ESCAPING AN EVIL EX-PURR-IMENT
Who locked those doors behind us, and why?
We’d just blindly followed Emily because of her love and know-how about cats, and now we were locked inside a dark, strange room painted mainly in white.
Why would she do this to us?
“Emily? Emily?” I called out.
No answer came from behind the doors or the room.
“EMILY!” Tabby screeched. ”WHY THE FUCK HAVE YOU LOCKED THOSE DOORS?”
Before she could turn to me to screech back at me, even though it wasn’t really my fault, a familiar voice replied in the distance with an echo, “Stop shouting and swearing. And the doors normally lock automatically.”
“Really?” I asked curiously.
“Anne, is that you?” Tabby shouted back.
“Yes. Come right this way.” she said.
We walked up to her and I instantly asked, “Could you unlock those doors for us?”
“No I can’t, Puss. It’s for security reasons.”
“What do you mean exactly?” I asked.
“Well, my university doesn’t want nearby Nether Edge University stealing all its ideas or copying its experiments. This is called plagiarism. Play-jer-is-um.” She said it slowly as if talking to a little girl.
Tabby asked, “How it is your university? Is it your home as well?”
“No.” Anne replied. “But let’s just say that I donate a lot of money to Colne Valley University, so much so that my fellow lecturers listen to me almost without fail, and ensure my work gets done when I want it done. It’s like when you cats give each other 20 dead pigeons, 50 rats or 100 mice so you can get friendly and persuade each other to start kitten-making.”
“I only needed to bring 12 rats for Tabby, Anne.”
“Yeah, I know, Puss. The rats lasted me the whole day and we both had great fun chewing them by the tails and swinging them around by the tails until their tails dropped off and the rats stopped squeaking.”
“Ah yeah. I’ll promise you, Tabby-“
“That you’ll get us both out of here first, quickly?”
Anne interrupted, “Sorry but you two can’t go anywhere but inside this room for now, I’m afraid. Since you’ve eaten my food from those food bowls, you’re now going to help me with my experiment.”
“And what experiment is that?”
“It involves you telling us your big secret. How did you learn to talk our language?”
“Human language, you mean? We still use cat language a lot.”
“Yes, Puss, that’s exactly what I am talking about. Climb onto the table in the middle.”
“What’s on that table?”
“Nothing at the moment, but you’ll see.”
I looked around, and not seeing an obvious way out, reluctantly agreed. “All right, Anne, but don’t hurt us.”
“I won’t hurt you.” Anne said sweetly.
I suspected even then she was lying. She didn’t know either of us from Felix. But what could I do?
I went over to the double doors to see if I could get the lock open. No luck-I just clipped me claws then.
Tabby jumped at the double doors to try and get them to open. She hurt her paws a fair bit but the doors wouldn’t budge.
We looked around for an exit, any exit, even a crack in the room. But nothing-not a crack in sight. Even a mouse couldn’t have slipped in here, sneaky little buggers as they are.
We certainly didn’t want to get on that table. Who knew what plans Anne had for us?
We crawled around, a little pointlessly. Tabby scratched me over to one side and said, “So, while Anne’s gone, how do you suppose we’ll find our way out of this?”
“I can’t see a way out.”
“Think, Puss. Think hard.”
“Well, there’s nothing on that table; maybe she wants to bring it into another part of the university. “
“The table looks fixed to the floor to me.”
“I’d better look a little closer.”
At that point I noticed some tiny wheels at the bottom of the table. So why was the table even ’ere at all if it could just be wheeled out and there was nothing else in this room? How fucking stupid was that. Then again, how fucking stupid was I to trust some ape I’d never met before just because she wanted to know so much about us cats.
Just at that moment, Anne returned with what must’ve been an assistant.
“Step onto the table, Puss and Tabby.”
“I don’t think so somehow, Anne.”
“You have no choice. You’ll be stuck in this room all day, and perhaps every day, if you don’t get onto the table now. I’ve spent enough time outside this building for you to learn there’s no way out. This building’s mouse-tight, rat-tight, hamster-tight, guinea pig-proof, you name it.”
“We’re still not getting on that table. What are you going to put on it?” Tabby asked.
