an excerpt from “A Cat Among the Gears”
by Elaine Corvidae
From Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine, now funding on Kickstarter.
“You put my brain into a cat.”
“Exactly!” Master said, gleeful as a kid with a new toy.
I stared down in horror at the silver-furred forelegs stretched out in front of me instead of arms. At least I could still stand on two feet. “You. Put my brain. Into a cat.”
“Yes, yes,” Master’s enthusiasm dimmed slightly, as he peered down at me. “You seem to be having trouble comprehending simple language, though. Perhaps this is a side-effect of the feline biochemistry?”
I tried to slap my palm over my face in exasperation, but instead bopped myself on my little pink nose with a paw. And those claws were sharp. Maybe I ought to use them on him. “Why in the nine hells did you put my brain in a cat?”
“I needed to test my size-adjustment ray.”
“We already tested it on that annoying minstrel last week, remember?” Master had shrunk the poor lad so small I suspected one of us had accidentally inhaled him.
Master leaned against the device in question, a rather large and bulky contraption of brass, gears, and lenses. I didn’t have a clue how the thing worked; I was just the gal who handed him the right wrenches, fetched the occasional corpse, and swapped out the punch cards in the automatons.
Except now I was apparently the cat who did that.
“We’d done a whole-body test, yes,” Master agreed, “but it occurred to me to try it on body parts instead,” he said
“And you couldn’t have waited for the next castle-to-castle salesman?”
He almost looked guilty. “Well, I happened to have some of my sleep syrup in my pocket, and your wine was right there…”
In this business, that almost qualified as an excuse. I came from a long line of minions, and trust me, the mad-genius types seldom have good impulse control. Mostly they just do whatever damn fool thing comes into their heads. With a nutter like my current master, well, you learned to watch your drink, count your limbs, and hope to come out the other side with a nice pension. Or at least a sack of gold you managed to loot after the local do-gooder reduced the castle to a smoking ruin.
But really, I had to draw the line somewhere. “So you took out my brain and shrank it.”
“Exactly! It was so cute and tiny, it seemed a shame to waste it. So I asked myself: ‘What else is cute and tiny? Kitties!’ The solution was obvious.”
Great. “So where is my old body? And how soon until I get it back?” I might be able to handle being a cat for a little while, but the novelty was bound to wear off.
The abashed look on his face didn’t bode well. “There was an accident…”
I extended my claws and lashed my tail, and if you don’t think that felt damn weird, you’ve never had your brain stuck in a cat’s body. “What. Happened. To my. Body?”
“I used the size-adjusting ray to make one of the automatons larger—just to see what would happen, of course—and well, the ’ton stepped on you. Um, what used to be you.”
That was it. I drew myself up, as best as I was able with only two-and-a-half feet of height to work with, and stalked to the door. Pausing at the entrance, I turned and pointed a paw dramatically at him. I intended to make some dramatic statement which would strike fear into his heart, but he’d already lost interest and had his head stuck underneath the ray gun, tinkering away.
Muttering under my breath, I dropped onto to all fours and left with whatever dignity I still possessed.
Elaine Corvidae has worked as an office assistant, archaeologist, and raptor rehabilitator, but she always wanted to be a writer. Her fantasy novels have been praised by reviewers and readers alike, and have won the Dream Realm and Eppie awards. She lives near Charlotte, NC, with her husband and several cats.