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By Bombalurina Aerina

Prologue: Enigma

Exotica smiled bitterly. Her nightmare had not come to her on this, the fourth evening. It was a bad omen, an extremely bad omen, for according to the folklore of her people, if a dream came to a seer three nights in a row and immediately ceased, it was fated to come true. Then why was she happy?

For three nights, she had dreaded sleep, for fear of the evil dream, but each day, sleep had come. And with it had come the aweful dream. She could not explain how deeply it touched her soul, and she had not spoken of it to any other feline, save herself...and the multitude of voices in her head. The plaguing voices had demanded to know what she dreamed of. So she told them.

Death. That was the dream. A ginger tom would come to the tribe, be accepted, and then betray all that was righteous. A fierce struggle for control, and then the invader would triumph. Speaking to the voices that haunted her waking hours sent a shiver down her spine.

That she was not natural, she was certain. But she also remained ignorant of exactly what was wrong inside of her to make her hear the voices. Something deep in her past, Tantomile and Coricopat, the other seers, had told her. Therefore, it was something she could not remember.

Her past was a mystery. She remembered nothing, until her rescue off the streets by Munkustrap and Alonzo. Of her kitten hood, she had no memory. Her first memory was of being nestled in Alonzo's arms as he carried her back to the Junkyard. Then there was another blank period, and she remembered Jennyanydots and Jellylorum treating wounds she did not remember receiving. It was rather disturbing, and it made her feel like the outsider she knew she was.

So she stayed near the edges of the tribe and felt like the scum of the earth during their annual ball. Three years she had been a member of the tribe, and she still could not bring herself to learn the sacred dances. She was not a Jellicle.

If you aren't a Jellicle, what are you? The Enigma. The ever plaguing Enigma. Enigma was the ever lasting voice, the one that would not die. Enigma seemed there to remind her that she could never remember her past, that it was irretrievable. And Enigma warned that if she did remember, someone would come to take her life.

She lived in constant fear of toms and queens alike, afraid to make friends. She did not wish to become close to any Jellicle, lest they be the one to end her life, as Enigma predicted.

Even Cassandra, who had been like a sister to her from the start, she would not call a friend. She and Cassandra were alike, but for the evil voices. Cassandra said she understood, but Exotica refused to believe the sphynx. Something deep in her, instinct told her not to trust Cassandra. Another something that she did not understand about herself.

And now the prophesied dream. The dream she took satisfaction in believing for reasons unknown. Maybe somewhere in her past, one of the Jellicles had hurt her. But maybe not. She did not dwell on the non-rememberable. If she did not remember it, it was not worth remembering.

Chapter One: Sunday is Gloomy

Sundays. The days her humans left her locked in the house while they went to worship their false god in a church. Left alone in shadows all day, with stale food and old water left out for her, but nothing to do. Nothing to do but think. But thinking was dangerous.

Thinking left her wondering about her past. And that was infinitely bad for reasons she did not know. Sometimes, thinking left her with large blank periods that she did not remember. But never failingly, she woke up with injuries she did not remember receiving, and with the knowledge that she had inflicted them on herself. She did not like the feeling.

Even Cassandra refused to speak to her about what she did during the blank periods. Someday, she hoped to know why. And in all likelihood, this Sunday would not be that day.

So she sat on the rug the humans had forbidden her from touching, in an act of defiance. For nearly an hour, she sat motionless, allowing some of her fur to shed onto the Persian threads, leaving a visible mark without actually harming the fabric. She did not even think as she sat there, so intense was her desire to annoy her humans.

Then something hit the window. It clanged so suddenly against the glass that she jumped. She whirled and hissed in the direction of the sound. Something else, probably larger and heavier, struck again. Exotica knew that someone wanted to get into her humans' house. She backed away, into the kitchen and under the table.

With the next blow, the window gave way. Exi shrank back in fear, and hoped the humans would not bother with a little brown feline. The humans fled after breaking the glass. She heard their yells of fear and annoyance at actually breaking the window. Her acute feline ears heard them running across the grass and away from the house.

You're free! Go! Callena said within her head. And then Exotica's awareness dimmed.

Callena left the house, but any Jellicle looking would have sworn it was Exotica. And yet Callena was a part of Exi, an important part to keeping her sane.

Unlike Exotica, Callena was not shy and aloof. She knew how to get her way among toms, and was very alert at all times. She knew what she wanted and how to get it. What she wanted was power. And the way to power was through Macavity.

Macavity knew Callena was a part of Exotica, but he did not believe they were the same cat. They were distinctly different. While Exi was shy and frightened most of the time, Callena was calm and seductive when she was around him. She regularly came to visit him once a week. Sometimes, she would revert back to Exi's fear in the middle of a visit, and he would have to return her to the tribe.

He never wondered how he understood the different parts of Exi so well. He was far too entranced by Callena to care. The Burmese moved him in ways not even Bombalurina had so early in his adulthood. She made him more confident in himself, and helped him discover ways to fight the Jellicle Cats.

And he did not ask questions when she came to visit him on that Sunday. She brought information from the Jellicles, which she bullied out of the meek Exotica. Demeter was pregnant off Munkustrap, and expecting in a month. Bombalurina and Rum Tum Tugger were finally settling down with each other. Cassandra and Alonzo had had their first litter two days ago. Victoria was pregnant, and her pregnancy had just been confirmed by Jennyanydots.

In short, the tribe was at a weak point.

Chapter Two: Slumberless Hours

Cassandra watched Exotica run from the human house. Instinctively, she knew it was not Exotica leaving the house, but something, someone far more sinister than the shy Burmese. She was safely hidden across the street and under a hedge, where even a feline's prying eyes would not see her. She sighed, and half of her did not want to betray her friend and alert the Jellicles, but the other half of her knew that the survival of her tribe depended on stopping Exi.

She waited until Exi had passed from view before leaving her hiding place. Then she ran at top speed all the way across town and into the decrepit Junkyard that housed her tribe. She skidded to a halt somewhat clumsily in the centre of a large clearing that served as a meeting place for the elders and as the dancing grounds for the Jellicle Ball.

"Exi's gone," she panted. "I think she went to Macavity. But something's different about her. I don't think it's Exotica at all." Munkustrap, Alonzo, and Bombalurina were listening intently at the details of what she had seen. She kept the look of annoyance off her face as best as possible. Why don't you three DO something instead of standing there like idiots? she asked without saying a word.

"I don't think it would be wise to go after her," Munk said. He received stares from Bomba and Lonzo in return for the comment. He gave them a startled look, as if he had expected them to naturally agree with him. "We need to prepare for Macavity's next attack. It's far too late to stop Exi from reaching his lair by now."

"He's right," the Rum Tum Tugger said from behind the trio of protectors. Cassandra snorted. Leave it to the Tugger to disagree with her, or anyone else who knew something had to be done. "We can't afford to get anyone hurt at this point in time, or worse, have someone killed. We have to be ready for the attack, and this time we know ahead of time."

Bombalurina nodded in satisfaction. "There you have it Cassie. We're not going to go after her." The look in Bombie's eyes told Cassie that deep down, the ginger queen wanted to help Exi, but refused to tell anyone. The one thing about Bombie that Cassandra utterly loathed was her sense of pride.

Cassie sighed, but wandered away from Bombie, Lonzo, and Munk sadly. She wondered if Exi would remember anything this time. If she did, Cassie knew that Exi would feel that her tribe had abandoned her in the worst possible way. Cassie herself had felt that way once, when she had been accepted into the tribe and learned that her mother was not coming back for her. She had remained aloof for months, afraid of being hurt again.

"Where am I?" demanded Exotica, shyly, not boldly. Callena was in control no longer, and now Exotica had come through. She was in a strange, dark place, where she woke up sometimes. Exi was always afraid of waking up in the dark room, for she often found herself alone with Macavity, the Mystery Cat. She feared him almost more than death.

"You're in my lair," said the tomcat coolly. "And you may leave. Callena has served me well once more." He grinned an evil grin, one that told her much about his intentions. "You may not have a tribe to go home to, once I am through with them, so I advise you to stay away from the Junkyard, for Callena's sake." Exi had not the faintest idea who Callena was. But then the memories of the pervasive voices came back to her. She had almost managed to forget.

She backed away from him, searching frantically for an exit, a way to escape from Macavity. He had bid her leave, so she was free to go. She hit her back against a wall, and stopped moving. The way he watched her frightened her, as if Callena was his lover or worse, his mate. The thought made her sick.

Cassandra knew it would be a sleepless time for the Jellicles. They would always have to be on the alert for Macavity or his minions. She hated Exi for causing them so much trouble and pain, but another side of her felt that the Burmese was a sister to her, if not in blood, then in spirit. She did not want any harm to come to Exotica, no matter what. Something within her told her that blood would be shed, and soon, because of what Macavity got from her friend.

It chilled her to the bone. She could practically feel death approaching the tribe, bringing horrible destruction to their world. She shivered in the warmth of the dusk, and curled her tail beside her face, rolling herself into a tiny ball.

None of the Jellicles would sleep tonight.

