more she thought about it, the more sense it made. ‘Right fine, Misto is my mate, should I tell him?’ 'Don’t worry,‘ the rest of her mind supplied, ‘he’ll figure it out.’ Victoria sighed again, in any other circumstance, she might have smiled. She stepped out of the drainpipe, when had she stopped going home? She could not remember. It had only been a few weeks ago thatshe had chatted to Jemima at this door, they had been so happy. She could almost see her now standing by the abandoned car, that had got buried in that pile in a night no Jellicle would ever forget. She could just imagine her sitting there, looking bemused as if she had just stepped out of a dream. No wait, Vici could see her, faint and fuzzy around the edges, like an old photograph, she seemed to be totally unaware of her surroundings. Vici, could not believe it and she made the fatal mistake, she blinked in astonishment. Jemima’s image blinked out of existence with her, and Vici was lift staring vacantly at a blank spot. Had she imagined it? Possibly, but if it were true, was it a glimmer of hope? What could she do? She decided to find Misto, he was so much better at these things. She bounded across the junkyard, for the first time in weeks with a purpose, she went to find the magician she called her own.
The feeling of connection passed almost as soon as it had come, and Jemima continued to walk, shaken by the experience. The light was grey and musty, not the light of day that Jemima so longed to see. Yet for a second she had felt the sun warm her back, and thought she could the presence of her friends, her relatives. The connection had scared her, yet it had been like a one way mirror, she could only see herself, yet she felt if she stood in front of the glass, someone else could see her.
This was not the first feeling she had had this light time, yet this was the first time she had actually felt the connection with such intensity. she sat down, and glanced at her wrist, as she had expected, the full moon had formed, and her hand still glowed slightly. She felt as if it were a power she could not master, like the mark was a symbol in a language she did not yet understand. Yet she was so sure she was on the brink. habit drove her to walk the streets, and she found herself outside a pub once again. she was surprised, this one was somehow different, and taking a step back, she saw it. It was so much planer than the others, and was pained a deep red, that which was not already London clay brick work. She stepped up, and read the sign on the door.
This too was in red, light on dark and proclaimed, ‘The Outside Inn’.
Intrigued, Jemima entered the pub. The interior was different too, there were no tables, and the patrons gathered around the bar, and to Jemima’s immense relief talked much slower than in the other pubs she had been in.
“It’s sad” One was saying “that they should be able to see her here, yet she doesn’t know it.” At the mention of ‘here’ Jemima’s ears pricked up, perhaps at last a mention of where she was?
The man conned. “And so young as well, it’s no wonder she’s so confused.”
“It’s her birthright,” a woman piped up, “she has to come to learn, she has to know exactly what she is.”
“But so young?” A younger man replied, “think of how it effects those on our side.”
“Better now than when she is a mother herself, she has the time, she must learn how to use it.” The argument continued, but Jemima tuned it out. What did they men, her? Could it actually be her? and if so, what was her birthright, what was the ‘time’ and why must she learn to use it?
“All I want is to go home” Jemima wailed quietly, knowing that the patrons of the pub could not hear her. That was why she was all the more surprised when they turned around, and intent gazes nailed her to the wall.
“Soon.” was all the man said, but with a sudden overload of information, her brain tripped a safety fuse and Jemima bolted for the door.
Cool air greeted her as she got outside, and after a moment in the refreshing breeze, Jemima gathered her wits enough to carry on. Questions buzzed around her head like angry insects, ‘how had they seen her, and they were human, so how had they known what she had said?
Why had they been talking about, and why had I been so important she found out her to use whatever gift she had? The man said she would be home soon, but how soon? Should she hope, or just wait?’ Jemima half wished she could go back, but knew that she could not face walking in again. ‘Maybe I’ll find somewhere else’ she thought and continued down the road. The next pub was not long in coming, and was as plainly decorated as the first, although in golds and yellows. ‘The moon under water’ the sign said, and with a hope for more clues, Jemima went in. The pub was quiet, serene. The people, Jemima noticed, talked very quietly, as if afraid to disturb the underlying atmosphere. Aware that these peoplemay be able to see and hear her, she crept very quietly towards one table.
“We can do nothing but wait now.” A woman said, the others nodded in agreement.
“She has had the last of it, she is marked.” a man replied.
“They drew her in, we marked her and now it is up to her.” The rest of the table nodded, one however looked nervous.
“What if she is not ready?” He asked.
“She is ready,” an older man replied, “and if she is not, then do not worry about consequences, we won’t be here to see them.” The young man did not looked comforted.
“She will win.” The woman said confidently, “they cannot stand up to her, she is strong.” Jemima backed away from the table, her pulse racing.
What must she do, who must she stand up to? She just wanted to go home, not to fight some great battle. She was little more than a kitten for goddness’ sakes. It seemed that these pubs brought anything except good news, but at the same time, Jemima knew that she had to know what was going to happen. The conversation in the pub had died to a low hum, and with more than a little trepidation for what she would find outside, Jemima headed for the door.
To her surprise, it was still light outside. This day had lasted longer than any other Jemima had experienced here. It was as if the daylight were waiting for something to happen, before it allowed the night to take over. Turning a corner, Jemima found another building. Like the other two, this one was plain, a whitewashed front on which there were sharply contrasting letters. ‘The world’s end.’ Jemima shivered involuntarily, but on a quest for information, she headed inside. Itwas white here too, but the first thing Jemima noticed was that there were no people. Nothing moved, and heavy silence had fallen over the pubs atmosphere like a coat of dust. Jemima looked around, there was something else odd to. She could not quite put her finger on it, but when she looked at the walls it hit like a thunderbolt. There were no shadows. The tables did not cast a shadow on the walls, nothing did.
As Jemima looked the last pieces of the puzzle fell into place. She was to use some talent to fight the shadows that she knew stalked this place at night. The realisation brought something almost like calm into Jemima’s world, before she realised what the realisation meant. ‘They said I was ready’ he reminded herself. ‘They said I had power.’ The last piece suddenly clicked and Jemima looked upwards, her eyes a picture of hope and fear, struggling for dominance. ‘When I do this, I can go home.’ This settled it, and Jemima headed for the door. When she reached it however, she took a step back. The switch had been pulled, and darkness had enveloped the rest of this world.
Misto looked up into the evening sky. The darkness was gathering quickly, and the air was thick with tension. His sensitive whiskers picked up minute changes in pressure. ‘A storm’ he thought, ‘there’s a big storm on the way.’ He looked around him, knowing others had noticed it too. He ran to the drainpipe, relieved beyond reason to still find Victoria curled up there. he had been increasingly more worried about her since the beginning of the week, when she had told him that she had seen Jemima. He did not know what had happened, but he knew it had been a shock to her. He curled his body tightly around hers and nervously watched huge dark clouds gather on the horizon.
Jemima watched huge dark shadows gather on the horizon. The pit of her stomach felt like a moth hatchery, and all earlier assertions of her readiness were quickly forgotten when she saw the threat. Half of her wanted nothing more than to crawl back into the shaft of moonlight, yet she knew this was her only hope of ever returning. Defying her instincts, she looked up, straight into what would have been the eyesof the oncoming shadow. She watched as it rose up, and swirled until it filled her field of vision, she felt it’s soft velvet folds closearound her cocooning her inside it’s being. Jemima lashed out, her sharp claws making contact with nothing as the form melted in front of her onslaught. The more she struggled, the stronger the beings hold became like a boa constrictor, squeezing life from a struggling prey. Jemima stopped, her fight was useless, so instead she relaxed and searched her mind for some hidden knowledge to help her. As she stopped struggling, the creatures hold lessened but it still kept her cocoooned. She felt a faint, tingling sensation and looked down, her legs seemed to be slowly moulding into the creature. ‘It’s trying to transform me’ she realised. Her mind search became more frantic, afraid it would already be toolate before she found the knowledge to help her. She lifted her head, stared at the creature, and hissed.
To her immense surprise the creature stepped back, releasing her. ‘What?’ Jemima thought, but as she stared past the creature she saw something even more incredible, light was forming behind the creature, blinding and growing. ‘Not light’ someeven older instinct in Jemima’s being told her, ‘time’. Following herfeeling Jemima concentrated on the light, it slowly began to grow, filling more and more of the horizon.
Concentrating hard, she did not even notice the creature until it was almost on top of her. Snarling, she hissed again, the creature retreated back towards the light. Jemima smiled and advanced on the creature, hissing again. The creature stepped backwards, going further and further until it was on the brink of the breech. Jemima sighed, and hissed one more time, the creature teetered, and fell back, it’s shadow closing the breech with it. Jemima turned, a familiar dizzy sensation filling her head. She knew that these shadows she saw were good, and she gratefully fell into them, as they carried her towards unconsciousness.
When Jemima awoke, her scenery had changed. She felt almost incapable of lifting her head. She purred as she felt warm sun on her back. She rolled from her side to her back, noticing the ground was wet but not caring, because above her the sky was clear blue, full with the blush of an electric London spring.
As the shock wore off, Jemima noticed she was not alone, cats were gathered around her, familiar faces and familiar names, though placing them was difficult.
“Jemi? Jemi is that you?” That voice was familiar, and Jemima rolledon her side again, turning to meet her eyes.
“I made it Momma, I’m home.” Jenny smiled and gathered her daughters in her arms. The cats turned to each other, shock and wonder and happiness colouring their tones as they spoke. Among Victoria lent on Misto’s shoulder, smiling with pure joy. “I told you” she said, “She’s come back.”
Several months later, Victoria’s kittens had just been born. Three, near identical kits, a perfect mixture of their father and mother. Jemima smiled, her memories of her time in ‘the other place’ were not very clear, but she could not say that it had been a complete surprise.
She looked out across the junkyard, summer was just beginning to fade into autumn, and the first few leaves had fallen to the ground, fascinating playthings for the new kittens in the tribe. Jemima smiled, and turned towards the rising moon. They were born on a full moon Jemima noticed,a good omen if ever there was one. She watched the blood red orb as it rose slowly over the trees of the distant Hyde park. The timing of a full moon was special she knew, and the reason why four days to her was eight weeks to those who were left here. She still could not quite get her head around that, but she knew better than to second guess time.Her eyes returned to the rising moon, it’s colour fading to pale white asit joined it’s shining cousins in the night sky. Jemima smiled, once gain, she thanked the moon, before she laid her head down to rest.