By Tom Foster
Only a story.
It’s only a story she’d said. But mother had been wrong. It wasn’t just a story, it was real. All of it. Nolan could prove it, but he would have to make mother believe. Adults never believed kids, they never listened to what was really important. That was their biggest mistake, and it was one he meant to show them. Nolan Dorsey would make them believe.
He was only ten years old, but he’d seen too much to remain a child, but Nolan knew he wasn’t an adult, not yet. The things he and his sister Tina had seen, the things they’d done, those experiences had marked each of them in ways they couldn’t understand. Really, how could they? They were only kids after all, even if Tina was a big kid. His older sister was a teenager, she could almost drive, but not yet. Even with that going for her she’d still fallen for a trap that Nolan had seen coming from a mile off. Sitting in the dark shadows of the small space he’d crawled into, Nolan thought that maybe that Queen Mab had been right. Once kids learned they would die someday, their imagination, their innocent spark, began to fade.
The Celtic goddess, a relic of an era long gone and almost forgotten, had his sister in her dark clutches, and she would not be letting her go, not even if Nolan gave himself to her as a trade. He’d already tried that. Mab and her minions had not only laughed at him, they’d chased him and hounded Nolan throughout the twisting and dilapidated hallways of Crims, the domain of the recently deceased Red Queen’s domain. Nolan knew they’d only been toying with him, keeping him disoriented so that he wouldn’t know where he was going. It had worked.
So far he’d tried everything and anything he could think of that had come to mind, but to this point Nolan had only made things worse. The worlds he’d once thought were only fantasy were being torn apart bit by bit, and it was his and Tina’s fault. None within the worlds that had been disrupted so badly would come to help, and he couldn’t blame them. How many children could claim that they’d been chased around by evil, demonic fairies and even threatened by Paul Bunyan? Nolan didn’t figure anyone else could say that, and he was sure that he was right.
“Little boy, have you gone missing little human boy?” The silken purr rattled his nerves in that moment anew as Nolan huddled into a ball, wishing that the Cheshire would just go away. The darned cat, he couldn’t say damned like his father, had not left him alone for the past two days he’d been attempting to find a way out of the ruin where Mab had left him entombed. It could appear and disappear at will, and it was always smiling, a hideous leer that Nolan could no longer stand. Nolan didn’t want to know what the double-dealing feline was smiling about this time. It couldn’t be anything good.
“Go away,” Nolan whispered fearfully. A low, purring chuckle was the only reply for several moments as he could see a strange glinting aura begin to dance and sway within the shadows of his hiding hole. He knew what this was, kind of. The Cheshire couldn’t be contained or kept out as it had boldly stated more than once, the strange ability to make himself invisible and travel through solid objects made that possible. As Nolan could see the cat’s toothy appear he wanted so badly to be holding his baseball bat that he could almost feel the taped grip in his hands. He wasn’t a violent person, but Nolan would still like to knock a few of those gleaming teeth out, just to see if it would hurt the Cheshire.
“I know what you’re thinking little human boy,” the Cheshire purred. Nolan had no doubt that the cat did, he’d been one step ahead of him every single stride of his doomed retreat.
“Don’t call me that.” Nolan said, feeling as he began to grow angry. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered to the Cheshire, except staying alive of course.
More chuckling, purring, as the cat began to appear, “Oh my, have I offended you?” the cat chuckled, still purring. Nolan ground his teeth as the cat continued, “Have you not claimed to be just that? Then why-oh my.” There was more chuckling as the air shimmered right in front of Nolan. In all his curious, multi-colored splendor the Cheshire appeared, first his horrid, gleaming teeth, then his mesmerizing rainbow-hued eyes, and then finally, he was there. The delicate-looking pink nose pressed closer to Nolan as he cowered, twitching slightly as the Cheshire took in his scent.
“You think you are one of us,” the Cheshire purred, still grinning as his voice dropped, “Perhaps now, you are.”