Cursing under his breath, Dex Dogtective clutched his bleeding side and ran limping through the darkened streets of Marketropolis.
It was night. It was always night now.
The avenues of Marketroplis had once been filled to bursting with light and colour, the sounds of singing and laughter and the wholesome smell of high-quality brand name products. Now the city was cloaked in perpetual shadow and silence. It was a desperate kind of silence, stretched taut to breaking point. The kind of silence that comes just before the scream.
Dex tried to put the thought out of his mind and focused on the pain under his paw, a red-hot spider’s web of agony that flared with every breath. He wanted to stop running but he couldn’t. Not here. Still too close to Mouse territory.
Dex’s lip curled back in a snarl of impotent rage. Mouse territory. As if the whole damn city wasn’t his territory. As if he hadn’t already won.
Halfway down the cereal aisle the pain finally became too much and Dex almost passed out. Keep it together, he told himself. Go to sleep here and you might not wake up again. Gotta keep going, boy. Gotta keep going. Who’s a good boy? You are. You are. Yes you are.
After what felt like an eternity, the Copa Banana finally staggered into view. Dex threw himself against the door and knocked his fist against the wood until his strength finally failed.
“Who is it?” a husky, suspicious voice barked from behind the door.
“It’s Dex…” he wheezed “Lemme in Lola…”
“What’s the password?”
That was not the password, but thankfully Lola Fruitola opened the door and caught him before he hit the ground.
“Dex? Dex can you hear me?!”
Dex was gone, dreaming of a better time, and a girl with blue eyes and cat ears and a sunshine smile.
It warms my heart the way you love my raisins, tough guy…
Dex prayed to the gods of commerce and branding that he would never wake up.
When he finally came to, he was lying on the bar of the Copa Banana, a bar stool pillow under his head and a Band-Aid plaster on his side.
“How you feelin’ hon?” Lola asked, her usually brusque voice soft with concern.
“Like damaged goods.” Dex hissed as he painfully sat up and looked around the darkened nightclub. It was empty, except for him and Lola.
“Where is everyone?” he yelped.
Lola refused to meet his gaze.
“Lola? Lola where is everyone!?”
“You’re the only one who made it back, Dex.” Lola said softly.
The bar seemed to melt beneath him and Dex felt like he was in free fall. No. No, it was impossible. He couldn’t have been the only one to survive. He had stood his ground and faced that thing just to buy everyone enough time to get out once it became clear the assault was a fiasco. It couldn’t have been for nothing.
He couldn’t be…
He couldn’t be the only one left.
“Dex.” Lola whispered “What are we going to do?”
Nothing. There was nothing they could do. Their assault on the Black Mouse’s citadel had been their last roll of the dice. Every surviving Ike had followed him into that nightmare and he was the only one to crawl back out.
That was it. It was over. The store was closing. Take your items to the checkout. Have a nice day.
What are we going to do?
Dex’s eye fell on Lola’s shotgun where she had left it resting on one of the bar tables. Nothing left to do but make it quick. Damned if he was going to let the Black Mouse have the satisfaction.
Before he could even stretch out his paw to grab the gun there was a knock at the door.
Lola and Dex glanced at each other in shock. Who…?
“Ms Fruitola?” came a familiar, high-pitched whine “I don’t mean to be rude, but we really would like to come inside.”
Oh great, thought Dex. Only three Ikes still alive in the entire city and one of them had to be Cheazel T. Fucking Weasel. Lola didn’t even bother to ask for the password (no one could imitate that shrill simper) and threw the door open. Cheazel stood in the doorway, that weak, sickly smile of his plastered to his face as always, and under his…
Dex felt a rush of something he had though he could no longer feel: joy.
“Dan? DAN!” Dex barked gleefully. The small chocolate squirrel gave Dex a weary smile.
“Hey Dex.” he whispered “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like shit…”
“That’s rich, coming from you.” Dex laughed and then he froze as Weasel and Lola gently ushered Dan into the bar and he finally got a look at his friend.
“Oh…oh Dan…” Dex murmured.
Half of Dan’s face, and his right arm had been completely melted.
“Ah, don’t worry about it.” Dan wheezed “You….you should see…the…the…other…guy….”
“Easy! Easy!” Lola exclaimed as Dan’s strength gave out.
They laid him on the bar and tried to make him comfortable.
“You gotta help him Lola.” Dex said “You gotta help him.”
Lola said nothing, but the look she gave him was enough: I’m not a miracle worker. And he needs a miracle.
Dex staggered back. His best friend was going to die and he couldn’t save him.
“Dex, my good friend.”
Cheasel was tugging at his elbow but Dex didn’t even feel it. Dan was going to die and there was nothing he could do. Just like Maximillius.
Just like Polar Penguin.
Just like Charlie Tuna.
And Mr Clean.
And Mrs Buttersworth.
And Admiral Crunch.
“Dex.” Cheasel insisted “I believe it would be highly advisable to begin plotting our escape. We gave it a good try, no question but the better part of discretion, after all, is valour…”
Escape. Wait a minute.
“Just how did you get out of the Mouse’s citadel, Cheasel?” Dex growled.
“Ah.” Cheasel licked his lips nervously “Well, you see, I was able to make a speedy getaway into the sewer system. I emerged nearby and found our chocolately friend their staggering and nearly dead so, I thought “Cheasel? The time has come to prove yourself a he…”
The weasel stopped in mid-sentence. Lola and Dan both froze.
