Fiction: Shrodinger's Friendship
First of all, this is fiction: not true, all made up. That bears mentioning since literally nothing else on this site is fiction. Second of all, Ashley shared a site with me that posts prompts weekly for various sorts of writing. This is a response to one of those prompts. The prompt reads as follows:
“Write a short story that begins with your main character inadvertently catching something not meant for her eyes or ears through a video call. Does she pretend it didn’t happen, force a confrontation, or figure out a way to turn it to her advantage?”
Easy enough. Anyway: Shrodinger’s Friendship.
I thought we were friends. Really did. I heard things I shouldn’t have – listened when I should’ve hung up – so it’s my own fault. But here I am.
I thought we were friends. It’s disappointing because I really did. Strange to find that we aren’t anymore. Anymore? Evermore? (Likely not.) Everwere? Neverwere? Nevermore? (Certainly.)
In truth, I never would’ve opened the box. I can’t honestly say I knew it was a dead cat inside but when someone puts a box in front of me and poses a high-minded question I don’t assume the box contains brownies. Also – why exactly would a person put a live cat in a box? There are carriers that have slits for air and rubberized metal crosshatch doors so you can see the little furball inside. You’d want to admire the creature, I think. And for god’s sake you’d want to make sure it didn’t suffocate.
Anyway: the whole Shrodinger thing always struck me as odd. The fact that you don’t know if the cat is alive or dead doesn’t suggest to me that the cat is both. That’s absurd on its face. It suggests to me that the cat is dead. A living cat would’ve made its presence known. So again – no interest in opening the box.
Which brings me to human nature: that we’re curious is taken for granted.
I’m not sure. And why does this keep coming back to cats? I don’t think curiosity kills, exactly. Though if the killing is a figurative sort – killing a friendship, for example – then perhaps curiosity does kill. But I didn’t need the curiosity for the thing to wind up dead, though I guess that’s not the same. The saying is that curiosity killed the cat; not that cats can only die by curiosity. How’s that for a concept? Cats, immortal until they sniff under the wrong sofa. Some immortality.
But back to the curiosity.
I hear often that curiosity is fundamental to human nature. God himself tells a lady not to eat an apple and she slices it up with peanut butter and damns the planet to hell just for the thrill. There’s certainly some truth there. But willful ignorance is just as fundamental. Put a box on the table and say “don’t open under any circumstances” and I’ll have a knife against the tape in a heartbeat. Put a box on a table and say, “there’s a cat inside and – I’m not sure – it’s either alive or dead” (it can’t be both) and I’ll pretend it isn’t there. I’ll use it as a centerpiece; put a vase on top with black eyed susans and tufts of lavender. Ignore the stink. Light a candle. I’ll deny until the cat, had it been alive, was dead anyway.
Very strange, but then again this is a strange situation.
You’ll call back and you won’t know that I heard. You ignored the call – you often do, though until now I thought you were just occupied or didn’t have your phone – but you always call back. You’ll call back and you won’t know for the moment that I know. Who’ll be the cat in that situation? I suppose it’s me. What constitutes the box and who’s guessing? Tricky. More to the point – am I dead or am I alive? Can’t be both.