Funny Science Fiction Speculative

No matter what the time, Fred Fothergill, fat, forty and fed up, had always been able to wake up on the dot. It was like pressing a mental alarm button. Early plane to catch? He was there before it was wheeled onto the runway. Ungodly work call? Blear-eyed onscreen before anyone else had zoomed in. So, early rising was not a problem. In fact, it was something of a boon because, even living close by the sea where the gentle susurration of the waves was ever-present, there was a preternatural quiet in the early mornings that was a welcome relief the fag end of forty where nothing exciting happened any more.. 

On this occasion the mental alarm kicked in at 2am - that’s when the Orionid meteor shower was scheduled to peak. Fred’s wife, Dora,  didn’t share his enthusiasm for astronomical events, let alone early rising  - nor much else to be fair - and merely grunted as he slipped out of bed. And, for once, the weather appeared to be playing ball. The sky was perfectly clear. Magnificently so, with Orion striding imperiously across the night sky. Unfortunately, during the time Fred stood in the doorway Orion only managed to sputter a couple of barely incandescent sparks across the sky - so majestic a constellation could have tried a bit harder, he thought!

However, from past experience, it was no more than expected. What he did not anticipate, however, was a sudden bright red light zig-zagging above the sea with sweeping beams as though searching for something. Obviously his first thoughts were air-sea rescue, but the lights were too erratic for that and even that far away the noise of the helicopter blades would have been audible. Then they zipped incredibly quickly further down the coast … and something rushed past him through the door, hell for leather, and disappeared into the house.

Fred swore and hurried back in, picking up his intruder deterrent as he went - a large and heavy noggin of wood he had found on the beach. Much as he would have preferred a gun, Dora had put her foot down. “We’re not in America!. And I’m not having holes put in the furniture! And watch where you’re swinging that thing if you ever have to use it. I don’t want to have to redecorate!”  Dora was quite houseproud. 

Fred scouted gingerly around and then drew up short as he encountered a large and bristling ginger cat with a tail currently the size of a fox’s brush, cowering up against the sofa back.

The cat held out its paws as Fred approached. “Now hold on!” it said. “I’m claiming asylum here. You’re not going to hit me with that thing are you?” As it happened the question was largely rhetorical, because Fred jerked back in astonishment and dropped the club which landed painfully on his instep. Given the circumstances, Fred’s invective was quite colourful as he hobbled over to the couch opposite and collapsed onto it rubbing his foot,

The cat relaxed and settled back into the sofa. “I should get some ice on that, if i were you.” it said. “Tell me where the ice-making machine is and I’ll get some if you like.”

Fred goggled, in between massaging his foot which had already started to turn purple.

The cat squatted and cocked its head. “Yes, I know. Bit of a surprise, I suppose. But I had to collar the first thing I saw and this creature didn’t seem to be doing much except screeching at the moon and I couldn’t have that. Could have given the game away. Cat, I think you call it looking at your thought processes. Agile creatures aren’t they? And flexible, too. Look, I can lick my arse.” And it proceeded to do so, with evident satisfaction.

Fred still hadn’t found sufficient of his voice nor equanimity to essay anything sensible, so just sat there mesmerised by the whole experience. A talking cat was the last thing he expected when he got up to watch a meteor shower.

“Meteors!” snarled the cat. “They’re an absolute bugger, even when you know they’re around. There’s always one - that’s a universal constant, by the way - there’s always one that catches you out,” It scratched its ear and shook its head vigorously.  “Mind you, I shouldn’t complain, or I’d still be banged up in that transfer pod. Thank goodness for all that water. Sea, I think you call it. We don’t have that where I come from. If that had happened back home I’d be a greasy smear in the desert by now.”

Fred thought back to the mysterious lights flitting around outside and opened his mouth to say something.

“Hmmm,” agreed the cat, flicking its tail angrily. “They were looking for me. There’ll be hell to pay once they admit they’ve lost me. For them anyway.”

At last, Fred found his voice. “Hold on! Are you telling me that …”

The cat cocked its head again. “Isn’t it obvious? How many talking cats do you know?”

