Friday, 19 January 2018

The Collector

We Brethren have an ancient accord with the bipeds. It's a symbiotic relationship and benefits both species. I like to compare it with the ants and aphids dynamic. The ants protect and the aphids feed them.

Historically, the Brethren had no need of the bipeds. We were perfectly capable of hunting our own food and we're natural predators, so we had no need of protection. But at some point, long ago forgotten, a pale, hairless species with only two legs bartered their food for the sharp teeth, tough claws, snapping jaws and swift legs of the Brethren, and we took the bipeds under our wing. That's a metaphorical wing, obviously.

In modern times, things have become very domesticated. The bipeds have developed their shelters and provide themselves with an endless variety of toys to while away their long hours of sedentary life. They've lost the hunting and foraging skills that first attracted the Brethren to the accord and they no longer take their food from the land. Instead, they mimic foraging in a controlled environment where the food and drink items are displayed (barely concealed) in a single structure. The feeble enthusiasm with which the younger bipeds greet the elders, when they return from fake-foraging, is a pale echo of the past.

However, bipeds still need our protection, and so the Brethren maintains the bargain. We keep them safe from predators (some of whom are bipeds) and provide them with continuous reassurance that the perimeter is secure. If a member of another biped pack attempts an incursion on our joint territory, then we repel them until our own bipeds show signs that they feel safe with the intruders. Bipeds are naturally nervous. Anything from a knock on the door, a bell ringing, the rattle of a fence panel or any unfamiliar noise will cause them to raise their heads from their toys and throw a worried glance at us. It's expected that we will launch a show of aggression against the threat and, to do so, we maintain constant vigilance. All this for two meals a day and a bowl of water. I sometimes wonder if the accord is stacked against the Brethren, but this is the accord and we keep it.

My particular pack of bipeds are typical of those in the area. Pale-skinned and virtually hairless, constantly chattering nonsense, teeth and claws that are useless for defending themselves. Slow, awkward and unbalanced, they are easy meat for any carnivore and so they travel around mostly within protective metal structures that can move faster than any biped.

I've been with this pack now for five sun circles. The behaviour of bipeds, from what I understand from my forefathers, has degenerated in recent generations. My biped pack leader, well I assume he's the alpha-male although the dynamic in the pack seems somewhat fluid at times, is particularly slow and stiff. He needs exercise at least once a day but is reluctant to venture out if the weather is bad. I can understand this to some extent - if my skin was bare to the elements, except for a grey fuzz around the snout, then would I be bothered with the ritual of cladding myself in layers of material just for twenty minutes of shuffling around the external environment? Probably not.

The lead biped - the other pack members call him Dad or sometimes Bark (they can't pronounce the B and it comes out sounding like Mmmark) - is easily led. Now and then he will stop during the walk to look at his toy or chatter to the ground, sky or another biped if they appear non-threatening. If the area is secure then I will let him disconnect and wander freely. I maintain a perimeter patrol while he ambles along and it's never difficult to find him as he always follows the same route. If he's in distress then he emits a weird, high-pitched sound which means he needs my protection. I'll come running to his aid, although if there's no visible threat then I might take my time about it.

The strange behaviour that has led me to assign a nick-name to my biped pack leader is his fascination with excrement. Bipeds are notoriously secretive with their own bodily waste and seem to store it under the dwelling, which is bad enough. Any sane living thing knows that the elements are the way to treat natural waste, but I have never seen an adult biped defecate in public. Dad or Bark has extended this strange obsession with my own doings and goes through a bizarre ritual whenever I perform my toilet during his walk. He huffs and puffs, rummages within the layers of material covering his pale and hairless body, and produces his right hand - always his right - covered in some thin and crinkly unnatural sheeting. Then he strides purposefully - the only time he moves in this way during the entire walk - to my delivery site and painfully bends his knees to examine my faeces. There are usually some mutterings which sometimes put a smile on his face, and then he scoops up my waste and twirls it around in the crinkly sheeting. About half way through the walk, he places the package in a green receptacle. From the smell in passing this receptacle, I can tell this is a communal collection. I once saw a man in a small vehicle empty the green receptacle, presumably to take the contents off to a larger collection point. I imagine that is a place of worship.

The Dad or Bark character now goes by the name of The Collector when I think of him or discuss him with other Brethren. On days that the weather is too bad for The Collector to venture out for his exercise, I naturally take care of my business on the patch of grass at the rear of the pack dwelling. This poses no problem that I know of, as the pack never uses that grass and nature's elements will dispose of things within a few spins of the planet. But no, The Collector doesn't want to miss an opportunity and every few days he will spend some quality time shuffling around the dwelling grass and collecting my deposits in a bucket. The Collector is very methodical in this, appearing to cover the area in quadrants, although he often misses something. I try to be creative in my locations, so as to make the experience more fulfilling for The Collector. When he thinks he has collected all, he ambles down to the end of the dwelling grass, where he has created a kind of shrine, and there he piles his collection. He mutters a few ritual sounds, grabs a handful of leaves or grass, sprinkles them on top and nods his head before returning to the safety of the dwelling. Then he resumes to play with his toys.

This is the modern biped world of fake-foraging and turd worship. I think it's just a passing phase. I hope so.

Alfie of the Brethren