Toast – Part 4

4.
There’s never any dreams. I don’t know if I miss them or not. Most of the time, I’m glad not to have them, my grasp of the day to day is so weak. If I had to work out what was a dream, and what had actually happened, as well as working out where I was and if I was safe or not…
Well, then. Its best I don’t dream. You know that feeling you get, when you wake up, but you don’t know where you are, then you remember, as your memory rushes in like the tide to soak all the dry sand? Yeah, I don’t have that. I just have the waking up, not knowing where I am or what is around me. Now, though, I have a passenger. One who has only made things worse. Now, if I believe her, I have to work out when I am along with everything else.
And I open my eyes. The dog stares back at me, teeth bared and snarling. I try to roll from my side to by back and then jump up, but it’s on me just as I stand, teeth locked around my forearm, the thick, muscular animal pulling me down, falling on top of me. Which works to my advantage; it has to let go to literally save its own neck as we fall. Freed from the dog, I hunch, low to the ground, grabbing the first thing near to me, a short but thick tube of hardened cardboard. I swing it left and right, and yell, my throat not really working, croaking and cracking rather than booming and menacing. The dog thinks better of it, though, and backs away. Still growling, but clearly accepting its loss.
“Yeah, that’s right” I yell, resisting the urge to throw my cardboard tube after it. I might need it. I rest, kneeling, catching my breath.
I really have to stop waking up like this.
It’s a while before I look around. A ruined city. Is it the same ruined city? The one where I found magicat? Once I think about her, I realise I can’t see her. I feel a stab of anxiety. Did the dog get her before I woke up? I stand, and scan for her. Nothing. I call her name. Only the wind answers me, whispering as it whips clouds of dust and debris into mini cyclones. I move some rubble from where I’m stood, using the tube to help. Nothing. If I am where I first found her, have I dropped her off? Returned her?
“I’m afraid not” She says. I look around me, but can’t see her.
“I’m not near you” she says. “Do you remember how to get to the shopping centre? I’m there.”
“And we can still talk? Even far apart?” I ask, embarrassed as I finish, because I’ve just asked a very empty sky a question I could have just thought. ‘Never mind’ I think. ‘I’m on my way’.
It’s slow progress, getting back there. It takes time to clamber over the mountains of rubble, and I’m very wary of meeting anymore dogs. When I do get to the pedestrian shopping centre, I find Magicat sitting quietly on one of the shops verandas, well above my head. Her tail flicking slowly as she concentrates on something in the distance.
“Glad you’re here” she says. Thinks. You know. She doesn’t look at me, but she gets up and walks along the edge of the veranda. “There’s something here; I’m not sure what it is. It might have something to do with how we got stuck together. More importantly, I have a piece of the puzzle for you” She stops and looks at me.
“Your timeline. I had a glimpse of it as you slept. I was awake as we travelled. I don’t know when exactly we are, but I know this. It’s the past.”
“the past? So the bombing is even further back?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t think it can be, You are only travelling between three distinct points in your own history, past present and future. If this is the past, then it can’t have anything to do with the blitz – That happens later.”
“later than this?” I gesture to the ruined city about us. “So what did this; more importantly, when we travelled, what was it like? What did you see?”
“Just lights, blurry lights. The rest of it was impressions, feelings with images. I’m afraid to say, I wasn’t paying that much attention. I was trying to find my friend.”
I stop walking alongside her, and stare up to her on her lofty perch. I’ve been so happy to have someone. Something? Someone. To talk to, I’d never considered that she might not want to be with me. I’d just accepted it as my new equilibrium, never once considering her feelings.
“Your friend?” I want to sound concerned, interested, but emotion has my throat, and I sound resentful.
“I was travelling, much like you, never really knowing where I’d end up, until I found him. We were only together a short while, all I ever really knew about him was the sadness of his past and the detail that he had a acorn for a heart.” She jumps down, and slinks in front of me. “he was looking for someone he’d lost.” She stops, and looks at me for the first time.
”It’s like a long chain, isn’t it, the lost, the seekers, all intertwined, but never with the right partners.”
I feel scared by the intimacy of the truth in her words, and break her gaze. That’s when I see it. A swirling, purple blue – something. I don’t know what. A swirly thing, turning slowly, churning up rocks and dirt, sucking them towards it. Looks just like water going down a plug hole; but it’s horizontal, just above the ground, and about six feet high, top to bottom.
“Yeah. That” she says, not missing a beat. “Weird, huh? I mean, I’ve seen odd, and weird – but this is weird, right?” She smiles at me, and we both decide we were getting too uncomfortable with the conversation, and we should now focus on the weird thing.
I walk around it. It tapers to a point at the back, and as close as I dare get, has a pull from the front. I want to jump in.
“Me too” Magicat says. I don’t have time to think ‘should we?’ before she has leaped onto my shoulder. I look into her eyes, and we gently touch foreheads. “Hopefully home” We say to each other, and leap into the vortex.

