Porn & Revolution in the Peaceable Kingdom

Micaela Morrissette

PORN & REVOLUTION IN THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM

Long ago, the earth belonged to the humans. The animals lived desperately in the forests, foraging or hunting their way from meal to meal; or they were farmed as dumb livestock, to labor or to be slaughtered; or else they were kept as pets, vessels for loving kicks or cruel caresses. The humans spent most of their time making tools for everything, and they did it very well. In the end, so successful were they in devising their tools and machines that any problem that might arise could be solved without more being required than the flipping of an on switch. Over the millennia, even the machines were hardly called upon to do any problem-solving work at all, as they found themselves faced with fewer and fewer problems of any significance. Humanity ceased to evolve.

The animals and other complex organisms, on the other hand, found life greatly problematic, more so every day. With nonsentient meat grown in vast industrial laboratories, only small numbers of the most delicate and sophisticated cattle were raised for the tables of the very, very rich. The planet became one thriving multicultural city, a city that spanned even the oceans, its skyscrapers cresting the arching, spiny sky bridges; and lions were driven to hunt for field mice in botanical gardens and long-forgotten alleyways. Robots of devastating charm and heartbreaking loyalty took over the domestic pet industry, with merely a few highly pedigreed dogs, cats, and exotics kept on as R&D prototypes. Only those insects who were especially beautiful or macabre were allowed to live. A few germs were cultivated for cosmetic or surgical procedures or for labfarm production, and the rest eradicated.

Pressures on the few remaining members of the various animal species became intense. They evolved exponentially. After a few eons, the humans remained stuck where they’d been at the end of the twenty-third century, and animals had become fearsome and gorgeous in both mind and body. Of course, highly evolved as they were, the animals made almost all the right decisions. They took over human society and culture, retaining the best parts, and they made use of the extant technologies, institutions, and structures. They resurrected the lost species, and treated each other justly and with respect. They treated their little humans with tender lovingkindness.

* * *

Tim was a slime mold, and he worked at Wal-Mart. He loved his job as a stock boy. Each day he spent beatific hours gliding over the vast, smooth floors, taking deep breaths of the ozone-treated air and tasting its clear, thin brightness. With gratitude, he’d turn his receptors up to bathe in the chilly, sharp, white light, and he’d bask in the voices of the shoppers. They bounced over and off the constant thrumming vibration of cart wheels before spinning and nose-diving back from the farthest and most fearless reaches of the invisibly high ceilings. They returned innocent and infantile: sweet, bell-like, wordless echoes, like the meaningless shouts heard in a dream, an abstract coppery ringing.

Tim felt graceful, swinging his wet, squelching bulk around the ends of the aisles in practiced arcs of momentum. He knew where everything was. Sometimes he filled in at the checkout, and he looked forward to those occasions, too, having learned to be brisk, practicing an ascetic economy of motion and time.

In the holiday season, the ice songs of sea lions played from the speakers in endless loops. Tim would hum along, emitting low and meandering notes, running one of his bulges lightly over the boxes of breakfast cereal, poking a gentle dimple into the cheek of each plump bag of rice stacked around a holographic display. The small variations of coldness and warmness, softness and rigidity, smoothness and dampness, quietude and amplitude, glare and matte, soothed and lulled Tim wonderfully, and he knew he was not alone in his gratitude. Most shoppers stayed for hours, at least, all of them putting their faith in Wal-Mart’s pledge never to evict anyone who kept moving through the aisles. Some animals took up permanent residence, having learned to sleepwalk, trudging slowly, very slowly, and trustingly forward, emitting long, bubbly snorts of deep velvet pleasure.

