The Odlegs of Oodlegoose by Gray Winsler | Art by Caitlyn Grabenstein

The Man In Black by Caitlyn Grabenstein_The Odlegs of Oodlegoose by Gray Winsler
The Man In Black by Caitlyn Grabenstein

The Odlegs of Oodlegoose
By Gray Winsler
Art by Caitlyn Grabenstein
Published Issue 0100, April 2022

Depending on who you ask, the Earthen “cat” could be described as a cuddly floofball that lounges exclusively on laptop keyboards, OR as one of the deadliest hunters on Earth, killing over a billion small mammals each year. Their prowess as hunters stems from the fact that “cats” are not actually from Earth at all. They’re from Oodlegoose, a somewhat gelatinous planet 723 parsecs away from Earth. Nor are they “cats,” but actually psychic appendages of the intergalactic Odlegs — a species sharing a collective consciousness that would make Carl Jung giddier than a spice-riddled sandworm in the Sahara. This shared consciousness makes Odlegs uniquely equipped for espionage, instantly sharing secrets with each other across infinite stretches of spacetime. 

This is precisely how “cats” found themselves on Earth — as part of an intergalactic surveillance program monitoring all fledgling lifeforms like the also somewhat gelatinous homosapien. Humans do not know this, however, and what precious little they do know can be found on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, cat’s vocalizations include, “meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting.” What this list fails to mention is their ability to communicate telepathically, which Elliott, our humble protagonist, will soon discover.

Presently, Elliott flumped onto his sofa, both he and his floral cushions sinking inward with a sigh. It was a dreary day, gray clouds drooping in the sky above, sending drips and drops of rain down, down, down, pattering against his window. He looked out that window now, wondering what he was going to do with himself. It was a question he often found himself asking on Saturday mornings, realizing, again, that he had no plans. He’d assure himself that something exciting would come along — but that sort of spontaneity so rarely occurred three hours north of London, especially when one doesn’t have any friends or lovers. And so instead of the romantic walk along the Thames he imagined, he found himself binge watching My 600-lb Life, a reality TV show about humans who’ve become world-class in their ability to fill their flesh suits with lipids, a kind of human backup fuel. These humans’ propensity to survive chronic nutritional deficits is virtually unmatched in the universe. Curiously, Elliott did not watch with pride in his species unique abilities, but instead because it made him feel better about his own “chubby” exterior.

Mizzy — Elliott’s midnight colored cat — hopped up onto her windowsill then, momentarily pulling Elliott from his TV-induced trance. She was little more than a black silhouette against the window, rain pattering behind her. Mizzy was the one thing Elliott truly adored, the one companion he had in his lonesome world. And she was about to leave him.

“What are you looking at, Mizzy?” 

Elliott asked this even though he did not expect an answer, and so he was quite surprised when Mizzy said:

“They’re coming.”

Of course, she didn’t exactly say this so much as she used her neurons to jiggle Elliott’s neurons telepathically, which were not at all used to being jiggled, leaving Elliott in a state of dumbfounded shock. Meanwhile, Mizzy calmly stretched along the window sill, tiny blots on the horizon behind her slowly growing bigger.

Having momentarily collected himself, Elliott asked, “Did you just …”

“Talk? Yes.”

“Right … And how is that exactly?”

“Psychic vibrations.”

“Hm.” Elliott said, now certain he was finally going mad. In the distance the blots on the sky grew, until they became something resembling saucers. Decades of carefully curated media had attempted to prepare Elliott for this moment, but it had not worked. His face went starkly pale, mouth hanging open in awe.

“Are you alright?” Mizzy asked.

Elliott said nothing. He was not alright.

The reason Mizzy’s fellow Odlegs were coming to retrieve her was simple. Having spent millennia surveilling humanity, their report was now complete. The report said this: “Human consciousness is trapped in porous flesh suits which often leak. This leakage can result in their death, or simply an unpleasant odor unbearable to nearby humans. Because they are bound to the itchy confines of their flesh suit, they must also keep it happy. This is how humans spend most of their time, which has led some scholars to believe human consciousness is actually a slave of the flesh suit. This theory has been largely discredited, only because it led too many to try on the flesh suits themselves. In any event, because their flesh suits can be so damn uncomfortable, humans are often irritable and cranky. For a study on humanity’s crankiest humans, see section 2,722 on “Genghis Khan.” Nevertheless, it is concluded that while humans pose no threat to the cosmos, they pose a tremendous threat to themselves. Doomsday scholars give them 60/40 odds on self-immolation. The Galactic Federation of Probabilistic Monetary Risk gives them even lower odds at 70/30 by the year 3231 Earth Time. Thus, we encourage all readers to place your bets now.”

