An uncertain cat

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Hi, darling! I’m home. How has your day been?
Oh, same as usual.
What’s for dinner?
Pasta.
Great.
Mr Schrodinger called. You just missed him.
Who?
You know. The old gentleman who always uses the stairs because he doesn’t trust the elevator. He wants us to look after his cat. He’s going to a conference.
Ha, ha, very funny.
What?
You’re still trying to get your own back because you fell for my April fool about the baby woolly mammoth in the Genetics Lab. at work.
What are you on about? I like Mr Schrodinger. He’s sweet. He sounds German.
Austrian actually.
If you say so. Anyway, I said yes.
So we’re going to look after Schrodinger’s cat?
Not going to; are. It’s in the kitchen.
Is it in a box?
How did you know that? I thought it was strange, but he says the box helps calm the poor thing down. He’s very worried about leaving it. You’d think he’d be retired at his age.
It’ll be dead by now.
Did you stop off in the Crown and Mitre on the way home? You’re not making much sense tonight.
Quantum theory does tend to confuse people. I get confused myself.
Are you living in some sort of parallel universe? Anyway, you knew he was bringing the cat. He told me.
No I didn’t. I knew nothing about it. It’s a complete surprise. I don’t even know the guy. I’ve only passed him on the stairs, like you.
He said he discussed it with you.
No way. And you say he’s a gentleman? I’ve spoken to him once.
About his cat?
No, not about his cat. We discussed Science actually.
What exactly?
The Large Hadron Collider.
Never heard of it.
That gigantic particle accelerator in Geneva. He was making funny noises when I was going downstairs on Tuesday. I thought he was out of breath or having an attack or something but he was just laughing at a headline in the paper. ”Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the earth” it said and when he showed it to me it I said ‘Funny thing to be laughing about’ and he said ‘Don’t worry young man; the probability of total destruction is infinitesimally small‘. It was a bit spooky actually. Even an infinitesimally small chance is too much of a risk as far as I’m concerned.
And he didn’t mention his cat?
No he didn’t. I promise.
Well he left you a message.
What?
He left you a message. I said you’d be home soon but his taxi was waiting.
What was the message?
He wrote it down and put it in an envelope with your name on it. He said ‘Give this message to your husband.’ He thinks we’re married you see. I didn’t correct him as some old people are funny about that sort of thing. It’s probably a thankyou note for looking after his cat. He has such beautiful handwriting.
Where’s the envelope?
It’s in the kitchen on top of the box.
The box with the cat in it?
There’s only one box in there.
Listen have you heard the cat move? Has it purred or anything?
No, I think it must be asleep.
Or dead.
Why do you keep saying that? Why would it be dead? I’m sure that nice Mr Schrodinger would look after a cat properly.
Cyanide.
What?
There’s a tiny bit of radioactive material in the box and if just one atom of it decays, it’s detected by a Geiger counter, which discharges, causing a tiny hammer to shatter a glass vial containing a drop of cyanide. It would take less than a drop to kill a cat.
You scientists are so horrible!
It’s not my box.
You’re scaring me and saying some very strange things. You must have been in the Crown and Mitre all afternoon. I’m not opening that box if there’s any cyanide about.
We can’t leave a cat in a box in our kitchen all weekend.
You open it then.
Listen, that cyanide business is just a theory. There won’t really be any.
Thank goodness for that. Is there a cat?
Yes, but it might be dead.
I bet you it’s alive. Loser makes the pasta. Let’s open the box.
I better read Schrodinger’s message first.
The box on the kitchen table was made of steel and had strange mathematical symbols scratched on its surface. There were two clasps on the front like those fitted on old fashioned suitcases and several small round holes drilled in the lid.
What does the message say?
‘The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena.’
That doesn’t sound like a thankyou note. Perhaps he is going a bit senile.
Are you ready?
The clasps clicked and the lid of the box sprung gently open and when they looked in, a third option, not yet mentioned was revealed. There was no cat, dead or alive, just empty space and this space began to expand from the box and spread into the kitchen and they saw the emptiness of the box and the spreading of the space and saw that the box was slowly disappearing and when the table vanished and the kitchen began to disappear as well they understood that all material things were no more than shapes and variations in the structure of the space around them and when this realisation came to them, the illusion which had been their solid flesh only a moment before began to dissolve and when this dissolution had caused their flesh to be broken down into nothing more than subatomic particles their last thought, which they both had at the same moment was that they no longer had any objective reality as isolated entities in the universe, but could only be understood as interconnections between the writing of this story and the reading of it.

About the Author: 
Retired spinal surgeon. Scottish but living in England. Enjoy Gardening, sport, keeping fit, reading and writing.