It was very cold last February. Absurdly cold.
I was a paper delivery boy in Ohio, doing some part time work to pay my house rent as a college student. Last February, a storm dumped five inches of snow over the town. Everything in sight was white and frosty.
On my way to the post office, I saw a small, black and white cat tied to a lamp post with an elongated choker. Its large eyes darted around frantically, like it was waiting to be rescued by its owner. I cycled away, minding my own business; surely its owner would’ve been in the newsagent’s shop nearby, stopping for a can of beer or something. They should come back for the cat soon, I thought. Anyway, who the hell even walked their cat? It must’ve been a kid.
After doing my paper round, it was time for college. It had been three hours since I’d started the round for that day, thus I expected the cat I saw in the morning to be gone by then. However, as I approached the lamp post, I could see from a distance that it was still there. I couldn’t help feeling worried about the situation; it was bitterly cold, and the temperature was dipping into the negatives. The cat was pacing around the lamp post hurriedly, almost desperately.
Two days later, it was still there. Nobody had come back for it; perhaps it had been abandoned. Concerned about its welfare, I decided to take it into my house and rehome it comfortably. It wasn’t ideal as I hadn’t ever had any sort of experience with pets before, but at least it would stop suffering unnecessarily in the cold. It would be provided with food and a place to sleep. I cut the string that tied it then took it in, and pasted posters on lamp posts and fences around town reading ‘LOST CAT FOUND’ with additional contact details.
The cat did not like to eat very much. It had a huge, painful-looking scar on its belly where the skin had been sewn together, perhaps from an operation. When it did eat, however, it swallowed its food whole in large chunks. This prompted me to cut the food up into smaller bits to prevent it from choking. During the day, it would pace around my house and jump on the furniture, meowing and purring. But during the night, it would always come into my room and sit in front of my bed. It seemed to be a well-learned habit. If I didn’t let it into the bedroom, it would continually scratch on the door until I gave in and opened it.
On the first night it stayed in my room, I was woken up by the sound of light clicking. I wasn’t sure whether it was actually clicking or tapping or ticking, but it sounded like something mechanical. I figured the source of the noise was probably my keys hanging from my trouser pocket, tapping the edge of the bed. I sat up a little, and the noise stopped.
I nearly had a heart attack when I saw two green, shining eyes staring right at me in the darkness. They were wide open, and glowed like phosphorus. A heartbeat later, I calmed down a little after I realised it was just the cat. But it still felt extremely uncomfortable, being pinned down by those eyes in the dead of night. I lay down and tried my best to dismiss it, constantly eyeing the silhouette perching on the foot of my bed. Even though I felt like a cowardly five year old, I didn’t want to close my eyes knowing that another pair of eyes was watching me as I slept.
Half a minute later, the eyes relaxed a little, and I saw the cat blink and move. It started to stroll naturally around the room again, so I brushed it off and went back to sleep. But every night or so after that, I would wake up to that same fading clicking noise. Every time I woke up, I would find the cat staring straight at me, but then, it would break eye contact and walk away once it realised I was conscious. I found the behaviour slightly strange, but I reckoned it was just shy, and wanted to observe some human behaviour rather than falling snow for a change. Besides, cats are nocturnal animals, right?
Except for the dodgy eating habits and midnight staring, which were only minor concerns, my new friend caused me no other trouble. My house came with a cat flap in the front door; the landlord had a cat. I could let this cat in and out of the house freely. It didn’t attack the neighbourhood pets or vandalise property. It didn’t bite people or bring me dead birds and rats. It didn’t even leave piss or shit around the house. My cat was a good cat.
It had been a month, but nobody had called to claim the cat. I decided to legitimately make it mine, and gave it a new name: Scotty. I wasn’t sure whether Scotty was a male or female, but it didn’t matter much to me. The act of naming him (or her) itself counted as a bonding ritual; a gateway to a beautiful friendship between two different species, forged by mutual care. From then on, Scotty was my source of comfort; when my exams weren’t going well, when I was having a bad day, or when I’d had an argument, I would always tell Scotty. Even though he was just a cat, and (probably) didn’t understand the bullshit I was going through (or even my language, as a matter of fact), I could always count on him to cheer me up.
Things were getting weird around the time Scotty had been taken in. I kept questioning everything I did, because at first, I reckoned the strange occurrences were due to my own carelessness. Some days when I arrived at home, the door would be unlocked. It seemed odd, because I always locked the door when I went out, and rarely forget to do so.
