Here we are at the final chapter! I don't even want to think about how many times I have watched Cats 2019 to make sure this story was as accurate as possible. I laughed, I cried, I'm questioning my decisions, but overall I am happy to be able to share this... thing with you. Enjoy!
It would be a straight up lie if Pouncival tried to say that this was the first thing he thought he'd be doing at the Jellicle Ball. Of course, never in his wildest dreams did he think he'd be experiencing two Jellicle Balls in one night, let alone a hellish, nightmarish version, but here he was. Taking Grizabella by the hand and leading her in to join the tribe was just one of many, many strange things he had done recently.
Together they entered the theatre, Pounce taking the lead. His Grizabella, the one he had taunted and teased, still tried to retain her dignity when she interrupted the Ball, and it seemed that this one, despite the snot and tears, was trying to do the same. She kept glancing to him as if uncertain that the events unfolding before her were truly happening.
"Yeah, I'm surprised too." Pounce shrugged. "Usually I'd be tormenting you at Tumble and Plato's request, but you know, I think you should have a chance at this Ball. You're really not that much different than everyone else here."
He did not mention that this Grizabella was as off putting and disturbing as the rest of the Jellicles he had encountered that night. Even he had some tact sometimes. Watching her stumble and shamble towards the tribe with a hopeful look on her face sent another pang of guilt through him.
Immediately they were met with hostility. Cassandra ran up to them and hissed. Another cat followed, then another. Grizabella ducked down, but Pounce took her by the arm and led her through, guided by an unknown force that kept them moving forward. Was it guilt? Was it his conscience? Was it a higher power? He didn't know. But everyone's eyes were upon them and he didn't like it one bit.
Finally they were in front of Old Deuteronomy. Munkustrap was staring at them with wide, manic eyes. Rightfully Grizabella hung back, clearly afraid. Behind her the cats formed a circle, hunched forward and hissing like furry, mutant snakes. The hostility was palpable in the air.
That was the final straw. Pounce had had enough of these weird cats and their weird attitudes. Why was he here at this Jellicle Ball, why was he stuck with these crazy cats? All he wanted was to go home, was that too much to ask? If Grizabella had to be involved in the Jellicle Ball for the night to progress as normal, then why couldn't they just let it happen?
"Back off!" Pounce hissed back, puffing himself up and stepping in front of Grizabella as his outrage fueled him. "Stop being assholes! Just because she's made some bad choices in the past doesn't mean she doesn't get a chance to ask for forgiveness. Maybe she's really sorry and you're all just ganging up on her, some of you guys don't even know why you're being mean, you're just doing it 'cause others told you to… oh."
It suddenly clicked. That was why he was there. To make amends. He may have teased and been an ass towards Grizabella in his universe, but in this one he could at least try and help her achieve a better life. No one else was stepping up to the plate.
"I'm… I'm sorry." Pounce slowly crouched down at her feet in an attempt to look less intimidating. "I know you don't know me, but… well, I want to help you."
Incredulous silence descended upon them all.
"I know, I'm just as surprised as you are." He sighed. "Come on. It's your turn."
Oh, if only Tumble could see him now. This new, responsible, empathetic side of him surprised even himself. But it felt right.
"Sing." He said as gently as he could muster. It was now or never.
A hush fell over the crowd. Even though it was a moment that nobody wanted to see, it was a Moment and they were going to experience it. The laws of the universe demanded it.
"Memory. Turn your face to the moonlight." Grizabella sang. "Let your memory lead you. Open up enter in."
At least this Grizabella could also sing. Pounce settled back to watch the show. All around them the others started to settle in too, entranced by the sight of a snotty, sniffling, ex- glamour cat wearing their fur grasping at a chance to be the Jellicle Choice. She really did seem to put her heart into her words, trying her best to be accepted back into the tribe she had left.
Now that he was witnessing this for a second time Pounce couldn't help but feel sorry for her. After all, he had just spent the night confused, lost, bewildered and feeling alone, which couldn't have been too far from how Grizabella had been feeling as well.
"Daylight. I must wait for the sunrise. I must think of a new life and I mustn't give in." Grizabella was close to crying, the snot dribbling down her face. Discreetly Pounce scooted back so he wasn't in the splash zone. "When the dawn comes tonight will be a memory too. And a new day will begin."
