You can fly to the other end of the world,
and know you'll only find
that I've reserved the seat behind you,
we can talk about old times.
No matter how hard you try to get away from a person, there they are ahead of you. A comic version of Offscreen Teleportation
The trope is named after the song and cartoon The Cat Came Back
, where a man desperately tries to get rid of a cat, but no matter what he does to get rid of the thing, the cat comes back "the very next day" (and brings massive misfortune to anyone who tried to take it away).
With just a tiny tweaking, such a plot can easily go from comedic into horror territory: variations of the story of the demon (or corpse, or spoon-wielding killer
) you just can't get rid of no matter what you try...
If you're dealing with an object of similar tenacity see Clingy MacGuffin
. Compare The Thing That Would Not Leave
. Not to be confused with The Cat Returns
, or with The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
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Anime & Manga
- Early in Love Hina, Keitaro and Naru both go on a trip to the same place on the same train at the same time in an attempt to get away from each other.
- Schrödinger from Hellsing has this as his in-story power: As long as he is able to observe his own existence he cannot die/cease to exist and as long as he is able to observe his own existence he can exist whenever and wherever he wants to exist.
- More than one comic in Archie Comics has centered on this with regards to Mr. Lodge or Mr. Weatherbee trying to get away from Archie. Fly to Rome, he's inexplicably hustling tips at the cafe. Head for Japan, he's three rows ahead of you in the audience at the Kabuki. This has actually driven Mr. Lodge over the edge into temporary mental collapse.
- Although in Mr. Lodge's case, it's often more that Archie is trying to hang around with Veronica, rather than Mr. Lodge himself.
- A straighter example is Jughead and Ethel.
- "You will not find The Phantom; he will find you." - Old Jungle Saying
- If Batman gets on someone's case, there is no shaking him. Well, there was that one guy, but he had to go through three clubs and two subways.
- And when he came back home Batman was waiting for him there.
- The Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire graphic novel PSmIth has fun with this one. A man shows up at the bar with a gun, ready to shoot the bartender. He is defeated, and thrown into the "sleep room". Then it happens again. And again. After thirteen times, the robot that's been taking the man to the sleep room complains that he can't do it again because the room is full. Further investigation shows that thirteen identical clones with a Hive Mind have all tried to kill the bartender.
- In the Tintin comics, Captain Haddock can never escape opera singer Bianca Castafiore. If she doesn't show up in person to plague his life, a Tibetan porter or a Middle Eastern trader will be listening to her singing the Jewel Song on the radio at ear-splitting volume. Cue cursing from Haddock.
- The squid in De cape et de crocs.
- The Thimble Theater storyline that would lead to Popeye's introduction was that Castor Oyl's uncle Lubry Kent had an exotic pet bird- A Whiffle Hen named Bernice. Whiffle Hens are famous for their ability not to be contained or killed, and Lubry bet a million dollars that Castor couldn't kill Bernice. And he didn't, though not for lack of trying. After a months worth of strips featuring Castor trying off Bernice in increasingly outlandish ways, Lubry left, taking Bernice with him. Initially relieved, Castor was stunned to find Bernice following him! As Lubry explained, this was because Bernice had taken a liking to Castor;
Castor: LIKES ME!! Why, I've tried to kill her a hundred times!
Lubry Kent: That's the reason- She thinks you're playing with her. Yeah, a very peculiar bird.
- The Tom the Dancing Bug strip for January 4, 2003 had Lucky Ducky trick Hollingsworth Hound. Lucky Ducky had died, but the wealthy dog found him alive in more than one place, consuming too many government services. It turned out that Lucky Ducky was a group of identical ducks.
- The Cat Came Back a Merlin fanfiction about how Uther finds out about Merlin's magic and throws him into the dungeons. Merlin keeps breaking out, thus in turn forcing Uther to throw him back in. They both find it fun and end up bonding in a way. Though Uther won't admit it.
Films — Animation
- The Oscar-nominated National Film Board Of Canada short obviously called The Cat Came Back from 1988 is a hilarious 7 minutes of this trope.
- In Up, after Carl tries to get rid of Dug and Kevin, they each show up exactly where he and Russel were running to. Of course, they are an old man and a kid with a house tied to their backs versus a hyperactive dog and a very fast bird.
- Toy Story 2: "You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful!" "WILL YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"
- Young Buddy does this for a little while to Mr. Incredible at the start of The Incredibles. A desperate attempt to be named sidekick and an interesting likeness to this trope. He also sort of does it in appearing to him later as the older, improved supervillian.
Films — Live-Action
- In Pirates of the Caribbean, Norrington's sword returns to its rightful owner.
- No teleportation, but in What About Bob? Richard Dreyfuss' character cannot escape Bill Murray's character.
- Played for laughs masquerading as horror with the doll in Doom House.
- The film Malicious is an example of the "horror" variation of this trope.
- In Redemption, a Perestroika-era Georgian film, the body of the local Party official keeps getting dug up and left exposed no matter how often people put it back in its grave.
- Played for horror in The Grudge; in fact, most of the terror comes when you realize that the curse is inescapable. The final line of the film captures this quite nicely: "We managed to save the house!"
- While they don't even bother with some of the houseguests in Madhouse, they do try to get rid of Claudia and her son. Both eventually return. Also, on a more literal note, Scruffy the cat keeps coming Back from the Dead to destroy more of the household (until the finale, when he's much more pleasant towards the actual house owners).
- Harry Potter
- The first book features the Dursleys being dogged by magical postal owls in this fashion. Taken to its logical conclusion in The Film of the Book, where Harry looks out the window, while Uncle Vernon is happily spouting about how "there's no post on Sunday." Their lawn, car, and roof are covered in owls, as are the neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and their neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and so on. The entire subdivision is besieged with owls, all to get Harry his acceptance letter. All while Hedwig's Theme plays quietly and cheekily in the background.
- Harry tends to have this problem with various admirers who mean well but make him very uncomfortable with their hero-worship. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds himself constantly followed by Colin Creevey, which leads to the poor kid getting Petrified when he tried to visit Harry in the Hospital Wing at night. Ron, meanwhile, has this problem with Lavender Brown in the sixth book and there's a brief period of time when Harry has to also dodge Lavender, along with Cormac.
- Let us not forget Romilda Vane, she of the love potion which, by sequence of events, very nearly got Ron killed.
- Appears in Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22.
- Yossarian spends much of the second half of the book trying to escape Nately's Whore, going to such lengths as to take her up in a plane, fly over Italy, strap a parachute to her back and kick her out (over German held territory), only to return to Pianosa and find she's already waiting for him.
- Genial sociopath Aarfy combines this with Implacable Man in a scene as well.
- The early book The Light Fantastic has an extremely elderly wizard preparing an elaborate method of escaping Death. The last step is climbing into a tiny airtight box and locking it from the inside. Just as he settles down, he hears a voice in his ear: Dark in here, isn't it?
- Inverted with the Igors, who stay out of your way most of the time but appear behind you right when you need them. In Going Postal, an employer of an inquiring turn of mind stands in front of a bear trap and calls for his Igor. He hears the bear trap go off, then turns around to see an uninjured Igor holding the sprung trap. Igor tells him this isn't the first time, for him or for any Igor; one of his uncles was employed by a man who liked to stand with his back to a pit of spikes when he made the call. Then one day he forgot it was there. "Oh, how we laughed, marthter."
- In Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig finds that he is being relentlessly and cheerfully pursued by Mr. Pump, his parole officer. Mr. Pump, being a golem, has a definite advantage over Moist in that he never needs to eat, rest, or even breathe.
- Also shows up in Guards! Guards! which has the villain at the end of the book futilely fleeing from the supposedly imprisoned Vetinari.
