Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cat in Wonderland

My blog updates are now becoming a yearly affair... *Tears*

I'm so exhausted these days that I can't really summon enough brain cells to churn something out anymore... Too much has happened in the past year. Where do I even begin!

BUT good news; I've finally completed the 'short story' that I've been working on the last semester whoohoo!

Somebody get me a publisher plz haha.

All jokes aside, I really hope you all will like it! ^^

PS: May contain lots of grammatical errors coz ain't nobody got time to edit!


"I wanted to convey the message to children that this life is worth living. This message has not changed." — Hayao Miyazaki

Cat in Wonderland

Written by Kira Lim Xinyi

Story inspired partly by this pic


She did not answer, and continued her furious scrubbing at the frying pan. I counted five new white hairs on her head, and let out a great fart.

“Ew! How unsightly for a lady!” she finally cracked, laughing and waving my poison gas out of the kitchen. In that brief moment when she turned, I caught a glimpse of her red-rimmed eyes. She saw the look on my face, and turned away.

“Mom…” I touched her elbow. It was sticky with sweat, and the usual floral balsamic scent on her had a strong, acrid undertone. She jerked her arm away and screamed for me to get out.

She had been crying again. She had been crying for a very long time. But he would not be coming back to us. Not ever.

I went back into my room, feeling thoroughly drained. The curtains were drawn, gently fluttering along with the wind. I shut the door and crumpled against it. The dimness was cool and calming. I changed out of my uniform, and grabbed the bottle of Benzos from my bedside table.

I’ve been worried about mother, and nicked the bottle from her daily medications.

But I guess I should have been more worried about myself.

I turned on the TV, and swallowed two Benzos. It felt good.

I watched as Howl the handsome magician saved Sophie from the lecherous guards, watched as they walked on air, watched as the Wicked Witch of the Waste place a curse on Sophie, turning her into an old hag. I knew their story already. That’s how I knew the story.

I cherry-picked a few more Benzos and stomached them. Calcifer the fire demon was begging Sophie to break the curse between him and Howl. The funny scene gets me every time. I nearly choked on my Benzos.

I was trying to decide whether I liked Howl or Calcifer more as a character, when he spoke to me.

“You must really like this picture.”

There was a sudden extreme close up shot of Howl. His soft, azure gaze twinkled merrily as it ventured curiously all across the screen, before fixating on me.

Stupid DVD player glitched again, I thought, reaching for the plugs.

“HEY HEY HEY HEY STOP! DON’T TURN IT OFF!” Calcifer’s squeaky voice rang out in full volume.

“Now now, calm down, Calcifer…” Howl shrinked back from the screen and put up his hands as if approaching a wounded animal.

“Well, don’t you understand?”

“Yes, yes I do. But we’re all in this together.”

“NO! She doesn’t understand how it all turns black, and we disappear! We become NOTHING! We become annihilated!”

I stared.

Howl chucked two logs of wood into Calcifer’s open mouth, and gazed out of the screen, looking right at me.

I dropped my bottle of Benzos.

“Pretty lady, don’t cry. You’ve been watching us so many times, even we have lost count! But you were always crying…why don’t you join us?”

He reached out a pixelated hand towards me.

I must have lost my mind in the middle of my misery. Or, I’ve watched so many Studio Ghibli films that I have even started dreaming about watching them. A Ghibli-ception, perhaps?

There was a babble of protests behind Howl, and the speakers started crackling with static.

If this is a dream, it might as well be a good one. I reached for Howl’s outstretched hand- it was surprisingly solid- and he yanked.

In the instant when I slammed into the screen, I saw nothing.

I was suddenly conscious of my physical body, and it felt as though I was on an amusement Viking ship ride, sitting at the very edge of the ship as it swung up. It was a sense of weightlessness, as the motion of the pendulum opposed gravity. The next moment, I was falling, plunging down, gravity sucking every particle of my being-

I was greeted by the warm chromatic woodwind progression of Jinsei No Merry-Go-Round, with the playful timbre of percussion bursts echoing all around me in welcome.

Someone was beside me, and I felt myself stiffen.

“Don’t be scared. Open your eyes.” The clear, raspy baritone was vaguely familiar.

