I Am Schrödinger’s Cat

I am Professor Schrödinger’s cat. I live with him in a small, windowless apartment. It seems to me we’ve lived here for a long time, but—it’s funny—it often feels as if it’s been no time at all.

It’s a beautiful equilibrium we exist in. I eat from a blue Delft tray. I sleep curled up on a cushion made of poplin. I observe the professor from my favorite spot on the footstool. I watch him write at his desk, read in his chair, push up the glasses that forever slide down his nose. I’ve never felt more or less alive than I do today. And the professor too—he eats, sleeps, and wrestles with his complicated work. That is the extent of it.

So I guess you can say I’m content—a contented cat—and I assume the professor is content as well. Our lives are untouched by distraction.

In spite of this, there are times when a feeling of disquiet rises up in me. I cannot help but wonder, what lies beyond these tranquil walls? Are there other people and buildings? Are there other cats—contented or otherwise? If there are, do they also share their lives with other learned professors?

There is only one thing I know about our surrounding world: The name of our town is Vienna. I found this out on the single occasion a person came knocking at our door.

“Professor Schrödinger?” the voice called from outside. It was the sort of voice that could have equally come from a man or a woman. It was neither young nor old. The professor, startled, looked up from the book on the kitchen table that lay open between his elbows. A salt shaker was keeping the page from flipping.

“Professor?!” The voice came again.

The professor’s face, always so composed, darkened. He made no attempt to respond. He did not move a muscle.

“A letter!” the voice continued. “For you, I think… though the address is partly effaced. Only the name, ‪Schrödinger, and the city, Vienna, is legible.”

I’d been relaxing on the footstool and I rose to my feet to stretch. It was only the most incidental of movements, not in the least disruptive, and yet the professor shot me a glance that caused me to silently lower my haunches.

Again, the visitor knocked insistently. The voice rose to a still louder pitch. “The letter’s from Copenhagen. It has the look of something important…! A signature is required!”

There were ten, or twenty—or who knows how many?—seconds of silence, and at last the sound of footsteps going away.

For a long time, the professor’s eyes stayed fixed on the door. Then, with a sigh, he went back to his book, and I drifted to sleep on the cushion made of poplin.

I will tell you this: I cannot recall ever having been a kitten! I cannot recall suckling at my mother’s teat, nor playing with a bit of string. I cannot remember the professor ever having been younger or different than he is today. Thoughts like this disturb me, and I rush to wrap myself around the professor’s legs. My professor’s caress, or better, a tasty bit of meat, help distract my mind from troubling thoughts.

Still, uncertainty continues to torment me. How is it that the professor never goes out for provisions, yet our cupboards are always stocked? How is it that, every morning, he opens a tin of sardines—my lovely sardines!—and seeing I have what I desire, reaches into the pantry for his ever-full canister of coffee, his bread and butter? How is it we never run out?

I see no one besides the professor. The professor sees no one but me. If he has colleagues, I have not met them. If there is a woman, I have not seen her. If there are meetings, he never attends them. The institute never seems to require his presence. The professor is never troubled, nor does he seem particularly glad… Except for that single time when a person came to deliver a letter, his state of mind never varies from its utter equanimity.

But this may soon change. There is something the professor does not know—a secret I’ve kept from him… There’s a mouse! Or, at least, there will be one soon. It lives inside the wall. I listen to it every night through the baseboard in the kitchen… I hear it gnawing, gnawing, trying to get in. While the professor sleeps, I crouch. I wait for the mouse to chew its way into our apartment where I will pounce upon its neck! I can’t remember how many nights I’ve waited.

My plan is not to kill it. I want to capture it alive. I’ll toy with it, of course, torment it, but ultimately I’ll bring it to my professor as a tribute! This is the one thing I will ever be able to offer the man who’s sheltered me—this one gift in return for his eternal kindness. When the time comes, my little captive will look up at the professor with terrified eyes, and the professor will look down on its puny, imbecilic face. Professor Schrödinger will have the honor to judge:

Shall the first outsider ever to enter our rooms live or die?

Every day, I gleefully preview this scene in my mind. In the meantime, the professor strokes my head. “Poor cat,” he says to me, for the professor does not know my name and always calls me cat. “Poor little cat,” he says, as I curl in his lap contentedly and raise my chin so his fingers can caress my neck. “Are we happy now?”