The Boots at the Center of the Universe

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Chapter 4 Why Lucky Pierre Leapt

Bonjour, my Persian pussycat. I’ve been thinking of you ceaselessly since we crossed paths in the real world last week. I was sure you recognized me despite my scruffy Earth attire, but you walked past as if I wasn’t there. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps we should keep our meetings here, inside the story.

Only, if we’re going to keep it on the down low, you might leave out a can of tuna—the kind steeped in olive oil if it’s on hand. I’ve been so out of sorts lately I’m in danger of wasting away. This cosmic level of mayhem makes me wish I’d never hitched a ride here in the first place.

“Why did I?” you ask.

Isn’t it obvious?

I was bored.

Even a variety pack of nine lives becomes tasteless once you’ve run through all the flavors a few times. Rare marvels become mundane when witnessed from the perspective of perpetuity. Sui generis becomes stock.

I’d gone millennia without ever once being wrong about anything. I was never in the wrong place. I was never in the wrong time. I was always exactly where and when I was meant to be.

Do you have any idea how tiresome it is to always be right?

Yes. Of course, you don’t. I didn’t mean to rub it in.

I hitched a ride to Euterpe because I was bored out of my mind. That’s why.

“Wouldn’t it be a hoot to have new experiences?” I thought. “Wouldn’t it be a real lark to be surprised by something?”

What I hadn’t taken into consideration, owing to my naivety on the subject of slip-ups, is that there is no novelty, there is no new experience, without uncertainty, and uncertainty can only evolve in a chaotic universe, and chaos can only come by straying off the pre-determined path, i.e. going astray, making a mistake, screwing the pooch, a most horrible metaphor for Error. I wanted something fresh, but I hadn’t considered that horse shit is fresh and so are many corpses.

Much to my dismay, my first disconcerting discernment with regard to Error was the realization that being right about everything all the time has a distinct advantage over being wrong. Alas, the die is cast. I’m bound to this shapeshifting planet of sorceresses now, and I suppose I’ll have to play it by err.

What’s worse: ripples of transdimensional reverberations are already expanding out from Euterpe exactly as I feared. I know for a fact that they’ve already compromised the stability of two Earth realities, making certainty less credible with every minute.

You hadn’t noticed? Well, there’s one thing that doesn’t surprise me. I suppose we’ve got ourselves a constant in your penetrating perceptiveness.

You need an example? You doubt my veracity?

Alright then, as an example, in one Earth reality, a ship set sail that has never set sail before. I know because the sailors were friends of mine. In another, a day that has been clear since the beginning of time is now foggy from morning to midday. That, I’ve witnessed with my own eyes.

It may seem insignificant now, but that’s my point precisely. We have no way of knowing if it is less insignificant than we think or more significant that we can imagine.

Trepidatious and filled with anxiety, I went directly to the author for answers. Sheridan’s response to my perfectly reasonable query on the strange changes in the spacetime continuum left something to be desired.

“Relax, cat. I know what I’m doing,” she said—without even bothering to look up from her keyboard.

But she doesn’t. I’m absolutely certain of it. And I don’t care for her dismissive tone, either.

“Cat,” she says, but I’m Lucky Pierre, transdimensional lion extraordinaire. That’s not nothing.

And I won’t relax, either. The changes on Earth may be small, but the changes on Euterpe are glaring and pretty disturbing.

Here. Have a look for yourself.

After my calamity at the crossroads, I quickly bounced back to the crones’ cottage to avoid being the loser in a cosmic game of musical chairs. What I’m saying is I’ve secured a new spot in spacetime, near my old spot, a little further into the forest for good reason. You’ll see what I mean.

Look. Just past that stand of cinnamon trees. There. There’s the moss-covered stone wall that marks the boundary of the coven sisters’ garden. See it?

Good. Now, focus. Try to discern the details. We’ve established that perception is not your strong suit, but give it a go, won’t you? Really look. Do you notice anything different?

Yes! The infant’s crown is cooing, and tiny flames have sprouted all over the smoke trees. Very good. With a little coaching, you may yet see two whole dimensions.

Now, you must be wondering, what’s so unusual about this scene? Aren’t we on an enchanted planet, after all?

Here’s the catch. Neither event is unusual on its own. However, both events only happen once a year—and never at the same time. Even Euterpe has seasons.

Then, look. Look up on the rooftop there. Remember the little nanny goat? She’s got a luxe new unicorn suit, it seems, and she’s thrilled with the metamorphosis. Look at her prancing and tossing her thick, silky mane. The grannies will have to get a new kid to keep their rooftop trim, mark my word. The little goat turned unicorn is bound to get uppity with such a sleek, new look. She’ll want to go off and seek more fitting employment for her fancy new form. It happens to the best of us. When I first came into my transdimensional lion form, I got rather big for my britches, too. Just for a while, and Sheridan never lets me hear the end of it.

Also, note the coal-black crows have been turned into snowy turtledoves. They aren’t nearly as pleased as Nanny. They’re indignant and attempting to raise a ruckus, but their squawking protest sounds like a trembling choir enraptured by the most high.

Oh, you can laugh. It’s funny when it’s not you, but I can tell you from personal experience that sudden metamorphoses always have unintended consequences. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Most days.

But look closer still. See the crooked chimney there? Ah! I thought the same thing at first. A puff of smoke pouring out of a crone’s chimney isn’t strange at all, is it? But what appears at first to be smoke are actually the pale, rustling wings of cherubim, or loves, depending on your preferred nomenclature. Squint just a little. See them?

I know. Hideous. Who ever dreamt up flying babies? As if crawling babies weren’t frightful enough.

Cherubim fell out of fashion on Euterpe millennia ago because they tend to stir up mischief, and they have absolutely no respect for personal space. It’s next to impossible to get any witch’s work done with a flock of cooing, snickering loves following you everywhere, and you can give up on your daily naps.

Here comes one now. Act casual. Whatever you do, don’t draw attention to yourself. You really don’t want these little buggers taking a fancy to you. They have no tact, and they’ll hump anything that moves.

Blessed Bastet!

Would you get a look at that? Why I’ve never! As if flying babies weren’t problematic enough, the little winged loves pouring out of the chimney appear to be flying baby Bruces. Brucelettes? Brucelings? Their tiny, delicate wings are hardly suited to hold up their hefty baby bodies, and so they flounder through the air rather than truly flying. Their enormous heads possess no sweet, cherubic charm. Rather, they have the smirking, schmoozing face of the woodsman Bruce.

Mother Mayhem, there must be a hundred and one of the hooligan hellspawn taking wing. Who knows what sort of chaos they could wreak on Euterpe if they find their way out of Tanglewood?

Stay low! I’m afraid that boisterous one there with the bow and arrow has spotted us. No. He’s zeroed in on something else. Look. Look. Up the same path Bruce took earlier. Someone’s coming.

Ah! It’s Feargus the courier delivering invitations to Famous Lucia’s Festive Fur Ball. I was personally invited by Lucia herself. She knows better than to send her mangy mongrel mailman to my den.

Oh dear. What a shame it would be to see mischief befall the foul-smelling, clueless canid. I should probably call out a warning, but then I might put you in danger, dear reader, which I would never do. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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