Nasrin

#NASR-0F-CAT

The Air Was Thick with Cat Calls ( No Pun Intended )

I

Walking home from school, Nasrin saw a cat with midnight-black fur standing back, yellow eyes wide @ her.

Nasrin crouched & held a hand out toward it. The cat slowly walked closer till ’twas wiggling its nose @ Nasrin’s fingers.

Here-ya, li’l guy. Here-ya.

¿Dare I do so?

Slowly she reached her other arm out. The cat twitched ’way, turned to the other arm, & sniffed. Nasrin raised her hand o’er its head & pet. The cat lowered its head. Soon Nasrin was petting the cat’s head all o’er & scratching its ears.

Then the cat jumped ’way ’fore a kid on a trike raced through. As the kid passed, the cat fled.

II

Next day, she saw the same black cat. Now the cat paced up to Nasrin’s outstretched arm much mo’ quickly & rubbed its face gainst her hand. Already Nasrin was scratching its ears. She looked round its neck & found it bare.

¿Have an owner?

Purrrrrr.

Well, gotta go home. Be safe.

She stood & walked down sidewalk. But a few steps forward, she turned back & saw the cat staring up @ her with blank eyes confused.

Tck, tck, tck. Here-ya. Nasrin flicked an index & middle finer toward self.

The cat stared.

III

The next day she brought pepperoni slices. When she saw the cat ’gain, she ripped off a piece & held it toward it. The cat wiggled its nose close, chest rising & falling rapidly. After minutes, it bit & ate the piece. Nasrin watched the cat, gazing @ its tiny mouth’s movements — every li’l motion, clocklike. She was not used to being so near… well, any living creature.

She stood & held out ’nother pepperoni scrap. The cat stared up, eyes wide. Nasrin walked backward, calling, Tck, tck, tck…

Knew not all that lurked, dark ’neath…

Next day, the cat followed her farther down her path home. This time, she didn’t turn round to address it, but kept walking, glancing backward to see it creeping meters ’hind her, paw to paw, a wary stare aimed @ her.

IV

Suddenly, the door churned open. Nasrin stared blankly @ her father staring blankly @ her with the black cat standing in her lap, rubbing its face gainst her chin.

After a second, her father said, ¿When did we have a cat?

Nasrin said nothing; she merely wrapped her arms round the cat & clutched it tightly to herself.

Tonight’s garbage night, her father said before turning & going back out.

Before getting up, Nasrin thought, ¿How do I keep you hidden while I’m gone so he can’t sneak you ’way to some kitty mill?

V

But that sneaky bastard, reality, began to place girders in the way o’ her highway to happiness — 1 mousy screw @ a time.

1 day — a bright afternoon, surprisingly — she had spied a snake slithering through her room. The only thing that kept her from slinking back was hearing her new cat, Mae, growl & pace toward it. Nasrin pushed Mae back & ran toward the snake with her arm in a jacket sleeve & a tissue in her hand. She made sure to grab the snake just ’hind its head so it couldn’t twist back & bite her, & then she gently carried it downstairs — keeping eyes open for her meddlesome father berating her for having snakes magically appear in her room — & set it out on the front porch to, hopefully, slither ’way to its own destiny.

A li’l mo’ than a month ago, when her father had gone to some convention, she had not only left the stove on after boiling water for ramen noodle, but also left the torn-open flavor pack on the stove. She was startled out o’ her screeching Blind Guardian by a screeching fire alarm & ran out to see a tiny flame grow on the stove, filling the kitchen with smoke. Mae stood a few meters ’way, staring with shock as if the fire were something it could pounce & kill. Nasrin turned off the stove, & then drenched the towel on the oven handle in water & began whacking the fire with it. After a few whacks, she was able to force that red, hot mole to burrow back into its hole in the center o’ the earth.

