As the luminescence cleared, Tufty grasped that he was still in the laundry. The high ornate pressed-tin ceiling was recognisable, present and correct, and the dimensions of the walls and floor were the same. All seemed well and good, except for the room’s ambience and hue. The products on the shelf had also changed, and it was no longer a bright sunny morning. The air smelled funny and somewhere, in the outside dark, an animal – a bird? – cried a foreign tune. Tufty licked his lips with tangy metallic saliva, a bit like a leaky battery.
At last, he looked down to his feet. They were still planted in the litter. This was also the same but somehow different. So was the tray. Oh, it was still blue and square, to be sure, but no longer quite the same texture and the mat on which it sat was weird. It used to be a single colour – a kind of aubergine – but now it boasted a pattern of strange flamboyant symbols and swirls. Woah! It messed with his head. And not in a pleasant way.
Tufty licked a paw and wiped his brow. He hoped beyond hope that this really was a catnip thing – and that it would wear off soon. He didn’t know what to do or how to behave. Although he had always revelled in his reputation as the roughest, toughest, coolest cat around, he suddenly wanted his mum.
A minute or two passed with no further flashes or strange spiralling channels and cautiously he stepped out of the box. To his macho chagrin, his knees wobbled and watered as he turned a slow full circle to get his bearings. As he did so, he saw the litter glow and puff and finally sigh like a sleeping beast to form a gritty but even plane with hints of nothing untoward at all. Just some clean kitty litter, benign in a blue square tray.
Unhinged, Tufty again wet his lips and forced himself to look up.
The sliding door from the laundry to the hall was the only noticeable outlet, and it was open. There were voices out there – one of them possibly Francine.
Francine! Abruptly Tufty loved her more than anything. He knew to find out more he would have to venture through, but he was no longer sure curiosity was his friend. Light as a fearful floating feather, he touched his nostrils to the floor, the wall and the door frame. It might be the same apartment, but where – no, when! – was he?
Go to next chapter…