GG | ✔️

7. Candy Apple-red

The Radiant Rainbow slide broke through the canvasy roof of a filthy-grey tent, ripping it into shreds.

Then, the Seven Colored Beast hastily retreated into the cloudy woods which were soon tinged in navy blue.

Una and Duo touched down in a mess of human and Felix-sylvestris-catus body parts.

They splintered a wooden table, disintegrating a doublet of demitasses.

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” a shrill superannuated shriek was heard.

A woman past her prime sat on a disjointed chair.

She resembled a gargoyle in a frou-frou dressing gown.

A plaque reading:


rested on a table surface.

Hundreds of eyeballs opened at the same time.

Amber, blue, brown, grey, green, hazel, red, and violet irises blinked at Una and Duo from the countless cupboards that surrounded them.

“We… We are awfully sorry. We didn’t mean to… The Radiant Rainbow granted me a wish and we…” Una began to justify their presence.

“You didn’t mean to? Do you know who I am? I am the ring mistress of the Tantalizing Tent. How dare you barge in like that?”

“Una. Look.” Duo paw-pointed at the object on the table. “This rounded red spheroid…”

“Duo, that’s a candy apple!” Una exclaimed.

Duo wrapped around her shoulders like an expensive, two-colored scarf.

He hissed into Una’s ear. “There is a red petal inside it.

“The Radiant Rainbow didn’t lie, then!” Una gasped.

“It landed us right on top of the red petal container,” said Duo.

“Your cat speaks!” Greedy glint glittered in gargoyle’s globules.

Duo adjusted his Every Color Bow-Tie.  “The name is Duo. Logophile and wordsmith, in my spare time.”

“I am the Clairvoyant Circus Conductor. Very grandiloquent, you are, yes, yes. You should do well.” She rubbed her palms.

“Do well for what?” Una asked.

The old gargoyle brought forth a moldy musty parchment and an inkwell.  “You are interested in my Soothsayish Spheroid?”

“More likely, at what’s inside it,” Duo clarified.

“You can have what’s inside it. Sign the Compelling Contract first. It takes two to tango,” she cackled.

“What do I need to sign?” Una said.

“Don’t sign anything before reading it, Una. Or after,” Duo said in a hushed voice. “Binding promises to others that you might not fulfill will only get you in trouble.”

“I will read it for you, dearie, don’t you worry about a thing,” the gargoyle offered. “It says that you agree to perform in The Tantalizing Tent tonight. A girl with her talking cat. Imagine the sensationalism!”

“One-performance deal only?” Duo asked.

“Yes, yes, of course. The entire town will be here if we pass the word around quickly. I will not ask for more appearances of yours.” The ring mistress promised.

“I need to get home before midnight,” Una said.

“And you shall. It’s a short act, nothing more.” The woman cackled.

“I am of age, and Una’s guardian for the time being. I will be the one to sign.” Duo winked at Una, dipping his paw in the black inkblot.

“Duo, are you sure that…”

A paw-like shape remained sealed on the parchment before Una could finish her sentence.

It was too late to change anything.

A mere hour later, Duo and Una were hiding behind the curtain, waiting for their turn to perform.

Several enactments whooshed past them as if in a blur.

Earwigs pulling a carriage, which people had to watch through binoculars.

A couple dancing fandango accompanied by castanets.

Finally, a Fire Man.

“CCC said that we were on after the Fire Man.” Duo yawned.

“CCC?” Una was puzzled.

“The Clairvoyant Circus Conductor,” he clarified, admiring the Fire Man performance.

“Oh.” Una smiled. “It is all happening so fast, Duo. I hope we will have time to get the petal and find Paz.”

“We will. But first thing’s first: pull out the Imperial-Red Petal from the backpack,” Duo said.

Una did so.

Duo took off his rain-bow-tie. “Hold this for me, will you?”

“But, Duo… Why?”

“Una, we don’t have time. Touch me with the black part of the petal.”

As she did so, his paws swelled up like furry tires inflated with a bicycle pump.

