Concept Art Writing Prompt: The House of Green Cats

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The House of Green Cats

Green cats have invaded in this week's writing prompt, and they're getting into everything. Are they aliens from another planet? A genetic experiment gone awry? Exposed to too much gamma radiation? Or just a figment of someone's imagination?


For this week's artistic inspiration, we're going with an older piece, Sandy Skoglund's "Radioactive Cats," via Design You Trust. But don't let the title sway you. What do you think is going on this photograph? Come up with a story and post it in the comments.

Here's my woefully half-formed piece:

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The House of Green Cats

The Care and Feeding of Your Radioactive Cat Swarm

Once a clowder of Felis catus viridi, the western American radioactive cat (commonly referred to as "radcats"), moves into your home, it has claimed it as its own. As there is no way to remove the cats by force or coaxing, you must learn to coexist with your green feline friends. Follow this ZEROFLEX® guide to ensure a healthy and peaceful coexistence.

1. Radcats are just as prone to cuddling as their non-radioactive brethren. We recommend updating your wardrobe and bedsheets with lead-woven clothing. Go to the ZEROFLEX® website to see our entire line of patented non-toxic LEADWEAVE® fabric products.

2. Radcats are obligate carnivores. You must keep a supply of meat in the house at all times, or the radcats will turn to alternative sources of food. It is recommended that children and the elderly sleep behind lead-lined locked doors. ZEROFLEX® also recommends keeping a store of canned meats on hand during the dusty season.

3. ZEROFLEX® does not recommend attempting to kill or harm radcats in any way. Radcats are highly intuitive to a point that has been described as "spooky" or "psychic," and they will attack if they believed they are threatened.

4. ZEROFLEX® has confirmed reports of radcats that have the ability to become invisible. Some radcat cohabitants find sprinkling a fine layer of flour across their floor is helpful to avoid stepping on and angering invisible radcats. ZEROFLEX® also sells LIGHTLUX® pet shampoo, which ensures that radcats remain visible.

5. ZEROFLEX® sells a radcat bathing hazard suit for an additional $59.95.

6. Spaying and neutering of radcats is not necessary. Due to their radioactive nature, radcats are sterile.

7. Their radioactive nature also gives radcats an unusually long lifespan, up to 80 years. ZEROFLEX® recommends providing for your clowder in your will. Estate Planning for Radcat Cohabitants is available from Zero Press this fall.

8. All radcat cohabitants should increase their regular iodine intake. Consult your physician for recommended dosages.

9. Pending resolution of the class action lawsuit with our former radcat handlers, ZEROFLEX® is not able to offer radcat removal and containment services at this time.

10. Following the ruling in ZEROFLEX Global, Inc. v. General Electric Company, Cable News Network, Gawker Media, et al., claims that ZEROFLEX® is responsible for the creation and release of radcats are libelous and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. By consulting with any ZEROFLEX® employee about your radcat care, you implicitly agree to our non-disclosure agreement in Appendix A (attached). Best of luck with your radcat cohabitation!

procrastinationathon warns us of the hazards of using a replicator on living creatures:

"A replicator" Doris repeated, "The corner shop just got one installed."
Edgar curled his lip, he could just remember the local shop when he was a child having a photocopier; a huge beige thing that rattled out faded and speckled copies of paper documents and lost pet flyers. He'd never seen the point of that, and this newer equivalent seemed equally futile.
"So?" he asked, "We've already got a printer."
"This is better than that old box upstairs!" Doris protested, "That'll do just fine if you accidently melt the spatula on the hotplate, but what if you kicked over that hand painted dish I bought on our trip to Spain?"
"Why is it me breaking things in these scenarios?" Edgar muttered.
"Well, now we could just take it down to Ramesh's and their machine will scan it and make a perfect molecular replacement!"
"Hmm" replied Edgar, quietly wishing Doris would both melt the spatula and smash the cat's ugly Spanish feeding bowl within the week.

She broke nothing, but the following Tuesday she returned from the shop with a small bag of basics and a beaming smile across her soft aged face.
"Remember that pewter candle stick?" Doris called out from the front door, "Always said it should be one of a pair, and it is now!"
She plonked the newly restored coupling onto the table directly in Edgar's eye line; he did not look impressed.
"It's green," he stated, flatly.
"Oh for goodness sake, it's only a little hint of it! Alok says every replicated object has it, just part of how the process works or something. It's identical in every other way, same weight, same metal. You're too fussy."
Edgar got up and went to sit on the porch, he watched Haddock, their half deaf white cat, pawing at insects in the unkempt lawn, and he had to admit that – the slight green tint not withstanding – he actually was just a tiny, little bit impressed.

