Teknomage stepped thru the Wheel, and instantly sensed that something was wrong. He was in a mushroom patch, and they were mostly taller than he was.
"Just your friendly neighborhood Teknomage," said Teknomage. "And I will be until Marvel complains about it. Who are you, Caterpillar?"
"Do you mean originally, or just now?"
"I came thru my own private Wheel of Worlds, which I've just discovered."
"Yes, well, it is very nice talking with you, but I really must go exploring."
"Thank you, sir. Very nice to have met you." and Teknomage walked off.
soon, he comes to a very interesting tree, and suddenly feels like sitting down for awhile. As he looks around the tree to see just what side of it might be most comfortable to sit against, he spies a group of peculiarly striped kittens.
"I wonder where is their mother?" says Teknomage to no one in particular.
A grin appears and answers him, but not a very happy looking grin.
"I'm right here. Who are you?" And a cat appeared around the grin.
"My name is Teknomage. And you are?"
"Do you mean besides the mother cat you were just wondering about?"
"Well, yes, besides that. You look rather like a Cheshire cat. Any relation?"
"In fact I am a Cheshire cat, but for some reason I'll never entirely fathom, it seems that one in particular of my brothers is most often associated with the name. But he hasn't been in Wonderland much this, nor late last year. Why do you ask?
"Just idle curiosity. Say, where has he been then?"
"Oh, I hardly have time to keep up. Many places I suppose, doing all sorts of silly things with lots of silly people. I wish I knew just why he seemed so interested in keeping company with people-- no offense."
"None taken. Perhaps sometime I'll see if I can't find where he is, or at least find out what he's been up to. I imagine it would be quite interesting. But, how about you? What are you doing with your time? Besides raising kittens. And, do you have your own name I can use?"
"Not an awful lot. I never really do, well, nothing much worth talking about. The kittens keep me busy enough, tho. A name, you'd like to know? Well, I do, but you don't suppose the Writer-at-the-Moment considers himself competent as yet to Choose such a thing for me, do you?"
"The Writer-at-the-Moment? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, you don't know? You certainly have an awful lot to learn about your life, don't you?"
"Yes, of course."
"Well, they're a couple of months old now. Would you like a pet?"
"What? Do you mean one of your kittens?"
"Well I can't in all good conscience offer you somebody else's kittens, can I?"
"I wouldn't think so. But ...don't you want to raise them all yourself?"
"Why should I want to do that?"
"Well, because they're your children"
"But I am a cat, you know"
"But an intelligent cat"
"that isn't important. It isn't the intelligence, you know, it's the culture. Most cats don't feel a great need to spend their entire lives with their children; even Cheshire cats. So, do you want a pet?"
"well, I suppose so. In fact, it might be good for my training, learning to take care of a young one, even a cat, but I don't think the word 'pet' would apply, at least not for very long...of course there is much to be learned from Cheshire cats, but how will the cat learn without any of its own kind to teach it?"
"You think far too much, mage. Say, what kind of mage are you, anyway?"
"I don't really know. Just sort of a general kind of mage, for now, I guess. Tho ultimately I do have an enemy I'd like to meet someday called Teknophage, on-"
"Kalighoul, hideous place. And you don't want to meet Henry as much as you think you do, believe me."
"You've been to Kalighoul?"
"well, yes...years ago. Dreadful, dreadful place. Only worse place I can think of in that Universe is Albion."
"Say, have you been thru the Wheel?"
"Yes, but that was from Kalighoul, I suspect you've been thru some other Wheel that I had no idea existed."
"Yes, I found it accidentally. It was connected to the Phage's Wheel thru some sort of majik hub& axle, but this one is a naturally occuring Wheel."
"So, can you get to my home from here? ...I live on Earth, I've never been entirely sure whether Wonderland was actually on earth, or merely connected by some sort of wormhole or something..."
"Rabbit hole, i think you mean"
"Well, I suppose. But, if I got to that place from here, would it be the same one I came from thru these two Wheels?"
"That's a good question. I don't know. Have you chosen yet?"
"Which kitten you'd like."
"Oh. I'll take ...that grey and purple one."
"Excellent. Was there anything else you wanted?"
"No, I mainly stopped by for the kitten. Thank you. G'bye."
And Teknomage carefully scooped up the kitten in his arms, and continued on his way. A short time later, he realized something.
"Wait a minute. What did I mean by 'I mainly stopped by for the kitten'? I wasn't expecting even to meet any Cheshire cats, well, not specifically just then, anyway, and certainly I had no idea I'd be getting a Cheshire kitten."
Just then, the kitten decided to speak its first words "Well, no, but I'm sure the Writer-at-the-Moment knew all about it from the very beginning of the chapter."
"Hey, that's an awful long string of first words, Chesh."
"Thank you. My family has always been full of geniuses. I think you've heard of my Uncle. By the Way, what's my name?"
"I haven't thought of one just yet."
"That's an awfully long name."
Tekno objected, but then the mother's smile showed up in front of him. "Don't worry about it. When a Cheshire kitten begins to speak at first, it is just imitating words it has heard and stringing them together at random. The fact that these words are often appropriate to the discussion is entirely coincidental; it doesn't know what it is saying. Many people have carried on deep philosophical conversations with Cheshire kittens, and sometimes even gained great cosmic insights from them, but it doesn't really mean anything to the kitten. And it certainly won't remember any of the conversation later. Such talks are entirely interpreted as such by the people, never the kittens."
"Thanks for telling me. That makes me feel a whole lot better" said Tek sarcastically. "How will I know when this stage is over, and the cat knows what it's saying?"
"Oh, no one is entirely sure that that ever happens, really. But when the cat tells you that it knows what it is talking about and what you are talking about, it is safe to assume that it is at the point that you might as well as not to consider that it is."
"Um...okay, I think I know what you're saying."
"At the very least, that makes one of us."
"And at the very most, three of us" said the kitten. "Now about that name we were discussing?"
"I'll get to that later, first I need time to think"
And Tek continued on his way. the mother's grin went back to her remaining litter, and the kitten remained silent for the next several days.
Issues 8& 9