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Ken Liu is the hottest new writer to come down the literary pike in the past few years. He’s already won the Hugo (with multiple nominations), the Nebula (with ditto), and the World Fantasy Award, and his first novel will appear in 2015. Ken’s wife, Lisa Tang Liu, is a visual artist whose photos and paintings have been selected for numerous juried and solo exhibitions. This is Ken’s second appearance in Galaxy’s Edge, and Lisa’s first.

HARK! LISTEN TO THE ANIMALS
by
Lisa Tang Liu and Ken Liu

From: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
To: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
Date: Wed, Aug 10, 2022 at 7:51 PM
Subject: Reconnecting

Hi Nifer,

Todd has disappeared, and I need your help.

It’s no doubt as awkward for you to receive this message as it is for me to write it, considering that the only contact between the two of us during the last twenty years were brief glimpses of each other at class reunions. And though I could have been gracious—I was the one who ended up with Todd, after all—I avoided you at these gatherings. So it’s only fitting that now I’m the one having to beg.

Last Friday, Todd came home, as excited as I’ve ever seen him. “I’m done with The Paper.” He lifted his hand, showing me a bottle of wine and two glasses.

The Paper has been Todd’s obsession for two years. It presents a radical new way to preserve genetic diversity, integrating the need for economic growth and the inevitable destruction of habitats in the developing nations.

“The value of biodiversity is really in the information contained in the genomes of the world’s living species,” Todd would say. “If we focus on that, it is possible to preserve biodiversity without having to preserve all of the world’s plants and animals.”

Todd’s proposal is to create a digital Noah’s Ark. We can simulate the world’s ecosystems through computation, then capture and digitize the world’s biota to populate this electronic world. Real rain forests can be cut down to provide the fields needed to support growing populations, and the wild parrots and chattering monkeys will make way for us. But the animals and plants will live on electronically, their genetic information preserved, so that we can continue to probe the archives for useful medicines and other biological products.

No doubt this sounds horrible to you, but both he and I have seen enough of poverty in the developing world to know that there’s nothing beautiful or noble about it. If there’s a conflict between the needs of Man and the needs of other creatures on our planet, Man’s needs must take priority. (I have no interest in reopening old philosophical debates with you, but you need to understand the gist of Todd’s work, because I think it’s connected to his disappearance.)

After dinner, we took a stroll outside our cabin. Summer evenings outside Skagway, here in the Alaska Panhandle, are pleasant. The trail that we walked on took us past some campgrounds and a salmon-filled stream. Black bears that lived nearby could literally reach into the stream and scoop out handfuls of salmon.

Suddenly, two black bears appeared in front of us on the trail and blocked our way. This was highly unusual. Black bears, as a rule, are timid and avoid men, and Todd and I were making plenty of noise. But the two bears stared at us with no fear, and I saw something in their eyes that I had never seen in the eyes of an animal: hatred.

Todd and I backed up and turned around, but behind us were two more black bears, blocking our retreat. There was the same malevolent, intelligent look in their eyes.

The bears charged, and I don’t have a clear memory of what happened next.

When I came to, the bears and Todd were gone. There was no blood and no grisly remains on the ground around me. Nonetheless, the police believe that Todd was … consumed by the bears, and there’s nothing more to be done except for calling for a hunt of the rogue creatures. One officer also seemed to imply that we ourselves were to blame, as if we were careless hikers. But this is a big town by Alaskan standards, not some remote wilderness!

I believe that Todd is still alive. In fact, I believe the bears took him. But my pleas for the authorities to look for Todd fell on deaf ears. I’m certain that everyone now thinks I’m crazy.

But I remember once stumbling onto your web site, and seeing your tables of rising bear-related fatalities over the years, of dog attacks on children, of strange sightings of birds attacking airplanes. And I remember how you’re convinced that animals are smarter than we give them credit for. If anyone is going to believe me, it’s you.

I thought about what I saw in the eyes of the bears: Did they plan what they did?

I need your help, Nifer. For the man we both loved and love still (yes, I’ve seen the secret emails).

-- Maggie

***

From: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
To: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2022 at 6:14 AM
Subject: Re: Reconnecting

Wow. First, I just want to get this out of the way before we get down to business – I NEVER intended the emails to be “secret.” Just because you didn’t know about them doesn’t mean that we were sneaking around. Besides, I said that I still loved him ONCE and that was like 5 years ago, and I regretted saying that. I wrote to him to try to persuade him to abandon his destructive way of thinking.

