Walnuts and Roses and Demonic Kittens
Deep, deep beneath an unassuming Pennsylvanian homestead the ancient column of the Tekhenu stirred. Vibrations pulsed down the mirrored monolith causing the earth to dance.
Bastet, long forgotten Lioness, felt the disturbance of the dance too.
Gazing down at the small blue planet from her lunar throne, pleasure causing deep rumbles in her chest.
Oh, to be remembered after such a long wait.
Oh, to have flesh, blood, and bone bow before her once again.
Oh, to feast again on vanquished foe!
"Will you please stop doing that?"
The Dark didn't even bother to look up from its task, simply flicked another walnut shell at the Light and carried on henpecking at the ancient typewriter it had somehow fused with a rather ornate mirror.
The Light grimaced again.
It wasn't the backwards typing noises that was bothering it, wasn't even the mountain of walnut shells that littered the floor - it was that grotesque black forked tongue the dark insisted on sticking out whenever it was concentrating on …. well, anything really. Totally grim.
The Dark leaned back, tongue thankfully retracted and cracked its clawed fingers,
"Now this," it held up the seemingly ancient manuscript, "This will drive the monkeys batty! Wait 'til they crack this one, my old mucker!"
"Oh dear," The Light shrugged and resignedly started giving toothache to a rather unassuming man in Delaware.
"Hope he likes cats?"
The lady sipping her third coffee gazed out at the still pouring rain.
"Piece of cake with that?" The young waitress asked, producing a rather splendid looking slice of walnut cake.
"Ah Juglans Regia, the Royal acorn of Jupiter, or maybe Nigra; the armoured nut of the Colonies?" The lady put down her book about Space and Space Travel.
She was about to purchase the slice in question when her eyes were distracted from the cake to a commotion outside the Cactus Café.
It appeared that some kind of photoshoot was taking place near to the mirrored obelisk.
She peered through the rainy window towards the forest of umbrellas which had sprouted to protect the model and the equipment from the unseasonal downpour.
The model, dressed head to toe in black moved through the Forest with feline grace.
"Oh, maybe it's someone famous, leave the cake my dear, maybe tomorrow?"
She paid the bill and picked up her book, the bell clanging in a rather charming British way as the door was opened onto the rain, keen to investigate the hubbub.
The lady totally failed to notice that the book she had stuffed into her handbag had somehow changed from a shiny new space related tome into a rather ancient looking medieval book of riddles.
The waitress watched, slightly bored with the slow lunchtime, dipping a manicured nail into soft icing, she grimaced. "Yeuck! Hate black walnuts!"
"I'll take a piece my dear" the unassuming man who had been watching the lady all morning smiled, "If you could take the fondant off though, I have a heck of a toothache, that'd be swell?"
The waitress smiled at the American accent.
"Where you from, hun?"
"Here and there, but mostly Delaware," he smiled down at his wet brogues before allowing his gaze to escape through the window towards the umbrellas.
He'd failed once, but this tonight would hopefully be different.
The moon glowed brightly as the unassuming man in rather wet brogues trudged through the still falling rain, pausing to shoo the cats away, he pushed open the rickety gate.
The strange organ music coming from the building almost drowning out the sound of walnut shells crunching under his brogues as he entered Hoggetts'' Farm.
The Man from Delaware was slightly amused that the toothache, this time, had led him literally up the road.
No space rifts. No intercontinental jumps. Just a short drive and a rather wet trudge up to the farm.
Alas, no sooner had he set brogues upon walnut shell, but he heard Bach.
No sooner had he peeped through the drapes but he saw Molly the kitten (or ‘kitteh' as the plugged-in youth liked to say these days/Reality/universe) contentedly perched on the organ as Heavy Leslie boomed out at a volume of four.
The die had been cast, the majick unbound. He glanced upward at the full moon.
The Man from Delaware rubbed at his jaw, his wet brogues suddenly trudging up a sodden pavement in Exeter, England. (Again.)
The umbrella Forest in the Guildhall hid most of the camera and lighting equipment, on a table lay two immaculate black lace gloves and a bouquet of two dozen scarlet roses.