With a loud sniffle Grizabella fell to her hands and knees. Pounce knew he had to do something, but what else could he do? What had happened during his Jellicle ball when Grizabella crashed it and sang at them? Jemima had stepped in during the silence, seemingly possessed by the moonlight, and sang along. Was that what he was supposed to do now? Hurriedly he threw himself into a moonbeam to try and get some mojo.
"Sunlight through the trees in summer." He sure was doing a lot of singing tonight. His throat was getting tired. At least the words were coming to him easily, thanks to the mystical moonlight, although he still had no idea what he was saying. "Endless masquerading-"
"- like a flower as the dawn is breaking-" Grizabella joined in as he hauled her back on her feet. Quickly Pounce dusted her off and dove out of the spotlight. He knew what was coming next.
"The memory is fading." Confidence renewed, she was winding up to really bring down the house.
Pounce grabbed on to a sturdy table leg, motioning for Mistoffelees to do the same.
"Touch me! It's so easy to leave me!" Grizabella belted at them, voice powerful enough to knock any unsuspecting cats over. "All alone with the memory of my days in the sun."
Pounce and Misto clung to the table, the magical cat's hat flying off his head with the force of her singing. Munk held on to Old Deuteronomy to keep her steady, but the leader was so entranced by the sight of Grizabella singing her heart out she didn't even notice. Everyone else was flattened on the floor.
"If you touch me you'll understand what happiness is." Grizabella took a long moment to catch her breath, having used up all her available oxygen to belt out the previous lyrics. "Look. A new day has begun."
Moment over, she turned her gaze to Pounce, who couldn't help but feel a tingle of awe course through him. Or maybe it was fear. After all, she was a powerhouse that he had teased and taunted throughout the night at his Jellicle Ball. Maybe this Grizabella knew what he had done and was now looking for revenge.
To his relief there was only sadness in her eyes. Wait, no, that wasn't something to be relieved about. Clearly Grizabella should be accepted back into the tribe and ascend to the Heaviside Layer. It had happened before and it should happen again. Pounce opened his mouth to speak but snapped it shut as soon as Old Deuteronomy shambled past him, taking Grizabella's hand into her own.
"You are the Jellicle choice." Deuteronomy said, to everyone but Pounce's surprise.
"Yeah, saw that one coming. She better be after all that singing I did." Pounce muttered as Grizabella approached him.
"Thank you." She said gratefully.
"Huh? Uh, yeah. No problem." Pounce allowed her to nuzzle him, careful to avoid the tears and snot all over her face. "I mean, really, I didn't do much but drag you in here. Honestly I'm surprised you came with me since I told you about being haunted by ghosts and stuff. But hey, that doesn't really matter since you're about to go to the Heaviside Layer. Maybe when you come back though you shouldn't repeat whatever you did in the first place to make all these guys mad."
Again with the staring.
"Never mind, it was just a suggestion. Good luck." He slunk away to sit by himself. Or, at least, that's what Pounce wanted to do. Now that he had been drenched in the moonlight and possessed by whatever forces were at work he was rooted to the spot, unable to leave as Deuteronomy started to sing.
"All of your memories of pain let them go. And you'll dance with these beautiful ghosts."
"Yeah, no, still not okay with this Deut." As soon as his feet were freed Pounce spun away, turning his fleeing into dancing so they wouldn't suspect his plans to escape. "Let's see, gotta find a way out."
Gracefully he leapt into the air, trying to see over everyone's heads. No, there were too many cats between him and the front door. Another turn, another leap. Skimble's magical portal to another train dimension had disappeared, so no exit that way. The cats were trying to dance with him. He disguised his violent kick as a delicate sweep of his leg.
They were closing in on all sides, smiles and all. The only place left to flee to was the busted chandelier in the corner. Guess he could climb up the rope and escape through the ceiling. Frantically he pirouetted towards it, a strained smile on his face as he turned round and round. Almost there-
"Up, up, up past the Russel Hotel." Everyone started to sing. "Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside Layer."
Misto and Munk, beaming and grinning, flanked either side of Pounce and pinned him to the spot, foiling his attempts to escape. Everyone gathered close, singing and taking opportunities to touch Grizabella as Deuteronomy led her towards the chandelier. Misto busied himself with conjuring small bits of flame to light the candles upon it.
