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๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐— ๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—˜๐˜…๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ช๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ ๐— ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—•๐˜‚๐˜๐˜๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ป๐˜ช๐˜ฆ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ด

Mr. Buttons is being especially demanding in his requests for affection today. He meows piteously for pats, flings himself in front of the feet of his human fathers, rolls over and shows his belly in a desperate plea for scritches.

His fathers are charmed and amused. They chatter at him in their nonsense tongue, cooing and burbling his bevy of nicknames: what a silly boy he is, how nonsensically needy, how empty his head must be! All said, of course, with the utmost affection.

Mr. Buttons doesnโ€™t mind their assumptions; heโ€™s happy to roll and purr and play the fool for them. Theyโ€™re good men, an excellent and attentive little clowder, and if he doesnโ€™t return then he wants their final memories of him to be fond ones. No need for them to worry that he was unhappy or suffering in their care.

Not all the portals are hidden away in wardrobes and looking glasses. Mr. Buttons keeps a very nice one at the back of his fathersโ€™ closet behind a most burdensome blue suitcase. On the other side he is a noble creature, an eloquent and powerful wizard, one of the most trusted advisors to the kindly Autumn Queen. It is a good life, even if no one ever rolls rattling balls for his amusement, and he is called now to defend it. A war is brewing with the Forest Folk, the crafty bandit squirrels and their dread allies the crows, and though Mr. Buttons still has a few lives left to spare, heโ€™s afraid that he may have to give them all for his Queen.

So he spends an evening making a nuisance of himself, shrieking when soft hands cease to pet, lapping up their attention. When enough is enough and the humans have gone to bed, he slips into the closet and into a world away.

The war is long and bloody. In its second year the Forest Folk strike a devastating deal with the stink bugs and gain their help terrorizing the Queenโ€™s forces to ruinous effect. Battles are lost, sacrifices are made, friends are mourned. It is his duty to maintain the spells that protect the kingdomโ€™s borders, and to offer his counsel to all the knights and warriors. Mr. Buttons thinks longingly of his other home, the one where no one asks anything of him but the occasional glimpse at his precious toe beans.

Seven years pass before peace comes again. The Queenโ€™s forces could not have won without persuading the unicorns to their cause, and Mr. Buttons is duly thanked for his role in the negotiations. He holds his head high throughout the victory feast, doing what is expected of a creature of his station until the performance of celebration is over at last. Then he bids the Autumn Queen farewell and begins to walk, out of the castle and away from the city. There is a place in the woods that he has zealously guarded all throughout the war: the hollow tree where his portal hides.

He emerges in the closet behind that burdensome blue suitcase and steps into a dawn-lit room. By his calculations heโ€™s been gone for all of the night, the longest heโ€™s ever stayed away. He suspects this is not enough to worry his fathers, given that humans are exceptionally unobservant, but he worries about what might have happened if they went looking for him in the night, knowing how they worry even when he only disappears to sleep beneath the sofa. Luckily they are fast asleep in their bed, Mr. Buttonsโ€™ spot beside the pillows most considerately left open. He feels a flutter of affection and resolves to show them his appreciation by knocking his least favorite painting off the wall again. One of these days they will take his helpful hint and stop hanging it back up.

Mr. Buttons reclaims his rightful place on the bed, where he will slumber for most of the following day. His fathers will like that, scratching his belly and sighing over his little paws, exclaiming fondly when he snores. They will ask in jest what he has done thatโ€™s made him so tired, and he will purr to know that they are none the wiser. โœฆ


Makenzie Marts is a Midwestern gender oddity who enjoys baking, scented candles, and Dungeons & Dragons. All proceeds from their work go to supporting the decadent lifestyle of their cat, Charles.


Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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