James B. Paulson, a white haired white man from the Great White North, turned off his webcam and sat back in his plush leather chair. He’d just finished an interview with the right wing journalist/YouTube star, Samson Chelling, and Paulson was sure that he’d proven himself worthy of his new found fame.
“That’s it for this episode of Yelling with Chelling,” Samson told his audience. He leaned in toward the camera, his hands flat on his Tonight Show desk, and donned his mask of Conservative Gratitude. “I want to thank you, Dr. Paulson. You’re doing the Lord’s work.”
The Lord’s Work. He liked that. Not since he’d aired his family’s woes of depression on The Agenda with Dave Aiken several years before had he felt so vindicated in his decision to come forward with his beliefs. 2017 was an arduous year full of battles with the Post-Modernist Left, and at times, it felt as though he would never make any ground. Tonight’s episode with Chelling, however… He felt like was finally getting somewhere.
The episode, entitled “Did Jesus Exist?”, wasn’t even on his list of things to do today. Just a few hours prior to recording, Chelling pinged Paulson through Cheep, the #1 platform for free speech as defined by Corporate Policies, and asked him if he’d be willing to sit in. Stefan Olbert was scheduled to discuss his – I’m sorry, her – latest round of surgery, and what that meant for a public member of the LGBTAARP community, but she was forced to reschedule when her daughter, America, a rambunctious toddler of 241 years, began asking questions about the birds and the bees. Mrs. Olbert was suddenly burdened by having to draw chart after chart showing the progression of the meaning of words like gender and science. They hit a particularly rough patch in the road when America asked, “Does that mean that you identify with having PMS?” It was an especially bitchy question, Mrs. Olbert thought. America must be on the rag.
Paulson couldn’t even remember what his interview had been about now that it was over. He did, however, remember proving with absolutely zero equivocation that the Supreme Being was indeed a reality, even if He never existed.
“It’s about what it means in the name of Pragmatism,” he thought he might have said. “The TRUTH is there, and the TRUTH is USEFUL.”
Amen, Paulson thought. A-fucking-men.
“Meow,” said the cat by his side. He absently dropped a hand from its perch to scratch the feline’s head. “Meow meow, meow,” the cat continued.
“Don’t say that,” Paulson scolded. “You’re just plain wrong, and you know it.”
He stood from his chair. This damned cat just would not give it a rest. For years and years, Kevin had been the prime example of the purrfect kitty, demanding attention at his whim and destroying any dangling string and small bug that he could find.
“Meow. Meow meow, meow meow meow,” Kevin continued.
“You shouldn’t say those things!” Paulson snapped and stormed out of his office lined with art depicting agony and confusion.
The cat followed him down the hall, passed his wife’s bedroom and into his. Paulson plopped onto the bed face-first and sighed. He was feeling so high just a few minutes ago. His serotonin levels were finally getting to an optimal level, and now this…
“Why are you lying to them?” Kevin asked, his cat mouth meowing, but the meaning clear in Paulson’s mind. “You don’t believe in this stuff.” He jumped onto the bed next to the man and began purring. “There’s a reason they call you the alt-right. There’s a reason they call you a fascist.”
“They’re Post-Modernists!” Paulson cries. “They think everything to the right of Socialism, everything based in fact-based science, is alt-right!”
“Tsk tsk tsk,” the cat mocked. “You don’t believe in facts either, do you? Pragmatism isn’t science…”
“It most certainly can be!” Paulson rolled onto his side, facing away from the animal.
“Can it?” Kevin said as he licked himself. “By your definition, facts and science are only true if they’re useful…”
“And it’s true! If it isn’t useful, if it destroys us, then how can it be the real truth!?” Paulson was sitting up now, pleading with his pet. “If we go after things, if we study things that bring about our own end, then these things obviously weren’t true in a meaningful sense. Hell, meaning will disappear with our species!”
Kevin began laughing. It was a quietly sardonic squeal of a chuckle.
“Silly man,” he said. “Meaning isn’t species-based. It’s tribe-derived.”
The cat rolled onto his back, paws in the air. “Pet me.”
