Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Whole Universe Surrenders"

This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from kestrels_nest, tigerbright, and lone_cat.  It also fills the "mind control" square in my 1-3-15 card for the Trope Bingo fest, and the "extortion" square in my 11-25-14 card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem touches on some sensitive issues.  Some of the warnings are spoilers; highlight to read them.  This includes a mysterious request for help, walking into an unknown situation, hazardous kittens, amoral youth, a very graphic very creepy-in-a-cute-way portrayal of mind control,  extortion, and other challenges.  A lot of this is cute and fluffy and funny, but under that is a very serious thread about the potential harm from telepaths too young to have self-control, especially when they are kittens with that feline assumption of superiority.  If this is touchy territory for you, consider your headspace before reading onward.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: tigerbright, lone_cat, thnidu, general fund, lilliane

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The Whole Universe Surrenders


Maze

I am pulling the weeds from
around the back steps when
Macavity sidles out from under
the black raspberries that grow
along the length of the fence.

There is a problem, he says,
and then more grudgingly,
I need your help.

"I'll do what I can," I offer.
"What seems to be the trouble?"

It would be easier to show you
than to tell you,
says the cat,
his orange tail waving as
he trots toward the sidewalk.

I grab my costume and change
as I hurry after him.


Ham

I nudge Maze out of the way
and take over, so that if the problem
turns out to be a fight of any kind,
I'll be ready for it.

I follow Macavity through campus,
keeping an eye out for trouble,
and also for traps because we might
be feeding him but he is still,
after all, a cat.

Instead of a brawl or an ambush,
though, we come upon a small crowd
of students crouched in the late spring grass.

Most of them are strangely motionless,
but a few of the ones in front are laying food
on the ground as if making some kind of offering.

Well, that's weird.

I drift closer, keeping to the edge
of the crowd, just in case whatever
holds them fast could pose some
kind of threat to us as well.

I catch a glimpse of fur --


Clement

Ohhh, kittens!

There are three of them --
one white, one orange,
and one brown tabby --
looking about eight
or nine weeks old.

The white kitten has
half a tunafish sandwich.
The orange one hunches, growling,
over a chicken leg bigger than herself.

The tabby pounces on a freshman
who makes no move to resist
as little paws bat imperiously
at his plastic lunchbox.

Moving as if mesmerized,
the young man bares his roast beef.

"Okay, that's enough of that,"
I say to the kittens, trying
to shoo them away from the students.

They turn their big blue eyes on me.

Ohhhh ... kittennnnnns!


Clarity

With a groan of frustration,
I haul Clement's limp body
away from Front, hoping that
he'll snap out of the trance
once he gets out of sight
from the hypnotic kittens.

Ham takes charge of Clement
and carries him toward the green door.

I let them go. I have smaller problems
to worry about now. Wrapping my
strongest mental shields around myself,
I settle carefully into Front.

With their superpowers rendered useless
against me, the kittens are just kittens,
adorable but too tiny to put up a fight.

I manage to catch all of them,
although I have to pry the orange one
out from under a senior's skirt.

"Would you care to explain this?"
I say to Macavity, who has
watched the entire show
without lifting a paw to help.

They are kittens, he says. I made them
with a beautiful queen this spring
.

"Well, that much is obvious," I say
as I stuff them down my blouse.
I don't have anywhere else to put them.
"So why are they rolling college students?"

They have to survive somehow,
he says as if it's perfectly reasonable
to use telepathy to manipulate and
rob people. Apparently cats don't tend
to come with the "mentally fastidious"
quality common to human telepaths. So I
taught them how to steal and beg for food
.

"You couldn't have stopped
the fuzzy little extortionists when they
went beyond snatching a few fallen scraps
and moved on to mugging people
for their entire lunch?" I say.

Actually, I cannot, he admits,
sounding sheepish now. I did try.
They seem able to resist me somehow
.

Wonderful. The powers of cute blink their eyes,
and the whole universe surrenders.

"Well, they can't stay here," I declare.
"Someone needs to take charge of them
and explain that this kind of behavior
is completely unacceptable."

It is for the best, Macavity says,
despite the usual aversion he has to
humans meddling with free-range cats.
I hope you can find a safe place for them.

I call the Onion City SPOON base, barely
waiting for Groundhog to announce himself.

"I have three telepathic kittens
confined in -- ow! -- my blouse,"
I explain, detailing the rest of
the issues as I try to detach their
wicked little claws from my bra.

"Kittens," he says on an odd note, and
whatever it is, I don't have time for this.

"Three of them, yes, and I need someone
resistant to mental influence who can
take them off my hands," I say.

"Mew," the orange kitten complains
into my vidwatch, scrabbling at my mind
with a wordless but insistent pressure.

"Sooner would be better than later," I say.

Within a few minutes, I hear the pop!
of a teleporter around the corner of
a nearby building, and a young man
jogs into view with a cat carrier.

"Hi, I'm Riposte," he says, holding out
his free hand for me to shake.

He feels perfectly ordinary, but
I trust Groundhog to send
the right person for the job.

"I'm Damask. Thank you for coming,"
I say as I shake hands. The white kitten
takes that opportunity to make
a break for freedom.

Riposte snags her and tucks her into
the cat carrier. "Be good," he says.

"I hope you can handle them," I say,
extracting the others one at a time.
I look around at their victims, who
are just starting to stir.

"I managed to keep my sister
from cribbing my homework
or conning me into giving up
all my Nagasaki Ninjettes comics,
said Riposte. "I think I can keep
on top of three kittens."

As soon as he has them all
secured in the carrier, he heads
back to his hidden teleporter
and I hear them pop away.

That finally jars the college students
back into action. "What happened
to the little kitties?" one girl wonders.

"They found a nice new home," I say,
checking to make sure that nobody has
taken harm from the unwanted contact.
"Now they won't need to steal food,
so you don't have to worry about them."

I add just a touch of my superpower
to nudge everyone back to their
ordinary routine, and watch them
scatter down the rambling paths.

Then I turn my attention inward
for a moment, and see that Clement
is back on his feet, peeking out of his
bedroom door to discover what's going on.

Outside, Macavity sniffs at the discarded drumstick,
picks it up, and disappears into the bushes.

He doesn't thank me, but at least he
asked for help when he needed it,
and from such an independent spirit,

that's enough for me.


* * *

Notes:

"To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."
-- Lao Tzu

Cats are commonly viewed as superior to humans, mystical, and sometimes downright mean.

See Macavity's kittens.  The white and orange ones are girls; the brown tabby is a boy.

Kittens are cute by evolutionary design, which enables them to take advantage of human nurturing instincts. Interestingly, this produces a positive effect on human concentration.  Add superpowers, and the ordinary appeal becomes genuinely hypnotic.

Cute tropes include Cute Kitten, Cute Is Evil, and Cuteness Proximity.  These kittens aren't exactly evil -- although what they're doing definitely violates people's mental integrity -- they're just so young their morals haven't grown in yet.  Also feline morality tends to be very different from human morality.

Ninjas are popular comic book characters.  They often appear in the wuxia genre.  Given Terramagne's recognition of superpowers, comic books there tend to feature other genres instead, although there are a few fictional examples along with the sensationalized ones of Whammy Lass and other historic figures.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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