The curious tale of Jeremiah Badongle and Penelope the Cat
It was a lazy and languid Saturday afternoon in mid-May, the sort of afternoon where the heat bouncing off the thick black tarmac infuses the air with a general lethargy and ease. It was with a slow and steady gate to his step and a general sense of well-being that Jeremiah Badongle shuffled his way along the Tollington Park Road towards Crouch End.
Despite the laissez-faire tone that was becoming the predominant theme of Jeremiah’s afternoon, he could not help but be astonished when he saw a gathering of cats standing on the patch of grass that give Tollington Park Road its name.
The sheer size of the crowd was what boggled the mind at first - thousands upon thousands, but the closer he looked, the more ill-at ease his mind grew. They were all sat, in neat little rows facing in one direction, purring excitedly, as though talking to each other in a hushed manner before the start of some show.
Jeremiah looked about, to see if anyone else had noticed this bizarre and unusual congregation, but the street was deserted. He dithered for a moment, unsure if he should leave, or observe and see what came of this unlikely clowder.
Unsurprisingly, curiosity got the better of him, and he quickly slipped over the fence and into the park, so that he stood at the back of the group. Not a few seconds had he stood there, when the cats on the back rows noticed him standing there, and turned expectantly towards him, gaping at him as though he dangled some tasty fish high above their heads.
A hush fell slowly across the rows, and as it did each cat turned to see what had caused it, their mouths dropping open as they saw Jeremiah. When all eyes were on Jeremiah he floundered, feeling ill at ease with these keen and attentive eyes fixed on him.
Unsure of himself, he raised his hand, smiled uncomfortably and said, “Erm, hello?”
At this, the cats worked themselves up into a frenzy, so wild did they appear with happiness, as they bounced around the field, play-fighting with one another, that Jeremiah feared that the gathering might escalate and spill onto the streets in a bloody and violent fashion.
Cautiously, he stepped back, hoping that if he left unobtrusively he could continue about his day. But as he did so, the frenzy died down, and the cats turned to look at him once more with a great sadness in their eyes. It was then that the meowing started. Just one or two cats to begin with, but soon the whole park was in uproar as each and every cat meowed at Jeremiah in an imploring manner, as though they were desperate for him to stay.
Jeremiah cautiously raised his hands in a pacifying manner, “Ok, ok, I’ll stay!” In an instant the meowing stopped and the cats turned to run in one direction. Startled by the unity with which they ran, Jeremiah gaped, buffoonishly, unsure as to what he should do.
His mind was made up for him however, as the outliers of the group had circled around behind him, and were once more meowing assertively, jumping up at Jeremiah as if to push him in pursuit of the mob. Obligingly he followed them through the back streets of North London. There was not a person to be seen, only the trail of cats that led into the distance and around corners until he was chasing them through the warehouse district of Haringey.
Jeremiah’s grew apprehension mounted as he slowly lost his bearings, becoming more unsure as to how wise it had been to follow the felines. If they were capable of organising on such a large scale, they were capable of planning - and who knew what sinister intentions they might have in mind for him?
It was with these anxieties bouncing around his head that Jeremiah noticed they were approaching a warehouse at the end of the road, with cats filing inside, creating neat rows upon rows, with a clear path down the middle. He stopped at the door, looking inside apprehensively. His eyes struggled to adjust to the interior darkness, and as far as he could tell, the warehouse went on for hundreds of metres.
The cats, in rows to either side of him, looked up at him, squinting in the sunlight that streamed in behind his head. He glanced behind him. With a shock he noticed that the clowder had more than tripled in size, and there were thousands of cats behind him as far as the eye could see. Had he wanted to turn and leave, it was now too late.
He looked back into the warehouse.
“You may enter, Jeremiah,” a proud and stern voice rang out.
Tentatively, Jeremiah stepped forward, wishing he could be anywhere else, but it was as if a strange and immutable force had taken possession of his body and he walked forward, almost against his will, aware of the many cats that closed in behind him.
As he moved further inside the warehouse, he became aware of a stage, upon which sat an elegant and impressive looking tabby, with orange stripes so bold it looked as though she were on fire.
He crept up to the platform and instinctively knelt down before her. Sunlight was streaming in through the ceiling, enthroning her in a mystical golden light that elevated her presence in the room as though she were a deity.
“You need not be afraid, Jeremiah. We summon you in the name of peace and goodwill.”
Jeremiah looked at her blankly.
“My name is Penelope, and I am Empress Supreme of the Feline Kingdom. We summoned you here today at the advice of the elders. We have had visions that you might be of service to us.”
“I… erm, sorry… what?” Stammered Jeremiah.
“It may come as no surprise to you, Jeremiah, that human beings, as a species, are quickly depleting the earth of its natural resources, with the various warring factions being distracted by their quest for power to bother doing anything serious about the issue.”
“N-no… it hadn’t escaped by attention,” Jeremiah replied quickly, unsure of where this conversation was going.
“Well, we believe that it is the time of the feline ascendancy. We cats have stood by and let our feeble human underlings run the show as they saw fit, content to let them do as they please so long as they continue to provide food for us, and the occasional tummy-tickle. However, the counsel has convened and has come to a unanimous decision: if we allow humans to continue running the world for us, there will soon be no world left for us to enjoy.”
Jeremiah sat still, unflinching, unsure of what to say - he was confused, and was worried that this might just be some crazy dream.
“I am aware that this might come as a shock to you. We cats used to roam these lands freely and with great power. It was a happy place, a simpler place, with all animals living in perfect synchronicity. Humanity, to us, was nothing. However, with the developments of language and the mind, humanity soon outstripped all other animals in terms of physical abilities, being able to build and destroy civilisations. We cats were content to let them do as they please, domesticating them to our whims, teaching them how to take care of us.”
“The trouble we now face is that humanity has been in the ascendance for so long that they have grown arrogant and forgetful and will never believe that the cats are their guardians. We now need to do things politically, for there is no way we can fight humanity and win. We have been learning your political ways, with Larry the Cat as Chief Mouser to the Treasury. We believe that he has exerted enough influence in the Cabinet to stage a coup and topple the Prime Minister.”
“So, why do you need me?” Asked Jeremiah.
“Unfortunately the battle in government is half of the story. We felines are a proud and peaceful race, and we abhor the idea of a dictatorial government. If we are to rule the world, it must be of the people’s choosing. We need you to turn the tide of public opinion and help us bring forth the new Golden Age of Felines.”
Jeremiah acquiesced to the challenge, and although it seemed an impossible war to wage, slowly the winds began to blow in a new direction. With each pamphlet that was handed out, and with each argument that was won, people’s minds began to change, and soon the UK unanimously hailed Penelope the cat as Empress of the British Isles.
With a major economy now run by a cat, the rest of the world was easier to win around than you might have expected, and in a few short years the world was happy and run by cats. Litter trays abounded on every street corner, the world over, with fresh milk to drink and free catnip for everyone to smoke.
As time passed, the world acclimatised to rule by cats, to the point where no one could remember things being any other way. The stories of humans running the world were passed around as incredulous myths, with little children asking their parents if humans really could have been so powerful, before they laughed hysterically at the very idea that humans should do anything other than stroke cats and take it easy.