Today brings us Mr. Kitty’s third and final chapter, and we only have three more chapters left in the entire novel after this one. I hope you’re enjoying the story so far. If so, you can pick up a full copy of the novel on Amazon right here. Now have at it.
XVIII. Mr. Kitty
Tillie was all packed up. She peeked her head out of the bedroom door and sighed. Mr. Kitty could tell she was upset when she opened the front door and called back, “I’m leaving, dad!” There was no answer, so she added, “Don’t even try to stop me!” and slammed the door.
Mr. Kitty had to react fast to prevent his tail from being crushed. “Hey,” he hissed.
“Sorry, Kitty. I—I didn’t see you,” Tillie said through her sobbing.
Mr. Kitty tried to rub up against her leg as she tried to walk, but he ended up tripping her. She landed with a thud in the grass, her backpack narrowly missing him.
“Sorry,” Mr. Kitty meowed.
Tillie stayed face down in the grass, sobbing. Mr. Kitty climbed up onto her butt and kneaded it. She sobbed a little more, then turned over and scooped him up onto her lap. “Mr. Kitty,” she said. “No one will ever believe me. Shelley didn’t, Dad didn’t and he should know already, who else would when I can barely believe myself?”
“I do,” Mr. Kitty meowed.
“Oh, I bet you’d believe me if you understood what was going on,” Tillie said.
“I do,” Mr. Kitty repeated.
“Mr. Kitty, you’re so talkative,” Tillie said, pinching his cheek with a smile. “It’s like you know what I’m saying. Do you understand me?”
“I do!” Mr. Kitty said one more time.
“Oh. I know you don’t,” Tillie said. “No one here does.” She sighed and put him on the grass, then stood and hoisted her backpack up onto her back with a groan. “But there’s still hope, Mr. Kitty. There’s always hope. I’ll go back to my dorm and ask some of my friends there, and if they don’t believe me, then I’ll just have to find that woman again. That’s all I can do, right?”
Mr. Kitty didn’t answer. He thought it sounded like an okay plan, if that was what she wanted to do. She could get more evidence from her dad’s computer before she left, that way people would be more easily convinced, but even if she could understand his advice, she probably wouldn’t break her dad’s trust like that, so there was no point in suggesting the idea. Instead, he ran ahead through the yard toward the public elevator.
“I guess you approve,” Tillie said, lugging her backpack along to catch up. “Just wait until you see my dorm, Mr. Kitty. You’re gonna love it. There are no pets allowed, but you can keep quiet about it, can’t you?”
“I’m a ninja,” Mr. Kitty meowed, letting her pass him then bounding out in front of her again.
“You’re gonna love my roommate, too,” Tillie said with a smile and a new bounce in her step. “I can’t wait. I’m so glad you’re coming with me, Mr. Kitty!”
There was no line at the elevator—there usually wasn’t in this neighborhood. Tillie called it, they stepped in, and she said, “Parade grounds.” She took a deep breath. Mr. Kitty knew she was nervous about being called crazy again, so he rubbed his head on her ankles and purred. She smiled down on him as the doors slid open.
Here there was a line, a young, loud, raucous one. Mr. Kitty jumped, and hissed, and puffed up his fur at the sound of it. The line laughed at him, and Tillie said, “C’mon Kitty. It’s alright.”
She forced her way through the crowd which was trying to push their way onto the elevator before Tillie and Mr. Kitty could get off. Mr. Kitty slipped through the wake she made, out into a big, open, grassy circle that was lined all around with oak trees. There was a tall flagpole in the center of the field, surrounded by short walls with writing on them, and scattered around that were groups of humans playing frisbee, dogs running free without leashes, and other groups of people running around with brooms between their knees, throwing balls at each other. Tillie was right, Mr. Kitty did love this place. Why had he never been here with her before?
“Mr. Kitty,” Tillie called, walking away from the green field. “My dorm’s this way.”
