When faced with an impossible choice, the impossible may happen

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Photo by Bill Adler

The smoke alarm’s screech pierced Alan’s ears as if the sounds were steel blades. His chest undulated in a fit of coughing. Thick, black smoke weighed his blanket down. Alan tried to kick the blanket off, but as the smoke grew heavier, Alan’s breathing became shallower, weakening him like a wind-up toy whose spring was almost out of energy.

The wall between his bedroom and the next apartment glowed red, as if lava were flowing inside it, the heat searing his lungs.

Fur brushed against his side under the blanket. In a single motion, Pillow flung the blanket into the air. Her whiskers twitched and her pink nose wriggled from side to side as she sampled the air. She scanned the room before fixating on the wall, which was melting. Pillow yelped.

Pillow climbed onto Alan’s chest, circled three hundred sixty degrees, and pressed her paw against his forehead, transferring one of her lives to him, so Alan could hoist himself out of bed.

The wall exploded, sending flaming shrapnel through the room, and igniting Alan’s carpet. The fire forced Alan to retreat to the bedroom window. Pillow jumped on the window sill and pawed at the glass. Her whisker tips glowed and her ears rotated like radar dishes scanning the horizon.

Alan opened the window and stared at the pavement forty-one stories below. Pillow’s meow was barely audible over the sizzling and popping, but he thought he heard her say, “Jump.” She leapt onto Alan’s shoulders and purred, vibrating every bone in his body.

Which will be less painful, death by fire or by collision?

Alan hurled himself out the window with Pillow wrapped around his neck. He shut his eyes, preferring not to see the end.

As he tumbled, Pillow’s purrs morphed into a clear sphere that surrounded them. The seconds became minutes, and long past when Alan thought he should have hit the ground, he opened an eye and saw stars and galaxies speeding by.

They landed in a meadow under a sky with three moons and a giant, red sun half tucked below the horizon. The minty aroma of catnip tickled Alan’s nose. Cats surrounded him, crawled over him, and rubbed against him. In the distance, cats chased each other’s tails.

Pillow stood on Alan’s belly and licked his cheek.

“Where am I?” Alan asked, not expecting an answer.

“Our planet.”

“What planet is that?” His voice cracked.

“Where cats come from.”

Alan surveyed the world. Cats scurried up and down trapezoidal-shaped trees. The ground hummed with a sentient rhythm. A dozen cats circled around and over a woman who laid nearby. Alan heard choruses of “cute humans” mixed in with meowing.

“What happens now?”

“On our planet, you’ll be treated like a god.” She winked. “You’ll enjoy it. I did in yours.”

An American writer in Japan, editor of The Binge-Watching Cure books, author of the bestselling book, Outwitting Squirrels. Occasional pilot, 24/7 cat owner.

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