It was Saturday afternoon and I was sitting at the edge of the lawn reading my book. It was then that the neighbor’s cat suddenly gave me an ear-to-ear grin. I am not a “cat person,” the only cats which have garnered any of my attention are Schrödinger’s cat—which is an illustration of a theoretical concept, Puss in Boots—which is a fairy tale, and Sylvester—which is a cartoon show, and other than that, I had studied ancient languages and hieroglyphics as a club activity at college and learned about the preeminence of cats in the arcane Egyptian culture. The grin took me to Alice’s dilemma when she was in wonderland, but bite me for I am a theoretical physicist, not the Mad Hatter and certainly not a character in the mind of Lewis Carroll. Moreover, I had never seen this cat previously and its grin did seem creepy to say the least.
A few moments later, I realized that my world was different. Everything seemed to be made out of cubes. Smaller cubes made up the trees and the buildings, larger ones made up the three-dimensional space we live in. Was this an edifice from the proverbial block world? Physics boasts of periodic structures in solids and the repetition of a known three-dimensional cubic basis to form larger crystalline solids, but those cubes are of the order of micrometers but these are macroscopic cubes. I rubbed my eyes, only to find that my hand was also made out of a fine assortment of cubes, the fingers were made out of smaller cubes and the palm made out of larger cubes. Both my palm and my hand are contiguous and functioning as they should, I was able to move all my fingers and grasp on to things and pick them up.
I felt my cheek and rubbed my forehead, but it was not me, the world had indeed changed. Did any medicine or beverage take its toll? But shredded chicken and rice were all that I had for lunch. Maybe a leak of some neurotoxin from the laboratory at the mountaintop.
Then the strangest thing happened, the cat stood up on its two legs like a human being and said to me, “Have you seen the second sun?” A talking cat! Startled, I immediately craned my neck to find another sun at the other end of the sky, dimmer than the first one. “People are calling it Nibiru …” said the cat. By this time my eyes were popping out of my skull and I raised my left hand to slap myself and just then I saw a big parcel next to me with an airmail stamp. On closer inspection, I found that it has been sent from the “Hatters of Oz.”
Before I could comprehend anything, I found my wife calling me. She had walked out with a pitcher of iced tea, saying, “Have you met the Bulgakovs next door? They have a Persian cat named Mikhail and like you, they are also a big fan of Haruki Murakami’s writings.” Then she picked up the parcel and exclaimed, “Oh wonderful! Now you have your top hat for Alice’s wedding next week.”
My wife was also made out of little cubes – pixels as if a graphical construct from some video game. Somewhere in my mind, I could hear Philip K. Dick speak out loudly, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Taking a seat beside me, my wife said, “Alice still recalls your joke, ‘I can be the Mad Hatter for Alice’s wedding’ … and darling, try to get some sleep tonight your insomnia is killing me. Avoid watching YouTube videos all night long. Read your Philip K. Dick novels that should help you to calm down and find some sleep. Which one are you reading … Valis?”
Arkapravo Bhaumik is from New Delhi, India and his day job is teaching undergraduate students at a college. He has been published in 365 Tomorrows.
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Photo by Paolo Nicolello