For the first time, Fred noticed that although the cat seemed to have plenty to say, its lips never moved ,,, “Telepathy” it broke in … and it seemed to be twiddling its thumbs as it squatted on the sofa. Fred goggled and the cat looked surprised holding its paws out. “Oh, yes, the thumbs. Necessary modification, I’m afraid. I’m surprised that a creature as elegant and intelligent as a cat doesn’t have them. Every biological entity should have opposable thumbs. It’s the first rule of civilised evolution.”

Despite himself, now that his instep had stopped throbbing, Fred was beginning to relax as his mind began to process what was taking place. “We’ve got a saying here,” he managed to say, somewhat sarcastically. “If a cat had  thumbs, they’d be downright dangerous.”

The cat pursed its lips and cocked its head the other way. “Mmmm. I can see that. And I’m not actually a cat - I’m just borrowing the body. I can also see that you’re beginning to relax. It’s the aura. Bordering on purple when I first showed up. Flickering blue and green now with a rather sickly shade of yellow, jaundiced I shouldn’t wonder.” Then, it hissed, sprang to its feet and arched its back, looking towards a flickering blackish purple shape looming in the doorway, “What’s that?” it hissed in alarm.

Fred followed its gaze. 

“Do you know what time it is?” demanded Dora from the doorway, shouting at Fred. “You woke me up! Who are you talking to? And what’s this cat doing here? Why’s the door still open?” Shoo! Gerrout of it!”. She waved her hands at the cat.

It cowered away from the flailing hands and then settled down again, ears flattened, looking  balefully at Fred. “Do you want to explain or shall I?  I assume that’s yours. It’s just the same where I come from. It’s the same the Universe over, if I’m honest.”

“Well,” Dora said. “Are you going to do anything about it or not? It might have fleas. Where’s it come from?”

The cat sighed resignedly. “Alpha Centauri B, if you must know ,,,” it transmitted to Dora’s mind and she stopped in her tracks. “... as of now, but my place of origin is somewhere you won’t have heard of.”

Dora sank down to the couch alongside Fred. “Is that cat talking to me?” she asked, clutching her throat. 

Fred explained as best he could, prompted now and then by the cat who was beginning to make itself at home. Between the two of them they brought Dora up to speed and it turned out that the cat was a political prisoner unwillingly en route to the Pleiades who had been brought down by a random meteor strike and only just managed to escape the transfer pod before it sank in the sea, and had made its way to Fred and Dora’s open door with the warders hot on its tail. When it had actually become a cat, that is. Before that it wasn’t actually made clear to either Fred or Dora what it was.

“You don’t really want to know,” the cat said. “Really, you don’t - it would give you nightmares. I mean, on my home planet I’m considered quite a catch. I’d got any number of sexes leching for a bit of me - and that is quite literally so by the way. Reproduction back home  isn’t quite how you might imagine it: think of it more like cloning where potential partners actually tear lumps off you then slope off and culture them.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but you certainly wouldn’t be beholden to me if I showed you my real form unless it was necessary. Suffice it to say that I’m a shape-shifter and leave it at that.”

“But what do we call you?” Fred asked. “We can’t call you ‘puss’ - that seems quite demeaning if you’re as important as you say you are.”

The cat made a sound somewhere between a purr, a yowl and disgusting fur ball cough that Fred took for an ironic laugh. “Well, Sir would be a start given my status, but how are you with consonants, glottal stops and swallowed tongue clicks? Just call me Tibbles if you need to call me anything at all. I don’t plan on sticking around that long. I suppose it’s too much to expect that you’ve got a transmitter? I’ve got some supporters tailing me and I need to make contact somehow to let them know I haven’t joined the Cosmic Cloud just yet.” Tibbles yawned and stretched luxuriously, “Although I suppose I could get used to this, but there’s a lot riding on my getting back.”

“I need a drink,” Dora said, faintly. “I can’t believe I’m talking to a cat.”

“Not just any cat,” Tibbles remonstrated as she tottered out to the kitchen, “I’m the heir to a Galactic dynasty that’s been sorely done by, I’ll have you know. I’ll have a saucer of milk, while you’re at it! A couple of crunchies wouldn’t come amiss as well - I haven’t eaten a thing for an hour.”

