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THE LITERAL EMPIRE

Dreamed 1997/11/17 by Chris Wayan

I'm an explorer in the future. Earth's settled dozens of worlds, but so far we seem alone in the Galaxy. Till today! The planet we just landed on has TWO intelligent species.

One's not native, though. Imperialists. They conquered the locals, who lacked the technology to fight back. The conquerors look quite humanoid; the locals are furry quadrupeds about half the weight of a human, like an aardvark-raccoon mix with a dash of dog, though with clever little paw-hands, fully thumbed. It's like the Funny Animal Planet where cartoons come from. Only not so funny now. Under occupation.

We meet the woman ruling this area. Sharp intelligence... and a certain predatory zest. I think she'd like to add us humans to her collection. She clearly finds it amusing even to pretend temporarily that we might be their equals.

It's strange though--jokes, metaphors, gestures, and images seem to go right by her--doesn't just fail to follow them, she ignores them. Seems to take them as mere mental lapses, proving our inferiority.

I find that useful. For the other species, the conquered local people, use humor and metaphor and art for communication just as much as humans do. We can talk using images and slang, and this Master Race can't follow at all--because they don't even recognize that it IS communication! Ignore it as sloppy thinking, mere noise. Beneath them.

The locals are quick to realize I may look a bit like their conquerors but am quite different. We like each other immediately--take it for granted we'll ally against the Literal Empire.

I go back to our guest suite, and sit in on a poker game with the rest of the human crew. We talk it over, being careful to stay elliptical so the microphones of our humanoid hosts will only pick up primitive nonsense. Sarcasm works nicely: "I'm afraid we've met a superior species. They're oppressing the locals, but they're much more logical than us. We can't possibly resist. Guess we'll just have to surrender."

Funny. I forget what gender I was. Well, not so strange, really--I was among aliens who didn't know or care. All that mattered to them was character. And that made me define myself anew: what matters to me, what MAKES me me, is humor, imagination, empathy, an poetry--not intelligence.

For I've met Reason standing pure and alone, with guns and a high-tech empire to back her up. And you know what? She wasn't much.

NOTE IN THE MORNING

The imperialist woman = my workaholism! All my other sides are forging alliances to overthrow her. And the best news is, she can't even see it.



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