KIBBLE FROM HEAVEN
Dreamed 1986/10/13 by Chris Wayan
The far future. A dryish little world near an asteroid belt around another star. Small seas, dusty plains, sparse life, thin but breathable air. No Paradise, but it was colonized long ago when starflight was crude and choices were few.
The people are distant descendants of dogs, with big ears and narrow eyes and sharp little teeth like foxes. They live their lives and shape their culture by sacred texts which tell what humans (who they call Angels, or The Gods) would want them to do and be. It's starting to chafe, though it helped in the early years: our former pets have fire, houses, railroads, radio, politics, and pets of their own. They've grown up. The food of the dogs is kibble from heaven. Economy-size boxes rain down, filled with kibbled petfood. The drop through the atmosphere roasts it pleasantly, without quite burning the cardboard--low gravity, thin air. Dog astonomers speculate that it drifts in from the asteroid belt. Perhaps a space factory from the days of the Gods is still working after all these generations. They revere the memory of the Gods and talk as if Guardian Angels surround them... But they don't really believe it. Not any more.
While they can be fierce and suspicious (some coyote genes in there), I like these people.
Why not? I am one.
One evening my friends and I are together in a comfy room. A fire, fake-fur rugs...I'm trying to play a long, long jaw harp the dogs invented with a leather teething-strap and a metal resonator. I worry about germs at first, and then stop. It has a muddy sound, though, and that I can't ignore. Sensitive ears, you know.
One nice thing about talking wth dog people. It's so comforting to be able to touch others freely! Being furry, nearly everyone feels good to touch, and this makes a difference in how we fight and resolve things--the dog people lack the mean sick edge of the old human race.
And speaking of angels... we were. Speaking of them, I mean. We were speculating wildly about the Human Condition, when suddenly a friend of mine who's something of a scholar of Human lore, but a skeptic (he'd say "and therefore a skeptic") starts quoting from an ancient text he dug up. More than quotes! He sings it--he recently reconstructed the music. It's a ritual that was supposed to summon the Angels...
"If aaaany!" he closes, like a blessing. The two extant versions of the song end in either "Aum" or "Amen", but I told you he's a skeptic.
Or was. For out of the fire walk two angels.
How do we know? We know. Aside from the rivetingly different scent, they're upright, tailless, bald but for their head fur. Humans! Our ancient masters. They're real.
A couple: one male, one female. I'm stunned, seeing Her. A tall, slender, unearthly, figure--but Her round ears and the eerie lack of a tail make Her impassive, inscrutable, austere. Clearly She is no dog's fantasy, but truly Other--that wide face, short snout, long neck, cloudy hair, delicate body. It makes it all the more peculiar, then, that I desire Her. But I do. Desperately.
And He, the Man, seems to have the same effect on every bitch in the room.
They speak briefly to us, half transparent at first, denying they're true Angels, just beings like us with a few technical tricks. They say we can achieve starflight too, we're already on our way...
The summoner, bold, asks about the Kibble from Heaven, and the Woman says "Yes... we provide it. You have a small world, and it's poorer than Earth, our common home; we brought you here, so we see it as only fair to ensure you don't have to waste all your cropland on kibble, and all your energy staving off famine."
The summoner says boldly "We? There are more of you, then? The Angels are still around?"
"Oh, yes, we go from star to star! We two are just YOUR Guardians."
The Man says "We're not angels though. We have our own guardians, in fact--who can say how far it goes?"
The Summoner, fascinated, asks "Do they send YOU kibble from heaven BEYOND heaven?"
Grinning as they fade into the fire, like the fabled Cheshire Dogs, the couple answers, "Guardians can't reveal everything... some things about us you're not supposed to know."
But some things YOU need to know. For example, their visit had political implications far beyond theology. We evolved very recently, we're still evolving, and all our politics and passions gnaw that bone: how to evolve further. Into Dog Angels. All our pack agrees on the goal, but we disagree how.
For example, the Pious Party rubs my fur all wrong. They want us to breed selectively, and weed out primitive, wolfish, coyotish, anti-social strains. I admit their genetics are sound and could lead to quicker modernizing, Humanizing... but they're self-righteous, especially the extremists--the Pruners, who want to sterilize those with traits and behaviors they see as anti-evolutionary.
The one I admire is the Dog Princess, a lovely and kindhearted bitch. Her position's only ceremonial, yet she's done all she could with only moral persuasion to further the rights of all her "subjects". In a recent televised debate, she challenged the Pruners, pointing out "What Humans had was the freedom to evolve randomly. Good dogs conform--but to what? To Doggity as we know it! But who can scent the path from Dog to God before we've marked it? Why, for all WE know," the Dog Princess says, "our lone wolves and shy coyotes drive evolution more than Good Dogs. Who can say? Maybe the Gods--but not you Pruners!"
She wins the debate -- a major political shift!
What she doesn't know is that the reawakened gods were watching her debate. The Man saw it all, from high orbit. He's fascinated by this Dog Princess and her arguments. The Dogs seem far subtler than on his last watch, when he woke from coldsleep only a century ago...
So he calls her up. Literally up--to his ship. He simply "phones," and she appears before him, floating in orbit, and yelps as she looks down through the clear floor at her world.
And now, suddenly... I'm her.
I'm floating, one scared bitch, above swirls of brown green and white, like a God. And God floats before me.
I'm shocked... not at the miracle, but at my reaction to Him. To this... Man. He's floating in zero gravity before me, lounging on air, in jeans and a cowboy shirt. I'm tongue-tied by a flood of longing... and not for a God or Master. I see this awesome Being as a person, like me, just... wonderfully different! Exciting... and desirable. I try to listen to what He's saying, but I find with embarrassment I'm memorizing the exact shape of his fascinating hands and wrists, that blunt nose, the eyes with white patches that tell me just where he's looking.
Strangely, it's not His eyes or His face that keeps drawing me back, but His flannel cowboy shirt, with little images of running horses, decorative logos scattered on a colored field representing a ranch... but a Ranch of the Gods, yet set in a desert hauntingly like my beloved land below.
I'm so nervous, I hardly notice the curious fact that he called me up here at all. He wants to see me. If I paid attention to his expression I would see he's as riveted by me as I am by his beauty...
But he too doesn't know how to express the feeling... even how to acknowledge it to himself.
Yet as we discuss the weather, which sprawls like a mad carpet under his glass floor (I did NOT realize storms are as bright above as they are dark below), and of course, the political situation.... all the while, I know, inside. However much I try to hide it, how could I not know? Indoors, in close quarters, our pheromones shout!
At last I blather something to the effect that "I'd better be going back--five or six million people do depend on me, at least symbolically." He's shocked to realize I'm responsible for so many.
He does mention one personal thing, just before I go. He's been researching an ancient song and trying to learn how to play it. It's a dog song, based on an ancient fragment of a human song, a French song, a song before space--from 1968 in fact. But he says "I just can't understand it."
How strange! A God with a deaf spot. Back home, on the planet, I sing that song myself. It's so easy to understand, it's emotional, that's all. So the Humans aren't gods. I sing it with my friends, and tell of my adventure...
I argue about it with the skeptic summoner, our best theorist on humanity. Having met two, he takes a radical position about the Gods: he argues "God called you up, not the other way around. The Human wanted your advice; he found you a great leader. Who's more advanced here? I think we're superior to that Human! The fact is, the Gods are stagnant!"
I didn't tell my friend the skeptic I'm in love. That's private. And I know somehow that He, my Beloved, above the clouds of rain and politics, hasn't told any Gods what He felt, either.
But I'm convinced my friend the Summoner is wrong. It isn't about being superior or inferior any more. We're equals now. And equals make the best friends.
NOTES THE NEXT MORNING
Kibble From Heaven = probably just as much from the old song (and Steve Martin movie title) "Pennies From Heaven", as it is from the obvious Biblical reference, Manna from Heaven. Though it does have a Man from Heaven...
Sweethome, Oregon = one of my housemates grew up in Sweethome. A farm and ranch town she was glad to get out of. "The three main crops were alcohol, guns, and incest." Why the ranch stuff felt so good, in the dream, I don't know.
LATER THAT DAY
I drive south to Santa Clara to meet my new lawyer Barbara, who's agreed to help me try to recover thousands of dollars lost in a fraud. Our first meeting.
Her receptionist Anya has the exact aura of the Dog Princess! So sweet and sexy I want to ask her out on the spot. But I'm all nervous--facing a lawyer I've only talked to on the phone.
I go into the inner sanctum and meet Barbara. Middle-aged, with an earthy, sensible aura--and she's wearing a flannel cowboy shirt with a horse's head on it. I know in that moment it'll be all right. She'll win my money back. Kibble will fall from Heaven.
After the meeting, I drive back and go in to work in the afternoon in the library. And my boss, too, is wearing a flannel cowboy shirt covered with little scenes of ranch life--horses and tackle and gear. The shirt He wore, in the dream.
After a year of fear, rage, sleepless nights, illness and finally the resignation that comes when you know you've lost everything... a check came. The guy who ripped me off read Barbara's first letter and realized this new lawyer was a woman with teeth. He decided the only strategy was total surrender. His settlement check was a thousand dollars more than Barbara's most optimistic guess!
Kibble did fall from Heaven.
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