Advertisements

Toast – Part 3

Toast 3
3.
Before me, in the strange sea, I can see three of the creatures playfully splashing about. Their skin changes colour, rippling and shimmering. Maybe a form of communication? I decide that I must have somehow brought them here, and that this pleases them. One seems to wave at me, which I take as thanks, before they sink beneath the water, leaving me alone on the beach. Well, the cat is still here.
I look down at her. The black cat. How can she talk? And how does she know what’s going on? She looks up at me and purrs.
“I’m just a cat. And I’m not talking, I’m thinking. You can hear, is all, silly.”
She nudges my leg, and walks off to the line of palm trees lining the beach.
“And I’ve no idea what’s going on, any more than you do. I see people in trouble and I help them. At least” she pauses “I always try.”
I open my mouth to speak, but she cuts me off.
“The octopus creatures are people. Well, at least, they have a society, a shared language, a culture, which is, I assume, the kinds of things you mean when you say people. We just brought them home.”
Great. So she can answer questions I’ve thought of as soon as I think of them.

The palms are sparse, with wide gaps between each tree. There is no grass, or soil, just sand and the occasional tuft of dune grass. I’m pretty sure this cat is not in my imagination, that this is, somehow, actually happening. It’s been so long since I’ve had anything like company, I just start asking questions. She smiles gently, and we talk as we walk.

She knows some things about me. Knows I’m lost. But nothing beyond that; apart from one important detail, which wasn’t one of my questions, just something she drops in there.
“But you know when you are?”
My head swims. I stare, dumbfounded for a while, before asking her to repeat her question. Even then, it takes a while for the implications of what she’s asking sinks in.
“When? Why should when matter?”
“Very important, for you – and me, at the moment.”
“When? When is now, it’s the day after yesterday.”
“Are you sure? Sometimes people get lost. Fall through the cracks.”
“Cat, I’m so lost I wouldn’t even recognise my home if I saw it.”
“I know, you were just there. You’re not just lost, but fragmented. I don’t know why, or how, but you exist three times over – and not at all.”
What she is saying to me makes no logical sense, but it feels true.
“How can I not exist at all?”
“How many conversations have you had?”
“I can’t remember any, except this one”
“But you must have had others. Look, I can see things – things other people can’t. One of them is a person’s timeline. I can see people as a kind of conga line, all their past choices, all their previous days, all laid out as if they are still going on, all dancing their old mistakes, their current victories.”
“So you know where I came from, what led me here? How to get back?!”
She shakes her head, slowly, apologetically.
“Not you. I’ve never know it before. You don’t have any past, or future. You just exist here and now. It’s as if you haven’t done anything. As if you have no history, no temporal signature.”
“But I have done things; helped people in the blitz, saved those octopus things!”
“What was the blitz like?”
“Flying ships dropping bombs. Fire and death.”
“Who did you help?”
“People. Look – wherever I end up, animals can see me, but people – people are frozen.” I pause, I hate this, and saying it out loud makes it all the more real.
“like statues, they don’t move, or talk.” I finish.
“So in the blitz?” She pushes
“It was like walking around a photograph. Some were just… I couldn’t help them. But others. I did what I could. Moved them out of harms way, pulled them from fire, from a collapsing building. I saved them”
“I wonder.” Magicat says, jumping onto my shoulder.
And despite being excited to not only be talking, but to be maybe getting answers, I feel fatigue. The thought that I should sleep pops into my head.
“We’ll travel if you sleep.” Magicat says.
I laugh, short and snorty.
“For a while, I tried not sleeping. But it always catches up with you, sleep. Now I just lie down at the first sign of being tired.”
So I do. I lie down, and curl up, my long coat covering most of me. Magicat nuzzles my forehead, and as I drift off, a question flashes though my mind. I don’t get chance to ask it.

“Wait. How can you come with me?”