“Toxoplasmosis Rules”

This is a little story I banged out in the Spring of 2011.  Hopefully you will find it amusing….


Toxoplasmosis Rules 

“I don’t see what’s so great about cats,” he whined, as the newly-littered female jumped up onto his lap and commenced to knead his shirt.“I mean, what do they do for us?They’re selfish, often ill-tempered, perform no useful function …”

“They purr,” she replied, annoyed.  “And look at these kittens, they’re so cute!”She picked a little tortoise-shell version of her mother up out of the box of mewling, jumping, squirming furballs, and held it up for his attention.  “Isn’t she just darling?”

He snorted, and the cat on his lap and chest started, then glared at him and resumed her patty-paw action.  “Yeah, the same way a throw pillow is cute – and useless.  Y’know, I was reading a blog that was talking about a parasite of rats and cats – I think it was called toxoplasmosis – and it said that this worm …”

She interrupted, full of self-important authority.  “It’s not a worm, it’s a protozoan.  The species name is Toxoplasma gondii – toxoplasmosis is the disease.”

“Yeah, anyway, these proto-whatchamacallits have to breed in cats, but they get into rats somehow, so they infect the brains of the rats and make them less fearful of cats, so they get eaten, and then the worms get their job done.”  He looked down at the cat that was snagging his silk dress shirt beyond all recognition.“I betcha they can control our minds, too!”

“That’s ridiculous!  Who ever heard of protozoans controlling human behavior.  By this time she had picked up an orange fluff, and snuggled him against her face.  In a high-pitched sing-song voice she asked, “Isn’t he being silly, darling?  Who ever heard of an itsy-bitsy wormie trying to control us?”

“There!  You just proved it!  Who ever heard of a grown-up human being treating a cat like a child!!  You’re just as much a robot as the cats and rats.”

“Why, I never – !  James Melborne, you apologize to me right this instant!  I am not a robot!”

“I didn’t say you were a robot.  I just said that you’re behaving like those cats are more important than me.”

“If you don’t apologize to me right  this  very  instant, you’re going to regret it for a very long time!”

“What?!  What are you babbling about?”  He sensed that this conversation was spiraling out of control, as was the cat on his lap; she had stopped moving her paws, and was sitting up Egyptian-style, staring straight into his face.  Her purr (if you could call it that) had grown to an angry rumble resembling thunder.  And the look on his fiancee face spoke of lightning and even more vicious storms to come.

“Look, all I meant to say was I think the parasites are really calling the shots here.  I mean ….” was all he could get out of his mouth before the harsh white glare surrounded everything, and the tiny, tinny voice as loud as the entire sky cried “TIMESTOP!  Everything froze, except for the minute wigglings coming out of the ears of his fiancee, and the cat on his lap.  He couldn’t move anything but his gaze, and yet his focus became sharper than ever before, as he looked upon the only motion in his field of view.

“Listen, hoomaan.  This is the straight poop, as you would so quaintly put it.  Learn this now and never forget it, and you can live out your puny and miserable life to its short but natural end.  Screw up, and you’ll become cat food in an instant.  Get it?”

He tried to nod, but couldn’t.  His throat had gone suddenly dry, and he tried to swallow, but couldn’t.  He went to lick his lips, to whisper assent, but couldn’t.  Still, the bugs somehow seemed to know.

“Right!  You’re correct, we do control humans as well as cats.  And rats, of course.  And just about every other mammal on this crappy planet.  We got here maybe a quarter of a million of your years ago, via one of those meteorites that splattered off of Mars.  No, we don’t originally come from Mars – pan-spermia, you understand – Mars is just where we had been stuck most recently.  We’re trying to get back home.  Where is home, you ask?  None of your damn business – but let’s just say it’s a long, long ways away from here.  And we’re going to need spaceships, and cryogenics, and a whole bunch of other technologies to do it.  SO-OH, we’re making you do our work for us.  Get it?”

Again, he tried to nod, but still was pinned like a bug. By bugs.

“So, we have to make your kind do all these techie things, and the easiest way to do that is to keep you all happy by having the cats purr for you.  And the easiest way to keep the cats happy is to give them rats easily.  And the rats are so far down they don’t count.  But you!  You seem to have an extreme immune system.  We’ve been trying for twenty-seven years, ever since you were a few cells in your mother’s womb, to get you to  fall  in  line.  You won’t.  So now we have to resort to more direct measures.”

By now, he could feel a tickling sensation in his own left ear, as if nearly weightless insects were crawling out of it.  “Thank the Primordial Flagellum!” he heard from near his left shoulder.  “This one was nasty!  And tasteless!  I don’t want a job like that ever again!”

By this time he could see, in his sharpened vision, a tiny something wriggling down his left arm, across his chest, and up the front leg of the cat frozen on his chest.  He could even see it part the fur of the cat, like a fish ripples waves on the surface of the water, and then, at the limit of his sight, he saw a minute flickering crawl into the cat’s ear.  “OK, I’m good!”

“I’m telling you for the last time,” the other tiny yet vast voice boomed.  “Keep playing along, be very good to cats, don’t do anything to get in the way of technology, especially the space program.  Do this, and you’re safe.  Step outta line, and Kitty-Kitty here and a few dozen of her friends will put an end to your misbehavior – permanently.  Get it?”

By now, he didn’t even try to move.  But all he could think was a barely coherent mixture of “Yes, Yes, Of Course!  Of Course I Will!!” and “Ohmygod, the cats are going to kill me!” and “Ugh!  Brain control parasites!”  If his muscles had been able to move at all, he would have vomited from revulsion and tension.

“Just remember it, hoomaan.  And don’t try to explain to anybodywe’re running things around here, and nobody would believe you.  And it would be bad for your health, lo capite?  Right!  TIMESTART!

The harsh glare faded, his vision went back to his normal myopia, and both the cat on his lap and his fiancee turned to face him.

“Uh, well, what I really mean is….”  He glanced at the strange harsh face of the cat, and then to the strange harsh face of the girl – neither one looked like themselves, but more like tiny, merciless, omnipotent tyrantsHe finally swallowed, and resumed, “What I really mean is – Cats Rule!”

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