Short Story: A Pixel In The Mind’s Eye

In my dreams, a black cat pounces and prowls around my flat. At rest it seems little more than a shape of pure darkness, with only it’s bright green eyes giving any hint that it is looking at me. In motion, it is a blurred streak, like a black ribbon looping and speeding from place to place.

I’ve seen it for years, though it took me a while to process in my waking state that it was there. It was always there, whether I was in the half-aware state of falling asleep or waking up, and it soon came to be a comforting part of the process of transitioning to and from the waking world.

It never makes a sound, but then with its piercing eyes it never ceases to draw my eye when it wants attention. It’s silent progress through the dreamscapes that I’ve grown to appreciate so much has been at times both a joy and a terror, depending on its mood.

Whenever I dream, the black cat is there. It may be slinking in the background, glimpsed behind the bit players in my reverie, or it may be running or gliding beside me like a manic ball of black lightning as I swim through surreal landscapes in dolphin dreams.

Or at least, it used to always be in my dreams, but of late I’ve found myself looking around and not seeing it. My constant dream companion, like it’s earthbound cousins, seems to have developed a wanderlust.

I began to search for it, actively wandering further in dreams, willing myself to stay in the lucid dreams longer and longer, straying into further and more foreign realms where I was sure I wasn’t home any more. I’d be spurred on by faint glimpses, just as I was about to give up: the flick of a tail, or a familiar blur of frantic motion would spur me on, sure that I’d found it again.

Sometimes I’d be disappointed, a shadow resolving into something else, or a motion in the grass revealing some strange new wonder – but sometimes I’d look round and see those fierce green eyes, or feel the wind of its passing around my ankles, and know I was on the right track.

I spent weeks, maybe months, trying to work out where my spirit cat has gone too. Every now and then it would come back as if nothing had happened and I would relax before noticing it had gone again.

In the end I found it, but I’m not sure I’m particularly happy about the situation. I found the cat in someone else’s dream, playing and gambolling like a kitten, before it charged into battle with some half-formed phantom of its other owner’s mind.

So, if you find a black cat in your dreams, look after it and cherish it, and it will be the best imaginary friend you’ll never remember. But don’t make the same mistake I did: of thinking that you own it. Just like it’s earth-bound cousins, the spirit cat can have many homes, and rule them all one night at a time.

Inspiration All Around

You might have noticed a few new stories on the blog, and these will continue to come, though I may not post absolutely everything I write under this new challenge. I am also picking back up the novel as well as other odds and ends.

This new activity is inspired, as ever, by what’s going on around me: by friends and family, by my partners and co-workers. This inspiration may not always be happy and sweetness and light though. I am still a grumpy old sod with an eye for the ridiculous in all that surrounds me, so I know that a trying work day is as rich a vein of inspiration for me as conversations in the small hours, or events seen in the street.

Today certainly seems to be inspiring the grumpier side. The details are not important, but I’m reminding myself here that I really don’t need to wind myself up about what might be, or anticipate problems I may not have to deal with.

More directly, looking after myself with proper food and drink is the immediate order of the day. The writing and silliness and joy will follow the self-care.

Short Story: Saving the World

There are few things as marvellous than the sight and sound of your partners plotting together. Well, I’m sure there are some who might find it frightening, but even that depends on whether you’ve annoyed them or have been playing silly buggers with someone’s heart.

In this case it was a calming and wonderful thing to come home to, even if the place did look like a bomb had hit it. There were pieces of paper and dismantled calendars mixed with glitter, glue, and a worrying number of empty coffee cups across the main living room.

They looked up at me, with identical grins that were verging on being slightly too wide. It was no exaggeration to say that there was an air of mischeviousness to the scene.

“We’ve been talking.” Em said. She tried and failed to look serious for a moment.

“Yes,” said Bea, “and you need to sit and listen.” A glitter-sprinkled hand patted the floor beside them authoritatively.

The automatic fear response of any male to the words “we’ve been talking” tried to kick in, but it was tempered by a mental admonishment to stop being a wuss. Nine times out of ten, especially with the expressions currently on their faces, it actually meant “There’s something we need you to do but it’s a bit cheeky because we know we could do it ourselves, so pretty please because there’s foot rubs and soppiness in it for you.”

I eased myself down to sit with them, sweeping a clear patch. It wasn’t particularly successful, and I ended up picking scraps of paper out from under me as I settled. I gave up worrying about the glitter long ago.

“Okay, so who’s rage-quit on the arts and craft project?” I received a dead arm from Em in retaliation while Bea laughed. I held up my working hand in surrender. “Ow! Okay then, sore point, okay!” We laughed, and I took a better look at the debris around me. “So, what am I being roped into?”

They grinned. That normally means trouble for someone, and the amount of mess suggested they were plotting something big.

“Well it’s like this,” said Bea, their eyes glinting. “It’s been a horrible year for so many people, and so many more people have given in and let their more horrible instincts out.” Bea smiled at Em as she reached over. Their fingers interlaced, with a faint glow around their fingertips as they made contact.

This was nothing unusual for them, most people have a glow when in love, it’s just not usually this visible. I always counted myself lucky to see it, even if it was sometimes unnerving.

“So..?” I reached out to them both and took their hands. On a conscious level, it was as simple and intimate as it looked, though perhaps my action also contained an urge to restrain what felt like an imminent explosion.

“Well, we thought we’d do something about it, so we’ve been assembling a Working. We’re going to invert the whole thing and make everything shiny again.” My heart sank and I gripped their hands more tightly. The glow spread, and I could feel the tug of their glamour.

“Really?” I kissed their fingertips. “You’re relying on me to be the voice of reason here?”

“What’s reason got to do with it?” Em laughed, and scraps of calendar began to char and lift into the air. Bea’s eyes were sparkling, and I felt the hairs on my arms raise in sheer panic – or possibly it was just static electricity.

People have compared their lovers to gods and goddesses all through the ages, but let me tell you, the experience of sharing your life with the real deal is terrifying. They won’t mind me saying that; I’m pretty sure they get a buzz out of it.

The glow was growing stronger, and I could feel tension stretching the air as my loves decided to change the world. I shook my head. Bea looked at me, quizzically, and squeezed my hand.

“This isn’t right.”

“You humans are being awful, you need to let love in.” Em said. “You’re always saying you need a kick up the arse when you’re being stupid. This is the same thing.”

“It bloody isn’t.”

“We’ll make this year great, just you see.” Bea smiled softly. I sighed, and prepared to possibly literally lose my head.

“No, you won’t. You’ll make an illusion, a glamour to snare the world, but it still won’t be real. And you’ll be changing me too. I thought you said you liked me how I am?”

They didn’t like that. The glow snapped out of existence and pieces of paper, card, glitter, bones, and candles all fell to the floor around us.

Silence fell in the room too. The goddesses looked at me, and I was very aware of how ephemeral I was. I was right though, and they just needed a moment.

Then they grinned again and told me to order pizza. Some orders from on high I’m very happy to follow. It’s a tough job saving the world, but I’m glad I’m the one who has to do it.