Chapter Three: The Shadows are Numberless

Exotica shivered. Macavity had finally gotten so fed up with her fear that he had picked her up by the scruff of her neck and carried her outside. Then he had dumped her in the street.

She was happy to be away from there, but something deep in her mind told her that she would end up back there again sometime. Perhaps soon. It made her angry to know she was helpless when Callena decided to take over.

And the evil queen was laughing in her head, which was not helping her self-esteem. "Callena, shut up," she pleaded verbally, half hoping the other queen would listen, but knowing in her heart that she would not.

And you think I would, Exi? I got what I want. Now you get to live with it.

"I don't think I want to know what you mean," she said, but she knew what the voice meant. She refused to believe Callena. There was no way.

Don't fret. He'll love our kittens, even if they're born from your body. The smugness of Callena's voice made her shake with rage. To think of herself being used by another part of her. It was foolishness, and the Jellicles would never believe.

She wished cats could cry. Not just whimpering, but really be able to cry tears. It would have helped to let her emotions out silently, like humans could. At least that was what she told herself.

So she sat and shook with the agony of knowing she could never return to the place she had called home for the last few years of her life. The Jellicles would hate her for a crime she had not committed. Not knowingly, any way.

"Such are the shadows of my life," she whispered angrily. All that was left of her life seemed to be darkness. Shadows. Evil shadows caused by Callena and Macavity. They were forcing her to bend to their desires and whims. And she did not like it one bit. "But I will triumph over you. I won't let you rule over me forever, Callena."

Whatever you say, Exotica.

"Leave me in peace!" She screamed, and her voice was practically a yowl.

I cannot. If I do, you might remember. New information. Exi could tell that Callena knew she had said too much. But she wanted to know more.

"What would I remember?" she demanded, a grin curling her lips, baring her teeth. She would get the information from within her somehow. Exactly how would depend solely on how willing Callena was to give it up.

Not only that, but I would perish. She was deliberately with holding what she knew. It depressed Exi further to realize that Callena would rather die than give up her secrets. It hurt her deep in her soul to know that she was only keeping secrets from herself, but she could not stop Callena from keeping them.

She felt as if she had been hit over the head by the sudden urge to go home. "I want to go home," she sighed, and whimpered quietly at the hopelessness of her situation.

Chapter Four: Little White Flowers

A slight breeze ruffled her fur. The sunlight streamed down from the sky onto the hill. It was warm, midsummer, and the little flowers that covered the hill were in full bloom. Exi liked this place; here she was safe always. And here Callena did not bother her.

She looked to the sky, just to watch the clouds pass on the wind. Sometimes they took on shapes. Dragons, castles, even cats she knew. But it was such a peaceful place she could not help but feel at home in it. And she was home, for this place existed only in her mind.

Little white flowers were everywhere. She closed her eyes, but could not shut out the brightness of this place. Light was a flood here, and she liked it that way, for her own life was full of darkness.

It was an odd dream. Everything was so happy, no one had any fears or worries. Sometimes, she thought the other Jellicles were with her on the hill, but she knew they weren't. No one was here with her, especially not Callena or Macavity. She knew those two could never come to her world of light and flowers and happiness, for they were not happiness to her. They were shadows.

Out of nowhere, several of the Jellicles seemed to materialize. Cassandra, Munkustrap, Alonzo, Coricopat, Tantomile. All of them laughing, not at her, but with her, and dancing. Cassie wove a crown of white flowers and long blades of grass, and gave it to Exi to wear.

She accepted the gift with a smile, but her smile quickly faded. The clouds on the horizon had darkened, and the air was thick with loneliness. The five Jellicles stared at her, their faces distant, and they vanished. Lightning cracked far away and the sky turned black. Fierce winds whipped across the hill, flattening the white flowers and grass.

Her eyes grew wide with fear as the rain pounded down from the blackness of the sky. She was soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes, and thought she would surely drown in the onslaught.

Exi woke, gasping for breath and drenched in her own sweat. Her dream frightened her for reasons she did not know or understand. She had never had a nightmare before, especially one so disguised as a peaceful dream.

She shivered miserably and huddled against the cardboard box she was sleeping under. She had not dared return to the Junkyard, instinct informed her that she was no longer welcome there and was once more an outcast, as she had been most of her life.

It had been sheer luck that the Jellicles had taken her in in the first place, she decided. They would not have done the same for other cats, but they had been kind to her and allowed her to stay with them. Even if they did not include her in most of their ceremonies, they at least had given her a place to call home. Callena had ruined that. As she had ruined everything else.

"Leave me alone, I hate you!" she whispered venomously. There was no answer from Callena, as she should have expected.