The Other Side of Midnight

Chapter 7





If anyone in the town thought it odd that the every cat about seemed to have vanished, it wasn't mentioned. In fact the whole human population seemed to go about their daily lives as if nothing was wrong. To the Jellicles, such nonchalance was unthinkable. How could they not know? How could they not know that the life of one of the world's great mysteries hung in the balance? How could they not know that the Magical Mr. Mistofolees, one of the few magical cats ever to have been born, lay near death in a secluded cottage on the outskirts of town? The Jellicles knew. They knew it from the tips of their ears to the ends of their high-held tails. And they gathered, to a cat, around the house where a human wizard doctor tried to save him.



Had Attivus been in a better frame of mind, he would have smiled at all the cats gathered about his garden. They made quite a sight in their various states of disguise. Some of them, those still unsure of this human who could see them for what they were, took their full feline shapes. Others, those who trusted Old Deuteronomy enough to trust the man and those who were too worried to think about it, held their true forms. The kittens, who were decidedly unnerved by the whole affair, kept popping back and forth. But Attivus was too distracted by his work to even notice. The life of the conjurer was in his hands and he was afraid to let his concentration slip for an instant, lest he lose the fragile hold he held.



Sweat beaded on his brow as he stitched closed Mistofolees' wounds. Jennyanydots had been correct when she'd guessed at internal injuries and now that Attivus had found them all, he was racing against the clock to get the bleeding stopped. The doctor wanted nothing more than to reach up and wipe his forehead when he felt it swiped for him. He dared not raise his eyes to see who had aided him, but when he made to reach for the delicate scissors on the tray next to his arm, a small paw handed them over.



Minute by agonizing minute Attivus worked in silence with the unknown cat at his side. She, for he assumed by the delicate paws it was female, seemed to know what he needed before he called for it. He couldn't wait to see who among the Jellicle tribe was so skilled. "What was their healer's name?" he wondered in the back of his brain. "Jenny-something." Could it be she? He let the thought rattle about in his subconscious while he worked. After several hours, his hand began to cramp from holding the tiny wand he used for delicate work like this. He had closed enough of the wounds to allow himself a brief stretch and he stood up to his full height, turning from side to side to ease muscles that ached from standing so still. It was then that he saw who had helped him. It wasn't the healing cat, as he'd surmised, but one he thought he might have seen before.



"Hello," he said quietly.



"Hello," the cat replied, just as softly.



Attivus had guessed correctly, it was a female. "I want to thank you for your assistance. I couldn't have done it so quickly without your help."



The small queen nodded. "Mistofolees means a great to me, to all of us. I would be remiss in my friendship if I were not to help where I could."



"Might I ask you name?" Attivus inquired while he stretched his fingers.



"My family call me Pooky. My Jellicle name, however, is Demeter."



The human doctor bowed to her. "Might I have the honor of addressing you by your Jellicle name?" he inquired politely.



Tantomile nodded regally. "Thank you for asking. You may."



Attivus nodded back. "Now, Demeter, how is it that you happen to be in here? I am not ungrateful for the assistance, mind you, just surprised."



A look of profound sorrow crossed the queen's lovely face. "Mistofolees helped my mate. He was injured in the fight with Macavity and Mistofolees stopped his wounds from bleeding. I can't help but think that, had he not used the last of his power to help Munkustrap, he would have had enough to save himself."



The doctor smiled kindly. "From what I understand of his power, I doubt that the little he used in helping your mate would have mattered. He and his friend, Tugger, is it? Were badly outnumbered. And who knows, perhaps being drained of his power may have helped him in the long run." Attivus put a gentle hand against the soft furry cheek. "He must care for you and your mate very much to have wanted to help. Take comfort in that, my young Demeter, and have hope."



Demeter smiled for the first time in many hours. "I do have hope, Sir."



He smiled back at her. "Now. I must continue. Will you assist?"



"I will."



Together the young queen and the human worked into the night. Each wound was carefully reconstructed by Attivus skilled wandwork and those he felt too delicate for the wand were hand stitched. When all the damage to Mistofolees' torso were treated, he turned his attention to the mangled paws and broken arm.



"This will be difficult," he sighed, unaware he was talking aloud. "The pads are badly burned. And the arm is broken in more than one place. He is unable to drink any bone-regrowing potions and I don't think I'd use them if he could. I'm not sure how they'd work for cats, even ones more human than not. A good old-fashioned set and splint will do the best, I think. But those paws! Merciful heavens, that fire must have been hot!"