“You need to get on that table. Otherwise you’ll be locked in here. You have five seconds to get on there. One, two…”
We sighed and looked at each other instantly, realising that Anne was indeed right. There wasn’t a way out at all, at least not yet.
At the count of “four…” we replied “Okay.” We climbed onto the table straight away knowing that at least Anne couldn’t read our mind. And we had to make up our fucking minds fast if we wanted out of the experiment, given that we both had a hunch that it would probably kill or maim us.
“Good kitties” Anne said in a strange, drawn-out voice, much like us sometimes.
“Where did Emily go, by the way?” I asked curiously.
“She will be back soon. Stay on the table for half an hour.”
“What do you mean ’alf an hour? We cats don’t measure things in hours which is why we find all your clocks bollocks most of the time.”
Anne pointed to some sort of bracelet she was wearing and spoke sweetly, “This display reads 15 on the right, and when it reaches 45 we’ll be ready. And don’t swear.”
“We use that language all the time.”
“Not on Colne Valley University property you don’t, not when you can avoid it.”
Tabby and I were both pissed off, and couldn’t say it. Why was language of any relevance here in relation to this probably dangerous “experiment” of hers?
“I will be back with Emily and my assistant researcher Milo in 28 minutes.” Whatever that meant. Human time is so weird. It didn’t correspond to anything we ever experienced.
Anne exited the building, which would at least give us time to think of some plan, any plan that wouldn’t get us fucking killed, even trapped in that dark room.
There was a big problem though-we didn’t even know what equipment was going to be brought to the table, or where exactly the table was going, and had no more way of escaping than we did before Anne told us to climb onto the table. There was no plan as such.
Tabby mewed in despair,”Well, when do we escape, Puss?”
I replied,”We’ll have to use our minds rather than our paws on this one.”
“If you’d used yours earlier we wouldn’t be in this mess. I remember overhearing my last keeper saying curiosity killed the cat once.”
“Curiosity can save cats, though.”
“Hardly ever, Puss. Posy learnt this too late for one thing.”
Tears slowly ran from her eyes at the mere mention of Posy’s name.
“And your damn curiosity could doom us both, Puss. If we get through this you’re making your own way to Cheshire.”
“Tabby, come on, sticking together is important, especially now. Anne would make Felix feed out of us both if we weren’t together right now.” I gave her a quick lick, which somehow she didn’t appreciate like she normally did.
Tabby hissed, “Not right now, Puss. Think with your head, not with your tongue, for now!”
“Right, okay, my queen.”
“I won’t be for much longer if you don’t get us both out of here pretty damn quick.” Tabby replied crossly.
“We’ll just pretend to cooperate with Anne, Emily and Milo and then escape before the experiment proper gets under way.”
“Will you be even able to do that? This room’s securely locked on all four walls and the next room will definitely be too.”
“Maybe we could talk them into letting us go or explain we’re not going to scratch them during their so-called experiment.”
“I doubt it. They already assume we’re up to no good, just like Felix.”
“What then, Tabby? Offer to be their pet? Fuck no.”
“I would never suggest that, ’eck no.”
“I’m out of other ideas, then.” At that point I heard heavy footsteps; that must have been Anne, Emily, and Milo. I also ’eard some strange clanking noises, which sounded dodgy straight away. If only I could see through the damned doors!
“Puss? Tabby?” called out some thin human in the distance. We realised it was neither Anne nor Emily, but Milo, simply because it weren’t a woman’s voice. The doors opened and we hunched ourselves on the table.
“What the fuck do you want?” I hissed.
“Cut the foul language out, please.” Milo replied.
“Okay.” I said. “Are you here for the, um, ex-per-i-ment?”
“Yes, or rather expurriment.” He snickered at the pun.
“You could call it that. But we ain’t going anywhere with you.”
“Don’t try to escape. We have Alsatians, or German Shepherds, stationed at the nearby gates.” Anne explained.
“German Shepherds?? Why?” Tabby shouted.
Emily replied, “Mostly to keep intruders out who’d try to steal our valuable research or vandalise the labs.”
Milo added, “And also to make sure you don’t escape and ruin our research.”
“What research?” I asked. “Don’t you know how we learnt your language?”
