Prompt: A bee with majestic knees and a cat that wears only pajamas fight crime together.
The cat was taking the sort of nap that only cats can take, in the heights of a tree, shaded by its branches. The tree was one of the only ones around, for the cat and the tree lived in Headspace: a place mostly empty. What wasn’t empty was the small opening between two buttons on the cat’s pajamas. Out of that opening flew a beautiful bee with extraordinary knees.
She buzzed around the cat’s nose, trying to rouse her best friend, but he just purred and rolled over. The bee was all abuzz because she had a feeling about that day. It wouldn’t be a good day, but it would be an eventful one, which was rare in Headspace. The humans that accidentally made their home out of thoughts and yawns never utilized their minds as frequently as they could.
It was only the barking of a dog, at the base of the tree, that roused the cat. It was lucky, because the dog moved on as soon as he realized he had the wrong one. It had to be one of the other trees he was supposed to bark up. The bee was about to mention her feeling, the bristling in all her little hairs, but the cause of it all made itself apparent as it flew overhead in a dark swarm.
The cat in pajamas rushed to the highest branch and stuck his head out, the bee safely resting in his ear. The swarm sure was unusual. Each piece was a blob of shifting colors and chirping noises. They didn’t make a lot of sense, but they emanated a strange power. Something in the midst of them was giving them strength. The swarm descended on the tree and began to devour it!
“The nerve!” The bee buzzed in the cat’s ear as he jumped down just in time to avoid the collapse of their branch. “Who do they think they are? God’s gift to Headspace?” She shook a tiny claw in their direction, but it was all for show. The cat knew she was deeply afraid. That was the best tree. They’d earned it with all their hard work. So many memories of washing off gallons of elbow grease.
Fine. If they would have to put their noses back to the grindstone, then so be it. The grindstone was right there next to the tree, so the bee and the cat went to it, gently pressing their faces to it until they felt invigorated. Then the cat, after the bee politely turned around, wriggled out of its pajamas and reversed them. The other side had an adorable sheriff theme, complete with stitched tin star. They were ready to fight a little more crime in Headspace.
Unfortunately, they quickly learned this threat could not be fought in the traditional manner. The swarm’s power was too great. Already their tree was just a stump, and they had moved on to the grindstone itself. They seemed to take particular joy in eating that; hard work offended them.
If the bee and the cat were going to fight this threat, they would need a little wisdom on their side. They needed to understand the enemy. There was one place in Headspace where they could go to find understanding. Many didn’t know the direction, but the bee and the cat did. It was just past the the fluffy floodplains, where it rained cats and dogs. That was easy enough to navigate as well, as the cat in pajamas had been born there, popped right out of a bit of nothing in the sky along with the dog that kept barking up the wrong trees.
They found the place, and it was far from abandoned. All sorts of others hung about, whining and yelling about the terrors of the swarms. Apparently there was more than just the one, and they were eating things out of Headspace at a catastrophic rate. The bee and the cat weaved between the legs of the others, searching out one great mind in particular. They had to be there, because all great minds think alike. That was how they always found this special place.
The mind they searched for was lounging in a haystack, not particularly worried about anything, not even the needle in there somewhere. Something about him was different today. He looked a little… bloated? The cat cocked his head to get a better look, but that was when the devil’s advocate noticed them and sat up in his haystack.
“Well well,” he said, twirling his thin mustache and eyeing them. All the other great minds turned in their direction as soon as the advocate spoke. “If it isn’t the cat’s pajamas and the bee’s knees! Come to give us your two cents on this matter?” The cat glanced into the pocket on his thigh, just to make sure his two cents were still there. Something was up with the advocate. There was a croak to his words.
“We want to know what those nasty things are!” the bee buzzed, rising high into the air. She made sure to show off her luxurious bountiful knees so that all the great minds would keep paying attention. Some of them seconded her opinion and applauded. The advocate rose and held up his hands to calm them. He’d always been the most rational of the great minds, always considering every angle on a problem, every viewpoint.
“Calm down you idioms!” he told them. He tried to clear his throat, but it just brought a tear to his eye. “I know what these swarms are. They have been a long time coming. They are not the wordplay we’re used to. They’re a little rowdier. They like to eat up pictures and things and make them part of the swarm. It’s just like you or I or the people out there having children. They just like to grow their family. They… are memes.”
Everyone gasped. Something about the word left a bad taste in their mouths. Hearing their name clarified things for the bee and the cat a little bit. Suddenly they remembered what some of the individual pieces of the swarm looked like. Tiny faces, most of them. Faces trying to eat up all sorts of meaning, but never embodying it. They just absorbed it. They’d done it to the tree and the grindstone, and all of them were next.
“How can you be so calm?” the cat asked, voice nearly a hiss. “They’re going to end us! We’re going to be nothing but babbling faces, our quirks turned to mere propagation!” More applause. The advocate grimaced. The bulbous lump in his throat jiggled up and down in his throat. The cat’s eyes narrowed.
“Relax. The transition won’t be so bad. Being a meme is very unifying, I assure you. Why do you need meaning when you can be endlessly altered to fit into a situation! You will always belong because we won’t need to stand in any particular spot in this wasteland we call Headspace! So rejoice!”
The bee and the cat looked to each other. This all sounded fishy. No, not fishy. Something else. Another idiom of an animal. They looked around. Eventually the devil’s advocate would convince all the other great minds that the memes were a good thing, but the cat, while in that configuration of pajamas, was the law. They couldn’t watch this ceaseless destruction and willingly join in.
There was one thing next to the haystack they could use: an old friend of the grindstone that would surely be on their side. It was a lantern full of midnight oil. It was alight, because the darkness of Headspace’s sleep would arrive soon. If it did they wouldn’t even see the swarms coming. The bee tapped one of her feet on the cat’s forehead. They were in agreement. She would act as distraction, while he went for the oil.
While the devil’s advocate blathered on, the bee jetted straight to his nose and stung it, forcing him to flail. The cat grabbed the lantern in his mouth, scaled the advocate with his claws, and angled it so the burning oil poured down his throat.
The advocate burbled and sputtered. He could handle the heat, he did speak with devils after all, but the lump in his throat could not. It hopped out, croaking madly. The frog that was, moments ago, lodged in his throat, flailed and died from its burns on the ground.
“Thank you!” the devil’s advocate said with a gasp as he gripped his throat and collapsed back into the hay. “It’s a meme! It’s an idiom, but it’s also a meme! That’s how he got to me!” The frog’s corpse was a strange thing indeed: thick lips and fleshy eyelids. Whatever this hybrid was, it had taken advantage of the advocate’s open-mindedness.
This was only the beginning. The memes were insidious, but the idioms would have to fight back. Otherwise, Headspace would become nothing but a flurry of noise and deception.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by emilbee during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!