"That's just one step closer to lightning bolts." Pounce said, trying to avoid accidentally setting his fur on fire.
They all watched the flames encircle Grizabella as she stood in the center of the chandelier. Pounce's gaze bounced from one ecstatic face to the other. Were they going to burn Grizabella alive? Is this how they sent cats to the Heaviside Layer? How utterly barbaric, they should be ashamed of themselves-
Wait a minute. The chandelier was not a funeral pyre after all. Slowly, with a wildly unsteady waver, the chandelier was starting to rise into the air, aiming towards the hole in the ceiling.
"What the f-" Pounce was drowned out by the sudden burst in volume as everyone sang as loud as they could.
"Up, up, up past the Jellicle Moon." They all were oblivious to his panic. "Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside Layer."
"She's not gonna make it through that tiny hole in the ceiling!" Pounce yelled, unable to be heard. "She's gonna crash and burn!"
Thankfully he was wrong. The chandelier just barely managed to slip through the hole in the roof and quickly ascended towards the clouds. Pounce breathed a loud sigh of relief, turning away just as Macavity grabbed onto the rope dangling from the chandelier, laughing maniacally.
"You know, I don't have enough energy left to question what he's doing." Pounce muttered.
"Come on, Pounce!" Misto grabbed him by the elbow and hustled him outside.
"Oh, Everlasting Cat and Heaviside above, where are we going now?" He whined. "I thought we were done with the change of scenery!"
Everyone gathered around the square, which was now lit by the early light of the rising sun. Several familiar cats were waiting for them at the base of a large statue of a lion.
"Hey, they didn't die after all." Pounce noted as Skimbleshanks, Jennyanydots, Asparagus, and Bustopher Jones greeted them.
"We were on a barge!" Jenny proclaimed.
"In the Thames!" Bustopher added.
"How'd they get back by themselves?" Pounce wondered. "Did they drive the barge back? Or did they swim- argh!"
Munk carried him up to the top of the lion statue and plonked him next to Misto, retreating to help Old Deuteronomy climb up as well. At this point Pounce was too tired to protest.
"The mystical divinity of unashamed felinity." The cats chorused. "Round the cathedral rang 'Vivat'! Life to the Everlasting Cat!"
Right. Here was the part where Old Deuteronomy would sing. Pounce slumped back against Misto to catch his breath. Normally this would be the part where Old Deuteronomy sang the closing remarks and they all got a breather before the very final number. It was a part he sorely needed right now, especially after the ludicrous amounts of dancing and singing he had been doing all night.
Deuteronomy took a deep breath as Munk and Misto leaned in. Instead of turning to address the entire tribe of cats in front of her she instead looked past Pounce, eyes gazing out into the abyss beyond what normal eyes could perceive.
"You've heard of several kinds of cat and my opinion now is that-"
Seriously, where was she looking? Pounce looked behind him. All he could see was empty air. But she gazed into the world beyond, speaking to someone unseen, leaving Pounce and the others to awkwardly hang about waiting for permission to sing, dance, or leave. Since he was perched on top of a lion statue in the middle of the square for all to see it would be very difficult to make his escape. Not to mention that he was the closest to the Jellicle Leader and she would probably eat him if he interrupted her.
"You've learned enough to take the view that cats are very much like you."
Well, yes and no. Pounce had finally accepted that these guys were probably Jellicles and most likely felines, but unlike any that he had seen or experienced before. Whether or not they were like him at all was debatable. At least at this point he felt like he got to know Munk and Misto well enough.
"You've seen us both at work and games and learnt about our proper names."
On and on Deuteronomy droned. By this point all Pounce wanted was a long rest. At his Jellicle Ball his Deuteronomy sang this part, voice booming loud enough to keep them all awake. Here, with Deuteronomy speaking quietly to absolutely no one in particular, it was almost impossible to stay focused.
Pounce glanced over at Munk. The stern Jellicle Protector was fading fast into madness. His face switched from calm to frightened to delighted to murderous to crazed in a matter of seconds, glancing from Deuteronomy to Misto to Pounce and then back to Deuteronomy again. Clearly the madness had consumed him, brought forth by the relentless droning of his leader.
