In the middle of the night, when the room was quiet and the kittens were slumbering in a heap, Holly’s ear twitched twice, and he opened an eye. “Hal…leave me alone..” he mumbled. There was no answer. He opened his other eye and lifted his head and saw, to his surprise, that his brother was fast asleep. Holly rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes, but found he was unable to go back to sleep. He tried using his brother Jarvis as a pillow, then he tried using his brother Eddie as a pillow then he tried turning round and round to find a more comfortable spot on the blanket. One rotation, two rotations, three…and he suddenly found himself staring, at point blank range, into a pair of blue, saucer eyes. He blinked. Above the eyes there were furry ears. Below the eyes there was a leathery nose and the neat, white whiskers of a kitten – a kitten he had never seen. “Hello” said the kitten. Bewildered, Holly looked over to where his brothers lay asleep. He counted. Hal, Eddie, Jarvis…they were all there. “Who are you? Have you just got here? Did they bring you in a box?” he asked.
Holly heard a sound like a tinkling bell as the new kitten laughed. “No.” she said, “I’ve been here lots of times.” “Why haven’t I ever seen you then?” Holly demanded, but the kitten was off, scampering across the floor in pursuit of a pink soccer ball. “Play with me!” she called, from the other side of the room, and swatted the ball at Holly. Half-heartedly, still a little baffled, he batted it back, but the strange kitten was no longer there to receive it. “Whaaaaa…Chickenfish!” She dived into Chickenfish, paws outstretched, and ran round and round the room with the toy wrapped round her waist like a corset, giggling all the way. Suddenly, she was in front of him again. “Don’t you want to play with me?” she said, sounding a little sad. Holly put his head on one side. “OK, but you’ve got to tell me who you are and what you’re doing here.” “I just want to play.” she said. “Let’s have a game, then I’ll tell you where I come from”.
So, the two kittens played. They rushed around the room, they dived in and out of Fishbed, they swarmed up and down the Tardis, they pounced on the mice, they pounced on each other, they wrestled, bit and bunnykicked and they had a fine old time. All the while, the little kitten giggled and squealed in delight and the room seemed to be filled with the sound of babbling streams and birdsong and the scent of meadows in the summer. And Holly’s brothers slept on, undisturbed. Finally exhausted, the two kittens flopped down in the middle of the floor. The strange kitten began to vigorously wash her paws. “You promised…” said Holly.
She stopped mid lick, back foot still stuck up in the air. “OK”, she said. She stood up and walked towards the window. “Come over here. Look out there, and tell me what you can see.” Holly sat up on his back feet and craned his neck as far as he was able. He had never really noticed the window, nor what lay beyond it before. His whole world up to that point had been the cosy room, his family and games of chase and tag with his brothers among the toys and towers. Stretched up as high as he could go, he saw the expanse of black behind the glass, and the million tiny, sparkling jewels strewn across it. He drew in his breath. “It’s beautiful,” he whispered. “It’s where I live.” said the little kitten. “I’ve waved to you before, but you’ve never noticed me….you’re it!” She whapped him on the nose and bounced off across the room. Unable to resist his exuberant new playmate, Holly gave chase. She was fast and she was agile. She swerved, turned, span and doubled back and, however hard Holly tried, he was unable to catch her. She stopped suddenly and hunkered down flat on the floor, front paws splayed out, claws extended, her tail lashing. Her huge eyes sparkled with joy. “Now I chase you!” she squeaked, and off they both went again..up the towers, through the tubes, crashing side-on into the fences….
”Holly, what are you doing?” his mother’s head appeared above the rim of The Enterprise. He stopped in his tracks and sat down. “We were just playing..” he replied. “We?” Holly looked around and was surprised to find himself alone. The room suddenly seemed very empty and very silent. Holly’s eyes filled with tears. “Where did she go?” he wailed.
Glados hopped down from the tower and sat beside her smallest son. “She went home,” she told him. “That’s all.”
“So you saw her?” Glados nodded. “She said she lived up there…how can she live up there?” asked Holly, gazing through the window.
“Well, you’re probably a little young to understand all this, but we cats believe that we live on earth nine times. There is no way to predict how those lives will be…some may be long, some short, some difficult, and some comfortable. When those lives come to an end, as they all do, we cross over a huge bridge to a happy place full of soft beds, good food and good companions, until our time comes to return to earth once again.”
“Are there games and toys?” asked Holly,
“Yes, there are games and toys too. At night, we can look down on our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters and see the whole of the earth laid out below us like a huge carpet, and our eyes are visible to those down here as stars in the night sky. Sometimes, earthly lives are cut very short. Nobody knows the reason, it is just the way of things, so some of the stars you see in the sky are the eyes of kittens, no older than yourself. And, as you know only too well, sometimes kittens don’t do what they’re supposed to, and some like to come back to earth to find new friends. This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a very strong-willed kitten will defy the rules and come down in search of a friend whose will is as strong as theirs, for only the toughest and bravest will be able to see them and not be frightened.”
“I wasn’t frightened” said Holly
“Then you are, indeed, the toughest and bravest of kittens”, said Glados, smiling.
“But I’m sad for her” said Holly, his eyes filling up again. “She never got to play in the rings or in the Tardis or to go to sleep in the Chickenfish or to lay upside down in the big hands and play with the mousies, or…”
“Shhh…” Glados booped his nose. “There’s no need to be sad, little one,” she said, nodding towards the star-filled sky. “Look at how many friends she has up there…” Holly tried to count them, but got lost after five. “…and now she has you, too.”
“Will she come to play again?” Holly began to brighten. “I’m certain she will, sweetheart” said his mother. “Look, she’s saying good night to you.” Against the dark sky, one star sparkled brighter than the others. It shimmered, it glittered, it winked three times, then it faded. “Now, come and lay down with me and get some sleep”.
Holly laid down, his back against his mother’s stomach. She reached round and licked her little boy’s ear, “Goodnight, Holly,” she whispered. As Holly drifted into sleep, he thought he heard the tinkling of a tiny bell in the distance.
“I like Holly,” said the kitten, “we had fun.”
“I told you you would,” said Glados. “and I promised him you’d come again”
“I will.” she said. “Ummm….before I go, can I snuggle with you for a little while?”
Glados reached out with her paw and drew the little kitten towards her until she lay, a warm, purring bundle, tucked against her chest. She licked the little woolly ears affectionately.
“Goodnight, Honey” she whispered, and closed her eyes.