- Wednesday at the beginning of American Gods.
- No matter how much the nameless protagonist of Green Eggs and Ham protests and runs, Sam-I-Am will always be just around the corner to attempt to get him to try the eponymous dish...
- "The cat that kept coming back" was an important plot point in the Jeeves and Wooster novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen.
- In O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief", one of the kidnappers, Bill, gets so fed up with the titular kidnapee he tries to send the boy home. As he's reporting this to his partner Sam, the kid has unbeknownst to him snuck up behind him, and Sam gently points this out to Bill, after checking to see if there's any history of heart disease in his family.
- Psmith takes deliberate advantage of this trope to drive his employer up the wall in Psmith in the City.
- Played for horror in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Loved to Death". In the episode, the main character gives a love potion to a beautiful woman who won't give him the time of day. It works far too well. Eventually he kills himself to escape, and on the escalator to Heaven, finds her right behind him, now hideously mangled because she killed herself.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide
- Two episodes have Ned facing this from his mad Clingy Jealous Girl Missy.
- Also, there's one other episode where Missy's cheating off of Moze, and when the other girl moves her paper so Missy can't see it, Missy's instantly on the other side of her and continues to copy the answers.
- A rather literal instance of this happened in the pilot episode of Early Edition, when Gary, trying to evade the newspaper-bringing cat, left town and went to a very remote area. The cat had no problem at all finding him and delivering his paper.
- An episode of Hancock's Half Hour has Hancock trying to entertain a group of fellow passengers on a train, and predictably alienating them instead. To avoid meeting them on the return journey he takes the (slower) bus, only to find that they've all had the same idea.
- A Mr. Show sketch has two old friends/acquaintances say their heartfelt goodbyes after meeting each other for a goodbye drink... only to keep bumping into each other as they stop off to perform various errands on their way home, to their increasing irritation. Things get really surreal when one of them expects the other to show up, is surprised when he doesn't, panics and begins to check the sites of their previous accidental encounters in increasing hysteria, only to learn the other one has died at some point during the night.
- In Flash Forward, an oddly dramatic example, Dr. Benford has a vision of the future in which she's having an affair with another man, who turns out to be the father of a boy under her treatment. To try to avoid this, she transfers the boy to another department, but he's promptly transferred back. (episode "Black Swan")
- The Twilight Zone
- Decidedly non-comedic example in episode "The Hitchhiker", in which a young woman is taking a road trip by herself across a couple state lines. Her first day out, she sees a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road, thumb out, and after she passes him she keeps seeing him, state after state and night after night, until finally she panics, goes to a phone booth and calls her mother. Who thinks that she is a prank caller, because her daughter died in a car crash two weeks ago. When the woman gets back in the car, the hitchhiker is in the back seat, staring at her in the rearview mirror .
- A variant was done in the Twilight Zone revival. A woman continually sees a bus driven by a creepy guy no matter where she goes. Eventually her dog jumps onto the bus, while she yells at the driver to "get out of [her] life!" The driver replies "It's not your life, it's the life you could have had," and we learn that the woman and the dog were both hit by a car at the beginning of the episode. The dog is brought back to life and, had the woman had the courage to board the bus as well, she could have been revived. Instead, she fades away.
- This was used by Stephen Colbert in a fake audition tape shown at the Correspondent's Dinner, featuring Helen Thomas in a Droopy-like role, pursuing Colbert after asking an Armor-Piercing Question.
- On The West Wing, after the president's entourage is shot at while leaving a public event, C.J. realizes her life was saved by someone who pulled her to the ground. She eventually figures out it's Sam and asks why he didn't tell her, and he invokes this in his response:
- The Goodies: Bill's attempts to dispose of the eponymous robot in "Robot". At one point he seals the robot in a box, which he places inside a larger crate suspended from a crane, only to turn around and find the robot is now driving the crane.
