Short Story #49: Space-Time for Springers by Fritz Leiber

Title:  Space-Time for Springers

Author:  Fritz Leiber

Short Story #49 out of 365

Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992)

Date Read:  2/15/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.  The story can also be found on this website.


Gummitch has a theory about himself.  As soon as he becomes mature, he will morph into his true human self and sit at the adult table with his true parents and drink coffee.  He is a genius but doesn't yet know how to speak human but once he does he will ascend to his proper place in the family.  His cat parents never learned to talk as such and therefore are left to be accepted as cats but his other siblings, the human baby and toddler named Sissy will eventually transform into cats.  But something's odd about Sissy and her repeated attempts to kill the baby and do other harmful acts.  Gummitch also believes in the mirror universe that he peers into every time he sees a mirror or reflective surface.  This world is filled with mere shells of the people who live in Gummitch's world, but desire to enter the real world.  So Gummitch must be careful with his ghost-self.  One night, Sissy sneaks into the baby's room where Gummitch often rests and he witnesses her bring a sharp object into the room and she has an evil look in her eyes.  Gummitch knows what's happening and leaps at Sissy, throwing his spirit into her to knock out the evil that is present.  As his spirit moves into Sissy, the ghost-Gummitch moves into Gummitch's old body.  The parents come in to see what's going on and with Sissy crying, Gummitch is sent to the basement for a few weeks.  When he comes out, he is aloof and less playful than when he was prior.  Sissy, on the other hand, becomes less violent and excels as a young child.


This was a rather ingenious story by Leiber, who I'm growing to like more and more.  This is the second or third story I've read by him and I can understand why others find his work so prominent within the science-fiction and fantasy realms.  What was fascinating about this tale is how Leiber creates easy explanations for kitten and cat behavior as part of their attempt to become human as well as develop a lively world through the eyes of Gummitch.  We get a sense of what he sees and how he sees it (in so much as it's a projection of what we think a cat sees) but it is delightfully curious.  Leiber's best trick is that he introduces everyone as cats so it takes you a little bit to figure out who are the humans and who are the cats.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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