It was dark. The Princess of Hearts’ chamber was as he remembered it, large and with magnificent hangings. The book was still on the podium, but the mirror where he looked at himself and all her jewelry was not there. He crept around the room silently. At the door to the hallway he stopped and listened. It seemed that the castle was asleep. He slipped out of the lady’s chamber and moved down to the next one. It was also empty, as if the area had been abandoned. Rather than search the castle, he concentrated again.

Khamet arrived in more darkness. The hallway was somewhat as he remembered, the multicolored shapes along the walls and checkered floor that slanted up and down. How many doors to the bathroom? And how many had they gone? He moved forward a bit remembering the slope where the mirror was. Everything was now dingy and crusted with grime. Ahead of him the strange oblong shaped mirror stood as it did before, but it had been shattered. It had been struck several times and left no reflection larger than an inch. Khamet wondered of the size of the reflection mattered in Heere and moved towards it trying to feel the pull. There was none. He stepped back and looked for a piece large enough to see anything in, but there was nothing.

Khamet turned and moved back down the sloping hallway towards the living room.

“Hello?” he called. Realizing that he had just entered uninvited and he had never learned the names of their frog faced host and hostess and could not very well call to them. “Um… Is me Khamet… the cat.” How long had it been? Did they remember him? Near the end he heard a sound behind one of the doors, he stopped. “Hello?” he called again.

The sound was giggling like children, but then he realized it was babies. He moved to the door and pushed it open.

“Hello? It’s the cat from before, I didn’t mean to intrude.”

There was no one in the room which was bigger than the entire outward appearance of the house. The room was obviously a nursery with stuffed animals, two cribs and drawings on the wall. What made it very interesting was that everything in the room was colored black and white. Clouds and cherubs flew and floated on the ceiling. The cribs were black with white trim and the other, white with black trim with intermittent safety bars of black and white on each to keep the babies from falling out.

Khamet approached the cribs slowly wanting to get a look. Something creaked in the corner of the room. He looked towards the corner and saw that the painting and landscape seemed too move and it occurred to him that what he was looking at wasn’t just the ceiling, but a window to the sky itself. Stars could be seen and the moon as well. A dark winged something flew past.

Another creak sounded from the other corner. Both were too dark to see what if anything was lurking there. The crib in front of him was also making sounds which must be a baby. He leapt up onto the railing and in the crib was a large baby doll. It stared up at him with dead glass doll eyes and made sleep and cooing sounds from its frozen mouth.

A loud noise sounded behind him and something giggled on one side. In the corner a chair moved and a stuffed animal fell and knocked over a lamp.

Khamet leapt down from the crib and moved towards the chair. Something large landed on his back with a wild giggling cry of attack and triumph. Khamet rolled trying to get whatever it was off, but the thing was heavy and held him around the waist giggling in his ear. Khamet tried to bite and scratch to no avail. It was holding him so tight he could barely breathe. Then he was squeezed at the waist and suddenly was in the air being carried by a wobbling unsure gate.

“Fluffy pretty.” A voice said behind him.

From the dark corner ahead of him a figure stood. It was an extremely large baby boy around his size wearing nothing but a black and white striped diaper. It was very fat and had no hair to speak of and stared at him through tiny drooping eyes. “Fluffy pretty.” It responded and hobbled towards them.

Khamet was dropped to the ground before the baby and then two sets of hands had him so he couldn’t escape.

“Fluffy.” One said.

“Pretty.” The other responded.

They were identical and as he turned his head there was no way he could tell them apart.

“Fluffy.” The first said again, petting too hard with one hand and gripping with the other.

“Pretty.” The other said doing the same.

It sounded like they were trying to convince each other. The petting began to get more forceful and deliberate.

“Fluffy.” The first said, his voice getting louder.

“Pretty.” The other replied, slapping to pet Khamet with his fat little hand when he did so.

“Fluffy!” The first said again in an argumentative tone that was punctuated with a slap on Khamet’s head.

“Pretty!” the other said doing the same thing.

They repeated the last and the slaps hurt. Khamet struggled to get out, but their hands had a firm grip. He was able to turn his head and what he saw suddenly filled him with immense dread and fear.

The room was a nursery, but he suddenly realized that there had been no toys with the exception of the doll. Beneath the crib was a morgue of dolls and toys. Pieces that had been ripped apart, heads, arms, legs, parts that looked to have been crushed, snapped, some broken, some split open and others chewed on by what could not have been baby teeth.

“Fluffy!” something thudded his back hard not petting at all.

“Pretty!” the top of his head was smacked and banged against the floor.

“FLUFFY!” the back of his neck crunched. Nothing broke, but Khamet remembered the carriage and wondered what would happen if he died in Heere.

