Tantomile stopped in her tracks and sniffed the air. There was a hint of…something…in the regular alleyway scent. She turned her head and gasped. Blocking their way was a thick mist. “Something’s wrong,” she said to her brother.
Coricopat glanced at the mist and nodded. “Yes…but somehow…” He grasped Tantomile’s hand and stepped into the mist. “Something’s…calling to me.” He shook his head in confusion. “I can’t describe it any better than that.”
The twins walked further into the mist, guided by something that neither of them could see and only Coricopat could feel. They wandered blindly, the mist swirling around them, whispering warnings they couldn’t understand. After what may have been a few minutes or a few hours, the mist disappeared completely. The alley behind them had vanished; they were in a meadow with a single human house that looked to be built to their scale. “Definitely something wrong,” they chorused, looking at their surroundings.
The door to the house opened, and an adult female human stepped out. She was the same approximate size as Coricopat and Tantomile, though all the humans they had seen before were much larger. The woman shook her wavy, golden hair so it cascaded around her shoulders, which the tight-fitting, low-cut top she wore left bare. “Hello,” she said with a smile and wave at Coricopat.
Tantomile narrowed her eyes. The stranger was looking at her brother in a way she didn’t quite like. “Who are you? Why are we here? Why are we as big as you?” she demanded.
The woman returned Tantomile’s stare and ran a hand through her hair. “My name is Monique,” she said, “and I am a witch. I brought you here, and made you grow.” Turning back to Coricopat, she flashed a dazzling smile. “Care to join me for breakfast?”
“No,” said Tantomile firmly, her mind made up that Monique would be nothing but trouble.
“Yes,” said Coricopat at the same instant. He was staring at Monique as if in a dream. "I’d love to.”
With a triumphant toss of her hair, the witch led the cats into her house.
“We have met again in the stars.” Coricopat and Tantomile recited the greeting they said every time they entered the star-filled void that was their shared minds.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tantomile asked, concerned. “She’s dangerous. You shouldn’t have done that.”
“I know,” said Coricopat, shaking his head as if trying to clear it. “I didn’t do that. She did… she’s controlling my body, or something.”
Tantomile felt a chill come over her. “This is bad…” she said. “Come one, let’s go back and hope for the best.” “We shall meet again in the stars.” Their parting vow didn’t have the assurance it usually did, and they both shivered.
“So,” said Monique, resting her chin on her hand, looking straight into Coricopat’s eyes, and letting her hair spill over to one side, “I don’t recall you telling me your names. What are they?”
Breakfast was over and done with; the table had been magically cleared. Throughout the meal Coricopat had stared at their host, and Tantomile had stared at Coricopat. Now, with Monique’s question, the tom blushed. “I…”
Tantomile closed her eyes and let her mind drift into the void. Immediately she heard cries of, “Tantomile, help me!” She saw Coricopat’s spirit being locked up in a mental cage… made by Monique.
Her eyes flew open. “Our names are Adam and Eve,” she said, choosing to use their family names. Who knew what the witch would do if she knew their real names?
“Is that so?” asked Monique, looking at Coricopat.
“Partly,” he said. “Those are our family names. Our real names are Coricopat and Tantomile. And our thir-” He broke off, shook his head, and shrugged.
Tantomile sighed, partly with frustration, partly with relief. At least Monique didn’t have Coricopat so much in her power that he would tell her their third names. Or did she just make him forget them?
“You know, Coricopat,” said Monique, rolling the name around in her mouth, “you’re a very handsome tom.” She smiled.
Coricopat blushed. “Really?” said his voice.
Inside his head, he was screaming, “Tantomile, help! Get her away! She’s-”
All at once, Coricopat’s mind-voice grew silent. Tantomile gasped. Not only could she not hear Coricopat, she couldn’t feel him. When she tried to touch his mind, all she felt was the mental equivalent of cold, steel bars. “Heavyside, Coricopat… Coricopat, where are you… answer me, Coricopat… CORICOPAT!” she silently screamed.
Monique smirked. He’s mine now, she thought-said to Tantomile. “Isn’t that right, darling?” she cooed, stroking Coricopat’s hand. He purred and nodded.
Tantomile felt a wave of overwhelming terror. I can’t reach him, she thought. I can’t hear him, I can’t feel him…the witch has control of him…Heavyside… With a moan of anguish, she ran from the house.