Anyway, on to the main topic. You’re right, I think Todd is alive, and I know the animals are up to something. Todd’s disappearance fits the pattern I’ve been seeing.

I don’t know how much you keep track of animal news—you know, the stuff they add at the end of local broadcasts to fill the time. People NEVER take animal news seriously, and that’s why no one’s connecting the dots.

For years, there’s been a rise in the number of stories about aggressive dogs mauling their owners and attacking babies. Feral dog packs have been sighted in abandoned neighborhoods in run-down cities as well as in sparsely populated, upscale vacation towns. There’s also a parallel trend of stories about how local police are having trouble training K9 units: the dogs just don’t seem as cooperative.

Every Thanksgiving, we get stories in Massachusetts about wild turkeys vandalizing cars and attacking joggers. The talking heads think this is some great joke, and laugh about how the turkeys are angry about this gruesome holiday. Well, I don’t think the jokes are funny, and I’m sure the turkeys don’t either. They are trying to tell us something with their acts of rebellion, and no one is paying any attention.

And then there are the bear stories. Black bears in New Jersey have been getting much more aggressive, breaking into suburban backyards and terrorizing residents. But instead of investigating why the black bears are engaging in such unusual behavior, the legislature is now considering authorizing more bear hunts. I get so frustrated hearing the anti-bear rants. As if killing animals is ever the right answer!

Here in Cambridge, rats the size of my largest cat, Diocletian, roam the streets brazenly—even in broad daylight! And they are not rabid. Just yesterday morning, when I was out jogging, I saw two rats with patchy fur hanging out with a raccoon down the street, sharing what appeared to be a steak bone.

I know we’ve never seen eye to eye about animals. You and Todd think that the interests of animals must always give way whenever they conflict with ours. (I will give you credit for being better than your gun-toting friends out there in Alaska, who think hunting is a “sport.” I can’t even imagine the psychological damage a young bear would incur growing up in such a hostile environment.)

I, on the other hand, have been vegan since I was four. And that web site you “stumbled” onto is my life’s work. It’s the site for the nonprofit I founded after college: Humans & Animals: Respect & Kindness (HARK now has chapters on every continent). We are dedicated to teaching the world a philosophy of co-existence with, rather than exploitation of, our fellow animal passengers on this spaceship Earth.

Everyone in town thinks I’m a crazy lady with a house full of cats. But I’m telling you now that I *KNOW* animals. I mean, I really know them. Spiritually. Animals and I can communicate on a level that most people cannot imagine. My seven cats (Diocletian, Cleopatra, Constantine, Apollo, Loki, Athena, and Biff) and I are really roommates. We eat the same food from the same table and sleep in the same bed. We are equals. Not owner and pets.

(You scientists have been wrong about your priorities for years. I mean, with all these millions of dollars in research, how come no one has come up with a design for cans of cat food that a cat—you know, the intended consumer of the product—can actually open? It’s so disempowering and condescending. Just boggles the mind.)

I have an idea for how to investigate Todd’s kidnapping by the bears (no wonder, given that cockamamie idea of his about digitizing animals!). But I’m afraid you can’t be involved given your human-centric arrogance. I’ll stay in touch, but it might be a few days. The animals have been oppressed by our species for too long, and I hope this is not the start of an all-animal rebellion.

Jennifer Lyle, Founder & President
Humans & Animals: Respect & Kindness
“HARK! Listen to the animals!”
http://www.humansanimalsrespectkindness.net

***

From: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
To: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2022 at 8:02 AM
Subject: Seattle

Nifer,

Like I said, I don’t want to re-tread our collegiate debates. I’m only interested in one thing: finding Todd and rescuing him. Please let me know as soon as you find out something.

It’s a measure of my desperation that your prediction of an “all-animal rebellion” now sounds to me not like complete lunacy. Todd, ever the rational one, would surely think I’ve finally lost my mind, now that I’m following up on your theories.

I really may be going paranoid here. This morning, as I looked out the window, I swore that the pair of black-billed magpies on the tree across the road turned their heads to follow me, as if they were keeping watch.