Dora tottered back in with a tray and set it down on the coffee table in front of the sofa. She poured both Fred and herself a generous tot of whisky and Tibbles helped itself freely to the milk and biscuits Dora had laid out.

“What are we going to do with it?” Dora asked. “You and your astrology. You seem to have landed us right in the middle of a Star Wars episode!”

“Astronomy,” Fred automatically corrected for the umpteenth time. “If it was astrology I might have predicted this and not gone outside in the first place. Are we in any danger?” he asked of Tibbles, who was just having a post-prandial wash.

The cat paused in its ablutions. “Dunno. You got any enemies? Get in the way of anyone looking for me and you might be, but it’s me they want. They’re after organ grinders not monkeys - that’s not intended to be racist, by the way, it’s just a figure of speech. I can see how sensitive some of your lot are to language. You need to watch that. That’s how the Fourth Galactic War started, a misconstruction of terminology. That and the Federation’s Treasury, of course. That sometimes gets conveniently forgotten.”

Fred knocked his whisky back and set the glass down on the coffee table. Tibbles stared at it intently, and then lazily reached out a paw and gently tipped it off, following its fall with mesmerised eyes. The sound of shattering glass and Dora’s shriek of outrage were almost simultaneous, jerking Tibbles out of an almost hypnotic reverie. “Oh! Ah! Sorry! Don’t know what came over me. That wasn’t expensive I hope.”

Dora pursed her lips and went to fetch the dustpan and brush. “You know what?” Tibbles said, conversationally. “I quite like this body. And the mindset is really extraordinary. It doesn’t give a damn and doesn’t care who knows it. I’ve a good mind to take the genome back home - if I ever get there.” It swished its tail ruminatively, watching Dora sweeping up. “You sure you haven’t got a transmitter? Laser beam? Even a heliogaph - my supporters can’t be that far away. They very nearly swiped the pod right from under their noses at one point. If it hadn’t been for that meteor you would never have had the pleasure of my company and I could well be on my way back home by now,”

“Can’t you just jerry-rig a telephone?” Fred asked. “E.T. managed it in the film.”

Tibbles looked blank. “I’m detecting a sense of hilarity here,” it said. “Can you knock up a nuclear bomb? I’m the heir to a dynasty, don’t forget. I don’t jerry-rig things. I have people to do that for me.” 

“What about your telepathy?” Fred said. “Surely you can tell your people where you are.”

“And the others as well. I’d have to transmit on a wider beam than just communicating with you and Dora,” Tibbles said.

“We’ve got computers. Why don’t you Google something?”

Tibbles sighed again. “Are you listening to anything I’m saying? I’m a Princeling. I don’t do things. I have them done for me. What else are the upper classes for? And what’s a google anyway?”

Dora sniffed. “Well, you couldn’t have chosen a better body to take over, if you ask me,” she said. “I’ve never been a fan of cats. They think they run the place,”

The cat purred and Fred could have sworn he saw it smirk. “This is getting us absolutely nowhere,” he said. “Short of breaking into the local radio station, I can’t think of any way to transmit a message, and wouldn’t know how to work the equipment if we could get in. I’ve got a laser marker, but that’s useless for long distance, and as for a heliograph the closest thing I can think of is a powerful torch and a strong thumb to switch it on and off.”

The cat suddenly pricked up its ears and its eyes widened. “That might be good enough,” it said. “I think I can hear something.” So saying it sprang from the sofa and trotted outside through the door that Fred still hadn’t shut.

Fred and Dora followed and saw a green and white light quartering sky above the sea. 

“There you go,” said Tibbles excitedly. “I knew they weren’t far away. Quick, get the torch.”

Fred rummaged about in the cupboard under the stairs and came back with an enormous high powered flashlight that almost took two to handle - a personal birthday present bought on a whim and only used a couple of times because it got too hot to hold. He fired it up and waved it in the direction of the green and white light, flicking it on and off rapidly. He was rewarded by seeing the light pause in it’s quartering and focus in on the beam, rapidly growing larger in the sky until it loomed over the garden.

Tibbles, meanwhile, tail ramrod straight was telepathing on a narrow beam as frantically as it was able and purring like an engine, as the craft hovered and then touched down, letting down a ramp almost immediately like something out of Encounters of the Third Kind..