Monique smiled and fluffed her hair. “Ta-ta, Tanty!” She turned to Coricopat. “So, Cori…”
Coricopat took hold of the bars of his mental cage and tried to tear them out of the star-filled void that he shared with Tantomile. He could hear Tantomile calling to him, and he called back. “Tantomile! I’m over here! Get me out of here! No, don’t leave!” Despair washed over him as his sister left the void. “We shall meet again in the stars…” he whispered. He knelt down on the not-quite floor and breathed on the bright star that showed where his body was. Instantly, the darkness in that area cleared away and the disembodied spirit could view himself. He groaned at the picture of himself in Monique’s arms. “I can’t believe this… Tantomile! Help me…”
Plato heard a crash and looked up from the picture he was doodling in the dirt. Tantomile was standing where a pile of cans had just been, leaning on a tire. Her face was haggard and haunted, and Coricopat was nowhere to be seen. Munkustrap rushed to her side as Plato wondered what had happened.
“What’s wrong, Tantomile? And where’s Coricopat?” the silver tabby tom asked.
Tantomile swallowed hard and attempted to calm her shaking hands. In between ragged breaths she said, “Coricopat…captured…by witch…help me…”
Looking at the distraught queen, Plato felt a strange tugging on his heart, something he had never felt before. He pondered the feeling, trying to get a glimpsed of Tantomile’s turquoise, almost overflowing eyes.
“I’ll help,” volunteered Mistoffelees, standing up from where he was sitting cross-legged on the old car. “I’m pretty good with that kind of thing. Just show me where he is.”
“I’ll come too,” said Cassandra, walking over to her friend. “I know this must be hard for you.”
In the middle of Tantomile’s bitter laugh, Plato stood up. “Me too. I mean, I’ll help. I mean…” He shifted uncomfortably as everyone in the area stared at him.
Finally, Munkustrap shrugged. “Go,” he said. “Another helper can’t hurt.” He started going back to the bird he’d been occupied in plucking. “Good luck.”
Plato joined the group and was rewarded with a tiny smile from Tantomile, who was still shaking. “Well, let’s go,” he said nervously. “Lead the way, Tanto.”
Tantomile nodded and pointed in the direction she had just come from. “This way.” Plato, Mistoffelees, and Cassandra followed her into the misty alleyway.
“Here we are,” said Tantomile, stopping in front of a seemingly cat-sized human house. There was a strange mixture of terror and sorrow in her voice. “They’re in there,” she whispered, half to herself.
Mistoffelees and Cassandra had emerged from the mist right after Tantomile, Plato was a little behind them. Something inside him made him take charge. “Alright, Misto, Cassie, you look in the windows and report back to us. Then we’ll take it from there.”
“Aye, aye, cap’n,” said Mistoffelees with a grin. “Come on, Cass.” Cassandra followed him to a window at the side of the house.
Tantomile stared at the house as if in a trance. “They’re in there…” She stood with her back to Plato, but he could tell from her clenched hands and heavy breathing how upset she was.
“Tantomile?” said Plato tentatively. No answer. He put an awkward hand on her tense shoulder. “Tantomile,” he said softly, “are you okay?”
Tantomile whirled around to face him, her eyes burning and her claws digging into his shoulders. “My brother is in there,” she said, her voice low. “My brother is in there with a human witch who has put a spell on him. And I can’t reach him. Do you think I’m okay?” They stood there for a minute, angry tears forming in her eyes, Plato wincing at the pain in his shoulders, when suddenly her face crumpled. She collapsed against him, limp and sobbing, with her arms around his neck. “I can’t reach him,” she whispered through her tears. “I can’t reach him.”
One of Plato’s arms somehow found itself around the queen’s lower back, the other gently stroked her headfur. The tugging on his heart was stronger now, more definite. He rocked back and forth slightly, as he remembered his mother doing for him when he was a kitten. “Don’t cry, Tanto, you’ll be alright. He’ll be alright. Ssh…” He felt tears dripping from Tantomile’s face to his chest, and held her tighter. “We can beat her, we’ll get him back, Tantomile…”
“I hope you’re right, Plato,” said Tantomile, taking one of her arms from around his neck to wipe her eyes. “I hope you’re right.”
As Tantomile’s sobs grew fewer and her breathing patterns began to synchronize with Plato’s, Mistoffelees and Cassandra returned from their spying expedition. “Plato, Tantomile, we…” Mistoffelees began, his voice trailing off as he saw his two friends. He nudged Cassandra. “Maybe we should tell them later.”
