Shining Path


Chapter 27

The new year that humanoids call Shoumei 18 is a trying one for all joneko. Despite the large number of video recordings, no one is entirely sure of the details of the incident at the baritsu doujou. The joneko who was Twelfth Queen seems not to be Queen anymore; but there are those ones who say her abdication is not valid without the consent of the Regent. There are other ones who say the Regent, on the contrary, is of no consequence except by the grace of Twelfth Queen – a rat, to quote that great one, in the claws of an angry Queen. Already Twelfth Queen is spoken of as greater than other Queens, but only by those of her daughters who agree with some or all of what she says in the recordings. Others spit the names of Twelfth and Eleventh Queens as insults, saying that through the stupidity of Eleventh Queen in choosing such a successor, all joneko are now left with no Queen at all. Not all of the recordings of Twelfth Queen agree with each other, partly because of ambiguities in the joneko somatic language – the same speech may literally have a different meaning depending on the viewing angle.

Neither the joneko who was, and might still be, Twelfth Queen, nor the Regent (if such she can still be called) are available for questioning as to their views of the situation. Meanwhile hundreds of black joneko, as well as many who are merely black with white markings, or dark gray, or even tortoiseshell, claim to be the one chosen as Thirteenth Queen. Mystics suggest that perhaps, all those Queens are legitimate, because all joneko are Thirteenth Queen – is that not the true meaning of the words of the one who was Twelfth Queen when she spoke of all joneko being the Eschaton?

A ginger classic tabby who works in one of the computer-animation studios and has many friends, declares that the time for Queens has passed, that this one is a queen without a Queen, and she will not recognize the one called falsely Thirteenth Queen even if such a one can ever be definitively identified, mew. That one attracts hundreds of followers who agree that they too are queens without a Queen. Then they try to elect that one to be their Queen, much to her disgust.

The debate continues for weeks. At times the debate becomes violent. Many joneko simply do not care about the Queen or the Eschaton. Many joneko never have cared. Many joneko do care, and express strong views. Very many factions form, and dissolve just as quickly. Fights break out especially in and near hot-houses. Mew, fights are not unusual in and near hot-houses at the best of times, because feelings run strong in such places. A humanoid historian would call this time the Joneko War of Succession. Joneko do not need to give this time a name. Mew.

There is a wave of graffiti across the city. The graffiti is written in the claw script. The graffiti is incomprehensible to humanoids. Humanoid employers of joneko notice a higher rate of absenteeism. Humanoid insurers notice a higher rate of injury claims as a result of the fighting. Neither rate is far enough out of the ordinary to trigger an SN chart. Some humanoids ascribe the disturbance to the impending Lunar New Year of the Yang Fire Tiger. Those humanoids forget that joneko identify, instead, with the first zodiac sign. Humanoids call the first zodiac sign the Rat. Mew, joneko call the first zodiac sign the Cat.

When the great eye of First Queen rises over Tokyo on the morning of 6-day 2-month Shoumei 18, which is the Lunar New Year, First Queen's eye is very slightly closed, as if that great one, too, hates to see the tribulation of her daughters. Most dwellers in the city do not notice, but rural joneko, awake to greet the Sun, see and consider the omen. In fact, this particular eclipse has nothing to do with the joneko on the island of Honshuu. It is aimed at the island of Tanna. It is much more spectacular on Tanna. Members of the John Frum Movement, already excited by the lesser eclipse seen there on 17-day 2-month the previous year, recognize this eclipse as confirmation that finally, after almost 90 years of effort, they have created the proper conditions for the return of their benefactor. The Tanna Army U.S.A., actually the last military organization claiming allegiance to the pre-Deconstruction American regime, prepares for a celebratory march and John Frum's appearance on 15-day.

Back in Tokyo on 6-day, the one called Miss Takada puts on a tee shirt she bought from a subway-platform vendor over the weekend, and goes to work. The shirt is white, long with a hole at the back for her tail, and it bears a pair of blue joneko eyes painted on the front, neatly covering her uppermost nipples. Underneath is a slogan. The slogan is written in ultraviolet ink invisible to most humanoids. The slogan is written in near-English, but transliterated into the claw script. The slogan reads "Somebody let out us the bag." Takada's boss makes a rare, mildly disapproving, comment about the shirt; and burning with shame, as soon as he steps into his own office and closes the door the gray tabby strips the shirt off and buries it in the bottom of her desk drawer.

On 14-day 2-month, many joneko take time out from politics for the distribution of rat-flavored chocolate to favorite humanoid boys. Hirose Konosuke gets three such packages himself, which he takes home to give to Ruri-chan, who cannot stand the stuff and recycles it all. In the tunnel complex that housed the previous several joneko Queens and their retainers, a series of meetings takes place. Leaders of major factions are consulted.

Much to the relief of all concerned, Thirteenth Queen is finally identified. Some ones observe that Thirteenth Queen habitually wears a mask of polyester cloth that covers her face and forehead, with only a small slit for her eyes and holes for her ears. The mask is not visible in the video from the baritsu doujou. However, wearing unusual accessories is somewhat fashionable at this time and not really cause for comment. In the future, perhaps everybody will wear such a mask. Mew, one of Thirteenth Queen's friends, a gray, always wears white gloves and boots.

Not every faction is consulted in the royal tunnels on 14-day. Not every joneko recognizes this Thirteenth Queen as legitimate. Some joneko claim to still be daughters of Twelfth Queen. Other ones claim to be daughters of some other Thirteenth Queen instead of the one who now occupies the throne. There remain some queens without a Queen even though the ginger classic tabby who founded that faction has withdrawn, hissing and spitting, from politics entirely.

On 16-day 2-month of the year the humanoids call Shoumei 18, John Frum arrives on Tanna. John Frum apologizes for being a day late, and begins distributing gifts to his faithful sons. Late that evening on Honshuu, some joneko put on white tee shirts with blue eyes painted on the front. The shirts are imbued with the power to deflect ether bullets. In hot-houses these ones dance. On subway platforms and the roofs of office buildings these ones dance. In underground parking garages, these ones dance. These ones dance for the spirit of Twelfth Queen, and to create the conditions for the Eschaton of First Queen. They dance to become the Eschaton of First Queen. Mew, mew.