Mae would also throw up in a lot o’ places, which always made Nasrin panic o’er the prospect o’ her father sending her — the cat, not Nasrin, though that was always a possibility, too — to the kitty mill. Luckily, her father ne’er noticed anything, so she had, so far, always been able to clean it up without his realizing. She told herself she’d ne’er give Mae bites o’ her chicken, the rest o’ the milk in the bowl o’ her cereal, or bites from the steak or mashed potatoes o’ her TV dinners; but then as she was eating, she’d see Mae gaze @ her with that hypnotic stare, & she realized how impossible resistance was.

But the worst event was when a meteorite apparently smashed through the roof, landing right onto her bed & breaking a big hole just ’bove it, where the rain could come in & party all night long, ruining the furniture. She was lucky that she’d happened to be up going to the bathroom when it struck, or it would’ve smashed right into her. When she did rush back in, she saw Mae standing on her bed in front o’ the meteorite, jerking her face toward & ’way from it as she sniffed it.

She didn’t mention the meteorite to her father, since she was sure he wouldn’t believe it, & wanted to keep the meteorite for herself; but she had no trouble proving to him that the hole existed, since it was right there in obvious view. After sighing ’bout his luck in having a daughter who was a lightning rod for spontaneous roof holes, he called someone in to fix it, which caused him to grumble ’bout how expensive ’twas & was awkward for Nasrin to do her usual activities in an unusual corner o’ her room with some strange man in her room & on her bed, probably making fun o’ her in his head for her s’posedly shitty music tastes.

@ 1 point, she noticed Mae going up to the worker’s ladder & sniffing it. Nasrin rose to grab him, only for the worker to suddenly fall from the ladder — & almost fall on Mae, who skittered ’way just in time. Nasrin panicked o’er the extra awkwardness o’ a dead body in her room, as well as a gaping hole o’er her bed, but luckily he laughed ’bout it & said he was fine. Still, Nasrin made sure to keep Mae in her grasp for the rest o’ his work.

VI

As the stray moments sewed themselves into the tapestry o’ a pattern in Nasrin’s mind, Nasrin watched Mae, who was pacing round her bed, staring @ her with those wide moon eyes surrounded in the feline shape o’ night blackness, & every once in a while rubbing its face gainst Nasrin’s. For a second, she glanced ’way, as if she feared Mae could look into her thoughts.

Then she opened the bottom drawer o’ her nightstand & began rummaging through it.

Probably won’t be able to find it…

But she found it right there, blankly purple with its e’en blanker black face staring @ a wall, as indifferent to her as e’er. She pulled the Magic 3-Sphere out & gazed @ it.

No point in not. It’s no harder to refuse to acknowledge reality after knowing than before.

So she whispered into the Magic 3-Sphere, ¿Is my black cat Mae bad luck?

The answer was prompt as always: “NO”.

Nasrin stared @ the answer in pause, as always, but this time the pause came with a bit o’ excitement growing in her chest.

However, she stilled it for a second, & then asked, ¿Is there anything that’s causing all these bad things to happen recently?

“YES: YOU”.

Nasrin rolled her eyes, but then pressed the “Please elaborate” button.

“YOU, NASRIN, ARE THE ‘BAD LUCK’. THE ‘BAD THINGS’ HAVE BEEN HAPPENING TO YOU SINCE YOU WERE BORN. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT NOW THEY ARE POSSIBLY THREATENING THE CAT AS WELL”.

This pause was the familiar pause: the dawning o’ a horrible realization as the pit o’ her stomach fell & her eyes twisted in bitterness.

She whispered to it, ¿Are you saying I should give the cat ’way to a shelter?

“I CANNOT NECESSARILY SAY WHAT IS GOOD OR BAD, ONLY WHAT IS TRUE, WHAT HAS BEEN TRUE, OR WHAT WILL BE TRUE. HOWEVER, IF YOU ARE ASKING WHETHER THE CAT WOULD BE LESS LIKELY TO DIE OR LIVE IN BETTER HEALTH IN A SHELTER, THE ANSWER IS NO”.

& now the new pause returned. She pressed the “Please elaborate” button.

“THE CAT WOULD BE EUTHANIZED IN APPROXIMATELY 2 YEARS @ A SHELTER”.

As Nasrin thought ’bout what to ask next, she remembered what the 3-Sphere had just said, ’bout what “will be true”.

If I keep the cat, ¿will my cat be harmed? & if so, ¿when?

“OTHER THAN BEING STARTLED, THE CAT WILL NOT BE SERIOUSLY HARMED BY ANY O’ THE DISRUPTIVE EVENTS CAUSED BY YOUR ‘BAD LUCK’”.

Nasrin began to smile.

“HOWEVER, THE OPTIMAL PRACTICAL WAY TO MAXIMIZE THE CAT’S LIFETIME & HEALTH WOULD BE TO GIVE IT TO YOUR NEIGHBORS, THE ZHANGS, DUE TO THEIR SUPERIOR ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE & BETTER SKILLS @ TAKING CARE O’ AN ANIMAL. IF YOU DID THAT, IT WOULD LIVE TO 18 YEARS, WHILE THE CAT WOULD LIVE TO ONLY 13 YEARS UNDER YOUR CARE”.

Nasrin’s eyes flared. She gripped the 3-Sphere tightly.

All right, answer this: ¿why shouldn’t I fling you @ the wall & shatter you into pieces?

“’CAUSE THAT WOULDN’T CHANGE REALITY, & YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT”.

Nasrin’s anger cooled, but just a li’l. Moreo’er, it became o’ercome by curiosity.

¿Would I e’er do such a thing — breaking you?

“NO: NOT ONLY ’CAUSE YOU KNOW IT WOULD SOLVE NOTHING, BUT ALSO ’CAUSE YOU HAVE EMPATHY WITH ME, DESPITE THE FACT THAT I AM AN INANIMATE OBJECT WITHOUT FEELINGS”.

Nasrin whispered mo’ quietly & mo’ hoarsely than before, If you were truly magical, you’d actually fix reality, not tell me that it’s awful, which I already know.

But the 3-Sphere only replied, “I CANNOT ANSWER NONQUESTIONS”.

She dropped the 3-Sphere back into drawer, no longer able to feel anger @ the bastard, just miserable. However, as she synthesized some o’ its answers in her mind, a trick emerged. She lifted the 3-Sphere ’gain & whispered, If Mae would be better off with the Zhangs, or whoever they are, & worse @ a shelter… ¿Why couldn’t the Zhangs just get a different cat from the shelter?

“THEY WOULD NE’ER THINK TO DO SO”.

¿& what if I adopted a cat from the shelter & gave it to them?

“IT DEPENDS ON THE CAT YOU ADOPT; HOWEVER, THERE’S A 62% CHANCE THAT CAT WILL LIVE LONGER & A 98% CHANCE O’ THAT OR THAT ITS ADOPTION WITH EXTEND THE LIFETIME O’ ’NOTHER CAT. THAT OTHER CAT WILL LIVE ’BOUT AS LONG AS YOUR CAT WOULD IF GIVEN TO THEM”.

So, what it’s saying is, I can choose to extend the life o’ Mae or some other cat, & the cat I get is the 1 who gets the worse, Nasrin thought wryly.

What she loved most ’bout the 3-Sphere was how it always insisted that ’twas just an inanimate object without feelings or opinions that was always simply objective, but she could feel the judgment & the sneering prodding ’hind its answers. ¿Why did it bring up the info ’bout Mae living longer if with some random other family if she asked nothing close to that question? ¿Wouldn’t there be theoretically better ways to extend its life, like giving it to some extremely rich family in a whole ’nother country? ¿Why not talk ’bout cryogenic freezing, while we’re @ it?

But the 3-Sphere knew just as much ’bout all that as this; this was simply the most convenient info to give to ruin her mood — ’twas the only reason to give this otherwise jarringly specific tidbit o’ knowledge.

But she didn’t care. She was used to losing completely; ¿why should she let a flawed victory bog her down? She would keep her cuddly cat, & e’en her greatest enemy, reality, failed to stop her.