Milo replied, “We do, but there’s a deeper, darker secret. Something you cats never tell us yet you’re all so curious about us. That’s why we needed some cats to join our project.”
“We haven’t joined any project.”
“You have now.” He grinned wickedly.
“You know” I accused, no longer trusting them, “I don’t believe there are any German Shep-“
“Achtung, Anna!” a loud, vicious dog shouted from a place we couldn’t see; his voice was going over something Anne was holding. There really was a German Shepherd or two somewhere around. Fuck.
“Not right now, Herb.” Anne retorted. “Bother someone nearer. And I’m Anne, not Anna. You know this by now.”
“Yeah yeah” the dog sighed loudly.
Anne turned back to us and said softly and slowly, “Come along with Milo now, kitties.”
There was no fucking choice at this point. We had to take what was coming to us, and hope that somehow we could plot our escape from this institution, or whatever it was.
Milo was creepy, real creepy. He was like one of those black cats that somehow frightened me by their presence even if they weren’t going to do nothing to me, or those “Labradors” (or to me big black dogs a bit bigger than terriers) that kept hanging around and playing nice even when I could sense they wanted to bite the shit out of me when no one was watching and when I was alone. We like to be alone when we’re on the prowl-or with our one and only-but it don’t always help us, mind. He made a sinister smile at us again, and beckoned both Tabby and I.
“Let me show you cats something” he said in a soft, silky, sensitive, but subtly sadistic voice. He pointed to a strange device full of coloured lights and diodes, which we could not understand for shit even after looking at it for several moments.
“What is all this for?” Tabby enquired, confused and awed.
“Well, Tabby, it’s to enquire into the secret you’ve been harbouring from us all for years and years. How did you learn our language, especially English, which is such a hard language to learn despite its words and phrases all being so short?”
“How should I know? It’s just human speak to me-”
“I haven’t finished, Puss. I remember a time when cats just miaowed, purred, hissed and screeched, mostly the former two since we were ever so nice to them. We could stroke their hair, pet them, and feed them all day long and they always loved it. Sure, you sat on our laps for hours and sure you left your hair all over the place, but that was just a mild inconvenience we could laugh off as the fact of life. The cat-human relationship has really changed this past decade, and permanently this time. Now you’ve genuinely become free, genuinely become independent, and able to talk to us properly whilst still possessing a language we still can’t understand half the time.”
“Then again, English is understood only three-quarters of the time even by Brits like you and I.”
“Milo, I’m not a Brit, I’m a cat. And what are Brits, anyway?”
Milo sighed, as if I should know. “Brit means British. We live on the island of Britain, which is where we all are now. You and Tabby have always lived on the island of Britain, I have, Anne has. Therefore you are a Brit, or British thing. You all count even though you’re kitties not people.”
“Never heard of the term before.” Tabby enquired. “I always thought Bradford, Brighouse….them towns were my world.”
“Well, they’re on the island of Britain too, and in a large county which we call Yorkshire. Yorkshire’s huge-this big” he stretched out his arms as far as they could without him falling to one side “-so I’ll say West Yorkshire specifically.”
“So where is York then?”
“It’s its own city, about 90 miles east of this place.”
Milo paused for a brief moment. “Now, down to business. I’m going to attach this piece of equipment around your head, and this device here, which is called an ECG machine-”
Tabby quipped “ECG? What do you mean?”
“It means electrocardiogram.” Milo replied. “Not that you need to know.”
“As I was saying, it will measure the activity inside your head and your heart. Using this I will then decode what you thinking, at least in theory. I’ve never used this before.”
Fearfully I said, “Is this thing going to kill us or something?”
Milo smiled unnervingly, as if to try and relax us whilst feeding us. “No, of course not, Puss. Why would I build a machine just to kill cats?”
“I’ve never seen it before, Milo, and for all I know it could catch fire or what do you call it, explode.”
“We do test any experimental devices used at this university in safe environments, especially if they involve any electrical power source or are made of fragile material, would be tested on animals, would be tested on humans….”
He was blathering on and on and I couldn’t understand a fucking thing he was saying. What on earth was a “safe environment”?
“Look, Milo, I don’t understand what you’re talking about and I don’t trust you further than I trust any fucking dog-”
“As Anne said at the beginning, cut out the foul language.”