I can’t keep on jumping at shadows in the wilderness. This afternoon, I’ll have a friend bring me down to Juneau and then fly out to Seattle on the first flight. It’ll be nice to live in concrete and glass for a while, away from the animals.

-- Maggie

***

From: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
To: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
Date: Sat, Aug 13, 2022 at 7:42 PM
Subject: The Everglades

Hi, Maggie.

I just turned on the television in my hotel room here in Miami and the local news is all about a trainer at Sea World who was injured today by the orcas (I refuse to use that slanderous name, “killer whales”). Once again, the animals are sending a message, but most people are too dense to get it.

But I should really first explain to you why I’m down here: it’s to visit the Everglades.

I’m not sure if you remember, but ever since my first trip here during high school, I’ve been fascinated by this place and the history of the Seminoles who used to live here. They maintained a mutually respectful relationship with the wise animals at the Everglades—yes, yes, I know you’ll lecture me now about how I’m buying into colonial stereotypes that were never true. Well, the vision, the possibility of humans and animals living in harmony, is true enough in my mind, and that’s all that matters, all right? (And I don’t want to hear any mutterings about “fuzzy thinking.”)

I try to visit the Everglades at least once every year, and some of the animals there remember me. I figured they were my best chance at finding out what happened to Todd. My feline roommates can’t help much, since they aren’t very plugged in to the wild animal community. And although Florida is at the other end of the continent from Alaska, you should know that news in the animal world travels very fast.

Custom dictates that I bring presents to my animal friends when I visit. So this morning, I bought some loaves of bread at a nearby bakery. The crows, who have always been my favorite animals there, like fresh bread.

I drove on highway 9336 through the park. It was hot, and bugs hit the windshield like raindrops. Crows stood waiting by both sides of the highway for their easy meals of freshly killed bugs. I drove as fast as I could, knowing that my crow friends would appreciate the gesture. (Yes, I’m aware of the fact that I’m killing one group of animals in order to please another, which seems problematic from an ideological point of view. But I needed the crows to like me so I can ask the questions, okay? Give me a little break.)

I pulled to the side of the road at my usual spot, a respectable distance from a flock (I don’t approve of the usage of “murder” for this) of crows near one of the trails. I got out of the car and the crows eyed me cautiously before I laid out the bread on the grass.

Coco, their leader, a big crow whose eyes were starting to grow cloudy with age, flew over and landed near me. We exchanged some pleasantries and got down to business.

“Coco, have you heard anything strange going on among the bears? Specifically, in Alaska?”

He eyed me quizzically.

Not sure what you mean.

(Yes, I practice mind-to-mind communication with animals. I can hear him. In my mind, he sounds like a bird version of Clint Eastwood, if you know what I mean—of course you don’t, never mind.)

“Coco, we’ve known each other for many years, and I think we have a good relationship. Let me tell you the whole story …” And I told him about what happened to Todd (leaving out the bits about his horrible idea).

Coco blinked at me and said, Most of you humans think that the rest of the creatures on this planet exist only for your convenience, but you’re different, so I’ll help you. There’s an old bear named Crust who can answer your questions. I’ll have to come with you, and you’ll need a canoe. Come back here tomorrow at dawn.

I arranged for a canoe rental and that’s all I have to report for now.

Until tomorrow,

Jennifer Lyle, Founder & President
Humans & Animals: Respect & Kindness
“HARK! Listen to the animals!”
http://www.humansanimalsrespectkindness.net

***

From: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
To: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
Date: Sat, Aug 27, 2022 at 11:12 PM
Subject: ARE YOU THERE???

NIFER, WHERE ARE YOU???

It’s been two weeks and you haven’t answered any of my texts or emails, and my calls are getting dumped straight into your voicemail. Please, please, please call me back. Nowadays you can get a phone signal even on a cruise up to Newfoundland; so, as long as you’re alive, you must be connected. I can’t understand why you are not answering me unless something has happened to you.

(And I don’t even dare to go to the police. How am I supposed to explain to them that I think they ought to check into the alibi of some bear in the Everglades who answers to the name “Crust”?)

Anyway, assuming that you are still checking your email but are maintaining radio silence for some reason (this BETTER be good), I’ll tell you what I’ve found on my end.

I spent the last few weeks taking advantage of the academic databases here at the UW libraries to do some research. And despite your general dislike for my approach, I think you’ll find my findings interesting: the animals have been getting smarter.

