Hamlet had lived a pretty boring life for a cat. Oh, there was the time he defended the home from the evil giant moth, and there was another day that he managed to frighten two squirrels and a chipmunk of the porch with his mighty, mighty roar, but all was in a days work for a cat of his stature.
It wasn’t until he was about a year old that he was told that his current kingdom was known as the “Foster Kingdom” and he was going to go to another Kingdom known as “Home.” It turned out that it was with a lovely old woman who placed him in a Kingdom with about 15 other cats, all varying in different shades and colors, but all with the similar purpose of defending this new Kingdom with their lives, and making sure they got plenty of rest along the way. He stood out because he was pure white, with one blue eye and one yellow eye. He had been told to some this meant he could see ghosts. He wasn’t quite sure what a “ghost” was, just that it was neither sleep, food, nor an intruder, so none of this matter to him. He just took his place upon the darkest couch cushion (as nature commanded him) and slept.
Yes, life was going to be good for Hamlet.
Sadly, the kind foodbringer who had taken him from his Foster Kingdom passed away, which Hamlet had been told by some of the other cats that this meant she got to sleep forever. Being a cat, Hamlet rather looked forward to the fact that he was going to be able to sleep forever one day, and not have to waste his time “not sleeping.” But it was then that he faced the horrible reality of being placed in a tiny cage, and taken from this Home Kingdom.
Hamlet wondered what was going to come next.
It was then that a nice looking gentleman picked up his tiny cage. He was thin looking, wearing a short sleeved shirt and generally looked as if he didn’t spend enough time worshiping sleep as Hamlet did. However, there was something extra calming about this man.
“Two different colored eyes, eh?” the man said, examining him.
“Yup. You gonna take him or not?” the other person said. While this one had brought him food, he was not as nice as the lady in the Home Kingdom.
The nice man glared, “What was your name again?”
The nice man looked up for a moment, “Ah, yes. You enjoy your next two years. I’m taking this one.”
Hamlet had learned that the man’s name was Izzy, and that he ran an establishment that needed cats. Special cats, like Hamlet because supposedly they were considered escorts for the dead. In reality they were just comforting to have around when being told the worst news of your.... well, life, and because they were able to move on so quickly when the dead moved on. Hamlet also suspected that Izzy was a cat person.
They also were also known to help on mystic quests, which is why when Mars asked for additional help, Izzy replied, “Grab a cat on your way out.”
Mars grabbed the first cat that didn’t immediately remind him of his own black cat, Captain Sisko, and instead grabbed the white one with two different colored eyes who’s collar bore the name, “Hamlet.” If the Angel of Death told you to do something, you did it. Which is why they found themselves crammed into Tyler’s car with a white cat actively seeking out the darkest surface to rub up against, on their way to gather supplies for the oncoming mission.
“New Orleans?” Tyler said, hands firmly gripped on the wheel, trying to avoid the cat rubbing against him. He was wearing a dark navy blue shirt. “We have work on Monday.”
“Well, work’s going to be cancelled due to a thousand years of darkness if we don’t stop Nicolas Cage from raising a demon and destroying the world,” Kaplan said.
“I still can’t believe that’s a phrase we can say, and it make sense to us,” Mars replied, pulling Hamlet off Tyler’s lap., “and why did Izzy tell us to grab a cat?”
“He had, like, 90 in there, dude,” Kaplan said, “he probably just wanted to get rid of him.”
Hamlet stared back as Kaplan spoke. This made him uneasy.
“So, what was the Angel of Death like?” Evie asked.
Mars and Kaplan were unsure of how to answer that. Yes, there was the fact that they had come face to face with the living embodiment of what happened to everyone one day. Yes, they had a real face to face conversation with the scariest thing imaginable. And he turned out to be kind of a nerd. But neither wanted to admit that the whole thing was anti-climatic. The realities of being the chosen ones were starting to make themselves abundantly clear.
“He was nice,” Mars said, stroking Hamlet’s fur and looking out the window and immediately wishing he hadn’t phrased it like that.
“Nice?” Elizabeth replied. Hamlet glared at her for a moment. She was wearing white, so she was currently not someone with whom he wished to associate. She squirmed in her seat a little.
“Yeah. As nice as the Angel of Death could be, I guess,” Kaplan replied, pulling out what everyone thought was a cigarette.
It wasn’t a cigarette.
“Nope. Nuh-uh. It’s bad enough you are all taking my car, but you are NOT smoking that in here,” Tyler said.
“I was going to share.”
“Besides, don’t you have Chosen One lungs to protect or something?”
“Are we there yet?” Kaplan muttered under his breath.
Tyler slammed on the brakes. Part of this was because they hadn’t left Northern Virginia just yet and traffic was still really bad. Part of it was to make a point.
“Look, I realize I was Angel adjacent when you all got your mystic quest, so I’m included, but you are NOT going to tell me what to do!” Tyler screamed. Traffic started, there was a honk, and Tyler pressed the gas again.
There was a moment of silence. Not really an awkward silence, because everyone had something to say, but more of a silence of a chance to take a break. It had been a long night so far. It had involved cats, finding out that Nicolas Cage was evil and Angels were real, and of course, the fact that two of the people in the car had to save the world. It was a breaking point for a lot of people.
“So... did you find out anything from the back of that piece of paper?” Evie finally broke the silence.