Mizzy hopped to the couch, nuzzled up to Elliott. Though she’d been careful to remind herself that Elliott was little more than a subject of study, she couldn’t help but enjoy her time with him. Over the years, she’d even come to appreciate his scratching her belly, despite her better judgement. She found in inspecting her non-collective emotions now that she was going to miss him. This was perhaps the most curious finding of the report — that humanity’s emotions somehow seemed contagious.

The saucers grew quite large now, soundlessly slipping across the sky. Mizzy looked back out the window as one floated down, plopping itself just over Elliott’s front garden. Elliott saw this as well and curiously found himself worried about his petunias above all else. He had no reason to fear though as the harming of petunias is, of course, forbidden by intergalactic law after the Milky Way deflowering incident.

“It’s time for me to go,” Mizzy purred.

Elliott suddenly realized the gravity of the situation. His best friend, his only cuddle companion, was leaving him for good. He managed to compose himself just enough to ask, “Will you come back and visit?”

“If I did, you would not recognize me.”

Elliott didn’t quite know what that meant, but he let it go — mostly because a man in a suit materialized from a pile of goop that floated underneath the ship. This was the result of a profound miss calculation by the ship’s computer, which assured the Odlegs that humans trusted, above all else, men in suits. In 2022, this was wildly inaccurate information, leading many humans to think that the ghosts of door-to-door salesmen were stealing their cats.

The man floated to the door, and moments later, Elliott heard a knock.

“They’re not going to eat me, are they?”

Mizzy assured him this would not happen, but truth is Odlegs were a carnivorous bunch, as the people of Roanoke know all too well.

“Okay then …” Elliott said, his heart fluttering. He moved slowly to the door, placing his hand onto the cold knob. Then he stopped, straightened out his jumper, fixed his hair—

“What are you doing?” Mizzy asked.

“Just — tidying myself up.”

And somehow, Elliott felt as if Mizzy rolled her eyes at him.

Elliott pulled open the door and the floating man, well, floated there. His face was all smudged, like God had taken an eraser and swiped it willy-nilly across his mouth, eyes and nose. Despite all their studying, Odlegs still did not understand humanity’s dependence on facial expressions. Naturally, Elliott was horrified. 

“Hello, Mr. Bakefield,” said the man with an oddly formal affect, like a manager of a three-star hotel who was trying a touch too hard to appear posh. “Please hand over the appendage known to you as ‘Mizzy.’”

“Are you sure she has to go?” Elliott asked.

The suited man said, “Yes. And as a token of our gratitude for your gracious hospitality, we give you this advice: If you wish to have a full life, you must find companionship within your own species, not with others.” It is well known throughout the cosmos that the Odlegs are a persuasive species. When they give you advice, you will be compelled to follow it — no matter its bluntness.

At that moment Mizzy scooted between Elliott’s legs, nuzzled her neck against him. Elliott felt a warmth of gratitude as Mizzy said thank you, and then hopped across his lawn up to her ship. The floating man simply dissolved into space, forgoing the illusion of humanity.

As the saucer floated out into the horizon, Elliott suddenly felt compelled to call his mum, which he did. She answered the phone with this:

“Those bastards took Mrs. Minkins from me!” Mrs. Minkins was, of course, his mum’s cat. “I’ll get her back if it’s the last thing I do.”

At that, Elliott smiled. He had missed his mum.

Gray Winsler is the first ginger to be published in Birdy Magazine, Issue 091. He loved living in Denver despite his allergy to the sun and is now based in Ithaca, NY. He spends his mornings with his dog Indy by his side, writing as much as possible before his 9-to-5. If you’re curious about Normal, IL or why TacoBell is bomb, you can find more on his site.

Caitlyn Grabenstein, a.k.a. Cult Class, is a collage artist, sketch artist, and designer out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started doing art at a very young age and has pursued it in different forms throughout her life. While working in the music industry and running her own charitable business, BANDADE, she began creating websites, ultimately hosting more than 50 charitable shows with over 60 different artists including Imagine Dragons, Jason Isbell, Maren Morris, Ingrid Michaelson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Alabama Shakes, Florence Welch and more. During this time, Caitlyn started collaging out of necessity to create concert posters. She fell in love with the process and began collaging regularly. Caitlyn now runs her own design business, CLG Design Co.. Her work can be found in buildings around Philadelphia. Caitlyn’s pieces have been commissioned by individuals, musicians, businesses, and real estate companies from Chile to Germany to Los Angeles. Check out more of her art on Instagram.

Check out Gray’s March install, Ellie & Ringoand Caitlyn’s Moment’s Alone, or head to our Explore section to see more work by these two creatives.