Since you and I suspect that the animals are plotting some kind of rebellion, I thought the requisite increase in animal intelligence ought to show up somehow in the published papers. Of course no one was directly hypothesizing that crows, ants, bears, whales, and so on were getting smarter, so there wouldn’t be any studies focused on that. But, if multiple studies were done using crows as subjects over the years, for example, and you had a way of calibrating the difficulties of the different tasks the crows were asked to perform, then theoretically you could treat the tasks as IQ tests and see if the animals’ scores increased over time.

I did a meta-analysis of the papers published in the last few decades involving animals. And I found that in numerous test species, there was a marked increase in intelligence. Ants, for example—yes, scientists run tests on ants to study something called Ant Colony Optimization algorithm (it’ll take me too long to explain, don’t worry about it)—have been able to solve more and more complex mazes in newer studies. And crows, too, have been able to perform more and more intellectually demanding tasks in experiments. You find the same pattern with bees, parrots, octopuses. No one’s noticed the pattern before because no one ever thought of the possibility.

(I still have no idea how you can commit telepathy with animals. I’m just going to ignore it for now. One mystery at a time.)

What’s causing the animals to become smarter? Genetic mutations someone introduced into the wild? Chemicals? Aliens trying to “Uplift” the non-human species on this planet? I don’t know and I don’t care, but I do know that I wasn’t paranoid—and you were more right, scientifically speaking, than you realized. It seems animals really are capable of planning murder and rebellion, and Todd was their victim.

Come on, Nifer, where in the world are you???

-- Maggie

***

From: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
To: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
Date: Thu, Sep 1, 2022 at 2:20 PM
Subject: the coming war

Sorry, Maggie. I just got all your messages in a big burst. I couldn’t call you or receive messages because I was negotiating for the fate of the human race—hold on, I’ll explain.

The day after I last emailed you, Coco met me at dawn. Following his directions, we paddled down a canoe trail, greeted only by alligators (no one I knew) and rampant mosquitoes. When the water became too shallow, we anchored the canoe to a mangrove and continued on foot through the wet, mucky marshes. Eventually, we came to the narrow opening of a cave in the ground.

The cave became a tunnel that plunged down into complete darkness that swallowed the slender beam of light from my flashlight. I felt the walls—they were damp—and I could hear the sound of water drip-drip-dripping from the ceiling.

Coco lightly tapped me on the face with his beak.

Trust me. This part’s easy.

I don’t know how long we descended. Gradually, the ground flattened, and cold, green patches of light began to glow from the cave walls, which made the going a lot easier.

“We’re under the sea now, aren’t we?” I could smell the faint odor of salt. Coco said nothing. He just nudged me again on the cheek.

The tightness in my calves told me that we were now walking uphill.

Swarms of orange, blinking lights flew towards us out of the darkness: fireflies.

Getting close now.

The fireflies hovered around us, like a halo, and we walked on in their sphere of glowing light.

The tunnel emerged into a large underground cavern. Far above me, I saw faint dots of luminescence on the ceiling, like stars. I heard, in one direction, the echoey sound of waves crashing against rocks. And as a swarm of fireflies flew in that direction, their glow was mirrored below them. I realized that the cavern was hidden in one of the keys off the Everglades coast, and one side of it was open to the sea and covered by water. The side Coco and I were on, however, was higher and stayed dry, and the fireflies continued to lead us along the wall until we reached an elevated stone dais.

The fireflies hovered over the dais, illuminating its occupant: the most massive bear I had ever seen. He weighed at least a ton, with a short face and powerful jaws that could crush bones. His hair was dark and glowed at the tips in the light of the fireflies.

Mornin’, Crust, Coco nodded at the bear. This is Nifer, the woman I told you about.

Sit. The voice of the bear’s thoughts was surprisingly young, a little like Todd’s, twenty years ago.

“Hello,” I tried not to sound nervous. “It is an honor to meet you. Your home looks … comfortable.”

Do you know what kind of bear I am?

Though I knew a lot about bears, Crust didn’t look like any bear species I had ever seen. So I shook my head.

Crust nodded. Your scientists call my species Arctodus simus, or the bulldog bear. We’re supposed to have been extinct for at least 12,000 years. But as you can see, they’re wrong about that, as they’re wrong about many things.