Cassandra nodded. “Somehow I don’t think she’d appreciate knowing Coricopat and What’s-her-name seem to be hitting it off just fine.”
Mistoffelees sighed. “That’s not what I meant…”
“I know,” said Cassandra with a grin and glance at Plato and Tantomile, who didn’t even notice the others had come back. “You’re right.”
Tantomile felt Plato grow warmer, as if embarrassed. She looked up to see what was wrong, and saw Mistoffelees and Cassandra standing close by. An answering flush rose in her cheeks as she pulled away from the tom who had stopped her tears, an inexplicable something tugging at her heart. “What did you see?” she asked.
Cassandra jumped at Tantomile’s question. “What? Oh yeah, that… Coricopat and the witch-”
“Monique,” murmured Tantomile. She shivered.
“Alright, Coricopat and Monique are…well…from what I could see, she was sitting in his lap and he was purring.”
Tantomile sighed and rubbed her temples. “Everlasting Cat…” She felt Plato tap her arm. “Yes?”
“Should we go in?” asked Plato. “To see if we can do anything?”
Why didn’t I ever notice how handsome he is? Tantomile wondered. She smiled. “Of course. Let’s go.”
“Why, Tantomile, what a surprise!” said Monique in her fakey, syrupy sweet voice. She stood in the doorway of her house, looking at the four Jellicles. Her eyes lingered on Plato and Mistoffelees. “And you’ve brought your little friends. How nice!”
Plato, Mistoffelees, whatever you do, don’t look at her or listen to her. Tune her out. Or you’ll end up like Coricopat.
Plato jumped, startled at Tantomile’s voice in his mind. From the look on Mistoffelees’s face, he guessed the other tom had heard it, too. Plato looked past Monique and discovered why Tantomile sounded dangerously close to another bout of tears. Coricopat was standing behind the witch, resting his chin on her shoulder and playing with her hair. Something about that hair drew Plato to it… He closed his eyes and shook his head to clear the feeling. It’s her hair. He tried to send the thought to Tantomile.
What do you mean? Tantomile’s mind voice answered him.
Her hair. When I look at it, it’s like I’m hypnotized or something. I don’t know much about magic, but could she be using her hair to enchant us?
I don’t feel anything, was the puzzled reply. I’ll ask Mistoffelees and Cassandra. After a few seconds, the voice was back. Misto noticed it too! Cassie didn’t, though. She thinks it might work only on toms-
“Aren’t you going to come in?” asked Monique. She looked annoyed at the mental conversation that she knew was going on.
With a smile to rival Monique’s, Tantomile said, “Naturally.”
Some of Coricopat’s agitation turned to relief as he saw his sister and friends join his body and the witch. The look in Tantomile’s eyes was hard for him to bear, and, though he knew it was useless, he tried to contact her again. “TANTOMILE! Please hear me, Tantomile!”
“What the Heavyside…?” came a new voice.
Coricopat’s eyes darted across the void, looking for the speaker. It sounded like… “Plato?”
“Coricopat? What happened? Where am I? Where are you? All I can see are stars and a big cage…”
Now Coricopat had a direction. He looked towards the bars of his mental cage. Plato stood there, looking very confused and uncomfortable. “You’re in the stars,” he said. Then, realizing Plato wouldn’t know what he meant, he said, “The mental void that I share with Tantomile. Only we two are supposed to be able to get here.”
“I’ll leave, then,” said Plato, inching away and looking more confused and uncomfortable than ever.
“No, wait! If you’re here, you’re here for a reason.” A thought struck him. “Oh no… you didn’t get captured, too, did you?”
“Um… I don’t think I-”
“Do you see a star that’s brighter than all the others?” interrupted Coricopat. When Plato nodded, he said, “Breathe on it.”
Plato did so, and uttered a sound of astonishment when the stars cleared away to show himself in Monique’s house.
“Make your arm move,” instructed Coricopat.
“Okay…” said Plato. He moved his arm. The picture of himself did the same.
Relief flooded Coricopat. “Okay. We know you still have your own mind, and you’re probably not stuck here. And I might as well ask you some questions. How’s Tantomile? Does she have a plan on how to defeat that witch? How about you, and Mistoffelees and Cassandra?”