I suspected a burglary, but I second guessed myself often. Perhaps the burglar had gotten hold of my spare keys. I checked in the garage, but they were still where I put them. Furthermore, nothing had been stolen. I once left two fifty dollar notes blatantly visible on my desk, but they hadn’t been taken. That’s why I was hesitant to call the police.
The scariest fucking thing greeted me when I got up in the morning one day.
A note was left beside my pillow, written in a messy, screwy handwriting I did not recognise. It read ‘Did you sleep well, Brian? I was watching you.’
I suddenly panicked, and wondered who it was. How did they know my name? All the windows had been locked tightly before I’d gone to sleep, and I’d locked the doors too. I’d checked everything twice. There couldn’t have been an intruder. Then I remembered; there was only one other living thing in the house besides me. But surely Scotty couldn’t have written it? It must’ve been my crazy imagination! Obviously, I knew cats didn’t know English, and couldn’t write. Was I dreaming? Was I going insane?
"Shit, you must be joking," I murmured to myself.
But if it wasn’t Scotty, then who was it? Was I hallucinating? There was no evidence of a break-in. If I showed the police, they’d just think I was an attention-seeking note forger who had nothing better to do than prank them. But I was sure I had not written that note. There was no way out of this.
Hours of sweat-dripping fear later, and after checking all the windows and doors had been locked (multiple times), I told myself I would play along with it. To give myself some comfort, at least. If it was a dream, I would wake up, and curse myself for being so stupid and gullible. But for now, I would believe it, because it was the only explanation.
I spoke to Scotty in English, feeling stupid.
“Don’t scare me like that, Scotty, okay? You know I’m faint of heart.”
He just meowed back. He wasn’t going to communicate with me verbally (well, he’s a cat after all) so I figured it would be easier if I wrote a message back on the paper. It would allow for some distance.
‘Who are you? How do you know me?’ I wrote. I left it beside my bed.
The next day, my note was replaced with another phantom message.
‘My name is Scotty. Of course I know you. I watch you all day and night.’
I shook my head and opened my mouth in disbelief as I finished reading the note. Then, I patted myself on the back for outsmarting natural human narrow-mindedness. The supernatural was real. Of course, as you can imagine, I was terrified for a few moments. I wondered if I would ever come to terms with the fact that my cat was sending me messages, written on pieces of paper, in English. Then, I wondered if it was such a bad thing after all. Perhaps I could use this to my advantage, and talk to the entire animal kingdom or discover some crucial biological breakthrough. Could all animals understand human language like Scotty? If they could, then – no, I was thinking too far ahead. Right now, all I needed to know was that everything I had ever told Scotty; all of my hopes and fears and desires – they had been understood and taken into account. Another being had shared my pain. Scotty understood me.
Suddenly, I no longer felt so isolated. Maybe people would think I was crazy, writing messages to my cat. But as long as I knew it was real, there was nothing to worry about. There was a being in this world I could talk to.
I tapped my assignment into my computer as I waited for Scotty to come down from my room, thinking about this prospect. I drank my coke and spun around on my wheelie chair, simultaneously pushing the table. I really did have a friend after all, I thought, smiling to myself.
Suddenly, I heard a cracking sound, followed by a loud clank and the sound of something popping. Some hard object obstructed the back wheel of my chair. I felt it bulging beneath me. Immediately looking down to see what that obstruction was, I cried out in devastation and horror.
It was Scotty. The wheel of my chair had rolled onto his neck, and severed his head. It lay detached from his body on the floor. His arms twitched and his body convulsed. My instant reaction was fear and guilt. He had been so silent; but despite that, how on earth did I not see him there? I thought he was still up in my room! Then, Scotty twitched for the final time, and finally lay as still as a rock.
Then it dawned upon me; I had just killed my best friend, with one careless backward roll. It was all my fault. I began to cry and call out his name, the shame overwhelming me.
But about ten seconds later, I stopped in confusion. There was no blood.
I bent down to observe the body. My eyebrows curved as I saw something black and silver inside his body. Something that definitely shouldn’t have been inside a cat’s body. The silver things rotated and seemed to have teeth – were they gears? No way – what the hell were mechanical gears doing inside a cat?
I picked up the body gingerly, and suddenly, I saw a network of metal inside his body. I looked down his neck. His neck bone was a single metal screw-like rod. His ribs were metal. He seemed to have no internal organs, but there was a pinkish fleshy tint surrounding the metal.
I shuddered, and then similarly picked up his head. There were twisting red and yellow spirally things coming out from the bottom of his head; wires? Jesus Christ.
I couldn’t see his brain, but I could see the inside of his skull, which was made of metal. I could also see in between the metal, and I saw real, pinkish flesh.