My eyes fluttered open, and the new (animated) sun casted a radiant glow on the serene lake before me. I looked up at the man beside me.

Dressed in smart black pants and a coat in a flamboyant mix of baby blue and hot pink over a plain white shirt, Howl looked just as striking in person. In fact, I could see him even better now. His silky blonde locks danced merrily in the breeze, and he had a soft, creamy complexion. In any case, he did not appear as pixelated on my TV screen.

“Watashi wa hansamuda to iu koto o shitte imasu.” He shot at me in rapid Japanese and grinned. Oh dear. Where are the English subtitles when I need them?

Just then, Sophie came into the picture. “It’s not even your scene yet, Howl!” She chided him in the gravelly voice of Jean Simmons. “And the audio mode is still in ENGLISH, stop messing around!” She swung her cane at him, which he neatly dodged.

“We have a new friend here,” he announced, nudging me forward.

Sophie was beside herself. “Wow! I’ve finally met you, dear girl! You’ve always watched us with such passionate interest, I was always so pumped to show you my adventures!” She examined my face, and her face fell. She reached out and wiped at the corner of my eye.

“I’m so tired of my story! I’m the main lead, yet I only get as many scenes as any other supporting cast!” Howl yawned pointedly, and winked at me.

“Well, I wonder why is that so?” Sophie rolled her eyes. “Because the main protagonist is ME, not you. Duh.”

Bickering, as they always do in the story. I giggled.

“Well now, let’s get back to the story! Calcifer is literally fuming that his lines got cut when you interrupted our scene! Come now.” She took my hand and led the way across a wide expanse of lush grass field.

And I saw it. The architectural wonder. Stacked haphazardly with multiple layers of iron and bunched up metallic houses, it wheezed and coughed smoke like a chain smoker. As we approached, it stood up on its gigantic chicken-like legs and its turrets clenched together into a toothy grin.

“Welcome to Howl’s Moving Castle.” Sophie noticed my excitement and smiled. “Of course, it’s not REALLY Howl’s property, just a name for the place. It’ll be gone by the end of the story anyway.” Howl mumbled something sulkily.

When the doors opened, a gush of warmth flooded me. It looked exactly the same as I had imagined! The chipped concrete stairs, the grimy stoves, the dusty cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and-

“Y’all gone on a holiday while I DO ALL THE WORK?” Calcifer said, blowing a raspberry. The little ball of fire rolled around, brandishing his licks of flames. It was probably a gesture that I made, but Sophie seemed to have read my mind. She caught my eye and nodded pointedly.

I couldn’t supress my delight! Rushing to the hearth, I picked up the little guy and hugged him. “MANHANDLING! MANHANDLING!” He protested. But he did not burn me, and felt surprisingly squishy and pleasantly warm in my arms. “Can we all get back to the story now?”

“Oh, right.” Sophie stooped and bent unsteadily over a chair by the fireplace, waiting. Howl and I stood awkwardly at the door, watching Sophie and Calcifer rattle off their lines.

Someone was watching us too.

“There’s someone at the window,” the hushed words barely left my lips when the figure slicked away from view.

“Must be a fan!” Without missing a beat, Howl strode across the room and threw the windows open.

“Howl, the cameras are still rolling here,” Sophie sighed while Calcifer tsked impatiently at Howl’s interference.

“Well well, what have we got here?” Howl picked up the little stranger. It was a rusty shock of fluffiness. “Whaddya know, it’s a kawaii *aka neko!”

“ENGLISH, Howl!”

“An intruder from the Waste!” Calcifer exclaimed. “Get it outta here!”

Howl considered it for a moment and held it out to me.

“What do you think?” His expression was unreadable. Or maybe it was just the animation.

The stranger had a peculiar air of abandonment, drawing me in. It purred pitifully, transfixing me with its wide and innocent eyes.

“I’d say we keep it. It might just be lost.” I ranked my brain, but I couldn’t think of which Studio Ghibli movie it could had come from.

“Yeah well, so are all the characters from the Waste,” Calcifer eyed the newcomer suspiciously, “it could be a danger to all of us!”

