by Jesse Livingston
Outside, it was a beautiful spring afternoon. Inside, the cat was floating about eighteen inches above the kitchen table. Kelly and I were standing in the kitchen, looking at the cat, wondering what to do.
“Well,” said Kelly, “at least he doesn’t seem hurt or upset.”
She was right. Sammy—the cat—looked slightly concerned perhaps, but I could have been imagining that. Assigning emotions to cats is a fool’s errand. His eyes were open a little wider than usual—maybe?—and there was a hapless quality to the way his paws hung down.
“Tell me again,” I said, “what happened?”
Kelly folded her arms and regarded the cat.
“I was washing the dishes from last night, and he jumped up on the table. I yelled at him, and he jumped in the air, and he just didn’t come down.”
I frowned and looked at her, not fully comprehending.
“Well, he’s not supposed to be on the table,” she said, as though this was the part of the story I was taking issue with.
“So, you startled him, and he jumped, and he didn’t come down?”
“Yes. I was just trying to put the fear of God into him. I didn’t mean to make him…” she trailed off, gesturing at whatever was happening above the table in front of us. Sammy gave her a look that was slightly pleading or possibly annoyed.
“Did you try picking him up?” I asked.
“I didn’t want to touch him in case that somehow made things worse.”
“How would that make things worse?” I asked, genuinely curious.
She shrugged. “Somehow.”
I studied Sammy’s body. It was ever-so-slowly rotating.
“He’s packed on a few pounds,” I said.
“It’s the new Chicken Dinner cat food,” she said. “He loves it. He can’t get enough.”
“Do you think this has something to do with the food?” I asked.
“I can’t imagine how. I haven’t heard of this happening to anyone else’s cat.”
“We should probably google it. Maybe it’s a new thing.”
Sammy was looking around the room as though expecting any moment to be somewhere else.
“Do you think it has something to do with magnetism?” Kelly said thoughtfully, leaning forward and peering down her nose at him.
“I don’t think cats are magnetic,” I said. “Not unless they’re wearing something metal. He doesn’t even have his collar on.”
“What happened to his collar?”
Sammy now wore a plaintive look. It was the kind of look I’d usually seen on dogs when they were playing for sympathy. I wondered if Sammy was somehow orchestrating this whole thing in a bid for attention.
“Well, we haven’t been home as much lately,” I said. “He must’ve slipped it off one day while we were gone and we just didn’t notice.”
“Poor Sammy,” said Kelly, reaching out and scratching the side of his face. Sammy stuck his chin out and closed his eyes. He looked content, and I wondered if maybe I had been projecting my own emotions onto him earlier. Was I doing that now? I wondered how much of my life I’d spent guessing at the feelings of others. Had I ever really understood what someone else was feeling? I suppose they could tell me what they were feeling, but did they really understand it themselves? Aren’t we all just confused and frustrated wrinkles in the humming void of existence?
“What?” said Kelly.
“Huh?” Snapping out of my reverie, I wasn’t sure if I’d said “void wrinkles” out loud. Sammy was looking at me with what might have been disapproval.
“Should we try to move him?” she asked. “Or do you think that’s a bad idea?”
“I dunno. I guess we’ll have to sooner or later.”
Kelly poked at Sammy’s stomach to see if she could make him stop rotating. His head was starting to disappear behind the bulk of his body, and he was craning his neck to try and maintain eye contact with us.
“Do you think it’s some kind of time-travel thing?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “He doesn’t appear to be moving through time, except at the usual rate. I think we’d see him in slow motion or fast motion if he was time-traveling.”
“Maybe we’re time-traveling with him,” she said.
I couldn’t refute this. I stood watching as she prodded his belly, which was definitely getting a bit plump. I could see fewer chicken dinners in Sammy’s future.
Outside, people scurried here and there, perhaps time-traveling at different velocities relative to one another, perhaps not. Dogs tried to understand things in trees, worms carved intricate pathways beneath the city to further their unknowable schemes, and the universe continued to try and hide from itself.
“Well,” said Kelly, “if we can’t get him down by tonight, I’ll call the vet in the morning.”
This seemed like a great idea. Few things can cheer you up like handing responsibility for your problems over to someone else.
Jesse Livingston is a filmmaker and musician born and raised in Denver. His fiction has appeared in audio magazines such as Pseudopod and The Drabblecast. His band The Far Stairs can be found at thefarstairs.com, and his film The Blue Room is at blueroomhorrorfilm.com.