“I think we figured out that Monique’s hair is hypnotizing us. Well, Misto and me, anyway. And you too, I guess. Tantomile says Cassandra says she thinks it only works on toms.”
“Interesting,” said Coricopat. “Actually, now that I think about it, I remember her doing a lot of stuff with her hair, like she was trying to get me to notice it. Okay. So now you know how to keep from getting stuck. Is Tantomile alright? Is she really upset? I mean, I know that I’m going crazy without her…”
“She was crying,” said Plato. His voice grew distant, remembering. “She was crying and I comforted her…”
Coricopat looked at the other tom in surprise. “You…you like her a lot, don’t you?”
Plato blushed. “Well…yeah. I guess I do.”
“And she likes you too, doesn’t she?”
“Well…I hope so.”
I hope they’re happy together… Coricopat thought. He looked down at fading image of himself, Plato, Tantomile, Monique, Mistoffelees, and Cassandra. “You should probably go back soon. They might start to notice that you’re not saying much.”
Plato shrugged. “It’s not like I say that much anyway.”
“When someone asks you a direct question? And that someone happens to be a powerful witch?”
“Oh. I guess you’re right.” He paused. “This might sound sort of stupid, but how do I get back?”
“Just imagine yourself back in your body.”
“Okay…” Plato closed his eyes.
“Wait!” said Coricopat.
Plato opened his eyes. “What?”
“When you get back, give me a sign that you’re actually there. Like…I don’t know…” A thought came to Coricopat, and he grinned. “Put your arm around Tantomile.”
“You heard me.”
“But…” Seeing that further argument would get him nowhere, besides secretly liking the idea, Plato closed his eyes and imagined himself back in his body.
Tantomile stiffened as she felt Plato’s arm around her. “What…?” she whispered.
Plato grinned sheepishly. “Coricopat,” he whispered back..
“You talked to him? In the stars?” Plato nodded and Tantomile sighed. “Oh Heavyside…” Tantomile let her thoughts drift as she grew accustomed to the tom’s arm around her waist. I think…I think…I think I could get used to this. She inched her chair closer to Plato’s, and she almost thought she heard Coricopat’s laugh.
“Ari, Tux, I’d like to talk to you,” said Monique sweetly. “Privately. Mystery and Tantomile, you can stay here.”
The four Jellicles looked at each other uncertainly. They had given the witch their family names - Aristotle for Plato, Tuxedo for Mistoffelees, and Mystery for Cassandra - but they still didn’t think they could trust her. Especially since she kept playing with her hair, trying to get their attention. “I’d rather not,” said Plato.
Monique’s eyes glittered dangerously, but she forced her voice to remain sweet. “Oh, but you must!” She turned around and shook her hair.
Go with her, Tantomile thought-said to Plato and Mistoffelees. As long as you don’t look at her hair, you’ll be alright. And maybe you can pretend to be under the spell, and learn something useful.
Good idea, Plato replied. And you’re sure you’ll be okay on your own?
Tantomile gave Plato a strange look. Of course, why wouldn’t I be? Monique will be with you, and besides, I’m a grown queen. I can take care of myself.
Plato blushed. Sorry…it’s just that Coricopat’s worried about you not being able to talk to him. Or something like that.
Oh… Tantomile sighed. Well, it would be just as hard to deal with it with you as without you. She paused and looked at Plato, as if trying to memorize his face. But thanks.
Monique dragged Plato away before he had time to answer, but the strange tugging he felt was forming into a thought: I love her.
As the door to Monique’s living room swung shut, Tantomile pondered a feeling that was growing steadily within her. Am I in love with Plato? she wondered. I’ve never felt like this before… He’s so… Do I…? Heat rose in her cheeks as she reached a decision: I love him.
“Coricopat! Coricopat, where are you? Answer me, Coricopat!” Tantomile called across the void. Even with her new realization of love, not being able to reach Coricopat drove her to the verge of insanity. Alone with Cassandra, she had allowed herself to go as far into her mind as she could in a desperate search for her brother. “Coricopat!”
Only the mocking echo of her words answered her. The void seemed barren and cold, the stars just sharp, meaningless points of light. With a long, drawn-out yowl, she completely let herself go.
Cassandra watched in growing terror as Tantomile blindly flung herself around the room, clawing at everything in her path. “Coricopat!” she was screaming over and over. “Coricopat, come back! Plato, help me find Coricopat! Help me, Plato!”
