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Today is Better

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One night, when the stars lit the sky in a beautiful display of sparkling lights, a lonely little boy sat. He gazed up at the pretty display, fiddling with a large piece of meat.

The little boy was alone, but that wasn't anything new. He had gotten used to his mama and papa being away, so the boy took his time to enjoy the world around him that he himself had created.

He blinked as the stars suddenly disappeared, being replaced by a black void of nothingness. For a moment, everything turned gray, then white, and then he ceased to exist all together.

...

When he blinked again, the world was back.

The boy coughed into his little hands, and he curled around the piece of meat he loved playing with.

His papa would be here soon.

Red. Black. Gray. White.

The colors liked to shift around him.

As time may or may not have passed, Hugo eventually pried his fingers away from his favorite toy to join them in a praying gesture. It felt strange doing this... because to whom did the creator pray to?

The little boy coughed again.

"If...if this is all there is..." He said while he watched his world shrivel down and die like a bad film roll glitching and rewinding. "If my world truly is meant for destruction only..."

His papa was here now, along with that omnipotent entity guiding him. Hugo felt just as scared as the first time his papa had come to purify him, but it was a part of the routine by now.

Besides, the ending mattered little these days, although that didn't stop Hugo from hoping the Judge would win this round, slaying the beast that was his papa like the hero in his comic.

...

When he woke up in his lonely room yet again, the little boy imagined the stars once more. He brought them forth wherever his fingers pointed, painting his ceiling with the aid of his imagination only.

After his work was done, Hugo continued with his prayer.

"If my world...has no chance of a happy ending..." He coughed.

Tears had begun forming in the corner of his eyes, but he wouldn't let them fall. He was a big boy now, and he wouldn't stop this prayer just to weep like a baby.

"Then please... please spare someone from this nightmare. Bring them somewhere else, somewhere they won't be scared." He hiccuped. "I don't want them to be scared."

He briefly thought of the grinning cat, the one who had saved him a couple of times now. And even if that only happened when the omnipotent entity felt kind enough to use the Judge as their puppet instead, Hugo was still grateful. He liked that cat, because Hugo liked cats in general.

"I want him to be happy..." The little boy added as an afterthought.

And wouldn't it just so happen that miracles did exist, for his heartfelt prayer did, in fact, change something...

Even if it in turn further condemned an already condemned world.

"I'll be okay..." Hugo said, smiling. "This is what papa wants anyway."

He turned to look at seemingly nothing, his hands fiddling with the piece of meat again.

"Have fun, Puppeteer."

...

The creator has created a new opportunity for happiness, for that is what creators do. Choose wisely, dear Puppeteer, for you get to play again.

...

What will you do?


Pablo was many things.

He was the Judge. He was also the Guide. Sometimes the Final Boss. Sometimes the Savior.

...And most times the harbinger of destruction, even if his intentions had been anything but that.

Beyond any of those titles, however, Pablo was something far more important.

For the grinning white cat was a Guardian, and a Guardian he would always be, no matter the place or story.

Sometimes he would be awoken to act out his role of a puppet, and yet other times he would guide a man of sporty origins.

This time, the Judge awoke to a loud noise just ahead of him, the sound so startling he nearly jumped out of his furred skin.

The cat blinked his wide, yellow eyes as the world around him refocused. Then he blinked again, as if what he was seeing would make more sense should he close his eyes for but a moment.

It didn't.

"By the Queen's thousand faces..." The grinning feline said, his pawed feet retreating ever so slightly from the sight before him.

The sky was a bright blue, and white, fluffy clouds floated lazily above what should have been an impossibly. The air felt, smelled and even tasted different, more...clean, if that word could be used to describe what he now breathed. Never had it been this easy to have air pass through his tired lungs, and the Judge honestly felt like he had just resurfaced from murky water after nearly drowning his entire life. There were sounds too, many, many sounds of which he had never heard before. It was as if life had suddenly been brought back to their constantly dying world, which... was an impossibly too.

