Episode 23: In Which a Cat Thinks Inside the Box
I can’t help wondering whether winter is longer than any other season, or if it just seems that way because it grows more tiresome than the others. Spring is a short transition here, and no one ever thinks, “I sure am tired of all this sunshine when will the summer end,” and fall is simply the best season. But here we are, once again gripped in the clutches of ice and snow lashing relentlessly at the windows in a bitter wind that refuses to move on or die out.
I move away from the window and the steadily worsening scene outside. This world of violent grey and white is enough to drive a cat to distraction. I hop up on the big front desk to check on my friends and make sure their poor human minds haven’t cracked from the madness of being caught in winter too long. I am always very interested in the candles they have burning, and I can’t help approaching the small, warm flame that dances in the subtlest movements of air. I am mesmerized by the inviting glow, watching it waver to and fro at random intervals, as if from the soft touch of ghosts or other unseen entities humankind has yet to discover. I lean toward it, and I can feel the heat caressing my whiskers. I am kept from communing with the fire by the exclamation of one of my friends, followed by a gentle shove that compels me to jump to the floor. My companions are lacking in their sense of adventure.
From ground level, I scout the area for my next gambit, and that’s when I see it, shoved aside to be disposed of with the recycling. A portal. They don’t know what they’re disposing of so carelessly! My humans can be so silly. I approach the portal and look inside; empty. Perfect. I enter it carefully, not sure where it might take me. Crouched in its depths, I feel the muffled comfort of invisibility cover me like a blanket. Portals are the best. I hear my friends making pleased noises, and their attention is on the portal with me inside; they are coming closer, but it doesn’t matter. Before they can disturb my interspatial travel, I turn over the engine of the portal and step on the gas.
A steering wheel under my paws, I zoom away from them and the dreary depths of winter as a skilled driver in a luxury racecar, speeding along with the top down. I am on a coastal racecourse, hugging every curve of the road with precision while the wind courses through my fur; I can feel a white scarf whipping out behind me, and the air currents pushing against my racing goggles as I drive faster and faster under blue skies and sunshine. I blast through the finish line; first place, of course. Instead of slowing down, I take a final corner, pitching toward the curve at a marvelous speed. Knowing I’ll never make the turn, I catch a ramp and am launched into the air!
There is no fear in a portal; anyone inside becomes invincible to the consequences of earthly physics. Airborne, wings unfold from the sides of my vessel, and propellers keep me afloat in a shiny plane fit to make the Red Baron green with envy. I exercise my impeccable flight skills, nimble as a bird and with the grace and exuberance of a butterfly. With precision, I soar above a shining blue-green sea, maneuvering to and fro with the air currents, like a candle flame touched by the ghosts of home. Higher, I must go higher! Up, up, up, I corkscrew into the sky until the air becomes thin and I can see the line between outer space and our atmosphere. I gaze out into the dark expanse of space, letting the stars of faraway galaxies dance in my eyes, until the moon tells me to go back. I turn my aircraft back toward the bright earth below, and the shift in gravitational defiance gives my stomach a pleasant, exhilarating lurch as I begin to dive.
I plummet toward the surface of the sparkling water, and my engines cease to provide power; the air streaming beneath my wings is moving faster than the motors can propel. But I am an ace pilot; I pull out of the dive into a gentle glide, approaching the surface of the water slowly now. I guide the hull of my vessel smoothly into the blue-green sea, and the wings fold upward to become the great masts and sails of a seaworthy ship. I feel the comfortable weight of a captain’s hat on my brow, and the smooth wood of a well-worn ship’s wheel under the control of my paws. A soft, salty breeze fills the sails and pushes me onward toward new horizons of adventure. I let the briny air settle in my fur and I turn my face toward the sunshine. The warm rays and gentle rocking of the waves beneath my ship begin to make me drowsy. A portal is an excellent place for a nap… Perhaps when I wake and return to the real world, the storm will have passed and spring will be upon us. It’s a nice thought, and I let it linger in my mind, knowing that it won’t be so. The magic of the portal is contained strictly within its walls.
Curled snugly in the bow of my ship, I let the soft murmur of lapping water and the creaking deck mixed with familiar far-off voices lull me into a deep meditation. Portals have done wonders for my people in unlocking the secrets of the universe; there is no more productive place for meaningful cogitation. Perhaps I can figure out how to let portal magic leak into the physical world… It is a daunting task, and may take me all day.