The long black mane grew on his head.

Duo stretched as his hindquarters rose up in the air.


Instead of her familiar tiny two-colored tomcat, a big black lion now stood before Una.

“Well, that was weirrrrrd,” Duo’s “r” came out more roary than usual. “I am a bit discombobulated. But I approve.” He whistled at his own mirrorflection.

“Duo? Did you know this was going to happen?”

“The name of that petal implied it might make one more… rrrregal. The color comes from charring. Better a black lion than a red one.”

“What are we to do now?” Una inquired.

“When the mealymouthed CCC calls our names, I’ll run into the audience. You go to the Tantalizing Tent and get the Candy Apple. Be pussyfooted! Like I would. We’ll meet outside, later.”

“Be careful, Duo!” Una hugged him.

“Mind the mane. You may caress me, but not against the current.” The black feline frowned.

The next-to-last thing Una heard was:

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages… Prepare for the… Dynamic Duo performance!”

The last thing Una heard was:

“Too bad there won’t be any performance,” said Duo. “The name was catchy.”

The last thing Una saw was:

The black lion rabble-rouse leaping into the audience, inciting people screams and fisticuffs fighting.

She ran in and out of the tent with the Candy Apple as fast as she could, only to see Duolion already waiting for her next to a dusty merry-go-round.

The circus visitors were fleeing the grounds like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

“Fiasco! Ruckus-raisers! Ruffians! You… hoodwinked me!” the CCC was screeching at them both. “This was not what it said in the Compelling Contract!” She cracked a whip in Duolion’s direction.

He dexterously avoided it.

“I know. I captured the mouseprint. I am a cat, after all.” Duolion smiled. “It said we were to serve you for one year, not one night.”

“Exactly! So both of you are now mine!”

“Not so fast.” Duo’s paw whisked the contract from between the CCC’s old webby fingers. “The contract was signed by a mere tomcat. A tomcat who is no more. You have been outfoxed. Or shall I say, outcatted.” Duo ripped the parchment to shreds.

He toppled the CCC into the dust.

The feeble lady covered her head.

“Take the Candy Apple! Just… Leave. I promise I won’t try to keep you here!”

“KEEP ME HERE?” Duo boomed. “I am unattainable. I. AM. INDOMITABLE.”

“Duo. Duo please, let’s go. Don’t hurt her. We got what we came here for.” The tendrils of fear wrapped around Una’s heart. “I… I have the Imperial-Red petal right here. Let’s change you back.”

Duolion’s eyes flashed venomous green.

He turned towards Una.

The CCC used that moment to run away.

“NO! I want to stay like this. It makes me feel powerful. For once, my inside and my outside match. They are both OUTSTANDING.”

“Duo, this… This isn’t you. Love yourself for yourself.  Accept who you are.”


“You don’t need that lion. You are great the way you are. Please. Come back to me.”

In the last moment of desperation, Una pulled a rain-bow-tie out of the light-blue backpack.

“Back there… In the backstage… You told me to hold on to this for you. And I have. The Radiant Rainbow gave you this gift, Duo. You wanted to be stylish. You wanted to have ‘pizzazz,’ like you said. It won’t fit around Duolion’s neck. This rain-bow tie was meant for Duo.”

“MY… BOw…tie…” The black lion tentatively approached Una’s petalled hand.

“Yes. Your bow-tie! You want it? Come and get it! Who’s a good kitty?” Una used a moment of his carelessness to touch Duo with the upper part of the Imperial-red petal.

Duolion de-lioned.

Duocat cattenated.

“You…” he whispered, now small and meek. “You are now stronger than I am, Una. You managed to save me from my hunger for power. You made me embrace myself the way I am. That was not an easy task to accomplish.”

“Duo! It’s really you!” Una lifted him in her arms.

Duo stoically endured her embrace.

The rain-bow-tie was getting tied around his neck yet again.

“It wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything, Duo! It was all about the rain-bow-tie promise.” She giggled.

