Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Book II, Epilogue: Choices|
part 2 of 4
* * *
Thomm, Phydo and Kitti sit inside one of the metallic bubbles that run on the outside of the Stairway to Heaven. From close by, the Stairway seems much wider than it looks from far away. It is, in fact, like a gigantic rope, much thicker than one of the towers of Kannis Castle.
Thomm stares out a window at the fast receding ground and the slowly shrinking mountains. “I wonder what’s beyond the mountains. Are there Sentient People there?”
Phydo nods gravely. “Officially, no Dawg has ever crossed the mountains; however, there are secret reports from the Order that tell about the existence of non-sentient creatures, much like Dawgs in appearance but crawling on all fours, and the report talks about the sun setting behind the mountains, not rising from them.”
“That would mean the other side.”
Kitti comes into the conversation. “I have often asked Adam about it, or what’s beyond the sea. You must remember from the time you guys were up in Adam’s quarters, the Earth is huge and the land the Sentient People occupy is but a tiny part of the whole land mass. He only smiles and tells me it’s all empty land, empty of People, that is.”
Then they quiet down and stare at the curving horizon and even though it was late in the night when they left, the sun can be seen shining beyond the curve and the sky is tinted a lighter purple in front of them. Soon the whole sky turns to a deep blue, going on black.
Thomm shivers, realizing he is no longer upon Earth.
* * *
“Now cut it out, you silly baby!”
The pup giggled and yapped in Lisa’s arms under the unsure watch of his mother.
Lisa’s happy laughter made Charlie smile as well.
There had been few reasons for laughing in the past few months. Charlie’s surviving crew had had to remove all human corpses from the University premises and scavenge the dead city for edibles and fuel to keep the generators running.
“We could just leave the city and find a place in the country. There’s bound to be far fewer corpses there,” Lisa had suggested at a point.
“Yes, we could, but there’s much more food stored in the city. We have supplies for quite a while here, and we don’t know the first thing about agriculture. We have to learn, no doubt, but I’d rather learn here where we have the files on plant growing and food in store and not out there where we might starve while we wait for some crop to grow.”
Charlie went on. “And there’s our community too. Our dogs and cats are no longer dumb animals but they’re not fully independent sentient persons either. Here we can go on with our project, as I promised David but most of all...”
Here Charlie became thoughtful and grave. “There’s the virus, Lisa. HMV lives with us like Damocles’ sword. We don’t know if it will someday mutate to a strain that can harm us. If it does in our lifetime, this is the place where we can best study it and eventually fight it.”
Lisa let go of the pup and he ran, on his hind legs, to his mother. Lisa could almost hear words in his merry barking.
* * *
Adam lies in his quarters, his room has a window and a beautiful sight of the full Earth filling most of the view that can be seen through it.
Phydo hasn’t seen the old Ape for some months and a cold hand grips at his heart when he sees him so frail.
“Come on in, child. I’m not quite gone yet!”
The old smile is as gentle as ever on the Ape’s face. “How is Kannis the fair faring these days? Reconstruction over already?”
Phydo only nods.
Adam turns then to Thomm.
“Ah, welcome, my young adventurous Katt. I suppose your father has Kattsville going again by now?”
Both Katt and Dawg come closer and sit by Adam.
Adam sighs, and weariness shows in his demeanor.
“I suppose you three wonder why I summoned you here today.”
“Now that you mention it...” starts Thomm, but Kitti’s elbow on his ribs cuts his smugness short.
Adam doesn’t seem to mind the smart-alec Katt, he just smiles amiably and goes on. “Friends, I feel I’m coming to the end of my long road... No, don’t give me that well-intentioned sympathy, we all reach the end at a time, and mine has been a full and whole road.”
Adam keeps quiet for a moment, as if considering how to continue, the three friends wait in respectful silence.
“I never met Man, children. By the time I was born, even though that was long ago, Man was already long gone. One of my forefathers, however, named Charlie, was the first Sentient Ape, and he knew our common creator.
“For most Katts and certainly nearly all Dawgs, Man is a mythical and almost divine figure, if not an outright God. About Mysse ways of thinking I would not dare give an opinion.
“For us Apes, however, Man was just a different kind of Sentient People.” Adam smiles at the discomfort showing on his friends’ faces at these words. “Yes, I know that sounds dangerously heretical if not downright blasphemous, but that is the way it was.”
Adam rises with some difficulty from his couch and asks the three friends: “Come with me, children, I want to show you something. Yes, you, too, Kitti. This is going to be new for you as well.”
The old Ape takes the three friends to an adjacent room where he fiddles with some strange contraption and asks them to sit down by it. “Most of the deeds and works left by Man are mere dust and ashes by now, my friends, except those we Apes have kept in working condition, such as the Stairway to Heaven or the very place we are in now, which I call the Orbital Station.
“So you have really no way to imagine what Man’s life was like. I can tell you that in many ways it was not altogether different from your own life, as the creation reflects the creator. But in some others... in some others it was so different that you would truly believe what was happening there to be magic.
“I am going to show you what Man called a ‘recording’. It is scenes from Man’s everyday day life, and you’re going to see it much as you would see a play on a stage.
“This machine is going to make a link with your brains and for you it will look like you are in the middle of the scene, only that you will not be able to interact in any way with the players. They are, after all, long gone.
“Let go now, children, close your eyes and be welcome to the world of Man...”
* * *
“We’ve got to set them apart! They discuss and fight just like... well , like the cats and dogs they are, no matter how sentient.”