The white cat finally chose to view his immediate surroundings. He appeared to be in a dark, gray alleyway of some sort, the brick walls old yet very much sturdy. Several smelly trash cans littered the area, just like the trash overflowing from the containers did. The whole place held a gloomy air to it, but...

"This gloom holds naught but a candle to the world I'm used to wander." He purred. "How strange."

This was all wrong. Everything felt off, his six senses going crazy from all these new sensations. The feline with the funny vocabulary was usually quite calm and collected, but this made even him a fluffy little bundle of nerves.

"I..." He began again, taking a step forward. "I cannot even begin to imagine how such a dream could have chosen to invade my slumber, for this must surely be something my mind has cooked up in an attempt to escape the horrors of everyday life..."

So said the eloquent cat.

His words, however, caught the attention of someone else.

"Who's there!?" A gruff voice shouted, making the feline startle again, albeit this time he only reacted inwardly.

The Judge turned his head to look up at the sudden form of a man stumbling down the other end of the alley, a large bottle held loosely in his hand. His ragged coat looked so stained it might actually have been another color before it was vandalized, and small droplets of liquid dripped from his unruly beard.

The Judge's nose twitched with disdain.

"You're quite the odd looking Elsen, are you not?" He stated, his slit eyes narrowing slightly.

The man came to a halt a few feet before him, his meaty face making an odd expression the Judge couldn't quite make out.

Then came another roar from the strange being before him, his voice loud and booming to ears as sensitive as his.

"Did ya not hear me before, ya bastard..." He slurred. "Show yerself, ya coward!"

The Judge didn't as much as blink to this man's apparent question of sanity.

"I must confess I don't understand your demand, for I stand right before you, dear man with the foul smell." He stated simply, in the hopes the stranger before him would be able to understand.

"Quit messing around, bastard! And what's with them fancy words, huh? Ya think yer better than me!?"

The man in question continued to look anywhere but down, and thus missed the Judge's handsome feline self. What a strange Elsen, if even that.

"Might I suggest you look downwards? Not everyone can be a towering mountain such as yourself."

With those words, the man finally looked down. And when he spotted his grinning self, the stranger just... kind of stood there for several long and awkward seconds.

"...What the fuck?" The ragged man eventually said as he scratched his unruly hair with the hand not holding the empty bottle. "What bullshit weed was thrown into my beer?"

The Judge tilted his head slightly, his tail lowering to the ground.

"What profanities you seem capable of... It is a pleasure to meet you too, strange smelly Elsen."

The man blinked. He looked down at his empty bottle. Then he looked back at the white cat with the terrifyingly wide grin.

"I'm tripping balls...fuck." He shook his head. "A talking cat. A freaking talking cat!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"And the damn thing's formal too! I must be high as all hell. Ha ha ha!"

As he laughed, the man then turned around and trudged away, stumbling over his own feet every so often.

"A talking cat!" The guy continued, voicing the same thing over and over until he could no longer be seen.

"...How enlightening." The cat eventually said. "That helped uncover this strange situation in no way whatsoever."

A small droplet of water fell from the sky and hit the top of Judge’s head, making the cat shiver just a bit. Another drop soon joined the first, and before long it was pelting the now soaked feline, the rain hitting the ground so hard it almost seemed like it was on a mission to drench the entire world.

He looked up at the strange sky, the soft blue having been replaced by a gray he was more familiar with.

“And now you decide to weep upon us, sky?” He said, sighing.

The Judge didn’t know where he was or what to do. Usually he awoke in the dry safety of his own Zone, as that was where he spend most of his time these days, however this...this was new.

It was new and not that welcoming.

“I suppose I should find myself an adequate place of shelter from this rain. I am sure I can figure out what to do next.”

