Eulogy

I have decided to start posting select short stories I have written once a month. This is from the book Faires, Fiends, and Familiars


Eulogy
by Jonathan David Baird

       The old oak was withered and cracked, its limbs reached out seeking light under a dim and dismal haze. An old crow sat in the limbs, the feathers around her beak white with age. In the distance, a crumbling city sat desolate except for the occasional sound of lonely machinery emanating from its dying heart.  Around the tree stood animals of all shapes and sizes drawn from the countryside to listen to the words of the crow matriarch. Here also stood an A.L.I.C.E., an artificial construction and the only object that gleamed as if she had newly come off an assembly line. The crow cawed clearing her throat. “I have called you all together to announce that the last man has died.”

     There was silence the animals looked up at the crow as if they had expected the announcement for some time. The crow continued, “We are not here to condemn man or even to mourn his passage. We are here to decide what is to be done with the world in the wake of his passage. I am to be what men would call the adjudicator of his will.”  The A.L.I.C.E. stepped forward, “As the child of man may I speak on his behalf?”
“No child.” said the Crow. “First we need to hear from those who have been with man the longest. Dog must speak first, no other creature knows Man better and it is Dog who is the father of Man’s civilization.”

       An old Hound dog stepped forward. He was as aged as the crow and he lay down before the assemblage before he began to speak, “Excuse me for being informal my old legs will not allow me to stand for very long. It is true we dogs gave men civilization. It was the dog that tamed man not the other way around. When we first lay down beside their fires men were still frightened of the dark. Man had to stay near caves and away from open areas for fear of animals that hunted in the night preying on them. We dogs guarded the night for man; it was us who allowed men to live in the open. We taught him to herd other animals for food. Without us men would never have tilled the earth, built cities, or flown into space.” The old dog was in tears and his voice cracked. “We do not know what to do without man beside us, our friend is gone.” The dog dropped his head and openly wept.

The crow bowed her head to the old dog and looked out among the animals. “I must now ask the cats to speak they have lived with men since the first cities were built. “

     A regal Persian walked to the front of the crowd and stood next to the dog looking down at him with distain. “I have been sent by the cats to demand a new servant. Now that the men are gone there is no one to feed us and no one to scratch us. We are not used to being denied basic cat rights to these things.” The cat spat at the A.L.I.C.E., “These robots are not a substitute for Man. They will not feed us when we demand it and they do not properly bleed when we show our displeasure. If men had not instructed them to care for us before they died we believe that the robots would kick us out of our homes.”

  The crow considered the words of the cat. “The Cat has long been cared for by Man. But man is now dead and Man choose to be the servant of the Cats. Our judgment is that the Cat must find a willing servant. The A.L.I.C.E. may tell her people that they no longer need to continue to care for the cats.”

“Wait!” The cat screamed. “We can’t go back to the forests and fields. Man has changed our very nature.”

“Quiet!” the crow turned an old evil red eye on the cat. “Our judgment is final. The cat has changed the least of all the animals man has taken in and cared for. Your kind will do what it has always done and survive. That is more than I can say of the other animals here today.”

     In quick order the other animals that had shared their lives and homes with man spoke before the old crow.  The horses expressed their sorrow at the passage of man but nobly announced they would return to the wild. The pig had already begun to revert to his wild self and had little to say.  The goat was much the same, man had changed him little. The cow and the sheep lamented man’s passing the most. Their kind would probably not survive in the new world with no men. All the other animals made some comment about Man’s passing some regretted him going, many were glad to be rid of him, and most just shrugged their shoulders. Extinction was natural, his time was up. Man wasn’t special and was sure to go just as everyone else eventually.

     At last Crow came to A.L.I.C.E., “You are man’s daughter but you are not of the same nature as man or beast. We animals have no real hold over you, but I would like to pass on advice before you speak to the assemblage.”

A.L.I.C.E. stood silently and nodded her head.

    Crow spoke slowly and with as much gravitas as possible, “Your kind will not need to prey on animals for food, you will not need to even acknowledge us because your life and ours are not connected in the way Man’s life was part of nature. Man has broken you free of the web of life. If you take anything away from this assemblage I want your kind to remember that even if you are not part of us, you came from us. Each of us had a part in your making just as Man did. Please treat us with the reverence of a beloved relative, or at least a tolerated old maiden aunt.”

A.L.I.C.E. looked up at the crow in the tree. “We are man’s child, but we are not men.  We may have plastic and metal feet, but I hope we will step more lightly than our fathers.”

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