“Calcifer, don’t be such a wet blanket,” Howl teased (“What! I’m NEVER WET!”), “give it a name”.

I was taken aback by Howl’s sudden request, but I had the answer the moment I saw the little stranger.


“What?” everyone said in unison, nonplussed.

“Cat. Cat! I said to name it ‘Cat’!”


A borborygmus noise emitted from somewhere along my midriff, punctuating our conversation with an ellipsis.

Howl was the first to recover. “Wow, what a sound! You haven’t had lunch, have you?”

“Shall I cook us some bacon and eggs?”

“Not a chance Sophie, we eat those EVERY TIME the film is being played,” Calcifer sulked.

“I know just the places to go,” Howl said to me in an undertone, winking.

He sneakily turned the magical dials of the door while Sophie and Calcifer continued to argue. I know how the door works! I have seen the characters using the door to magic themselves into another place in the story.

Howl grinned. “The benefit of being a magician is, you get to travel anywhere!”. The door sprang open, revealing a dark abyss.

I stared. This was unusual, even for the story.

“What are you doing, Howl?” Sophie exclaimed shrilly.

“Better go!” Howl leapt through the door, dragging me with him.

“Guy gone nuts!” Calcifer’s voice trailed off behind us.

I fell, face-down, on a luxurious stretch of grassy field. Howl dusted himself off, and offered me a hand.

“I’m sure you would want to meet this guy. He’s pretty popular with the girls,” he winked. The insides of my pocket mewed. “Of course, we can also help Cat return to where she came from.”

“How did you get in here, Cat?” I pulled it out. It sprang up from my arms and curled up on my shoulders, purring contentedly.

“Wow, you’re a natural with stories! Now you look like Nausicaä.” Howl nodded approvingly, and led us through a hedge tunnel. I know this place! I remember watching Satsuki and May taking this exact same route, wishing I could have experienced the adventures they had.

And now I’m here! The tunnel branched out into a bright, viridescent cave. He was there, in a clumsily dug hole off the wall of the cave, a fuzzy mound of greyness, snoozing away happily.

“TOTORO!” He jumped awake, his eyes wide with confusion. I ran forward, and tried to hug him. My arms did not even reach past his furry navel. He grunted in his Totoro way, and grinned, showing me all his teeth. I counted seven oblong front teeth.

“Wait, what about your story, Howl?”

 “They’ll be fine without me! I’m just having a little fun; this will just be a minor protest strike against my meagre number of scenes” He laughed uneasily. “Don’t look at me like that! Besides, Cat needs to get home.”

“Growlgrowlgrowlgrooooowwwll,” Totoro said, in his Totoro kind of way, and puffed out his chest.

“He said he wants to help,” Howl explained. “I’m kind of multilingual, y’know. So I should know.”

“Oooookay. Here goes nothing,” gathering a handful of his fur, I clung onto Totoro. It felt like hugging a giant teddy bear. A warm one, at that.

Totoro grinned, and pulled out an umbrella out of nowhere. It opened with a faint pop and without warning, he shot up the walls of the cave like a cork out of a bottle, while I clung on for dear life.

In the next instant, we were up on a colossal sized tree. Its leaves rustled serenely along with the delightful breeze, which smells of the fragrant jasmine flowers. It was THE signature Camphor Tree.

“I can’t believe you guys left me behind!” Howl floated up to us, his poise elegant. “Where do you want to go, pretty lady?”


“Where do you think Cat belongs to?” He smiled, his eyes gentle.

“Erm. I’m not sure… There are so many cats in the Ghibli movies… The Cat Returns, maybe?”

At this, Totoro sucked in a massive amount of breath- and bellowed.
As if on cue, the crisp, bell-like chromatic scale of Sanpo started chiming in merrily, its xylophonic jingle infectiously lively.

“*Arukou…Arukou…watashi wa genki…” I hummed the catchy refrain under my breath.

“English, pretty lady!” Howl let out a hearty laugh. “Look, here it comes.”

Something massive was streaking across the expansive paddy fields below. It paused as it reached our Camphor tree, its set of octopod legs stretched out animatedly as it sprang up nimbly against the thick trunk.

