Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Pussy Cat

I keep walking aimlessly through the afternoon streets filled with walking shoes.

I don't know what it is about New York that makes me feel so big when I look down and small when I look up. It's as if there is a message hidden in the architecture, in the way a lonely sunbeam pierces the roof of this glass and metal forest scratching at the sky. It's an old light, tinted in gold, that usually falls on one of the famous statues and turns every scene into a stage. It's grand, and old, and dusty. It reminds me of the look of cigar smoke and the glittery dresses of women in the Twenties. That light is the only thing that glues together the different neighborhoods and pockets of culture in this disorganized Manhattan collage.

I look up again, in search for an answer. What is it that I missed? What did I lose along the way? What is it that I should have learned at the other side of happily never after?

I walk past the witty little cafes, and the quirky shops. I walk past the models, and the artists, and the hipsters, and the bohemian rhapsodies. All of the cultured, creamy crusts. Wandering, wondering, remembering.

I wanted to be a muse... I wanted to be a muse so badly...

I wanted to provoke, and to inspire. Instead, I was the one that was enchanted and driven insane. I wonder if I am still insane.

I just have to find a new source of inspiration.

I just have to go down again, but this time I'm only following myself.

A set of stair steps catches my feet and leads me down a dark tunnel. The darkness rises like cold morning mist and in a few seconds I find myself in the middle of an empty station. I reach the end of the steps and continue along a dark hall. I can only see about fifteen meters ahead of me.

"Pussy, pussy, pussy cat. Come here pussy cat," I whisper as I walk through the black void. Silence greets me. Where is she?

I whistle, and the lonely sound echoes through the long tunnel. Only a while later do I hear a soft purr as a furry animal steps out of the shadows. She's smaller than I remembered, and yet she's more similar to a black panther than to a cat. Her shiny coat of hair reflects a mysterious blue light. I crouch and motion for the enormous animal to come to me.

She approaches me slowly and puts her head beneath outstretched hand, raising her spine and moving beneath my open palm as she purrs with pleasure. She has unusually long hairs for a cat. They are messy, but silky to the touch. I sit so she can snuggle onto my lap- well, as much as a huge cat can fit on top of my comparatively small legs- and I gladly caress her. Her warmth is comforting.

"Hello, empress, did you miss me?" I whisper into her ear. Here eyes narrow as she opens her jaws and I can see her moist mouth open in red fury, hissing. "Don't speak such insulting names," she sibilates through her dark lips.

She starts licking the fur above her paws. I always wondered what it would be like to lick a cat's fur. It does not look appetizing.

"So, you don't not know my name yet." She says with her usual condescending tone.

"You never told me your name," I say, amused. I know that this is part of our routine. She always knows infinitely more than I do, but will never reveal it. "What is your name?"

"Well, what is your name?"

"Alice, my name is Alice, I've told you a thousand times," I say with a giggle. Maybe I missed her a little.

"No. That is not your name, Alice," she says with the same serious voice.

"You just said it!"

"I said what?" She says, as she examines the length of her nails.

"My name."

"And what's your name?"

"Can you tell me where to go from here?" I say with a sigh.

"Well, where did you come from?"

"I am not sure. I can't remember what happened last night."

"Well, if you don't know where you came from, how will you know where to go?"

"That's only a problem if I'm going back to where I came from."

"Or if you are going back to where you are going."

"And how do I get there?" I ask, knowing that it will be futile to point out her nonsensical nature.

"I don't know," she says, simply.

"What do you mean you don't know?" I say in a high pitched voice. In all of the time I have known her, she has never given me such an answer. She just looks at me with her big, black eyes, as if there is nothing more insufferably boring than explaining the meaning of her every word. She seems to contemplate whether or not to continue the futile attempt, and apparently decides that her paws are more interesting.

This isn't making any sense, and I thought I had gotten over the fact that nothing makes sense in this world. I guess a better way to put it is that she is being sensible for once.

"I'm the character in the novel that is lost, and you are the character that helps me find my way. You use a complicated word game, but there is always some hidden meaning that I will magically understand later. You are not playing your part right! What do you mean you don't have the answer?" She ignores me.

"You always have the answer," I continue to protest.

"Well, perhaps it wasn't the right question to ask."

"So what is the right question, then?"

