The Wolverine, while it attacked the Moose, did not go for a quick kill. He didn't tear at the throat, or rip out its belly. No. He hamstrung it (tore the tendons on its back legs) with his jaws. Then, and herein lies my question to you, he proceeded to methodically eat the hindquarters of the beast. Chew chew chew. I swear the wolverine even stopped to examine the pain-contorted face of the Moose. I swear he enjoyed the suffering.
Giant Squid, I had been told all my life that only humans were capable of sadism. That only humans killed for sport. Is this wrong? Are there any evil animals?
You know, sometimes I used to go down to the middle floors of the building—-you know, get away from the lab, stretch the legs, buy a Coke—-and there is a visitor's lounge that this hoity-toity law firm has that has a great view looking south across the city to the river. At dusk there are starlings that flap up from the powerlines along the docks by the river, they swirl up in a cloud and the move like gnats do, or schools of fish on the Discovery Channel. The first year I was here I would watch and eat Fritos and check out the blond para-legal . . . you know, veg. It was all just too much for me at the time because I had just come off a long stint working as third assistant buyer for this geriatrics supply firm and my office was in the very center of the office building, which was a poorly converted warehouse—-pumped in air, light, melancholy.
So, when I first got this job (I was replacing a guy whose skin is still stuck around the seal of Hatch number eight) I was just astonished that I was allowed to see the sun at all. I mean, the squid may be mean, and cruel and an evil genius, but it still beats the hell out of that last job— do you know how many colostomy bags can fit in a standard shipping crate? I do. And don't get me started about the year I did double duty as buyer and customer service rep . . . sigh . . .
As I was saying, Mike, the very idea of a sun. You know? Sunsets, a view of the city— sure it wasn't MY view, really, but I could go there sometimes and pretend I was waiting to see my lawyer— And so I have been watching the starlings in their cloud. As the sun sets the whole flock spirals up like, you know, a ribbon that got spun around— the flock splits into two, then three parts, flying away, and for a minute or two you think they are gone. You begin to wander in your mind, and the Fritos are almost finished, and then you wonder where that para-legal is and the sun has sunk down into the spiky tree line of the hills on the far side of the river and then, bamn! The three sub-flocks swarm up, some of them only a few feet from the window, and they come across the orange sky, the clouds smashing together, and shooting up into the air above the window, disappearing, then coming back down again.
At the time I had no idea what was going on. I thought maybe they were dancing, or mating or socializing— No clue. I loved it. I thought, yeah, now I am out of that stupid job and I can watch the sunset and drink a Coke and forget— and there were these birds out there celebrating.
So one day I asked the Squid about the starlings. I told him about all the things I did on the middle floors and about the birds and about the sunset.
There was a long pause while he did whatever the fuck he does when someone asks him a question: he scans for more information in his databases, he hums a little tune, he makes those obscene tentacle gestures that you can't see when you just call in the question over the intercom— whatever. Then there was the hum as his speaker warmed up and he finally replied with his booming, synthesized and terrible voice (a voice he has been slowly evolving himself using a series of strange algorithms we can't yet decode).
"Tom, you sniveling dirt-ape. If your childish attempts at interlocution were not so laughably stunted, I would devour your intestines this very second. These "magical" starlings in which you have vested so many hours and yearnings and hope are merely flying stones, toys of chance, little better than the clockwork cuckoos who mimic them in your dirt-ape hovels. They have no spirit, or direction, or want, or need. This "dance" you seem so enamored with? It is a great feasting. The fowl are herding insects in a manner not unlike the fish-stalking techniques of certain sperm whales (cursed, cursed sperm cetaceans). They have no thought for you, Tom. Anymore than Lisa Montgomery, the assistant to the gray-backed alpha-lawyer from some floors below. She and the birds and even you are only smudges of light who seek food and then warmth and then food again, excreting bits of yourselves in the interim. Bask in your sunsets, if need be, but do not allow yourself to be duped by this anthropomorphic sense of meaning. You are as cruelly alone as any of us. HA HA HA "
So, yes, I suppose there is cruelty in animals. All of us animals. But as the wolverine tore into the haunches of the moose, I wonder maybe if their eyes didn't meet for a second over the expanse of torn flesh. I wonder if each one didn't see in the other's eye a sense of completeness— relief? Maybe at knowing that at least the circle was closed and the worrying could end. They had found each other finally, and there was no turning back.
Fuck the squid.
Long live the squid.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson