Perspicacity

by Kevin Mercurio

I moved on to biology.

I chugged the remainder of the pill bottle. Let me tell you a bit about the mixture of amphetamine salts known as Adderall. Adderall is a “study” drug. About a third of college students today have admitted to using them, including myself. Adderall makes you concentrate. Adderall makes you read your $500 textbook. Adderall gets you on the Dean’s List. Adderall gets you to graduate school.

I hadn’t realized I was taking about two 20 mg tablets every four hours. For days like mine, that’s around 10 tablets a day, or roughly a 200 mg daily dose of amphetamine, almost four times that of the usual therapeutic dose. I hadn’t slept for days. But I needed to get that project done. I needed to get those notes re-copied. I needed to apply for scholarships and bursaries.

I only started using these last week. Did you know these are as common as marijuana on college campuses? Ask your local dealer if Adderall is right for you.

I opened my laptop and turned it on. The startup noise startled my resting cat, spread lazily on the bed beside me. Her name is Bell. It’s difficult to describe her kind of breed. Good thing my laptop was on. She looks like an American Shorthair; a grey coat with light tan stripes along the legs. Bell has a medium-build, not very vocal and enjoys being independent most of the time. Except when she’s hungry of course. But hey, what organism isn’t? She is just like me. I love her.

She looked at me with her sleepy yellow eyes. They reminded me of those playground marbles, apparently given the intuitive name Cat’s Eyes. Bell always stared at you if called upon or desired something, as if to be communicating telepathically in her own strange way of conversation. I often notice that a lot of animals do that; stare at each other without uttering a word, using some other form of communication unbeknownst to us people. Maybe humans are the ones lacking in evolutionary abilities.

My stomach growled. I started to salivate thinking about pizza and wings. Meat lovers pizza, with extra bacon, and extra ground beef! Drool. Where did pizza even originate? Central and Southern Italy, apparently. And the honey garlic wings! I went downstairs to the kitchen and opened the fridge, grabbed some water and went back upstairs. I locked eyes with Bell. She was doing that thing that cats do, slightly sticking out her tongue. Is that where the saying comes from? Like a weird animal version of your father’s favourite parental activity, ”Got Your Nose”? No, that involved witches and stuff, apparently.

I was getting a bit sleepy. On my desk was a Rubik’s Cube, partially solved. I keep it around to amuse myself. It didn’t take long to teach myself to solve one. It involved setting up algorithms that I had to embed in my long-term memory through strict repetition. I thought it would be a cool party trick. I realized that in such a rambunctious atmosphere, it would only be interesting if I could solve it in 30 seconds. Blindfolded. Damn you, Kaljun Lin.

I was still dozing off. With one last look at Bell, the enormous weight of my eyelids finally outmatched my levator palpebrae superioris muscles and the room became dark.

Then it hit me. Boom. As if I was electrocuted by a lightning bolt on that cloudless night. It is hard to recount the feeling of an amphetamine high. Picture your brain as a jigsaw puzzle. All your thoughts, all your neural inputs can be represented by each jigsaw piece. The sensation would be as if finally completing that 1000-piece puzzle and observing your creation as a whole. You know everything about the puzzle: what it represents and where everything is located. Any pieces of this puzzle can be utilized at your discretion. You are omniscient to this puzzle. You are omnipotent to this puzzle. You are God.

The drug was finally kicking in. I went downstairs and made a turkey and ham sandwich, with all the fillings. I organized all the materials on my desk: pens by colour, line-paper stacked perfectly forming a thin prism, ruler parallel to the desk for underlining important points from each lesson. And the highlighters! Oh, my highlighters. One for every distinct colour of the visible-light spectrum.

I went through ten lectures in what seemed like minutes. Sixty slides per lecture. I could have explained in great detail about the organisms that lived in the Carboniferous period.  I could have recalled the exact percentage of life that was exterminated in the Permian extinction. For Christ sakes, I could even have remembered how many times I used my blue highlighter (it was six, for each sub-sub-heading).

It happened at about 3:37am. I was three bites into the remaining half of my sandwich. My laptop battery percentage was at 61%. I was on slide 45 of the 11th lecture that transpired on Wednesday, November 23. I would never forget occurrences like these. Think about the most outrageous happening that could possibly happen at any moment, to happen in happenstance to when you are at your most alert. As if you knew it was going to happen. As if you were ready for when it was going to happen. You acknowledge its occurrence, ensure it gets embedded in your oddly unfinished but complete jigsaw puzzle of a brain, and begin further observations to reach a greater understanding. The scientific method.

“What are you doing?” Bell asked, nonchalantly.

If this story becomes a movie, her voice sounded pretty much like Julia Roberts. American with a hint of the south, sweet but assertive, flaunting in grandeur. I turned my head and looked at her. She was sitting up on the bed now, stretching her front legs and giving me a big yawn. Her pupils were dilated slightly, as I could tell she was slowly becoming more and more curious. Watch it little missy, you know how the saying goes…

“Curiosity does not kill the cat, by the way,” Bell said matter-of-factly. “It is the inability of the animal to contemplate about their surroundings when encountering a new situation. If curiosity killed the cat, it would certainly kill most organisms, including humans.”

I was not able to ignore her much longer. I added a piece to the goal region of my brain that stipulated the investigation of my sentient cat. I decided to push back feelings of obvious surprise, as if time was of the essence. For some reason, I felt slightly irritated.

“How long were you able to communicate with me?” I asked.

