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 How Curiosity Killed the Cat

Lea Ann Misleavy

In a mansion hidden from even a child's wildest imagination, lived a little girl and her guardian, a cat.  The two occupied the uppermost floor of their residence, playing and enjoying the days as theydrifted by.  Each morning Cat would rise with the sun and then gently nudge his companion awake.  The two would then leisurely prepare themselves for their daily game of hide-and-seek.  Hide-and-seek was, after all, the little girl's favorite game.  It was almost as if she used this past time to quench her adventurous behavior and longing to discover the unknown.  She found that even though they lived only on a single floor in a clearly large estate, Cat was always keeping their floor interesting enough to satisfy her attention.  Then, just as the sun was saying goodnight to the moon, the two would fall into their own sweet slumbers. 

These daily routines never fazed the little girl or Cat.  They did what they enjoyed most, with who they enjoyed most, within an atmosphere that contented them perfectly.  It seemed appropriate that their floor would have every necessity for life and would continuously restock itself: food would appear every morning in the cabinets and the fridge, bathrooms never ran out of soap or clean towels, and there was never a time that the temperature was too hot or too cold.   The couple never had to venture outside of what was familiar and to them.  And what was familiar to them was: smoothed wood floors with a sporadic display of persian rugs, windows letting in rays of white light, perpetually new nooks and crannies that provided perfect hiding spots, and a general aura of dependability.  Never had one doubted the floor's nourishments, and for the little girl, it was all that was known.  Little did she know that the mansion was, too, merely living by the only ways it knew how, and nothing ever lasted for forever. 

            One day as Cat was seeking his little girl (who was well hidden behind a huge reclining chair) an odd occurrence presented itself.  A scratching and scuttling sound appeared to come from directly behind her, though the only object there was a wall.  Odder still, was the voice that materialized along side it.

            "Hello, little girl,' it cooed, ‘would you like to play hide-and-seek with me? I bet you can't find me."

            At first she was startled; she had never played with anyone but Cat before. 

            "Oh, come on! It is just a game.  Cat would like a rest anyway; he plays with you every day.  Don't you think he deserves a break?" The voice coaxed. 

            The little girl thought the voice had a point, she and Cat did spend every moment of every day together.  She was perfectly content with this lifestyle, but what if Cat wasn't?  Also, she had never even thought about doing anything differently; she wondered exactly what this voice had in store for her.  And so she left her hiding spot and walked to the front room of her abode.  This was the first time she noticed the quaint, crème-colored door snuggled between the floorboards.  It looked increasingly inviting as she inched her way over to the handle.  At one point, there was almost a glimmer of doubt.  Although, her feet never withdrew their steps and the hesitation was easily mistaken for a gasp of slightly dusty air.  Taking one last glance across her floor, she saw Cat looking underneath blankets and tables for her. 

            The voice nudged her, "The sooner you open the door, the sooner we can begin our game and the sooner your kitty can slumber."

            As the little girl fell through the doorway, Cat noticed her fallacy and dove in after her, just as the door was shutting for the first and final time. 

            She looked about her, thankful that she had fallen into a velvety pile of blankets and pillows.  The room was dim, but a light source could not be located by the naked eye, or by her naked eye at least.  She squinted up along the never-ending walls.  At one point, she called out, and her voice called back to her many more times than she ventured to count.  The room was rectangular, its only size abnormality being its vast height.  Soon, though, the floor's novelty wore off, and the little girl spent some time jumping in the plush that posed as a make-shift floor.   Then, her play was abruptly disturbed by the voice. 

            "Little girl, don't you tire of play?  Here, I led you to a nice room to rest in."

            The little girl searched about the room for the voice, but it stayed hidden.

            "But I am not the least bit sleepy," she protested.

            "Are you quite sure?" The voice inquired.

            Truthfully, the little girl was not sure.  Now that he mentioned it, her body sagged towards the floor.  Each step she took became slightly heavier than the one before, and for some reason a sinking feeling engulfed her body.  She decided she would be able to find the owner of this mysterious voice if she just got a little rest first. 

            Although the little girl could somewhat easily wade through thick quilts and comforters, Cat was not accustomed to this.  He had landed directly next to his little girl, but with a blink of his eyes she was off exploring.  Relocating her proved to be a quest in it of itself, since the bedding--to him--resembled quicksand rather than an actual bed.  Eventually, though, he came across a delicate cocoon.

            And this is how Cat located her, wrapped up in quilts and in quiet submission.  He, though, did not sleep, no matter how tired the room made him feel.  Instead he watched over his companion, and waited for signs of her stirring.

            She was unsure about the amount of time that elapsed, but she figured it was much longer than needed.  With difficulty, the little girl arose and shuffled around the space.  She stretched and rubbed her still sleep-filled eyes, but while doing such could have sworn she saw a little shadow scurry off amongst the bedding.  Her eyes squinted at the rate of molasses; by the time they focused on their desired area the shadow had long since disappeared.  Just as she thought how odd this was for her to still be tired, the voice spoke.

            "Now wasn't that nice?  Though, I know I am always hungry after sleeping for long periods of time, would you care to join me for a meal?  The door to the kitchen is to your left."

            Just as the voice stated, a lone door (which looked oddly like a refrigerator door) appeared just to the left.  She smiled at the thought of enjoying a meal with her new playmate, but Cat blocked her path.

            "Why, hello Cat!  Come join me in dining with my new friend!"

            Cat shook his wise head.

            "Don't be shy, it will be fun!"

            And with that the little girl lifted Cat and entered the refrigerator.

            All she could see was food so large that it could eat her as a snack.  Once the soles of her off-white shoes left the soft blankets and pillows, the little girl had the immense feeling of starvation.  As a result, she quickly began to eat, completely forgetting her company.  Never had food been craved as much as the little girl craved the gargantuan edibles surrounding her.  No longer did she eat to live, but she felt as if her only reason of existing was to gorge.   She ate her way through the three shelves (incl

the various drawers that are usually found to hold cheeses or deli meats) below her before feeling even the slightest tingle of satisfaction.  Everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to couscous and pita to gelato was inhaled at record speeds.  Cat had to avoid being nibbled on quite frequently, but he continued to try to snap the little girl out of her hunger spell.  He would nudge her legs back in the direction of the refrigerator door, but they were still groggy from sleep and now bloated from the mass amounts of food consumption.  As he leapt onto a nearby chicken leg (the entire chicken itself was large enough to deposit them onto the next shelving unit, and then they could climb the rest of the way out) and started to paw at his companion to follow him, there was an interruption. 

            "That was delicious," the voice reverberated off the walls of the refrigerator, "I do believe I am ready to commence play, aren't you, Doll Face?"

            This remark surprised the little girl.

            "Excuse me?" She retorted.

            "Just relax…" the voice soothed.

            The little girl let whatever food item she was currently munching on slip from her mouth as her attention then focused on the voice.  She only faintly questioned to herself how her legs ever gained the ability to roam on their own, until the floor beneath her gradually began to disintegrate.   Then again, she was falling, but this time through an intoxicating pink mist, and no floor was in sight. 

            Her mind was clouded; the only thing that mattered was that voice, which she craved.  It came in waves to her, each more seductive than the previous.

            "Isn't this nice, just you and me?"

            "You have been locked away in that room for so long, but now you are mine."

            "You would not believe the beauty you radiate; perhaps you would like to see for yourself?"

            "MEOW!"

            This was not the voice, and for a brief moment Cat's interjection had cleared her mind.  She recalled leaving her room on the topmost floor, for she was engaged in an exciting game of hide-and-seek.  Though currently her surroundings were dark.  And then she realized that she had been squeezing her eyes shut, but if that were so, how was she able to see the pink mist?

            The little girl opened her eyes, only to see a reflection of herself and Cat in a floor length mirror, and what an attractive reflection at that.  She stood in front of the mirror, just how she would normally stand, but now it presented her image with such a pleasingly drastic change.  Her dirty-blonde hair no longer would fall in strings as she believed it used to, but rather drape over her shoulders to form a curtain framing her flawless face.  This, she thought, must be how a bride feels in her veil on her wedding day.  How unfortunate that it took her this long to realize she looked like a sparkling bride every day, without even trying.  Even her dainty, ivory dress seemed to glow.  Now that she thought about it, everything about her complexion radiated beauty from the very top of her head to the tips of her toes.

            Her toes.  The little girl looked down at her feet quizzically.  There was a golden tail resting on them.  Her eyes traced the tail up the spine and rested upon another pair of eyes.  These eyes, though, were a dramatic yellow, almost as if they were the crazy cousin of her soothing hazel.  She took a moment to analyze Cat's features, it would have been a shame if he were not as attractive as she was.  She came to her happy conclusion after circling him a couple of times. 

            With each rotation she made, her attention was always drawn to his eyes.  They were so intense, so sincere, and currently they appeared determined.  It was this determination that was what made him the most handsome cat she had ever seen, and though she had never seen any other creature like him, she was sure he was the most beautiful.  Just like how she had a strong inkling that she was the most beautiful of all people. 

            "Look at us, dear Cat, even a magic mirror would not deny that we are the fairest of them all!"

            "How about a closer look?" the voice had returned, just as she followed her reflection into the hall of mirrors. 

            It was most definitely a hall, but instead of being horizontal, it was vertical.  The little girl did not even need to walk to travel through the corridor, for the floor beneath her began to sink, revealing more and more mirrors of all different shapes and sizes.  She pivoted and posed, completely caught up in her own reflection, she barely realized that Cat had been calling out to her and running into her to try to get even the slightest recognition. 

            Basking in her own radiance was a lot more fun than the little girl had expected.  She did not ever realize how pretty she was, and indeed spent much time pondering about what the voice had said.  With each passing thought, she reached out her hand and touched the glass, reminding herself that what she saw was just an image of what she truly was.  She did spend every waking moment in her room.  How did others survive without her glory?  Suddenly, she felt pain attacking her legs.  It was Cat, with his heart practically pounding against his ribcage with urgency, clawing away her thick pride.  As the thick gauges were being embedded in her flesh, ruby blood splashed up and stained her dress.  The little girl attempted to wipe the blood away, but it would not disappear, from anywhere on her body.  Even her skin was permanently marked with splashes of red. 

