MAGICATS II, page 1
EDITED BY JACK DANN & GARDNER DOZOIS
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann
First printing: May 1991
Cover art by: Ron Miller
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Electronic version by Baen Books
Acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the following material:
“Kreativity for Kats” by Fritz Leiber, copyright © 1961 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation; first published in Galaxy, April 1961; reprinted by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Richard Curtis.
“Life Regarded as a Jigsaw Puzzle of Highly Lustrous Cats” by Michael Bishop, copyright © 1991 by Omni Publications International, Ltd.; first published in Omni, September 1991; reprinted by permission of the author.
“Bright Burning Tiger” by Tanith Lee, copyright © 1983 by Davis Publications, Inc.; first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, 1983; reprinted by permission of the author.
“I Love Little Pussy” by Isaac Asimov, copyright © 1988 by Davis Publications, Inc.; first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, November 1988; reprinted by permission of the author.
“The Boy Who Spoke Cat” by Ward Moore, copyright © 1973 by Ward Moore; first published in Venus, December 1973; reprinted by permission of the author’s agent, Virginia Kidd.
“The Jaguar Hunter” by Lucius Shepard, copyright © 1985 by Mercury Press, Inc.; first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1985; reprinted by permission of the author.
“The Sin of Madame Phloi” by Lilian Jackson Braun, copyright © 1962 by Davis Publications, Inc.; first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 1962; reprinted by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Blanche C. Gregory, Inc., and The Berkley Publishing Group.
“The Mountain Cage” by Pamela Sargent, copyright © 1987 by Pamela Sargent; first published in The Best of Pamela Sargent, Edited by Martin Harry Greenberg (Academy Chicago, 1987); reprinted by permission of the author.
“May’s Lion” by Ursula K. Le Guin, copyright © 1983 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first published in The Little Magazine, Volume 14, combined Numbers 1 & 2; reprinted by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Virginia Kidd.
“The Color of Grass, the Color of Blood” by R.V. Branham, copyright © 1989 by Davis Publications, Inc.; first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mid-December 1989; reprinted by permission of the author.
“A Word to the Wise” by John Collier, copyright © 1940 by Esquire.
“Duke Pasquale’s Ring” by Avram Davidson, copyright © 1985 by TSR Hobbies, Inc.; first published in Amazing Stories, May 1985; reprinted by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Richard D. Grant.
The editors would like to thank the following people for their help and support:
Susan Casper, who helped with much of the word-crunching and lent us the use of her computer;
Jeanne Van Buren Dann;
Ian Randall Strock;
Scott L. Towner;
Russell Atwood; Ellen Datlow;
the staff of Borders bookstore in Philadelphia;
and special thanks to our own editors, Susan Allison and Ginjer Buchanan.
Kreativity for Kats
With a forty-year career that stretches from the “Golden Age” Astounding of the 1940s to the present day, with no sign of slackening of vigor or faltering of imagination, Fritz Leiber is an indispensable figure in the development of modern science fiction and fantasy. Leiber is considered to be one of the fathers of modern “heroic fantasy,” and his long sequence of stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser remains one of the most complex and intelligent bodies of work in the entire subgenre of “Sword & Sorcery” (which term Leiber himself is usually credited with coining). He may also be one of the best—if not the best—writers of the supernatural horror tale since Lovecraft and Poe, and practically invented the updated “modern” or “urban” horror story with classic tales such as “Smoke Ghost.”
Leiber is also a towering ancestral figure in science fiction as well, having been one of the major writers of both Campbell’s “Golden Age” Astounding of the ’40s and H.L. Gold’s Galaxy of the ’50s, then going on to contribute a steady stream of superior fiction to the magazines and anthologies of the ’60s, the ’70s, and the ’80s as well. Leiber has won six Hugos and four Nebulas, plus three World Fantasy awards—one of them the prestigious Life Achievement Award—and a Grandmaster of Fantasy Award. Leiber’s books include The Green Millennium, A Specter Is Haunting Texas, The Big Time, and The Silver Eggheads; the collections The Best of Fritz Leiber, The Book of Fritz Leiber, The Change War, Night’s Black Agents, Heroes and Horrors, The Mind Spider, and The Ghost Light; and the eight volumes of Fafhrd-Gray Mouser stories, the most essential of which are probably The Swords of Lankhmar, Swords in the Mist, and The Knight and Knave of Swords.
Here he gives us a cat story—the little-known sequel, in fact, to his famous story “Space-Time for Springers”—but it’s no ordinary cat story, and it’s about no ordinary cat, for Gummitch, its protagonist, is, as you will see, a cat with a profound appreciation for the finer things in life . . .
* * *
Gummitch peered thoughtfully at the molten silver image of the sun in his little bowl of water on the floor inside the kitchen window. He knew from experience that it would make dark ghost suns swim in front of his eyes for a few moments, and that was mildly interesting. Then he slowly thrust his head out over the water, careful not to ruffle its surface by rough breathing, and stared down at the mirror cat—the Gummitch Double—staring up at him.
Gummitch had early discovered that water mirrors are very different from most glass mirrors. The scentless spirit world behind glass mirrors is an upright one sharing our gravity system, its floor a continuation of the floor in the so-called real world. But the world in a water mirror has reverse gravity. One looks down into it, but the spirit-doubles in it look up at one. In a way water mirrors are holes or pits in the world, leading down to a spirit infinity or ghostly nadir.
Gummitch had pondered as to whether, if he plunged into such a pit, he would be sustained by the spirit gravity or fall forever. (It may well be that speculations of this sort account for the caution about swimming characteristic of most cats.)
There was at least one exception to the general rule. The looking glass on Kitty-Come-Here’s dressing table also opened into a spirit world of reverse gravity, as Gummitch had discovered when he happened to look into it during one of the regular visits he made to the dressing table top, to enjoy the delightful flowery and musky odors emanating from the fragile bottles assembled there.
But exceptions to general rules, as Gummitch knew well, are only doorways to further knowledge and finer classifications. The wind could not get into the spirit world below Kitty-Come-Here’s looking glass, while one of the definitive characteristics of water mirrors is that movement can very easily enter the spirit world below them, rhythmically disturbing it throughout, producing the most surreal effects, and even reducing it to chaos. Such disturbances exist only in the spirit world and are in no way a mirroring of anything
Gummitch mildly enjoyed creating rhythmic disturbances in the spirit worlds below water mirrors. He wished there were some way to bring their excitement and weird beauty into the real world.
On this sunny day when our story begins, the spirit world below the water mirror in his drinking bowl was particularly vivid and bright. Gummitch stared for a while longer at the Gummitch Double and then thrust down his tongue to quench his thirst. Curling swiftly upward, it conveyed a splash of water into his mouth and also flicked a single drop of water into the air before his nose. The sun struck the drop and it flashed like a diamond. In fact, it seemed to Gummitch that for a moment he had juggled the sun on his tongue. He shook his head amazedly and touched the side of the bowl with his paw. The bowl was brimful and a few drops fell out; they also flashed like tiny suns as they fell. Gummitch had a fleeting vision, a momentary creative impulse, that was gone from his mind before he could seize it. He shook his head once more, backed away from the bowl, and then lay down with his head pillowed on his paws to contemplate the matter. The room darkened as the sun went under a cloud and the young golden dark-barred cat looked like a pool of sunlight left behind.
Kitty-Come-Here had watched the whole performance from the door to the dining room and that evening she commented on it to Old Horsemeat.
“He backed away from the water as if it were poison,” she said. “They have been putting more chlorine in it lately, you know, and maybe he can taste the fluorides they put in for dental decay.”
Old Horsemeat doubted that, but his wife went on, “I can’t figure out where Gummitch does his drinking these days. There never seems to be any water gone from his bowl. And we haven’t had any cut flowers. And none of the faucets drip.”
“He probably does his drinking somewhere outside,” Old Horsemeat guessed.
“But he doesn’t go outside very often these days,” Kitty-Come-Here countered. “Scarface and the Mad Eunuch, you know. Besides, it hasn’t rained for weeks. It’s certainly a mystery to me where he gets his liquids. Boiling gets the chlorine out of water, doesn’t it? I think I’ll try him on some tomorrow.”
“Maybe he’s depressed,” Old Horsemeat suggested. “That often leads to secret drinking.”
This baroque witticism hit fairly close to the truth. Gummitch was depressed—had been depressed ever since he had lost his kittenish dreams of turning into a man, achieving spaceflight, learning and publishing all the secrets of the fourth dimension, and similar marvels. The black cloud of disillusionment at realizing he could only be a cat had lightened somewhat, but he was still feeling dull and unfulfilled.
Gummitch was at that difficult age for he-cats, between First Puberty, when the cat achieves essential maleness, and Second Puberty, when he gets broad-chested, jowly and thick-ruffed, becoming a fully armed sexual competitor. In the ordinary course of things he would have been spending much of his time exploring the outer world, detail-mapping the immediate vicinity, spying on other cats, making cautious approaches to unescorted females and in all ways comporting himself like a fledgling male. But this was prevented by the two burly toms who lived in the houses next door and who, far more interested in murder than the pursuit of mates, had entered into partnership with the sole object of bushwhacking Gummitch. Gummitch’s household had nicknamed them Scarface and the Mad Eunuch, the latter being one of those males whom “fixing” turns, not placid, but homicidally maniacal. Compared to these seasoned heavyweights, Gummitch was a welterweight at most. Scarface and the Mad Eunuch lay in wait for him by turns just beyond the kitchen door, so that his forays into the outside world were largely reduced to dashes for some hiding hole, followed by long, boring but perilous sieges.
