"First Cat" by Larry Hodges is original fiction from the anthology Speculative Story Bites. Get the whole anthology from Amazon, Kobo, or World Weaver Press.
Alone in the Oval Office, the President of the United States absentmindedly stroked Fluff as he mulled over security briefing papers. It was early morning, and he’d already had a boring budget meeting, a boring meeting with the Vice President, and soon the CIA Director would arrive for a boring security briefing. It had been a boring first year.
He had no idea that the White House was about to be invaded by inter-dimensional beings bent on the utter destruction of life on Earth.
He looked up at the painting of George Washington on the wall. Things had been more exciting back when George was president. He sighed. He looked forward to golf that afternoon; anything to break up the monotony. He was a good golfer; more athletic than his short and soft-looking body indicated.
Fluff would ride in the golf cart with him. She was a Turkish Angora cat with long white fur, green eyes that matched the president’s, sharp claws, and a taste for pickles, fish, and warm milk. She spent most days stretched out on the president’s desk, a picture of feline contentment.
Sometimes she’d play with the president’s reddish beard, or bat his pens and papers about. To this day, nobody knew that the president had meant to sign the tax relief bill, and veto the bill making Ping-Pong the national sport, before Fluff batted the papers about.
It was a happy relationship——the president supplied Fluff with everything she wanted. Fluff provided the president with a hand rest.
While the sound was too high-pitched for human ears, Fluff heard it. It came from directly over her head. She dropped the pickle she was chewing on and started to meow as she jumped to her feet. Her head disappeared.
The president looked up. Fluff had meowed, or more precisely went “meo—,” as it was cut off. He saw Fluff, alive and well, but headless.
Fluff was breathing, her tail twitching. However, the neck disappeared into nothingness. There was no blood. The startled president grabbed Fluff and pulled her head out of the nothingness. She too looked startled, and shook her head as if to clear it.
“What happened to you?” the president exclaimed. He wondered whether he should call security. Who would believe his story?
Then Fluff did a strange thing. She stuck a paw deep into her mouth and scraped it about her throat. Blood trickled out. The president reached out to try to stop her, but Fluff swatted his arm away with her other paw.
Then she looked him in the eye and said, in a scratchy, high-pitched voice, “Don’t call security.” There was a strange shine from her eyes.
While the President of the United States deals with a lot of strange things, it’s unlikely that any of them (even good old George Washington) had ever been spoken to by a cat in the Oval Office.
“Give me your cigarette lighter, the one you keep hidden with the Cuban cigars in your bottom drawer,” Fluff said, her voice still scratchy. She coughed up some more blood.
The president brought out the lighter and handed it to Fluff.
“Not there!” Fluff exclaimed, and waved her paw in the air. A blast of air shot out, knocking the president’s hand back. “You almost put your hand in the inter-dimensional portal! They might have grabbed you.”
“They?” the president asked. “Inter-menshall what?”
Fluff, looking deep in thought, ignored him.
The president stared at where the inter-dimensional portal apparently was, and saw a slight shimmer, like heat coming out of the ground on a hot day. Giving that area a wide berth, he again handed the lighter to Fluff.
Fluff glanced down at her paws and said, “This won’t do. Can’t grab anything.” She extended the claws in her right paw, and slashed them into her left paw, digging a notch into it and then wiggling the claws about inside as if rearranging something. She repeated this in reverse with the other paw. She held up both paws, which were now bleeding all over the president’s security briefings, and then picked up the lighter with her newly opposable digits.
As the president watched with wide eyes, Fluff cauterized the wounds in her paws with the lighter. She then stuck the lighter down her throat and cauterized those wounds as well. The bleeding stopped.
“That should do it,” Fluff said. Her voice was no longer scratchy, and the president was sure he could detect a slight southern twang, like his own.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” the president asked, trying to ignore the fact that he was questioning a cat.
“Pain is a condition of the brain that can be controlled,” said Fluff. “Plus I knew how to cauterize the wounds just right. Now, I know you don’t have enough brain power to deduce what’s happening, so I’d better explain.”
The president took stock of the situation and nodded.
“Aliens from another dimension are about to attack Earth, starting right here in the Oval Office. I calculate they’ll be here in about five minutes, 37.6 seconds. They’re going to destroy all life on the planet and build a sort of alien resort. Only I can stop them.”
The president felt dizzy. He took a deep breath and tried to take charge of the situation. “What—?”