The owner of both the gloves and flowers was currently chatting to the lady who was trying to take photographs of the mirrored obelisk without getting the surrounding shops reflected.
The woman in black, moving with feline grace, pointed delicately with red nails that were almost claw-like, at the tiny screen the last was sheltering from the still falling rain.
"See? I love the circular raindrops and the light from the mirrors, it's just that I'd appreciate it more if there wasn't a great big reverse blue Boots sign in the shot!"
The woman in black almost purred her response.
"If only you had some sort of shield, a deflector or such?" The scarlet claws pointed to the umbrella forest. "We use them all the time to eliminate...distractions. Maybe a sheet of card or a newspaper? A book perhaps?" The smile was captivating.
The lady suddenly remembered the shiny new book on Space and Space Travel in her bag.
Concerned it would get rather soggy, but yearning to capture a decent photo, she reluctantly handed the book to the woman in black.
Boots sign shielded, she snapped away, quickly returning the book to her bag, unwilling to look at it in case she'd ruined it.
She thanked the woman in black and hurried off home out of the rain.
From the rain streaked windows of the Cactus Cafe, the Man from Delaware rubbed at his jaw, hoping it was just walnut cake irritating his tooth.
"Oh Jeez, too late!"
And with that he found himself back in Pennsylvania, some fifteen minutes before the ground danced.
The Godfather of Heavy Leslie was blissfully unaware of several very important facts as he opened the cat flap on his organ barn door.
Firstly, and probably least importantly was the frequency of the piece of Bach he was about to play.
Secondly, and a little more importantly, was that Hoggetts' Farm was surrounded by ancient black walnut trees (of which he was painfully aware) that were a magical nexus point (this bit was the blissfully unaware bit).
Thirdly, not really important for this Reality, but interesting in its own way, was that the ground was sacred to the Lenape tribes in 99.8% of the multiverse.
Fourth(ly) and most importantly was that some millennia ago an ancient race had buried a dimensional gateway, in the form of a mirrored Tekenhu, a half mile below his feet. This ancient race believed that at a time of great turmoil in the world, a saviour would use the gateway to bring the Lioness goddess home from the moon.
Fifth(ly) and most unimportantly, the same walnut grove had once seen a slightly unassuming man wearing brogues change into a werewolf. This only ever occurs once in the entire histories of all multiverse events, so can be discounted as a rather poor practical joke played by the Dark on a particularly dull Hallowe'en.
Molly the kitten sat patiently as the Leslie warmed up.
The Dark gave a horrifically fanged grin and cracked another black walnut effortlessly between his talons.
Ok, secret's out, cat listening to Bach, obelisks humming…..shouldn't be long now!
The Light tutted softly as it bent with a dustpan and brush for the umpteenth time.
"No way they will be stupid enough to resurrect an Ancient One. No way. The Interwebs are already dominated by felines, why would any life form want to be ruled by one…. A very nasty one at that?"
"Watch and learn, Sister: everybody wants to be a cat!"
Cats had indeed featured heavily in multiverse culture.
(Cats as in feline quadrupeds, not cats as in jazz music, hipster culture and beatnik circles.)
Indeed, in the billions of Realities that never witness Louis Armstrong and/or animated Disney hepcats, cats were still portrayed as lovable, cool and often powerful beings.
Bastet purred as the end of her banishment loomed. She would wreak feline havoc upon all the worlds.
Many would perish, all would bow down before her, and all those stupid lolcats would be wiped from the multiverse.
The vibrations from the myriad of pulsing obelisks drew her spirit home.
Molly sat and purred. Bach blasted out, volume four, and the Earth trembled.
Throughout the multiverse there is one unbreakable Law of Nature, quite a new Law too, the Law of "I didn't realise I'd taken so many" was born, discovered following the invention of digital photography.
The most common subjects invoking the IDRITSM Law are kittens, plates of restaurant food and limpets.
"I didn't know I'd taken so many!" The lady remarked as she looked at the multitude of images popping up on her computer screen.
Hundreds of shots of the mirrored obelisk.
Hundreds of shots of the mirrored obelisk reflecting her book.
The Woman in Black was obviously a better model than she was a photographer.
The lady sipped her Spanish brandy and was about to hit the delete button when she noticed something.
The images were not quite identical, and the reflected book was certainly not her book of Space and Space Travel!
She zoomed in and was further surprised to discover the reflections were:
- in Some kind of Olde English,
- not a mirror image, not backwards, readable, she didn't quite know how to describe an image that should appear backwards in a mirrored obelisk but when photographed was actually the right way around even though it shouldn't be.
- the text appeared to be fiendishly difficult riddles (but with a helpful and slightly less fiendish footnote stating the answers could be found in the appendix).
She zoomed in on the next shot, to check her findings and was totally flabbergasted when the image, although identical in every other was to the other few hundred, actually showed the next page of the book, and the next...and so on.
The lady looked slightly suspiciously at her empty brandy glass, rechecked the photos, nodded sagely and poured another.
By the time she went to bed she had a stack of 227 eight-by-ten colour glossy prints, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.
The Godfather of Heavy Leslie glanced up from the numerous keys, pedal and toggles and saw Molly gracefully perched on the organ, happily, contentedly gazing down as he prepared to play.
"That'd make a great shot for the music vid Moll…. stay there, I'll get my camera!"
With that the cloaked musician ran from the barn, cursing the walnut shells under his sandaled feet.
The man from Delaware took his opportunity and sneaking in through the open barn door, carefully switched the Bach sheet music with a copy of Youmans/Caesar's Tea for Two.
Bastet howled in a rather un-catlike manner as the spell was broken.
She clawed at the moonscape, turned around several times, and decided to have a catnap for another few millennia whilst the monkeys got their priorities in order.
The blue planet twirled on totally unaware.
The man from Delaware hummed as he left the farm.
Kittehs tamed, he just had the Secrets of the Universe(s) to sort out now.
The following day she found herself sitting on a bench in the waiting room of the Post.
She knew these riddles may be important and thought she'd share them with the world.
Obviously, it would've been much quicker and more efficient to post them on the Interwebs; instantly and digitally, but the web was full of kitten videos and, anyway, she quite liked the romance of newspaper print.
So, she sat, with the neat stack of 227 eight-by-ten colour glossy prints, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one on the seat next to her, trying to ignore the scruffy-bearded biker type guy who was sobbing against the coffee machine.
Dangling from his leather-clad arm (the one not being sobbed into) was a rather thick manuscript.
"You alright, my dear?" The lady risked.
"Does this," flashing the manuscript, "Does this look 'alright' to you?"
The cover was remarkable in three ways.
It had an intricate and rather beautiful pattern of concentric red wine glass stains, it boasted what appeared to be a motorcycle tyre track across the length and it had a very red, very large, very bold ‘Rejected' stamp.
Before the lady could confirm or deny the alrightness of the situation, the scruffy sobbing guy continued.
"Dear Mister Ryding", he spat, "Can't even get my name right, blah blah, not suitable for the Post, blah blah, no need for weird illustrations, blah, not the kind of publication that encourages trashy science fantasy, blah our readers expect factual articles, blah fifteen hundred words blah, punctuation is appalling blah!"
He threw the manuscript into the bin by the coffee machine.
"Oh dear?" Tried the lady.
"Even had poetry, Vikings AND the Isle of Wight in it!"
With that he picked up his helmet and tried to slam the automatic door with little effect.
She looked down at the eight by ten colour glossy prints with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.
"Oh dear! There's probably no use for these either, then?"
Dumping all the Secrets of the Universe(s) into the bin amongst coffee cups, biscuit wrappers and a tyre marked manuscript, she tutted sadly and left the building.
The unassuming man wearing brogues had a brief word with the biker at the doorway.
"Keep writing, my friend, people, maybe not in this universe, but people will eventually dig your stuff!"
He didn't quite understand what 'sarky' or ‘git' meant but smiled at the lady passing them before retrieving the Secrets of the Universe(s) from the bin.
The Dark scowled as it poured tea for two.
"Stupid bloody monkeys!"
"Never mind. My turn!"
In a pleasant garden in Delaware an unassuming man sat carving an intricate fruit bat whilst he dried his brogues in front of a roaring fire.
He smiled as the eight-by-tens curled, crackled, and burst into flame.