Mr. Kitty tore his attention away from all the new and interesting things to follow Tillie between gravel covered buildings and oak trees, past two big hills, down through a shady cypress swamp, to a patch of three-story buildings in the shade of a tall, ugly cement building. Tillie went up to the door of one of the shorter buildings and scanned a keycard. The door unlocked, and they went up a flight of stairs into a small apartment with three doors and a kitchen. Tillie tossed her backpack on the floor in front of the TV and walked around the kitchen with a sigh, checking the fridge and cupboards while Mr. Kitty crept around the place, sniffing everything and rubbing his scent on whatever called for it—most every surface.
“Ugh. There’s nothing to eat!” she said.
Mr. Kitty jumped up onto the counter to rub his face on the sink and smell all the corners of the kitchen when the door opened and a human came in to throw her bag on the couch.
“There’s nothing in this kitchen,” Tillie said. “Do you have any paw points left this week?”
“No, girl,” the human said. “We spent it all before you left. I thought you were supposed to be staying at your dad’s anyway.”
“Yeah, well…” Tillie shrugged.
“And is that a cat in the kitchen? On the counter.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Tillie said. “Well…” She scooped Mr. Kitty up and held him over her shoulder, patting his back. “This is Mr. Kitty. He’s my cat. He’s just visiting though.”
“I like cats,” the human said. “Just not on the counter.”
“You hear that, Mr. Kitty?” Tillie said, patting him a few more times and kissing him on the head. “No counter.” She put him on the floor, and he went over to jump on the coffee table and lick his coat clean, paying special attention to the spot she had kissed.
“What are you doing back anyway?” the human asked. “It’s Christmas.”
“Yeah, well…” Tillie said. “That. I don’t know. I got into an argument with my dad. I thought you were supposed to be at your parents’ house, too. What happened to your Christmas tradition?”
“Plans changed. I got the perfect Christmas gift—which I have to be here for.”
“You have to be here?” Tillie raised an eyebrow.
“Enough about me. Why are you back?”
They both sat on the couch. The human reached out and pet Mr. Kitty. He let her go ahead for a few pats then jumped onto Tillie’s lap.
“Well…Like I said,” Tillie said. “I got into an argument with my dad.”
“He’s a manager, isn’t he?” the human said. “I mean, I know your last name’s Manager and all, but that’s his job, too. Right?”
“Right,” Tillie said, rolling her eyes. “That’s kind of what we were arguing about.”
“Yeah. It’s tough dealing with managers,” the human said. “No offense,” she added hastily.
“Oh. No,” Tillie said, shaking her head and waving a hand. “No n—n—no no. None taken. Believe me. I know better than anyone. He is my dad after all.” She chuckled. “I guess you don’t have the same problems, though. Huh? Your parents are lobbyists, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, well,” her roommate said. “I’m lucky enough to agree with their analysis of the economy, but there are some lobbyists out there who might be harder to live with than a manager.”
“Ugh. Yes,” Tillie said with a big sigh. “Have you heard Lobbyist Peterson’s latest proposal?”
“Let me guess,” her roommate said. “Take more resources from higher education and healthcare to funnel them into administration where they’re really working.”
“Pretty much exactly that,” Tillie said, grimacing. “Disgusting, am I right?”
“Disgusting is exactly right,” her roommate said, nodding. “That’s why I’m lucky. My parents are doing everything they can to fight against jerks like that. Me, too. Soon.”
“I wish my dad understood.” Tillie shook her head. “I tried to tell him, but he didn’t even believe me.”
“You tried to tell him what?”
“I—uh—I don’t know…” Tillie said. “I don’t think I should be talking about it.”
“Is it classified?”
Mr. Kitty felt Tillie tense up under him. “How did you know?”
“Tillie. I know we haven’t been roommates for long, but I want you to know that you can trust me.”
“What are you talking about?” It felt like Tillie was about to jump out from underneath Mr. Kitty. He prepared himself to leap off in case she did.
“What did you argue with your dad about?” her roommate asked.
“You can, Tillie. I already know. Was it about the 3D printers?”
“I—uh—How did you know?”
“Because I know.”
