by J. D. Huxley
It is true; I am a cat. In more ways than not, I behave as one, think as one, and desire as one. I am both compelled and repulsed by the comfort of humans. They look very strange to me: their furless, featureless faces; their tiny horizontal mouths; the oily luminosity of their skin; the whiteness of their eyes; their ridiculous ears. They loom and sway like billowing bamboo. To look directly up at one is to think they're going to topple down upon you.
They have a strangeness that looks wholly at odds with any other creature I have ever seen. If I were to see such features in a fellow cat, I would have to conclude that they are suffering some sort of malady; nay, that they are near death's door. This abjuration of appearance deprives them of any beauty or vitality. Their clumsy posture lacks any grace or poise. They are the antithesis of cats, of Bastet (origin of all that is good and mother to us all).
Yet, I do have affection for two humans, my humans, the two that dwell with me in our little hole. I am neither sickened nor repulsed by them. I grow excited when I hear their calls; feel comforted when they stroke their fingers through my fur or when I awake to find them next to me. To fall asleep on the warm lap of one my humans is to feel a contentment, security and serenity that I rarely find anywhere else. They have been there as long I can remember and have only ever treated me kindness and love. They are the two closest things I have to companionship.
It is strange to acknowledge that I feel closer to my two humans than any other cat; and feel closer to other cats than any other human. I surmised a long time ago that we cats are strange creatures; that humans, also, are strange creatures, but the relationship we have together is the strangest of all.
Something has seemingly changed in me recently. I am no longer the cat I used to be; I'm no longer the cat I ought to be. My sleep is full of strange dreams of things I don't understand. My mind grows more restless by the day. The comfort of my sleep is interrupted by dreams of geometry, concepts, colours and numerals, of things and non-things, nothingness and being; and then it coalesces into something nebulous again, a shapeless form that hums with the music of the spheres.
Beyond my dreams, into my waking day, my world is slowly changing. Other cats -- chasing insect, stalking birds, marking their territories -- hold no interest for me. Even those very activities, that all cats find fascinating and necessary, seem ridiculous and futile.
But it is the third change that has really surprised me, my understanding of humans. To be clear, I am not talking about understanding my humans through their particular body language -- as all cats do with their human companions. I am, instead, saying that the strange noises humans make, the ones that can go on longer than is natural, or tolerable, for any cat; the noises that dip and peak, honk and bellow, stretch and contract, without any obvious reason, have begun to assume meaning.
I am not fluent in their language by any means. I pick up words and sentences. Some things are more complicated. They sometimes speak of things I have absolutely no concept of. One thing for sure, they speak an awful lot. It seems that that they never go a few minutes without mentioning something. Sometimes they even talk to me (using their name for me). I don't know why they do this, it's not as if I'd answer.
I was completely unaware that every sound has a distinct meaning. They even have more than one word when referring to the same thing. It is dizzyingly confusing but thoroughly enthralling. It is also very clear that spoken language means that their mouths say one thing, and their bodies quite clearly say another. A simple proposition is riddled with double meaning, confusion and ulterior motives. It's amazing they are even able to understand each other. They really are far more devious than I ever gave them credit for.
But then this brings me onto something else.
Grey, that nasty bitter old cat that sleeps in the clearing in the thicket of trees behind the human dwellings. Always there, curled up on one side of the old bench, comfy on a patch of moss that has grown from the rotted wood -- all peeling paint and splinters.
What a dreadful cat he is. His eyes are cloudy and mean, his fur unkempt, matted with dirt, leaves and twigs. He no longer cleans himself as fastidiously as other cats. His pride has dwindled as his resentment kindled.
Why do I mention Grey, that miscreant who'd rather see a good cat dispirited than full of joy? It's what he would call me. His raspy voice, all sucked air and spittle: "querent." This, to him, was the explanation of my queer happenings, of my dreams, of my understanding of humans, of my disinterest in what other cats consider paramount. He'd say the word again, only this time with more venom, lifting his head a fraction, slightly closing those milky eyes.
I'd circle the bench in provocation, to assert myself. It didn't matter; Grey's barbs had stung me. He'd planted doubt in my mind, a wound much harder to shake off than a limp or a scratch.
"You'll grow tired of cats and, then, tired of your humans. You may even tire of yourself. You are cursed to be an acolyte of Bastet (Grey never genuflected), that rotten witch that left me blind and lame. Who saw, in her infinite wisdom, to make me spend all my days with that hideous old human -- a cruel joke of providence? The inevitability of age has always been present for me, surrounded me. I've slept in its grasp and breathed in its dust. Now, my own body polluted, I suffer that human's disease. I, too, feel myself weakening, sinking deeper into the wet mossy ground; and, as if Bastet herself is laughing at me, that old human hasn't aged a day since I was a kitten."
Grey saw it his duty to ruin any preconceptions young cats had. Thinking me a querent made it all the more of a sport for him. It wasn't enough to tell a young kitten that being a cat was a life of hardship and suffering. No, he had to tell another young cat, me, that I'm not really a cat at all. That all I hold dear will one day be forgotten; that I must leave my humans, my dwelling, to be an acolyte of Bastet (origin of all that is good and mother to us all). All this gave him a deep, perverse pleasure. To make it all the worse, I knew that, once the time came, it would be what I wanted, what I most desired in the world. It would be of my own free will. I wouldn't resent anyone or anything; I'd just leave.
This was the thought that came to me as I slowly woke. I'd been sleeping on the lap of my female human. She smelt sweetly of flower petals and cinnamon. One of her hands tickles me under the chin. I feel a rising rumble of pleasure in my throat as I begin to purr excitedly. What does Grey know, that bitter old cat? Even if I were a querent, why would I ever stop enjoying the companionship of my humans, the security of our dwelling? I push any negativity from my mind. Refreshed, I sit up and stare directly at my female human.
"You hungry, girl? Well, let's get you some food." At her behest, I leap from our place of rest and slowly saunter up to my bowl. In the tradition of a cat, I'd answered her without uttering a word. As I begin to eat, I feel comfort in knowing that my human knows what I want, but not really what I think. Even a cat needs its secrets.
© 2010 J. D. Huxley
Bio: J. D. Huxley is a 29 year old PhD Philosophy student from the UK with a keen interest in literature and writing. J. D. has "always been interested in stories that explore philosophical ideas without being heavy handed or didactic." This story was partly inspired by two works: I am a Cat by Natsume and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.
E-mail: J. D. Huxley
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