The following week Doris went away to visit her sister, Edgar didn't like staying in the house alone, aside from the isolation of it, he was just terrible at taking care of everything. On his watch, plants died, pipes leaked and spatulas were left to melt on the hotplate. This time though, he was going to mess things up even more than usual.
The doorbell sounded, it was around 10am but Edgar was still in a sleepy haze when he opened the door to the young woman with the tearful red face holding a limp pillow in her arms.
It wasn't a pillow.
Edgar had completely forgotten the rule about Haddock, only let him out the back door, never the font. Being half deaf he couldn't hear the traffic that ran past the front of the house…hadn't heard, and now he was dead.

Edgar hung uneasily around the refrigerators at Ramesh's until there were no other customers in the shop, before he awkwardly approached the middle-aged man sat behind the counter.
"Alok?" He asked,
"Yes Edgar?"
"Does that machine of yours…can it replicate animals?"
Alok smiled "We did a rabbit last week, some terrified guy who daughter's pet had been mauled by a fox. The replicated one was perfect; he came back the day after and said she'd not even noticed. Why?"
Edgar opened the small cloth bag he was carrying for Alok to see inside.
"Oh" he said. "Well, lets see what we can do!"
The replicator was huge and…beige; Edgar placed Haddocks limp body in a draw at one end and pushed it shut as Alok punched in some commands.
"Off we go!" he said, quite excitedly, and hit the big illuminated COPY button.
It rattled away for about five minutes before coming to an abrupt stop, Alok pulled open the draw at the opposite end of the machine and lifted out the newly restored Haddock copy blinking into the world.
"It's bright bloody green!" yelled Edgar, "That's not a ‘hint' how in hell did that man's daughter not notice that?!"
"Well, the rabbit was black. I guess it just hid it a bit better."
Edgar sighed, "Well Doris' eyesight isn't brilliant, but she's not going to be fooled by that, is there nothing you can do about it?"
"I could try a different setting," said Alok, doubtfully, "Might tone it down a couple of notches?"

Edgar sat at the kitchen table, Haddock was perched in front of him, nudging at his hands for a stroke as Haddock peered over to the kitchen sink just behind. Edgar jumped a little as two other Haddocks knocked over the other chair, and yet another brushed against his leg. Why hadn't he stopped at three? It was pretty clear at that point that it wasn't going to get any better. He'd just kept hoping that maybe the next setting would be even a bit less green… He jumped again, but not at a cat this time, the front door had opened, and Doris was home.
Edgar clenched his fingers, and braced himself.

PV notes that no great idea goes unpunished:

It was always so innocent in the lab. Never imagined anything like this, though. I was 20 years old, working as a lab-tech for Mylan Industries. Their goal was simple: better DNA analysis. Their methods: cybernetic gene-spliced bacteria.

Really, though, it sounded a lot worse than what it was. The bacteria were gene-spliced to produce a conductive surface that could interface with a Ga-As plate, and could be programmed genetically to create changes in conductivity depending on the chemical's sensed by the little modified bugs in real-time. They didn't move or reproduce after being linked to the plate, but they were sensitive enough to be able to sequence an entire gene-line in a few minutes as opposed to hours and hours of prep.

The point of all this you ask, as you watch all the brightly luminescent green cats moving around that old man and I? Well, the vehicle of choice, as it were, to test each successive generation of Bio-Sense Chip (tm) was genetically altered cats. They were spliced with a DNA strand that made them glow luminescent green under black light. When they were first starting out, that was really all they were hoping to accomplish. It looked like they had a winner, too. But then it was Tom, that's the old guy in the chair who was my co-worker, noticed something else, the cats didn't trigger his allergies. He brought it to his boss, who was looking for ways to make the company more profitable.

Meanwhile, I was arguing against the idea, I mean, we'd spliced these cats just a generation earlier. There was no telling what the after affects would be. I argued, but I was just a 20 year old lab-tech with delusions that I could stand in the way of things like progress and money.

Tom was all for it though, and had convinced the head honcho to study the cats in a home-environment. Tom was an arrogant ass, and fairly ambitious. The boss got this nasty, nasty grin on his face, and ordered both of us to his office. He had a plan, by god, and he was going to kill two - possibly three birds with one stone.