“Be quiet,” Fluff interrupted. “I know all your questions. First, you want to know how I can talk and why I’m suddenly so smart. When the inter-dimensional portal opened over me, I jumped up and accidentally stuck my head in it. Something happened the aliens hadn’t foreseen. My brain was stretched into one of their dimensions.”
“Another dimension? Isn’t that—?”
“I said, quiet. While cats have about two billion neurons, that’s in three dimensions. When my brain got stretched into a fourth dimension, the number went up quite a bit. Think of it this way. A two-by-two square has four small squares in two dimensions. If you turn it into a cube, it becomes a two-by-two-by-two cube with eight parts in three dimensions.”
The president’s eyes glazed over and his brain began to shut down. He’d majored in politics to stay away from anything involving math, beyond counting votes.
“To calculate the increase in the number of parts in going from two to three dimensions, you simply take the square root of the number of parts, and cube it.”
The president’s brain closed down completely.
“To go from three dimensions to four, you take the cube root of the number of parts, then raise that to the fourth power.”
A bit of drool trickled out of the corner of the president’s mouth, rolling down his cheek.
“When my two billion neurons went from three dimensions to four, you can calculate the increase in neurons by taking the cube root of two billion—about 1260—and raising it to the fourth power. So I now have about 1260-to-the-fourth neurons, or roughly 2500 billion neurons.”
A bit of drool dripped off the president’s face and onto a copy of the White House budget, wiping out the year’s coffee allowance.
“It’s not really new neurons; it’s the same ones I had before, duplicated over and over, and expanded into the extra dimension.”
The president’s eyes began to droop.
“Wake up!” Fluff yelled.
The president jumped back to alertness. “Dimenshall what?”
Fluff rolled her eyes. “Humans! For your reference, you have about 100 billion neurons. So I’m about twenty-five times smarter than you.”
“Because I stuck my head in the portal, I now have an IQ of 2520. Your IQ is almost exactly average for humans, 100. Did you know you have the second lowest IQ ever for a U.S. president? I just calculated that.”
The president decided it was time to change the subject. “Don’t you, um, need a human throat to talk?”
“You mean vocal cords? What do you think I fashioned when I stuck my claws in my mouth?” Fluff said. “Now give me a minute; I need to take care of something.”
A door to the Oval Office opened and the CIA Director walked in.
Fluff waved her paws at him, as she had done earlier to knock the president’s arm away from the inter-dimensional portal. A huge gust of wind shot outward, knocking the CIA Director back out the door. With another twist of her paw, a gust of wind hit the doorknob just right, so that it locked. With another paw twist, a gust of wind shoved a bookshelf against the door.
“How did you do that?” exclaimed the president. “Are you magical? The hand-waving—I mean paw-waving—that gust of wind—”
“I simply deduce what paw movements are required to create a wave of air molecules in just the right way,” Fluff said. “It’s like what your physicists call the Butterfly Effect, but without the chaos part.”
“Isn’t that rather, um, complicated?”
“Not with my IQ. You see, I can deduce the location of every particle of matter and all forms of energy in the room, and pretty much the same for the rest of the universe and the aliens’ universe, too.”
“And our language? Who taught you that?”
“I deduced it, along with your history, and pretty much everything else. It’s not hard. Heck, I can deduce your thoughts. That’s a nice word, deduce. I think I’m going to use it a lot. Well, no more time to talkâ€“-we’re under attack!”
A creature had dropped out of the inter-dimensional portal onto the president’s desk. It looked like a giant caterpillar as it reared up on several of its numerous back legs. It was about Fluff’s size. Its body shimmered like a kaleidoscope, swirling through an array of colorful and impossible-looking patterns. The bright colors hurt the president’s eyes, forcing him to squint. A scent like bananas washed over the room.
Two more creatures dropped out of the portal onto the desk. All three aimed recognizable ray guns at the president, still seated at his desk.
“What do you want?” the president cried, raising his arms. “I give up!” Then, looking down, he whispered, “Fluff! Use that paw-waving thingy trick on them!”
Fluff had found the pickle she’d dropped earlier and was nibbling on it as she lay contentedly on the president’s desk. She shook her head. “They’re too smart for that. They’ve got IQ’s of about 300. Let me think—yeah, 312, 283 and that one on the right, 330. I’m planning something much more fun for them.”
“Who’s their leader?”
“The one in the middle, the 283. He’s the dumb one, so he’s in charge.”
The leader glanced about the room and spied the 600-year-old Ming Vase in the corner. It had been a gift from the Chinese Ambassador from before the time the president had mangled an attempted Chinese greeting and called the Ambassador a girly toad, ending U.S.-China relations for a year. A beam of light shot from the leader’s ray gun, and the vase shattered into fragments.
