“It’s all coming to a head,” Karl said. “I can feel it. There are forces at work, finally coming together.”
Karl was sitting in the backroom of his former shop. It had been closed up for non-payment of rent, but Mrs Lebeaux the Super Centre manager had – perhaps deliberately – been dragging her feet about throwing his things out. This meant that the backroom still contained not only his beloved conspiracy map with its string and pushpins, but also a cupboard full of spare suits.
“And why, exactly, do you keep a spare suit in your shop?” asked the grinning purple cat who sat on top of an ancient box of Dolly magazines.
“Because when you wear a white suit, it’s a good idea to keep spares on hand,” Karl smirked. “Stains you know… hang on… When did I last update this thing?”
Karl untied a thread that connected a photo of Boris Johnson to an artist’s rendering of a chupacabra. He searched around for a little, and finally retied it to another photo of Boris Johnson, taken from a slightly different angle. “Much better!”
The grinning cat licked a forepaw. “Are you? Much better, I mean. You do appear to be less… how should I say?… less completely out of it than when last we met, but you don’t seem any more… well… normal.”
Karl straightened an advertisement for strawberry jam with the words ‘PELEIDES?!?!” written on it in marker pen. “Didn’t you once tell me ‘we are all mad here?'”
“Within limits,” the grinning cat sighed. “Within limits. Look, I’ll bite. You say that everything is coming together. What do you mean?”
Reaching into his pocket, Karl produced a crumpled piece of paper, covered with pencil scribblings. The grinning cat looked at it with the sort of disdainful interest that only cats are capable of demonstrating.
“Let’s see… Two time travel paradoxes looking to correct themselves,” it said. “I presume those are Axel and Laura?”
“Axel and Nalda.”
“Ah. That just leaves the coming together of the Pavilionites and Kababians to fight the Barnlings. I see. Doesn’t that leave a lot of threads dangling?”
Karl adjusted another piece of string. “There’s no such thing as a dangling thread,” he said. “Everything is connected. Everything. But I’m a realist…”
The grinning cat began laughing and didn’t stop until Karl pounded it firmly on the back. Karl gave it a dish of water to drink, and once the animal had stopped choking he continued:
“But I’m a realist,” he said, peevishly. “I don’t expect all of the threads to come together at once. For example, where are Alfred and Delia? Where is Ms Chen? It’s unlikely that they’ll show up in the last minute, right in time for the denoument. But, I reiterate, something big is happening. Big.”
The cat didn’t shrug. It didn’t have to. The cat may have been purple and grinning, but it was still a cat, and its usual attitude was basically one whole-body shrug. It lapped at its water a little and turned back to Karl.
“It sounds like more of the same, if you ask me,” it said. “Humans running in all directions for no especially good reason. All while there are the most excellent sunbeams, just waiting to be slept in…”
“Seriously, what is up with you cats?” Karl said, quickly checking his conspiracy board for ‘extradimensional felines’ and finding nothing. “I still haven’t figured out what role you play in all this.”
“As small a roll as possible, please.”
“Well, that’s for sure. Anyway, my initial plan to destroy the Pyramid fell through…”
“Because it was stupid.”
“Yeah, pretty stupid,” Karl admitted. “But as I was escaping the aftermath of the incident, I ran into an old friend, who’s been trying to get into the Pyramid for months, to rescue her friend Norman. Have to admit, I didn’t think of breaking into the Pyramid. Too busy trying to destroy it. But if we can get in, we can not only rescue Norman but also my friend Bruce. He’s a truck.”
“Of course he is.”
The cat hopped up onto a shelf, where a half-open box of Wagon Wheels stood. It started chewing through the packet of one. Karl watched in disgusted interest.
“Want to know why Wagon Wheels aren’t as big as they were back in the 1980s?” he said. “It cuts deep, my friend. Very deep!”
“Is it anything to do with Pizzagate?” the cat rolled its eyes.
Karl laughed out loud. “Those friggin’ weirdos? Man, talk about disconnected from reality. No, it has to do with the 1987 alliance between China, the Scientologists and the Mole Men…”
“Maybe we could return to the situation at hand, Karl?”
“Should you even be eating choc—”
“That’s dogs, Karl. Get on with it!”
“Right. So do you know Fiona?”
“Fiona is a water witch. I am a cat. Cats don’t like water. Conclusion…”
“No need to be snarky,” Karl said. “Okay, so our plan is to use the distraction of the fight, plus the sudden changes to the timeflow in order to crack into the Pyramid through the base and then rescue our friends, bringing to a close this chapter. Of our lives, I mean.”
The cat waggled its head from side to side before returning to licking Wagon Wheel crumbs from its whiskers. “Your plan could work,” it said.
“I wasn’t really asking for your permission.”
“Then why were you talking to me?”
Karl tipped his hat to scratch his head. “Because you were here?”
The cat sighed. “It could work. The only thing that might upset your plan would be some sort of sudden, large-scale distortion of the time-space field.”
“Well yes, that’s obvious,” Karl lied.
“Because it might undo the effects of the other time distortion.”
“I knew that.”
The grinning cat sighed deeply. “Do you think that a second time-space distortion is likely?”
“I can’t see that it is.”
Several dimensions and multiple light-years away, Sarah Hertling adjusted her many skirts to slide into the padded morocco control chair of her spaceship.
“So, you sure you can do this?” she said.
“90% sure,” Alfred said, raising the Watch.
“I love your newfound optimism,” Delia said. “But it’s closer to 57%.”
“I love your excessive precision!” Alfred beamed.
Sarah mimed gagging. “Ugh. Just do it!”
And the Watch and Measure were brought back together and everything changed.