They all felt it.
Something was standing outside the Copa Banana. It had cast its shadow on them.
And the fact that they could feel it told them exactly what that thing was.
“Come now creatures.” came a voice “The game is ended. I shall have my prize.”
Dex saw red, the bright red of the Coca Cola logo and wrapped his paws around Cheasel’s throat.
“You son of an itch!” Dex growled “You sold us out!”
“Noooo!” Cheasel wheezed “I swear! Dex! Deeeeex….”
His eyes bulged as he feebly tried to claw open Dex’s grip but the dogtective held on like an iron vice.
How long had he wanted to do this? How long had he dreamed about squeezing the life out of this pathetic little sycophantic mustelid?
“Dex. Let him go.”
Dan was trying to talk him out of it. Being the good friend. The better part of his nature. But it was too late for that now. What was the point in listening to your better angels when the devil was already outside your door?
“Dex…he didn’t sell us out.”
“Of course he did.” Dex growled.
Cheasel had gone limp in his hands, his skin blue beneath his fur.
“He lies. And he steals. And he cheats. And it ends now.” Dex said.
“Not this time Dex.” said Dan “He didn’t…he didn’t sell us out. I did.”
Cheasel fell unconscious to the floor. Dex turned to look at Dan’s half melted face.
“I’m sorry Dex.”
Everything was swimming. Dex felt like he was going crazy.
“But…but why? You? You?!”
“Because I want this to end.” said Dan simply “Because I can’t do this anymore. Because we can’t win. Because he hurt me until I said yes. Because…”
There was a bang and Dan’s head exploded, covering the bar in delicious chocolate.
Dex spun around to see a stoney-faced Lola, the still smoking shotgun raised in her hands.
This wasn’t happening, Dex thought. This couldn’t be real.
The door of the Copa Banana splintered and cracked like scabbed over skin and then it was gone and a figure stood silhouetted in the doorway.
Black as the absence of light itself.
Three perfect circles for a head.
Little red pants and yellow boots.
The Black Mouse.
“You are the last.” the creature said “Now. Death.”
Dex fell to his knees. Lola dropped the gun because holding it in the Mouse’s presence would only ensure she died first. Cheazel looked as if he was trying to slink away, while knowing that there was nowhere to go, and nowhere to hide.
The Black Mouse raised his hand.
Here it comes, thought Dex. He closed his eyes and he felt such sweet relief.
But death did not come.
Suddenly there was a flash of blue, a terrible shriek that Dex would remember for as long as he lived, would wake up pale and sweating in bed with it ringing in his ears.
Dex opened his eyes. The body of the Black Mouse lay on the ground in front of him, thick grey smoke emanating from the gaping hole in its neck where it’s head had been. The head itself had been flung through the air and landed on one of the bar tables that was rapidly disintegrating as foul ichor bled onto it from the stump of the neck. And standing over the Mouse’s body was…a cat?
He couldn’t be sure, it was as if there was some glamour over the figure that ensured he couldn’t look at it for more than a split-second, it was enveloped in a blue crackling haze, somewhere between mist and lightning. But there was definitely something…feline about it.
“You…you killed him.” said Dex.
“Hmmmmmm?” said the figure.
“You…you killed Mickey Mouse!” Dex yelped, and the words still felt forbidden and lethal, even now.
“Yes.” the blue figure replied “I’m a cat. We kill mice. That’s what we do. Oh, speaking of.”
The figure turned to look at Dex and he flinched. Despite it’s seemingly calm manner, there was something rage-filled about this weird blue cat person. He could sense anger, nameless, terrible, bottomless fury. He got the distinct impression that his life hung very much in the balance, and one wrong move could be deadly.
“I’m looking for another mouse. A little one. Furry. Weak. Cowardly. And a mustachioed bastard. Have you seen them.”
“Yes. Yes!” said Dex “The Mustache Man! He was the twin of our master! The one who created this world! He came and he summoned the Black Mouse and turned our world into a living hell! And the little mouse was with him! They left together! I’m sure of it!”
“Goooooood.” said the cat “I’m on their trail now. It won’t be long.”
“Why are you looking for them?” Dex asked “Are you going to kill them?”
He hoped so. Oh, how he hoped so.
“No.” said the cat “Death…death is too small a word.”
And with that, he was gone in an azure flash.
BluCatt left the dead world behind and flew through the innumerable worlds of the multiverse in pursuit of his quarry. And his progress did not go unnoticed. How could it? His rage was the very fuel that propelled him across universe after universe and every psychic and mystic, telepath, empath and sorcerer of even the most meagre power felt his passing and heard the relentless drumbeat of his rage.
BluCatt is coming, BluCatt is coming, BluCatt is coming…
And they cowered, those great and powerful beings, those shapers of minds and whole worlds. They cowered, and thanked whatever gods they owed allegiance when BluCatt passed them over. One thing was certain. Whoever BluCatt was looking for, it would be better if they had never been born.
And in one world, deep beneath DisneyLand, in a secret chamber hollowed out in the earth, a certain sorcerer of most un-meagre power felt BluCatt’s approach from a thousand dimension away and knew that his greatest sin had at last caught up with him.