In Which a Wall is Momentarily Broken

“It is not so much a desire as it is a necessity,” she answered. Patches remained in defensive mode, ears still pressed flat against his head. She, however, regarded him with disinterest. Her eyes fluttered, pupils narrowed into thin slits. This particular time of day was set aside for naps–for to her, the threat of gray aliens and faceless shooters paled in comparison to the damage that lack of sleep would do to her brilliant white coat–and yet she was being put upon to explain such a simple plan to their fallout boy.

Sensing some mild confusion, she turned her head and explained, “He is called thus because his fate is the result of Fontanello’s schemes. The reference stands. I shall accept no questions on the matter.”

Curious, Patches gazed in the direction she faced. He knew not to whom she was speaking, for all he saw were the shelves of books that lined the Library’s walls. Perhaps there was an audience hidden in those shadows, but he had more pressing concerns at the moment. “There must be some other form I can take!” he beseeched. “Perhaps a winged unicorn or a majestic phoenix. Something that flies!”

“Vampires fly to some degree. I have done extensive research.” Her hackles raised for a brief moment as she recalled the time spent poring through such literary drivel. “This will work most effectively against that villainous oaf. The decision has been made. If you do not accept it, then you shall be dismissed from our service.” She daintily licked a paw but her claws–and the implied threat–were apparent.

Patches’s ears drooped in resignation. He supposed life as a vampire boy was preferable to having no life at all. “May I at least know the name of the immaculate beauty who is sending me to my sparkly doom?”

“Yes, I do believe you are owed that much. I am Violetta Browne, Marchioness of Sligo, First Chair of the Council of Librarians, Great Felyne Oracle, Guardian of the White River. Like all those beneath me, you shall address me as Lady Violet.”

“Fairest Lady Violet.” Patches again graciously bowed. “I wish we met under more fortunate circumstances.”

“Believe me, Sir Patches, if it were more fortunate circumstances, we would have never met at all.” The mystery in her voice, meant to dissuade any sort of affection Patches might feel, only further encouraged them. Of all the beings he has ever met, none were as captivating as the one before him.

His adoration was interrupted by the echoing creak of the opening doors and the pitter-patter of Mr. Wickles’s feet against the marble floor. “The preparations are complete,” he announced.

“Excellent,” Lady Violet purred. “Take Patches and begin the transformations. We mustn’t delay any further.”

Wickles motioned for Patches to follow, and so Patches trailed after his friend. Glancing back one last time at the angel who has captured his heart, he mewled softly as he saw her curled on top of a red velvet pillow, as if the softest and fluffiest of white clouds descended from the sky to rest right where she lay.

In Which Patches is Pissy

Patches transformed into his human form because he simply needed to pace. Of course his natural feline form was superior in all other ways, but unless he wanted Mr. Wickles to notice, that is to assume that he was stalking his annoyance of a duplicitous former faux master…well, the human form had its compensations.

“With every other piece of tomfoolery he’s come out with why would you think this had a possibility of success? How do you know he wouldn’t just latch on to the sparkles and add them to the lizards?!?”

Mr. Wickles hesitated, “Our advisor-”

“Advisor singular? ONE person decided this was a good idea and you just went with it? What kind of cockamamie-”

There was a whipping wind and a stunning burst of light which left Patches blinking for a few moments. When his eyes cleared he discovered he and his erstwhile owner were in the midst of a grand and elaborate library. There were shades of Art Nouveau and Baroque and styles he wasn’t sure had ever actually existed in his world.

As he gaped Mr. Wickles huffily adjust his cuffs, “If you want to complain about the following of wise advice, you can argue with the giver.” With that the man flounced through the ornate doors Patches had just noticed. They closed with a petulant slam and the cat was left alone in the awe-inspiring room. He let his nature take control and transformed into his proper form so as to better assuage his curiosity. He leapt up onto the empty edge of a shelf and began to saunter. His tale twitched with a jaunty rhythm as he followed intriguing smells and leapt from bookcase to bookcase. One scent began to dominate the others and he found himself captivated.

He was making a particularly impressive leap, even for his dashing self, when he suddenly collided with a soft form in midair. He, of course, landed on his feet. Patches groomed himself with a purposeful air as it just wasn’t done for someone to think he might not be doing something he hadn’t absolutely intended to. He glanced up and froze. Across from him was the most glorious cat.

He gazed at her, dumbfounded, as she groomed herself casually. The other cat could be nothing but female, if his nose hadn’t told him then her sheer beauty would have. She was lean. She was graceful. Her face regal. She was, in a word, perfection.

The mystery cat stopped grooming and sat, her tail lashing behind her before curling around to settle in front of her delectable paws. “Patches, I presume.”

Her voice was as charming as the rest of her and he abruptly made a sweeping, feline bow, “I am, but I am more interested in what your name might be, you vision of perfection.”

Her ear twitched, “I’m the individual who hatches cockamamie plans.”

Patches was too entranced to process what she’d said. “There should be paintings of you scattered around the globe so all can appreciate the wonder of your presence,” he purred.

She flicked her tail, “Well, one could say it’s already been done. I posed for the Marshall Islands’ Abyssinian stamp.”

His twitterpated ears caught up a moment later, “You’re the advisor? You? You want me to become a sparkly vampire BOY?!?” She was suddenly a tinge less beautiful in his eyes and his ears went back as his tail fluffed.

 

In which Wickles first hedges, but then reluctantly reveals his plan.

“Ah, Patches, those are the most pressing questions of them all, aren’t they now?” He paused, giving the put-upon cat a look that seemed to express his concern whether the little thing would be able to bear the weight of knowing the truth. The entire, shocking, unseemly truth.

“So?” Patches insisted, getting more than a little impatient with his ‘master’, who had turned out to be that, and more. Worse? Better? He wasn’t sure yet. It depended on the answers to his questions, which seemed to still hang in the air, like the afterglow of an elaborate firecracker display.

Mr. Wickles heaved a weary sigh and then decided that he had no choice but to reveal the task his small companion would have to fulfil in this war of fiction. “My dear Patches, how would you like it if you … sparkled?” he began.

“Sparkled?” a flabbergasted Patches echoed dumbly. “You mean my coat? You want to make it shiny, is that what you are saying?” He pondered a gleaming, over-groomed coat and reveled in the splendid image that presented itself in his head, before coming to the realization that Wickles hadn’t answered his questions at all. Damn him!

“Okay, stop! Why did you tell me, and what do you want me to do?” he asked sternly, determined not to be sidetracked again.

Another sigh, another hesitant look. Then Wickles said hastily:

“Because I need your permission before I proceed with the next step, and I want you to be the gigantic distraction we need to defeat my uncle, once and for all!”

Patches’ eyes rounded. With this amazed facial expression, he looked more like a goofy doll for a spoiled child than a normal cat. “I’m to become the weapon to win the war? The soldier leading the troops? The invisible cat with the grin and the cryptic lines?”

“No, no, no, don’t mix up the fictional zones now. That role is already taken. In a way, you  will be the spearhead of my martial srategy, yes, but not exactly as a leader of the troops…”

The cat began to weave around and betwen the legs of the man, showing his excitement in no uncertain terms. “Then what am I supposed to do? What will I be? Tell me, come on, tell me!”

Wickles stroked the cat mechanically, because that is what you do when a feline rubs itself against your legs in an affectionate-looking manner. He hoped Patches was ready.

“So we want to save traditional fantasy, stem the tide of Fontanello’s lizard alien shooters, and make all the different worlds better places again … you understood that part, right?”

“I am not stupid,” the cat warned him, baring his pointy teeth a little.

“Of course not,” Wickles hastened to reassure his friend. “But that’s a nice set of teeth you have … okay, here’s the thing I keep holding back: I want to transform you into a pretty boy vampire, one whose flesh sparkles in the sunlight instead of disintegrating, and then I want you to burst onto the scene to distract everyone from the careful adjustments and nifty surprises I will be preparing in the background. You, my dear Patches, will dazzle them with your perfect teeth and your sullen teenage handsomeness, while I will undo much of what my infernal uncle has erected. You will carry the sparkling man’s burden, to borrow an old phrase, and if all things go as planned, Uncle Fontanello will be blinded not by your gleam, but by his own disgust with a fantasy character like that. What do you say?”

Patches was speechless. He stared up at Mr. Wickles in disbelief. When he found his voice again, he hissed: “That is the most ridiculous thing, and the stupidest plan against faceless shooters I’ve ever heard. If that is all you’ve got, I think I prefer Fontanello’s lizard people.”

 

In Which There is a Great Deal of Exposition

Mr. Wickles adjusted his spectacles and sighed.

“Yes, Patches. My littlest brother, Finnegan. We were also discussing my Uncle Fontanello and my sister Eugenia, my ex-wife Angeline, the precise nature of my relationship to you – given that I masqueraded as your ‘master’ for a good three years – the tangled mess of a plot we’ve waded through up to this point. Now Eugenia tells me that you’ve returned from a doomed timeline, wherein our side were captured by that damned Uncle of mine, and that this is our last go-round to get the plan right. That, by the way, is the only reason I’m about to tell you any of this, Patches. You were only ever meant to be a cats-paw to the main endeavour, but you’ve turned out to be a major tool.

“The fact, Mr. Patches, is this: We’re in the middle of a war. A war of succession, to be perfectly frank. You’re a frontline player on the side of traditional fantasy.”

Needless to say, Patches was having a spot of trouble processing all this. Wickles, due to long observation of the poor enchanted feline, noted this and took pity on the poor creature.