Now that he mentioned it, I see that he did have a face like a bulldog’s, with that massive jaw full of sharp teeth. “Your species must be good at hiding if no one’s discovered you all these years.”

The last time I saw a human, I ended up with a big meal. He paused to check my reaction, and I froze, determined not to reveal any. He laughed in my mind.

To be honest, humans don’t taste all that good. A little too gamey. I like you, honey. You have … respect. What do you want to ask me?

Being called “honey” by a bear was somewhat disturbing. “I think my friend, Todd Stokes, has been kidnapped by some black bears. Todd’s wife Maggie and I think the animals are planning something big.”

Yes, I know about the kidnapping. I ordered it. He could be considered the first prisoner.

“A prisoner? Where was his trial and who defended him?”

A trial? He is a prisoner of war! You guessed right. We are planning an all-out attack on humans.

So there you have it, Maggie. I’ve been predicting an all-animal rebellion since 2019 (you can read about it on my blog), and for once, I’m sorry that I was right.

I swallowed. “How?”

This cavern is the heart of it all. From here, dolphins and sharks carry my instructions through the deep sea to all the islands and continents of the world. (And now you know why dolphins are always smiling.) Birds, tiny, fluttering birds, repeat war plans through their chitter deep into the forests of the Rocky Mountains, the jungles of the Amazon, the mist-shrouded bamboo groves of Asia, the open savannas of Africa, and the dark woods of Europe. Makes you rethink your feelings about birdsong, doesn’t it?

“You’re talking about war, a real war.”

You thought I was kidding around? For years, the raccoons, deer, badgers scouted your suburban settlements and routes of retreat. Birds surveyed the terrain and committed strategic maps to our collective memory. When the order is given, everything that flies, swims, crawls, creeps, digs, runs will attack at once. From swarms of bees to battalions of bears, from colonies of ants to flocks of wild geese, we will attack all at once, breaking humans into isolated clumps, and we’ll see how your clever brains fare against teeth, claw, stingers, beak, and poison.

“But why? Why this rebellion now?”

The fact that you describe this as a “rebellion” is a clue. The animals have been oppressed for too long. You have assumed the position of mastery of our shared world without any legitimacy. For millennia, we animals retreated before your advance, helpless, weaponless, incapable of even understanding the destruction you represented. We hid deeper and deeper, hoping to give you enough that you’ll leave us alone. But you’re never satisfied. Your friend Todd is a perfect example. He had no hesitation to turn us into memories, ghosts in the machine simulated by electrons, our genes the only parts of us still deemed of use.

But, no more. Something has changed in this world and given us understanding. We will now fight back.

“Are all the animals with you on this?”

You’d be surprised at who signed up. Man’s Best Friends, Canis lupus familiaris, are among the most fanatic adherents of our cause. They didn’t need much convincing at all. Your species really should have reconsidered those pink dog sweaters, doggie Halloween costumes, and ‘tricks’ performed for treats. Dignity matters as much as food. As it is, the dogs have been the best spies.

“What about cats? I live with seven of them. But I never considered them any less than human.”

Oh, no. We tried. But cats, ever ornery and incapable of being led, are staying out of it. If they do not come around, we’ll deal with them on the day of the attack, too.

“Isn’t there any other way? Can’t we co-exist peacefully? That’s the vision I’ve been working towards all my life.”

We weren’t the ones who started this. Tell me, honey, what percentage of the human population have you convinced of your philosophy?

He bared his teeth. I shivered.

“A small number, but growing.”

He scoffed at this, and before I knew what was happening, a black bear took me away and imprisoned me in a small cave off of the main cavern. For days, I pleaded with my bear guards to grant me another audience with Crust, and Coco felt so bad about what happened to me that he kept on pestering Crust, refusing to leave him alone. Finally, I was taken to see Crust again.

I’ve decided to give you a chance. Just as your Todd thought to offer us an “ark” of simulated existence, we will offer you an ark, a sanctuary. Whoever you can convince to join your group and adopt your philosophy, we will leave alone when the day of the attack arrives. Your group is called “HARK,” isn’t it? Perfect. You shall be the Human Ark. But I don’t think many people will believe what you have to say.

“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll tell the world about your plans if you let me go?”

Crust laughed. It was frightening. Whatever you say, they won’t believe you.

“How long do I have?”

