THE OTTER'S MOM
Dreamed 1996/5/29 by Chris Wayan
It's the future. Many species are intelligent now. But even by modern standards, this otter cub stands out--a child prodigy, surely destined to transform our world. I helped test his intelligence, and between giggles this nursling cub outscored many adults. He runs home to tell mom... and finds her asleep. He pokes her to wake her. But she won't stir. She won't wake up. Ever. She's dead.
So the pup knows he's dead, too. Unweaned, orphaned otters don't survive. Can't even digest anything yet but mother's milk. Doomed. In his terror and grief he rushes recklessly out of the burrow and slams into the feet of a monster.
An impossible monster. Wolflike, but with long croc-jaws, tiger stripes, a low forehead and smoldering eyes. A Tasmanian Wolf... not a wolf at all, for it has a marsupial pouch. Though a fierce flesh eater, it's closer related to kangaroos. Parallel evolution with a vengeance! It can't be here--they went extinct in 1930. Though there were rumors...
The monster from the past just stares at the otter. Numb, doomed, the cub doesn't flee. The wolf squats... but not to pounce. She gives birth! A blind fetus-like thing only an inch long. It must climb to her pouch unaided--a primal test of fitness. She looks at this otter cub, so brilliant even she can sense it, looks mutely back at her own pup, perhaps the last of its kind--and sadly noses it off her, into the grass, to die. She rolls over and nurses the otter cub instead. Adopting him at the cost of her own fetus! She couldn't nurse two. True, it's a smaller biological investment than a full-sized pup. She can have another soon--if her unknown mate still lives. And yes, this cub is worth the sacrifice. He'll change the world--I already see him giving his Nobel speech, the youngest creature ever to win.
But a life was sacrificed, an ordinary life, to nurse this genius, and I must bear witness. And mourn.
And I wake, wondering who exactly I'm mourning. Who did I sacrifice so my genius could survive? What mute archaic creature?
Who'd I have been like, if I'd been... normal?
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