Who Least Expects It
by Andrew Troy Keller and Doc Quantum
When a familiar stranger arrives, Alley-Kat-Abra learns that, even on a world known as Earth-C, the age-old rule still applies: love comes to she who least expects it. Guest starring a certain occult detective from Loondon!
Editor’s note: This story takes place between Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #13 and #14, and long before Alley-Kat-Abra and Captain Carrot began dating.
In one of the rooms of the Z-Building, headquarters of the Zoo Crew, a saddened Alley-Kat-Abra was looking out a window, wondering if she’d ever be able to find the right guy.
“Pardon me, Felina, dahling,” said a concerned Yankee Poodle, walking up to her in a rare moment of empathy. The two usually fought like cats and dogs, yet on this day Alley-Kat-Abra just hadn’t been taking the bait. “But are you all right?”
Turning toward Rova Barkitt, a sad-eyed Felina Furr took a deep breath and answered, “I don’t think so, Rova. I mean, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and I’m still unable to find the right guy.”
“Oh, cheer up, dahling,” said Rova, placing her hand on Felina’s shoulder. “Besides, there’s an old saying — there are plenty of catfish in the sea.”
Visiting her old apartment in Mew Orleans that night after a busy day making public appearances with the Zoo Crew back home in Califurnia, Felina realized that Rova might be right and that she shouldn’t give up hope.
As Felina was getting ready to have a shower, she started thinking about what her ideal guy might be like. Like never before, she began to visualize him, picturing what he would look like and how he would treat her. Little did she know that fate was about to take a hand in things, as a strange nimbus of energy began to form from her Magic Wanda, slowly taking shape as it hovered in midair.
While in the bathroom having a shower, Felina continued to picture this ideal mate, from the color of his fur to the length of his whiskers. She even thought about his accent, the timbre of his voice, and the way he would talk with her. And as she did so, the nimbus of energy from her Magic Wanda began to look more and more like a person.
Suddenly, Felina’s answering machine beeped and was followed by a message. “Felina, dahling, this is Rova. I just wanted to call and say that you shouldn’t give up. After all, life’s just full of surprises.”
Felina continued to shower, picturing how her ideal mate would sweep her off her feet and treat her like a queen, listening with rapt attention at everything she had to say and making her feel special. And as she did so, the energy form began to solidify.
Feeling thoroughly relaxed, Felina stepped out of the shower, dried herself off, put on her robe, and left the bathroom.
But as she walked into the living room, she suddenly felt a presence in the dark, candlelit room. “Who’s there?” she said, reaching for her Magic Wanda.
Before she was able to retrieve it from her tabbachi, a strangely familiar voice said to her with a Brutish accent, “Please, luv. I mean you no harm. Just please… turn around.”
Although she would normally have reacted in a very different way to an intruder, something about this voice made her feel safe. As she slowly turned around, she looked and saw the figure of a male cat standing before her — exactly the same as the ideal mate she had pictured. He was tall and slim, with blond fur and blue eyes, and he wore a tan trenchcoat.
“I’m… sorry,” said a confused Felina, “…but I have no idea who you are.” She gulped, knowing she was telling a small fib. She had already guessed exactly who he was, and had a good idea of how he had come to be.
“Call me John,” said the stranger, walking toward her coolly. “And I’m here for you, my darling Felina.”
Felina couldn’t help but smile. Rova’s prediction had suddenly come true — her ideal mate had come to her. Only, he was just a projection from her own thoughts. He was, in effect, a projection of herself. She only felt guilty for a moment before deciding to take advantage of the situation and let herself go. After all, it wasn’t every day that you met the one.
“So, John…” purred Felina, slowly wrapping her arms around him and looking at him with lowered eyelids, “…what am I thinking of doing right now?”
The answer to that question came soon enough, for John placed a gentle hand on the back of her head and kissed her, delicately at first, and then with passion.
Felina and John gazed at each other between kisses, studying each other’s faces for a few minutes, until she came to a decision. John was probably just a fantasy, but he felt real enough to her. Deciding to throw caution to the wind, she took John’s hand and blew out the candle.
The next morning, Felina woke up with a smile on her face as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. The two had been up for hours, just talking, laughing, playing board games, and occasionally kissing and hugging, but mostly just enjoying wholesome aspects of each other’s company.
But when she got up and looked around the apartment, she saw that she was now the only one there. She also found a note that was left on the pillow on the sofa in the living room, where John had gone to catch some sleep after the long night. It read:
My darling Felina,
When I first laid eyes on you, I saw you as a feline of exquisite beauty. Perhaps someday, you will find someone who’ll be able to be with you for more than just one special evening. Until then, we’ll always have last night. Happy Valentine’s Day, luv.
Having read the note, Felina placed it on her chest, laid back down on her back, closed her eyes, and let out a sigh. The world seemed open to so many new possibilities now. And though she was sure she’d never see John again, she now knew that she would find true love, and that it was closer than she thought.
Hmmm… she thought. I wonder if I should reconsider Rodney, if he’s not already interested in someone else. Who says team romances can’t work out?
When she went to the Z-Building later that morning for a team meeting, Rova noticed that Felina had arrived with a wry smile on her face.
“Pardon me, Felina, dahling,” said a curious Rova. “You look like you had a really good time last night. Care to comment?”
Standing in front of Rova and smiling for a moment or two, Felina placed a gentle hand on Rova’s shoulder and answered, “No comment, Rova, dahling. No comment.”
At that, Felina continued walking toward the meeting room, leaving a confused Rova out in the hallway.
Meanwhile, on the parallel world known as Earth-C-Minus, a figure was just waking up from a long catnap in his flat in the Beast End of Loondon.
“Well, that was a right nice dream,” he said as he ran one hand through his shaggy blond fur. Reaching over for his pack of Silk Cats, he lit one up and laid back in bed as he puffed away, thinking about the fantasy feline from his dream. He must have just conjured her up as a version of his lost love. Even the name sounded made-up: Felina Furr. “Naw, she couldn’t be real… could she?”
John Constantwine reached into the drawer of his bedside table and pulled out a picture of himself with his old flame, Zap-Panda Za-Beara, when they were in their early twenties. One of his many regrets was that he’d left her the way he did. But he’d been younger and much stupider as a young bloke, and she was a stepping stones to greater things, just as he was for her. After all, she had really made it big as a member of Just’a Lotta Animals. Last night he’d fallen asleep thinking about Zap-Panda, wondering what could have been, when he dreamed about meeting someone else, who turned out to be his ideal mate in every way. Strangely enough, she wasn’t Zap-Panda Za-Beara herself, but she was a lot like her in some ways. After meeting Felina in his dreams, the pain of his lost love was lessened just a bit.
“Now to get back to my bloody homework,” John muttered to himself, pulling out a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, all of which concerned sightings of a certain muck monster from Looeysiana. “After all, I’ve got a lot to teach that Swamp Meat bloke about himself when we meet, so I’d best come prepared. Hmmm… don’t know why, but I feel I ought to stop by Mew Orleans on the way to Huma. I must fancy a bit of homestyle Cagin’ cooking or something. Couldn’t be any other reason…”