When Tantomile fell to the floor, a table crashing down on her leg with a sickening crack, Cassandra sent a mind message to Mistoffelees. Misto, get in here quick or there’s going to be a dead twin.
Something’s wrong with Tantomile. I think you should go see how she is. Mistoffelees’s mind voice broke into Plato’s musings.
Wrong…with Tantomile? Plato echoed.
Yeah. Cassandra says that if we don’t do something soon, she could die.
Plato felt as if he had been hit with a bucket of ice water. Die?
I’ll use my magic to send you, Mistoffelees went on. Monique and…Coricopat…aren’t looking. Close your eyes.
Plato obeyed, the words, Dying. Tantomile is dying. I love you, you can’t die! Don’t die, Tantomine, don’t die! running through his head. He opened his eyes when he felt the world start spinning, then shut them at the scene before him. Heavyside… He took a deep breath and opened his eyes again.
The once well-decorated living room was in shambles. On the chairs, sofa, even walls there was evidence of claws. Cassandra, a shivering bundle in a corner near where Plato stood, pointed wordlessly across the room. He looked where she was pointing and gasped. Tantomile lay on the floor, looking as battered as the room. A small but heavy table lay across one of her legs. The leg itself was twisted at a painful, awkward angle.
“She went crazy. Or something,” said Cassandra softly. “She was running around and crashing into things like she couldn’t see them. She kept screaming for Coricopat. And you.”
“Me?” Cassandra nodded, and Plato’s thoughts went whirling. Me. She was screaming for me. Could she…?
Tantomile’s seemingly lifeless form shifted then, and Plato flew to her side. “Tantomile?”
“Coricopat,” she whispered hoarsely, urgently. “I have to find Coricopat.” She turned to Plato, her eyes clouded with pain. “Please, Plato, help me find Coricopat!”
Plato bit his lip. There was nothing he could do to find Coricopat, but he couldn’t tell Tantomile that. “I…I’ll try… Come on, we have to get you out of here.” He moved the table away from Tantomile’s leg, then gently lifted her off the floor, carrying her like she was a tiny kitten. She felt limp and frail, and so light it was hard to believe she was real. “Oh, Tantomile…”
Suddenly, Mistoffelees’s voice was once again in Plato’s head. Plato, look out! Monique-
The door flew open to reveal Monique, Coricopat, and a frightened Mistoffelees. “So, Aristotle, you tried to escape me,” the witch snarled. “Well, you won’t get away that easy! I’ll start with your mind. You’ll like that, won’t you, Cori? A friend to play with.” She advanced towards Plato and Tantomile, her fingers beginning to glow with magic and an evil smile on her face.
Plato cradled Tantomile against his body as he ducked behind the tattered sofa. The queen had fainted from the pain, and if he let her go, she would be at Monique’s questionable mercy. I won’t let her get you, Tantomile, he said to himself.
Monique laughed, a harsh sound very different from her former sweet, bell-like chime. “You really think hiding behind that flimsy thing will save you?”
“I guess not,” muttered Plato. He looked at Tantomile. Pretty soon he would belong to Monique, and there was one thing he wanted to do before losing his spirit as Coricopat had. He leaned down and kissed Tantomile on her slightly open lips.
And found himself in the star-filled void. He hardly noticed at first, because Tantomile’s arms were around him and she was kissing him back. When they finally pulled apart, Tantomile gasped. “How…what…I…we…”
Plato, as bewildered as Tantomile, looked around. “We’re…in the stars?”
Tantomile looked up into Plato’s eyes. Her heart was beating in time to the three words drumming through her head. “There’s a legend,” she said slowly, trying to control her voice, “a legend that says when someone who is naturally able to get into the stars and someone else are in love…true love…and they…kiss…for the first time…” She let her voice trail off to allow the meaning of her words sink in. I love him. I love him. I love him.
Plato’s heart beat a wild rhythm that complemented Tantomile’s. She loves me. Oh Heavyside, she loves me!
“In other words,” Tantomile continued, “I love you.” She looked down quickly, but peered up at Plato through her long lashes.
“And I love you…Tantomile,” said Plato. His hands found Tantomile’s face, and he traced her features. “Tantomile,” he whispered. He was about to lean down again when a voice broke the moment.
“Well, isn’t this a cozy scene!”
“Coricopat!” cried Tantomile, her eyes lighting up with joy. Then she blushed, realizing what her brother had just witnessed.
