"Wisdom's ways are pleasant ways, and all its paths lead to peace…..," Chessur voiced out. Next he said, "Speaking of 'smouldering fire', I sense & wager you have been waiting a long time to tell someone about what you're hiding."

"You got that right," muttered Johnny.

The cat hadn't ceased to manage that friendly smile.

He glided & was spinning gracefully in a seemingly nonchalant fashion, "Now, how may I help you?"

"I have a problem. With my…past, actually," replied Johnny, scratching his head whilst they both strolled along the pathway.

"I am known to be a good listener," said Chessur as he flashed his grin. He awaited Johnny's explanation very patiently; not a complaint left his lips. But his tail twitched in anticipation of an interesting tale.

They emerged from the dim 'tunnel' covered by overhead trees & arrived at a pool. The gleaming & glistening of the water, revealed to them by rays of moonshine coming down from the sky, relaxed their eyes & minds. It was the purrrfect place for a conversation, Chessur thought to himself. They stopped for a rest.

"When my mom…died…when I was just a kid, things couldn't be the same again," Johnny began, "Then Dad left his job as a doctor. You know, people who help you when you're sick & stuff."

"Go on," purred Chessur, still looking happy. He asked, "Did he leave that…doctor's life…for the better?"

"Nope, he didn't. He had so much guilt; it's like it was eating him or something. He almost saved mom's life with his doctor skills but he couldn't. So he started to do pretty dangerous things. It was scary for my sister Sue & me. Then one night he was wrestling with this man whom he borrowed lots of money from. Dad didn't have enough money to give back to him, & they got into a bad fight. &….," he paused for sufficient breath, "Dad accidentally killed him.

"In the end Dad got locked away in jail, leaving me to live on with my sister. It's been rough & tough."

"Yet here you are, alive as ever," said Chessur ever so joyfully. Now his grin was amusing Johnny.

"True, but I don't do things the way I do 'cause I wanna help people or do anything nice…"

"Could you clarify, please, in case I am not following?" Chessur asked.

"Something's been chewing me on the inside. My dad was really awesome, & smart. Doctors filled their brains with endless facts & other things you don't understand. I really admired him & his life…until mom was gone. Mom was…a lot like you, really. Except for the accent, of course."

It was Chessur's turn to be amused, "Me? Coming close to being like your mother? How so?" He muted a laugh or two.

"Well, 'wise' is the word for you. Just like mom. She knew exactly what to do when things went wrong," Johnny explained, smiling, "I think I'm trying to be something I'm not. Sometimes I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I keep telling others I don't need any help with anything, unless I'm about to get kicked in the butt or something. No one knows about what I go through when I think of my parents…" His voice trailed off sadly.

He continued, "I wanna be who my father was – at the top of my game, having a problem-free life. But…I…can't. I guess I'm so caught up in being the best that practically all the time, I pretend to be perfect to make sure I'm closer to becoming perfect.

"There's another thing: it's been ages since my parents were gone but I can't accept it. I'm a madhouse! I don't listen to Sue at all 'cause well, I'll only listen to anyone if dad or especially mom were still around…I want them to be around, so that every stupid detail of this stupid life will go right!!!"

Chessur filled in, "Hmmm…your years have been destitute of the love of a parent, yes?"

"Uh, I guess so."

The cat purred before proceeding, "I suppose the emotions of your father 'trickled down' to other family members." Johnny nodded in response, "Yeah."

"First of all, Jonathan, I heard once that no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for any service, let alone for life, really," the cat grinned.

"Sorry Chess, you're speaking in 'alien'. I don't get you," commented Johnny.

Chessur sighed & spoke, "Don't peer into the window of your past. It is the only way your life can be said to be moving forward, let alone moving at all. You don't have to let a single event mar the joys of living." He smiled much wider upon finishing the sentence.

"There's a pity about all this…you should be looking forward to what is to come. That is how I see it, & it is how I believe life goes both in your world & in Underland." He encircled Johnny, who took in the words of wisdom, with his mist.

