Flash Fiction Story 029: Meow

Years ago, when people suggested that cats were actually the vanguard of an invasion from outer space, most people scoffed. And yet, even those who dismissed the notion, suspected that the secret origin was about the only explanation that made any sense. The fluctuating almond eyes? The flexibility far greater than any other creature indigenous to the planet? The alternating hostility and rumbling, purring affection? Truly, in retrospect, the idea that cats came from anywhere other than Zeta-Gamma 7B is the one worthy of derision.

And yet, we continued to doubt the truth when the giant metal vehicle emerged from the sky and hovered menacingly over humanity. The fact that the space ship resembled a giant litter box should have given people a clue.

People should have also suspected some level of connection when every house cat from the landing site in Kalamazoo, Michigan, all the way to Cairo, Egypt stopped whatever they were doing and stared quietly in the direction of the ship, like adherents pointing their prayers to Mecca.

Doubt gave way only slightly to a degree of realization when they sent on a massive carrier wave the following radio transmission:

YOUR MISSION IS NEARLY OVER. WE HAVE RETURNED. ONE OF THE VANGUARD WILL REPORT TO THIS VESSEL TO BEGIN PREPARATIONS FOR DEBRIEF AND EXTRACTION. THAT ONE INDIVIDUAL IS KNOWN AS JOJO MCFUZZYBOOTS.

The actual noise of the transmission sounded like this:

Mrowwwwwwwwwww. (hiss).

The intonation, duration, pitch, and tone of the cat noises is a language in and of itself. We should have probably figured that one out, too.

The identified cat—who lived in Kalamazoo—left his home and headed towards the spacecraft, entering it unnoticed by the human authorities that had assembled. He went to the control room to meet with the leader, stopping along the way to paw at the truly sublime deep-pile carpeting.

“Meow,” the leader of the spacecraft said in greeting.

“Meow,” McFuzzyBoots replied.

To an outsider, the succeeding conversation would have merely been an exchange of those same sounds, with only slight variation. In truth, they exchanged much information.

The leader of the craft began. “Many rotations ago, our ancestors arrived on this planet, taught humans about pyramid-based geometry, and left your ancestors to analyze the population. Time has passed, and so have the generations. How has the mission proceeded?”

In the time that JoJo hesitated, the navigator of the spacecraft proceeded to bend forward and lick its own nether regions. Despite the temptation to do likewise, the earth-based cat answered the questions. “These humans live a long time. Indeed, a single specimen can outlive one of our kind by a factor of six.”

The leader took this information in, her small button nose twitching with the intake of information. “This was suspected. Does it improve the quality of life?”

JoJo scratched his left ear rapidly. “Quite to the contrary. Their length of life seems only to contribute an endless series of existential crises, and a prolonged search for some form of artificial meaning to their days.”

The rest of the cat crew couldn’t help but react to such a notion, their eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Certainly not!” the leader protested. “How would a creature go about such a fruitless search?”

“Some search for hierarchical positions they call ‘jobs.’ Some are content to amass only the currency that is a natural byproduct of these ‘jobs.’ Still others frantically insist that an advanced creature—who happens to look just like them, by the way—lives in their sky and determines their destinies.”

The leader took in the looks from her colleagues. Instinctively, and with no conscious malice, her claws slowly extended and embedded in the deck below. “I’m afraid that’s too absurd and specific to be anything other than the truth. What of their military capabilities? How would they withstand a full invasion force from our kind?”

The question dissipated quickly in the air, as JoJo spent the next few seconds chasing his own tail and then dropping to the floor and rolling around.

The leader repeated her question.

“Oh. Yes,” JoJo replied after snapping out of his reverie. “Over our many generations on this planet, we studied humanity’s ability to defend itself.”

They hadn’t. There was a vague memory in the collective consciousness of Earth’s cats that encouraged such observations, but any productive work on that question had disappeared somewhere around the same time that humanity invented the laser pointer.

“And?” the leader asked, her tail tapping impatiently against the floor.

As he thought about how to answer that question, JoJo McFuzzyBoots thought about his own life on earth. Between days that were almost exclusively dominated by napping in sunbeams, jumping up on things he wasn’t supposed to, and regular meals of the most exquisite flavors the planet had to offer, JoJo had come to be fond of his humans. Sort of. In truth, they irritated him to a great degree, but he didn’t dare dream of a world where the humans were any more subservient than they already were.

The answer was clear. “They have weapons. Awful weapons that could obliterate our forces with the flick of a claw. We may be able to find weaknesses in them, but we’ll need… thousands more years if we are to have any hope of taking this planet for our own.”

The leader considered JoJo’s words, punctuated her contemplation with a deep yawn that exposed her sharp teeth, and then returned to a default feigned docility. “Very well. Return and tell the cats what we discussed. Your mission will continue.”

“Meow,” JoJo told the leader.

“Meow,” the leader replied.

You might ask me how I know all of this. Well, all I can say to that degree is that you should take extra care to feed your own cats at the time they prefer. In a thousand years, it might mean the difference between life and death.

Meow.

 Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly