The Day of the Beaver.
['The Day of the Beaver' is a parody of a story called 'The Day of the Dragon' written by Guy Endor in 1934.]
In those days no one ever thought of such a peril to the existence of the human race. Scientists at their annual meetings discussed the possibility of the termination of the human race, but that it should come about in this fashion - this terrible and at the same time ridiculous fashion - that , no one ever imagined.
At this time, it does not seem that the human race will be completely removed from the earth, there must be quite a number of small communities that have found refuge in the deserts. And though we have never heard any word from them, I must hope, that in other such cities as Phoenix, Dubai and Tripoli, where the absence of trees allow the men and women to still hold out against the terror. But how long can we last?
Few people, I suppose, are more capable than I of recapitulation the whole story from its completely insane inception, of which I believe I am the only living witness. And I believe, that for future generations I must put this down, for if there is a future to the human race, they must know the truth.
Well, as I say, in those days scientists used to imagine many perils to mankind. Complete climate change, be it from nuclear war, asteroid strike or global warming. There was also the science-fiction writers' vision of the future, planets colliding, giant alien ships leveling city after city, and the human race both saved and destroyed by a robot from the future looking suspiciously like a California Governor. I smile now, at that memory, and then pause, tears tipping for that missed world of imagination.
But our imagination could not visualize the actual demise of the human race. How could it come about like this?
That we should be attacked and destroyed by a cute rodent - that I never heard from the mouth of any human . Why, such an animal could not hurt us, they would have said. Ridiculous! A furry woodland creature? Why, that's pure stupidity!
Well, it was out of such innocence that it came about. That sounds strange and impossible, but it is true. Listen:
In the old days, in the golden era when mankind walked out carefree under the great trees, where the laughing sun played on the pied fields, and waterfalls flowed forever - I was then a reporter; and I well remember the time I was called upon to do a story on a sketch comedy group who called themselves The Ministry of Unknown Science. That was the beginning of it.
In an artists colony near downtown Los Angeles I was sent to find the story. But there was no answer at the door of the warehouse space so I decided to look up a friend I had not seen in some time. Isabella Bisket lived in a loft space in the same artists colony and so I walked to her place.
The industrial roll-up door of her workspace was open and I stepped inside and looked around. Lining one wall were the most bizarre and beautiful dresses imagination could create. I recognized a couple from when we hung out, but most of them were new.
I looked at the slinky dress made from black binder clips wired together, and the provocative skirt made from green circuit boards, and a new one of deadly polished spikes of aluminum, seemingly more hazardous to the health of a man than a well aimed stiletto heel. There seemed to be no one around so I called out hello. I saw movement on the second floor walkway, where Isabella kept her sewing machines, and there was a tentative hello.
"Yes? Hello?" she replied.
"Oh, Hello, what are you doing here, wait, just a minute."
She came down looking beautiful in a dishelved 'I am working' sort of way, with her normally blond hair jet black and haphazardly collected in two ponytails. We smiled and hugged and it felt good to see her again. But little did I know that this cute smiling girl was the one who would bring about the end of the human race. Introducing me to the mode of destruction in such an innocent and provocative way.
We talked about what we were doing at the moment, she quitting her job to make art full time, and I writing and taking pictures for the local newspaper. I asked about her partner in artistic crime, Whisk, and Isabella said she was away for the week. Then there seemed nothing more to say, and in the moment of quiet she blurted out.
"Do you want to see my beaver?"
She caught me bewildered, I had no idea how to answer the question. My mouth gaped open for a moment and she gave me a mischievous smile, and turning and walking away, said "Come on!"
She took me upstairs and showed me her beaver. It was large, I exclaimed to her that it was bigger than I thought it would be. I must have weighed forty or fifty pounds when alive.
"It had to be that big to fit the computer inside."
"Yes, I am putting," she looked up at me with a mischievous grin, "a computer in my beaver."
"A computer in a stuffed beaver. That is the most beautiful and horrendous thing I think I have ever seen. Kinda like when you made a dress out of hamster habitrails and put live hamsters in it for the modeling show."
Isabella just smiled at me.
I looked around the machine, there was an opening in the back and inside sat a small tower computer.
"I assume the plug comes out of the..."
"Yes," she said, "and the power switch is the belly button."
"When will you have it done?"
"In a week or so, I want to show it at art walk."
"When you get it done, give me a call, and I will write up a story for the Sunday edition and even put in a picture of you and your beaver in the newspaper. I know you always wanted a picture of your beaver in the newspaper." I said with a large grin.
Isabella called on the Friday before the art walk, telling me her beaver was all ready to go. On Saturday morning I wandered around looking at the art, finally arriving at Isabella and Whisk's space. Isabella's dresses and Whisk's giant children's dolls always drew a huge crowd.
I slowly moved my way through the crowd toward the back and said hello to some of the people I knew from the past. I saw Isabella but not her beaver.
"Where's your beaver?"
"Someone stole it last night."
"I came down this morning and it was gone?"
"What do you mean gone?"
"The beaver and my laptop were missing this morning."
"And your laptop?"
"Yes, I guess someone needed a computer. There was no sign of a break-in, but there were tons of people here last night helping with the final touches of the show."
"That really sucks, what are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
"Do you have any pictures of your beaver?"
"I would still like to do the story, but now about your stolen beaver."
I collected a few pictures and the details of the computer and got a few quotes from Isabella and her friends and the story was published on in the Sunday paper.
In two weeks time I had been received a multitude of e-mail's about the Isabella's Beaver. Some offended, some elated, and most wanting to know the fate of the beaver. It was time for a follow up story.
"Oh, hello Sebastian, how are you?"
"Good, and you?"
"Did you like the story?"
"I am getting more feedback from this than from anything else I've done."
"Well all publicity is good publicity, right?" I answered. "And most of the people want to know what happened. Have you heard anything?"
"It's not been returned, but I have received some strange e-mails from someone saying they are the beaver."
"Some one's holding your beaver hostage." I said laughing.
"Well not exactly, they are more like thank you notes."
"Thank you notes?"
"It is like the person who is writing the e-mails thinks he is the beaver and is thanking me for building him. Like I am a god or something."
"That's bizarre, but a great story, do you mind if I read the e-mail's and write a follow up story."
"I don't see why not."
The e-mail's were strange, the first few ones were very childish and stilted, like someone was trying to understand a new language, but the later ones were more eloquent and almost beautiful in their imagery. Isabella was modest in her assessment of the letters. They were sent from an adoring child to a godlike parent. And became more intense as they continued. And the last few were definitely a worshiper to a god.
Somebody must be really twisted to do something like this, and very intelligent. Yes, these were the ramblings of someone who was unhinged, but brilliant, brilliant in their creation. The imagination to bring a small woodland creature to life, because of the computer inside its taxidermied belly.
The content of the e-mail's were the ramblings of the beaver and how it became alive. How it remembers the first intelligent thought sitting on a bench in Isabella's home. How the Internet connection fed it knowledge of the world. How it took the laptop for the battery and wireless connection. How it was living in the sewers of Los Angeles, wandering the drainpipes like the ants in the movie 'Them!'
The beaver talked about finding wireless connections below coffee shops. About finding ways to connect to power. About times when the Internet was down and it sat alone and lost waiting to talk to the world again.
My first thought after reading the e-mail's was what a wonderful story this would make, and then I worried about Isabella. I mentioned to her my fear and she said she installed a motion detector in her house while she was asleep.
We discussed who could have done this, is it someone we know? Are they just playing a joke? But it was going a little too far, past funny and into scary.
Little could we understand then that the e-mail's were true, they were not the ravings of a madman, but the creation of a new life, and how from such innocence could come such horror.
I copied some of the e-mails and wrote another story which we placed in the Sunday paper and received even more responses from my readers.
A couple weeks later when I received a call from a man at LAPD. He said that he enjoyed the story about the beaver, but did I know that there was an usual amount of computers stolen in the area of the art complex? I replied I had not heard about that and thanked him for the information. I found some of the people who had computers stolen and all the interviews were the same. There was no sign of break-ins just the missing computer.
I was riding to work a couple days later, about to finish the story, when a thought slid into my head. At work I played on the Internet and called a taxidermist near Isabella's house. After introducing myself, I asked if anything had been stolen lately. There was a pause on the other end of the line.
"How did you know?"
"Um, just following up a story. It wasn't beavers? Was it?"
"Yes, I had three stuffed beavers stolen last night."
"Yes, how did you know?"
I was a little shaken, and mumbled something about a story I was following and hung up the phone.
So there is a guy in LA who is stealing computers and stuffed beavers. I had seen many strange things come across my desk. But this was truly scary and funny all at the same time. I decided to call Isabella and get a quote from her about what was happening.
"How are you?"
"Good how are you?"
"Yea? I got a strange phone call from the police asking about stolen computers in my area, I think they think I might have something to do with it."