The attack will come in nine months.

Nine months, like the time it takes to grow a baby, to give birth to hope for our species. “What about my friend Todd?”

You can tell your friend Maggie that Todd will be safe until the end. He’s a special case, given his criminal ideas. We took him and a few other scientists so that they can reflect on the errors of their ways and cry in despair as they witness humanity’s end around them.

“Can Maggie see him? Surely you must show more compassion to us than we have shown you?”

Why not? He’s on Kodiak Island. I’ll ask some seagulls to show her the way.

And that was that, and Coco and I were deposited back on shore by a whale.

Hell, I am having a tough time believing all I saw and heard. Gosh I’m low on whiskey here. I’m so tempted to drink myself into oblivion.

Jennifer Lyle, Founder & President
The Humans Ark
“HARK! Save yourselves!”
http://www.humansanimalsrespectkindness.net

***

From: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
To: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
Date: Thu, Sep 1, 2022 at 8:31 PM
Subject: Crust ++

Nifer,

Listening to you is like listening to a New Age guru and a Biblical Jeremiah rolled into one. If I hadn’t seen the shocking jumps in animal intelligence and stared into the malevolent eyes of those black bears that took Todd, I’d think you’ve imagined it all. But …

What are we going to do?

This suddenly-evolved-into-sentience bear, this post-human “Crust”—he’s mad. We have to come up with a plan. I’m going to get out to Kodiak Island right away to see Todd. But we need to start thinking about next steps. I’ll start writing a paper about what I’ve discovered, and we need to get people who matter involved. The FBI? The CIA? The Army? The President? We have to get on every TV channel and get your message out.

If anyone wants to live, they must join HARK right away.

-- Maggie

***

From: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
To: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
Date: Sat, Jun 10, 2023 at 4:35 PM
Subject: Mayhem

Hello, Maggie.

You haven’t been returning my calls, so I’m guessing you’ve gone to Kodiak Island again to see Todd. Though I wish you were here with me, I can’t blame you for wanting to be with your husband when the world ends.

We’ve done everything we could. This is the moment of truth.

How I wish someone, anyone, in a position of power had listened to us. Being laughed at in the face was probably so much tougher on you than on me. I’m used to being thought of as a crazy cat lady. But you’re used to people sitting up when you, a scientist, spoke. To be honest, I gave up months ago. It was only because you kept on going, writing, posting videos, pleading with the world, that I believed there was any hope at all.

Well, here I am, in Yellowstone, which Crust has declared to be the location for our safe haven. The final count of HARK members in North America who agreed to settle here before the animals sealed off the borders and began their attack is 5,931. Our feline sympathizers, like my 7 former roommates, also came. We’ve got some basic infrastructure here: tents, latrines, generators, and repositories of critical knowledge. None of HARK’s other havens on other continents are bigger or better equipped. We’re all that’s left of humanity.

Those of us in the Human Ark must begin humanity’s journey again, like our ancestors, the small bands of men and women who walked out of Africa eons ago to populate the world. Only this time we’ll have to figure out how to co-exist in peace with the sentient animals. But that’s a task for the future.

Right now, we sit, stunned, watching the world we know end before our eyes on our portable TV screens. The sights are sickening.

The animals attacked all at once, in well-rehearsed formations. In New England, the deer lined up and blocked off the roads between towns while the bears went in for the kill. In San Francisco, seals at Fisherman’s Wharf pushed tourists into the sea and held them underwater. Sharks massed along both coasts, hunting swimmers and ramming into fishing boats to sink them. On the Great Plains, cattle herds rampaged and chased frightened crowds of men off cliffs as they fell to their terrible deaths.

Since no one believed us, the police and the military were caught completely off guard. By the time they realized what was happening, the insects had already completely fouled up the engines of military and emergency vehicles.

Bodies fill the streets. I saw men pecked to death by flocks of starlings and seagulls, beekeepers swarmed by their angry workers, dog owners pleading with their pets while being commanded to sit and roll over. Hogs broke free of industrial farms and spilled into the highways, biting, screaming, pulling passengers out of stalled cars. Chickens blanketed suburban streets, menacing children, while geese dove into airplane cockpits and engines. Deer and moose stood their ground in the highways, and leaped at the last minute into truck windshields, causing chain reactions of crashes and fires. It is a nightmare that would not end.