“Well, maybe a little. If felines could biologically blush, I would blush right about now. Let’s take a look at that the Candy Apple-red petal, shall we?”

“Eww, it’s all sweetened and sticky.” Una wiped her fingers on her overalls.

“At least it’s not burnt like the Imperial-red one was. What does it say?”

“It says:

Lugubrious night

A wooden hotfoot horse trots

Croissant points to home”

“I don’t know what ‘lugubrious’ is, but I don’t like the first line.” Una shuddered. “And, Duo, I don’t understand the next two. What are we to do?”

“I don’t mind the first one. My eyes are equipped for lugubrious nights. Agreed on the last line. But the second one? We are next to this… Whirly-gig, whatchamaycallit?” Duo scratched his head looking at the peculiar contraption.

“Me… Merry-go-round.” Una’s eyes widened.

“Yes. It’s full of wooden horses.”

“And horsies like apples!”

“Oh. They do. I see where you’re going with this.” Duo nodded.

Una reached out towards the carousel with the Candy-Apple petal.

A herd of a dozen fiddle-footed horses broke out of the wooden prison, the petal being their liberating chisel.

Una offered a candied apple to the palomino one, and it readily accepted it.

Its back arched forward in a mute invitation.

“Wait a moment. Have you ever actually ridden a horse before? So many things can go wr…” Duo didn’t get to finish that sentence.

Una was already safely cradled on the horse’s back, hugging it.

“You sure do love your hugging. I shall never quite comprehend it.” Duo shrugged.

“When I hug someone, I feel like I am giving and receiving warmth. We are warm together for a while. It feels nice,” Una explained.

The remainder of the herd of horses headed out of the circus clearing. They scattered in all directions like wild mustangs.

Una, Duo, and the palomino continued down the road.

“What a pair of foolhardy explorers we are. Globetrotters at their finest. Too bad our adventure is coming to an end. The petal sent us back home.” Duo noted.

“Come on, Nugget,” Una whispered into the horse’s white mane. “Come on, boy.”

“Nugget?” Duo snorted.

“He is goldy.” Una pouted.

“I was thinking of chicken nuggets, for some reason. Might be getting peckish, again,” Duo said. “I wouldn’t get too attached if I were you. Perhaps ‘Nugget’ is a temporary deal.”

“But he is here and now,” Una protested.

“My. My. You will not need me, soon. You spin your own pearls of wisdom, now,” said the tomcat.

“Silly billy! I will always need you, Duo! And we will always be together.” She scratched him behind the ears.

“There is no such thing as ‘always.’ I take it back. You still need me,” Duo teased.

The palomino horse came to a sudden halt.

“Oh no! Nugget! Did you go all woodeny again? No. He is still a softie. But… Why did he…” Una’s arms instinctively wrapped around her shoulders.

A can of black paint was spilt all over the horizon.

The wings of the night owl descended upon them, wrapping them into an impenetrable embrace.

“Humbug,” said Duo. “Madame Sun is gone.”

“Duo. Duo!” Una cried out. “I… I don’t see anything. I should have eaten that carrot cake. Then, I would see better in the dark.” Una grew desperate by the second.

“We will find the way.” Duo’s lanterny eyes stared at her, slightly amused. “I was not aware you were afraid of the dark.”

“Darkness gives me heebie-jeebies. When there is nothing to see, there is everything to see. And it’s all out to get me,” she confessed.

“Sound logic. I must agree,” said the tomcat.

“I feel so lost, Duo. I miss Paz so much. Why did this have to happen now?! Now, that I am about to get home? Our birth-day is almost over!!” Una let out an ear-splitting scream.

“We need to find a croissant,” Duo mused.

As soon as he said that, a beam shone into Una and Duo’s faces.

“Who walks there?” a soft voice said. “I thought I heard a wail in the dark,” it added in a genteel manner.

Una and Duo looked up.

On a night sky, a crescent tablecloth was set, surrounded with pale candlelight flames.

A tall, haggard, pallid man in a white suit stood by it.

