“Meow-oh-ow-oh Oui oui!!” said a mustached cat, holding a tablet made entirely of hard cheese. David had tried to pay attention to the conversation the talpa was having, but he quickly lost interest. As best as he could tell they were discussing crispiness of bacon and the joy of running around very late at night for no apparent reason. Other cat waiters were walking around on their tip toes ( tip paws? ) and occasionally letting their cheesy tablets, and the glasses resting on them, fall to the ground. No one seemed particularly interested in the broken glasses and oddly enough, not a single customer seemed to be in the restaurant.
The flight over to the restaurant was uneventful. David had to stop himself from eating more of the sandwich just out of boredom ( although it was delicious enough to not merit any other reason for eating it ). David was a bit confused. The talpa did mention they were headed for a restaurant, but it wasn't called 'Frant's' at all – the name of the place was 'le petit chat avec fromage'. It was certainly a very silly name for a restaurant and none of the cats seemed particularly small, even if they all were carrying enough cheese to refill the talpa's sandwich.
“Come on, David” the talpa turned away from her conversation rather abruptly “these guys don't know where the scientist is, but they know who do know.” She grabbed a tablet from a passing cat ( who didn't seem to mind ), bit off a corner and rubbed it on the part of her sandwich that David had bitten off. “Now, do try to keep your mouth off my sandwich. We have a world to scrunch.”
He didn't know what either of the two things had to do with one another, nor indeed, what 'scrunching the world' involved but he took the tablet the talpa offered to him, took a nice sized bite, and got back on the sandwich.
The world, it seems, isn't as solid as we think it is. This is what David learned on the flight over to the 'World Scruncher'. Matter has always been thought to be composed mostly of empty space. It seems that 'empty space' is all interconnected and highly elastic. The World Scruncher took it upon himself to regulate the 'scruchy level' and provide a stable, consistent world.
David saw the infinitely long ropes long before he saw the World Schruncher himself. Four ropes descended from the sky and attached to a wooden swing close to the ground. Upon this swing the World Scruncher himself sat, reaching his arms as far up the ropes as he could. He was a beautiful, if simple appearing being. He was mostly humanoid, but his legs were fused together, he lacked any facial feature and his skin looked like molten silver.
“You'll have to help me, I can't lift both sides at once” David followed the talpa's lead. “Make sure that you lift at exactly the same speed that I do. Otherwise the entire world will be off balance. Ready?”
David hurried over to the other side of the World Scruncher and grabbed the ropes connected to the swing. “Yup – ready.” They both slowly lifted the swing, and the World Scruncher on top of it. Immediately, the world 'felt' different. Every nanometer they lifted the Scruncher, a soft, crunchy clicking sound could be heard and the ground beneath David's feet became both smaller and larger. He couldn't get his head around the concept but even his own body was affected by the scrunching. His forepaws seemed large and powerful, yet small and nimble – more and less so than they were before the scrunching.
“Ok, that should be enough. You ok?” the talpa flexed her own forepaws and stretched, cracking her back in the process.
“I'm ok” David said. “Where to now?”
“We're off to an aquarium. You'll have to go in there for me.” the talpa looked nervous.
“Wait – you're not coming with me?!?” David didn't like the sound of this.
“Oh, I'll be right outside. I just can't go in.”
The aquarium was withing walking distance of the World Scruncher. It was a bowl shaped blue building covered in pictures of cartoon fish. “Here, take this” the talpa handed David a slip of paper. “on it is a question that you'll have to ask the” she swallowed hard before saying the next word “sharks.”
“And you can't come in with me?”
“NOO!!” the talpa's eyes became as large as locomotives “um.... no, no.” she added, gaining control of her voice. “You'll have to go in alone. Don't worry, you'll be fine.”
David slipped the piece of paper into his vest pocket and waddled into the aquarium. It was dark, the only lighting being a blue glow from within the multitude of fish tanks. He found it odd that he didn't find it odd that there was no one selling tickets at the door or that he was the only one in the place besides the fish. After a short walk, he caught a glimpse of a shark with glasses and a rather ridiculous looking overbite.
“Excuse me!” David tried getting the shark's attention, but it seemed rather lost in a book that it was reading. Against the warning signs placed all over the building, David tapped on the glass and waved his forepaw in the shark's direction. The shark jumped ( not very well though, considering it lacked legs ) and nervously looked over to David.
“Um... yes?” the shark even managed to knock his glasses off balance, making him look even more comical.
David pulled the paper from his pocket and read it to the shark.
“The sun rises in the west over ham. It sizzles. Kevin is not the scientist.”
“Oooooh – that's a good question!!” David wasn't aware that he had asked one. The shark turned to another shark in similar attire. “Hey, Frank – get a load of this one!!” He then repeated the contents of the paper. Frank looked thoughtfully for a second and then chuckled.
“Yeah – that really is a good one. Did this little guy come up with it?” Frank thumbed a fin over to David.
“Well, kinda – he just read it off a piece of paper.” The first shark then turned back to David. “314, man. 314.”
“314?” He had hoped to receive information that he could use. What was he supposed to to with 314?
“Indeed. 314 and not a penny more” Frank added. “I'm afraid you'll have to go now. Steve and I here need to get back to studying. Thanks for the riddle though, it was fun.”
David thanked the sharks and waddled back to the princess. “Um, they said it was 314.” he tried to look hopeful but probably didn't do a very good job.
“Ah – excellent. 314 – we'll be there in about 15 minutes. Quick – we have to get back to the sandwich”. The talpa turned to head back but David stopped her.
“Wait a sec – I wasn't expecting any sharks on this adventure!”
“Those aren't just any sharks – they are 'Know Sharks'. Now come on, we have to get moving.” the princess then took off running towards the sandwich.
David followed. What else could he do?