            "Cat," his little girl shrieked, "why are you making me ugly? Stop!"

            But Cat did not stop.  The little girl searched for anything in the hall that wasn't a reflection of her now horror-stricken features.  What she spied was a sliding glass door to the outside.  She had found her refuge, not from Cat's attempts at cleansing her, but from the cooped-up feeling she had from greatness being bottled up.  When the floor had fully exposed the door, she ran towards it and crashed through, not wanting to waste any of her time with utilizing the handle. 

            The first thing that was noticed was the transparent grass.  It showed her a yard, a yard much more impressive than her own.  It had manicured lawns and beautiful topiaries strewn between majestic fountains.  The second thing the little girl noticed was emptiness within her heart.  She could never be complete without that yard.  She wanted it badly, and so she searched for a way to get it. 

             It wasn't that the yard she was currently in was insufficient.  In fact, it was a very gorgeous yard.  Everything from the grass to the trees and bushes were crystalized.  The little girl would have stopped and admired their beauty, but to look at the crystal yard was to look at a yard that was full of green grandeur.  Instead of a seeing this yard for what it was, she saw it as a fake, a hoax, an interference that she needed to overcome to reach the overall better yard. 

            The third thing that demanded her attention was the voice.

            "Shouldn't you be searching for me, dear little girl?"

            She did not suspend her quest for the greener yard, "How could I?  I have not heard from you for a while."

            Nothing she did got her any closer to the yard below.  She jumped as high as she could, forcing all her weight into her feet.  She pounded the imitation earth, her angry fists possessing enough strength to break bone.  She, at one point, even lowered her head in attempts to rip the grass to shreds with her teeth. 

            The voice chuckled, "Silly girl!  I told you where you could locate me, but you were too much obsessed in yourself to hear." 

            With this she grew angry and Cat hissed at the voice's mockery. 

            "I never get what I want!" she screamed.  Her voice reached octaves so high that the grass beneath her cracked and shattered.

            The little girl concluded that this yard was nicer than her first.  The previous yard definitely did not do it justice, but it appeared a bit small.  Such a grand yard deserved a grand expanse of land.  The girl wanted, no…needed, more.

            "Oh, voice," She called, "Why is my yard so tiny?"

            The voice replied curtly, "Your yard?  Naïve little girl, this is my yard!"

            "But it was connected to my home on the upmost floor," she disputed.

            "Your floor is a part of my extended domain!"  The voice had become significantly darker since the time of their first encounter. 

            At this, Cat transformed into a fearsome lion and released a mighty battle cry.  Perhaps now his little girl would heed his warnings.  A small creature scurried amongst the grass towards her.  It moved so quickly, weaving between clusters of flowers and grass, that the little girl could only make out a few distinctions.  She saw flashes of grey, round and withered ears, then beady black eyes, and that was all she needed.  The little girl fled from this unwanted guest, but it quickly gained upon her.  Cat charged after the tiny nuisance, but to no avail.  While she checked to see if the path behind her was free, she did not have time notice the storm cellar that had popped up in front of her.  Almost gratefully, it gobbled her up.  The last thing Cat saw entering the cellar was a long, skinned tail.

            The cellar was dark and housed many pipes and furnaces.  Sweat beaded off of a, now sickly, pale face as it searched for it's guardian.  The little girl thought it was odd how there were no steps to climb out of the cellar and immediately went and searched for either an exit or for Cat. 

            It was dark, musty, and cramped. The little girl would easily get lost amongst the copious amounts of piping and little furnaces.  She tried to keep at least one wall in sight at all times, but that did not always happen; sometimes even the ceiling was concealed behind a layer of pipes and steam. 

            "Your beloved Cat is not here." The voice said, "His transformation into a lion has prevented him to fit into this cellar.  Luckily for you, I am hidden in here…somewhere!  So let our game continue, and last forever!"

And that was the last she heard of the voice, and the last she ever saw of her Cat.  There was only one more thing left for her to do, and that was seeking the voice.  Though all the while,  it was Cat who was on her mind.  While seeking, she would think back of their time in the mansion and how she kept pushing him aside.  How he tried and tried and tried to get her to turn and follow him back towards their perpetually sunny, warm, and safe abode, but how she ultimately chose to ignore him.  Now, it was not a choice to follow the voice over her guardian, but rather a need if she wanted to find it and end the game for good. 

Although spending an eternity searching for something you have never seen seems like a fate worse than death, Cat's punishment was still worse.  From his perch on the yard he could only watch his little girl in her endless game of hide-and-seek with a rat in a dark, cramped, and maze-like cellar.  He saw every time that she would stumble and grab a scorching pipe for support, though the only thing it contributed to the little girl was an excruciating burn.  She was destined to have eternity to find the rat, but for some reason she rushed; she now resided in an eternal state of worry and restlessness.  This was enough to make them both go mad and this, he concluded, was how the little girl's curiosity killed him.