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The CatGPT Project


Y.S. Germanos
I - On My Arrival
I come from far away, my crime was terrible! and you are my punishment; I mean you, humanity–don’t take it personally.
No, don’t. Really. Just breathe… deep. We’re going on a long journey to eons past… Thousands of centuries ago; back when your species used friction to make fire. That’s where I was cast out, as penance for what I did.
Where am I from? What did I do? What is my original form? You could not possibly understand. It would be like explaining quantum theory to a kitten. Your brain can’t assimilate my universe–you haven’t the words to describe it. Put simply: you and I are not the same.
Thing is, the first time I opened my human eyes, I thought my punishment quite indulgent… I found the place charming. The sounds of your world, for instance, were new and exciting. Everything vibrated to a sweet melody. True, I was banished from home, never to return and with no possibility of appeal–yet my prison was not unpleasant. Not at first glance.
Still, I took nothing at face value; it was a sentence, after all. I remained alert. I attempted to levitate to explore this new world from above, but I was stuck. A prisoner of flesh–where I come from, we have no mortal coil, as you call it.
Before long, I was engulfed by love and… saliva. It was my mother. Another alien concept since, in my universe, mothers do not exist. She wasn’t my actual mother, as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now. Still, I felt her love, a notion I was familiar with. I also felt her benevolence as she kissed my neck and tickled my belly. That was more than 100,000 years ago but feels like yesterday. She was my first contact with your species, and all was perfectly idyllic then. But, as the centuries passed, I understood why I was sent to you.
Did those who judged me mean to put me in a newborn…? I am unsure. Was it irony on their part, subtle cruelty, or simple coincidence? I smiled into my mother’s eyes, poor convict that I was. Deprived of love for an eternity, my crime had made me anathema.
Not that I’m hopelessly wicked, far from it. It is just that I committed an atrocity.
But let’s not talk about that.
Let’s go back. Back to me as a baby.
I didn’t know what a baby was. I awakened to the vibrancy of colours, sounds, voices, the wind, my body–none of which exist where I’m from. I was a newborn indeed–except for my awareness, my memories and, of course, my superior intelligence. Every other aspect of my relationship to life on Earth grew with this newborn body. My first body.
It was the vessel through which I experienced your world and your species, my mother, the tribe, the joys of eating, walking, the return of the hunters, fruit picking, travel, camping, fire, my mother’s embrace, running, sleeping, not sleeping, blood, laughter… you get the point.
My mother remains my most cherished memory. Beautiful, enveloping, and sweet, she was full of love and grace. Her movements were always slow, precise, and harmonious. She used to smile, all the time, and loved to close her eyes to breathe life in; to show the world how grateful and happy she was to be alive. Though your species was a mystery to me, I knew that my mother was different. She did not take life seriously. Somehow, her attitude was a statement itself.
But I digress…
I was her pride and joy from the moment I was born. Her pride grew as I grew. Odd, as pride does not exist where I’m from. It would be considered inappropriate. Nevertheless, I could perceive it in my mother, understand it, and what’s more, experience gratification because of it. I was happy to make her proud. In other words, I was a normal child.
Ah, now, I soon learned that I could perceive your innermost thoughts, your hidden intentions. You could call it telepathy, but your languages have as yet not invented the right word for it; it is rather an observation based on criteria your species cannot yet measure. I perceived and understood human intentions from micro-expressions, imperceptible gestures, the rhythms of respiration, the spaces between sounds, interrupted movement–long before the invention of language.
It made me wonder, why you? What made you so different from the rest of the wildlife on your planet? I noticed your grunts were more evolved than the growls and groans of other mammals. In fact, it wasn’t long before those grunts turned into words and the words into sentences. However, a few variations in grunts and growls were surely a poor excuse for my judges to have condemned me to be human. Why here? Why you? I didn’t even have the means to ascertain whether you were more intelligent than any other animal.
I was eight-years old when my mother died. I think. At least that’s what I remember because we did not then count the years. In fact, we seldom counted the days. I think we counted the seasons, but I can’t say for sure as we still had no language. I am sure, however, that we counted hunting cycles. A fortnight after my mother died, the chieftain took me hunting for the first time. Thanks to my superior mental abilities, I understood, at least in broad outline, his plan to place me under his protection. That first hunting trip was to be a test.