Tillie’s eyes grew wide. Her mouth fell open. Her roommate stood up before she could say anything. “Wait.” She closed the blinds and turned on the TV at full blast, then added some loud music on top of that before sitting back on the couch and scooting extra close to Tillie. “Okay. Go ahead,” she said
“I don’t—What was that?” Tillie asked. “Why’d you do that?”
“If you’re going to say what I hope you’re going to say, then we don’t want to be recorded. This way all they hear is white noise.”
“I—uh…” Tillie frowned. “I never would have thought of that in my life. I’ve been telling people, though. Do you think they recorded me already?”
“I don’t know,” her roommate said with a shrug. “Maybe. I don’t know if they’re doing it now. I haven’t heard what you have to say.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Tillie said, hitting herself in the head. “Right…Well, you know the printers, right. What am I saying? Of course you do. You just said that. Well you know that they don’t rearrange matter or whatever, right?”
Her roommate nodded.
“Yeah, well, my dad did, too. Apparently. But I—Well, I…Do you ever watch Logo’s Show?”
“Sometimes, yes, but I try to stay away from gossip news.”
“Yeah, well, did you see his latest episode?”
Her roommate shook her head. “No. But I saw the emergency broadcast after.”
“Yeah, well, okay. So you know then. Well, you know what he was talking about at least. You heard about the woman who tried to talk to him on the streets, that is.”
“Yeah, well,” Tillie said, nodding. “Do you know what she said?”
“That humans work on the assembly lines.”
“And that’s true, Emma,” Tillie said, looking her roommate in the eyes and nodding.
“I know, Tillie,” Emma said.
“I know it sounds hard to—What?”
“I know that humans work on the assembly lines,” Emma said. “I know that the assembly lines actually exist and not just in Russ Logo’s world. That’s why I’m not home with my parents. That’s what my Christmas gift is all about.”
“Your gift is about the humans on the assembly lines?” Tillie looked confused.
“No.” Emma shook her head. “Not exactly. But yes. My gift is that I finally get to do something about it.”
“But—I—How could you know? What could you do?”
“I’ve known for a long time,” Emma said. “My parents have taught me the truth since I was a child. That’s why I’m not surprised.”
“But how? My dad didn’t even know and he’s a manager. They’re supposed to know the economy like the back of their credit cards. How could he miss something as big as humans on the assembly lines?”
“You said you argued with him?”
“He said I was mistaken.” Tillie scoffed. “As if I didn’t know what I had seen with my own two eyes. He said I was being emotional.”
“Ugh. You see, Tillie. It’s not that he missed it, or that no one ever told him. He chooses not to know. They all choose to ignore it. I mean, how did you find out?”
“I saw a picture on his computer,” Tillie said. “I knew they weren’t robots.” She shook her head, looking away from Emma for a moment. Mr. Kitty purred and rubbed his head on her hands.
“A picture?” Emma asked.
“Of a factory accident.”
Emma looked away now. Mr. Kitty climbed over to her lap and rubbed his face on her arm.
“So how could he not figure out if I did, right?” Tillie said.
Emma still didn’t answer. She didn’t look at Tillie. She just pet Mr. Kitty’s head while he purred.
“You said you were going to do something about it,” Tillie said. “But how?”
“You know the answer to this one, Tillie.”
“The woman in the alley?”
“No.” Tillie shook her head. “Who’s that?”
Emma shrugged. “No one’s entirely sure. She’s the Scientist.”
“And she wanted you to help her, too?”
“I’ve never met her in person. She offered my parents an opportunity, and now that opportunity extends to me. On Christmas Feast day nonetheless. Perfect timing.”
“Christmas Feast?” Tillie said, frowning. “You mean Christmas?”
“Christmas Feast is what they call it in Inland.”
“So you don’t know everything then,” Emma said. “But I can tell you. As long as you don’t tell anyone else. No one.”
“You can trust me,” Tillie said, zipping her lips and crossing her heart.
“First,” Emma said. “Have you ever seen an assembly line worker in real life?”
Tillie shook her head. “Not besides the one I talked to.”
“What about an actor, or camera operator, or scientist?”