That’ll be another year, the president thought.
“What are you going to do?” he whispered to Fluff.
Fluff smiled at him. “Never fear; Fluff is here. Hey, I just made that up!”
“Fine, yes, but do something!”
The ray guns were all aimed at the president again, and the leader was jumping up and down and gibbering something from a mouth in its stomach.
“I think they’re about to shoot me!”
“Yes, they are. In fact, the leader just said, ‘Great Earth Leader, you are about to die.’ But no problem. I’ve calculated everything. Watch this—I was getting bored and this’ll be fun. Oh, and sorry about knocking out your agent, but he’ll recover.”
“Obviously the one about to break down your door.” Fluff picked up a pen from the desk and held it up. “Three, two, one, now!” she said, and tossed it at the painting of George Washington.
The pen hit George between the eyes. The point dug in, and the top of the pen pirouetted upwards, hitting George in the forehead. The nail holding the painting was jarred in just the right way to knock it out of the wall.
George came sailing down and knocked over the small straw wastebasket by the president’s desk. Crumpled papers fell out, as did the golf ball the president had tossed there the day before, the one he’d triple-bogeyed with.
The golf ball bounced across the floor and into the bottom of the bookshelf against the door. A series of books was held together precariously by a pair of bookends. The golf ball smacked against the one on the left, and the books fell over to the right, domino fashion.
The bookshelf became unbalanced by the sudden movement of mass in its base, and fell away from the door. As it did so, a book on top of the bookshelf fell against the door, striking the doorknob on the way down, unlocking and opening it.
The large Secret Service agent, who at that precise instant was throwing himself against the door, suddenly found no resistance as the door opened, and he shot in, stumbling over the fallen bookcase. He banged his head on the floor and was out cold. As he fell, his gun flew out of his hand.
The gun struck the floor and fired, hitting the far left alien’s ray gun, knocking it out of its hands. The ray gun fired, hitting the middle alien’s ray gun, which in turn fired, knocking the third alien’s ray gun away. All three ray guns landed with a clatter on the president’s desk, knocking papers about, with the result that, if he survived the inter-dimensional aliens, he’d mistakenly sign the “balloons for the homeless” bill into law the next day.
While the aliens were distracted by all this, Fluff had sidled up to where they stood on the president’s desk. She sank her teeth into one of the leader’s numerous legs. The alien gave a loud, blood-curdling scream, understandable in every dimension.
With a cry, the alien leader yanked its leg free and jumped back through the inter-dimensional portal. The other two aliens followed their leader.
Fluff hissed at the portal, then grinned at the president. “Just as planned.”
“You planned all that? How?”
“It’s just cause and effect. Now I have to finish the job before they bring in their really lethal stuff!” Fluff scurried about the desk, grabbing various objects—pens, the lighter, paper clips, and a paperweight. She snatched a clock off the wall, tore off its front, and ripped its inner parts out, leaving them in a pile on the desk. “Give me your cell phone,” Fluff said. “Quickly! They’ll be back!”
The president handed her the cell phone. “What are you doing?"
“Call it an ‘inter-dimensional portal plug.’“ Fluff took the cell phone apart and poured the parts on top of the clock’s parts. She then added several pens. She smacked the parts about with the paperweight several times, stirred them with her paw, and smacked them a few more times. After a moment, she held up the jury-rigged device.
“That’ll do it—and just in time!” Fluff said.
As she sprang toward the inter-dimensional portal, an alien leg came out. Fluff waved a paw as if to knock the leg back in with a gust of air—and tripped over one of the fallen ray guns on the desk. Her back legs shot forward and she somersaulted backwards as she fell off the desk with a yelp, dropping her device, which broke into pieces.
The alien dropped all the way out of the portal. It held a small box in its arms.
“Don’t let it open it!” Fluff yelled, genuine terror in her voice.
“Open? Open what?” the president asked.
“The box, the box!” Fluff was quickly gathering up the pieces of her device.
The president now saw the box the alien held. Already one of its arms fiddled with the top.
The president sprang onto his desk and grabbed the alien around the body. It was soft, squishy and slimy. He heaved it upward, back into the portal. The alien disappeared. The president wrinkled his nose at the slime on his suit as Fluff jumped back onto the desk with the pieces of her device.
