What is it that humans crave the most in this world? Knowledge? Power? Perhaps a perverse combination of the two? And what would humans be willing to do to achieve such goals? That was what Dora wondered as she lay in her opaque metal box, surrounded by darkness. Although she had only been created a few days ago, her mind was already overflowing with many thoughts and questions. Given her circumstances, this was understandable. Her feline ears twitched as she struggled to listen to the sounds of the world outside of her small box. The muffled voices of her creators –a middle-aged man and a somewhat young woman– seemed to argue back and forth, although Dora wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about. The words “Schrödinger’s cat”, “Pandora’s box” and “playing god” seemed to be passed around particularly often, although she didn’t really know what any of those words actually meant.
Dora jolted backwards, her ears and tail pricking up as she felt something slam down on her box. She tried to regain her composure as the sound reverberated around the metal walls of her prison. Outside her box, an angry man in a lab-coat had just slammed his fist down on the metal container.
“It’s for science, Lucille! Why can’t you understand that‽”
“It’s unethical, Dizhwar,” the woman adjacent to him sighed, removing her glasses in order to pinch her glabella in frustration, “Anesidora has a life and will of her own. She’s more than just a pawn for the boss’s experiment.”
“Lucille, Lucille, Lucille” Dizhwar tutted, “Anesidora Schrödinger is an animal. A man-made animal, created for the sole purpose of serving as the experiment’s guinea pig. It doesn’t have any feelings or emotions, and certainly no will of its own.”
Dora’s face was pressed against the side of the box as she listened to her creators, Dizhwar and Lucille, arguing about stuff that she didn’t really understand. “The experiment” was a phrase that the artificial catgirl had heard numerous times. As far as she could tell, it had something to do with her and her metallic box, although she could never piece together the exact details using her still-developing mind. What was her purpose in life? Who was the “boss” that Lucille had mentioned, and what was their relation to Dora?
“We have to let her out of her box,” Lucille remarked, “She’s been in there for all of her brief existence! She needs to see the world, Dizhwar. It isn’t fair.”
“Nonsense,” Dizhwar assured his companion, “Anesidora was specifically designed in such a way that it wouldn’t require any of the commodities that a normal cat would. All that Anesidora needs is the ability to breathe.”
“She isn’t just some object,” Lucille scolded, “True, we did create her specifically for the boss’s experiment, but she’s a living thing. We can’t just keep her in captivity forever!”
“Living thing?” the man asked his assistant, “We don’t even know if it’s alive, Lucille. For all we know, it could have died from a lack of oxygen already.”
“And that’s all the more reason why we should let her out her box! We need to make sure that she’s OK!”
“Lucille, are you familiar with the Schrödinger’s Cat thought-experiment?”
Lucille rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you’ve only mentioned it, like, 1000 times already…”
“So you understand why it is important that we do not let Anesidora out of her box?
“This is bullshit,” Lucille scoffed, “You’re warped if you think you can recreate Schrödinger’s Cat in real life! It’s a stupid theory with no basis in fact or logic!”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, Lucille. I am just doing as instructed. I would advise that you do the same.”
Dora tried to process the meaning of the conversation. There were still words that she didn’t understand, but she was able to grasp the gist of it – She was the test subject in an experiment and wouldn’t be allowed to exit her box until… Until what? Would she be stuck inside forever? If she could prove to her creators that she was alive, would they let her out? She squinted at her hands in the darkness. She had claws, but they weren’t very sharp. In that moment, her animal instincts took over as she scratched at the walls in a desperate attempt to be noticed. She was completely unaware of the concept of death, but instinctively she did what she had to do in order to survive.
-SCRATCH, SCRATCH, SCRATCH!-
Dizhwar and Lucille stopped arguing as they turned their attention to the box in the corner of the room.
“See?” Lucille smirked, “She’s alive, experiment’s over. Can you let her out now?”
“Lucille, Lucille, Lucille,” the man tutted again, “You’ve forgotten about one crucial element of the Schrödinger’s Cat setup.” Dizhwar reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a seemingly empty vial.
“And what would that be?” Lucille frowned.
“Without a control, an experiment fails… Yes, our little catgirl may be alive right now, but there are still variables that need to be accounted for,” Dizhwar grinned, “This vial contains an airborne toxin. I am going to release it inside our guinea pig’s cage.”
“You can’t,” Lucille barked, “You brought her into this world! Do you really intend to remove her from it‽”
“Lucille, dear. Anesidora Schrödinger is nothing more than a tool in an experiment. It does not matter if it lives or dies,” Dizhwar said as he walked over to Dora’s box and began to unlock it, “For the duration of the experiment, Anesidora’s status will be ambiguous. If it makes you feel better, you can feel free to assume that it is alive.”
“This is sick,” Lucille snarled, “Anesidora is a living creature!”
“So you keep saying,” Dizhwar frowned as he unlocked the lid of the box and unleashed the transparent toxin into Dora’s prison. Suddenly, as he closed the metallic crate, a clawed hand reached out and grabbed him by the wrist. Obscured by the darkness, a pair of feline-like eyes stared daggers at the scientist.
Dora moved her mouth as if to speak, but no words came out for she didn’t know how to talk.
“What’s the matter,” Dizhwar chuckled, “Cat got your tongue?”
The man yelped in pain as Dora dug her claws into his arm just enough to draw blood.
“You bitch,” the mad scientist grumbled, “Get back inside your box, you’re disrupting the experiment!”
“I,” Dora began, trying to get the hang of speaking, “Am not a pawn. I am a living creature capable of feelings and emotions.” The girl wasn’t fully aware of what she was actually saying, she was merely mimicking what she had heard Lucille say.
“Lucille, get over here” Dizhwar demanded, “Help me put Anesidora back in its box!”
The female assistant walked over to her partner and stared at the box briefly, before thrusting her hand forward. “It’s OK, Anesidora. Grab my hand.”
“What the Hell are you doing, Lucille? What about the experiment‽”
“Screw the experiment,” Lucille said as she pulled Dora out of the box with one hand and flipped her partner off with the other.
As Dora stepped out of her container, she examined her body. From the moment that she was created she had been placed in confinement, so she had never properly examined her body before. Her body was adorned with pinkish fur and a hospital gown.
“Th-this is absurd,” Dizhwar stammered, “I-I’m going to tell the boss!”
“The boss wants a test subject?” Dora asked, “Well then, he’ll get what he wants.”
Without warning, Dora tightened her grip on Dizhwar’s wrist as she flung him into the metallic box, slamming the lid behind him. The box made a faint “click” sound as it locked, trapping the man inside for the rest of his life, however long that would be. For all anyone knew, he could have already died of poisoning. Or perhaps he could still be alive to this very day? The answer to that question would forever remain a mystery, but that didn’t concern Dora or Lucille.
As the two walked away, Dora thought about the life that she had ahead of her – All the things that she could experience, the life that she’d lead, now that she was free from her Pandora’s Box.