<p>The University of Melbourne’s Creative Literature and Writing Society present The Remarkable Quests of Raddish and Quill, a collaborative column for Farrago.</p>
As a member of a species that sleeps around sixteen hours a day, one would not expect Raddish the cat to have any difficulties as far as the task of falling asleep was concerned. Regrettably though, our favourite clinophile found their talents tested by the storm raging outside; the steady rhythm of the rain was difficult to appreciate when forced to compete with booming peals of intermittent thunder—not to mention the worrying groans of the treehouse as it swayed in the fierce winds. Fur standing on end, Raddish burrowed deeper into the nest of blankets that filled their favourite cardboard box. Despite their efforts, Raddish’s keen ears were still being bombarded by the cacophony surrounding them—along with a new sound: a faint tap, tap, tapping at their chamber door.
Trying their best to ignore it, Raddish curled up tight into a furry bundle.
But the tapping persisted.
Tap, tap, tap
Tap, tap, tappity, tap
Tap, tap, TAP
“For crying out loud Raddish, how can you sleep in this ruckus?! Open the door already!”
The fear churning in Raddish’s stomach quickly abated upon recognising the familiar (if irate) voice. Springing from their hidey-hole, Raddish rushed to open the door. The source of the tap, tap, tapping at their chamber door was none other than their dear friend and tree-housemate, Quill the raven.
“Quill! I wasn’t asleep, this storm just has me so paranoid. I thought you were a ghost or something!”
Radish chuckled unsteadily, but trailed off when they noticed the expression on their dear friend’s face. Raddish could tell by the deep furrow in their feathered brow that this was more than just Quill’s usual neuroticism—something was deeply, terribly wrong.
“Raddish, do you remember that trove of artefacts we found on our most recent adventure? Well, I was sorting through them, and, well… it’s probably best if you see for yourself.”
Upon arriving at the door to the library, Raddish immediately noticed two things: firstly, that the once meticulously curated library had been reduced to an absolute mess—piles of ancient tomes and sheafs of half-finished poetry strewn about the place. This alone was concerning enough, but it was the second thing that made Raddish’s fur stand on end once more. The library inexplicably smelt of freshly dug dirt, the odour so pungent that Radish couldn’t help but be reminded of a graveyard.
“Q-Quill, what exactly happened here, and should we be running very fast in the opposite direction right now?”
Reaching their wing into the pocket of their waistcoat, Quill pulled out a shiny black stone with an almost incomprehensible shape—a mess of countless angles that intersected and layered on top of one another. It was mind-boggling to behold.
“I was fooling around with this… thing, trying to figure out how it worked, and well, as you can clearly see, I may have, sort of, possibly, accidentally, let some sort of ancient evil loose.”
“C-come on, Quill! Are you sure all the sleep deprivation from your late-night poetry sessions isn’t starting to get to you?”
Quill let out an irritated squawk.
“Raddish, surely you know me well enough that—”
Quill stopped abruptly, their beak going slack as they noticed something just behind Raddish. Oblivious, Raddish continued their tirade:
“You probably just left the window open and the storm knocked everything about!”
“Now, Raddish, that’s not very nice of you. Surely you have a little more faith in Quill than that?”
Raddish’s tail puffed up like a wattle flower. Holding their breath, they turned slowly to face the source of the unfamiliar gravelly voice.
A massive hound wearing sleek ceremonial robes as dark as its ragged black fur was towering above them. The hound gave Raddish a toothy grin so horrible the cat promptly leapt several meters into the air and locked their claws into the rafters. Dangling from the ceiling, Raddish addressed the intruder with false bravado.
“Wh-who are y-you? Wh-why are you in our h-house? And why d-do you sm-smell like a compost heap?”
The hound let out a chuckle so menacing that Quill promptly joined Raddish up in the rafters.
“Now now, there’s no need to be frightened friends. I have many different names, but you can call me Tinda since that’s probably easiest for you mortals. The rest of them would probably break your poor minds!”
As the hound spoke, Quill’s eyes were drawn to their robes. It may have been their panicked mind playing tricks, but Quill swore they could see something writhing beneath them.
“And yes, apologies for the smell; I was trapped in that trapezohedron for a few thousand years and, unfortunately, it was a little lacking in the shower department.”
The graveyard stench from before had only intensified with the hound’s sudden appearance. Only there was more to it now. The intruder reeked of wet dog, rotten leaves and sour milk. Raddish tried their best not to breathe in through their nose, but could not help but recoil as the coppery tang of dried blood assaulted it.
“As for why I’m here…”
Tinda paused. The well-lit library seemed to become shrouded in an inky darkness as the hound grew several sizes, their eyes glowing a baleful red.
“…I’M HERE TO DEVOUR YOUR SOULS.”
Raddish and Quill let out a panicked scream in unison, clutching at each other as they came to terms with the possibility of their imminent demise. The barking laughter of Tinda echoed throughout the library. They continued to laugh as they shrunk back down to their normal size and returned the library to it’s well-lit state.
“I’m just messing with you. You should’ve seen your faces!”
Still perched amongst the rafters, Raddish and Quill glanced at each other, before returning their confused gaze to Tinda.
“You’re not going to eat our souls?”
“Of course not! I’m no stranger to the occasional metaphysical cheat meal, but after being imprisoned for so long, I AM terribly peckish. Have you folks got anything a little more substantial lying around? I promise to get out of your fur and feathers once I refuel.”
Raddish’s fear dissolved instantly at the opportunity to play host. Leaping down from the rafters, they gestured for Tinda to follow them.
“Let’s see, we have some lovely beef stew I can reheat, or perhaps I can fry up some bacon and eggs?”
“Have you got anything without meat? I’m a vegetarian.”
As their voices trailed off down the hallway, Quill fluttered down to the ground, letting out a deep sigh as they surveyed the mess.
“Tomorrow’s problem, I suppose.”
With a shrug, they snuffed out the lights and left to join their friends for a warm meal—all the while the rain continued to lash the windows of their cosy treehouse.