He was holding a silvery flashlight.

“Now, what is this? Hmm. A sad little lassie. Whatever is the matter?” he inquired amicably.

“Well, no one can accuse him of having bad hearing,” said Duo.

“Let me introduce myself first.” The man bowed. “My name is Mister Moon. Well then, who might you be?”

“I am Una and this is Duo. Oh, and this is Nugget,” Una added, introducing the horse as well, thinking it was only polite. “We got lost in the dark, Mister. And it’s my birthday today. Mine and my sister’s. I don’t know how to get home. Nugget can’t see a thing. Please help us! Please!”

“Worrisome.” Mister Moon sighed. “But nothing that cannot be remedied. I just might be of assistance. Come on up.”

He dipped his pallid hand into a receptacle that looked akin to a flour bowl.

White stardust descended through the air like powdered sugar frosting.

It formed a gossamer stairway.

Nugget whinnied happily and began its ascent to heaven. The further up they went, the tinier the ground seemed, the lighter the surroundings.

At the last step, both Una and Duo had to shield their eyes from the light the crescent tablecloth emanated.

“Look, Duo! It’s the croissant!” Una exclaimed.

“Crescent.” Duo nudged her. “Someone might have misspelled that petal line.”

“Oh, this?” Mister Moon chuckled. “It does have a croissant shape, indeed. I set the table every night, you see. I light all the candles. Stars, you call them.”

“Why?” Una was curious.

“Madame Sun keeps promising me that romantic rendezvous. So, I keep waiting.” He closed his spectral eyelids in pain.

“Mollycoddle.” Duo rolled his eyes.

Mister Moon stood there for but another moment, moonstruck, lost in fantasy and reverie.

“Come then, child. Let us get you home.”  He made a single bright star land on the palomino’s forehead. “This should provide you with enough light to point the way for your… Nugget, was it?” Mister Moon smiled.

“Thank you so much, kind sir! You are so sweet. I hope Madame Sun will come to the rendezvous with you!” Una exclaiming, climbing on Nugget.

“I hope so too, Una. Safe travels. May we meet again, soon.” Mister Moon made a small bow of reverence to her.

Upon descent, shiny flour from the “stairs” dusted Una’s cheeks and freckles and remained nested there.

Equipped with his own forehead flashlight, Nugget ran like possessed.

It wasn’t long before Una could see the familiar shape of her garden.

The clock inside the house struck nine.

“I’ve been outside for over twelve hours, Duo. What will Mom and Dad say?” Una dismounted.

She caressed Nugget, feeding him the leftovers of the candied apple.

Loud noise coming from her backpack startled her.

Una tossed it on the ground.

The shell-coated box flew out of it, along with the eight floating petals that formed the following sign mid-air:


“Duo! What is happening?” Una shielded her eyes.

“It’s the petals. They are achieving Togetherness!” Duo replied.

Under each respective petal, except for the Spittle one, a simmering visage appeared.

Una could discern the calm, almost asleep faces of them all.

The Screecher, Mrs. Muving/Miss Woodward, ANU, Sea-She Salmon, Melaknoli Bird, Rosalinda Imperial, and Clairvoyant Circus Conductor.

Their figures joined in one.

It reminded Una of herself, yet taller and older.

Moments later, all those women-visages disappeared.

The fusion of petals created a single red rose that fell onto her lap.

“It’s… A rose.” Una frowned.

“Indeed. Purr-fect. Everything is coming up roses. Why don’t you offer it to your neighbor? Female humans do seem to like colorful dead plants, for some reason.” Duo paw-pointed to Una’s neighbor who was sitting on the porch.

An inexplicable force drove Una towards the woman.

The neighbor shed her overgrown clothes and removed her hood.

Una gasped. “I know who you remind me of!”

The neighbor looked just like Paz, only older.

That same dark, sleek tamed hair.

Those same icy blue eyes.

Upon accepting the rose, the woman hiccuped and diminished.

Her eight-year-old sister stood before her.

The girls embraced.

Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.