Got tranquilized the second I'd cleared the boss' door. Slimy bastard had a smile on his face as wide as the grand canyon, too.

When I woke up again, I was told of my "situation" via a letter on the nightstand of the bare bed I found myself on. I had "died" in a horrible lab accident, with Tom over there. I was effectively his slave, and we were put into this run-down old building of the coast of Japan on an island that didn't officially exist. We were actually deep underground, sealed in, with just a space for dropping in food from above. Had a fridge, a supply of ever-glow lamps, and a couple very well hidden holo-cams watching our every move. And, of course, two of the gene-spliced cats, Roto and Sushi.

The note clarified that we should have just kept doing our jobs, no questions, no ideas, no interference. But since we were so stubborn, a lesson needed to be taught. We were going to be the test case of long term living with the cats. If they died, we died too.

My first instinct was to kill them. I didn't want to live for years underground with that Ass, Tom. The cats really meant little to me, other than my vile hatred of the fact they were gene-spliced and we didn't know of the consequences of that little action. In retrospect, I would have done it, but Tom seemed to know I was up to something and kept knocking me out with a tranq-gun every time I tried.

Eventually I gave in, knowing that we couldn't be kept here forever, and that the cats would eventually live their lives and die, and so would I. MRE's were dropped every day, and occasionally the boss would call over the intercom and laugh at us. He was watching our every move.

The cats were breeding like mice. It hadn't taken very long, but we discovered Roto was very pregnant. She had a litter of 12 kittens. Half Male, half female. Year after year went by, sometimes some of the cats disappeared, and I knew there had to be a way out of the apartment. There was, just no human could traverse it.

It was then that we noticed that Roto and Sushi were getting greener with each passing day, and their offspring would begin to turn the same color after they reached puberty. After 20 years, Roto and Sushi looked the same age, while I was a very annoyed 40 year old, and Tom was the only man in town.

I told him that I was a lesbian the night I arrived, and 20 years with him only confirmed his status as an Ass. At year 25, the MRE's stopped coming, and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker - Mylan Industries was going out of business, and as his last, cruel act, we were being sealed for all eternity with the cats that reproduced every three months.

That was the day Tom and I began eating Cat. At first, we'd kill one, cook it, and eat it. It wasn't too bad. We survived that way for a very long time, there were hundreds of cats, and they seemed to continue to be healthy - they'd go and hunt on the island, come back through that little cat opening, and we'd kill them.

After 60 years, Roto and Sushi are still with us, and we're noticing our ages beginning to level out. We're not getting younger, but we're not getting older either. Evidently the recombinant DNA designed to change the cats is slowly changing us as well. Odd to believe, but true. Tom put on the black light for old times sake, the cats glowed in the dark anyway, and we saw that our skin now had a green tinge to it. Who knows, maybe we'll start getting younger too!

Probably not though. I'm just waiting for the day that Tom runs out of tranquilizer darts - because I'll kill him, then I'll kill myself, and the cats can feast upon our bodies, as we have feasted upon them. Maybe then I can finally have some peace.


angusm asks what happens when no one wants green cats anymore:

In hindsight, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. My parents had always had a soft spot for the undesirables, the animals that no one else would want. Growing up, I remember a succession of pets that looked as if they had been salvaged from some feline or canine refuse heap, from Growltiger - one-eyed, lop-eared, and stump-tailed after an unequal battle with a coyote - to Splatch, a strong contender for the title of the ugliest dog in history. Each time my father came home from the shelter clutching some lopsided or mutilated animal, he explained his impulse decision the same way: "I knew nobody else would take him". We were the last hope for the lost causes of the animal kingdom, the final stay of execution for animals otherwise destined to be put to sleep.

So the green cats were simply the logical progression of a trend that had continued throughout my childhood. Still, I had to admit that the sight of them shook me more than it should have done.

"They're part jellyfish," my father said, as if that explained everything. I remembered reading something about that. They were transgenic animals, with genes spliced from some deep-water coelenterate. The first ones they made had fluoresced a brilliant red, but only under ultra-violet light. Then they tweaked the genome some more and came up with the green cats: no longer fluorescent, but a vivid green even under normal light.

"How many are there?" I asked uneasily, seeing the kitchen invaded by the green tide, as if someone had scribbled on all the surfaces with a highlighter. My father scratched his head.

"They said eighteen," he said, "but I think there's more than that."

My mother held up a can of wet food the size of an oil drum.

