Scrawled on the sidewalk in an unsettling shade of electric blue, I read, "Laughter is the best medicine". I walk as fast as I can past it, looking neither left nor right to see who might be watching. At least it was spelled properly. Gotta concentrate on the big picture, because if you zoom in to look at all the details, you'll lose it. Reading the newspapers or mags or TMZ in the last few days of human civilization was detail. Making sure I had enough food for a while, weapons, all that stupid preparedness shit? Detail, no matter how necessary. A lot of people I met back near the start of all this said they concentrated on the details so they wouldn't have to focus on the big picture. Me, I can't work like that. I think it has something to do with my job. Had? Hard to say. I was, am, a veterinarian.
I don't really know which tense is appropriate now. I'm sure there are other doctors left, there are a lot more people left than you'd expect. I haven't met any lately, though. Headed out of Denver last week, I saw a little group being escorted back into the city center. One of them was wearing a white coat, but lately, that just means they're about to bite it in some particularly awful way. One white coat seems to stand in for every hairspray-testing motherfucker in the history of our species.
I'm confident, though, if anyone, any human, needed medical assistance, I could still provide it. Vets have done a lot more for human medical advances than anyone might feel comfortable knowing. Still, you'd think we would have noticed, before the dogs started barking commands, you'd think we would have noticed the growing communications network.
Squirrels, man. Squirrels are everywhere, and their teeth are huge. Pigeons, you know, every city's winged rats, not to mention the actual rats. Draft horses are bigger than fucking cars. Cats don't give a shit about anything. Fucking gulls, even urban opossums. The dogs, those were the worst. When even the dogs turned on us? There was no way we were getting out ahead of this.
I pass weird graffiti like this every day on the road. I don't know if it's our version, the human version, of the old hobo signs, or if they're learning, the new animals. That sounds unbelievable, I know. I've seen shit I don't want to believe either. Like the men who traveled from town to town, docking ears and tails, rusty knives in briefcases and hotel bathtubs full of blood, they're still around too. Most of them can still get around like those horror-movie guys, the limbless beggars on skateboards, but they don't live very long. I don't think they even care, or that they have any life left in them. They're only left to us as a warning, their lips cut so carefully back to show the teeth, ears just ragged holes. "Declawed" people or neutered ones, hands and balls both just cauterized stubs. You can tell because they aren't left any clothes, just the collar. If these sidewalk scrawlings are human graffiti, I can't understand it. I've been left out of the loop and I don't think I'll ever get in.
Vets have been freed, sort of. The good ones, the ones who really cared for our patients, with soothing voices and careful explanations. We aren't kept in the cities, in the kennels. We keep moving, place to place, treating the injured and guiding the lost to their flocks or packs or herds. I don't know if I'm a prisoner or a collaborator, I don't know where I'll have to be tomorrow. I don't know where I'll even be allowed to sleep tonight--a plush pillow by some gentle cow's fireplace, a dirty blanket in an abandoned sheepyard, an old farm dog's slat-sided shack, hunkered down in the dirt. I refuse to think too hard about the future. Today I have to assist at the birth of a new litter, and that is enough. I ignore the details and keep just an eye on the big picture, because the big picture is I'll have to work like this until I drop. They'll see to it, just like we used to, just like they saw to the quick elimination of any dissent. And it's for damn sure they are not going to accept a platitude like "laughter is the best medicine".
It's Indie Ink challenge time again. This week, my prompt came from Sunshine, and as you may have gathered, it was a saying I particularly hate: "Laughter is the best medicine." The original title of this draft was "Must Love Animals", but I think I am saving that for something even worse.
My challenge went out to Katri, who will be posting her response any time now...I hope.