In the fourth and final part of the fourth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, Arhu has a grim moment. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
This part resonated with me a LOT:
“It may have to do with population pressure. All these millions of minds packed close together, pressing against the structure of reality, trying to get their world to do what they want… and hundreds of years of that kind of pressure, started by people who came here over great distances to found a city where they could live the way they wanted to, have things their way—“
In many ways, this does capture the spirit of New York succinctly. I don’t want to gloss over what it means that this city was “founded.” Manhattan alone has a history of theft and violence that led to its founding. (Like the displacement that happened to make Central Park.) The immigration that happened since New York City became a reality shouldn’t all be glorified either. Migration happens for so many varied reasons, and lots of people come to the US because of our government’s policies that drove them away from their homes. That truth lives alongside a complicated, densely-packed existence here in New York City, and there is truly no place like it in the world. For the most part, it does feel like a place where people come to “live the way they want” to. There’s such a beautiful fabric of possibility here, a mixture of cultures and ethnicities and traditions. The city is always breathing, always humming, always moving. I’ve become spoiled by it after just a year here. I expect other cities to have a ridiculous amount of options for food after 10pm. I expect that getting around without a car will be relatively easy. I expect that I could walk down the street and hear four languages before I ever reach my subway stop. That’s not to say that people can exist like this without peril; there are always folks who want to push out this uniqueness, who want to spread out to neighborhoods and take them over. All of the communities above Central Park are currently dealing with this, and I can see that fight happen on a weekly (sometimes daily!) basis.
I know why it happens on a social and political level, but on an emotional one, it confuses me. I moved here because I liked how distinct it felt. Why would a person ever want to change that? Why would I ever move to a place and demand that the culture accommodate me? I suppose if that’s the life you’ve been used to up to this point, that makes sense. But it’s horrifying to me, something so wretched and petty that it infuriates me to see it happening. New York City has become what it is because it has attracted people from all over the world. Sanitizing it (and white-washing it) would absolute ruin it all.
So I liked that this opened with an appreciation for what New York City has come to represent for so many folks. The gates formed and multiplied here because of the concentration of minds and wills, and that makes it a special place. Is that what attracted this thing that broke the gates and nearly killed Arhu? I don’t know, but it’s a tempting theory, isn’t it? What if this being or force specifically sought out the unique energy of NYC? It’s not exactly impossible, and given what Arhu says here when he flashes back to his near-death experience, it certainly sounds like this city was targeted:
“It won’t make any difference,” Arhu said, his voice oddly dry and drained-sounding. “It’s coming all the same. It came before. Once, to see, Once, to taste. Once, to devour—“
HAHAH WOW, NOT CREEPY AT ALL. So, safe to assume this isn’t the first time this being came to Earth? And we’re all doomed because it’s come back to devour everything? COOL, COOL, TOTALLY COOL. No need to panic! It’s just that the gate on one of the tracks actually cannot open, so that means the feline wizards have LITERALLY no control over it whatsoever! Rhiow comes up with an ingenious plan to prevent humans from being sent to some hell dimension or deadly planet by fusing the track switch together, but that’s a temporary solution. Something has such immense power that it can do things that were believed to be possible.
And it’s just the start, isn’t it? We get another sliver of a clue as to what might be happening, but then the story switches back over to Arhu’s education. Which is still important! I think we need to see both of these stories, particularly since it’s my theory that Arhu’s eventual Ordeal is this weird creature or being or WHATEVER IT IS, I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO REFER TO IT ANYMORE. So, the adult wizards have an important stake in this plot because Arhu won’t be able to pass his Ordeal and survive if he isn’t shown the ropes by these more experienced cats.
It’s not all wizardry stuff, though, and the final big scene in this chapter is more about Arhu’s lack of street smarts. In this case, he doesn’t understand why he can’t just go up to a deli counter and take some meat! It’s right there, and the human isn’t eating it currently, so what’s the big problem? The scene is adorable and hilarious, and I did feel a little bad for him. Look, as someone who had to become independent and self-serving at a very young age, I do get a sensation of pity for people who haven’t had time to figure out the ways of the world. It’s not easy to navigate social rules and cues! Plus, to someone like Arhu, all these rules are absurd. Why have them? Why are they important? Why can’t he just have the pastrami??? LIFE IS SO HARD.
It is, but rules are there for a reason, and Arhu’s learning that there are even more of them for him because he’s a wizard. That’s the price he pays to be COOL AS HELL.
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