"Um." Pounce huddled closer to Misto. Maybe it would be better to let Munk sort himself out.
"But how would you address a cat?" Old Deuteronomy asked the empty air.
Behind her Munks eyes grew comically wide. Perhaps he had finally seen what Deuteronomy had been talking to. Judging by his terrified expression it was something not fit for mortal eyes.
"So first, your memory I'll jog-"
The sun was rising higher and higher into the sky. Surely there would be humans about. Wouldn't someone wander by and see the weird conglomeration of cats yowling about in the square? That was one reason why the Jellicle Ball was held in the junkyard, so if the festivities ran long they wouldn't worry about being exposed.
Sullenly he gazed up at the sky. Far above them was the chandelier, floating through the clouds straight towards the sun. There was a teeny tiny speck that might have been Grizabella. Was that her or did she fall out of her rickety perch?
"Is Grizabella still up there?" Pounce wondered, shielding his eyes against the light.
Suddenly Misto nudged him in the ribs. Pounce flinched back into the present and jumped to attention.
"A cat is not a dog!" Pounce screamed right on cue.
Thankfully Misto was paying attention. The rest of the cats echoed the line and then fell silent once more. Deuteronomy, who had sung with the crowd, turned back to the abyss and continued to lecture to anyone but her audience.
"With cat, some say, one rule is true." Deuteronomy's voice was a dull roar in Pounce's ears.
Did it ever end? Would she ever stop? Pounce exchanged a worried look with Misto and Munk. Neither seemed to know what to do with themselves, which did nothing for his own confidence. All three of them were reduced to becoming silent, uncertain shadows behind the Jellicle Leader. Who knew when they would be freed from such a punishment? And what had they done to deserve this in the first place?
"You bow and taking off your hat." Deuteronomy commanded. "Address him in this form: O Cat!"
"O Cat!" Everyone echoed.
That had to be the end of it. They had been sitting up on the statue forever, freezing their butts off in the cold light of the early dawn, slowly losing their minds as all the energy from the Ball came to a screeching halt. It was like being tied down to the train tracks while the slowest train in the world rumbled towards him. The end was in sight, it wouldn't be pretty, and it was taking forever.
"Please, just let it be over." Pounce muttered.
"Before a cat will condescend to treat you as a trusted friend." Deuteronomy resumed. "Some little token of esteem is needed, like a dish of cream."
Pounce groaned. Munk licked his lips, eyes rolling in his skull, while Misto stared at Deuteronomy like she had grown an extra head. Now was the end of times. Forget weird cat abominations, the unsettling chants, the writhing dances, the perverted, twisted facsimiles of his friends and family, this, this was truly the worst part.
Now came the list of foods. Pounce was torn between the need to sleep and the need to feed himself. It was an eternal struggle for him, that was true, but currently he would willingly chop off his tail and eat it if it meant he could leave the statue and literally go anywhere else. Home seemed farther and farther away with each passing moment.
"You might now and then supply some caviar, or Strasbourg pie." Deuteronomy continued.
Munk jumped and licked his lips, staring straight at Misto like he was about to eat him. Misto, in turn, was gazing at Deuteronomy as if she would spontaneously turn into some potted grouse of salmon paste. There was no room for Pounce to edge away from the ravenous cats so he settled for ducking down and letting Deuteronomy's fur coat act as his shield.
"And so in time you reach your aim and call him by his name." At Old Deuteronomy's words Misto nudged him again, but this time he was ready for it. Finally, finally, FINALLY they had reached the end.
"A cat's entitled to expect these evidences of respect." Pounce sang along as if his life depended on it. "So this is this, and that is that. And that's how you address a cat!"
The crowd fell silent, everyone turning to gaze up at Deuteronomy. Silently she nodded to the tribe. As one unit everyone dropped to all fours and skittered away into the shadows. If Pounce had any energy left or wits about him he would have been intensely worried about the sight. For now it was all he could do to keep himself awake.
Sensing his exhaustion, Misto affectionately nuzzled his head. It would have been nice if he wasn't also exchanging maniacal glances of glee with Munk, both sporting identical grins that showed too much teeth. Without so much as a sayonara the two cats hurled themselves off the side of the statue, leaving Pounce alone with-
"Oh no." Pounce gasped.