Miko, Charlie’s great-grandson gave Lila a tired look. What she was saying was no news to him. “Yes, Lila, that much we had planned anyway but we had to wait until each community had reached a minimum demographic mass to be self-supporting.”
“Well, the time has come, whether ready or not. If we don’t start two separate communities right now, there won’t be any community to start.”
Miko took Lila by the hand and took her to a seat by the window. Outside, the former University campus had grown to be a bustling town.
“Look outside, Lila, they discuss, they even fight at times, but they thrive. There’s at least three or four cats and dogs to every ape.
“You know well the idea in making more than one sentient race was to avoid repeating human mistakes over again. They’re different, different from us, different from Man and different among themselves. They don’t share the same points of view about life.”
Miko smiled in spite of himself. “Actually they don’t share the same point of view about anything, and that’s precisely what we are aiming at: diversity.”
Lila just kept her thoughts to herself. She agreed heartily, they differed all right! “But you agree it’s the right time to start splitting, don’t you?”
“Yes Lila, it is. I just want the council, which you represent, to be aware of two facts. First, we apes are not multiplying enough, in fact, we are diminishing in number with every generation; and second, the virus is still within us. All of us. That may be the reason we are becoming extinct, I don’t know. Luckily it hasn’t affected cats and dogs that way.
“But we will be gone, Lila, we don’t know when, but it will happen, as sure as our cats and dogs are going to inherit the Earth.”
“And mice too, don’t forget them.”
Miko shivered. “Yes, mice too. That’s a sentient race I could have done without, but Man made them, too, and now that can’t be undone.”
“They are already gone and apparently doing all right by themselves.”
Miko and Lila remained silent, then Miko looked Lila in the eyes and said quietly, “I don’t think we can take the whole plan to its end, not while the virus still lives.”
“I don’t believe it either, Miko. That’s why I deem it so important to see these communities on their own.”
“So be it, We start moving them tomorrow.”
“Good day then, Miko. I’ll tell the council.”
* * *
“Easy now, get those... things off your head and try to get up slowly.”
Phydo blinks, still a little bedazzled and tries to get up from the strange couch.
Suddenly the weight of revelation hits him and he feels his eyes swell with tears. Man’s reality was even more incredible than his wildest imaginations. “All gone, Adam, all gone! What terrible fate led Man to leave all those wonders behind?”
Adam just shakes his head sadly as he helps Thomm to come out of the reverie. “Man never left Earth, Phydo, that is just a myth we Apes considered convenient, and we never bothered to contradict it.”
“There, come up now, Thomm, Kitti. Are you all right?”
Soon the three friends are sitting up and facing Adam with different expressions on their faces. Thomm seems by far the one least worried by what he has experienced.
Adam speaks again. “I considered it necessary to show you this, friends, because as I told you I feel the end of my life approaching and I need you to make some decisions based not on myth but on reality.”
“You said, Adam — it seems now so long ago but it was only a couple of years back — that you had planted those heretical tablets that started my whole involvement with all this, expecting they would be found by somebody who would do something with them.”
“That is right, Phydo. More than once my apocryphal ‘Tablets of Man’s Law’ were found, but their discovery was buried by the Dawg priest hierarchy. You were the only one who made the difference.”
“Hey! and what about me?”
Adam laughs heartily. “Yes, dear Katt, you certainly made a difference too!”
Adam goes on. “All in all, I believe our doings have been for the good of the Sentient Peoples. Dawg society is much less stratified and hierarchical than it used to be; and even Lucius’, that evil simulacrum’s doings have helped in the long run to bring Katts, Dawgs and Mysse closer and to work together.”
Adam gets slowly up and faces his friends. “I will ask you to come with me once more, my friends. There is a final secret to unveil before I too follow the path of Man, and you are the only ones in the world worthy of receiving it.”
A few minutes afterwards, all of them stand on a big bay in front of one of Adam’s fantastic air carriages.
“Aren’t we taking the elevator down?” asks Kitti.
“No child, the place we are going to is far from the terminal. It is in fact on the other side of the mountains from Kannis.”
“The other side of the mountains!” The words come out of Phydo and Thomm’s mouths filled with wonder.
Adam only smiles. Youth, such a wonderful trait.
Had some Dawg or Katt been contemplating the heavens that peaceful night and had he or she happened to look in the general direction of the Fixed Star, a small pinpoint of light might have been seen detaching itself from the Star and heading towards the Earth.
Most likely that Katt or Dawg would have made the sign of Man. Falling stars are rarely good omens.
* * *
Monnia held her baby as the precious jewel he was for the remaining Apes. No baby Ape had been born for the last twenty years. “I will call him Adam,” she informed her community. “And I hope he starts a new race too, as his namesake did in the traditions of Man.”
But that hope died too, as so many others had. No new baby Ape was born.
Adam was trained, taught, pampered and generally spoiled by all Apes. He went from toddler to adolescent learning everything and being curious about everything he hadn’t learned yet.
The dwindling Ape community still lived and silently worked in what once had been the site of a higher learning center, in the times of Man. A university it was called then. For the Apes of today it was just Home.
Year after year Apes worked secretly to help the flourishing Sentient People develop without knowing they were subtly directed towards some final goal.
Most of the working stations were well hidden underground, which was just as well. Turmoil had occurred, more than once, in the interracial relations of the Sentient People, and things were only slowly settling down.
More than once, too, had either Cats, Dogs or both turned against the savants, as they called the Apes. Fortunately those occasions became increasingly rare; nonetheless, a hiding place was an essential convenience.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza