What it is about?
“A crippling disease has made the body of Grace’s wife a prison for her erratic, reclusive brain. The only hope for their marriage? A video game where she rules over kingdom of cats.”
RAT CATCHER'S YELLOWS
The first thing I thought of when I finished “Rat Catcher’s Yellow” was the Hamlet quote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
The premise of the story hits home on two levels. First, Anders gives a perspective from the point of view of a caregiver. The exhaustive and neverending task of caring for someone is fueled entirely by the love you have for them. It is like a gas tank full of memories and small moments shared between two people.
You love them, so you need to manage and protect that person. But your love also ties and binds you to that individual, and you have to watch the candle of their life burn down and die away. Being a caregiver is one of the most painful things that you can do. And in this story’s case, the is dementia. Specifically, an illness that is colloquially known as Rat Catchers Disease or Leptospirosis X.
The story is about two wives. One half of the partnership is Shary, and she has Rat Catcher’s disease and is slowly fading away a little every day, like leaves falling from a tree in autumn. The other is her life partner and caregiver, Grace. Grace gives Shary a toy game in a desperate bid of connection and to ignite the Shary of old. A video game shaped like a Cat called The Divine Right of Cats. It is childish. And Grace wants to throw it out the window, “I Feel like a backstabbing bitch. Giving this childish game to my life partner, it’s like I’m declaring that she’s lost the right to be considered an adult.”
This game is supposed to help those with the disease.
An amazing thing happens. Shary slowly slips away, but her incredible mind falls into the game, and she creates empires. She rules the cat kingdoms. Her mind and ability to strategize makes her one of the best rulers in the world. Furthermore, the cats have been solving problems. “inside the various iterations of Greater Felinia, that economists have struggled with in the real world. Issues of scaricity and resource allocation, questons of how to make markets frictionless.”
This idea of Shary slipping into this game even though her mind is slowly disappearing brings me back to the original quote from Hamlet. There is much more to this world than what we can perceive. But that doesn’t help.
Shary might be building empires, but those empires are built without Grace except as a memory.
In a lot of ways, this is a painful story to read. I have seen the effects of dementia; I have been a caregiver. You want everything, a spark, just one moment with the person you love—something you would do anything to achieve. I have read a lot of Charlie Jane Anders. They all have this heart, this connection buried under science fiction. Because at the end of the day, that is all we have.
Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter