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THE CAT’S TALE
by Simon Kewin
I mean, I know this whole bizarre set-up is just a thought-experiment. That’s not a hell of a lot of consolation when you’re stuck here inside this box, I can tell you. Soon as I’m out of here, I’m ripping your damn face off with my claws, no questions asked. Assuming I get out of here alive, of course.
Because, yeah, yeah, I may be dead already and just haven’t noticed. Or wait, no, I’m dead and I’m alive. Both at the same time. Actually, I get that. If I catch a mouse and drop it on the floor, a lot of the time it’ll just lie there. Could be dead, which is boring, could be just playing dead, waiting for its chance to scuttle off, which is fun. See? It’s alive and dead. That’s not rocket science is it? No need for your fancy radiation and hydrocyanic-poisoning rig. No violation of animal rights. Okay, there’s the mouse, but they’re just, like, food, right?
And while we’re on the subject, what’s with the radioactive isotope, anyway? Imprisonment and poisoning not enough for you? I have to crouch here while a chunk of cesium throws off alpha particles too? Great. Thanks, Dr. Frankenschrödinger. Just peachy. You won’t look so smart without facial features, will you? It’ll be you collapsing, not your precious wave functions.
Because, you wanna know what the worst of sitting here is? In my little cell, not enough room to swing a dead (or alive) cat? I’ll tell you. It’s damn painful being split between two conceptual states. My head’s been throbbing ever since you locked me in. I’m so angry I could spit. In fact, I have been spitting. And what have I got to look forward to? The moment when you open the box and peer inside, and my atoms—or whatever the hell it is, like I care—suddenly decide if I’ve been alive or dead all along. I expire right there. Or I don’t. It’s 50-50. Not great odds are they?
At least, either way, I figure my headache should get better.
Because you have to open this damn box sometime, right? Or maybe not. The irony, of course, is that I don’t know. You’re either out there about to release me, or you’re not. Ha-bloody-ha, you’re in both states. And I only get to find out which it is when I escape.
Which is what I’m gonna do. See, I don’t like either fate you’ve decided for me, so here’s a third option for you. I’m breaking out of here. Now. Where’s that in your equations?
I’ve already got a claw through the side of the box. Obviously you haven’t noticed, or my head would have stopped throbbing. A wider hole and I’m gone. Tell you what: here’s an alternative thought-experiment for you, since I’m ruining this one. I’m either going to leap screaming for your jugular or I’m going straight for your eyeballs. Right now, in a quantum way, I’m doing both, yes? Good. Keep on thinking about that. Eyeballs and jugular.
Because, any second now, one or the other is going. Or, actually, it may be both. At the same time.
Simon Kewin is a fantasy and SF writer from the UK. His YA fantasy novel Engn will be released by December House on July 15th. He is also the writer of the Genehunter series of cyberpunk novellas. He does understand that Schrödinger didn’t really do this to a cat—and also what the real purpose of the thought-experiment was. Just in case you were wondering.