"That's a cowardly way of going about life, don't you think? Always waiting for others to tell you what to do," she says evenly.

"Well, I... I'm not always like this. I'm lost. Everyone gets lost sometimes."

"Why should I find you? We don't simply exist to provide you with guidance. Wonderland has its own problems, you know."She becomes instantly still as she stares into the darkness, as if watching a scene develop in the nothingness.

"What problems?" I ask brusquely. I know I'm behaving like a child.

He ears perk up and her muscles become tense. She lifts her head and remains still for a while. "You will find out soon." As she speaks, her hair stand on end.

I am used to speaking with crazy people and animals that shouldn't be speaking. This has all become a normal part of my abnormal life. What I am not used to seeing is fear in a magnificent supernatural creature. What in the world could make her afraid?

Then, I hear it. It's a soft metallic sound that is barely audible. Soon it becomes loud enough for me hear it clearly, and it continues to ascend in noise and intensity until it becomes unbearable. It's the sound of metal grinding against itself, as if two huge metallic hands were wringing each other. I cover my ears and my heart starts beating furiously. I look back at the stairs and see the small window of light in the distant mouth of the underground tunnel. It is only about 10 meters from where I sit, but it might as well be miles away. I couldn't move even if I wanted to because the cat is pinning my legs to the ground with her weight. Just when I am going to try to push her off I hear the sound go out entirely with the same suddenness that it started. Only silence remains.

My ears start crying in protest, in that high-pitched sound that they make whenever I get out of a loud club or concert. The cat remains tense only for a second longer and then she goes back to licking her fur as if nothing happened. I remain silent for a few minutes, waiting for her to say something. She stubbornly ignores me, almost as if this is a normal occurrence and not worthy of notice, until I get over my shock and ask, "Well? What in the world was that? Are you really going to pretend it didn't happen?"

Indeed, she did not even acknowledge my question, licking her fur with the same tranquility of always. The freakish way in which she ignores what had happened made me uncomfortable in the darkness. Who knows what could be hiding there that she is similarly disinterested in. I am sure that the monstrous thing or being that passed is gone, but I don't even want to think about what else could be waiting behind that black curtain of dark matter. It is absolutely impossible to see past a few meters.

With a shaky voice, I ask her "Please help me. I really don't know where to go."

I stay silent and wait for her to say something. She continues for about five minutes, until she makes a sound similar to a sigh.

"You must find the red queen."

"You mean the Queen of Hearts?" I ask, confused. "Isn't she dead? I thought they cut off her head. I really hope I don't have to go into some version of the Greek Underworld to find her." I don't even want to know what that looks like.

"She lives in your world."

"Is that what happens when creatures die in Wonderland?"

"No."

"So then, why did the king tell everyone he killed her?"

"He lied," she said, simply. I am awe-struck at this moment of honesty, and start racing through a number of questions that I have stored in my brain for a time like this.

"How was Wonderland created? Where does it exist? Is it a parallel universe?"

She meows, and then she gets up and starts walking away. Obviously, she can sense the barrage of questions that will follow and does not want to bother refusing to answer them.

"What is your name?" I scream at the darkness. "Are you the Cheshire Cat?"

"No." This time, it's a different voice that answers. I hear a Machiavellian laughter come from the darkness and I instantly decide that I am no longer so interested in my silly questions. I rush towards the light as I hear a voice ask, "Where are you going, my friend? I have all the answers you want." The chilling voice sounds deceitful and dangerous.

I start running up the stairs as if they will melt away before I get out. I keep running until I crash into the daylight, an it's as if I'm breaking through the water surface of a dark pool. The loud sounds of the city traffic come alive with a resounding explosion and my disorientation causes me to stumble into several people.

I breathe in deeply the disgusting city air and try to regain a sense of my bearings. I don't give myself more than a minute before I begin walking again, but this time with a sense of purpose. I have no idea how to get to where I am going but at least I have a destination in mind. Usually that's all my feet need to get me there. A small voice in the back of my mind wonders how I have become so habituated with the difference in realities, but I ignore that entire path of thought. I ignore my mind altogether and focus on what lies ahead of me.

I check the time. It's 5 o'clock.

I only hope the date is the same. I don't even know how much time I have left here.

I have to find her. The Red Queen. 

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