“You can hear me? See me?” asked Coricopat in astonishment. He felt the bars of his cage; they were still solid.
“Yes!” said Tantomile. She held out her hands to Coricopat.
“We have met again in the stars.” The familiar greeting came from the twins almost automatically.
“Huh?” asked Plato, shifting his arm so it rested loosely around Tantomile’s shoulders.
“It’s what we say every time we come here together,” explained Coricopat.
Coricopat turned back to Tantomile. “Tanto, why can you see me? I saw you here before, screaming for me, but you couldn’t see me or hear my answers.”
Tantomile shrugged. “I don’t know. Unless…” She looked at Plato. “Take your arm off me for a minute. I’m going to try something.” When Plato reluctantly removed his arm, Coricopat disappeared from Tantomile’s view. “Is Coricopat still there?” she asked Plato.
“He’s standing right in front of you.”
Before answering, Tantomile lifted Plato’s arm and put it back around her shoulders. Coricopat reappeared. “I was right!”
“About what?” asked Plato.
“I can only see Coricopat when we’re touching,” said Tantomile. She snuggled closer to Plato. “Not that I mind.”
“Me neither.” Plato snuggled back and smiled. “Well, now that you’ve figured that out, are you going to do something about it?”
“You mean besides keep touching you so I can see Coricopat?” asked Tantomile. She grinned. “Kidding. Well, sort of. I don’t know if there’s anything we can do, besides break the spell, probably by killing Monique. Or interrupting her while she’s in the middle of a different spell, because for a few seconds while she’s working another spell she’ll have to let go of all her spells. But I don’t know how we’d get her to do that…”
“I have an idea,” said Coricopat, “But I’m not sure you’ll like it very much.”
“What is it?” asked Plato.
“She’s trying to do the same thing to you and Misto that she did to me, right? Well, maybe one of you could let her, and then the others could distract her… I don’t know, it’s probably too dangerous.”
“It has possibilities…” said Plato thoughtfully. “After all, there’s four of us and only one of her.”
“But…but what if we can’t distract her? And one of you gets stuck here, like Coricopat?” I couldn’t bear it if they were both like this, thought Tantomile.
“Don’t you trust yourself, Tantomile? Not to mention Cassie and either me or Misto?”
“Well… if you’re sure you’ll be safe…”
“We will,” promised Plato, hoping his nervousness wasn’t apparent in his voice. “Now, how do we get back to real life?”
“Just close your eyes and imagine yourself back in your body,” said Coricopat. “Like last time.”
“Actually, because he’s here because of…um…me, we have to be in the same position we were when we got here,” said Tantomile. She blushed.
“Fine with me,” said Plato, letting his hand drift to Tantomile’s cheek.
“Save it,” said Coricopat. He held out his hands, motioning for Tantomile and Plato to take them, which they did.
“We shall meet again in the stars,” the three recited, then dropped hands. Plato bent down to kiss Tantomile.
“That won’t help save yourself, you imbecile cat,” Monique snarled.
Plato opened his eyes. He was back behind the sofa with Tantomile in his arms. The queen had come out of her faint and was smiling slightly, though she was obviously still in pain. I love you, she thought-said tenderly.
I love you too, Plato thought-said back. Should I…should I let her start the spell now?
Not yet. We have to tell Mistoffelees and Cassandra first. Look out!
A black, red-laced lightning bolt flew over Plato’s head the instant he ducked. A stream of angry human curses followed. That was close. Thanks.
No problem. I’m going to contact Misto… Tantomile’s eyes closed halfway as she told the magical tom of her plans, and her throat tightened at his response. He says you should be the one to do it because it’s easier to trap someone with magic.
Plato gulped nervously. Okay… and you guys’ll stop her before she goes to far, right?
If we don’t, I’ll never forgive myself, was the solemn reply. I’d kill myself, was the thought Tantomile didn’t project. Put me down so I’ll be able to attack her. Plato did as he was told.
Monique appeared over the back of the sofa, her brilliant hair swirling around her face. Standing slightly behind and to the side of her were Cassandra and Mistoffelees, claws outstretched.
If she asks you your real name, tell her, but not your third name, advised Mistoffelees. And remember to look at her hair!
Plato looked up into the witch’s eyes. “So, Aristotle, I see you’ve finally seen reason,” Monique said. “But Aristotle isn’t your real name, is it? Hm?”
In spite of himself, Plato began to fall under the spell. “No, it’s Plato,” he said.
Monique smiled triumphantly. “Another great philosopher,” she cooed. “Too bad you didn’t get the intelligence along with the name.” She flicked her hair to make it catch the light, not noticing Tantomile’s low growl. “Stand up, Plato.”
Plato stood, unable to keep his eyes from the swinging hair. He began to feel mental bars surrounding him. Tantomile, Cassie, Misto, do something!
Tantomile tried to touch Plato’s mind, but felt the cage. Everlasting Cat, I can’t let this happen again! She crawled around the sofa, dragging her broken leg. Mistoffelees! Cassandra! When I say go, do something - anything - to distract her! The faint image of Plato inside the cage was fading away, and Tantomile knew that when it disappeared completely, their time would be up. GO! she mentally screamed. Mistoffelees and Cassandra busied themselves with attacking Monique’s shoulders. Tantomile’s fingers reached Monique’s ankles, and she dug her claws into the bare flesh.
At Monique’s first piercing yelp, Plato’s cage quivered. “Is it working? Or is this just some new part of the spell… make the cage collapse on me… Tantomile, help!”
Tantomile hissed as Monique slapped her hand away. “No you don’t!” she said. She stood up with difficulty and grabbed the witch by the hair.
Plato’s cage disappeared, and he found himself in the stars once more. “What happened? Did it work?”
Coricopat shuddered and slowly moved his arm. “I’m free!” he said in an awed whisper. He took hold of Monique’s feet, enjoying the look of hate in her eyes. “I’m free!”
“Okay, just imagine myself back in my body…” Plato opened his eyes to see Monique being held in the air by the twins, Coricopat at her feet and Tantomile at her hair. There were red scratches on the witch’s shoulders and ankles, and Coricopat and Tantomile wore identical expressions of satisfaction. “It worked!” said Plato.
Tantomile gave Monique’s hair to Mistoffelees and stumbled over to Plato. She fell against him and hugged him tightly. “It worked,” she whispered. “I was afraid we were going to lose you.”
“Yeah,” said Plato, hugging her back, “so was I. Hey, how come she’s not blowing us up or something?”
“Mistoffelees figured out that her hair is the source of her power. As long as one of us is holding it, she can’t do any magic.”
“Hey! Lovebirds! What do you want to do with Monique?” asked Mistoffelees before Plato had a chance to reply.
Plato and Tantomile partially let go so they each had one arm free. Tantomile’s other arm was around Plato’s back and she was leaning on him to keep the weight off her leg; his arm was around her shoulders. “Maybe we should let Coricopat decide,” suggested Tantomile.
Coricopat shrugged, a grin creeping onto his face with the delight of choosing his own movements. “I’m just glad to be back,” he said, and, after dropping Monique’s feet, took Tantomile’s free hand.
Plato felt a pang of sadness. Now that Coricopat’s back, is she going to go back to being a full-time twin?
I talked to Coricopat about that, Tantomile thought-said, surprising Plato. Things like this have happened in some of our other lives, and we decided long ago to just let it happen. Though I’ll always be connected to him, of course.
Plato decided not to wonder about those other lives and just tightened his arm for an answer. “What should we do with Monique?”
“Can it be something that doesn’t involve claws?” Monique asked, sounding as if she didn’t think her request had any chance of being granted.
“Possibly,” said Coricopat. “If you answer our questions.”
“Ask away,” said Monique, the usual sneer back in her voice.
“Why did you do that to us?” asked Tantomile quietly, with a growl in her voice. She took a step forward and winced.
Monique glared at her. “Because of what your ancestors did to mine!” she practically yelled.
“Huh?” asked Coricopat. “Our ancestors?”
“Yes,” said Monique. “About two hundred years ago, more or less, my ancestor fell in love with one of your kind. She wanted him to leave his tribe and stay with her, but he wouldn’t.” She narrowed her eyes at Coricopat and Tantomile. “He wouldn’t leave his twin sister.”
Coricopat turned cold. Tantomile, I think I remember that! Remember…what was her name…
Michelle, Tantomile replied. She was trying to get you to run away with her, but you wouldn’t…
I didn’t like her, Coricopat thought-said decidedly. Not at all. Even if you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have gone with her.