Old Deuteronomy was smiling at him. There was no escaping her now.
"I believe you truly are a Jellicle cat." She told him, as if he had been waiting for her confirmation.
"Well no freakin' duh!" Pounce exclaimed. "That's what I've been saying all night, give me a break!"
"A dearliccle cat." Deuteronomy added, fondly patting his cheek.
"What the hell does that mean?" The sheer absurdity of the situation was too much. Sighing, he flopped backwards off the statue and slid down to the pavement. "What's a dearliccle? What's even a cat anymore?"
No one answered him. Blearily he cast his gaze back up into the sky. The tiny dot that was Grizabella disappeared into the clouds. Clouds that were… shaped like a giant cat face?
"Eh, too tired to think anymore. 'm gonna sleep here." Without much preamble he slumped forward and fell fast asleep.
Someone was pulling on his tail. Wearily he kicked them away.
"Move your butt, you've slept long enough!"
"Nuh, I dun wanna be the J'lcle choice." Pounce muttered. "Dun eat me."
"Get up, doofus, no one's gonna eat you."
Hold on, that nagging was familiar. Pounce's eyes shot open. A familiar face was frowning at him.
"Tumble?" He hardly dared to breathe. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, it's- ack!" Tumble squawked as Pounce immediately latched onto him in a crushing hug.
"Oh thank Heaviside you're here and you have fur and a feline face and no one's trying to sing at me or eat me and-"
"Whoa, wow, Pounce, did you do a little too much dancing at the ball last night?" Tumble tried to shove him off but was no match for Pounce's desperate grip.
"You won't believe what happened, I don't even know what happened, am I even real now?"
"Hold on, I gotta go check, don't go anywhere." Pounce threw his brother aside and ran out into the junkyard.
Several cats were lounging about, appropriately feline and fuzzy and faithful to what his Jellicles should be. A familiar tabby and tuxedo were in a deep conversation on top of the tire, clearly going over the events of the previous night's Ball. Neither of them were ready for a desperate Pounce.
"Oh thank Heaviside you're both- you're both- you guys!" Pounce launched himself at them, frantically patting Munkustrap's face and fur. "Look at the fluff, look at the felinity!"
"Pounce, what's wrong?" Munk tried to pacify him but he was already moving on to Mistoffelees.
"Do a thing, do some magic." Pounce took the magician by the shoulders and shook him.
"Do a what? What do you want me to do?" Misto asked, looking worriedly at Munk.
"Anything! Just something magical and not wimpy!" Pounce screeched. "Show me your confidence for the love of the Everlasting Cat!"
"Presto?" Misto waved a paw. A rainbow ribbon unfurled from thin air and arced across the sky.
"Yes, it's so beautiful!" Pounce sobbed. "So magical and talented!"
"Okay, you clearly need some sort of help." Munk carefully put an arm around his shoulders and helped him sit down on the tire.
"Just… I was in a nightmare. Everyone was so weird and disturbing." Pounce babbled. "You guys were there, but you weren't, and then you wouldn't let me leave, everyone was singing and dancing like robots, and I don't even know how to begin to explain what I saw. I just… I saw things."
"Too much excitement?" Misto suggested.
"You don't even know." Pounce turned his gaze up to the sky. Already it was growing dark, the night sky sprinkled with stars. Was he gone for the whole day?
"Stay here." Munk commanded. "I'm going to go get you some water. And maybe a sedative."
"I dunno even what I experienced, but I don't wanna ever go through that again." Pounce said once he and Misto were alone under the stars. "I feel like this was a test or something. Some kind of horrible, disturbing test."
"Well, did you pass?" Misto asked, voice slightly teasing. "Did you learn your lesson?"
Was there a lesson to be learned? Was there a test to pass? He certainly learned a lot over the course of the night. Nightmare or not, he felt he had a handle on just what his idea of what a Jellicle Cat should be. At the very least he wouldn't tease any incarnation of Grizabella ever again, no matter how much Tumble and Plato wanted him to.
"I guess I did learn something. In a terrifying, horribly disturbing way." Pounce settled back and looked up at the Jellicle Moon. His Jellicle Moon. "And I definitely have some ideas for the Jellicle Ball next year."