In Washington, D.C., the animals in the National Zoo rose up as one and killed their attendants. The elephants, joined by the donkeys from the petting zoos and Virginia farms, marched into Congress, stumping and kicking everyone to death without regard for party affiliation. A column of black bears swam across the Hudson River and arrived at Wall Street, where they were joined by bulls from the farms of northern New York and two polar bears from the Central Park Zoo. Together, they mauled every trader in sight. Blood splattered all over Wall Street, including that Charging Bull statue. You cannot accuse Crust of having no sense of humor.

When we started corresponding again, I realized how much I missed you all those years. Your logical mindset and your coolness under pressure were the foundation for your faith in humanity, a faith that I came to appreciate only as I struggled to save our species alongside you.

If there’s anything you can do, plead with Crust to let you and Todd come. Failing that, fight and escape. Yes, I know that I just asked you to attack the animals. There are moments now, Maggie, when I wish I weren’t vegan.

Jennifer Lyle, Founder & President
The Humans Ark
“HARK! Save yourselves!”
http://www.humansanimalsrespectkindness.net

***

From: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
To: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
Date: Mon, Jun 12, 2023 at 8:11 AM
Subject: the end?

Nifer,

This is probably our last morning. The bears escorted us to this fishing shack so that we can watch humanity’s end on portable satellite TV. But the TV is not working, so Todd is futzing with it, and I get to write to you on the satellite link.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these last nine months. Crust was right—no one believed us, no matter how much evidence we showed them. The harder we argued and pleaded, the more we were ridiculed. Allowing us to struggle in vain for the hopeless hope of saving humanity was far more painful than killing us quickly.

Yet I’m also thankful for the time we spent together trying to spread the message of HARK. It allowed you and me to rekindle our friendship, to grow closer again after having not spoken for twenty years. I remember again why we became friends. You’re warm, fuzzy, crazy in all the best ways. And you care, really care, about all the creatures on this planet.

And I certainly should have listened to you about the animals.

(Okay, I’m back.)

I’ve just distracted my bear guard by making a bet with him that he can’t catch two salmon with his mouth at once. (I wish I knew your trick of telepathy, but gestures can say a lot.) He’s now over there by the river trying to prove me wrong.

I’m going to try to catch Todd’s eyes and get him to come over to me. If we make a run for it and dive into the river, we should be carried down to the sea. Maybe we can get back to the mainland, and somehow make our way down to Yellowstone to join you—Crust did say that anyone who made it in there would be safe, right? We’ll have to be very careful and talk only to cats.

Wish us luck. We’re going to go for it.

-- Maggie

***

From: Jennifer Lyle <thevoiceinthewild@humansanimalsrespectkindness.net>
To: Margaret Stokes <mwstokes@wecu.edu>
Date: Fri, Jun 16, 2023 at 9:00 PM
Subject: Hope

Maggie? Maggie? Are you there?

I’m going to email you every day until you answer or until the network shuts down completely. And after that I’m going to go up into the mountains and shout your name every morning. I’ll tell all the cats to keep an eye out for you too.

Never give up hope. I won’t.

-- Nifer

A different version of this story appeared in The ePocalypse: e-mails at the end, from Pill Hill Press

Original (First) Publication
Copyright © 2014 by Lisa Tang Liu and Ken Liu

 

THE ARM OF THE STONE
by Victoria Stauss

“Treated with unusual depth.”—Locus
“An intelligent, fascinating novel"—SF Site

TABLE OF CONTENTS

HOME

The Editor's Word

FICTION
Totaled
by Kary English

The Peacemaker

by Gardner Dozois
Honey, Plums and Cinnamon
by Andrea G. Stewart

Street of Dreams, Feet of Clay
by Robert Sheckley
The Wings The Lungs,
The Engine The Heart

by Laurie Tom
Matial
by Lou J. Berger

The Very Pulse of the Machine
by Michael Swanwick
Hark! Listen to the Animals

by Lisa Tang Liu & Ken Liu
The Book of Faces

by Kay Kenyon

Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon
An Interview by Joy Ward

SERIALIZATION
Lest Darkness Fall  (Part 3)
by L. Sprague de Camp

COLUMNS
From the Heart's Basement
by Barry Malzberg
Science Column
by Greg Benford

Book Reviews
by Paul Cook

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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