“Okay, imagine this,” Greg started. Liu promptly stood up from her chair, put her newspaper underneath her armpit, and walked away from him. “No wait, don’t go,” he said, following her out of the food court and into the crowded hallway.
“I do not really want to do another one of your games,” Liu said, brushing her way past people in order to get away from Greg. “Please try again some other time.”
“It’s not a game, it’s a mind exercise. It’s fun,” Greg said. He pushed past the same people and tried to keep up with her down the hallway. “What’s so bad about fun?”
“I have things I need to do. I am sorry,” Liu said. Greg caught her shoulder and she turned around. She squeezed her eyes tight, then opened them slowly. “Walk with me to the conference room and I will do your mind exercise.”
Greg moved in front of her and began walking backwards and the people around them moved to avoid colliding with him. “Alright, well, imagine this. You’re a cat, standing atop a box in the middle of a large body of water.”
“Just imagine it, don’t question it,” Greg said. He abruptly switched modes of locomotion and spun around to begin walking forwards again. “You’re a cat, the only survivor of some sort of deluge. Make of that what you will, but the main point is that you’re alone, atop a box, with nothing around you except water. And since you’re a cat, that’s the worst thing that could possibly be. How do you feel?”
“I feel fine,” Liu said. “Oh, you mean me as the cat?”
“Yes, I mean you as the cat.”
“I understand. Then, I would think that I am… very afraid. Probably too fearful to think clearly.” Liu and Greg entered the conference room, where several other employees had already gathered. Liu sat down in a rolly-chair, placing the newspaper on the table, and took out from her purse a notebook and pen, as well as her cell phone. She turned on the screen to her phone and typed a text message to someone.
“Hey, you’ve got to take this seriously, Liu,” Greg said, sitting down in the rolly-chair next to her. “You said you’d do it. Your meeting is in what, fifteen minutes? Ten?” A man stood by Greg and motioned for him to get up from his spot. “Oh, uh, sorry.” He stood up and moved to just behind Liu.
“I am sorry, Greg.” Liu put her phone and the newspaper back in her purse. “What do you want me to imagine?”
“You’re really scared on top of the box, dazed and confused. So what do you think your first course of action is, as that cat?”
“I would probably yell for help to see if anyone is around,” she said.
“Well, cats can’t yell, so…”
“I would meow loudly.”
“That’s more like it. Good answer. So you meow with all the strength your feline self can muster. You don’t meow in any direction, because you’re too dizzy to figure out where you are, or any of the other pertinent questions that a rational human would think of. After a while meowing, nothing or no-one has answered, so you realize you’re probably completely alone out in this flood.”
“I don’t think I would realize that so quickly, as a cat. Cats aren’t as smart as humans.”
“You may be correct. In fact, I’ll modify what I just said. You keep meowing and meowing until your voice goes out and you can’t meow any longer. Then do you realize you’re probably completely alone out in this flood?” Greg moved across the room to sit at the other end of the conference table from Liu, but another woman took the seat before he could get to the other side. He moved back towards where he was beforehand.
“Yes, I would think the cat would realize it by then.”
“Okay. What do you do now?”
“I am not sure.” Liu took her phone out again and checked the time. “My meeting is starting now. Greg, you need to leave.”
Greg ducked down under the conference table. “Don’t worry, just carry on, I’ll still be here.” Liu’s boss came out and began speaking about monthly spending reports, while Greg stared at Liu. “What do you do now, Liu?” he whispered.
“Greg! I think you need to leave!” she whispered back.
“Don’t worry about me. Worry about the cat,” Greg said. Liu sighed loudly, and covered her mouth when the boss’s head turned towards her. “I just want to know what you will do after you’ve realized there is nobody around, and you’re just a single cat floating in the middle of infinite wetness.”
“I don’t know, I’d probably just sit there and wait for help at that point.”
“There is no help,” Greg said. “Nobody’s coming to rescue you.”
“Really? How would the cat know this?”
“It knows because everyone else is dead, Liu.”
“Even the coast guard and people on boats?” she asked.
“Everyone’s dead, Liu.”
“Well fine then, I guess the cat gives up because everything is hopeless and there’s no point in doing anything but waiting until death.”
Greg’s face lit up. “I’m glad to hear that,” he said. Liu turned back towards her boss to pretend she was paying attention, then looked back at Greg– who had disappeared.
Liu sat in the conference room alone for thirty minutes after the meeting.