With that said, the drenched feline left the dark alleyway to search for a means of shelter. In contrast to the mild shock he had gotten by waking up in this strange place paled when he saw what was beyond that smelly little corner.

This was...unbelievable. People were walking everywhere, back and forth in their hurry to get out of the rain. People who, much to the Judge’s growing confusion, looked nothing like the bland and boring beings he had grown up with for the entirety of his life. Strange vehicles also roamed the roads where the walking beings did not, and thousands of different sounds and smells assaulted his already overloaded senses.

As if that wasn’t enough, colors Pablo had never seen before greeted his sight wherever he turned, and strange, nature-like growth could be spotted here and there.

A particular meaty stranger passed him, and the creature they had in a leash turned its head briefly to growl at him, making Judge’s fur stand on end.

“What in the world…?” He muttered, backing away.

This turned out to be a mistake, however, as he bumped into another one of these countless, towering beings.

“Apologies, dear stranger.” He pardoned as a reflex.

The person blinked down at him, and then looked around in a perplexing manner quite like the one from the alley had. They shook their head when they didn’t find whatever they were looking for.

“Shove off, stray.” They said.

The Judge’s grin widened. “That was quite rude, but I’ll humor you and spare myself of your company.”

As he turned to leave, the smiling cat heard a strange noise leave his brief interlocutor.

The Judge weaved around the legs of the many non-Elsen entities, occasionally stealing a quick rub of a leg when he could – because who could resist the charms of an affectionate cat? He needed no thanks for his kind contributions.

It took him some time, but the eloquent cat eventually found a shelter worthy of his body to dry under. He pawed his way over to the rectangular little station with a sign near it. The place kind of reminded him of the Tramway stations in all of the respective Zones (with the exception of his own, naturally), but the Judge wasn’t really sure what it represented, nor did he care to find out.

Pablo was tired, if he was to be perfectly honest. So once he had gotten himself out of the watery droplets, he decided now would be a good time to take a nap. No one was around this particular place, except for a short, petite person standing under the other station parallel from his own shelter.

He figured he’d be fine.

Curling into a ball near the right corner of the station, the Judge let slumber take his awareness away and into dreams of times long gone and overwritten.


Zacharie didn’t really fit in anywhere, and nor did the world fit him. While he spent most of his time in his own merry little world, the people around him stuck to their ignorant labels, telling him to either ‘get it together’ or to make the simple choice of seeking help. You know, with all of the mental problems he apparently had.

Zacharie only smiled at them, throwing in a few comments here and there. Those always managed to throw people off – quite literally.

Most didn’t understand how this world worked, and fewer even understood what drove it. Zacharie knew, to some extent. He often found himself wondering how everyone else could be so blind when the answers everyone sought was right in front of their very eyes.

Oh well. At least those stumbling around none the wiser looked to be having fun in their sweet ignorance. Zacharie envied them, just a bit.

Because this world was, quite frankly, boring.

Nothing exciting ever happened, and people proved themselves to be quite predictable.

“Did you know you were written to stand here in this exact moment, speaking to me as an example of a point I make in my own thoughts?” Zacharie asked the woman before him.

She looked at him with wide, confused eyes. Then she backed away slowly, looking around to see if they were the only ones around this bus station.

Ah ah ah, so very predictable.

Life could be anything, really. A game. A movie. A story.

“Let’s make the most of this written piece of work, shall we, amigo?” He continued, his smile wide and friendly.

The woman swiftly left, apparently deciding to walk instead of waiting for a bus that would never come due to the plot.

It then started raining.

“Hmm...” Zacharie said as he walked out of the bus station’s shelter, letting the water hit him with its refreshing touch. “Just in time, too.”

So predictable. So boring.

“I wonder if little Valerie misses me at home. I sure miss him.” Zacharie gushed, but then quieted down. “...I miss my dear Pablo too...”

A life without his little buddy was oh so very boring.

But, well. If there was yet another thing Zacharie was intimately familiar with, it was when the universe decided to work its wonders and present him with a seemingly coincidental experience.

