Cat's Eye View
By Matthew Spence
“A cat,” I said.
Alan must have heard the skepticism in my voice. “An American shorthair, to be
precise. Chosen for its athletic ability and intelligence; to make the transfer sequence
easier on both of you. The animal’s consciousness, will, of course, be kept sedated for the
duration of your stay...”
I looked at the transfer table, which looked like a standard hospital chair. A light
transmitter, to stimulate brainwaves, was placed over where I was supposed to sleep.
“Eight hours,” I said. “Why eight, exactly?”
“It’s the maximum amount of time you’ll be able to spend in the host before the entanglement becomes more difficult to resolve,” Alan replied.
“Meaning that if you stay there too long, you could become trapped-and your mind
could merge with the cat’s, to prevent a paradox. You’d lose your identity.”
Of course, Alan had told me most of this before, but seeing the chair and its mass of
wiring made it real. “So, I’ll be in the past-about fifty years-and in a cat’s body...”
“But with your intelligence and memories intact. Sending back an entire person is too
complex, given how many molecules we have. But we can send back information-in this
case, your brainwave patterns. It should be interesting, seeing the world from a cat’s eye-
I went over the profile of the target host’s owners. “Mr. And Ms. Arthur and Janet
Brewster, Clairemont, San Diego, target date first week of August, 1965.” Setting down
the tablet, I asked, “Why them, exactly?”
“It’s a stable environment for the host, they didn’t apparently do much as a retired
couple aside from the occasional family visits during the Christmas season. It gave us a
steady rhythm for the monitoring process. We won’t be able to communicate with you
while you’re back there, you know-only follow your brainwave progress on the monitors.
So...are you ready?”
Needless to say, I still had my reservations, but I went ahead with the procedure. I was
given an IV drip and anesthetic, which would put me in a deep “twilight sleep” state. I
felt the drug take hold as I closed my eyes...
...And opened them to find myself looking at the linoleum floor of a kitchen. At first I
had the sensation that I was lying on my stomach, but then I realized I was in fact standing up. The second thing I saw was that everything seemed to be in hues of blue and gray, although other colors were apparent. The wider field of view and greater peripheral vision took a little getting used to, but as I made my way across the floor and got used to my surroundings, I could see the advantages that it gave cats. Walking on four legs was another thing-I kept wanting to stand up, and had to learn how to follow my own front feet.
It was late at night, which meant that the lights in the house were off, but with a cat’s
night vision that didn’t bother me as much. Going into the living room, I could sense
familiarity with the mid-century furniture and especially a spot on the rug in front of the
TV set, the kind that had a wooden cabinet and two dials. I was curious to see what the
rest of the neighborhood might have looked like through the living room curtains, but an
inherited memory told me that I wasn’t allowed on the couch, so, obeying a primal
command instinct, I stayed down.
I found the master bedroom, with one of my owners, Mrs. Brewster, asleep in her bed.
Judging from her appearance, time and age were slowly taking a toll on her, although she
was still relatively healthy for a person her age in the 1960s. Mr. Brewster wasn’t around,
but judging from the way the bed on his side was unmade, it looked like he might have
gone our for some late-night shopping. I saw another instinctively familiar sight-a cat
bed, placed in the corner on the other side of the room-and took my place in it. Judging
by how “empty” I felt, I must have gone to the cat-box just before arrival.
I was in the box when I heard the sound of the front door being opened. At first I
naturally assumed it was Mr. Brewster returning, but an instinctive voice told me
something else. That, and the sound of the doorknob having been jimmied open, without a key.
Mrs. Brewster slept on, oblivious. Seeing the glass of water and a bottle of medication
up on her nightstand, I understood why. I carefully made my way into the living room,
where I saw a young man quietly rolling the TV out the front door. He must not have
heard or seen me, because he didn’t stop, even when I came up behind him as his back
I don’t know why I did what I did next-I knew nothing about Mrs. Brewster or her
husband aside from what little information there had been in the file-but it was as if an
old, territorial instinct to protect one’s turf came over me. That, along with my human
intelligence, allowed me to go for one of the thief’s trouser legs.
The thief cried out in pain and anger-a loud, piercing sound with cat hearing-as he
twisted his body around to see who, or what, might have attacked him. I saw the flash of
a knife in his hand, but I was well hidden behind the sofa. Apparently deciding that the
TV set wasn’t worth it, he stumbled out the front door, still grimacing in pain. He might
have had a long walk home, but for the timely arrival of Mr. Brewster, who had pulled
into the parking lot and was carrying a small grocery bag when he saw the thief stumbling
out of his home. Without thinking twice, he moved to tackle the thief to the ground.
That was the last thing I saw. The next thing I knew, I was back in the chair, in my
own time and place, feeling somewhat disoriented as I felt the sensation of my arms and
Alan was removing an electrode band from my forehead as the IV was taken out of
my hand. Somewhat groggily, I began to sit up on the edge of the chair.
“Whoa, easy there,” Alan said. “What happened?”
“I arrived in the middle of a burglary,” I said, wincing. “I went for the guy’s leg...I’m
not sure why. I know you’re not supposed to make butterflies in the past, but...”
“Probably instinct. Also, the shorthair is known for being social, but independent. And
of course, like most predators, they are territorial. Maybe you were reacting to an
unknown threat and was just defending your territory.”
I thought about the feelings of familiarity that I’d had about the house. “Yeah, maybe.
So, what happened to the guy I caught? And the Brewsters?”
“Oh, he was convicted on several counts of breaking and entering, and robbery. The
Brewsters continued living in Clairemont for the next several years; he passed away in
1970 while she outlived him by about ten years. They have children and grandchildren
who still live in San Diego today. And here’s something interesting-your host may have
been an ancestor of the American Curl cat, which was first discovered in Lakewood in
1981. If that guy had been able to get your host with his knife...”
“So I saved my-er, the host’s-family line?” I had a momentary sensation of gratitude
flood through my mind. Another inherited memory, or a connection to something
stronger? Home and family-two things worth protecting. That was what family did, wasn’t it?
Matthew Spence was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His work has appeared in the following publications:
In the Maze (2001)
Aboard the Ark (2002)
When Silent Ghosts Speak (2003)
Cold Sweat (2003)
Living Among the Ghosts (2003)
On the Bus (2003)
Keeping the Faith (2006)
In the Cave (2014)
Where None May Pass (2014)
On the Bridge (2015)
Body Talk (2015)
Low Ground (2015)
Neptune's Run (2017)
The Eye (2018)