“She was heart-broken,” Monique continued angrily. “She pleaded with him to come with her, until finally she was thrown out. An old tom named Deuteronomy told her she could never come back, and then a group of magical cats made sure of it. They cursed our family! We were sent to Siberia, and almost every time we tried to move closer to England we were stopped, or detoured. When I was born we were living in France. The only reason I’m here now is my powers. There was magic on my father’s side of the family, and I learned to use it a few years ago. After two centuries, my family will finally be avenged!”
“That’s it?” asked Tantomile. “You’re doing all this just because your ancestor had a bad experience with one of us?”
“That, coupled with the fact that we couldn’t get back to England and every cat we ever met tried to rip us to shreds!”
Okay, I remember the Siberia thing, but probably the other cats just hated them anyway. None of us liked Michelle; she just wasn’t a cat person, thought-said Coricopat.
She was evil, thought-said Tantomile. Remember how she killed Srezla for her fur?
“Would you two cut that out?!” shrieked Monique.
“What?” asked Coricopat and Tantomile.
“That talking thing! It’s driving me crazy!”
“Hey,” said Plato suddenly. “I know what we can do with her!”
“Really? What?” asked Tantomile, putting her head on his shoulder.
“Send her to Siberia.”
“NO!” screamed Monique.
Tantomile and Coricopat smiled at each other. “That has definite possibilities,” they chorused.
Mistoffelees gave Monique’s hair to Cassandra and his fingers began to glow. “Shall I?”
“Since when do you have any say in this?” asked Tantomile. “I say do it.” She looked to the others for approval.
Plato, Coricopat, and Cassandra nodded. “One Siberian witch, coming right up!” said Mistoffelees.
Monique struggled in Cassandra’s grip. “No! You can’t do this to me!”
“I can’t?” asked Mistoffelees. “How…informative.” He pointed at Monique, and she disappeared.
“I love you, Plato,” said Tantomile.
“And I love you, Tantomile,” said Plato. They were back in the Junkyard, curled up together on an old pillow. A dainty crescent moon surrounded by stars graced the sky, and there was just a hint of a breeze in the air. “Will you be my mate?” asked Plato suddenly. “I mean, for life?”
“What do you think?” asked Tantomile kiddingly. “Of course I will.” She snuggled closer to Plato. “I’ll love you as long as I live. In whatever life I happen to be living.”
One Life Later…
Tanya looked up from the psychology paper she was writing and checked the clock. “12:15,” she muttered, pushing her books aside and throwing her large bag over her shoulder, “time to meet Cory for lunch.” She grabbed her coat, paused at the door to say, “I’m leaving!” to her roommate, then left her dorm for the small café just off campus.
I can’t wait to show him the new book I got, she thought, pushing her short, dark hair out of her eyes as the wind blew it into her face. “Out of Body Experiences.” I bet we know much more about that than the guy who wrote it.
The café was warm, a strong contrast to the icy wind outside. Tanya let herself get adjusted to the temperature before looking around for her twin brother.
“Tanya! Over here!” called Cory, waving from a table near the back of the room.
Tanya grinned and went over to the table, taking a book out of her bag. “Hi! Look what I got yest- who’s that?”
There was someone sitting next to Cory. He looked to be about the age of the twins, a freshman in college. He was tall and lanky, with an unruly mop of light brown hair. There was something very familiar about him, though Tanya couldn’t put her finger on it.
“This is Peter. He’s in some of my classes,” said Cory. “Tanya, Peter, Peter, Tanya.”
“Hi,” said Peter, holding out his hand. “Cory’s told me a lot about you.”
That voice… Tanya took Peter’s hand and a strange feeling washed over her. A feeling she hadn’t felt since… Plato! Tanya thought. She retreated into her mind, followed quickly by Cory.
“We have met again in the stars,” recited Coricopat and Tantomile.
“Coricopat, your friend…Peter…is he…?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s Plato,” said Coricopat.
Tantomile sucked in her breath. “Heavyside…I don’t believe it…nothing like this has ever happened before, has it? I mean, the only one I’ve ever recognized is you.”
“Yeah, I know…but you two had something really special last time.”
“We sure did,” agreed Tantomile, smiling at the memories of her previous life. “Do you think he’s entered the cycle?”
Coricopat shrugged. “Maybe. There’s only one way to find out…” He looked at Tantomile meaningfully.
Tantomile blushed. “Well then, we might just find out.” She held out her hands.
"We shall meet again in the stars.”
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