Myths & Legends
- One of the stories about Coyote in Navajo myth has him courting a woman who doesn't want him. As part of her Engagement Challenge she tells him that he must let her kill him four times (four being a major Arc Number in Navajo myth) and come back. By the fourth time she is so aggravated that she takes up a club, beats Coyote to pieces, crushes the pieces into dust, burns the dust, and scatters the ashes to the winds. He still comes back due to his Soul Jar.
- The Muppet Show: The little yellow muppet that sings "You are my sunshine" in the famous "Hugga Wugga" sketch pulls this trick off.
- In NetHack, after you've picked up the Macguffin, its guardian will periodically respawn near you as you're trying to escape. Even killing him won't stop him for long.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud attempts to sneak out of Aerith's house during the night because her mother told him to leave before she goes with him on a dangerous trek through the slums. He sneaks past her bedroom as she's sleeping, sprints across the Sector... only to find her waiting for him at the entrance to the next area, earning a well-deserved gesture of shock from Cloud. But how... you were... and I ran...
- In Clock Tower for the SNES, when you are being chased by Scissor Man, if you duck into an elevator, when you reach the floor you were heading for, Scissor Man will step out of the nearby room. I doubt this was intended as part of the game, but it is certainly freaky if you don't expect it.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Staff of the Everscamp compels whoever has it to never let go of it, and whoever holds it is followed by four daedric (demonic) scamps, though they do nothing more than follow the owner (and emit a terrible odor). The only way to get rid of the staff is for someone else to willfully take it, or to return it to its shrine. Consider this: You can kill them infinitely for the hell of it. You could literally set up an entire mini-story based around that staff... People also use it as a source of infinitely-spawning enemies for Level Grinding.
- But nothing in Oblivion has reached such memetic status as the aptly named Adoring Fan. After gaining notoriety in the Imperial City arena, he will begin to insist on following around and being completely freaking useless. If he dies, whether naturally or by "accident", he will respawn in the exact spot you first met him. Many players actually make something of a sport out of this, trying to find out just how many ways one might be able to kill him.
- In the 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games, Tails will respawn and follow you eternally. Trying to shake him off has become something of a sport among Sonic players.
- In the Professor Layton games, Layton adopts the orphaned Flora after the events of the first game. In all the subsequent games, he attempts to leave her at home rather than bring her along on dangerous investigations — not that he doesn't want her around, but because he worries about her so much, as is made clear in his journal entries. She sneaks along anyway. It's justified by an intense case of separation anxiety and monophobia.
- In one chapter of the shareware game Spandex Force, there's this creepy bearded guy in a Robin-type getup who keeps following the PC around, claiming that he's called "Wonder Boy" and that he wants to be his/her sidekick.
- In the Sherlock Holmes game Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, Watson acts like this. The game doesn't animate him walking anywhere- he just always appears behind you, wherever you go. Silently. Watching.
- From The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés:
Most villains in RPGs possess some form of teleportation. They generally use it to materialize in front of the adventurers when they reach the Obligatory Legendary Relic Room and seize the goodies just before you can. The question "if the bad guy can teleport anywhere at any time, then why doesn't (s)he just zip in, grab the artifact, and leave before the adventurers have even finished the nerve-wracking puzzle on the third floor?" is never answered.
- The short film Perv: The Cat, featuring a cat that consistently gets in the way of a couple about to make love, is essentially this trope.
- A Doug Walker skit features him making the mistake of asking Kyle Hebert to demonstrate his narrating technique. The result is Hebert following Doug around for the rest of the day, refusing to ever shut up, and eventually he even climbs into bed with him, at which point Doug smothers him with a pillow.
- A frequent British Newspapers reaction to the latest inevitable return of Peter Mandelson.
- When recounting politics in Dave Barry Slept Here, Dave Barry refers to Nixon's numerous bids for presidency like this. At one point, he mentions that Nixon had holes in his chest "from the numerous times people had stuck wooden stakes into him."