Truth was, Mars had been examining it for quite some time now, but didn’t find anything all that useful. The story was on there as he had explained it: sometime in 1995 Nicolas Cage, researching a role, had summoned a demon from the depths of a dimension similar to our own, but was more Hellish. Apparently everyone had a demon counterpart on that world, and this one was a reflection of a man named Jacob Whelan, an administrative assistant who lived just outside of Chicago in a townhouse he shared with four other people and regularly participated in his Live Action Role Playing Group as a Wizard. Because the whole Hell dimension was opposite of our own world, Demon Jacob Whelan was very evil, and quite surprised to be summoned by Nicolas Cage.
After a long chat, (and the movie he was researching dropped him and was re-written several more times to become Titanic) Nicolas Cage and Demon Jacob Whelan decided to turn their attention to world domination. Jacob Whelan promised that he could help make Nicolas Cage even MORE beloved, should he just follow some basic steps. Their first attempt to take over the world almost came when Demon Jacob Whelan, now acting as Nicolas Cage’s manager, sought to get him cast as Superman. It was only through the forward thinking action of Gabe and Raph that got the movie canned, but at the cost that they were now banned from actually interfering with Nicolas Cage’s career.
Unfortunately, this only caused a minor setback, and with the creation of the Cult of Cage, Demon Jacob Whelan was now on his way using Nicolas Cage to raise an army of demons to take over the planet. All they had to do was sacrifice Alice, Nicolas Cage’s personal assistant, on a pure fire in a cave that somehow existed under New Orleans, under the light of a full moon using a silver dagger stolen off the set of National Treasure 2. The document went to go on that the fact that the dagger was stolen off the set of National Treasure 2 wasn’t important, just that Gabe and Raph enjoyed name dropping since a lot of their surveillance was now done on Hollywood sets. It was also noted that Gabe was romantically attached to George Clooney for a time, but was forced to wipe everyone’s memory by the Home Office.
Mars explained all of this information to her again.
“George Clooney, huh?” Kaplan said, “ I could see that.
“I still can’t believe this is all happening. End of the world type stuff,” Evie said, thinking back to her problems with Mr. Cunningham earlier that day. She thought fondly of the temper tantrum he would throw when Tyler, Mars, and she didn’t show up for work on Monday.
Mars wanted to leave out what the rest of the paper said: that this sort of stuff was happening all the time. In fact, there was a good chance that someone else was out there, saving the world while Mars and Kaplan were tasked with trying to save this one.
Hamlet stood up for a moment and surveyed his surroundings, then lied back down on Mars’ pants, which being black where the darkest thing in the car and thus the best thing for him to sit on.
“That cat is seriously starting to creep me out,” Tyler said.
“You’re starting to creep me out,” Kaplan said, playing with the not cigarette in his hand.
“Look, we have a long road ahead of us, so let’s stop the bickering now,” Mars said.
“I’m just saying you should have let me get one of my swords,” Kaplan replied.
“We don’t need swords. We need to go and find a way to stop Nicolas Cage from raising his demon army, ok?”
“Which we could do, with a sword.”
“Do you even know how to use a sword?”
“He came in second in our comic book store’s annual fencing competition,” Elizabeth replied.
“How many people competed?” Mars dared to ask.
It was one of Kaplan’s proudest moments since graduating law school. He would have won, too, if at the last minute the guy he was facing off against hadn’t reflected sunlight back into his eyes, which was in clear violation. Kaplan made sure to add an asterick to the trophy every time he saw it.
“So, you wanted this guy who came in second to fight against a demon with a sword? And why do you have a sword?” Mars asked.
“I think it’s better if I just turn on the radio until we get to New Orleans,” Tyler replied, “we’ve only got 16 hours left.”
There was silence for a little bit. Around Tennessee, Kaplan tried making a lame pick up joke about Tennessee, but was silenced by Tyler turning up the radio as loud as he possibly could. It was around that time that things really started to go bad.
The first sign was when Hamlet started getting fidgety, and reminded everyone that they hadn’t eaten since the bar, and even that was a bit of a bust. After Elizabeth briefly suggesting they eat Hamlet, they decided it was time to pull off the road for a moment, stretch their legs, and find food that didn’t come out of a plastic container or came from something from a questionable gas station that Tyler insisted on filling up at. (“Local Color,” he called it.) With it being almost two in the morning, they had very few options on where exactly they could go for food, but Tyler insisted that he knew of a tiny place he’d heard about once that was open for 24 hours from a friend’s cousin roommate at a party once.
This brought them down the darkest road they’d ever seen.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea, man. You know this is almost a horror movie already, right?” Kaplan said.
“Look, I know where I’m going,” Tyler lied. He was tired of driving, he insisted he do it himself, and he just wanted to eat.
“Let’s go back to the main road, bud,” Mars said, “I think I saw a food sign a few miles back.”
“Fine,” Tyler replied, “We can go get your stupid food.”
It was about then that they heard the pop. Then the hissing. No one wanted to believe what just happened, least of which Tyler who knew his tires were being held together with hope for a while now, but didn’t think he’d be driving four people and a cat down to New Orleans. He kept pushing the gas pedal in defiance, but his car had clearly given up. The dashboard started lighting up.
“So, Tyler,” Mars said, “Just so we’re all clear, we all saw that coming, right?”