My name is not Max, the cat said.
The humans didn’t hear him, as he expected. They didn’t speak mindspeak, twittering like, well, frustrated birds or herds of exasperated animals.
Across the room, the other cat looked at him and asked, What is your name, again?
Horatio, Horatio answered again although he knew the other was teasing him.
The other’s cat name was Cicero but the people who cared for him called him Wally.
What difference does it make? Cicero asked.
You tell me, Wally, Horatio replied.
Glowering at him, Cicero jumped up with a mew and ran off.
That is the problem, Horatio thought. It wasn’t that Max was a moniker encumbered with staid and unimaginative connotations and expectations and ladened with boredom, it was that humans refused to learn. Their blind misunderstanding of the world and how it operates was growing. If they didn’t change their course of thinking, they would move away from the ability to learn.
It wasn’t always so. He’d last lived with Bob until Bob had decided to accept Death’s invitation and move on to the next plain. Bob had understood mindspeak with some rudimentary ability. Humans had misunderstood his skill’s significance. They called him a cat whisperer. He laughed at that, knowing that he heard other animals besides cats and sometimes understood pieces of what the trees said. He knew his mindspeak’s skills and limitations but he was trying. Most humans never tried until Death spoke to them with mindspeak. They heard her well enough, but that was partly because Death and her tribe of speakers were wonderfully talented and persistent.
It vexed Horatio and the rest that humans couldn’t hear more of them, couldn’t grasp what the winds said and the trees’ answered. Tthe oceans and seas talked and all the humans did was breath in the air without understanding the words, dismissing the waves when they broke and roared with frustration. They looked up at the sun and moon without hearing what they said. They dismissed the rivers, creeks and streams’ discussions, hearing only their travel. The birds, oldest, most patient and intelligent, always attempted to communicate with the humans via mindspeak, then sang and chattered at them when the humans failed responding. Humans often answered with condescending comments like, “What a lovely song,” then, knowing they had the human’s attention, would address them with mindspeak again, only to be ignored.
The birds were patient. That’s why they were the world’s teachers and much more philosophical about it than he, Horatio. Indeed, Horatio knew, he was more passionate about forcing humans into using mindspeak because he saw how disconnected they were becoming from the world’s conversations. The birds saw it, too, but told Horatio, It is their own failing and if they don’t change and learn, they’ll become like the dinosaurs and volcanos.
Very true, Horatio knew. Most animals didn’t care. They were resigned to the humans never understanding and fell back on the Old Words, barking, meowing, mooing and howling. Horatio tried avoiding doing so.
“Max,” Brian called again. “Where are you, buddy? It’s time for your pill.”
Indeed, Horatio thought. Brian was well-meaning but Horatio longed to make him understand that this pill did naught for his health and was actually interfering with the healing process. But he’d come to Brian after Bob moved on because sometimes, in the night, he heard Brian whispering mindspeak and sometimes, when Horatio said something in mindspeak to Brian, Brian looked at him and said, “What is it, buddy? Why are you looking at me like that?” No, no, Horatio replied. Use your mindspeak and answer me.
Brian never did but Horatio held out hope.
Talk to him, Horatio, Bob said from his other life plain. Don’t give up. I knew mindspeak as a child but then unlearned it before I learned it again. I never would have learned it if Devenus had not taken the time to teach me. Brian is just like me. Talk to him, Horatio. Help Brian understand.
You’re right, Bob, Horatio answered, accepting that Bob was absolutely right. If the humans were to learn at all, it would be one human at a time. I’m in here, Brian, Horatio said in mindspeak. I’m in your office in your chair.
He heard Brian’s thumping heavy walk come down the hall. Brian’s head popped around the door jamb. He looked right at Horatio in the chair by the desk. “There are you, Max,” Brian said with a broad smile.
Clearly Brian had heard him without knowing. Sighing, Horatio stood and stretched. Yes, Brian had promise. If he was going to develop further, though, Horatio would need to work with him. He’d need to build a rapport and use the birds’ patience.
Yes, here I am, he said, jumping down and walking to Brian, adding, “Meow,” knowing it pleasured Brian. Give me the pill even though I know it’s useless. I will take it without a fight, to make you happy. Then I will teach you.
Let your lessons begin.