"Underland?" Johnny asked, puzzled. More like 'Slumberland' if you asked me, whispered his thoughts. Okay, maybe I'm dreaming.

Then Chess drifted lazily above the surface of the pool - & pointed downward using a paw after turning around, as if motioning to Johnny to look down. "I invite you to see yourself in this pool," he seemed to instruct, flicking his tail. Johnny followed what he said without hesitation.

There was his face, the expressions of wonder & curiosity written all over it. His blue irises had a similiar glow to that of Chess's, interestingly. However, he couldn't stare too long; definitely not when he was feeling this blue. That was quite ironic since people knew him as one who loved staring into a mirror. Unbeknownst to them, he only liked behaving like that in public.

"Why so awkward looking into yourself?" Chessur calmly purred.

Johnny got irritated, "Can't you tell? Family resemblance. It's like they're there." Sighing loudly, he concluded, "If you knew them both, you'd know how they mattered."

"Correction: I know how much they matter. It is in present tense."

"I hate to tell you this, but I told you - they died a long time ago!"

"They did. But they haven't!" exclaimed the cat. "He's alive, she's alive. Do forgive me if I apparently sound as if I have lost my marbles," his grin persisted.

"Listen, they're NOT ALIVE!" A hot feeling was being stirred up in him.

"Please, put a stop to your smarting, & listen. Look down again."

"It's just my reflection."

"No. Look harder. & longer."

Finally Johnny gave in. He made another attempt, & looked. He tried replacing bitter memories about Franklin & Mary Storm with the pleasant times he treasured. &…A change had taken place in what he saw. It was still himself in the water, but the image was influenced visually…just by the power of his thinking.

Right below him was his dad, mimicking his expression. He was clad in his favourite brown coat, looking handsome & smart. Johnny wanted to jump back in fright but the urge to smile was stronger. Franklin smiled as well. In the water, Mary stood beside Frank looking lovelier than ever. Funnily, she was more astounding to look at in a reflection than in person.

"You see?" Chessur cheerfully uttered, "You can be a place where they still reside - a vessel that they can work through, sort of like a temple of serenity, if you like. They are somewhere in you, waiting to be unearthed. A part of you is a part of them, which isn't your own & which you can't possibly own."

"Wow Chess, I gotta say you're amazing," admitted Johnny.

"Remember, they are alive. Not in body or in person, but nevertheless…alive," said the cat, "Isn't it a beautiful thought?"

"I just shared my biggest problem with a talking ghost cat," chortled Johnny.

"The Cheshire Cat," Chessur corrected him. "Shall we move on?" he requested courteously.

They left the place. Soon the forest was bathed in a brighter, softer blue light. Then they came across a large clearing with the trees opening up to welcome the moonlight to shine down. Such a spot was perfect for Johnny to take off. He exhaled & readied himself to make an exit.

"Goodbye, Jonathan Spencer Storm," smiled Chessur the last time. Approaching Johnny to let him stroke the top of his head, he said, "With my remarks, I have taught you a gist of the 'rules' of Underland. But they are rules for life, too; insight in how things work in your world & down here." A few of his purrs followed.

"Sure thing, buddy," said Johnny. With that, he uttered a "Flame on!" & blasted into the night.

But was he hearing his sister speak?

"Johnny! Get a grip on yourself!"

He surveyed the forest below without being able to make out the light of the Fantasticar or a signal. Abruptly, something shook him really hard.

"Wake up!" Sue was at it again.

Next thing he knew, blinding daylight forced its way into the picture. His eyes were shut but he now opened them. He had to blink a few times to refocus.

"You dozed off. Come on, we have work to do," barked Sue. She quickly left the room through the door. Johnny chuckled to himself & went after her, calm & collected. A whole hunk of weight was off his shoulders.

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If ANY part of this sounded stupid, I'm sorry! The pool idea came from The Lion King.