"It was not fire." The soft voice of his 'nurse' startled the doctor. He'd forgotten about her while he mulled over his options.



"Not fire?"



"Power. They are power burns. When Mistofolees' magical powers ebb and he draws from deep within himself, the power is so concentrated that if he isn't careful to pull it back, it burns him. Tugger told us he burned his paws when he healed Munkustrap's wounds. I didn't realize at the time what had happened, I was just glad that Munkustrap was better. Anyway, it didn't seem from what Tugger told us that they were that bad. Could he have injured them further when he vanquished Macavity?"



"Power burns." Attivus repeated thoughtfully. "It could be. A young friend of mine had a similar problem once. I believe the best cure for these paws is another old-fashioned remedy - curative salve and bandages. Once the swelling goes down, then we'll see if anything further needs to be done. Until that time...Miss Demeter, have you ever splinted a broken arm?"



^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^



Mistofolees was floating, he was certain of it. How else could he be moving but have no feeling of moving? He knew that he was moving because the colors around him moved. Vague shapes changed about in misty shadows and he could sense that he was going from one place to another. Air felt different. There were different sounds that brushed his whiskers. Still, all of it was hazy and distorted, like whispers through a series of pipes. He wasn't sure where one thing ended and something else began. It seemed to him that, although there was no time here in this shadowy place, he had been here a very long time. Something told him that he should begin to find his way out but he couldn't. Everywhere he turned there was only the same fog, the same wisps of faint color that came and went. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to mark a clear way. How could he leave when he didn't know where he was or how he came to be there? And he was so very, very tired. It was so easy to let himself drift. So easy to let the comforting vagueness take him.



"I'm worried, Deuteronomy." The doctor stood uneasy at his patient's bedside, fingers worrying at one his many braids. "He should've been awake by now. It's almost as if..."



"'As if' what, my friend?" Old Deuteronomy put a comforting paw on the human's shoulder.



"You'll think I'm insane." Attivus laughed nervously. "But I can't help but feel it's as if he's lost his way. As if he can't find his way back."



The old cat at his side became very quiet and thoughtful.



Attivus stared at his reaction for a moment. "You aren't seriously considering that, are you?" he asked.



The Jellicle leader nodded. "I am. I don't know why, but I believe you are right, Attivus. I believe Mistofolees is lost."



"Well, that would explain a lot except what we do about it. What can you possibly do for someone lost in limbo?"



Deuteronomy grinned. "What you do when anyone is lost. You send someone out to look for him."



"And how do you propose we do that?" the doctor wanted to know.



"I believe it is time we summoned the twins."





^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^



Attivus Attlewart, wizard and doctor, had seen just about everything, so he'd thought, but the sight of more than a score of Jellicle cats in his healing room were enough to make him stare. It had taken Old Deuteronomy the better part of an hour to explain to the 'twins' what he thought was going on and for them to devise a plan. Tantomile and Coricopat, identical down to their whiskers, were mystics of a sort and it was hoped that they could somehow contact Mistofolees - wherever he was - and bring him back. However, they would need the joined power of the entire tribe to attempt it. For the Jellicle cats were linked one and all on a level beyond that of conscious thought. It was by tapping into this power that Coricopat and Tantomile hoped to find Mistofolees and bring him home.



A tense silence fell upon the gathered cats as the twins began. One by one each cat was put into a light trance. Two by two, moonlit eyes fell shut until only the human and the twin mystics remained awake. Even then Attivus knew they didn't see him. Their gazes were focused far away on a place that only they could see.



^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ ^_^



Mistofolees



The black tuxedo cat opened eyes he wasn't aware were closed. Sound! It was the first sound he could remember hearing since coming to this place. Oh, he had sensed sound, his whiskers had quivered with the vibrations around him, but this was the first thing he had actually heard.



Mistofolees Where are you?



He wanted to shout, to yell. "Here! I'm here!" But he couldn't. Whether it was because he was too tired or he had simply forgotten how, he wasn't sure. He wasn't even sure he wanted to be found. He wasn't sure of anything. Not even the name that echoed through the fog.



Mistofolees Come home We are here to take you home



Home? Wasn't this home? The voices didn't seem to think so. And who was this Mistofolees? Was it him? He couldn't remember. The name, he thought, was familiar somehow, but he couldn't lay claim to it.