...In other words, Zacharie spotted something small and white curled into a ball under the station across from him.

Needless to say, the young man’s kitty cat senses went off like crazy. Zacharie had a thing for cats, so him having a cat sense was legit. And as an avid cat lover, Zacharie did the only logical thing with the situation presented before him. Because, again, as an avid cat lover, Zacharie knew quite a lot about cats in general, so he knew how to handle them with grace and care.

“What a cute little kitty.” He practically purred as he neared the cat with hurried steps, his hands aching to touch this new feline.

His feet came to an abrupt halt when he stood before the cat, however. The rain kept pouring down, the constant sounds of its droplets hitting the ground and station alike making the sudden, deafening silence that came over him all the more profound. He stood there, gazing down at this strangely familiar cat.

“...Pablo?” Zacharie breathed, not believing his own eyes – and yet believing them all the same.

This cat did indeed hold an uncanny resemblance to his recently deceased Pablo, but at the same time this cat also looked foreign and outright alien. For starters, how could a cat even have such a large grin?

“...How interesting. Ah ah ah.” He chuckled, crouching down to pet this Pablo look-alike.

As his hands brushed the wet fur of the white cat, Zacharie was suddenly overcome with a deep sense of complicated emotions, both alike and unlike anything he had felt before.

The cat began to purr softly from his gentle touch.

“Hm.” The young man mused. “I know you, don’t I?”

It wasn’t much of a question, really. Zacharie knew, just like he knew so many other things.

Another urge surged within him, an urge which compelled Zacharie to pick up this grinning cat and holding them tight. He smiled as happy, fluffy feelings bubbled up within him, and Zacharie knew that sparkles would have shined all around him had this been an anime.

So when compulsion overcame logic, Zacharie did just that. Needless to say, this kitty did not appreciate his affectionate gesture. He couldn’t help it though, so he smiled a serene smile even when the surprised cat’s claws came raking across his face, the stinging pain way worse than any cat’s attack had ever been.

“Ouch.” He laughed as blood ran down his face. “You’re really quite pawsome? Ah ah.”

The cat blinked their large, yellow eyes open, and they somehow managed to look befuddled despite being a cat. It was a little odd to see such an animated face on a feline, a fact that only further assured Zacharie that this cat wasn’t from around here. Their tail tucked itself between their paws as they retracted their claws, still looking very much confused.

Zacharie was honestly amused by all of this. The pain and blood didn’t matter much.

Then the cat spoke, their ears flat against their head.

“...Zacharie? Is that you?”

When presented with an impossibly, Zacharie liked to react appropriately.

So he laughed.

“Ah ah ah! How fun, dear talking friend! I am indeed Zacharie, at your service.”

The cat gave a low meow. “Ah, but of course. No one is quite like you, so even though your lack of any facial camouflage threw me off at first, I see it is no doubt you who holds me so tightly...With that said, unhand me please.”

Zacharie felt like he might explode from excitement. This cat knew him! A talking cat with a wide grin and a funny vocabulary knew of him. Oh, this day just got much better.

“Aww, but you’re too cute not to hold.” He said.

“Would you care to be reunited with my claws again?” The cat replied.

“Ah ah ah!” Zacharie laughed. “...I think I’ll pass for now.”

Reluctantly, he lowered his new friend to the ground, making sure their paws reached it gently. Then he took a seat in front of them, crossing his legs and looking at them with barely contained joy. Zacharie really wanted the cat to curl up in his lap like the cute little bundle they were.

They didn’t.

“So.” Zacharie said. “Is your name by any chance Pablo?”

The cat stared at him with their ever-present grin.

“Yes, but I am the Judge, as you well know. Why must you continue to use my other, less preferred namesake? I grow tired of telling you to stop, so kindly refrain from acting like you don’t already know my name just so you can use it again.”