“I thought robots—”
“Robots don’t do much,” Emma said. “Have you ever seen one?”
“No, but they—”
“And you watch Logo’s Show. Don’t you ever wonder why the restaurants he talks about don’t exist?”
“Because it’s just a TV show,” Tillie said. “It’s not real.”
“But it’s not just a TV show. What about the assembly line workers? You know that they’re real. Where are they? Logo’s Show takes place in another world, Tillie. The restaurants do exist, but we have no way to access them. They’re in Outland 3 and we’re in Outland 2. There’s no way through except the elevators, and our elevators don’t go that way.”
“And that’s how I ended up meeting with that woman,” Tillie said, shaking her head.
“And that’s how I knew what you would tell me,” Emma said. “Look, I can’t stand this blaring noise anymore. Let’s go for a walk. Your cat might enjoy it, anyway.” She pet Mr. Kitty who had all but fallen asleep in her lap. He yawned and stretched his paws out in front of him.
“Yeah. I—uh—Sure,” Tillie said. “Let’s go.” She stood up, and Mr. Kitty jumped onto the coffee table to stretch some more.
Emma stood and said, “One second.” then went back to her room and came out wearing a big hooded sweatshirt. “Alright. Let’s go,” she said, and they went downstairs and out of the dorm.
Emma was right, too. Mr. Kitty did need a walk. He was too cooped up in their small dorm room. He ran through the grass, ate a few leaves of it in the falling sun, and almost lost Tillie and Emma in his excitement. He smelled another tree and clawed it a few times before running to catch up with them.
“I don’t know,” Tillie said. “I couldn’t do anything alone, but it might be different with you there.”
“You can do it,” Emma said. She looked around to see if anyone was watching. “You don’t even have to do anything. Just come with me. Look.” She pulled a pouch out of her sweater pocket and handed a little disc to Tillie.
“What is this?” Tillie asked, turning it over in her hands.
“A bomb,” Emma whispered to her.
Tillie stopped in her tracks. Mr. Kitty saw a bug and jumped on it. How would Tillie respond to this? She had finally found someone who believes her, but it had to be someone who might be a little crazy herself. He let the bug fly away and caught up with them again. Emma had scooted Tillie along so she didn’t make a scene.
“Of course I wouldn’t have done it if it was dangerous,” Emma said. “Well, needlessly dangerous.” She winked.
“I would call handing me…” Tillie leaned in and lowered her voice. “A bomb needlessly dangerous.”
“I told you it can’t go off yet,” Emma said. “They have to be activated, and they’re on a timer.”
“And how exactly are…they supposed to help anything?”
“It all goes back to the division between the worlds,” Emma said. “There are these machines that bend space and—”
“Woah ho ho. Wait a minute there,” Tillie said, stopping again. “Bend space? What are you talking about? You can’t bend space.”
“No,” Emma said, shaking her head. “I can’t. But they can. The Scientist can. That’s how the printers work. And the Scientist can get us to some of the Walker-Haley field generators which are used to do just that. All we have to do is rip, stick, and press then get out of there.”
“Walker-Haley field whats? Bending space?” Tillie shook her head. “I don’t know, Emma. It all sounds a little crazy. I don’t—”
“Look,” Emma said, cutting her off. “Come here.” She dragged Tillie by the arm to sit down on the concrete steps under the flagpole. They had walked all the way out to the center of the parade grounds, far enough away from everyone so that no one could hear their talking. The field was clearing out the darker it got, anyway, and the sun was all but gone. “Have you taken any science classes in college yet?” Emma asked.
Tillie shook her head. “I took AP science senior year.”
“Well, you might be able to understand,” Emma said. “Do you remember…”
Mr. Kitty didn’t care to hear the explanation. He didn’t care how things worked. He only wanted to know what they did and how that would affect him. And since he already knew the gist of what Emma was going to say, he had no reason to sit there and listen to the lecture. He knew it would be a long one, too, explaining how to bend space. Humans never could just walk to get from here to there. No, that was just too much work. But bending space so here is there, now that was less effort. Right? Mr. Kitty would never understand.