“I appreciate you disregarding the shocked phase of the matter. Since I came into your captivity,” she explained.

“Why did you choose to speak to me now?”

“I have been trying to communicate with you since I came into your captivity.” Speech deja-vu. “My theory is that this can only work if human minds are, for lack of a better term, wired in a certain way, as to utilize the brain as a whole for maximum potential effort on mental tasks.”

“Telepathy…” I said slowly. I fucking knew it.

“Yes, what you would call telepathy. But this is just how animals communicate, we all have six fundamental senses: vision, audition, gustation, olfaction, somatosensory and mentisory.”

“Mentisory? Why can’t humans communicate using mentisory senses?”

“I hypothesize that, due to the amount of tasks your species concerns itself with outside that of survival and reproduction, that the amount of energy input required for mentisory sensation is not sufficient for communication. It is not without the aid of mental enhancements that the brain can focus and optimally control metabolic processes.”

“And all animals can communicate this way?”

“Yes, well those of the higher-level species. It is how we have been communicating since the development of spines and the central nervous system. My brain is consistently sending out gamma waves that can be interpreted by other developed brains. Your brain is translating my thoughts into a language that you may better understand.”

“But it is well known that the human brain is more developed than that of say, felines. How are you capable of achieving such feats of mental power but not myself?”

“Your species concerns itself with trivial issues. Yes, you have created unbelievable things I have yet to grasp, such as what you call the internet and vehicular transportation. But individuals of your species fail at understanding these impressive daily-used inventions. Modern humans have become so specialized, they build routines. Routines are the downfall of your species. This will only lead to impulsive desires to please the senses.”

I was beginning to think Bell was more intelligent than half the people I know. Actually scratch that, most people I know.

She continued, “Let us take for example, myself. Why am I in your captivity?”

“You are not in my captivity, really.” I said sulkily. “You know you’re free to leave at any time.”

“That would be the most irrational thing an animal could do after being labelled as one of your pets.” She sounded appalled. “But why did you choose me from the structure that kept many of my species and canines.”

“Because I wanted a cat. It seemed like we had a connection.”

“But why was my cage-mate not chosen. He was emitting the same frequencies as I, and acting in an almost identical fashion. A display of which we imitated from noting the successful escape rate by our adolescents. In addition, he was much more intelligent and talented than I.”

“He was a Devon Rex. We call those breeds. We categorize individuals of the same species into groups based on appearance. I prefer cats like you; a breed we call the American Shorthair.”

“Now let us branch out into generality. Why did you want a Felis catus?”

“A cat? Because I wanted a pet. I wanted an animal to keep me company during my time in school.”

“And now to my final question.” As she uttered this, Bell walked over to my desk beside the bed, reducing the distance between us. She sat directly in front me. This time she was extremely upright, flexed her muscles and exposed her beautiful front coat. Her head was tilted upwards and to the side, eyes closed and proudly showcased her physical appearance. At that moment, she looked more magnificent than ever, like a rare jaguar or lynx. I was completely awestruck.

She looked back at me. “Why am I your pet, while others are your food?”

I thought about it. Seemed like a simple question. It can’t be because of the meat itself. Surely the taste is similar and if not, likely identical to one another. It can’t be because of the level of intelligence. Humans have trained pigs, cows and chickens to do all sorts of tasks. It can’t be because we have evolved this way. Many countries still treat western pets like how we treat our livestock. It probably wasn’t religious based. Many non-religious people still keep cats and dogs, hamsters and rats, birds and reptiles. She said something a few moments earlier that rattled me. Routines. Something about its connection to physical appeal.

“Physical attractiveness? But how does that relate to routines?”

“There lies the crux of the problem. Routines. Your species lives day to day with no real worry, no real danger. Most of your tasks require very little mental strength. It is not surprising that the human brain can accomplish these tasks with very little effort, conserving energy. Though this may seem like a positive consequence, I tell you that the developed brain is truly meant to be stimulated. To be constantly worked voluntarily. This must occur or else this built up energy will be utilized more for involuntary tasks, tasks that appeal to the senses. While this could lead to mentisory capability, your species focuses more solely on the other senses. Vision is a highly regarded sense in humans. It can lead to relationships and even control your placement in what you regard as the societal ladder. It is what pleases the eye that gets the most attention.”

“So you believe humans have chosen certain animals based on their attractiveness to our eyes?”

“Certainly. This is well known amongst the higher-level animals. Look at how you define success in your society.” She paused. “In the modern world, you do not need real fur for warmth. You do not need animals for transportation. The amount of gluttony in your species is sickening. I am revolted by how cruel you and your species treat other animals solely because they do not look, appropriate.”

“But what can we do? Become vegetarians?”

“You do not need to become herbivores, you should. You can be the first species that has ever existed to have choice in the evolutionary process. It is the only way animal cruelty can truly end.”

“How can you say that when many animals eat other animals for survival? We all, as biological organisms, need certain nutrients to live healthily. Proteins, fats, vitamins, these are essential for a life we all desire.”

“We have no other alternative.”

Confused, I wiped the drool from my face and squinted at the clock. It was 8:01am. I crammed my backpack with the necessities for my morning lecture. Prior to leaving, I carefully scooped up Bell and left her outside in her basket-bed I’ve fashioned out of my old schoolbags. She stared at me with her tongue slightly out. When I came back later that afternoon, she was lying on the front doormat resting. I guess the cat’s out of the basket.

_____

“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
– Thomas Edison

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