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  • Orbitae Films

An unexpected friend

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

There it was—one star. A tiny, intangible little star, that carried so much meaning in everyone's life. It could determine the rise or demise of a business, a dream. Even a life.

An old man writing a letter with a small hairless cat next to him - AI generated

Generated with Midjourney

As a kid, it was about grades, a way to keep track of how much we learned every year. As an adult, it’s about stars, a government’s method to control people’s behavior. We saw it on fictional series, a foreshadowing of what was to come, but no one believed it would be a reality. Fast-forward, it did. So, I learned to lay low, keeping it mostly under the radar… but today went particularly sideways. And I mean everything. You see, one 1-star rating, nothing happens. Two 1-star reviews, people start noticing. But three 1-stars on your social skills, they send you to the the psychiatrist — and I hate psychiatrists.

It was a Karen on steroids. Oh, she was nasty.

“Such a disgusting looking creature… Just disgusting”, she sneered while chewing a

bright pink gum that matched her painted cheeks.

“Pardon me?”, I said stupidly, concealing it back in my pocket.

“D-E-S-gus-tin’. Don’t ya understand tha word? What is it anyways? Some sort of

deformed baby or somethin’?”

I looked at her and stood up, but said nothing. I was particularly tall and this was my one and only defense mechanism. She was on the short side, so... For a brief moment, I thought my technique showed authority, but she had repartee:

“What? Ya’ think ya scary? Tall and all? Uh-huh, not to me. So disgusting.”

As I was torn between storming out of the bus at the next stop, correcting her spelling of "disgusting," or finding a strong yet politically correct way to put her in her place, the bus came to an abrupt halt, causing her to lose her balance. She fell, front first, onto my dry, skeletal elbow. As a result, she choked on her gum and then spat it onto the hair of an elderly woman sitting in front of us who, cautiously, reached out to touch her pearly curls to quickly discover the sticky - and very entangled - gum. Her eyes widened as she slowly twisted her neck to an unnaturally extreme angle, turning her face to get a good look at us. I was like a fish out of the water. Confused and aghast. Sneaky Karen, on the other side, was very quick to respond:

“Not me! Uh-huh. He the one guilty here, hitting me and all with his spiky dead ass

elbows, making me almost choke to death, ya know?"

The gum-afflicted woman took her phone, scanned me and Karen, and gave us a 1-star review each. Infuriated, Karen also took her phone and did the same, giving me a second 1-star with a comment as a side “rude and desgustin’”. I was discombobulated. The third and last one, was a gift from Karen’s supportive friend. They all went off the bus on the next stop. I? Well, I had to go to the psychiatrist the very next day.

“What was the creature?”

“What do you mean?”

“The creature she said was disgusting”, the psychiatrist inquired patiently, sitting across

the table with a pen in hand, as he peered at me over his glasses with a slight tilt of his head.

“Oh, well...”, I hesitated at first, but decided to come clean, "here she is”.

I took her out of my trench coat and showed her to him.

He was, to say the least, astonished. In my hands was a curled little hairless cat.

“They’re not common today, should be extinct”, I specified and added, “but here she

is… I found her yesterday near a dumpsite. Couldn’t bring myself to leave her there. All cold and wet. So, I decided to take her home and that's when I met this girl on the bus and then...” I looked at him uncomfortable, leaned back on my chair and muttered, "well, you know the rest...”

The cat purred in my huge hands, almost camouflaging itself in them.

“Is it… is it a dog?”

The mind-expert took a closer look.

“No, it’s a cat”

“Does it eat?”

“Of course! Like us, they need food, warm and love”

“But it’s forbidden. You know that, right?”


“So, why show it to me?”

“You seemed like a reasonable person”

The cat meowed as I put her on the doctor's desk, where she sniffed, purred and played with a pen. She was a curious little creature. He was amused and somewhat fascinated.

We were not used to seeing these animals around anymore. After the “Great Pet Crisis” - now known as “GPC” -, it was determined that humans could not have domesticated animals anymore. There were far too many irresponsible owners who abandoned them, an abundance of unscrupulous pet shops that sold them carelessly, and countless animals roaming the streets. Many ended up in veterinary clinics with deformed bodies resulting from centuries of selfish breeding. Animal shelters were overflowing, and the list of issues seemed endless. All it took was one country to make a stand. The rest followed suit shortly after.

Unfortunately, what probably began with good intentions led to a terrible fate for dogs, cats, tortoises, ferrets, bunnies, and even lizards: they were eradicated. Why? Well, shortly after the prohibition, a war on illegal pet trafficking began. The government's solution was simple: if pets no longer existed, humans couldn't possess them, and illegal trafficking would end. Thus, the "GPC Enforcement Act" was implemented.

It was a massacre.

Over time, we replaced them with robots, which we eventually grew accustomed to. They were easier to care for—no pee to clean up, no more hairy clothes or chewed shoes, and no more vet bills. But there was no love, either.

This all happened nearly a century ago. I was born into a petless world. However, there's a rumor that this ordeal left people despondent. It changed us. The roots of our partnership with animals were so deep, that the barbaric act had an unprecedented effect on humanity.

“Can… can I touch it?”, asked my appointed psychiatrist.

“Please do.”

He rubbed his hands together and then extended his elongated, slightly bent finger due to arthritis, towards the little creature. But she was a sneaky one. Until, at last, contact was made. He was conquered. As was I. How could Karen not be?

I left the psychiatrist’s office with a cat in my pocket and a year's worth of appointments scheduled.

“The patient needs a weekly session for a year – at least, – to make sure he does not do anything borderline, in order to avoid any one-star behavior”, the doctor’s notice read.

It was a deal: I could keep the cat and my psychiatrist could see her once a week. We became friends, real friends the three of us. The kind of friends that kept a secret for almost 17 years.

In the end, they were not so bad after all, these psychiatrists.

Alex Iwanoff

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