Saturday Short: Monks and Cats

This is the first of what I hope is a long series of “Saturday Shorts.” As I stated yesterday, my intention is to write one short story every Saturday, even if I don’t have any idea or inspiration for what to write. I’ll simply write something. Experience has shown that while most of such writing doesn’t result in anything good, that the practice itself is beneficial, and the small chunk that does go well can eventually be collected for publication.

This week was unusual—I actually had an idea that I’d been chewing on. Earlier this week, Alex introduced me to the poem Pangur Bán. It was written in the ninth century by an Irish monk about how his cat’s hunting is similar to his own search for knowledge.

Pangur Bán gave me a fun idea. A few hundred years in the future, there’s an abbey somewhere in the Western Washington desert. They’ve got a treasure trove of twentieth and twenty-first century books, but they live in a society where literature is illegal, and the abbey is under constant assault from scurrying and flying surveillance drones searching out such illicit material. The abbey is protected from these invaders by a small army of cyborg cats, who have been engineered by the monks to neutralize the drones. Each of the cats is named after a medieval profession—the Miller, the Farmer, the Smithy, etc. The plot centers around two new arrivals at the abbey, visitors from Europe who become the targets of suspicion. Are they actually from Europe, or are they government spies collecting up evidence of the abbey’s illegal library to take back to the authorities?

The primary theme is the search for knowledge and truth, particularly as it relates to filtering out misinformation, wild speculation, and deductive errors.

I have the feeling this one is headed in a good direction. I’ve got a strong sense of both its structure and its theme. It’s also got a thoroughly bizarre setting (cyborg cats!), and I love when that happens. As it happens, I don’t have a title yet. It’s merely, “2020-05-02 WIP.” When I get ideas like this, I often have a title in mind right away, but not this time.

Hunting words I sit all night,” indeed. Well, all morning, at least.