"Ready for your supper, dears?" she asked. The green cats plumped their emerald haunches down on the kitchen floor and eyed her hungrily. One licked its lips with a tongue the color of grass.

"They were popular for a while," my father said. "That popstar, what was her name, she had some. But then the novelty wore off. People just don't want cats to be green, I think. The shelters are full of them."

He looked up at me and shrugged.

"What could I do?" he said. "I knew nobody else would take them."

Wrzelewo's story notes the absence of green cats:

Madge sighed as she rooted through the cupboard for the screwdriver. She knew it hadn't been his fault, what with the new drugs and everything, but she couldn't help feeling disappointed in him. Soon they were going to run out of furniture that hadn't been broken and repaired at least once. She could feel his dull stare on her back.
"Sarah's bringing you some leftover chicken for dinner." She said into the shelves. "Remember when you used to make that Chicken Parmesan for me? When we were living in the old apartment?"
She heard saliva as his mouth fell open, then the clack of dentures as he swung it shut again. She finally felt the cold sharp metal of the screwdriver with her fingers and pulled it out from the dark recesses of the cupboard. She whirled around and knelt down by the overturned chair, catching a glimpse of him on the way. He was alternating opening and closing his eyes, first the left open, then the right open, then the left, then the right, like he was learning for the first time how the lids worked.
The chair's seat had been torn away from the frame on one side when it hit the floor. He had yelled when he knocked it over, a big, angry, frankenstein-style grumbling bellow. Madge had been reading in the other room, and heard it through the wall. Now she found the rusty screw under the table, and began to work it through the wood and metal of the chair. She was surprised by how much more difficult it was now than it had been the last time, when he had ripped part of the upholstery out of the couch. The effort made her almost sweat, and she panted a little over the intermittent squealing of the metal.
When she was satisfied that the seat wouldn't come undone easily, she stood up and righted the chair. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and looked at him. He was now staring kindly at the center of the table, cooing like a pigeon and making a beckoning motion with his index finger, as if he were stroking the chin of a loving cat. His green eyes suddenly seemed so bright to her, as bright as they had been before he started to get worse. She felt a shiver run up her spine, and she smiled involuntarily at his crinkled face and sparkling eyes in their sunken sockets.
He had been distraught when her allergies had forced her give away Gingersnap XXV all those years ago. She almost regretted it, but the fur had been too much to bear.


jonos reminds us that when playing with other dimensions, we should expect unexpected outcomes:

It worked! He knew it would work! The room was full of Miss Mos, plural. Eight of her, if he wasn't mistaken. And green too. Huh.

Well, some chromatic aberrations are to be expected. In fact, it's a strange thing she can be seen at all. She was meant to be shifted just slight enough to exist in a dimension running tangential to this but off by a fraction of a Planck time, close enough to experience a simultaneous, branching causality but... hang on, eight? There should only be two, she shouldn't... unless the process itself branched simultaneously as well... unless the effect spreads recursively! But that means that there are dimensions out there where-

It worked! He knew it would work! The room was full of Miss Mos, plural. Sixteen of her, if he wasn't mistaken. And green too. Huh.


For Horatious' protagonist, green cats are the least of his worries:

When Henry looked up the room was filled with luminescent cats again. Of course he knew this was inaccurate, none of the cats were actually 'here' with him. He had discovered this by trying to interact with them, they made no sound and hand passed right through them. As it turned out, 'cats' was also a bit of a misnomer. The figures darting across his kitchen were feline for certain, but as Henry watched cat after cat repeat the same sequence of behaviors as its identical twins he began to suspect that it was in fact the same cat, at different times.

It had started in his dreams, bright glowing green dreams. Then the green things started popping up in his waking world as well. At first it was jus little things, a brief glimpse of a bright green car that suddenly wasn't there. A glowing green woman standing next to him in the grocery store; she looked right through him before vanishing and appearing at the other end of the deli counter. And the cats, always an army of cats. Henry had never owned a cat, but he found himself instinctively reaching for them, he could feel the memory of gently petting the silky arching back that rose to his meet touch. This had been going on for weeks, but as Henry learned, if it was bright green, it was not real.