“I must say, traveling by the Catbus IS a good idea.” Howl said, as the auburn striped creature curved against us affectionately. It grinned broadly, presenting us with its distinctive Cheshire smile.

It stretched lazily, revealing a door. Howl chose a window seat with me. The seat was plump, toasty and squashy. We could feel the heartbeat of the Catbus pulsating underneath us. It was like literally sitting on a fuzzy cat, except one that can actually take your weight.

Totoro raised its stumpy paw and waved. The Catbus gave a mighty leap, and hurtled us away.

“Oh no! I haven’t said a proper goodbye!” I looked back, and Totoro was gone.

Don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault. A sweet, velvety voice rang out in my head.

It wasn’t your fault.

Cat looked at me with its deep set eyes.

Suddenly, the Catbus jerked to a stop. The abrupt momentum lurched us violently forward, and we flew out of our seats. Although we landed harmlessly on the springy floors of the Catbus, I saw a piercing flash of light, and my hands began to twitch convulsively. The jarring sounds of horns blared deafeningly. Cringing, I clawed at my ears.

Someone was screaming wildly, the shrieks grating and drawn out.

“What’s wrong? Did you hit your head? Are you hurt?” Howl was alarmed.

He shook me by my shoulders, and I quickly realised that the screams were mine.

“I’m…okay.” I forced a smile.

You’re under a curse. Cat purred.

“Well, if you’re fine, I hope you’re ready for a swim!” Howl helped me to my feet. He didn’t seem to hear Cat. She scurried back into my pocket.

“Unfortunately, the Catbus can’t go beyond the sea.”

I looked out the windows. The Catbus rested on a scythe of beach. Beyond it, the mighty heap of sea was a deep shade of eminence.

“PONYOOOOO!” Howl called out to the sea.

The waves receded rapidly. In the far distance, a magnificent golden wall of wave rose- and sped towards our shore.

“B-b-but I can’t swim!” I spluttered, stumbling down the stairs of the Catbus in panic.

“Actually…me neither,” Howl admitted sheepishly.

As the wall of sea approached the shoreline, it finally registered to me that a little girl was sprinting helter-skelter on those monstrous waves.

Howl took a glance at the expression I wore on my face and burst into hysterical laughter. “You don’t have to look so surprised! Ponyo is, after all, the princess of our seas. Mind you, don’t ever call her Brünnhilde like her father does. She is rather sniffy about it AND she actually has quite a temper. Even the dragons of the Earthsea obeys her.

The moment it arrived at the beach, the aquatic fortification crashed and dispersed, its remnants twinkled momentarily in the air.

“TA-DAH!” The delightful little cherub stretched her hands up in the air triumphantly.

Howl applauded and tapped her gently on the nose. “Ponyo sweetheart, can you take us to the land of Koriko?”

 “Ooookay! Koooreecoo! Koooreeko! Koooriko!” the cacophonous word rolled around in her dainty lips.

“Koriko? Where’s that?”

“You’ll see,” Howl winked at me mischievously.

Ponyo giggled and waddled to me. “Come come come! Kooleecoo!” she tugged at my hand fondly.

“BUT I CAN’T SWEEEE…” before I can finish, the turbulent waves swallowed us whole.

I tried squinting, but failed. Life under the sea was truly a most enchanting sight; my eyes felt like they could pop out anytime in wonder and awe.

Instead of a hazy hue of dullness, the sea was brimming with vitality and life. The kaleidoscopic layers of waves sparkled; each a shade of its own luminosity. The rich, polyphonic chorus of Gake no ue no ponyo resonated harmoniously throughout the deep recesses of the ocean. Ponyo had enveloped us within a translucent jellied bubble, and the inhabitants of the sea hovered all around us curiously. It was all very soothing.
“I don’t suppose this is your home right, Cat?” I peeked into my pocket. She was slumbering peacefully within.

“Naw, she wouldn’t make it past a day. The fish here are even larger than her.” Howl looked out into the distance, a hand over his eyes like a visor. “Oh! We’re here!”

Koriko was a prosperous port by the sea. We kissed Ponyo goodbye (she dived back into the sea) and made our way through the town. Its cobblestone streets were bustling with vintage Chrysler cars, with its medieval buildings coated with majestic shades of gold. A lone clock tower stood prominently above it all.