Other animals sometimes put things in the carts of the sleepers, marvelous selections from the shelves, boxes of lavender sugar or little pots of rose-petal jams, a sachet of sweet-salted kelp body scrub or a faceted glass nightlight filled with a sparkling jelly of infertile frog eggs. To care for the sleepers. Tim kept watch for the rare moments when a sleeping shopper would make a selection of his or her own. With infinite lassitude, the sleeper would reach for a bottle of wheat juice or some prismatic sunglasses, secure the item, and retract, one nerve-flick at a time, the groping limb or appendage over the cart, until able to let the product tumble slowly in, as if through water. Then Tim would take the product and hide it inside the blob of himself. For good luck. And to smuggle it home and give it as a present to Mimi.

* * *

He had gotten Mimi from a shelter two years previously. He loved her tawny coloration, honeyed and blond in the summer months, and amber dark in winter, and the tiny little nails on her fingers and toes that she painted different colors to surprise him. He kept her hair and skin soft with regular brushing and scrubbing, and although he could not quite stop himself from giving her the little treats that made her plump, he was pleased that she was still small enough to curl up on him like a cat on a cushion, although she was already nineteen years old.

He had bought her everything the Human Habitat catalog had to offer. Mimi had a pink cradle that she could set to rock at different speeds with three easy-to-learn buttons, as well as a circular music-box bed that spun in a slow circle while playing pop lullabies and casting yellow silhouettes of smiling human faces on the wall from the plastic ring of cutouts around its illuminated base. She had a big bathtub shaped like a conch shell that Tim could fill with different human-safe soaps so the taps spilled out warm bubbling water in just the right concentrations of perfumes and cleansers. He had bought her a karaoke machine and tried to train her to sing and dance for him but was touched to find that what really amused her was for Tim to use the machine while she laughed and clapped along. Mimi had a giant trunk full of every kind of costume: dirndls and hot pants and hijabs and prom dresses. Her video library numbered by now in the thousands of files. Tim felt justifiably proud of his ownership skills. He realized it was hard to know for sure if humans were still capable of complex emotions like love, but he knew that Mimi would rather be in the room where he was than anywhere else in the house, and that was enough for him. Sometimes he didn’t think that even animal friendship was all that much more complicated than the simple preference for company over solitude, when it came right down to it.

Naturally, Tim knew that the bond between animals and humans probably had more in common with animal affection than with human love. His species had, after all, been instrumental in orchestrating the planetwide switch from two-party reproduction to universal cloning, long before Tim had been born. All animals had agreed that abandoning the mating mechanism would allow them to ensure continued, strategic evolution in controlled environments, avoiding the careless genomic stagnation that had undone homo sapiens, while also improving all-around quality of life by disabling the hormonal triggers that messily linked sexual desire and animal-on-animal violence. Every animal was chaste now, except humans. As the humans had been deemed intellectually incapable of participating in the vote for mating versus cloning, it had been felt that to subject them to genetic reprogramming without informed consent would be unethical. Moreover, some argued, did animals really want to include humans in the pro-evolutionary clonic programs? Given their track record, let them stay in their evolutionary backwater, was the consensus.

And so humans continued to breed in the old manner. Some animals did, after a caring discussion with their humans, either get them fixed or medicate them for pregnancy control; but Tim could not yet bring himself to do that to Mimi. Not that some of the behaviors she had begun to exhibit did not trouble him. They had warned him at the shelter that traditionally asexual species like his own tended to be particularly challenged when humans entered the late adolescent phase of their life cycles, but in his heart he had been imagining the delight of a little human infant cuddling on Mimi’s lap just as she was wont to cuddle on Tim’s. He had quite been unprepared for the shock he felt the first time that, hearing some rustlings and gigglings in the yard one afternoon, he looked out the window to find the neighbor’s Yoyo on top of Mimi in the grass, rutting ruthlessly between her legs. A wave of horror and nausea churned through him. His body went quite fluid, so that if he had not clutched a chair for support, his bulges would have poured limply out over the blue and white tiles of the kitchen floor.

At first, in a rage, he had forbidden Mimi to see Yoyo again, but then, discovering them together again the next week in the tree house, with her on top this time, shoving and rocki ...

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