And yet here Henry sat, looking at the newspaper that had been in his hands only moments before, and he couldn't remember if it was green or not, he couldn't remember what was on the front page, but he knew he had read it, or was about to. He looked up at the woman rooting through the refrigerator, lit in the glow of an endless menagerie of cats playfully dancing after each other. He remembered the day he met her, a train ride to the pet store to find a companion to share his lonely life, it was on the train ride there that he bumped into the woman by chance or maybe it was on the street. they were married 5 month later, or maybe they weren't married yet. He could remember the day, the clothes he was wearing, the smile on her face. The only problem was Henry couldn't remember her name. He heard a sound, the green cats disappeared and a single black cat sat on his lap looking up at him, before he realized what was happening his entire world turned a sickly, dim, glowing shade of green.


WinnieTheWoot uses green cats to explore something about their owners:

"Darling?" the old woman asked.
"Mm-hmm?" the old man replied without looking up from his newspaper.
"Where's the algal food?"
"The what?"
She raised her voice by several decibels. "The algal food!"
"I threw it out," he answered calmly.
"I don't think it's very healthy for the cats."
"Why not?"
"Well, they're green!"
She turned to look at him with cataract-covered eyes. "Don't be ridiculous, darling. There's no such thing as green cats."


Derek the half a bee notes that even owners of robotic cats aren't immune from pet hoarding:

Richard "Pa" Wilson sat quietly in the dull gray room. With an expression halfway between sadness and resignation, he watched his wife rummage through the fridge. The gray fridge. Not brushed steel gray, nor factory epoxy gray, if such a thing exists, no this was rolled from a tray primer gray. The same lifeless color covered the walls, windows, chairs, table, even the blasted radiator. While not painted, even Richard and his Wife's clothes hung limply with the same drab colors Not even their hair defied the gray-washed room. Only the pinkness of their skin stood out in the colorless void of the room. Well, that and two dozen florescent green cats.
Perhaps cat doesn't conjure the right image. These cat-shaped creatures move and act like cats generally do, running wildly to and fro, chasing what only they can see. That is when they are not standing on the highest perch they can find, looking down on the world. What separates these creatures from cats, besides their bright green color, is their fur. There lack of fur, actually. Not just fur, they lack any sort of fine detail. They could be best described as unfinished clay sculptures. Sculptures that run around and jump on furniture. Richard hated those damn cats.
Richard fashioned himself more of a dog person, but his wife had other plans. She had nagged him for months, she wanted a pet. Live pets have obviously long been banned as a public health hazard out of fairness to those with allergies. A Claymatronic™ pet was the second best choice. Though if you listen to the ads, Claymatronic™ pets are even better than the real thing, and they come with a money back guarantee! He gave in, and she came home with a bright freaking green cat. Her eyes were failing, and apparently the bright color helped. Unfortunately, it became an obsession. Week after week she came home with yet another cat. Then one day, he woke up to find everything in the damn house gray, to which his wife casually stated it was to better see her beloved cats.
As he sat there watching the cats play, he couldn't help but wonder if the Claymatronic™ was right. Perhaps they are better than the real thing. This brought about the only happy thought he has anymore. He should exchange the cats for a Claymatronic™ wife.




Shadows cavorted in the silvery half-light, slinking apparitions, caterwauling in alleyways. Beneath flickering neon rainbows – sudden illusions in florescent green, lacerating the night.

Hundreds of them. City streets overrun by these pocket-sized predators, a dozen litters birthed at once. Water cooler debaters recited their lines, unable to decide on the cause. An experiment in genetic engineering escaped onto the streets, some inexplicable conspiracy. The glow-kittens didn't seem to care. Only a cat could lick its genitals with dignity.

Denial followed disbelief, ignorance led not to fear but to complacency. Front-page news is quick to become a page eight opinion piece, destined to fade into obscurity with the next big thing.

Cats grow quickly, from kitten to cat in less than a year. A cure to the plague of vermin who follow in the footsteps of man, as this new silent death stalked sewer tunnels, ever-hungry. “Let them hunt!” the grapevine twittered, parroting the laws of population dynamics. “The bubble will burst!” bankers and real estate agents chuckled, commuting into the city center.

Too cute to be feared, their adoption was inevitable. Crooning cat-ladies, ripe to be taken advantage of, the squeaking of can-openers replaced the now-silent mice.

We figured them out, in the end. Under UV they appeared in at least fifty shades of grey, their homeworld bathed by an ultraviolet sun, their disguises under-researched in their haste to this bonanza.

We treated them as we had always done, as pharaohs, as little emperors with inscrutable, private whims.

Once declawed they'll be easy enough to round up. And if we don't let the cats out of their bags we can dispose of them in the traditional way.