I never expected to have a cat. It was a spin-off from an even more unexpected occurrence – I had a girlfriend. Suki – not a geek like me but a charismatic, impulsive eco-hippy chick, always up for something new. At least while the randomness of the impulse lasted.
Suki moved in, turned my life upside down with her crafts and candles, and so much woman’s stuff – I didn’t know what half of it was. Then she had to have a cat – a rescue cat. She called him Mr Puff Ball. A somewhat twee name for the most demented cat the rescue centre ever shipped out.
Suki dedicated herself to socialising him. I followed around clearing up the projectile fur-ball stuff and the organics sprayed liberally on the walls in the broad vicinity of the litter tray. I applied Band-Aids to our scratches. Still, she loved the cat, and I loved Suki loving him.
Then she left – ran away with a musician. A tearful letter set out her need for more excitement than I could offer, plus instructions for looking after the cat.
I sunk into gloom, finding bitter solace in caring for Mr Puff … I had to change that stupid name. Each pretentious syllable reminded me of Suki. Instead I called him Jekyll. Gradually he settled. His life became one of being not not-content, punctuated by occasional bouts of mania. Like a lot of people we all know, really.
As day followed lonely day, I became fascinated with Jekyll’s behaviour. I wanted to understand how he spent his days, what made him tick and what triggered his manic episodes. I absorbed all I could about cat psychology.
My specialism is neuroprosthetics, where engineering interfaces with bio and AI. So I rigged up special cat goggles to transmit to me whatever Jekyll saw and monitor his reactions. I found a cat entirely fearful of the world outside and of other cats, unable to act as nature demanded.
I wanted to help him. To do that I needed to know all about how he processed information. I immersed myself in new areas of learning like alien linguistics and epistemology, hoping insights into understanding non-human species could help me unravel the mind of a cat. I developed ways to understand the frameworks and filters that structure feline perceptions and knowledge. And, with my professional skills, how to link that with external devices.
Over a couple of years I helped Jekyll to new levels of consciousness driven by AI. To boost his social confidence, I adapted the goggles to provide instant analysis of the cat environment and the likely moves of other animals. He’d be one step ahead of the game. His confidence grew, as did my curiosity.
Next I made a dynamic exoskeleton designed for Jekyll’s feline physiology, controlled by his augmented cat brain. He soon took to it despite a few ceiling-hitting incidents as he learned to master the power-climbing functionality. Within days he became the local top cat.
Jekyll sought out new data via his neural interfaces. Soon he outgrew HoloTube postings of cat antics and was absorbing the most eclectic mix of materials.
All this was exciting, though legally dubious. And expensive. I urgently needed money. I took work up north and had to leave Jekyll to his own devices. He agreed so long as I promised to come back.
While I was away, the online connection went dead. I rushed home, fearing the worst. There was no sign of him – but around my 3D printer were some botched attempts at making long claws.
I also found he had been accessing maps. He was trying to trace Suki! I felt betrayed.
Then the police called. Suki was in intensive care with severe lacerations. Before being sedated she told the police she was attacked by a mechanical cat that reminded her strangely of the cat she’d left with me. There was nothing I could say to that.
That night Jekyll sent a message: ‘You fixed my problem your way, and I’ve fixed yours my way. Being abandoned sucks, doesn’t it? Now be a man, and seize the day!’
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
This story is a sideways look at the ‘Transhumanist’ movement that looks forward to enhancing humanity with AI and more.
There are further stories about Jekyll in the forthcoming collection Sci Fi Catshorts and Other Speculative Tales.