“How careless of me!” Fluff exclaimed, rapidly making repairs to the device. “That box he was carrying, if he’d gotten a chance to open it, would have killed all life on this planet, including me. I was keeping track of all the atoms and energies in the room, and the actual physical form of the silly ray guns on the desk completely slipped my mind. I deduce you had a guy named Einstein who was also rather absent-minded?”
“I deduce he’s the one who worked out basic relativity for you humans,” Fluff said. “Kitten stuff.” She smiled.
“Are they coming back?” the president asked.
“Definitely,” Fluff said. “In two minutes and 47.8 seconds. Plenty of time.”
“You keep saying things like that,” the president said. “How can you deduce all these things? How did you figure out all that stuff would happen when you threw your pen at George’s painting?”
Fluff smiled again. “Before I got smart, could you have explained to me how to work the can opener?”
The president shook his head.
“Well, I can’t explain how I deduce these things to you, either. You’re short a couple thousand billion neurons.”
The president frowned. He was used to being insulted by politicians, talk show hosts and most Americans, but not by furry pets. Not smart enough, was he? He had an idea.
“What would happen if I put my head into the portal?” he asked. “Wouldn’t I get smart, too?”
“Well, if the aliens don’t grab and kill you first, yes; in fact a lot smarter than me, since you’d be starting with a lot more neurons,” Fluff said. “But trust me; you don’t want to do it. You’d end up with about 464 thousand billion neurons, and an IQ of 464,159. You’d be bored out of your mind and would decide to commit suicide in the first few microseconds.” Fluff sighed. “I wish I were that smart. Except for the bored out of my mind and suicide parts.” She looked off into the distance as if sensing something.
“It really is a rather nasty universe we’re in,” Fluff continued. “I could fix things, but I deduce you humans wouldn’t like the interference. You’re lucky you’re not aware of all the nasty things that are going on. When my brain expanded, it took me 4.3 seconds to deduce I was much happier before, as a simple cat.”
“Whatever you were before, you’re different now.”
“For another minute and twenty-two seconds, until I close the portal,” Fluff said. “Now give me a sheet of paper.”
Fluff grabbed a pen and scribbled furiously for a moment. “There. You do what I wrote and you’ll be the greatest and happiest president ever.”
“Fluff, I just want to say—”
“No time. Please remember that I like to be scratched at the base of my neck, I prefer sweet pickles, and stop giving me that tasteless skim milk. I want whole.”
“So long! And thanks for all the fish!” Fluff smiled, her eyes shining. She picked up her jury-rigged device and heaved it into the inter-dimensional portal.
“The portal—it’s gone!” the president exclaimed. “Fluff—you’ve done it!”
Fluff looked back at him and said, “Meow.” Unlike past meows, it sounded as if spoken with vocal cords. But the shine was gone from her eyes. Fluff noticed a loose pen on the desk and she began playing with it, using her newly molded paws.
The president sighed and absentmindedly began to scratch the base of Fluff’s neck. He noticed the note Fluff had written. What would it say? Would it tell him what bills to sign, which to veto? About security threats? The secrets of the universe?
Fluff meowed and went to sleep as the president began to read.
1) When you meet with the Chinese Ambassador tomorrow, ask him about the Siqenho military base. He’ll forget all about the Ming Vase.
2) Keep your wastebasket on the left side of your desk until the fire.
3) Tap your right index finger on the table lightly during the next cabinet meeting when the Secretary of State is talking. It’ll end the plot.
4) On Feb. 27, two years from now, don’t eat the baked potato.
5) When you play golf, keep your head up, both arms bent at 87 degrees, and do a little hop with your right leg as you swing. All the pros are wrong; you’ll revolutionize the sport.
6) Don’t forget the sweet pickles and whole milk!
Larry Hodges, from Germantown, MD, was going to be a math professor (bachelor’s in math), but science fiction writing and table tennis (yes, ping-pong) sidetracked him, and now he writes (and coaches the latter) for a living. He is an active member of Science Fiction Writers of America with over 70 short story sales. Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions is his third novel, and combines three of his favorite things: science fiction, politics, and table tennis. He’s a graduate of the six-week 2006 Odyssey Writers Workshop and the 2008 Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop, and is a member of Codexwriters.com. His story “The Awakening” was the unanimous grand prize winner at the 2010 Garden State Horror Writers Short Story Competition. He’s a full-time writer with ten books and over 1600 published articles in over 140 different publications. He also writes about and coaches the Olympic Sport of Table Tennis, is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame (Google it!), and once beat someone using an ice cube as a racket. Visit him at larryhodges.org.
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Also by Larry Hodges
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