“Look, Patches – surely you’ve noticed a number of discrepancies about you, lately? There are scads more fantastic creatures walking undisguised than have any right to. Even our vaguely steampunk setting has some anomalies – I’ve pushed the Writers to flood the market with steampunk as a sort of placeholder in the public imagination until we can get this conflict sorted out, but its hold is waning, and little flashes of contemporary urban fantasy are flashing through. We haven’t much time until this entire genre collapses, leaving us vulnerable to Fontanello’s machinations. Further, there’s been a huge uptick in conspiracy theories lately, lending credence to Fontanello’s vaguely-credible blend of Science Fiction and paranoia.

“He’s planning to wipe out or rewrite traditional fantasy entirely, Patches, and replace it with lizard-people, grey aliens, and faceless shooters on grassy knolls – it’s up to us to stop him.”

Patches, having recovered some of his wits during this lengthy exposition, stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. Though still a bit foggy, the explanation that Mr. Wickles was giving made an enormous amount of sense to his sleep-deprived brain. Struggling to ask an intelligent question after those solid walls of folderol, Patches raised a claw.

“Are you suggesting that my entire life and entire world are a fictional construct? Based on the whims of the literary market in some far-fetched otherwhere?”

“That’s it precisely, dear boy! I knew you’d get there eventually.”

“And, as a Librarian, you have a certain measure of influence over the public imagination? Where we reside?”

“Influence? Scads of it, cat – I manipulate it; I make it sing, and thrill to do my bidding. The trouble is, so does Uncle Fontanello.”

“And, while maintaining a separate existence outside of this framework where you exert that influence, you’re simultaneously operating within this framework, pulling strings on the inside?”

“Indeed. I’m what they refer to as a Self-Insert, or a Mary Sue, if you will. Derived from some hastily-scrawled fan-fiction I wrote myself as a sort of door-way. Bless the Internet – bless it.” 

Patches scowled, and made his final point. “Alright, Wickles. All that being the case – given your near-omnipotence in my world, and given that doubtless you can manipulate me into doing your bidding regardless of my own thoughts or feelings on the matter – what the hell do you need me for, and why the hell are you telling me this?”

Coming Soon

The sabbatical ended up going…well…longer than a sabbatical really due to LIFE *shakes fist at heavens*. However, come the end of term we rounded up a couple new to us writers and we’ll see where the insanity takes us.

In which we enter, pursued by a possible paradox

Patches blinked and found himself pushed into his own coat closet by his companions. Decca was peering beneath the door and offering commentary, “Beauty, you shoulda been on stage, your performance is impeccable! Boy’s not too bad either. Nothing on you, of course, my sweet.”

Eugenia preened, “You say the darlingest things!”

Patches hushed the two of them and pushed his ear against the wall. There was the sound of a scuffle, liquid being poured, the strike of a match, and (finally) the slam of a door. He burst from the closet, quickly extinguishing the wastebasket fire that he, that is to say his prior self, had started. Meanwhile, Decca and Eugenia untangled prior-Eugenia from the rope prior-Patches had used to bind her.

Now-Eugenia grasped prior-Eugenia’s hands, “Dear, I’m sorry, but you simply must be burned now.”

Prior-Eugenia sighed, “Timeline?”

“Well, in about an hour you need to be charred and munching on two dreadful men. Don’t worry, they’re actually quite tasty.”

“Needs must, I suppose.”

The two Eugenia’s exited stage left, pursued by a tortoise.

Patches’ erstwhile master sat up with a sigh.

“You were always the fool, how could you be the mastermind?!?”

Dustin pulled himself up, “Well, I suppose Dustin is rather the fool, but the wonderful thing is that everyone knows he’s harmless.” With that ‘Dustin’ pulled off his head…which was actually a mask.

“Mr. … Mr. Wickles?!? You’re the mastermind?”

“Indeed.”

“But you’re harmless, why would you disguise yourself as Dustin?”

“You think of me harmless, but there are many who observe at deeper level and they, they know. My power is a quiet one, but it can move mountains if necessary.”

“But you’re the librarian!!”

“What greater power than books?”

“You dressed up as a ghostly knight to scare some silly teens.”

A disgruntled look settled on Mr. Wickles’ face, “Meddling kids. Just can’t mind their business.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

A sigh huffed out, “Look, the kids were interfering with something very important that could have left them very dead. Not just dead, very dead. Scaring them off was to save their lives. Now could we perhaps focus on the problem at hand? Why’ve you travelled back?”
“I though you had power…”

Mr. Wickles’ glared and his voice rose, “Why should I waste power when you could just tell me?!?”

Patches took a startled step back, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll explain!”

“Just tell me why Eugenia brought you back, and brought you here.”

“Decca and I were somehow swept away from a bloody fae battle to a cavern where Fontanello-”

“FONTANELLO?!?” Mr. Wickles’ face turned a rather frightening shade of magenta, “FONTANELLO TOOK YOU?!?”
“Well, I-I’m not quite sure if he took us, we were swept up in a shipment of shaving cream apparently.”

“…Shaving cream.”

“Yes, yes, there was this rather manic little fae named-”
Wickles’ interrupted with a sigh, “Finnegan. My little brother will never cease his japes.”

“Your…brother? But?”