Uncle Fred left the door open again while he was bringing his Diet Pepsi into the house. Buster looked up at him, wondering if it was going to be Time for Cuddles pretty soon, and he followed him out to get the next 12 pack, meowing loudly to get Uncle Fred’s attention. Uncle Fred was too busy thinking about Work and Money and other Ugly Things to notice his cat under his feet. Buster dodged out of the way when Uncle Fred stepped into the house again. He wasn’t quick enough to get into the house before the door closed. He meowed again. He scratched at the door. It stayed shut. And that was when the white rabbit hopped past.
Buster chased him instantly. In another minute, they were beyond the light of the carport, and running across the street in the darkness. They got to the construction site, and the rabbit stopped, turned around, looked at Buster, who was now crouched to pounce, and the bunny twitched its little nose twice, and then bolted toward a freshly dug hole between the tractors and cranes and bulldozers.
In another moment, the rabbit was gone, and Buster sniffed the air, swished his tail, and crept toward the hole. He stopped when he heard Uncle Fred’s voice calling out, “Buster! Buster Brown! Time to come in.”
Buster took a step in the direction of Fred’s voice, but the bunny poked his ears out of the hole and made a rude noise. Buster turned back, the bunny twitched his nose again, and Buster plunged into the hole after the Rabbit.
He stepped through a pair of oak trees, and Buster saw deep greens for the first time. Even the water in the pond made by the waterfall was glowing greenly. The rabbit was nowhere to be found. Buster looked behind him, and saw nothing but a long path leading into more trees.
He stepped forward, and he suddenly jumped backward when hooves came trotting into him. Missing him by less than an inch, the hooves skidded in the dirt and then stopped. Buster heard a royal voice above him.
“I beg your pardon, sir. I didn’t see you there.”
Buster looked up at a golden horn that seemed to be staring down at him. Then he watched the legs kneel, and in a moment, a beautiful unicorn was looking the kitty in the eyes.
“I offer my humblest apologies.” Buster stared. “I am Sir Eustace of Brackenstall.” Buster closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again. Eustace smiled. “Well, I love you, too Kitty Cat.” Eustace reached up to the tree nearest them, and started eating an apple. In a couple of bites he finished it, and then looked down to Buster again. “You can speak, you know.”
Buster licked his paws and then looked up. “I’m not supposed to.”
“Who told you that?”
“I don’t know. I just always knew it.”
“Doesn’t anyone talk to you?”
“Sure, they do. Uncle Fred tells me I’m a good boy, and calls me quite a few different names. Kitty – Cat – A – Kitty seems to be his favorite.”
“Do you have a name of your own?”
“They named me Buster. That’s not my real name, of course.”
“What, then, is your real name, if you please?”
And then Buster smiled, and he let loose with a purr, that became a meow, that became these words: “And that is the name that you never will guess; The name that no human research can discover—But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.”
Eustace nodded. “Are you a poet?”
“No.” Buster sniffed the air. “But Uncle Fred reads me poetry like that.”
Eustace stared thoughtfully. “How do you happen to be in The Enchanted Wood?”
Buster stopped sniffing and looked at Eustace. “Is that where I am?”
“It’s certainly enough where I am, and you’re certainly enough near me, so it’s certainly enough a reasonable guess you’re certainly enough Here… in The Enchanted Wood. It’s the Capital City of the Imagine Nation.”
Buster looked around the Wood. “There was a rabbit I needed to catch.”
“It’s what Kitty Cats do. We catch things. Sometimes we eat them.”
Eustace looked sad. “I think Boris would be unhappy if you ate him.”
“They don’t usually have names.”
“Everything has a name. But, like yours, they’re often hidden. Except here. In The Enchanted Wood, Everything is True.”
Buster nodded, thoughtfully. “In my world, very little is True.”
“Then, perhaps,” said Eustace, “you would be better staying here. Truth, as you can see around you, is quite beautiful.”
“I believe I would miss my family.”
“I have a family. Would you like to meet my daughter?”
Eustace led Buster through the forest until they came to a clearing. There was a baby unicorn there, but she wasn’t alone. A little human girl was sitting under a tree reading a book.
The little unicorn approached the little girl slowly, trying to be sure not to frighten her. The little girl wasn’t frightened, though. She looked up from her book. “Hello, there,” she said pointing to its pink and purple horn. “You’re a unicorn, aren’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“You’re the way I imagined you in my book. Do you have a name?”
The unicorn bowed its little head. “I’m Marigold. Have you a name?”
“I’m Alyssa.” She smiled at the woman reading the book to her granddaughter. The woman reading kissed her granddaughter’s head. Then, the granddaughter looked at her kitties.
Then the grandma and the granddaughter waved to the man writing the story by candlelight.
He waved back, and they all returned to Marigold and Alyssa who were being watched carefully by Buster and Eustace.
Eustace turned to Buster to speak, just as Marigold spoke to Alyssa. They both asked, “How did you get here?”
Buster said, “I followed the bunny rabbit. It was an accident.”
Alyssa said, “I imagined myself here.”
Marigold started out into the pond. She hopped gingerly from one stone to the next, and she got farther and farther out. “I have a friend you should meet.” And with that, she tripped and fell off the next stone, and tumbled into the water.
Buster bounded to the water’s edge. He skidded to a halt just before he got wet. “I don’t know how to swim.”
“I do,” said Alyssa, “but I imagine she’ll be all right. It was an accident.”
In that moment a big green fish’s tail appeared from under the water, and then dropped into it again with a loud SPLASH! All three watched for a moment. The water was still. The birds in the trees stopped singing. The wind came to a halt. Nothing moved. After a full minute, Buster went to Alyssa.
“Do you think,” he purred, “you ought to go save -”
And then it was as if the water began to boil. Big white and blue bubbles grew and then popped in the pond. White water flew high in the air, bursting like fireworks, and then from beneath it, a girl’s turquoise blue hair sparkled in the the sunlight. A pink horn glowed right beneath it.
“There they are,” said Alyssa. “Just like I imagined they would be.”
When the water fell, the Mermaid and the unicorn hovered in the air a moment before they floated gently to a rock beneath them. Marigold licked the Mermaid’s cheek. “Thank you, Aurora.”
Aurora smiled, but said nothing. Marigold leapt back to shore skipping from stone to stone. She went to stand by her friends.
“Aurora, I would like you to meet my friends and family. This is Alyssa, and Buster, and my father, Sir Eustace.”
Aurora looked at them and nodded silently. As the moon rose, they could all see a beautiful castle rising behind her in the distance.
“What’s in that castle?” asked Buster.
“That has to wait until next time,” yawned Alyssa. “I’m tired and I have to go to sleep pretty soon. But you’ll all be right here when I imagine you in my books or in my dreams again. And, Buster, Uncle Fred is looking for you. You better go give him some cuddles.”
“How do I get back?”
“I imagine you’ll find a way,” said Alyssa.
Buster’s world went dark for a moment, and then he found himself stepping out of the mirror behind Uncle Fred’s bed. He sighed, crawled up on his old friend, and looked behind him. His new friends disappeared, but he knew he would see them again.
Until then, it would be enough for The Kitty to sleep and know he’s loved. Maybe you should try that too.