A Bedtime Story, or, Aloysius and the CAT
The gentle caress of fluid met the man named Aloysius X. Leng Pendergast on the threshold of wakefulness. Unimpeded by the newborn blur of relaxation in which his consciousness floated, he surveyed a filmy landscape through silver eyes still hazed by the mind’s transition. Summoning something, he willed himself to focus, and came to understand the liquid that was flowing softly beneath his naked body. His clothes, his favorite black Italian suit and shoes, to be exact, returned to him with full sight, and so he rose, idling in awe at the picture of existence which rose up around his slight, tall frame. Water gushed beneath his shoes, pooling around the dark, glossy soles like fragrant silk. He took a step onto the bank, pausing a moment to gaze at the small rocks and sticks and leaves that were tossed along with the small stream as it bubbled along into unseen places beyond his location.
“... not where you expected to be standing, is it?”
Pendergast simply stared as a diminutive black animal leaped down from a low-hanging branch and landed near his left shoe. It nuzzled against his leg, then stuck its tail in the air and bounded two or three half steps away from him, looking back over its shoulder with enough kingly air for several aristocracies. Yes, this cat-like creature was definitely male. And definitively sentient. The agent smirked inwardly at this small intrigue, relying on his memories of his time on the cruise ship for guidance as he moved to speak on the matter.
“Quite. I expected to come into my own mind. But, I find instead that I’ve entered someone else’s. And if you don’t mind my asking, who might you be? I don’t recall seeing you before, so you must be a figment of the Doctor’s substantive imagination.”
The cat cocked his little head, grey eyes intent on the albino agent’s pale face.
“You’re smug enough, I’ll afford you that much. However, Aloysius my boy, I am no mere imagining. Come along like a good lad, and you shall see what gods I serve.”
Then he began to grow, rising in stature and muscle and weight until he was the size of a great, sleek panther. After this spurt, he stood shoulder to waist with the agent, who had taken only a step back from the spectacle in order to better observe the change.
At once, the great cat’s head was turned by the running of a mouse across the stream. A little white mouse it was, with little black eyes that shone like night in the bright flutter of the stream rushing past. The newly-shifted panther tensed, leaping upon the little white mouse, stifling all sounds it may have made with a swift swipe of a black paw, and then the thing was in its maw. A long tail, limp and pinkish, dangled abruptly from between two sharp teeth for just a moment before that too disappeared down the panther’s throat.
Pendergast again stepped back, careful of that mouth, now, and shivering with a fear he hadn’t felt since...
“Now, now, my lad,” the cat mused, like a parent who’d watched far too many children flush a perished goldfish from the shadow of the bathroom door, “... if you can’t handle the past, how do you hope to handle what is coming? This place is not for children, and the universe, for all its glory, is far harsher than I. You are needed, Aloysius. My Children of Time are besieged by Nightmares, while most of myself is caught here, deep in the throes of an unending Dream. Only you can reach the hart in which I slumber. But you must hurry. Up we go, lad. Allons-y!”
With that, the cat sank on its haunches, bidding the agent to mount it like a horse.
The agent blinked silver eyes at the CAT, who merely rested there upon the jagged stones like some great beast, waiting for him in that illusion of tameness it wore like a cloak. Then he mounted silently, and they began to move.
The power of the beast was exhilarating and fearful to feel beneath him as they flew through thicket after thicket, past lakes and valleys of bright blue water that reflected the ruby nature of strange marsh grass that popped up here and there along what paths their fleetness made. Huge trees filled his vision from time to time, separated only by grand expanses of plain or snow or water or softly flowing grass. Were those windows, among the trunks and branches? Oh my... they had to be houses, of some kind... this place was a memory of Home to the man he’d known as Doctor Bloom, down to the smell of the sweet foreign dirt under his nails.
“Very good, Pendergast!” quipped the cat liplessly, “... this is indeed a memory of Gallifrey. Too bad my idiot future self had to go and blow it up.”
“Are you calling yourself a fool, Doctor?” Pendergast said, smirking a bit against the wind in his face as he rode.
“And why not? Wouldn’t be the first time. Besides, that particular means to an end really couldn’t be helped. We were rotten to the core.”
The cat turned its face up to stare at him, grey-blue eyes flashing in wide slits full of wet, surplus emotion Aloysius had never seen in the man himself.
“Something was bound to happen, anyway. Tis a very good thing I was there, but I... ”
A growl erupted along the cat’s fanged lips, turning that half-feral grin into a squirming roar as the felinoid alien made a sharp turn toward a certain Tree which was cast in the shade of a mountain and half buried in hard ground.
“Enough talk, Aloysius. We are here to find the child I was and will be, then we’re off to the Citadel to save Yours Truly from himself.”
Then the cat rose up as he dismounted and became a biped, who stood slightly higher than even the albino’s approximate seven feet. Grey-blue eyes gleamed down at him from a face full of stars, full of blackness.
“I’m the Other, by the way.”
It stretched out a great velvet-padded paw, the claws retracted, and Aloysius shook.