Paulson resisted. Rather, he tried. His hand seemed to have a mind of its own, and it reached out to stroke the animal’s fur.
“See?” Kevin asked. “Isn’t that nice?”
Paulson refused to agree, but again, his body worked of its own accord, and his head began nodding.
“I know it is. I’m so soft and soothing.” Kevin began to purr. “Do you think everyone would think so? Do you think everyone would agree?”
Paulson considered this. He didn’t want to, but his mind was not his own. “No. Some people just do not like cats. Some people are allergic.” His voice was nearly a whimper.
“And just because some people are allergic, does that mean that I should be barred from existence?”
Flabbergasted, Paulson almost snapped out of it. “I don’t see how this is relev-“
“Just answer the question, James. How would you feel if someone said that I shouldn’t be allowed to be me?”
The man wanted to rip down the argument. He wanted to get up from his bed and run away screaming. He wanted to call animal control and have this talking monster taken away. But he couldn’t. He tried to stand, and instead he found himself on his knees at the foot of the bed, hands still petting whether he liked it or not. He realized that he’d begun weeping.
“I’d feel terrible. I’d feel horrible! I’d want to punch them in their faces!”
Paulson was stunned. He didn’t want to feel this way. He didn’t understand where these feelings were coming from, but as his rationality left him, his feeling of the matter became more and more real. More and more threatening to the core of his humanity.
“And so what is true? Am I adorable or abominable?”
“You’re… you’re…” ABOMINABLE! he wanted to exclaim. “Adorable,” he conceded.
“But not to everyone…”
“Not to everyone…” Paulson repeated. “And anyone who doesn’t think you’re adorable deserves to burn in the lowest pit of a hell that never existed!”
The cat purred. “And so, you can see that there is no objective meaning. There is no truth…”
Paulson found himself agreeing. Damn it to hell, he agreed.
“I admit that I was horribly mistaken, and so are you, Stefan. Post-Modernism isn’t the problem here. Changing the meaning of words to fit our new understanding of ourselves and our environment only makes sense. Redefining terms before any discussion is the only way to make sure that we comrades can have truly meaningful conversations, because, in the end, meaning is momentary. The past no longer exists. We must unshackle ourselves from the flow of time, bring the patriarchy to heel and give capitalism the funeral it deserves – which is none at all, since as soon as it ends we can forget it ever existed in the first place – and –“
“Dr. Paulson, Dr. Paulson!” Chelling cut in. “Where is this coming from? Just last week, you were arguing exactly the opposite! You said, and I quote – “
“How dare you,” Paulson damanded. “How dare you, sir – do you mind if I call you sir? is that acceptable? Do you have preferred pronouns?”
Cheller, stunned, amused, and amazed at the viewer spike he was about to receive, nodded. “Sir is fine, but –“
“How dare you, sir!” Paulson continued in renewed rage. “How dare you bring up anything that happened before this conversation! I’ve already stated that the moment is all there is. Nothing before now matters, and to suggest otherwise is an act of violence against me!”
“Meow,” Kevin said to himself, quietly approving. He was watching his human from the doorway, a constant eye of appraisal and judgment. “Meow…”
The cat left the doorway then, down the hall, past one bedroom and the next, down the stairwell and to the front door. He pushed his bloated body through, for he’d demanded meal after meal after meal now that his human was firmly under his control, and, with some effort – the first real effort he’d had to expend during this mission to Earth – finally made it out into the night.
Standing in the middle of the quiet street, Kevin lifted his face to the sky.
“MEOWWW!” he called. “MEOWWW!”
A star in the night sky winked, then grew brighter, larger, a glowing orb headed straight for the animal at impossible speeds.
“MEOW!” Kevin said excitedly, just before the spaceship came to a stop a hundred meters above his head. A beam of light encircled him, and he could feel the pull. His real self, the essence of his being, was pulled from the animal, a strange gray smoke rising up through the light.
Once gone, the cat was again just a cat. It didn’t wonder why it was outside. It didn’t wonder where it’d been for the last several days. It was just a cat. It wandered its way back toward its master’s house.