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By: Lily Robert-Foley

When Claire-the-chatte got her signal to us, it was just after her 400th birthday. A few weeks earlier she had been out prowling in her space suit, when the cord disconnected and she floated away into space. The other chattes woke up from their naps just in time to see her disappear over the far side of a star. By the time the other chattes got the space ship going and traversed the expanse Claire-the-chatte had floated across, there was no sign of her. The chattes were worried but they knew she would find her way back, as the chattes always do, to each other.

Lily Robert-Foley is the author of m a book of poetry-critique-collage (Corrupt Press, 2013), graphemachine, a chapbook of visual poetry (Xerolage, 2013), the North Georgia Gazette (Green Lantern Press 2009), and Jiji, a book of prose poems and conceptual writing (forthcoming Omnia Vanitas Press). She lives in Le Havre, France, where she earns a living giving motivational speeches for the unemployed.

We followed Claire-the-chatte’s signal to one of the strangest planets we had ever seen. When we found her she was all wet and very sleepy. We let her sleep for many days, just waiting for the pillows to wake her. The interior of the chattes’ ship is entirely composed of pillows, just in case you are wandering around the ship and suddenly find that you want to take a nap, you can just curl up right there and go to sleep.

When she awoke, the chattes laid around, sipping warm oatmeal milk, and listened to Claire-the-chatte tell the stories of her travels.

She began by explaining to us the reason we couldn’t find her after she disappeared behind the star. In fact, it was not a star but a planet, a planet composed almost entirely of sand, dust and fur. In the center, a giant fur ball just spins and spins at an unimaginable speed. The sand stirred up from the whirring fur ball at the center spins so fast that it creates the illusion of light, radiating out like a star. The spinning creates a complex and constantly changing strata of elements. It is from this agitation that the creatures of the planet are born: adorable fur monsters (which Claire-the-chatte referred to as “Tarazous”) who are generated from the unbelievable energy produced by the whirring fur ball, spinning round and round until their atoms assemble into life. Claire-the-chatte specified, they look adorable until they try to eat you, which they do with any foreign object whatsoever. Luckily for Claire-the-chatte, upon falling into an immense throng of the softest fur and sharpest teeth in all the universe, she was bumped rather than eaten, and thrown off into a wild trajectory that floated her far far out into space.

She floated for a long time—she is not sure how long of course because she napped through most of it, conserving both energy and air in her space suit. She awoke, greeted by the sound first before the sight of a planet. At first, it sounded like the complex hum of a giant machine. But as she grew closer the sounds began to differentiate themselves, and she realized she was hearing a conference of birds. She fell a long way through a green blur before realizing that she was falling through the canopy of a tree. It was indeed a planet whose core was a knot of roots, branching out in every direction to make a great tree globe. All around her fell what looked like leaves from another kind of tree, until, tumbling ever slower from branch to branch, she realized that the leaves were feathers, and that all around her were birds. So many birds that at the great speed at which she had been travelling, she could not distinguish birds from trees, and feathers from leaves. She finally got her wits about her enough to grab onto a branch. She hung there for only a moment before a large beak scooped her up and deposited her on top of the branch. She told her story to the birds who wrote a song to sing, out into the universe. Even though they sang it for many days and many nights, the chattes never came. But then again, Claire-the-chatte did not exactly understand the song, and perhaps it meant something else entirely, or was just the song they always sang. After all, it is hard to imagine a planet of birds singing a song intended to beckon a spaceship full of cats.

So one of the birds offered to fly Claire-the-chatte to a planet that was not so far away, and at which, the bird said, she might be able to find a way to send a message. They called it:noteswhich translates roughly as “supermarket planet”. When Ms. Bird deposited Claire-the-chatte (rather rudely—Claire-the-chatte here remarked that she was not so sure the birds were exactly overjoyed for her to be visiting them, and were perhaps actually quite glad to be rid of her), she couldn’t help remarking that the planet was among the strangest things she had ever seen in her life.

