Those Pesky Inter-dimensional Portals

Michio Kaku, my favorite theoretical physicist (besides Tuesday our cat, or course), has interesting ideas about parallel universes, and ways we might possibly escape from one to the other. I can’t help but wonder if he gleaned the inspiration for this theory from the behavior of a portal-guarding cat.

Inter-dimensional portal, or dull, ordinary sunbeam? Only Loki knows for sure.

Cats may be the keepers of inter-dimensional portals that riddle our planet. Retired physicist Robert White recorded his own observations of the feline portal guardians who visited a dimensional gateway via a broken fence. The portal was destroyed by an improvident fence repair, but I know of at least one portal still in operation.

Our family has lived in the same home for almost 14 years now, and three different cats have shared it with us. Observing their behavior has led us to the conclusion that we have an inter-dimensional portal to two parallel universes in our basement.

The first cat guardian of this portal was our dear kitty Corky. Blessed with a giving heart and a strong sense of responsibility, he took over the maintenance and guardianship of the portal the first day we moved in.


Hard at work,  guarding the portal


He spent an inordinate amount of time sitting at the top of the staircase and staring down into the dark basement; on occasion, he would dash down the stairs and run in mad circles, yowling. I don’t pretend to understand all he was doing–if I did, I’d be a cat–but it was obvious it was vitally important, because when he would begin to yowl, his brother Spot would sprint down the stairs to help him. Sometimes my children and I followed as well, but with our limited perceptions, we were more hindrance than help, and the cats would usually stare at us as if wondering how creatures with such big brains could be so stupid.

Over time, we came to recognize the parallel-universe versions of Corky. Sometimes, to keep the portal in good working order, it was apparently necessary for the Corkys to shift position.

A rare photo of Murky from Universe -1

There was the double we called Murky; obviously from a universe with a a higher chaos quotient and a lower organizational structure, he was a wild-eyed creature with fur in disarray, given to uncontrolled spurts of of energy.

Sys-Admin (from Universe +1) taking time out of his busy schedule to point out a grammatical error.

We also met a double we called Sys-Admin; his universe appeared to have a lower chaos quotient and a higher level of organization than ours.

His behavior was formal, controlled and patient; we believe he may have been a secondary teacher or an accountant in his universe.

Neither of these two doubles, of course, paid much attention to us, or seemed to recognize us when we spoke to them. (Of course, we weren’t really “their” humans.)

Their disappearances were always preceded by a mad dash down the stairs and, presumably, through the portal. With the impeccable timing of cats, they changed positions with Corky at exactly the same velocity, position and time, so we never were able to observe the actual transference. To us, it seemed our cat was merely running in circles, and then behaving like himself again.

Corky’s litter-mate, Spot, never sat at the top of the stairs and guarded the portal–not until Corky passed away. Then suddenly there he was, having taken over the job, and it was his yowling voice we heard in the basement, and him sprinting in circles.

When our daughter moved and took her cat Spot with her, Tuesday came to live with us from the shelter. She took over the stair-top post, and she spends a reasonable amount of time watching the portal. Tuesday, however, as a theoretical physicist, is better able to ration her time and interactions depending on the mathematical variables of portal flux.

Corky was a gifted amateur; Tuesday is a professional. She is much more careful to avoid suspicion, and can fix problems rapidly, so we have never had a chance to meet her doubles. She very, very seldom yowls for help; when she does, if we meet her in the basement, she turns her back on us and flips her tail about, as if saying, “Oh dear, you poor clueless things, I didn’t mean YOU.”


A Cat’s-Eye View of Liminal Space

Tuesday the cat loves to test my understanding of liminal space.

“Check it out! I’m in a liminal space! Again!”

The word “liminal”comes from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshhold.” Liminal space has evolved to describe a place, time, idea or event balanced on the fulcrum of imminent change.

The space can be physical or metaphysical; a tunnel between two buildings is a liminal space, but so is the space between the acceptance of a new belief and rejection of the original.

Liminal spaces make Loki nervous. They remind him of Schr√∂dinger’s cat.

Tuesday is somewhat heavy-handed when it comes to liminal space demonstrations. Every door, be it full-size or cupboard-size, is an opportunity to instruct the humans in her family. She loves to pose half-in, half-out, and becomes frustrated when we insist she pick a side, because after all, that isn’t the POINT.

Historically, liminal space was a period within a ritual when an initiate is neither one thing or the other; an example of this is the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, first described by Arnold van Gennep. He identified the following three stages: separation from parents, or ‘death of childhood;’ the passing of a test to prove the initiate is worthy of the prize of adulthood; and the ‘new birth’ as the initiate is welcomed back into society as a fully-fledged adult.

Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors and the developer of the Diskworld (a flat world that rests on the backs of four giant elephants, who balance on the shell of a giant, space-faring turtle), uses the “rite of passage” ritual in one of his rare non-Diskworld children’s books, NATION. Early on, the poor initiate discovers that although he has passed the test, and is worthy of full adult status, he will never experience the ‘new birth’ portion of the ritual. He is trapped in liminal space forever.

Not unlike Tuesday, or so she would have us believe.