The black book stood silent on the high library shelf, secrets unspoken, unnoticed between two brightly coloured tomes. If it could speak, it would instead cry. Its knowledge rusted inside like scrap metal that could have been diamonds. The book wept for a better future.
A new future would come. Ambrose – ginger fur on edge – stared with eyes like stone as the two cats slept beneath him. “Wake up!” Their black and grey bodies stirred, eyes opening on a day they did not wish to see. Not another adventure.
“This time, no time travel!” declared Ambrose. “No, tonight your mission is to stop two time travelling thieves! People pretending to be cats, no less. You could not make this stuff up.”
“And they’re coming here! To our house?” queried Billly in disbelief.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” stormed Ambrose. “No, they will steal a precious artefact from Aberdeen Art Gallery!”
“We’re going to an art gallery!” Teddy’s eyes were on fire, this just might be fun.
Jamie rubbed his eyes, but the tears would not stop. He could hear their voices in his head, the other school kids who would never be his friends. “Sissy!”
Well, maybe he was. Jamie picked up his paintbrush. There was only one escape from the pain, one way to elude his shame. Art claimed his soul as a tiny smile played with his mouth. Colour crossed the canvas, and the magic of creation lit his heart.
There would be no more tears today.
A chill air greeted Billy and Teddy in the darkened gallery. Their time capsule stood proudly on the black and white feature floor. “So where is this Library?” muttered Teddy. “Let’s find it and get this over with as quickly as possible!”
Darkness danced through their paws as they ran. They could feel the Library; like homing pigeons they flew up the stairs and then were there.
“Are we here at the right time?” worried Billy. “What if we have to wait for hours!”
Teddy agreed silently, but said instead, “Well if Ambrose is right about the time capsule upgrade we should be here just in time. Apparently it is programmed to the anticipated event as much as to a time! Far too sci-fi to me. Let’s hope it’s at least a bit accurate!”
But fate was in favour tonight. Less than twenty minutes had elapsed, spent rushing to each corner of the library looking for art gallery mice, probably as thin and poor as church mice. Then the door to the Library was dramatically flung open.
Two young women dressed in cat suits (ridiculous, murmured Billy soundlessly) ran in as if they were ladies of the manor, the art gallery their residence and the Library their own private corner of the world. Cat ears crowned their heads like a caricaturist’s crown.
“Why, there are two cats here!” screamed one of the girls in delirious delight. “We love cats!”
“Why, can it be, can it be Billy and Teddy?” breathed her companion. “Are we really, finally, finally going to meet them?”
“Billy and Teddy!” sang the first girl, inside their heads.
“Why, you can speak cat!” breathed Billy in awe.
“We learnt from our own felines, Heaven and Nirvana, two Egyptian Mau cats who we rescued from a thousand years ago in Egypt!”
“Cool!” said Teddy. “But why have two feline loving ladies turned to a life of time travel crime!”
“And how have two cats become intrepid time travel adventurers! So many stories echoing through the ages like a timeless song, the sound of time ticking itself. How did this happen to you two so ordinary seeming cats?”
“How indeed!” laughed Billy. “We have our own cat guardian who assigns us adventures!”
“From the moon to the deepest oceans, you turn up everywhere!”
“Moon? Oceans? I hate water!” Billy was aghast.
“Spoilers! We are Suzy and Sammy, yes we are criminals from the year 3507 but the good kind. We don’t steal, we just relocate items to a better place. Call it a kind of karma. And we believe in the magic of cats, which is why we dress as felines. We love cats, and we like to think that our own pets would approve of our antics, mischievous as they are. We love fun, and we love to ride the world’s reaction to us, its mock outcry. As if there weren’t real problems in the world. No, we are a removal company, not thieves!”
“But we are here to stop you stealing the book!” blurted out Teddy.
