It was Matt Groening’s “Life In Hell” which first offered up the question, “Would our cats kill us in our sleep if they thought they could get away with it?” And recent research is utterly unreassuring in that regard; go ahead, look it up. Said research suggests that yes, they would.
That research is wrong.
The situation is worse.
(Of course it’s worse. Were you looking for optimism here? Have you met me?)
You know all those jokes about how we’re the slaves of our cats, always taking care of them and feeding them and providing for their needs while they imperiously demand more and more of us? How, even as they treat us with cruelty and utterly refuse to be trained in the manner of other domestic beings, they still, somehow, awaken delight us, even when they’re using us as scratching toys?
Yeah. Simple explanation for that:
Cats did kill us all in our sleep. And we serve them faithfully, with all the joy any of the risen dead have for those who call them forth from the grave.
o chirruping demon queen,
she whose purr
can crack mountains,
with what terrifying adorableness
did you influence our Gods,
that we go no more to an Afterlife,
as the zombie servants
of your nigh-infinite,
fatally delightful hellspawn?
Have you tempted them
with your divine
such that they are
have things to do
but there they
standing at the sink
to fill your
(because the first flow
of the tap
is not worthy
and they must watch
until the water
Hear me well, ye slaves of felinary: It could be worse.
Be glad that housecats are small, their claws capable only of drawing a little blood. Were they huge, they’d have no need for necromancy; they’d simply slay us all and then go seeking some other sentient race to give them obeisance. They would wait until the fullest moon and purrrrr in deadly unison until the vibrations reached out to That Which Is Beyond The Stars, and when the Ancient Ones arrived in this world to destroy it, they would, with their hideous misshapen mouths, speak:
“awwwww, how cute!”—
and by those words be damned.
Why do cats keep us alive?
O foolish Zombies,
they never have.
The Housecat is but a tiger caged by its tiny frame, a thankfully-miniscule skeleton stretched over the flesh of a killer born. Scritchable demons, playful, predatory, mouse-tormenting, catnip-seeking.
If you would see in those some horror, some internal disturbance at the black sorcery which plucked us from the Tomb and made supplicants of our souls, be cheered. There are worse things in (un)life than subservience to such noble predators, creatures sharp of tooth and gleaming of eye. It’s only natural that we worship them; and truly, who has the heart to chastise a cat? Be glad that they chose to strike us with some mysterious thaumaturgical enchantment, rather than simply using their claws to shred us like sofas.
When did they take our lives? I don’t know, and I don’t plan to ask; getting answers from Bastet is like putting a lion in a handbag: impossible, and probably unsurvivable. For you, not for the lion.
How did they keep us here, solid but enslaved? Oh, friends, surely we enslave ourselves to our fears and our worries and our disquiet, every day; why should our relationship with cats be different?
A point, if I may. The puissance of felines reminds us of one of the cornerstones of magic, which is that the restrictions of your body are not the restrictions of your mind and soul. Your fleshly containment need not stop you from stretching your paws all the way from where you are, over and past spaces real and imaginary, straight up to the pillars at the end of Creation.
Perhaps you must be a slave to your cat; but your mind needn’t be a slave to anything. I don’t know if they can’t steal our minds, or if they just don’t want to; or if I know, I ain’t tellin’. But they haven’t done so. Our thoughts are our own.
Draw two lessons, if you would:
The reach of our consciousness may not be infinite, but it is vastly beyond the scope of our bodies alone. Let that make you confident; there are new places to explore, new possibilities to manifest, new mousetraps to build. And lest that make you arrogant, remember: no matter who you are, or whether or not you live with a feline yourself, you are permitted to exist on this plane only because somewhere, sometime, some cat thinks it may want the use of your thumbs.
Let’s just be glad that there’s plenty of sunbeams and balls of yarn out there to distract the beasts, and thus we generally have time to live some of our lives. Furthermore, they’ve let us stay conscious and upright (rather than, like most unliving things, flat and unmoving and thoroughly uninteresting to Those Who Stalk The Catnp, and that means we must have some kind of future. We can’t all die (again) in some horrible twist of fate, technology, or group madness. Because, if I may reiterate, it’s clear that cats find us useful alive.
Of course, sometimes cats keep things alive just to play with them, and torment them, and watch them struggle until said cat has derived all possible amusement from the thing, at which point, it’s lights out.
In my last conversation with Bastet, I brought up this possibility. I said, “We’re still helpers, right? No matter how badly we treat each other, you’re going to keep us around, aren’t you?”
I’ll never forget her reply. She said:
The Dark Lord Jeff Mach frequently seeks new, interesting ways to rewrite this part, and then often ends up just shifting a few words around and hitting “Publish”. Don’t tell anyone.
Jeff is a writer and creator who has long aspired to be the sort of person who neither needs to promote his other work at the bottom of his short stories, nor need speak of himself in the third person. Sadly, in both regards, he has failed.