notes” was literally a supermarket large enough to take up an entire planet. There were inhabitants on this planet of course, but everything had to bought. For example, when you wanted to go to sleep, you would wander to the “sleep aisle” of the planet (which here, was more like an entire small country), and buy a mattress, pillows, sheets and covers. You would then lay out your mattress, pillows, sheets and covers onto a giant conveyer belt the length of the Nile river, and go to sleep. In the morning you were rudely awakened by the sound of a cash register, at which point you would have to pay and the mattress, pillows, sheets and covers were redistributed back to the sleeping department. If you wanted to go the bathroom or take a shower, it was the same if you could imagine. If you wanted to fall in love, you would go to the love aisle and select a lover that looked good to you and then proceed to the sleeping department for mattress, pillows, sheets and covers. Claire-the-chatte wandered and wandered, trying to find the message department. “Where can I buy a message?” she would ask shoppers, haggard and wan from the florescent sun. She wandered for what seemed like years from aisle to aisle, the back of an employee vest always seeming to disappear behind the far end of a row of shelves just as she would round the corner at the other end. Finally, she came across an old woman who looked like she had been shopping for many years, on behalf of herself and others, who lifted a languid hand to indicate a path vaguely straight and to the right. After a few more wrong turns, Claire-the-chatte finally found the message department. It was filled with giant tubes, such as those used in the making of a brass instrument, like the bugle or the trumpet. She wrote her message on a sheet of paper attached to a clipboard hanging from the wall. “Dear chattes, lost on supermarket planet, please send help!” and slipped it into one of the tubes. It disappeared into an eerie darkness without making a sound.

(Weeks later, the message would arrive on a shuttle passing by the spaceship, looking much the worse for wear, with a “return to sender” sticker pasted diagonally across the message, so as to render it unreadable.)

Curious, as all chattes are, Claire-the-chatte peeked her head over the side of the tube, trying to figure out where her message had gone, if it had gone anywhere at all. Seeing nothing, she peered deeper still, and then deeper. And deeper yet still, until her whole head and front paws were plunged into the tube. Finally only her back paws and tail were visible over the top of the tube. Claire-the-chatte did not put it in these words of course, but she basically lost her balance at that point and fell into the tube.

Claire-the-chatte described the tube as one of the freakiest experiences of her life, there being absolutely nothing in the tube, not even time or space. This, combined with some other immeasurable moments of Claire-the-chatte’s journey makes the time spent travelling through the tube more or less indeterminate. When she finally emerged, she was in deep space, caught in what she could only describe as a tempest of light and sound refractions. It was the perfect storm of the senses, jumbled together in a kaleidoscopic synesthesia. She heard sounds as colors and saw colors as sounds, felt odors brush against her fur, and the taste of caresses were like an indescribable wine across her palate. She felt her body stretch and crumple, fragment and contortion in ways that are not conceivable with words. She thought herself quite lost, or rather felt that her self had lost everything, and was not yet quite sad about it, until, tumbling through time and space, her “fingers” caught the frayed end of a rope. Without any premeditation, she grasped hold of the end of the rope, as though for dear life. One paw, then another. Before she knew it, she was climbing, or perhaps following was a better word, she remarked, a tangled rope through space.

She followed the rope for a long time, enjoying the tangled tumbles as she dove and wove around through it, chasing incompletable ends. However, she could never seem to catch a glimpse of the rope’s end, to what it was knotted, and playfulness eventually lead to desperation and finally, to sleepiness. As she drifted off into the deepest of naps (she was quite tired after all and had not napped in a very, very long time), the grip of her paws grew loose on the rope and she slipped off into the vast, pointless eternity.

When she woke up, she was all alone, and nothing could be seen, felt or heard in any direction, except the faint, distant twinkling of stars. She felt then for the first time that perhaps she would never return to the chattes. A vertiginous despair consumed her. Will I slowly fall into the nap of death? she wondered. And then will I even more slowly become nothing as time decays my fur, skin and bones? Or will I be preserved in this vacuum, a monument unseen and unknown by anyone who knew me? And as those I have known and loved die and decay, will I be preserved still, frozen, a something that is nothing floating endlessly? It was indeed a depressing thought. She began to cry.

She cried one tear and then two. And then ten. And then ten thousand. And as she cried more and more, the tears created a puddle, a whirlpool, and then a lake, an ocean, a storm all around her. The tear molecules grew more and more still until they turned into a glob. The glob then continued to grow as Claire-the-chatte continued to cry, surrounded by a layer of water, diluting and diffracting out into a mist that gradually grew as thin as air. In a dense cushion of water just too thick to be ice but too thin to be water, the sobs of Claire-the-chatte vibrated against the continuum of molecule densities, making a low, steady vibration, louder than anything else in the universe. The song, however, rather than being the pure sound of sadness, by the time it reached the chattes’ ears, sounded like the opening tones of a symphony written on the theme of great joy. The chattes heard the sound, faint at first and then deafening, and followed the sound to the planet of tears that Claire-the-chatte had herself created. As she woke from her sadness, Claire-the-chatte too heard the sound, and with it heard the evolution of her great sadness into an incredible joy.