Fred and Dora watched Tibbles walk away, tail raised, before it broke into a canter as the ramp touched ground … then yowled, hissed and writhed as its body contorted and something indescribable emerged and continued on its way leaving the cat panting on the ground. “Not a problem,” was the message beamed into Fred’s mind as the being stepped onto the ramp. “The cat will be fine - it’s a stray apparently. No-one’s going to be missing it so I’ll leave it with you. Something to remember me by. It likes the name ‘Tibbles’, by the way - it’s never had a name before. Oh, and it’s a female, and it does like thumbs, so I left them on. Oh, and it’s pregnant. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help intervening while I was in there. All the kittens will have thumbs as well. Just a helping hand for feline evolution. You should make a mint with them! Consider it a leaving present. Thanks for the hospitality - and good luck.” And with that, the ramp closed and the ship took off into the pre-dawn sky as Tibbles made her bemused way back to Fred and Dora. “Miaaow”, she said, as the craft took off … and they all watched as a bright red  light suddenly appeared over the sea and set off in pursuit.

Fred had never experienced an early morning quite like that before. Oh, and Tibbles didn’t have fleas, but she did enjoy knocking glasses off tables … and then catching them in her hands before they smashed. Fred couldn’t wait until the kittens were born. Early morning zoomies would take on a whole new meaning then, if he knew cats.

November 16, 2023 16:12

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Danie Holland
16:28 Nov 27, 2023

Loved the sense of humor in this one, Malcom. Tibbles haughty attitude is very much cat like! They don't "do things" they have things done for them. I've been told I'm like a cat for this very reason. That and I only show affection when I feel like it or someone offers food. Great dialogue and my favorite, helping the felines out so that they have thumbs. Thank you for the story!


Malcolm Twigg
10:09 Nov 28, 2023

Thank you Danie, glad you enjoyed it. Infortunately humour isn't a contender for any competition, but it's what I do best ... I hope.


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Andrea Corwin
05:30 Nov 22, 2023

Very nice story! The Perseids appear each year on or close to my birthday and many years we were up on Mount Rainier watching meteors at 2 am. trying to keep warm. I am a FAN of cats, so you had me with both counts - cats and meteors. You got the feline personality right and some of the comments are hilarious. The thumbs - yes, a fabulous addition!


Malcolm Twigg
08:21 Nov 22, 2023

Thanks Andrea, glad you enjoyed it. If our last cat possessed thumbs, I don't think either of us would be here to tell the tale. The first piece I ever got published was about her.


Andrea Corwin
20:25 Nov 22, 2023

I LOVE cats (and dogs, but find cats intriguing and don’t understand why people don’t like them and throw them out to fend for selves). My husband’s allergies now are preventing any more🥲 There are the Polydactyl cats that have extra toes on either their front and/or hind feet.😀


Malcolm Twigg
23:22 Nov 22, 2023

Won't be long then! (ominous chord)


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Tom Skye
23:06 Nov 19, 2023

Great imaginative Sci Fi and very funny. Tibbles was an awesome character. "Dora sniffed. “Well, you couldn’t have chosen a better body to take over, if you ask me,” she said. “I’ve never been a fan of cats. They think they run the place" I thought this was a very important line to tie the piece together. That the characteristics of the alien were comparable to a cat. The thumbs idea was a brilliant way to leave the short story with a future to ponder. Very very entertaining read. Brilliant work. Thanks for sharing


Malcolm Twigg
00:49 Nov 20, 2023

Thanks Tom, much appreciated. Tibbles just sort of appeared when I didn't know where the story was going, so Tibbles saved the day ... as well as the Universe. i enjoyed writing this come the end although it was hard going to start with,


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Eileen Turner
02:10 Nov 19, 2023

Delightful! Imaginative, funny, and what better animal than a cat. Can't not love them, but they really don't give a damn or care who knows, most of them any way. The rest love you back but in an ownership way, as in they own you. Truly enjoyable read!


Malcolm Twigg
08:21 Nov 19, 2023

Thank you Eileen, glad you enjoyed it. I was truly at a loss as to how to approach this prompt and I don't know how Tibbles inveigled her way into the story, but glad she did.


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