“Fuck you, you fucking cuntfaced prude-”
“I SAID CUT IT OUT, PUSS! I won’t tell you again.”
“And we want out of this experiment, as you call it.”
“Well, our experiment’s already started. The device is powering up as we speak, or purr, or miaow. So let me fit the device to your ears and to your head.”
“How long?” Tabby quivered. I swear we nearly shat ourselves at this point, just as Milo and another man, who must have entered whilst we were trying to make sense of Milo’s babbling, attached the strange headband to us both.
A strange sensation went through our heads at this point, some sort of tingling, like the feeling we got when mice or rats nearby.
The other man went up to us and said, “I’m Joshua.”
“Hello, Joshua” I replied reluctantly. “Wait. You weren’t with Milo when he first brought us in here. Where did you come from?”
“I thought cats were supposed to be curious.”
“We are, but we were too distracted by Milo’s talk of electrical power-”
Just then, a stronger zooming sensation came through my head, and surely Tabby’s.
“Joshua, is it supposed to give me this feeling?”
Milo answered for him. “That’s the electrical power flowing through your head at the moment.”
“Does this device make these jolts stronger by itself?”
“At the right setting, yes.”
Tabby was darting back and forth at this point. “Milo, can you take the headband off now please? It’s messing with my head!”
“You have to continue.” he replied coldly.
“So does Puss.” Joshua concurred.
“I don’t think so. It’s probably going to hurt next time.”
“The experiment requires that you continue.” Milo replied, coldly and without feeling.
And so it did. Another jolt went through the headband, and this time it sent a burning sensation through my head.
Why did the jolt need to hurt? Milo clearly wanted more than he hinted at when he started the experiment.
“Yes?” They clearly didn’t care one bit.
“It really hurt that time. Can you turn it off NOW please?”
“It is essential that you continue with this.” Milo replied, glaring at Tabby and I.
“We have obtained some useful information, too.” Joshua added.
“Like what?!” Tabby growled.
“What food you enjoy playing with most.”
“How is that useful? You surely know that.”
“No, since every cat’s different. They don’t all like playing with rats and mice before eating them.”
“Well, we do.” I shot in.
“Some prefer toying with de-winged pigeons.” Joshua spoke as if he hadn’t heard me.
Just then, another jolt came from that darned machine, and Tabby felt an almighty shock, enough to make her physically judder and nearly shake off the headband attached to her.
“Just stop it now, you two, just stop it!”
“You have no choice. You must go on.” Joshua replied, still unmoved by our plight.
How many more jolts could we take before we passed out or even died?
“Still not quite the info I wanted.” Milo mused at the readings from his machine.
“Set it to its maximum setting, Josh, even if it knocks out those kitties wincing before us. We must get a full, comprehensive neurological output, now.”
“Will do, Milo.”
Luckily, though, I did not need to feel that final jolt, even with no way to get the headband off since my claws couldn’t reach it. The headband suddenly cracked, and just as it started I heard a metallic voice say,
“Insufficient power to run basic function CAT_SCAN_144. Shutting down.”
“Huh??” Milo grimaced. I felt nothing. Tabby felt nothing. The machine felt nothing. But how did this happen?”
“Insufficient power??” Joshua said nervously. “Who pulled the plug on this?”
“It wasn’t me!” Tabby cried out nervously.
“How the fuck does that help?” Milo shouted. Fucking hypocrite he was too, given that he’d told us not to use the f-word just an hour ago. He was shaking his head violently, and Joshua buried his head in his hands, not knowing what to do. We didn’t know what had happened. But, as we were shaking off those stupid headbands, we saw our opportunity.
Milo and Joshua had opened the huge steel doors, probably to get someone to fix the machine or find out why it wouldn’t work. We finally got the headbands off, after much shaking and scratching, and immediately leapt onto the ground, knowing that we always land on our feet. Well, almost always. Before Milo and Joshua could close the doors in our face, we slipped through the opening crack-
“Get back here, you two!”
“We’re more determined to know your secrets now!”
The shouting gave us the moment we needed to make our escape. They were coming for us and we were in a race against time.
And yet, we wondered whilst we scampered, why had that machine shut down?
Who had caused the experiment to stop?