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My Quantum Entanglement with a Schrodinger Cat

M.J. Pettit is an academic and writer. He divides his time between Toronto, ON and Manchester, UK. This is his first published work of fiction.

The all too familiar tap tap tap.
"In some parallel worlds," my cat says, "the bowl already contains the kibble."
"You know that isn't how the universe works on the macroscopic scale."
"Maybe it should."
"Stop it. I am not getting you food."
"But you could."
I abhor the sin of free feeding. "It isn't dinner time yet."
"But it could be dinner time."
"No, it can't. It is only four o'clock."
She gives me that impatient look. She is going to start lecturing about indeterminacy again.
I don't know why I engage her. It only leads to stalemates. She claims to have earned a doctorate in theoretical physics.
She nips at an exposed ankle. It doesn't hurt but she makes her displeasure felt.
The superposition dissolves in her favor. It always does. I am cursed with free will. All the possible worlds collapse into this one as I open a can of wet food.
Later that night we toss around a bird toy. Otherwise, she chews all the cords on the outside chance that one becomes a mouse's tail. She is especially fond of the thin USB cords Apple makes. They remind her of something living. My existential darling yearns for authenticity. I want to oblige but the street has too many speeding cars and lost cat posters.
Our prescribed meeting place and time: my chest at 4:37am.
"Eyeball check!"
"What are you doing?"
"I thought you were dead."
"Why would you think that?"
"There's always a chance. And you weren't moving."
"I was asleep, like you were a minute ago."
"Oh yeah, I forgot."
She keeps licking my mouth. Is she trying to steal my breath again? I really want her to stop.
"I am still very much alive. Thanks for checking."
"Good to know."
She curls at my feet.
"I'm glad we got that settled."
"If you're dead the next time, I got dibs on your eyes. They are the tastiest part. Too bad they liquefy so quickly."
"Fine. You get my eyes."
Last week she found my organ donor card. She is the jealous type.
6:11am. Light seeps through the part I've made in the blackout curtains so that she can perch and peek all night without hauling the whole thing down (again).
"Whatcha doing?"
"It isn't time to get up."
"It could be."
"But it isn't."
"How about now?" she asks, a paw to my face.
Probabilities define our relationship.
Neither of us is certain which precise rub will lead to a bite. I take my chances but usually know when to quit.
An open drawer is a gateway to many possible worlds. She is compelled to check out each one.
Whenever I leave the couch she darts towards the kitchen, hoping to bend space-time to her will.
Maybe the toe twitching under the blanket is actually a hiding mouse, maybe just this once.
I occasionally get lucky at love. She bolts to the bedroom every time, only to hide under the rug. She worries that her act of observing
will alter the fragile phenomenon. She is a good, considerate cat.
She meets me at the door as I come home, desperate for confirmation that the same body returns. She is afraid that I might get sucked into some alternate reality with an evil impostor taking my place. She just recently forgave me for letting the neighbor feed her during a business trip I needed to take.
"I was never going to abandon you, sweetheart."
"But you could."
No, I couldn't.
Who is this mysterious tortoise-shell who turned up one evening? I thought she was an ordinary stray. She finds this suggestion offensive.
"My grandma is famous. You've probably heard of her."
"I know. You told me before."
Her story isn't likely, of course, unless someone in her family had nine lives. Schrodinger has been dead for half a century. I don't know why I believe her.
I once mentioned my doubts.
She just pawed her food bowl in my direction.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Author Comments

This story derives from a number of sources. Like all stories depicting feline geniuses, it owes a debt to Fritz Leiber's classic "Space-Time for Springers." My story also takes inspiration in the work of feminist theorists Donna Haraway and Karen Barad who draw our attention to the multi-species entanglements that make us human. But it probably began the day I adopted a domineering cat named Ursula. Things haven't been the same since she joined our household.

- M. J. Pettit
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