Chapter 8: Origins
It turned out to be one of those really awful journeys full of awkward silence that seemed to double the distance home. It was quite clear though that Pan wasn’t going to share any more insights with me until we got home again.
I was just about to pull into the car park when there was a really strange vibrating sensation and when I looked across to the passenger seat there was a small black cat sitting among a heap of clothes, glowering at me.
“Oh, great!” I said,
“I can’t have your neighbours seeing my human form!” replied Pan the cat.
“Huh! You can still talk?”
“Duh! In about two hundred and fifty different languages and many distinct dialects within most of those” was the huffy response,
“Okay, Professor Pan, whatever you say! Just keep quiet while I take you indoors!” I got out and went round to the passenger side.
As I opened the passenger door Pan made to get out and I had to grab him, “Wait you bloody idiot! You’re the one that doesn’t want the neighbours noticing anything strange so I’m going to have to carry you in. Don’t give me that look! It’s happening, end of.”
I bundled his clothes into the backpack, shouldered my load then scooped a resigned looking Pan into my arms.
When we got inside I dumped his clothes back out in the bedroom. “Aren’t you going to go and change?”
“Now we get to the crux of the matter.” He said and lazily clambered onto the sofa, pawing the throw before settling himself down with his paws crossed in front, “You’d best come and sit down for me to explain this all to you”
“Fine, but this is weird! How can you actually make the correct vocal sounds? And why is it that I’m less weirded-out having a conversation with human-you than watching your cat mouth shape itself around the English language!”
He smirked and flicked his ears, “It’s called evolution
“What you really mean is magic! Wizardry?”
He rolled his eyes at me, “NO! I’m CAT, the original species. You don’t honestly believe that humans were the first sentient species to walk the planet? Ha! We taught you everything you know!”
I raised my eyebrows, “Yeah, good one. I’ll just Google that shall I? There must be a few scientific papers on CAT?”
He was silent for a moment, as if to allow his next words to carry more weight, “The only written words about the origins of our species are now clothed in myth and superstition. But I’m speaking the truth, Sarah, our species had developed culture, speech, education and many other skills long before your ancestors had developed the wheel or colonised the world!”
I thought carefully about his words. It’s not preposterous to think of another mammalian species evolving along similar lines to ourselves but where is the archaeological evidence and how could he possibly explain the shapeshifting?
“So what happened to your species? Was it natural disaster, disease or war?” I said, thinking they must be few in number,
“In the beginning, climate change and movement of the continents had a big effect on my ancestors. We originated in the ancient Indus Valley but then the rich biodiversity began to attract more human settlements. We lived alongside one another happily for many centuries but as with most other native species, human-kind drove us out”
I nodded, “Yes, human beings, greatest plague on the planet! I agree the species has been a bit too successful for its own good or that of the planet. Did they hunt you?”
“No, no! Nothing like that. We may be great predators but killing indiscriminately and warfare were never our thing so there was never a reason for humans to make war with us. Actually, they worshipped us as “great prophets” or sometimes “gods”. It went too far! Tribes chose different aspects of our teachings to make war on other tribes. Nothing we tried could ever resolve the disputes and quite frankly my ancestors just got fed up with trying to help the human race. It was felt that in order to protect humans, we must distance ourselves to allow them to develop at a slower pace.”He sighed and shook his head, “I sometimes wonder what the course of history may have been if we’d not left humans to themselves”
I rested my hand on his back and gently stroked him, “I doubt your ancestors could have done anything about the warring instincts of mankind!”
“I’ve seen such horrors during my lifetime and throughout my travels! It often amazes me that there are still so many humans on the planet, such is their propensity for killing each other.” He started to purr softly, I was obviously beginning to soothe him.
“So how old are you? I was told you were seven when I adopted you but you speak as if you were seventy!” I asked,
“Ah, now there’s a story linked to one of those cat myths I spoke of! The saying that cats have nine lives actually refers to the fact that we’re very long-lived. We don’t regenerate like The Doctor or resurrect in any other way! Nine lives come from nine lifetimes.”
“Nine hundred years! No way, that’s not possible!” I exclaimed,
“Ha ha, not quite that old! I suppose the lifetime of humans then, when Cats were nicknamed Nine Lives, was probably only about thirty years. I suppose at one hundred and fourteen I’m almost middle-aged!” he chuckled.