Mistofolees tofolees ofolees



There were more voices now. Many voices calling for this Mistofolees. He wanted to ask them why they sounded so frantic, so desperate. "They must care for this person," he thought. "They must want him to return home to come looking for him here."



The fog around him began to take on shapes, wispy shapes of phantoms that seemed to him familiar somehow. Two that were almost identical in shape and substance formed most clearly near him and he wanted to reach out for them, to call out to them, but he couldn't. Something inside himself was stopping him.



A red bolt seared through the grayness and tore through the very center of his being. He cried out as he remembered what it was he fought to hide from. Pain! Pain everywhere! Pain coming from his eyes, his body, his arms, his hands. There was no end to the suffering and then it was gone as quickly as it came. The tom panted as he waited for the aftershocks to leave his body. He was on his knees, his arms wrapped around his chest as if to protect himself, but from what?

Mistofolees! Mistofolees! Where are you? Come to us, Mistofolees! Join us and we will take you home.



Join us! That's what HE said. Join me! In his mind a shape formed and he recoiled from the sight. "NO!" he screamed into his mind. "You cannot have me!"





Red-hot lightening flashed through the fog and again he was enveloped in agony. The tom screamed as the pain lanced through his body again and again. The gray faded and an all consuming blackness began to eat away at the horizon. "Help me!" he called to the voices. He was not afraid of them, not as much as he was afraid of the blackness. "Help me! I can't get out!"



Mistofolees! The twin shapes took perfect form in front of him.



"I know you," the young tom whispered.



We are here to help you, they answered as one. We are here to take you home.



"It hurts," he whimpered. "It hurts so much."



It won't hurt for long, they assured him. Already you are healing. Already much of the pain has passed. Come with us, Mistofolees. Come home.



"I'm afraid," admitted the one they called Mistofolees. "I don't know who I am."



You are who you are, they told him. You are Mistofolees. You are magic and moonlight and you are loved and missed by your tribe.



He shook his head. He was so frightened. "I feel so alone," he said aloud.



You are not alone. We are all here. All of us. The air around him took on more shapes, shapes he recognized, shapes he knew. We will help you remember who you are. Just let us in.



Mistofolees wanted to run, wanted to tell them no but the same lethargy that kept him still when they called kept him still now. As much as he craved rest he knew deep down that this place was not giving it to him. Above all else, he wanted to be free of it. Free of the weariness, free of the nothing that enveloped him.



"Help me," he sighed as he bowed his head. "Show me who I am."



The two shapes came forward and put their shadowy hands on his head. Vivid images in bright colors, not wispy gray, came flooding into his mind. He gasped as they filled him, threatened to overload him. At the last second, he gripped them and named them and called them for what they were - memories. Memories of life, of HIS life. Faster and faster they came, flooding his psyche. He sensed that the two figures that touched him - Coricopat! Tantomile! He could name them now - were worried. They were concerned that the flow of information was too much. They tried to stop it, tried to redirect the energy but Mistofolees - that IS my name! - took over the energy flow and let it fill him. THIS is what was missing here. The energy that fed him, fed his magic, fed the very essence of his being. It wasn't that he was tired here, he was starving. And now he was being filled, being fed, and he was alive again. With a joyous bound, he leaped into the air. No longer was he filmy and wispy. He was solid and the beings around him were solid, too. As one, they embraced him and he named them as he touched their outstretched paws. Munkustrap! Demeter! Victoria! Alonzo! Cassandra! Jemima! Admetus! Exotica! Gus! Jellylorum! Deuteronomy! Bustopher! Jenny! Tumblebrutus! Etcetera! Electra! Pouncival! Bombalurina! Skimbleshanks! Mungojerrie! Rumpelteazer! Plato!



"Are you ready to come home," asked Tantomile and Coricopat as one.



"Oh, yes! I am very ready to come home."



The fog began to lift and Mistofolees saw the path he needed to follow. The friends around him began to fade away. "Wait!" he cried in alarm. "Aren't you coming?"



Many voices raised up in laughter around him. "We are already here. We only came looking for you. You have been shown the way, it's up to you to return on your own."



"I have to go alone?"



Silly Mistofolees It was Grizabella. She stood in front of him, her striped coat shining silver and blue in the clear light You were NEVER alone