Author: Anjan Chatterjee
ROVID-87 decimated dogs. That was over 700 years ago.
For my research, I was combing through old books in Central Archive. Only a few books survived the disasters. I was trying to understand dogs and what happened to them.
A terrorists’ virus had spread through the Web and destroyed all digital information on drives and clouds before 2406. Later, in the aftermath of the climate catastrophe of 2442 to 2475, bacteria evolved that fed on paper, leaving few analog records intact. These remnants were sealed in sequestered libraries. Rarely did anyone, including scholars like me, get access this old knowledge. It took me three years to get permission.
After decontamination and quarantine in the Archive antechamber, I entered that hallowed space. The reading room had a hush about it. High ceilings, low light, private carrels. A few silent scholars glided by, their eyes downcast under the watchful eye of the librarian, who was ever vigilant for information anarchists.
I was fascinated by the animals called dogs. I had found an obscure reference to them being our best friend. What did that even mean? In the archives, I discovered that humans were carriers for the ROVID-87 virus that made its lethal jump into our canine companions. Some best friend we were. The descriptions of dogs were fantastical. These mythical creatures had worked on farms, pulled sleds, hunted with people, sniffed bombs and drugs, raced around tracks, and pranced in beauty pageants. Even more incredibly, dogs lived in people’s homes. People collected their excrement and lay with them in the same bed.
The pictures of dogs made it hard to imagine that they were one species. There were tiny dogs, large dogs, skinny dogs, fat dogs. Dogs with long hair, dogs with short hair. Dogs with droopy ears, with pointy ears. Alert dogs, lazy dogs. Long tails, no tails. Every shape and color imaginable. That diversity ended with ROVID-87. The pure breeds were the first to go, delicate creatures that they were. Then curated mixed breeds and precious ones. Scientists observed that when left to their own mating devices, dogs converged into the same phenotype. They weighed thirty to forty pounds and were brown and wiry. Junkyard dogs. From the aftermath of ROVID-87 to the climate catastrophe these feral dogs were the only ones that roamed the earth.
Deep Hunger followed the climate catastrophe. It was the second time that humans betrayed their best friend. This time intentionally. Dogs died so people could live.
There it was. The history of dogs. The history of our duplicity. It was a lot to take in. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a world of dogs, a world before ROVID-87.
As I opened my eyes, I saw my reflection in the glass of my carrel. The seeds of a thought grew from the pit of my stomach. I am brown. Wiry. About 150 pounds. Across the way, I looked at the vigilant librarian. She was brown and wiry. About 130 pounds. Another scholar walked by, lost in thought. An inch or two shorter than I am, they were brown and wiry. Maybe 145 pounds.
I thought of everyone I knew. Young, middle-aged, old. Family, friends, lovers, colleagues, strangers. Brown and wiry. One and all. Could it be that we humans were also physically diverse before the disasters? Some short, some tall? Some slender, some broad? Thin noses, wide noses? Round eyes, narrow eyes? Straight hair, curly hair? Every shape and color imaginable?
I laughed at myself. What a silly idea. My imagination was running wild. Just like feral dogs of yore.