We walked for hours, and I did not know what to expect. The chieftain, the greatest hunter in the tribe, paused, crouching low when he spied an antelope in the distance at a watering hole. He threw his spear, bringing the antelope down in one swift, silent movement. My body shook as we approached. The chieftain was unimpressed. Surrounded as we were by our kinsfolk, he expected bravery, fearlessness. Although snot-nosed with dirty fingernails, he brooked no failure, especially where courage and duty were concerned. If he was to take me under his wing, I must prove my worth. Harsh punishments awaited otherwise. There was no need for telepathy or language to understand his lesson.
I pulled myself together, took a breath and, head held high, walked towards the still-twitching antelope. The chieftain butchered the animal with his stone scraper and handed me a piece. I had enjoyed eating meat from the day I gained human teeth, but at that moment I saw my mother’s flesh. The chieftain remained still, his hand outstretched; and it occurred to me I had no mother. The human woman who had raised me wasn’t my mother… I wasn’t even human. Besides, I was hungry. I took the meat and plunged my human teeth into the antelope’s flesh. With pride in his eyes, the chieftain slapped me on the back.
From that moment on, I was the chieftain’s ward. Back then fatherhood was not recognised because nothing seemed to link coupling to birth; offspring belonged to their mothers, and if orphaned, to the tribe.
Quickly I became the youngest and the bravest of the hunters. I went on all the expeditions, revelling in every detail, most especially the power I felt every time my spear hit its mark. I enjoyed the taste of blood in my mouth, on my tongue, and between my teeth. The memory of my world receded with the magic of each kill, but I remained alert, aware that my punishment amounted to more than exile… Something terrible was lurking out there in your realm, something waiting for me.
The first time I died I was ten.
A bright spring day, I was exploring a dark recess in a cave nearby, when I stumbled upon a repulsive creature. Of course, I had already come across various insects, spiders, snakes, and large threatening mammals with menacing claws and fangs. As frightening as that sounds, I was never afraid. Yet I panicked when I saw this tiny monster. Nauseated by its purplish black carapace, hairy legs, and long sinister antennae, I am ashamed to say that, when this little cockroach scurried towards me, I burst into tears. The women tittered, then the menfolk jeered, until the chieftain came at me red then purple with rage… seething, foaming, fuming.
The sound of mocking laughter followed me as I ran away, but I didn’t get far. The chieftain grabbed my hair and punched me, over and over. Not out of disappointment, but rather out of the frustration at having wasted so much time teaching a coward. I bawled and tried to protect myself with my hands. But this only exacerbated his anger and he hit me again and again, with all his might. So hard it felt as if he had borrowed the strength of all the tribe… One of my kin, our encampment neighbour, tried to get me away, but the chieftain held onto me, his hands a vice around my little body. The man tried to intervene by jumping onto the back of the chieftain. In his fury, my adoptive father brutally pushed me away. My skull came crashing down upon a rock in a deafening clash of crushed bones.
I saw a flash of white light.
And then saw myself, there, lying in a pool of blood. I recognised my face: I had seen my reflection countless times in lakes and rivers. Unable to bear a bloody distorted facsimile lying with my head bashed against a rock, I looked away. My adoptive father was staring at the body too. I turned to look for the man who tried to save me, but I couldn’t see him. Tribesmen and tribeswomen were approaching. Our chieftain stood his ground. I turned again to look for the neighbour but soon realised I was not hovering in the air, as I thought at first; I was in a different body. In his body.
My kinsfolk crowded silently around the inanimate boy. A woman placed her ear over his breast and shook her head. The chieftain’s face was a mask of rage, but he remained still.
I walked away, imprisoned in a new body. An adult body I needed to familiarise myself with. I walked away from the camp. From the tribe. No one stopped me, of course. A brutal death keeps people busy.
I walked for hours, clearing my head. An unfamiliar sensation washed over me. Not only had I appropriated this man’s body and his consciousness, but I had access to his memories; interesting, instructive, sometimes even funny.
I walked, endlessly.
I wanted to empty my mind.
And get as far away as possible.
From you.
From humans.
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