Creature Features

George jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. There on the table was his present! It was the right shape and size! They had really got him one!

His mom smiled and said, “Happy Birthday, George. Go ahead, open it.”

His dad had been pretending for weeks that they were sold out; that he had tried his best, but was unable to get one. But here it was – a Creature Features: Canine headset. Yipee!

“Can I put it on the Dog?” George asked his dad. They had always named their pets this way – Dog, Cat, and Mouse. After all, they weren’t human.

“Sure, son. Go ahead. Just switch it on. It should be ready to go.”

George called over Dog. He was a rescued Husky, all white with electric blue eyes. He came immediately. He wasn’t sure when the patting turned into attaching, but just presumed it was a new kind of collar, though rather high up. He forgot about the headset immediately, and ran off to chase Cat.

To ensure there was sufficient data for conceptual cross-referencing. it was recommended that you download the headset only monthly. It was also recommended that you limit interaction with your dog. Too much excitement and it would be difficult to set a baseline brain pattern.. So difficult though it was, George was kept away from Dog. At the end of the month, George removed the headset, and plugged the headset into the computer. The family gathered round. The huge file took an hour to process. A dialogue box appeared which said simply, “Woof!” George clicked it. The text file that appeared was surprisingly small. It began:

“I like it. When rubs head. What’s that, doing? Hat-collar. Good boy. Good dog. Where’s eat? Where’s Cat? Find her. Chase her. Funny fun. I am Dog. Big house, my house. Before. no house. Warmth fire, good. Thank you, make warmth. When’s eat? Crunchy lumps. Meaty lumps. The Water. Good boy. Good dog. Rubs head. I like it. When’s eat?…”

George started clapping. Mom and dad too. They had a loyal, simple, satisfied dog like they hoped. They called Dog over and rubbed his head, and gave him treats. His eyes sparkled.

A month later, they received a “special free offer” from Creature Features – an adjustable package for their cat. It comprised a smaller headset and software patches (for only $99 to cover tax and shipping). All they must do was send Creature Features their Canine file to help with product development. They ordered one.

Cat was less happy than Dog about the headset. She snarled and tried to scratch it off with her paws. Her yellow eyes flashed in black fur. But the headset was fixed firmly;  there was nothing she could do. At the end of the month, they removed and downloaded the headset. The text file called “Miaow!” began:

“WTF! Why are they touching me? Get off! Get off! Keep your smelly hands to yourself. Don’t you know who I am? I am Queen of this hovel. How dare you touch me! Is this some sort of crown? I’m not sure I like it, but you’ve jammed it on my head. But you can’t just do what you feel like. To me! I’m going to the neighbours. Their house is better than yours anyway. And their food’s better. I might even not come back. You should be grateful to have me…”

The level of Cat’s superciliousness was quite surprising. But it delighted them just the same. They tried to stroke her, but she pulled back and hissed.

Two months later, there was a further offer. If they sent Creature Features their Feline file to assist in product development, they would receive a “Free Mouse kit” (for only $99 to cover shipping and tax). They sent off for it.

The mouse headset was hard to affix. George’s dad came up with a plan. He gave Mouse a nip of brandy – mum said he shouldn’t because it would affect the results – but he went ahead, and it did the job beautifully. A month later, they read the file called “Squeek!” It began:

“Whoa, Man! That was some headache. I don’t remember anything at all. Why am I behind bars? What have I done? I was just here, running on my wheel, minding my own business, that’s all I remember. And then… did someone grab me? Damn it! It was a set up! Someone’s got it in for me. I better sniff around, look around, poke my nose around. Maybe I’ll catch a whiff of something. A lead of some kind. It’s not right that I’m locked up like this. There has been no due process. I am an innocent party. But I remember a big hand grasping me. The hand of God. I thought I was done for. But here I am still. Maybe reborn for a higher purpose…”

The Mouse file made them gasp. They had assumed that the smallest of their pets would be the simplest, but it was the reverse. Dog was docile and accepting. Cat was pompous and scheming. Mouse was aware both of justice and of a higher power.

They received word of Creature Features’ new premium model – where an animal could learn your thoughts also. The idea was to promote inter-species understanding, and thus harmony in the natural world. George’s family sent off their Mouse file plus $99 for their People kit. But before they received it, disaster struck.

Creature Feature’s developers had studied all the files returned to them by customers and arrived at the same conclusion as Georges’ family. That the smaller the creature, the greater its intelligence. They had abandoned their research into horses and tigers, and the whale project was on hold. Instead they focussed on wireless transmission to insects. How much they could learn! And someone had the bright idea to combine the People kits with the Insect kits. This was a step too far.

The group awareness of insects ensured that if one individual learnt something, it was soon transmitted throughout the nest, and from there to all other nests, hives, and colonies. There was sufficient interface between insect species for knowledge to spread to every insect on earth. So when they learnt that constantly on the minds of these cumbersome, fleshy beings was the capture of beasts and their spaying and castration, raping them repeatedly to keep them pregnant and then taking their milk and stealing their babies, burdening their backs with senseless goods and their own foul corpses, pumping them full of poisons, cutting their beaks and cramming them into cages before stealing their eggs daily, force feeding them till their organs became grossly dysfunctional, and their bodies so big they couldn’t walk, raising them knee deep in their own faeces, slaughtering and hanging them upside down in agony, killing and cutting off their heads for fun, making medicine from their genitals, and making coats from their skins, the insects drew one great shared conclusion. That this world would be better without these cumbersome, fleshy beings. Creatures were also cruel they knew, but only when needs must. People had a choice and should know better. Insects attacked humans everywhere. Within one week, half of humanity was gone.

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