I must’ve been drugged. What the hell was going on?
Then, I tried something absurd. I placed his head onto the top of the metal screw protruding from the stump that used to be his neck. To my horror, I felt something lock into place. I twisted his head, and it gradually lowered, as if I was tightening a screw. Soon, Scotty looked as if he hadn’t just been killed.
One of his eyes rotated to look at me.
I shrieked in shock and dropped him. I didn’t care if it was real or not, a hallucination or a nightmare. Perhaps the whole thing was just one big delusional dream, and in real life, I was actually some insane crack addict. I remember that day, I honestly wished that I was. I just wanted to get away from the monstrosity I had seen, and bolted outside, locking the door.
I called the emergency services, just managing to wheeze out a few words as my heart raced, like I was dying from a heart attack.
“H-hello? Yes? Um, uh, I think my c-cat’s an android…”
To my irritation, they sent an ambulance. It was a blatant slap in the face saying, 'there's something wrong with this guy'. To be completely honest, I shouldn’t have been as shocked or offended as I was then. My claim didn't seem very valid, now that I think about it. But I really did hope that it was just me being a crazy bastard. Scotty looked and felt so real; he did everything a normal cat would do. How on earth could this happen? Okay, he might’ve had some behavioural problems, but…
I begged them to go inside the house and see for themselves. I pointed at Scotty, standing beside the wheelie chair. One of the guys picked up Scotty. Scotty didn't move, and I could tell suspicions were growing. Unable to stand it any longer, I grabbed the cat's body and unscrewed its head; the paramedics suddenly turned white. When they eventually discovered I was telling the truth, the police were rightfully called to my place. I told them everything – about how I’d taken Scotty in, about the notes beside my pillow. They exchanged shifty glances amongst one another. Finally, they insisted that I had created this monstrosity to waste their time, and arrested me.
Well, what did I expect? For sane humans to believe me?
Because the cat seemed oddly realistic, they carried out an investigation for the sake of animal rights, searching my house and rummaging through my stuff. I doubt they expected to find anything.
I slept in the police station for three days. I'd talked to some of the officers and the other people walking around the place. Most offenders had been arrested on charges of drug abuse or drink driving. When they asked me why I had been detained, I always replied "long story". Even in the company of the busy holidaymakers and staff, I still felt like I was being watched. I would often wake up several times in the night, in a cold sweat, expecting to see those two green eyes again.
Yesterday, I was escorted to my property again, as the officers in charge of my case wanted to speak to me. They had called my landlord to the scene too. We asked them what they found.
They told us that the house had been broken into. In the middle of a full-scale search of the house, they suddenly heard something smashing in the garage. Someone had escaped out of the garage window when they smelt police presence. The perpetrator left behind a bloodied knife – perhaps a murder weapon, and something else. One of the officers showed it to us. It was a little like a Apple tablet, but had two small rods of antennae. It was stored in one of those transparent ‘crime scene evidence’ packets, but it had a touchscreen, which could still be used through the material.
There were buttons on the screen. The cop pointed at another packeted bit of evidence – Scotty. He was as stiff as a doornail, and did not move inside the packet. The cop pressed a green button, and to my surprise, Scotty meowed. He pressed another button, and Scotty lifted his left leg.
But most disturbing of all was the screen display between the buttons. The cop went over and lifted Scotty’s body up so that his eyes were looking directly at me through the layer of plastic. My face and everything behind me appeared on the screen on the tablet. There were many files saved on the menu of the tablet; all were named ‘sleeping.1’ or ‘sleeping.2’ or ‘sleeping.some other number’. They contained stored night-vision footage of me, sleeping.
The incision in Scotty’s belly had been made to insert a complicated system of robotic mechanical features into the body of an already dead cat, which could be controlled using the device. The new robot cat was made as realistic as possible, and could move with the fluidity and agility of a living cat if the user was skilled. The eyes acted as windows for the cat and the user. Each button was a control command. There was also more complex code inside each command which the user could edit accordingly.
I started to sweat. I realized that someone, or something had understood my ranting, had understood my fears, hopes and dreams. But it wasn’t Scotty. And that someone or something, hiding in my garage, had been watching me sleep. Again, it wasn’t Scotty.
Waves of dread came upon me. The cop handed me one final specimen in a plastic bag. It was a note, in that same messy handwriting I assumed was Scotty’s, left beside my pillow. It was found after the police took Scotty away.
‘Haha. Joke’s on you.’
Scotty hadn’t written that.
Written by Rinskuro13