The monster clicked the remote, sat back and sighed a sigh that reduced his bulk by about twenty percent.
“Well that was a disappointment. No cartoons about amiable bumbling capybaras making embarrassing decisions or trying to fix leaky faucets. None, I would say, of any kind.”
Jeanette had used the time of skip-watching vast numbers of cartoons to look up capybaras on her phone. Sure enough, their houseguest resembled one, except considerably bigger and with something like real arms and hands.
Senhor Capoeira Capybara had paused, probably waiting for an “oh?” Or a ‘and what does that mean?” But neither she nor her father were in a particularly obliging mood, so the big rodent (they were rodents, and native to South America) resumed talking in morose fashion.
“If I had found that this was a dominant mode here in your world, then there would have been a nice mirror symmetry to all this. ”Why?” Do you ask?” (he had noticed. Good.) “It’s because I come from a world where you are prominent funny animals.”
That got an “oh?” from her father.
“Just so. The common term is ‘Yahoos.’ There’s Yoicks Yahoo, the Three Tiny Yahoos, Crinkly and Yahoo--those are really good. But no symmetry alas. It was wishful thinking to hope that things could be that simple.”
He got up, and the sofa bounced back. “Come. I will explain.”
The capybara did clean up the breakfast table and even rinsed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Then they sat down, Terence and Jeanette on one side and Senhor CC on the other. Jeanette’s eagle eye had noticed he didn’t take off his gloves when washing.
“Briefly,” the monster said. “I am a funny animal, so-called. I lived a highly pleasant life making bad though good-hearted choices and helping others out of ridiculous scrapes. Then one day I was thrown out of that world by a horrible catastrophe I will call the Exile, and found myself as you see me--rendered in more detail, but in a world of a much more muted color palette, and decidedly less forgiving physical laws. I have been searching the byways of Cosmic Infinity for others like me, to try to find out what had happened. That is why I’m here.”
“Hold on,” Jeanette said with great heat, getting up and standing on the seat of her chair. “Are you calling my father a TOON?”
“Not exactly,” said the capybara. “Or to put it a different way, yes.”
“I will tell you that I have absolutely no memory of anything like this. I’m just an ordinary boring non-Yahoo human being. I was born in Elgin, Illinois and went to Dartmouth College. And…” Terence realized that he was about to launch into a self-explanation that would do nobody any good, and sat back down.
“Oh, certainly, it’s not that simple. When I was thrown into my new life, I had acquired a history, an identity, several advanced degrees and membership in a Masonic lodge. But I remembered my other life, where you do not. It’s both puzzling and disheartening.”
“Not so much if you’re simply wrong. I won’t say mad, because you are--” and he made a vague gesture at the capybara, “--what you are, but I’m reasonably sure I am who and what I think I am.”
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong, Dr. Ransom.” the fat brown thing said. “I had my minions delivered into your house, where they quickly and efficiently stole tissue samples from your towels and eating utensils and, er, other sources, and transmitted them to me for analysis. Spotsylwhovia is a real place, Doctor. Your friend Jamie? Maybe not quite so much.”
Terence sat there very quietly. Jeanette wanted to run to him and hold him until the look on his face went away, but the next thing he said in the calmest of calm voices was, “And what about Jeanette? Is she a toon too?”
“Hard to say. That depends on your point of, erm, insertion. Chances are she’s half-FA and half-non. Are there live-action adaptations of animated cartoons in your world? Kind of like that.”
“Bleah,” Jeanette said.
“What you’re saying, taken with a maximum amount of mental agility is, well, possible. Madness and wrongness are still in the race, though.”
The capybara relaxed, which increased his size.
“Tell me,” Terence said, looking at him with that calm that Jeanette so adored, “What do you want? With me? With us?”
Senhor Capoeira Capybara leaned forward. “I need your help, Dr. Ransom. I desperately need you to come with me.”