IN THE SHADOW OF MAN
Dreamed 1994/3/4 by Chris Wayan
I'm walking down a white hall a good five meters wide and high, and fully a hundred long. I'm not sure, but I think it's an animal research facility in Siberia. A voice says "Siberian tigers are endangered because they're so shy. They can't tolerate people or machines, even distant ones. Any noise and they move. Today, not one tiger lives within 500 kilometers of Novosibirsk."
I pass three strange things: a supersonic jet fighter whose narrow delta wings just barely fit in the hall, a carved and painted wooden head eight feet tall, that walks around, for it's really a kiosk light enough to be carried by a single man inside it; and a full-grown Siberian tiger, raised here among men, and unafraid of the mobile mask, or even the jet, though it's far bigger and deadlier than the tiger is.
I walk calmly by the tiger, which ignores me, staring at the mask. I wonder... do I want to be a tiger? Would it really be all that fun? Raw meat and hard work... I'd starve in the wild. Perhaps a more controlled experiment: I'll become an intelligent animal in an experimental medical facility like this, and see how it is. But I want to keep my mind, a tiger won't do. So...
Then I wake up, and wonder for a moment what that bizarre dream meant... I should record it. I blink and look around my cage. I'm still in an animal research facility, but not in Novosibirsk. Another world, where there are several medium-sized creatures of human intelligence, who are caged and treated as animals by the local humanoids, because they aren't civilized. 'Civilization' means hands--and weapons in them. Their societies and philosophies and songs and stories mean nothing. They're animals because they can't fight back.
I mean we can't. I'm one.
A deerlike species and a catlike one... caged together! In the wild we might be predator and prey, we don't know, but here we've grown up with each other, so... how could we? We're family.
Even here though, I stand out as different. Always want to be petted and licked and groomed. I've tried sex with every species here. I bet I was frustrated and lonely in a past life. Was I a human or something? Or am I just oversexed?
Maybe that's just gossip, just my reputation! With the aid of a voice-driven computer, I've been publishing a newsletter about my life. Oh, officially it's a human researcher's project, I'm like Washoe or Koko, but I'm using it for my own purposes. The machine transcribes my words and draws what I describe. Several other creatures have started publishing too, but mine is the premiere zine because it reports on things faster: I know the software better and can publish quicker. Also mine uses very crisp black ink in a new printer, it just looks cooler.
Really, for a lab animal, I'm pretty happy. I'm changing human attitudes toward us animal people; the more I reveal myself, the more they'll identify with us, and eventually, acknowledge our rights.
Doing good by having fun.
And then I wake and find I'm a humanoid, in a wooden and glass cage...
Oh. Right. Home. In the waking cage.
NOTES NEXT MORNING
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