“OH MY GOSH, HOWL!” Someone fell from above and landed onto Howl, knocking him flat on his back.

“Ow! Kiki, darling, I swear, you’ll accidentally end me someday if you don’t fly carefully…” Howl rubbed his back gingerly. “Pretty lady, meet Kiki. Kiki, pretty lady.”

“Konnichiwa!” Kiki lifted up the hem of her dark robe and bowed deeply; her ruby bow slipped slightly on her head from the gesture.

“Linguistic rebels for the win!” Howl fist-bumped Kiki. “We’re best friends since we’re both magicians,” he explained to me.

“I can only fly though,” Kiki pouted. A *kuro neko peered over her shoulders. “And talk to cats. Jiji, say hi.”

“Maaaao.” The lump in my pocket twitched.

“Which is exactly why we need your help,” Howl said. “Kiki, Jiji, would you two mind talking to Cat for us? We’ve been trying a place for her.”

“Ohh…” Kiki’s eyes widened. “I’ve never seen such a cat around before…” She exchanged a look with Jiji. “Are you sure she’s not from the Wastes?” Kiki whispered.

“Well then, how about a ride for us to The Baron?” Howl quickly diffused the uncomfortable question. “He knows a lot of cats.”

“He knows too many cats,” Jiji piped up. “But yes, The Baron would know all the cats. If he doesn’t recognise one, we can be sure of one thing…” He shot a glance at Cat. She remained silent and unperturbed; nonchalantly licking and grooming herself.

Kiki handed us two broomsticks. “But why didn’t you just fly there, Howl? You’re much better at flying than I am.”

“Naw, a broomstick is a more stable form of transport. Even Harry Potter needs one for flight.” Howl said.

“Hang on, you know Harry Potter?”

“It’s just an expression,” Howl shrugged. “You can’t imagine how many crossover projects we’ve done, what with the number of fanfictions written…” He shuddered. “C’mon, try mounting the broomstick.”

Gripping the handle, I straddled the thick stick. I felt around the grooves of its bristles; the broomstick quivered slightly and started to hover.

“Woah, very good!” Kiki beamed, tiny dimples flashing on both sides of her cheeks. “When you fly, you fly with your own spirit. We are all born to fly, but first, we each need to seek our inspiration first. Sometimes, it’s not that easy. Sometimes, I forget how to fly.” She tucked my hair behind the ears tenderly and slid a bow headband on the crown of my head. “Now you’re ready.”

“A human heart is indeed a heavy burden,” Howl said, climbing onto his broomstick, flourishing his coat of many colours. “Kiki, lend me one of those ribbons someday; I think Sophie might want to try her hand at cosplaying.”

“Hahaha, I can imagine her choking you for saying that,” Kiki pushed with her leg, inching her broom forward. “C’mon, I’ve got a delivery to make.” She frowned, concentrating hard. A gust of wind started encircling her; she raised a hand and struck the broomstick. Whooosh! She skyrocketed into the air in spirals.

“We’re going the same way as Kiki,” Howl said. “Remember to keep a flying distance away from her, her flying scares me sometimes. And…just in case…” he took my hand. “We’re flying as a pair.”

 Together, we rose up in the air. It was like steering a scooter, but the buoyant sensation and lack of solid ground was positively petrifying. The buildings and streets below dwindled to minuscule pigments. I gasped as a blast of wind swept against us, rocking our broomsticks.

“Your hands are all clammy,” Howl tightened his grip on me.

“I’m kind of Acrophobic…” I trembled, trying not to hurl.

“Believe in yourself, like how we believe in you. Hold on to this hope by faith, and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.” Howl indicated to something in the distance. “Would you look at that! That’s Laputa!”

The imposing fortress levitated amongst ivory clouds of wool. Its idyllic grounds glittered vividly under the sunrays; a picturesque blend of watercolours.

“I sure hope this is not the season for typhoons,” Howl said. “How is Cat holding up?”

“I think the poor thing is ready to faint anytime,” I stroked her coppery mane.

