Chapter 2: The Swing and the High Chairs
“You don’t like your name?” I asked, though I regretted asking it just a moment later.
What kind of answer would I get back?
If someone wanted to keep a secret a secret, they’d dodge the question, and if they didn’t care enough, they could say whatever they want.
I’m sure the cat wouldn’t be interested in answering me really, but it felt like this was the only question I could really ask right now.
“It’s not that I don’t like it, but….that’s neither here nor there.” The cat’s head turned to its side so to look at me at ninety degrees.
Pausing in this way for a few seconds, it seemed to have thought of a great opportunity to change the topic.
“But I do like your name.”
“My name? You know my name? Actually, that’s not too strange, haha.”
I shake my head.
A cat from a magical world knowing my name.
Who could possibly think this situation was strange?
My name shouldn’t be the only one it knew. There had to be many things about me that it knew.
Like if I was being transported a million light years away, my heart started to worry.
I was afraid of other people understanding.
Worried that someone would know who I am as a person.
That I wouldn’t have any secrets left to continue on living.
In this grotesque world of transparency, I was covering myself up with the guise of nothingness to blend in.
Like drinking from only one ladle’s worth of water from the Ruo River, I wanted to live detached in a real world of my own to live a life of enjoyment by myself.
For always, I’ve wanted to safeguard this desire of mine.
The bright moon hung overhead with the starry river flowing freely in the background.
I admit, I was drunk on the scenery and felt safe and sound where I was. This must be what Plato meant by the word ‘Utopia’.
But this Utopia felt a little too easy to devolve into an illusion.
“I like this name. Loris. Very nice. Having a name like that means to have a beautiful cat life. Or human life, if you will. A name is very important.”
Its eyes seemed like it was being illuminated brightly by the stars to stare sincerely at me.
What an interesting cat.
Had a name that much importance?
Would a different name lead to such a different type of life?
“That makes sense, but a name is only just a label. It’s an idea of who you are, but not what you really are.” I reply.
“No, not at all.” Its face drooped suddenly.
“If you have a nice name, it’ll have a slight ripple on your mind. You’ll feel that it reflects you as a person, and that you will have a wonderful self-identity of yourself. From the mind comes the identity, or maybe from the identity comes the mind. It’s not quite easy to explain.”
I see. So that’s what a name means to it, and why it cares so much about a name.
A name isn’t something a person chooses themself. It’s hard to get a name anyone can agree with.
Even if someone decides to change their name, everyone would still be too used to calling them by their old name. Even if the name is changed, there’s still something missing.
Scars are things that aren’t easy to get rid of. They happen. And they persist for the rest of one’s life.
The things that happen in life will forever persist in the mind of a person, perhaps like a trauma that completely changes the perspective of the person.
“Loris.” It smiled again when it called for me. “I’ll take you to Strawberry Heaven. You should feel nice and happy there. If you don’t, then it’s because you didn’t put yourself in the right place.”
“Okay. Then…how do we get there?”
“It’s simple. As long as you’ve the key, you can go. As it happens, I’ve the key. I can open the doors to Strawberry Heaven right now.”
A series of magic started to happen from the cat’s claws before a key appeared in its paws. It only felt like it was pulling for something, but the key had appeared from nowhere somehow.
But since the key was here now, that’s all that really mattered. If it existed, then it was.
The key was golden in color and sparkled in the light.
A beautiful key like this would definitely open the doors to the world I want. Definitely.
“I’ll be opening the door now. Ready?” The cat asked.
“Oh, actually. Ao Ao, are we really going to go, just like that? There’s no contracts?” I hurried to ask.
Wasn’t the expected situation to have the person undergo a laborious task or mission of some sort?
Humans are an enigmatic bunch. If there is happiness without a cost, they’d without fail feel skeptical at it.
Was it perhaps a trend for humans to wish to suffer?
“It’s that simple. Well then, let’s go!” The cat smiled.
The key in the cat’s hand exploded immediately in a cluster of magical light before the light take form in the shape of a starlit door.
Was this the door?
Ao Ao raised its claw and latched the key onto the door, freezing the door to a solid shape.
Then, it finally started to open.
I followed Ao Ao through the door.
It was tiny actually.
But through it was the dreamlike wonderland.
I felt my entire body freeze up at the sight. I might have imagined many different types of dreams like this before, but never did I ever imagine that it’d be more beautiful than I could ever imagine.
A giant pink castle towered over everything else with a gothic-styled spire at the top. All around the spire were pitch-black windows with black vine-ish markings like the vines of a strawberry engraved in the walls.
The castle’s reflection was beautifully recreated over the Swan Lake right in front of it even.
A boundless garden sat right besides the lake with thousands upon thousands of dark-green plants growing everywhere, flirting graciously with the wind when it blew.
A pure-white swing set was suspended halfway into the air, swaying gently as it waited for someone to ride it.
I had never seen such a sight before, but at last did such a beautiful sight appear right in front of me.
The more I looked, the more real it got.
But the more real it got, the more imaginary it became.
In a way, it was so real that it was fake.
I could hardly believe it, but it was real.
Right now, my heart was leaping with joy but my body was rigid-solid.
It didn’t know what to do but to do what it did.
So it waited for something to change.
Turning around, Ao Ao said to me, “Follow me, let’s go inside the castle.”
Almost silently, I replied and followed behind. My head turned around on the way to look at this and that.
It was beautiful, like art. The world that is. That’s the only way I could explain it.
Soon enough, the two gray doors to the castle slowly opened up for us.
“Let’s go in.”
Still following Ao Ao, I walk into the castle one step at a time.
A very giant hall was the first thing to be seen. Greenish-gray wooden planks were everywhere on the ground, and a fireplace that was still alive burned by itself in a corner. Overhead, crystal chandeliers illuminated the area from above.
From one end of the hall to the other, a long wooden table stood at its center with two rows of black high chairs spaced out evenly between each other.
All sorts of strange oil paintings were hung on the walls.
All around, I could smell the musky aroma of the wooden planks.
Only Ao Ao and I stood in the hall, and no one else.
“Is no one here?” I asked.