This story for children was originally produced as a script for an audiobook. We will serialise it by chapter over the next week or two.

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Chapter Nine

I want to tell you a story about a little girl called Dyspepsia, and her friend Spookie the Cat.

No, you haven’t started the story in the wrong place. This really is the beginning, even though it’s Chapter Nine. But our story really begins right back in 536 BC, and BC dates go backwards, so I thought our chapters ought to go backwards too. So this is Chapter Nine and the next one will be Chapter Eight.

Now I’ve already told you about Dyspepsia and Spookie, but it’s so long ago that I ought to remind you. Dyspepsia is an ordinary little girl, about halfway between your two ages, and looking just like you or me. You more than me, perhaps.

But there are two remarkable things about her.

One is a gorgeous curl in the middle of her forehead, which in windy weather she has to stick down with hair gel.

The other is her seriously unusual name.

Now mams like to give their daughters unusual names, otherwise when they go to school and somebody calls out their name to come up to the front for a sweetie, the whole class gets up and dashes forward and they’re killed in the rush.

All too often mams don’t know what the name means – I mean to say, do you know what Juliette means, or Damon?

But in Dyspepsia’s case I think her mam ought to have looked it up because it’s such an unusual name. I can’t think of anyone else I know called Dyspepsia.

Now Dyspepsia has a friend called Spookie the Cat. She used to be called Pookie and she lived with Professor Schrödinger until he did a dangerous experiment on her, following which she wasn’t alive, and she wasn’t dead, but somewhere in between. Not just anywhere in between, mind you, but at a precise point you can calculate for yourself if you know some quantum theory: 48.95% dead. Which means she is 51.05% alive, which is the side of her personality she prefers you to dwell on. She’s an undead quantum cat, so now everyone calls her Spookie.

If you’re a quantum cat you can walk through walls. It’s called quantum tunnelling, but that’s only a figure of speech because you don’t actually make a tunnel in the wall, you simply appear on the other side as if you’d walked through an invisible tunnel. It doesn’t happen all the time, but only when you are glowing.

Now Spookie can’t see herself glowing so she just has to walk confidently towards the wall and hope she doesn’t bump her nose. Most of the time she does, which hurts, so she doesn’t try that very often. Instead she uses the door like everyone else.

Spookie and Dyspepsia are such close friends you never see one without the other. Except when Dyspepsia has to go to school. Spookie doesn’t go to school because, well, have you ever heard of a cat going to school? Besides, Spookie knows everything already. But Dyspepsia is still having to learn.

Now one of the worst things about not going to school is that you don’t get to go on school trips. At the time we’re talking of, Dyspepsia was away on a school trip to Egypt. She didn’t like going away and leaving Spookie on her own at home, because when Spookie is left alone she’s inclined to get up to mischief.

Like the time she tried making a hydrogen bomb, and ended up with a black hole, which could have had serious consequences.

As happened on this occasion.

No, not another black hole, but something infinitely worse. The universe is full of black holes, lying in wait for some unwary space traveller, but fortunately they are all very far away and unlikely to bother you or me in our lifetime. The black hole Spookie made would have done no more than gobble up the earth if she hadn’t done something about it. But on this occasion she nearly tied a knot in the space-time manifold, which would have made the earth and the sun and all the planets and stars disappear – pop! – without any hope of ever getting them back.

Because while out walking one day, Spookie happened to meet the great love of her life: Puss son-of-Miau, the Last of the Time Cats.

…to be continued.