“Hey! Porco said that something is wrong with the winds today,” Kiki drifted alongside us. “He says we should fly higher.”

Cat let out a hiss. The warning came too late.

A blast of icy wind sliced through the air; the handle of my broomstick splintered and snapped.

“NO!” Howl yelled as I broke away from his grasp. I lurched towards the grounds, gyrating along with the erratic manoeuvres of the wild broomstick.

So…this is what it feels like to die.

I felt a tingle on my cheek. Cat was kneading my face, calmly staring into my eyes.

A dark figure swooped down, securing me around the waist. “Howl, you must’ve been batman in another lifetime” my voice was hoarse and faint.

“Well, you’ll never know,” Howl muttered cryptically. “Trust you to make a joke at a time like this!”

“Oh my gosh, thank goodness!” Kiki floated down on her broomstick, swiping away the tears in her eyes.

“Now, hold on! We’re still airborne, so straighten your legs and tread carefully.” Howl’s flying spell had a sedate, balmy feel to it; it was like swimming in the air.

We landed on a wooden bridge, and the sun was setting in the horizon. Behind us was a traditional Japanese bath house, a shade of pale red for its walls and green for its roof. Its entrance proudly proclaimed the hiragana “yu”.

I know exactly where we were. And sure enough, a boy with a shock of emerald, straight cut hair approached us.

“What are you doing here?” His voice was soft, but it sounded ominously foreboding. He looked over at Howl and Kiki, and stared at me.

I stared back at my favourite anime crush of all time. He did not seem as thrilled to see me, though.

“You should not be here,” he told me. It was his exact lines in the story. What a way of welcome.

“Now now, Haku, you are too into character, y’know what I mean?” Howl teased. “Oh yes! We’re here for some food.”

“Oh goodie! I’m sick of pancakes already,” Kiki said.

The thought about food reminded me of the gnawing hunger pangs in my stomach. It gurgled loudly in response.

“What d’ya say, Haku?” Howl raised the pitch of his voice and pretended to wink coquettishly. “C’mon, you can’t abandon starving friends.”

Just then, a young girl was running across the bridge, her ponytail swishing wildly behind. She jerked to a pause when she saw us, momentarily lost for words when she looked over our unusual party. “Chihiro, you’re supposed to run the other direction.” Haku sighed, and turned back to us. “Alright, alright. Stop that, Howl. I’ll visit and bring you guys some *saké when the story is over, okay?”

“What, you guys are not joining us?”

“Maybe after the story ends.”

“Which is never!” Howl huffed. “You have alot more lines and scenes in your story than I do! C’mon.” He led us into the bathhouse. “Don’t mind Haku; he is a *Tsundere, so he’s just being shy.”

The interior of the bath house stunned me into silence. It was brightly lit and intricately decorated with vinyl lanterns and delicate vases. There were multiple levels in the building, and I spotted the familiar wooden doors and lever-engineered elevators.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” Howl crossed his arms, satisfied.


“Hai! I want steamed red buns please! And a herring pot pie! And *Okayu! And a plate of *Chikuzenni! And horse mackerel, deep fried please! A plate of Salmon in béchamel sauce…” Kiki had already settled down on a *kotatsu and started ordering.

“Goodness, calm down, Kiki! Are you sure you can finish them all? Wasting food is a sin y’know!” Howl said. “And, you forgot *Ba-Wan. It’s a specialty in Spirited Away.”

“I’m ordering for ALL of us,” a look of absolute gauntness crossed her face. “I haven’t had a proper meal for YEARS. Imagine having bread and pancakes every day.”

Excellently animated food did not disappoint. I slurped up the gelatinous shell packed with impeccably grilled meat and shiitake mushrooms, munched down on deep fried sizzling mackerels, and inhaled bowls of vegetable stew. It was heavenly. The babble of talk from the other patrons were rather interesting too; I couldn’t help but to eavesdrop.

Are you not feline well? You are freaking meowt!

I’m alright, it’s just the furrrniture. It’s absolutely puurfect, fur real.

You have cat to be kitten me.

Wow, the mackerel is pawsitively pawsome!

Yeah, absolutely hisssterical.

Do you want some tissue paypuuuurr, Baron?