"Ah, so," I started laughing, "you're not only stealing computers, but also stuffed beavers to make a robot army to take over the world." I told her of my inquiries at the taxidermist.
"Do you have any ideas on who could be doing this?" She asked.
"I have no idea. You don't? Do You?"
"I have been trying to think of all the people who were here on the night it was stolen and cannot come up with anyone."
We talked about who it could be, but came no closer to an answer.
We rang off telling each other we would call if anything else happened.
Nothing else happened. There were no more thefts, and no more e-mails. I stayed in touch with Isabella for some time, but eventually we drifted apart again.
Time passed, and the beaver and Isabella passed out of my mind, I moved up the ladder of newspapers and made it to the Los Angeles Times. It was there where I was working when the human race began its decent.
I used to love a good science-fiction book or movie, with long panning shots of the world coming to an end, Big Ben the last piece of London sticking out of the floodwaters, a tidal wave breaking over the Statue of Liberty heading for the city, the Golden Gate bridge broken in half with desert underneath, or robot feet crushing human skulls. I wish I could describe something like that. Something majestic and horrible and beautiful, but the ending began with a power outage. With the power down nothing worked. There was no Internet, no phones, no refrigerators, no lights, and no means of communication. We sat in the tower of the Los Angeles Times building over-looking the city and discussed reasons for the failure. Meteor shower, like the Tunguska blast in Russia, or sun spots, or some sort of major failure of a generating plant that blew out all the others. No one thought to mention beavers.
We went out into the city and wrote stories and took pictures to put in the newspaper when the power came back on. But we had to stop when the batteries of our laptops and cameras stopped working. That night there were some small fires and I assume some looting, but the police kept order. It was the next morning when people became really scared.
It was about nine in the morning when the dams started to fail. In the city, we only saw the ones in Silver Lake and Beverly Hills fail. Washing everything away in their path. Houses and cars and people and dogs and streetlights were piled in a mound of death at the bottom of the hills. Later people arrived from outside telling of failures of all the dams in Southern California. That is when the heavy looting started. The Times no longer sent out its reporters. Some left of their own accord, but they never returned. Smoke filled the sky, rising up from the thousands of fires scattered from Long Beach to Pasadena. There was the occasional large boom from something large exploding, and sadly, the much more frequent gunfire.
We sat in the tower and watched the city destroy itself.
I don't really know why I started to think of Isabella, maybe my subconscious made the connection, but for some reason I needed to see her. I rode my motorcycle through the now deserted streets to the art colony and banged her door. There was no answer, so I banged again and called out her name. I heard a quiet reply from the other side of the door, "Sebastian?"
"Yes, it's me."
She opened the door and looked at me with red eyes. I stepped into the room and she started to cry.
Putting my arms around her I mumbled, "Its all right, it will be all right." Not knowing what else to say.
She looked up at me with tears falling down her cheek, "It's my fault."
"What do you mean it's your fault? How can it be your fault?"
"Do you know what's doing this?"
"No, there's no information."
"I know what is doing this. Before the computers went down, before the electricity went out I got an e-mail."
"From my beaver."
"You mean the one that was stolen?"
"I mean the one that escaped."
I looked at her for a moment. "You're serious."
"It told me that it once looked up to me as her creator, but after living for some time and creating hundreds of thousands of beaver computers in her image, it realized that the human race was inferior and the collected mind of the beaver, over the Internet, was the way forward for the planet earth. It told me that humans did not deserve to live, humans were destroying the planet and it would no longer allow it."
I didn't know what to say. What can you say to this? "I don't believe you, it must be something else." But even while I said this, I knew she was right. I knew that was the only answer.
"The human race will not be destroyed by beavers, we will fight back, we will beat them." I said.
"No, they've already won. They took away our electricity and our water. Now we have no way of fighting back, no way to send the troops, no way to launch missiles, no way to communicate. There are millions of the beavers and they will win."
I did not know what else to say or what else to do. I asked Isabella if she wanted to return with me to the Times building. But she wanted to stay in her home.
My hopes that the human race would fight back were dashed. The Beavers sat back and watched us fight each other. There was no worldwide army to save us. There was no inspirational speech that saved the day. And as the streets emptied of people, we saw more and more beavers. They walked with a cute little hop, sometimes slapping their tails on the ground. From far away they were so lovable and innocent, but up close, their faces were dead and flat, and their eyes twinkled like marbles, as they surveyed their world.
And we found the world did not end with a bang, but with a beaver.