Short Story: Inspiration

The library of lives sighed around them as they walked between the shelves. They were following the tail flick of the cat that had brought them here. Whenever they felt lost or at the very least uncertain if where to go next, they would see the cat, pale in the shadows of the books down a particular passage, or sense the speed of his darting from place to place.

They had searched through dreams, first for their guide, and then for each other, determined to find the common inspiration for the visions that pulled them. In the waking world they had compared notes and constructed scenarios to ponder in those shifting grey moments before the veil of sleep claimed them.

The cat had been the first clue, pale as bone rather than the dark shiver of motion they had been expecting. It had regarded each of them as they slept in their beds, and the memory of it had been singular enough to stay with them on the other side of the dawn.

They made a pact to recall and follow where that cat led them. Past the deserts of Lost Nahend, and across the ruby-strewn obsidian plain below the Sundered Peak, their guide had dared them to continue.

Eager, their entwined dreams had brought them to the libraries that never were, and the various annexes that threatened to derail their search. They saw other dreamers from time to time in those crooked corridors, entranced by the volumes they had only ever planned, or contemplating the poetry they had never dared.

The white cat led them past those traps, and out into a sunlit room with bare floorboards and a sunny view obscured by the grime of autumns been and gone.

They cautiously explored the blank journals on which their guide had come to perch, but saw no titles on the spines. The cat yawned and began to groom itself as they looked around. They had been searching for the inspiration that drove them and sparked their work. Finding no answers in the waking world, they had turned to oneiromancy, sure that such an ephemeral goal could best be lifted from the skein of dreams.

They stood there in that plain room, surrounded by unmarked pages with no view visible through the windows and then realised the one thing that could inspire them to continue, to create, to grow and to explore their worlds.

They stood there and looked to each other, and laughed until they woke – separate and yet united at last.

Short Story: The Escape

He jumped, straight forward and out of the window. Behind him, he left the jacket by which his captor had thought they had secured him. He made it look simple, but at the back of his mind was the quiet satisfaction that most would have got even more caught up and entangled in their attempts to escape.

Behind him he heard a screech of outrage. Footsteps clattered on the bare floorboards. The sounds receded rapidly into the distance. He was safe for the moment. Well, he was safe for precisely the next couple of seconds.

Jumping out of the window had dealt with the immediate problem. The details of a safe landing were something he would have to work out on the way down. Fortunately the same practiced dexterity with which he had slipped, eel-like, from his owner’s coat, was a product of his gymnastic prowess.

Turning what had therefore begun as a plummet into a flip and somersault was merely a matter of muscle memory, determination and of course luck. That was something he had in abundance at least.

A tuck, a twist, and a flick of the tail and his paws hit the ground. A brief pause to miaow defiance back at those who had dared to talk of clipping his claws and then he sped like flowing silk into the night

Short Story: The Doom Delayed

The oh so fluffy paw of doom was poised to bring down the outer darkness, but first it was time for catnip. High Exquisitor Fangorn Crackbone (known somewhat affectionately as Pixel to his doting “owner”) drew back from the horror-stricken pages of his secret libram and padded down the hallway.

Shrouded in the captive souls of his past victims, he stalked towards the feeding chamber. Unbound spirits fled at his awful approach, their passing marked to lesser eyes by small whirls of dust on the edges of vision. Ahead he could hear the clattering sounds of meal preparation as his devoted slaves bent themselves to their duties.

His maleficent plan was nearing fruition. Soon the borders with the Outer Realms of Madness would be sundered by his paw, casting down this world of men and ushering in a new age of glory. Worlds would shudder under his very gaze, and the sound of his passing would make mortals weep.

The heat of the kitchen bloomed against his tortoiseshell pelt as he rounded the corner, bringing with it exotic scents and the promise of satiation. Within the cavernous heights of the chamber, the two humans were talking as they prepared sustenance for themselves.

He permitted them to believe they had free will most of the time, but now his needs were greater than theirs. He padded into their view and silently willed their attention.

Rather annoyingly they seemed too distracted to pay attention. This would not do. A righteous fury swelled within his breast and he opened his fanged maw to berate them and reveal his terrible fury:

“Meowp!”

One of the slaves turned, with a stupid expression on her face, all eyes and pouting lips. Before he could launch into a scathing rebuke, she scooped him up in her hand. Without a pause, she pressed him to her face, which had scrunched up in some demented gurn, and spoke in a high pitched squeal:

“Awwww! Pixel! You so cute and floofy! I could snuggle you all day! Who’s the cutest? Who’s the cutest?”

Legs dangling either side of her hand, he glared at the man, promising vicious retribution if he joined in. That said, this was rather comfortable, and from here he could see food and water, and was that low-lactose milk in a bowl for him?

He decided he could live with this petty indignity for now. The Outer Realms of Madness would still be there tomorrow. A warm house, food, drink, treats and occasionally over-attentive servants were bearable despite it all. The world could continue to exist this evening. Tomorrow was another story though.

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.