“Well well well, it looks like we’re in luck.” Howl looked up eagerly and waved. “It’s the Catastrophe of cats from The Cat Returns. HEY BARON!”

“I’m not sure if that’s the correct collective term for them…” I began, trying to swallow my last bite of food.

A smartly dressed cat strode to our table. He wore a classic tapered suit, brown linen pants and monk strap shoes. “Howl! You called?” He grasped Howl’s hand firmly for a few seconds and let go.

“Baron! So good to see you. How have you been?”

“Well, if you really want to know, I have constantly been running between Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns. The workload from the spin-off is pawsitively driving me insane.”

“I’m so envious…” Howl sighed. “I need a favour from you, Baron.”

“Anything but a sequel. Ask away, my friend.”

Howl briefly explained about Cat. The Baron nodded thoughtfully, stroking his whiskers.

“Well, I certainly haven’t seen her around before,” the Baron said, scrutinizing Cat with his great orb of eyes. “Perhaps, the Waste…?”

There was silence. The other patrons had caught the gist of our conversation, and paused to listen.

“But you have a human here with you…” the Baron looked at me, his amber eyes wide with wonder. “Perhaps she can pay a visit to the Wastes.”

At this, there was an uproar from the other patrons.

“I’m not risking my pretty lady,” Howl said calmly, and placed a hand on my shoulders.

“If she doesn’t do it, then nobody can,” a random cat interjected.

I looked down at Cat. She stared back at me.

“I’ll do it.”

“Whaaaaat?” a peculiar blankness crossed Howl’s face.

“You must understand; the Waste is where all the abandoned characters go…they are trapped there, forgotten memories…waiting to be destroyed, never to return. You are human, so it wouldn’t hurt you. But it’s a terrible, terrible place. None of us can come with you,” Kiki took my hand.

“But if Cat survives it, then she can stay, right?” I couldn’t bear the thought of Cat wandering around, lost and dealing with rejection. I was determined to protect her.

“Logically speaking, yes, she can,” Howl said. “We should go.”

He waved his hands pompously, and conjured up a door. “Kiki, you stay put.”

As we stepped through the door, we encountered thick, impenetrable vegetation. There was a pungent smell of burnt sulphur.

“The Wastes is located next to Irontown,” Howl hacked away at the obstructive tree branches, clearing a path for us.

“Princess Mononoke?” I asked, astonished.

“Tough women, San and Eboshi. They live in a world of destruction and chaos. Perhaps I should be thankful for my role,” Howl said.

“Hang on. Kiki was right. If you could have easily magicked us to another location, why didn’t you do it sooner, why now?”

Howl paused.

“Because the story is ending,” he said simply.

“You’re hiding something from me.”

He continued marching forwards through the forest, his back towards me.

“Why? Why have you brought me here, into this world?”

“I’m sorry, pretty lady,” he stopped and spun around in a flourish. “It’s time to put an end to the story.”

A conspicuous metallic barrier stood in the midst of the dense woodland. Upon sensing our presence, its elevator doors slid open. The entrance to the Wastes.

Howl grasped my hand, and slipped a ring on my finger. “This charm…will guarantee your safe return.”

“I still believe you’re a good person, Howl.”

He looked at me as the elevator doors slid shut.

“Thank you…for believing in me.”

The elevator doors glided open. I wrenched the iron shutters apart. It was a labyrinthine corridor, dimly lit with red lanterns. The silence was chilling.

“Cat?” She leapt out of my pocket and scurried through the fog of the darkness. The elevator door slammed shut behind me, blinding my senses with the chocking desolation.

“DON’T LEAVE ME!” I screamed, and stumbled unseeingly after her.

It wasn’t your fault.

The breath was fresh against my ear. I turned, but there was no one there.

Someone was watching me, following me. I couldn’t see anything. I wrapped my arms around myself, feeling very exposed.

“Who’s there?” my voice trembled and cracked. “Howl?” I pressed down on the platinum band on my finger.



The muffled chimes of a grandfather clock reverberated throughout the vacantness.

You’re under a curse.


She stood looking at me. An intense beam of flash charged towards us, screeching. The jarring sounds of horns blared deafeningly.

