FOURTEEN - Force majeure féline

"Don’t forget that one interpretation never exhausts the sign, and that polysemy is a bottomless well where we can hear an infinite number of echoes: a word’s meaning never runs dry. And the same’s true even for a letter . . ."
- Simon Herzog (as fictional character in The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet)



The screen now displayed the text I was to enter into the WOMBO Dreaqm app, for real:
' "Life is not a novel. Or at least you would like to believe so." - The Seventh Function of Language '

So I obediently entered the exact text into the WOMBO Dream App, and rendered it in the 'Synthwave' style. The result was humorous and beautiful, even cute maybe, and I had ten seconds to spare. When the countdown finished, additional instructions appeared. The screen now read: 'Publish whatever you just rendered, and prepare for your second one. You will repeat this same exercise using the sentences that appear on your the screen - all from The Seventh Function of Language. Pick your favorites and when you have published 12 artworks. These will come up again later, so choose good pictures.
Oh, and by the way, Charlie, you have already found your second link obviously. The third one is yet to come. Just don't forget there is one more clue in the form of a file, and that's the third clue you need to find out where this is going. '
I pressed the \ key because I feel that it is underused, and when faced with such vast liberty as to pick any key at all out of 108, I don't just . . . I don't just 'willy-nilly' pick a key. Does anyone? Well, they would if they thought about it. If one key is as good as another, why not make it mean something to you?
Funny thing is, that's what the WOMBO Dream App does. As far as input goes, even garbage strings of input can render beautiful surrealist or abstract artistic pictures. So in that sense, one key IS as good as any other. And yet, the result ends up codifying it. What was once "w3adsEfdRE0-" is now something that resembles a garden growing in space; eliminate one of those characters and everything changes.
The same, of course, is true of a novel. Eliminate one of the characters and everything changes.
So back to the screen. I had pressed the \ key, and the next screen of text appeared: 'Thank you for your selection. The key you chose to press has now determined the rest of the story. The key you chose is the backslash key. It tells me that you are willfully eccentric - normal for your stage of literary development. As long as you're not bored with it yet, it doesn't matter that I am, Charlie. '
Ouch!
It continued: 'The previous sentence is the clue. Adjective, one word, descriptive. Meta. Think literature. Tell Arthur. You get three tries, then he leaves.'
Arthur Dotland stands there, smirking, waiting for me to give him what I think it means. I immediately, without the slightest hesitation, said, "I'll only need one try, Arthur. The word is 'catty'." Arthur's smirk turned to disappointment. "Yeah . . . that's it," said Arthur.
"Sorry if I took the fun out of it for you," I offer.
"It's not about fun, it's about the 50 Quid bet I just lost to Emma. And by the way, she said that answer counts as the third win. You found the clues, unlocked the riddle, all of that."
I blushed. This meant Emma had bet money that I would be getting it right the first time! This was her way of encouraging me, and letting me know at the same time that she had faith all along I would get it right.
See, it just happens I know she likes to use the word 'catty' to describe the 'because I can' scratch that a comment like hers could cause, metaphorically. I also knew it was time, in this story, to get going to a new location. And I knew that Arthur had a car. So I figured, correctly, that this is the part of the story where I am lured or chased by a cat into a deeper layer of the story. This next layer, of course, would require me to suspend my disbelief yet further, if my literary instincts were still keen.
"Put on something red. We need to go," said Arthur, validating my suspicion that the real adventure was now beginning.
"Red?" I asked, eyebrow raised.
"Just anything. Emma said you wouldn't need an explanation."
"Ohhh, right! We need red at this point, no problem!" I rush upstairs to my bedroom again and grab the red cravat I sometimes wear as a signifier. It's an easy way to add significance to an outfit without having to explain why it's there. It's not like wearing a written sign or a button that says "I'm feeling PASSION! (probably, or maybe not yet but I will be?)".
The donning of a red cravat is a signifier of many things; all of them 'seriously gay' or 'very European'. There are other ways to read it, but in this context, so far, I found myself wearing a red cravat for no other reason than that I had been ordered to wear something red. So for now, I guess the cravat signified unquestioning obedience. There, I'd resolved the matter in my mind and could move on, given that we seem to be in a rush.
As I finished neatly combing my hair and getting myself into an appearance I can only call quite dandy, I glanced by chance out the window to the street below. There I see Arthur, dapper and somehow professional-looking despite being merely a writer, smoking a long cigarette through a handsome black cigarette holder. Arthur kept glancing at his watch and then taking out of his pocket something that seem to be 'worry beads'.
The car Arthur casually leans on is beautiful, and I haven't seen one like it in awhile. It is a Volkswagen Rabbit from the 1980s, restored to brand new condition. It's a convertible, with a custom pearly-white paint job and screaming yellow leather upholstry, which is visible from where I stand because it's a convertible Rabbit and the roof is currently down. On the looks of it, for reasons I can't quite explain, it just seems like exactly the kind of car that would belong in the fleet of the Dotland family, I supposed, without any real basis.
I come downstairs carrying a black leather folio I take with me everywhere, containing papers mostly, sporting my cravat and looking very presentable. Arthur opens the passenger side door to let me in as he extinguishes his cigarette.
"That's Lyón," said Arthur, pointing to the apparently terrified crated calico kitten on the floor of the back seat.
"She won't bite, don't worry," he chuckled, mumbling the followup, "no promises about scratches though." Arthur made it clear in his pronunciation of Lyón's name that it was a reference to the city of Lyón, France, rather than someone named Leon or a lion, or Lionel Richie, or 'lying', or 'a line' or limes. It was just a kitten with a French name. Nothing to read into here. And yet, then again, why would it need to be any one of those things at the expense of any other? There are always layers, aren't there?

Arthur got behind the wheel and started the car. He didn't announce where we were going, and I didn't even bother to inquire. It was sufficient for me to know that wherever we were going, I was quite sure this was the right way to get there. I was now, after all, in the care and company of the charming Arthur Dotland, and in the strange literary circumstance of having a caged 'Lyon' and an Arthur (an author), and myself (Charlie) all nestled inside of a White Rabbit born of German design.

It all just promises to be so interesting.