“PRETTY!” He was let go and two hands seized his tail in an iron grip.

Suddenly he was sliding across the floor away from the other baby. From his side the graveyard of dolls watched and looked. They seemed to reflect his pain and what was about to happen.

He tried to move, but was going into the air when a hand dropped on the back of his neck and stopped him. Another grabbed one of his front paws and gripped it tight. Fat baby fingers clenched. Two on his tail, on his right front paw and one on his neck which slipped and only got a tight hunk of skin. Then he was in the air not very high, the babies were short, but they were certainly strong and extremely determined. They didn’t swing him, they pulled.

“FLUFFY!”

“PRETTY!”

Khamet felt a sensation like never before. He was being stretched. His only thankful grace was that his skin was being yanked and not his neck which would most assuredly be broken by now. His face turned to a sneering grimace and he tried to concentrate on moving somewhere. He couldn’t hold a thought in his head. He grimaced again at the pain as they yanked.

The two babies’ pulled and Khamet felt his body surge and his insides lurch. Where were his companions when he needed them? The land listened to him, but it seemed nothing was going to help him now.

“FLUFFY!” his front leg felt as if it was going to come off.

“PRETTY!” his tail pulled taunt with the skin and was about to rip.

Every pull broke his concentration. He couldn’t speak or cry out and then something happened. Something that Khamet knew was the moment before the morgue. Something each and every doll under the crib felt. It was the last moment before the end. The two babies moved together and Khamet’s body went slack. They were readying for one heavy jerk, both screaming their points in frustration. Khamet was in a daze, but had enough sense to suddenly send all his claws and teeth out at once searching for flesh.

The babies screamed and he dropped the short distance to the floor. The impact on his traumatized body was almost worse than the buildup.

“Ahh! HURT! FLUFFY HURT!”

“PRETTY HURT!”

Khamet rolled and tried to stand, but that wasn’t happing right away.

“BAD FLUFFY!”

Something exploded like a bomb on the ground near him. Khamet turned to see the head of a hammer, all black and made of wood.

“BAD PRETTY!” Something else struck, but this one connected. His tail crunched and the pain shocked him into crawling as fast as he could beneath the crib. Khamet was clawing himself through the graveyard of dolls as another hammer, this one white, struck the ground with another explosion right where he had been.

The two babies had forgotten the argument and were now focused on destruction.

“BAD!”

“BAD!”

Khamet looked back at the two faces of angry babies staring at him beneath the crib. The hands reached and began digging at the morgue of body parts. An arm was ripped out, a head with only its torso was squeezed and uttered “momma” as its parting words as if it were calling for help. Khamet tried to concentrate, but was in pain and terrified and couldn’t see anything. Handfuls of toys were being raked out. Each face framed the other with a hammer on each side like book ends their hands reaching for Khamet as he tried to squirm farther back into the nest of long dead toys.

“What’s the problem boys?” A female voice said.

“Ma, bad ma,” one said.

“Bad fluffy,” the other said.

“Bad pretty,” the argument was starting again.

“Are you breaking your toys again?” the woman’s voice sounded.

Two arms appeared and picked up one then the other.

Khamet saw the mattress above him droop slightly. “Hello?” he called with pain ridden tentativeness.

“What?” The voice of the woman said. The frogish face of the woman came into view below the bed. “Who are…? Oh goodness,” she said. “Come come cat. Were you playing with my boys?”

Khamet crawled through the bodies, the sole survivor from under the bed.

The woman looked different. Her enormous bosom was gone. Not even smaller, but gone. She was exactly the same as before, but flat as a board where before it was so enormous it most probably impeded her in many ways.

“Playing…” Khamet said out of breath and trying to see of anything had been broken or torn.

The two babies were in their cribs cooing. Khamet carefully leapt up beside the woman. The babies were obviously tired and held vapid stares, unaware of any wrong doing.

One turned his head and focused for a moment, “Fluffy,” it said slapping the side of his crib, haphazardly reaching for the cat.

“Pretty,” the other said doing the same.

“Do you like the nursery?” The woman asked turning. “We learned that black and white stimulates imagination and they have become so imaginative, haven’t you sweetums, haven’t you my sweetums,” she cooed reaching in to rub their fat tummies. “Yes you have, yes you have.” She went to each of the babies and smothered them with coos and kisses until both were giggling.

“Deedumb,” one said trying to repeat the word.

“Deedumb,” the other copied.

“Come along they need their rest.” The woman said moving to the door.

Khamet leapt down and followed with the sound of the babies repeating, “Dee dumb dee dumb dee dumb,” until the door closed.

 

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