The arrogant cat had been on Arnold’s nerves for hours. It was long past the ‘getting on’ stage. The cat was plucking at his nerves as if he was a violin and she was a murderously aggressive violinist.
“If they’re not a cat, then they’re not a real god,” she insisted, licking her black paw.
“That’s a very bold statement,” said Arnold, clanking as he dusted one of the exhibits in the Museum of Magical Items.
“It’s true. People are all over Thor right now, but he’s not a god,” the onyx feline stretched and rubbed herself on a three-thousand-year-old vase. He had to catch it as it wobbled to stop whichever souls were trapped inside from getting out. From the inscription in Sanskrit, they were either a coven of witches or the village who had been arguing with them. Either way Arnold didn’t want to have to explain the modern world to another supernatural being cut off from society for centuries, never again.
“I’ve been drinking with Thor,” said the sentient suit of armour. “He drinks a godly, or should I say ungodly amount of beer.”
“He’s got no tail; his ears are wrong, and his whiskers are all over his face and too bushy. And so loud.” She frowned.
“Bastet, she’s a real god.” She lay down on a glass case containing the mummified body of a man who’d said the pharaoh could marry his daughter over his dead body. Having taken him at his word, the pharaoh had him preserved and buried beneath the floor of the room where he wedded the man’s daughter.
“True, but she goes on about it too much,” he said, “you’re polishing my statue wrong, Arnold. You’re not showing due reverence to the goddess of protection, pleasure, and blah blah.” He made vague gestures with his gauntlets.
“Nowadays there are simpler houses of worship of course,” she said, ignoring him. “Cat cafes aren’t as imposing as sphinxes and sandstone temples, but they work for the masses. Also, it’s a far better way to find someone who knows how to rub your belly properly.” She rolled onto her paws and followed him. Her tail flicked in annoyance because he wasn’t giving her his full attention.
“What about Gdon, the tiger ridden by Parvati in battle?” He asked. If he’d had a face, it would have been smiling at the annoyance the mention of Gdon caused.
“I’m all for representation but the fact that he let her ride him is galling.” Her tail flicked with more energy. “It’s undignified. People must remember that they work for us, not the other way around. Without us there would be no days and nights.”
One of the displays was empty, Arnold huffed. The possessed penguins were sleepwalkers. He shrugged, that wasn’t his problem.
“What do you mean cats are responsible for day and night?” He had a chuckle in his voice.
“Just that. The cosmic kitten chases the yarn of light around the world, causing day and night. You’re welcome. Just another one of my awesome relatives.”
“That’s nonsense.” He stopped and put his gauntlets on the metal where people had hips. “The Earth rotates around the sun, that’s it.”
“Without the cosmic kitten chasing it? Hardly. You need to educate yourself my ignorant friend.” She checked her reflection in glass, smiling at her own beauty.
“It’s common knowledge Kasha. Look it up. Read a book.” He was yelling. His voice echoed up and down the marble tiled room, off the vaulted ceiling.
“That’s not what books are for.”
“Reading, that’s exactly what they’re for!” One of the exhibits told him to shush. He showed it the middle finger on one gauntlet and the index and middle on the other, just to be sure they got the message.
“No. They’re for tome travel?”
“Tome travel. Cats invented it.”
“Are you saying time travel?” He looked at her, wishing she didn’t have his attention. It was a bad idea to give her what she wanted.
“No. Tome travel, traveling through tomes. You work in a museum of magical oddments. How do you not know about tome travel?”
“Because you clearly just made it up right now to seem interesting.”
The man who had been asleep across the desk in the lobby raised his head and yelled. “Some of us are trying to sleep!”
“Don’t take the night shift for security then,” Arnold retorted. He muttered, “vampires.”
“What did you say?” Asked the two-hundred-year-old slacker with a name card that proclaimed him to be Vincent. His museum security jacket was stained with red around the collar. Arnold didn’t want to know.
“Wait, your name is Vincent? Vincent the Vampire?”
“What of it?”
“Don’t you just feel ridiculous being Vincent the Vampire?”
“Says Arnold the Armour of Armour,” the vampire put on a mocking voice and jellyish posture as he waved his hands about.
“Bite me. Loser. Go back to sleep. Feel free to sleep in. That desk really catches the sun in the morning.”
“He’s not wrong,” said Kasha, who liked to sleep there and anywhere else the sunbeam took her.
Vincent shook his head and pulled a sandwich from his pocket. Ignoring them both he took a bite of garlic beef, rare, and smiled.
They watched him stroll back to his desk and fall asleep again. Arnold wondered how long he was actually awake if he spent the night asleep at his desk and the day in his coffin.
“What were we saying?” Kasha asked? “Right, I remember. Tome travel. Get me a book.”
“I’m not your servant,” he said.
“I’m a cat,” she told him. “Everyone is my servant. A leaflet will do.”
“What do leaflets have to do with books?” He asked.
“They’re portable tomes, that’s why we invented them.”
“Cats did not invent leaflets,” he pointed a steel finger at her as he fetched a leaflet that explained what all the exhibits in the room were.
“Open it up here for me, stand it up so I can be behind it.”
Arnold did as she commanded. Not because he had been told to, he insisted, but because he was curious.
“That’s killed a few of us,” she said. She walked behind the leaflet until he couldn’t see her anymore.
Then the leaflet fell over.
Kasha was gone. A black hair wafted into the air on the breeze created by the toppled paper.
Arnold heard a yelp from Vincent and paws on tile down the hall.
He looked at the vampire at the front desk, staring at his newspaper.
“TADA!” Kasha roared.
Arnold jumped so high he almost lost his sabatons. “Bloody hells! Where did you come from?” He touched his breastplate as if out of breath.
“You looked away, so I turned back,” she licked her lips then bared her teeth. “Just to mess with you of course.” Her yellow eyes glinted with casual malice.
“Are you gaining weight? Or just nursing a furball?” He asked to piss her off.
“I’m just fabulous, rusty. Know thy diet and thyself and you need not fear the outcome of a thousand dinners.” There was no riling Kasha about her appearance, she was far too conceited for that.
Leaping from the glass case where she had emerged from the leaflet, she strolled between exhibits and coughed on a statue of the jackal headed god Anubis. She bowed her head to the statue of Bastet, which turned and winked.
Gods, Arnold thought, more trouble than they’re worth.