“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.”