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THE LION KING

Dreamed 1995/9/15 by Chris Wayan

1. FEAR IS FATIGUE, SO REST!

Alone in my bedroom, in a house on the mudflats. Dusk. Hear a noise in the dusty backyard. It's a fluid catlike creature, pouncing on something invisible... at first. It comes closer and I see it's dragging a sullen four-foot lizard. I'm scared--not of the lizard, of the cat. If it attacks a four-foot lizard, why not a six-foot me? Now I'm not even sure it's a cat; is it a small velociraptor? Are the dinos coming back? Society has been breaking down, I know, humans have been dying off in plagues, barely enough left to keep water and power on... It's all falling apart!

I know my fears are mostly just fatigue--I've been sick.

So I lock all my doors and windows, and just go to sleep. Let the big cat prowl! I'll feel better in the morning.

2. I WON'T BE SECOND CLASS

I wake to find years have passed. The United States is gone; in fact, so is human society as such. Animals have evolved intelligence to fill the gap. Scattered humans survived, but are now just one of many peoples in a multiracial society with no majority. It's evolving politically beyond tribalism now; there's still a nominal Lion King, but everyone's debating the merits of a democratic federation or New Republic. Technology is being rediscovered, too.

I attain modest celebrity as a time-traveler--the last Old Human. The Lion King asks me to move from my house, which stands by a rich salmon stream that puma, bear, canine, and raccoon people value more than I do. I'm glad to leave it, actually--brings up depressing times.

I like my new place, in the heart of the animal town. But then the Lion King asks me to move again! I wonder if he's jerking me around, testing my obedience, because I'm human. Does he suspect I'm a humanist--that is, a racist? His behavior is understandable, most of these people still have traces of fear or hate or worship toward the ancient humans who owned and caged them... so the Lion King wants to be seen dominating me, it's smart political symbolism.

And, maybe, privately, he needs to exorcise that awe inside himself--even despite himself.

But I don't want to encourage his autocratic behavior. Democracy, federation, means legal equality--I won't be a second-class citizen, I won't be punished for my race's crimes.

Or their triumphs.

3. FLIRTING AT THE ANIMAL CAFE

Go out with friends to a popular cafe. I enjoy the crowd! Hot night, so everyone's more or less naked--normal here, since so many people have fur anyway. Sit at a table. Notice slowly it's mostly humans; tables are roughly segregated by race. I don't like this! I'm attracted to some of the nonhuman women, and want to talk to them. But I get distracted when several human girls walk in, one by one, nearly naked; one's a friend of a friend and she sits at our table. And then a stunning slim brown-skinned girl walks up, whose flashing smile looks familiar... She turns out to be the new bartender/waitress coming on duty. So many temptations! Skin here, fur there...

The girl at our table teases me. Her friend, a guy, jumps in, saying he loves me too. A second guy says "Don't you love huuuumans? Don't you love meeeee?" They can joke about sexual attraction, orientation, and racial tension--everyone's used to it. I'm not, and I can't respond graciously. Just growl something like "I think you guys should get married, you're so similar."

Despite knowing why I can't play their game, I feel ashamed. Can't I lighten up?

4. THE BIASED SOCIOLOGIST

Now, a tall dark skinny human sociologist in a baggy striped robe leads me by the hand through the cafe crowd, round a corner, and out on a balcony. I'm unsure if s/he's male or female. S/he is describing how people cope with bias in this society. S/he says casually "Of course, black intellectuals are relatively rare--" and nobody bristles but me! Particularly weird to hear that from a dark-skinned intellectual! What a difference from my old unispecies society, where those were fighting words!

But I see why no one's shocked at such a bizarre claim. Now, the species differences are so big, so bias-forming, that no one cares about little things like gender or race. Stupid stereotypes abound, but the animal people seem routinely able to TREAT each other equally, regardless of their EXPECTATIONS. I've heard lots of cliches about other species, but aside from the Lion King's suspicion that I'm a rabid humanist, I've seen no racial fear or hostility at all--folks BEHAVE more relaxed than ancient America. A paradoxical achievement. Can I do it? Rather than suppress my stereotyping, just let these judgments flow through my mind without cringing, and let them go as lightly as they came? Strangely Zen. Zen politics.

5. I DO NOT KNOW THE TALE

The moon is rising, but... it has color! Blue, and white clouds... a ruddy patch of desert. Has to be the Earth. But then what's that rising behind it? Ooops, here come some more, several planets, some growing as they come closer? No. Realize now they're models, inflatable. Ah! This is Morrison Planetarium, in San Francisco! In the animal society, it's mainly a teaching tool for kids. The big projector is gone; they use a mix of these suspended 3D models for planets and just-installed computer projections of starfields, allowing them to show more than just the vantage point of Earth. Because the big projector is gone, we don't have to sit in fixed circles anymore. Drag benches into a rough circle before we start. Couple of adults, some cubs, and me. So few! But more drift in till it's quite full.

Then the Lion King himself shows up.

Silhouettes of the Lion King, a huge bird, a catgirl, a green-eyed fox and a deer-man, under seven huge moons and planets--models, suspended by wires.
Lights on. Intermission? A story goes round the group--each person tells a line or two. It's obvious they all know the tale. It comes to me and I have to pass, wave them on. People laugh that I flubbed the lines, and politely wait for me. Apparently it's quasi-religious--everyone must be included in the story. One of the bonding rites of equality! Silence lengthens. Frowns; ears flatten. They think I'm refusing! Finally one realizes I don't know the custom, and explains "just recite one line--you don't have to innovate." While they know who I am, I guess most people only half believed it--after all humans are a regular part of animal society, so I don't look like an outsider.

But I still can't add my line, for this ancient legend everyone knows is from after my time.

I get up and approach the Lion King. Say courteously, if not with the proper honorifics, "I did not know the custom, sir. Now that I do, I still cannot share in this telling, because I DO NOT KNOW THE TALE. I was born and lived and lost my world before this tale was born."

He blinks at that, and I realize even His Majesty never quite believed I'm an Ancient. Oh, he knows the facts, but... EVERYONE knows this legend! Who am I, what am I, who lived before myth began?

I add "So, I must learn it. And will. I want to."

Because I like it here. I want to stay. Despite its tensions, the post-human world is better than the one I was born in, so long ago.

NOTES ON WAKING



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