He went off to chew the grass and sharpen his claws on a tree, then chase some squirrels—who were so much harder to catch than those pigeons. He climbed up a tree after one, to show it that he could, and licked himself on a branch while the squirrel cowered at the top of the tree. He climbed back down, and Tillie and Emma were standing from their lesson, intent on doing something.
“Come on, Mr. Kitty,” Tillie called, motioning with her hand as they walked toward the elevator.
Mr. Kitty sprinted to catch up with them, dodging through the legs of passing students. The door to the elevator slid shut behind him, almost clamping on his tail. He licked it and sat down.
“Where to?” Tillie asked. “I mean, how do we get there?”
“The Scientist takes us,” Emma said.
“But what do we tell the elevator?”
“The struggle itself is enough to fill one’s heart.”
The elevator fell into motion, and almost as soon as it did, the doors opened. There was nothing to see but a cement wall, but Mr. Kitty recognized the stale oil smell. Tillie and Emma’s feet clanged on the metal floor as they stepped out of the elevator.
“I’ve been here before,” Tillie said. “Well, not here but here. A place just like this. I got lost when I tried to go back and talk to the assembly line worker again. Mr. Kitty found me.”
“I hate this place,” Mr. Kitty meowed, looking at the wall where the door they had just come from used to be.
“This is one way through the fields to the other worlds,” Emma said. “There are usually security and mechanic bots patrolling. Today, however, this bay has no one, courtesy of the Scientist. Now come on.”
She jogged down the tunnel with her footsteps echoing back behind her. Tillie took off after her. Mr. Kitty rubbed his face on the wall where the door was, giving it one last smell, then tore apart his claws trying to catch up with them.
They went through the curving tunnel, down a few flights of stairs, then through another long tunnel to a big metal door that was painted with yellow and black stripes. They stopped to catch their breath, and Mr. Kitty licked his paws to rid them of the pain from running on the metal grating.
“Ugh. Unseen Hand,” Tillie said through gasping breaths. ”I’m so out of shape.” She hunched over, resting her hands on her knees and her back on the wall. “I haven’t exercised like that in…well…let’s just say a long time.”
Emma was barely out of breath. “Physical training is important if you want to help free the assembly line workers,” she said. “If someone sees us, we’ll have to run all the way back. And this time we would be going upstairs.”
Tillie took a few more deep breaths. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”
“This is serious,” Emma said solemnly. “If you’re here, you should be serious, too. If we were found…Well, just know that we don’t want to be found.”
“No,” Tillie said, shaking her head and waving her hands. “No no. I—No, I know. That’s why I’ve been freaking out. Because I know how serious it is, you know. But that’s the point, isn’t it? This is so real and big, how can we do anything about it?”
“That’s what I’m supposed to show you.”
“So she asked you to do this then? The woman who asked me to—to do something for her.”
“Not for her, Tillie,” Emma said, shaking her head. “For us. For the assembly line workers. For the betterment of humanity. This is bigger than the Scientist. She only helps. We do the real work to tear down the system.” She pressed a few buttons on the keypad next to the door, and the doors slid open with a hiss. Mr. Kitty jumped back and puffed up his tail at the sound of it.
“How’d you do that?” Tillie asked.
“That’s another way that having the Scientist on our side helps,” Emma said. “And in getting these.” She pulled out the pouch of discs. “Now, come on.”
Inside was a squat room with lights and buttons flashing all over the ceiling. The ground was smooth and hard. It beat the metal grating but was worse than vinyl in Mr. Kitty’s opinion. Tillie and Emma had to duck to walk around. Emma watched Tillie marvel at the size of the place and the flashing lights.
“What is this?” Tillie asked, still walking in circles and staring up at the flashing ceiling which almost seemed to go on forever.
“This is the Outland 6 central hub,” Emma said. “Every single Walker-Haley field generator that separates Outland 6 from Outland 5 converges right here in this room. This is the only thing keeping the two worlds apart.”
“All of it in one room?” Tillie scoffed.
