This is a story I wrote in college (and have revised since), and it is the first appearance of the name Marcus Carab. Here Marcus Carab is the name of a character, though I have since adopted it as a pen name for no good reason. It is inspired by a famous thought experiment—I suspect you can guess which one. Enjoy!
In a Box
or, One Cat No Cat
“Holy mother of fuck!”
Even the driver twisted around to look. For a moment, the streetcar was silent, except for a few quiet laughs and a few loud glares. Marcus bit his lip and looked around apologetically before burrowing his face in the neck of his jacket. Gradually everyone returned to their newspapers and conversations, glancing from time to time at uncomfortable man with the wide, frightened eyes.
When the streetcar stopped, Marcus leapt out of the doors and took off up the street. Surely it was impossible; he couldn’t have, just couldn’t have. How could he forget? How could he not have heard her? Unless she was already dead…
Marcus Carab lived on the second floor of a duplex in the east end of the city. He had bought the apartment two years before, from a giant ogre of a man, with money he inherited from his father. It was the same day he bought Pibby.
After dropping his keys several times, Marcus threw open the door and froze. There it was, in the middle of the floor: his metal dustbin, upturned, with one of his meatier encyclopaedias on top.
Surely Pibby was hardy enough to survive. It had only been three nights since he’d trapped her there—a punishment for peeing on the floor. Three nights was nothing… she must be fine. He reached for the encyclopaedia slowly, biting down on his lip. Suddenly his arm recoiled. Had he killed her? How could he have forgotten, and what cruelty of the universe made him decide to go away that weekend?
He shut his eyes and reached out again. His arm made it about half way before he began sputtering. He looked again; his eyes bulged out and trapped little wells of tears; his breath made scraping noises. His hand was only an inch away now, and a sickly half-laugh gurgled up through the mucus in his throat. His arm snapped back to his side.
Perhaps he was mistaken! He could not have done something so negligent. He must have let her out and forgotten to put the dustbin away, or maybe she had escaped by herself. Or, or… the laugh mutated to a screech as it reached his mouth. He stood up, light-headed, and slumped his shoulder against the fridge; he stared at the encyclopaedia—it was the ‘S’ volume—and started to shake.
Suddenly he wasn’t sure that he had even put Pibby in the makeshift cage. He couldn’t remember doing it—not specifically—though he felt like he remembered remembering doing it. He began to bang his head against the fridge.
Thud. He really couldn’t remember doing it.
Thud. He couldn’t even remember what Pi.. pi… he couldn’t remember her name.
Thud. Had he even owned a cat? Where did he get her? His buggy eyes saw a blurry world, one that didn’t seem real. Was it real?
Thud. He didn’t even like cats… he certainly would not have bought one. They were irritating little creatures that scratched your couches and peed on your floors.
Thud. What was this stupid thing in his kitchen? Had he been drunk? Sometimes it’s nice to have an encyclopaedia while you cook, perhaps… or was it some modern art sculpture?
Thud. No, that was stupid. Obviously he was dreaming; he felt like he was dreaming. His eyes ached around the edges from sticking out of his head. It was a dull, dreamlike pain. He was dreaming!
He steadied himself against the fridge and smiled. Just a dream, just a dream, he thought, and hummed as he stumbled through to the living room. He looked back at the dustbin and laughed. What silly dreams he had! His eyes still hurt, though, and his head too. I suppose, he thought as he collapsed on to the couch, that it is time to wake up.