“Ah yes, the book!” sighed Suzy. “It is a special mission. A magic book, some would say. There is a little girl, far in the future, who needs it. As we said, we are not really criminals. Our missions are all for a better purpose, from saving extinct species to finding lost artefacts. This book is achieving nothing on these dusty library shelves. It is time for it be free!”
“You speak of it like it is a lost species of feline!”
“And perhaps it is, for this book contains feline magic. Let us find it and we will show you!”
The two girls pulled out a torch and began frantically searching though the shelves, like art gallery mice looking for that elusive cheese. “Found it!” suddenly shrieked one of the girls, like a mouse in front of an open food cupboard.
The book was black with faint lettering on its cover. It looked very old, and not at all exciting. Billy glared at it with feline contempt. What a waste of time this adventure was!
Jamie tried to sleep but could not. He stared at the black all around him, and imagined what lay beyond: the monsters of his mind. Perhaps he should paint them, the intruders of his imagination. He smiled. He had so many ideas for paintings. He wished he could skip school and just paint all day. The prospect of such a paradise claimed his heart, and he finally slept.
“Look at this!” Suzy opened the book and proudly displayed its pages like a mother showing off her baby, or like a cat with a caught mouse.
The opening page stated simply: “Every great artist has a cat.” Of course, Billy and Teddy could not read. Sammy repeated the words in cat language, in their heads.
“Perhaps this book is not so bad after all,” murmured Billy. Intrigue itched in his heart.
The book contained a series pf paintings of cats, with eyes that seemed to burst from the page, alive with colour and intelligence.
“The cats’ eyes contain the secrets of art,” explained Sammy. “Each picture contains the key to a different type of art, from painting, to music, to writing. This book is designed to create a great artist in its owner. Tonight, we intend to steal it for a little girl who needs some inspiration!”
“And we are here to stop you!” declared Teddy. “We will have failed our mission if you take the book.”
“Dilemma time!” sighed Suzy. “We are so delighted to meet you, and we don’t want you to fail your mission.”
“Why don’t we do a deal?” suggested Sammy. “We leave the book here, but you agree to join us for an adventure in the future!”
“Yes!” agreed Suzy. “An adventure to find some long lost treasure! You would love that! Can you give us the time and space coordinates of your home – these are in your travel pod. One day we will surprise you!”
They all agree on this plan, with plenty of feline closed eyes and rubbing round legs. Billy and Teddy were secretly delighted. They had new time travel friends.
The Art Gallery librarian tidied the shelves, thinking that the gallery elves must have been active the night before. The small black volume fell in to her hands. She surveyed it critically. No one will ever need this book, it is like a children’s story, full of bold pictures of unlikely cats. She looked at the boy sitting in the corner, an art pad open before him as he lazily scribbled. She smiled. Time for the good deed of the day. “Would you like this? It is worthless, but you may like it.”
Jamie grinned gratefully. As he turned the pages and looked deep in to the cat eyes, he was transported to another – a better – world. Slowly he began to draw once more, two cats, grey and black, lying together in the sun. He laughed. This was worth bunking school for.
Billy and Teddy lay in the sun. Ambrose had returned, furious. Apparently the book had not reappeared in the future, it was still lost. They stretched in unison. It may be lost, but its memory was stamped on their hearts, as cat magic curled their sleeping toes.
Jamie continued to draw. A smile slid through his heart as art beat the bullies. He was in an art gallery, he was drawing and a peace like no other massaged his mind. This was heaven.
In another time, far away, a cat called Heaven rubbed round her owners’ legs. She knew they had been up to mischief, but this time, she sensed, something unexpected had occurred.
Heaven continued to purr. In a long lost decade, a little boy heard the sound of purring. Holding his pencil, he embraced peace like a pet cat. Now he had found it, it would never leave.
Billy and Teddy still slept, oblivious to the world. And in their dreams, cat eyes stared in to their own from a magic book. One day, they knew, they would find the book again. Until then, it was free to weave its spells. The sun stroked their fur, and they began to purr.