He often wished that old Horsemeat’s two older cats, Ashurbanipal and Cleopatra, had not gone to the country to live with Old Horsemeat’s mother. They would have shown the evil bushwhackers a thing or two!
Because of Scarface and the Mad Eunuch, Gummitch spent most of his time indoors. Since a cat is made for a half-and-half existence—half in the wild forest, half in the secure cave—he took to brooding quite morbidly. He thought over-much of ghost cats in the mirror world and of the Skeleton Cat who starved to death in a locked closet and similar grisly legends. He immersed himself in racial memories, not so much of Ancient Egypt where cats were prized as minions of the lovely cat-goddess Bast and ceremoniously mummified at the end of tranquil lives, as of the Middle Ages, when European mankind waged a genocidal war against felines as being the familiars of witches. (He thought briefly of turning Kitty-Come-Here into a witch, but his hypnotic staring and tentative ritualistic mewing only made her fidgety.) And he devoted more and more time to devising dark versions of the theory of transmigration, picturing cats as Silent Souls, Gagged People of Great Talent, and the like.
He had become too self-conscious to re-enter often the make-believe world of the kitten, yet his imagination remained as active as ever. It was a truly frustrating predicament.
More and more often and for longer periods he retired to meditate in a corrugated cardboard shoebox, open only at one end. The cramped quarters made it easier for him to think. Old Horsemeat called it the Cat Orgone Box after the famed Orgone Energy Accumulators of the late wildcat psychoanalyst Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
If only, Gummitch thought, he could devise some way of objectifying the intimations of beauty that flitted through his darkly clouded mind! Now, on the evening of the sunny day when he had backed away from his water bowl, he attacked the problem anew. He knew he had been fleetingly on the verge of a great idea, an idea involving water, light and movement. An idea he had unfortunately forgotten. He closed his eyes and twitched his nose. I must concentrate, he thought to himself, concentrate . . .
Next day Kitty-Come-Here remembered her idea about Gummitch’s water. She boiled two cupfuls in a spotless enamel ware saucepan, letting it cool for half an hour before using it to replace the seemingly offensive water in the young cat’s bowl. It was only then she noticed that the bowl had been upset.
She casually assumed that big-footed Old Horsemeat must have been responsible for the accident, or possibly one of the two children—darting Sissy or blundering Baby. She wiped the bowl and filled it with the water she had dechlorinated.
“Come here, Kitty, come here,” she called to Gummitch, who had been watching her actions attentively from the dining room door. The young cat stayed where he was. “Oh, well, if you want to be coy,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
There was a mystery about the spilled water. It had apparently disappeared entirely, though the day seemed hardly dry enough for total evaporation. Then she saw it standing in a puddle by the wall fully ten feet away from the bowl. She made a quick deduction and frowned a bit worriedly.
“I never realized the kitchen floor sloped that much,” she told Old Horsemeat after dinner. “Maybe some beams need to be jacked up in the basement. I’d hate to think of collapsing into it while I cooked dinner.”
“I’m sure this house finished all its settling thirty years ago,” her husband assured her hurriedly. “That slope’s always been there.”
“Well, if you say so,” Kitty-Come-Here allowed doubtfully.
Next day she found Gummitch’s bowl upset again and the remains of the boiled water in a puddle across the room. As she mopped it up, she began to do some thinking without benefit of Concentration Box.
That evening, after Old Horsemeat and Sissy had vehemently denied kicking into the water bowl or stepping on its edge, she voiced her conclusions. “I think Gummitch
“He’s rejecting it. It still doesn’t taste right to him and he wants to show us.”
“Maybe he only likes it after it’s run across the floor and got seasoned with household dust and the corpses of germs,” suggested Old Horsemeat, who believed most cats were bohemian types.
“I’ll have you know I scrub that linoleum,” Kitty-Come-Here asserted.
“Well, with detergent and scouring powder, then,” Old Horsemeat amended resourcefully.
Kitty-Come-Here made a scornful noise. “I still want to know where he gets his liquids,” she said. “He’s been off milk for weeks, you know, and he only drinks a little broth when I give him that. Yet he doesn’t seem dehydrated. It’s a real mystery and—”
“Maybe he’s built a still in the attic,” Old Horsemeat interjected.
“—and I’m going to find the answers,” Kitty-Come-Here concluded, ignoring the facetious interruption. “I’m going to find out where he gets the water he does drink and why he rejects the water I give him. This time I’m going to boil it and put in a pinch of salt. Just a pinch.”
“You make animals sound more delicate about food and drink than humans,” Old Horsemeat observed.
“They probably are,” his wife countered. “For one thing they don’t smoke, or drink Martinis. It’s my firm belief that animals—cats, anyway—like good food just as much as we do. And the same sort of good food. They don’t enjoy canned cat food any more than we would, though they can eat it. Just as we could if we had to. I really don’t think Gummitch would have such a passion for raw horsemeat except you started him on it so early.”