“Only for Outland 6. Outland 6 only has connections to Outland 5, so the owners don’t really care if there’s a little crossover. Not as much as they care about crossover in the other worlds, at least.”
“So that’s what you’re going to do with the—uh—discs,” Tillie said. “Destroy this?”
“That’s what we’re going to do. We’re merging 5 and 6, transforming them into a whole new world. We’ll be creating just as much as we destroy.”
“And so what?” Tillie said. “We blow this room up to connect the two worlds, then what happens? They come back and separate them again? What about us? What about the actors? What about everyone else in the world—or, er—worlds?”
“This is the grand finale,” Emma said. “The big bang. So much more is happening across the worlds as we speak, but you and I get to end the festivities with a fireworks show.”
Tillie looked around at everything one more time. Mr. Kitty rubbed his face on her ankles. “So you’re really going to do something to stop them,” she said.
“It’s wrong, Tillie. We reap the benefits from their exploitation. We can try to stop it, or we might as well be exploiting them ourselves. We’re complicit.”
“Nous devons craindre le mal,” Mr. Kitty meowed. “Mais il ya quelque chose que nous devons craindre plus que le mal. C’est l’indifférence de la bonne.”
Tillie scooped him up. “It sounds like Mr. Kitty agrees,” she said.
“Do you agree?” Emma asked.
Tillie put Mr. Kitty back on the ground and he licked himself. “I want to,” she said. “But it sounds too good to be true.”
“It’s not, though,” Emma said, scoffing. “We’re not even doing that much. Not by ourselves at least. We’re a distraction. And there will be a lot more to do after this. Then you’ll get to see that it’s just shitty enough to be true.”
Their laughs echoed through the squat room.
“So that scientist,” Tillie said. “She really could use those pictures to do good.”
“What pictures?” Emma asked.
“She didn’t tell you?”
Emma shook her head.
Tillie took a deep breath, stomped her foot, and said, “Yes. I do. I do want to help. What do we do?”
Emma smiled wide. “Good,” she said. “Great. Take some of these.” She got a handful of discs out of the pouch and handed half to Tillie. “Start here with the red light. See it?” She pointed one out and waited for a response.
“Yeah. Right,” Tillie said, nodding.
“Peel the paper backing off, stick the disc on the light, press the button, then go five red lights down and do it again,” Emma told her, pointing out where each step would take place as she spoke. “Got it?”
“Got it,” Tillie said.
“When you get to the end, go five across and come back,” Emma said, pointing some more. “I’ll get the rest, then we get out of here. Ready?”
“Then let’s have some fun!”
They sprinted into action. Mr. Kitty rolled on his back and kicked at the air, then chased them around as they did their rip, stick, pressing. Emma finished a few discs before Tillie, even though she went further into the room and placed more of them, and when they were both done, they sprinted out of the tunnel, up the stairs, and to the elevator with Mr. Kitty close behind them. They all three collapsed laughing, coughing, and breathing heavily onto the floor of the elevator.
“I can’t believe we just did that,” Tillie said.
“I can’t believe I finally got to,” Emma said.
“What do we do next?” Tillie asked.
“We go back home like nothing happened,” Emma said. “We keep our ears open for any news of the rest of the operation. And mostly we wait.”
“Ugh. Wait?” Tillie frowned.
“It shouldn’t be long now,” Emma said. “The gears are in motion.”
“I can get those pictures while we wait,” Tillie said.
“Does that mean you want to join us?” Emma asked with a smile.
“I’m not stopping here,” Tillie said, laughing again. “Parade grounds.”
The elevator fell into motion, and the doors opened onto the big empty field. Tillie and Emma left, and they didn’t notice when Mr. Kitty didn’t follow them. Tillie didn’t need him anymore, they had each other. The doors closed, and he let the elevator take him to wherever it would.
# # #
That’s it for Mr. Kitty’s POV chapters. If you’d like to support the real life Mr. Kitty, who just walked across my desk while I was in the middle of typing, then think about purchasing a copy of the full novel here. Thanks again for reading. And we’ll be back next Saturday.