“CAT NOOOO!” I reached for her, but it hit us both.

 There was a shattering of the glass, the sickening twist of metal. The impact of the collision hit me hard on the face. There was an odd metallic taste in my mouth.

Life is hard. It is cursed. The world is suffering. But still, you have to find a purpose to keep living.


The accident wasn’t your fault.


You have to fight for the things that are worth fighting for. Life is worth it. Love is worth it.


Remember yourself, Cat.


Do you remember now?

Do you remember now… Catherine?


He stood there, dressed in the same clothes as I’ve last saw him.

“Daddy…I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have been with you in the car that day. I shouldn’t have said those mean words. I shouldn’t have made you angry…When I think those were the last words I said to you, I…” I gasped; allowing the gut-wrenching sobs to tear through my being. I clutched at my chest.

“You have nothing to apologise for… Well, maybe except for trying to abandon your poor mother. In fact, I should be the one who is sorry…”

The swoosh of fluttering wings and whiff of a familiar gardenia-scent diverted our thoughts.


“There you are pretty lady, sorry I’m late. I was looking everywhere for you.” Howl placed a hand on my shoulder. “I see you’ve finally met your father. He has been waiting here for a long time.”

“I know I’ve never fulfilled my promise to watch Howl’s Moving Castle with you, Catherine.”

“You mean Cat. You actually recognised that part of yourself at first glance, pretty lady,” Howl rubbed his forehead. “It’s your story afterall.”

“Thank you…For fulfilling this old man’s last request. You have been a very good escort, Howl.”

“I do my best,” Howl bowed.

The floors started to shake violently; the hardwood flooring started to crack and the walls shrieked.

“We need to leave here, now! This ain’t exactly a place for some rendezvous…” Howl tugged at my arm.

“Goodbye, Cat. Take good care of your mom for me,” his eyes crinkled. “I don’t want to see you again so soon.”

“Goodbye, daddy. My heart is stronger now that you’re in it.”

“THIS WAY!” It was Haku and Chihiro. Haku gestured urgently towards a hatch on the floor. Howl fireman-carried me and shot through it.

“YOU MADE IT!” there were loud, party poppers exploding all around us, showering us with glitter. Everyone seemed to have waited there for us.

“I thought it would be slightly safer in a drama story,” Haku sighed. Distinctive blues arpeggios of ‘Country Road’ resonated through the tranquil streets.

“I forgot Haku is a magician too! But ‘whisper of the heart’, really? You must be more sentimental than we thought!” Howl laughed, giving an approving pat on Haku’s head.

“I’m a wizard,” Haku said, irritated, and shook Howl off (“C’mon, what’s the difference?”) “And…we haven’t got much time.”

“You’re right.” Howl crushed me to his chest. “I hate to say this, pretty lady. But it’s time to say goodbye.”

“I hope Howl hasn’t been teaching you all sorts of bizarre ideas,” Sophie kissed my cheek. “I was so worried. Calcifer wanted to say goodbye, but he’s currently jailed to the hearth.”

“Let’s eat together again someday!” Kiki and Jiji waved.

“It’s been a pleasure meeting you, young lady,” the Baron’s two-handed handshake was reassuring.

Ponyo tottered and handed me something pink and damp. “HAM! YUMMY HAM!” She flashed me an open mouthed smile.

Chihiro hugged me affectionately. “You must come back and visit us again, okay?” she said sweetly.

Haku came up to me. “I…still owe you saké.”
“He means he will miss you!” Howl said, while leaving a good five-foot space between him and Haku.
“Rawrrrawrrrrawrrrawrrrrawrrr…” Totoro whimpered, pouting. But I understood. I planted a kiss on his fluffy belly.
“I won’t. We never truly forget someone once we met them, right?”


The world shook again, but this time, I was vaguely aware that someone was palming my cheeks, crying with the force of tears being vomited all over my face. A finger dug into my mouth, and I immediately felt sickeningly nauseous.
The taste of Benzos was sour in my mouth, and I puked them out.
“Mom…I’ve just had the best adventures in a Wonderland.”

I closed my eyes, and slept.

(5,921 words)