Aside from all of those fancy words, Zacharie gathered that this was, indeed, his sweet, dear Pablo. Or, well, not exactly his Pablo, as he was long gone by now, but...a strange alien version of his old friend. It mattered not, Zacharie would take what he could get.

Most would probably have scoffed at him for seemingly replacing his dear departed pet with another version of said pet, but Zacharie knew exactly what he was doing, and he wasn’t ashamed of it whatsoever.

And if this new Pablo wanted to be called the Judge, then so be it. It kind of fit the grinning cat anyway.

“Sorry, sorry! You know how I am, always one for your cute name.” He said, because he was sure this Pablo knew him well, considering how he acted around him. It was kind of funny, because Zacharie was pretty sure he knew this Pablo well too, seeing how he acted quite like his own did...minus a few details. Like the talking. Definitely the talking.

“Of course, my friend.” Pablo said. “You have already been forgiven.”

The cute cat then turned to look out at the still pouring rain.

“Will this rain ever cease?” The feline questioned.

Zacharie thought for a moment. “I don’t know, my friend. That is up to the author.”

“...What?”

“What?”

There was a brief silence. “...Never mind. I have long since given up trying to understand your way of thinking.”

Zacharie nodded. “Understandable.”

Another brief silence made its way into their lives, but it was quickly broken by another question from the confused cat.

“Zacharie. Do you know where we currently find our lonesome selves? I must confess I am at a loss for which Zone this is...”

Oh dear. It seemed like this was where the familiarity ended and the odd questions began. Zacharie didn’t know of these so-called Zones, but maybe he would someday. Who knew? For now, he would have to work with what he did know.

“We’re currently on a planet called Earth. A pretty boring place if you ask me.” The young man shrugged. “As for these Zones you speak of, I must confess that I haven’t got a clue.”

Pablo stayed silent for a moment as he stared at Zacharie, the white cat occasionally giving a slow blink.

“...Surely you jest?” He eventually said (the fact this Pablo could talk still blew his mind).

Zacharie shook his head. “No sir. We are very much on Earth right now. May I be so bold as to assume you don’t know of this little planet?”

Pablo’s tail twitched slightly. “...Sadly, I do not.”

“Hm...How about we take this someplace a bit more dry? I know you cats don’t particularly fancy this kind of weather, no?”

The grinning feline nodded his head. “There is no idea more laudable than that, dear Zacharie.”

Ah. How cute. Pablo called him dear too. If humans could melt, Zacharie would have been nothing but a puddle by now.

“However, I must inquire; where do you intend to take my handsome self?”

“Why, home, of course. Mr. Judge.” Zacharie stated, getting up from his sitting position.

Then he bend down again to pick his friend back up, the cat in question letting out a surprised mewl, his normally slit eyes dilating just a bit.

“Unhand me this instant, you barbaric Merchant!” He demanded, sounding very much displeased.

“Aww, don’t be such an old grouch, Judge.” Zacharie chuckled, mentally filing the name ‘merchant’ for later use.

“I shall be a so-called ‘grouch’ until you release your sweaty palms from my silky fur, Zacharie.”

“Ah ah. Hey now, that isn’t sweat, it’s the blood flowing down my face!”

Zacharie turned his direction home, briefly wondering how Valerie would take this new addition to their little family. Because yes, the young man had in fact already claimed this version of his Pablo.

“...Fine then, just don’t drop me.” Pablo eventually relented, settling in his arms with a content little purr.

Aw. Zacharie knew it was only a matter of time before he caved to his affections. Soon the grinning feline would claim him as his property too, of that Zacharie was certain.

As he walked down the empty road with his bundle of fluff, Zacharie gently pet his old friend. The young man was beyond happy to have his best friend back – the details could all come later.

Right now, only he and Pablo existed in this boring, gray world.

“Thank you for bringing him back, oh omnipotent entity.”

Zacharie then began to sing a merry tune.