August 14, 2010


This is my entry for the FRIDAY CHALLENGE, 8/14/10. [If canines were independently to evolve into an intelligent, tool-using, and ultimately space-faring species, what would they look like? How would they behave? What would their technology look like? What sort of tools would canines feel it necessary to invent? Simply the idea of dog breeds in itself: that's the result of thousands of years of human meddling in canine genetics. So let's start all over with—oh, coyotes, not wolves. After all, here on Earth, it wasn't the gorillas that became the dominant simians, but something more akin to the chimpanzee. Let's posit that untold ages ago, on some other world, something happened to change coyotes so that they became a bipedal (okay, the legs, hips, and spine need to change), tool-using (ditto for the shoulders and rib cage), intelligent (okay, no more mail-ordering anything from Acme), species. And now fast-forward a few millennia, and give us a few quick paragraphs describing the moment of first contact between humans and a truly alien, but canine-based, species. What would they look like, to human eyes? What kind of social structure would be evidenced in their behavior and interaction with each other? With ears that hear in a completely different slice of the audio spectrum and canine mouth parts, how would they even communicate with us? How would they communicate with each other? What would they smell like? ] Bruce said just a few paragraphs, but it was really, really hard not to write a whole short story. Which I will. Very soon.

By the time Phenda reached the ground, she was shaking her head. “I didn’t sign up for this,” the muttered.

“No one signed up for this. But someone has to meet them face-to-face. You got picked.” There was a pause then Voice said, “Six. Right behind you.”

She nodded and turned.

The Kiiotes were standing shoulder-to-shoulder about four meters from the ship. Looking like big-headed coyotes with muzzle, large ears, fur that ranged in color from wheat to chocolate, more coyote-like than dog or wolf-like, they watched her with quick blinking, golden eyes.

They stood like canines on four feet. She stepped forward, squatting to hold out her fist. Resisting the urge to pet one, she resisted a similar urge to run away in terror. Human culture had been both prey and master to creatures much like these and the crossed response was almost as deeply embedded as a reflex. She controlled her own motions rigidly.

Abruptly, they crouched as one, shoulders down, tails in the air. Pushing up from the ground, they stood and she could see bones moving under fur and muscle. Each one straightened its neck with a snap, shrugging the shoulders back at the same time stretching the arms out straight before them, wriggling four slender digits. Two others unfolded from farther up the forearm. Long-clawed, they were opposable and matched with two fingers each. Chest muscles stretched tighter and the neck appeared more rigidly held than a Human one, tilting the head and neck forward where it swung side-to-side, nostrils on the muzzle twitching. The facial skin pulled tighter, stretching the lips back to reveal a carnivore’s teeth and more of the orbis of the eye.

In the rear legs, end toes splayed widely forward, ankle and lower leg straightened to lock into a tibia-fibula arrangement. The upper leg and pelvis flared in all of them, but the upper leg remained forward bent rather than Human vertical, giving all of them the impression of coiled springs.

There were no external genitalia Phenda could see.

With a final shake, they walked to her, all six sets of ears swiveling forward and noses twitching spasmodically, encircling her and sniffing her. Two of them sniffed her vagina, backing away with a snort. All of them sniffed her anus, hands and feet. Phenda kept her eyes down and hands in the air.

Stepping back, they formed a loose circle around her then dropped to a now-awkward all-four position, and urinated on the ground. The two who had sniffed her vagina urinated like canine-analogue females. The males had pouched organs that served for urinating.

Bouncing to two feet again, they moved back into a pack, the females taking a forward position flanking a male, the others stepping back and squatting. Looking closely, Phenda finally noticed that the male before her had ear nicks, with muzzle and nose scars. The females were scarred as well.

The male lifted his chin and howled briefly the pack taking up the chorus. When he stopped, the rest stopped and he yipped twice, adding a bark at the end.

Voice said, “That’s easy. Comp’s got a translation...”

Phenda muttered, “I don’t need your color commentary. Feed me the translation directly.”

“Fine, then,” said the disgruntled Voice.

The cleaner drone of the translation program came through her earphone. It said, “‘Where is your pack?’”

Phenda grimaced, showing her teeth, snapped them and howled back, mimicking the song of the coyote pack leader she worked with in North Dakota. She also squeezed her glutes and added a fart she’d been holding after eating all that beef last night.

The Kiiote’s ears flipped back and their noses twitched wildly.

She had no ears to move, so she lifted her hands, fingers straight up, both hands facing the Kiiote, standing still.

The male barked, yipped, howled alone for an instant and stopped. The computer said, “‘You are listening and you smell like a hunter. We have never met your kind. We would meet your pack.’”

Phenda squeezed a fart again, yipped and howled, stretched luxuriously – a coyote gesture of calm departure and turned back to the ship.

Voice exclaimed, “Don’t turn your back on them, they’ll kill you!”

Phenda yipped and didn’t add a fart.

Behind her, the Kiiote barked what was clearly laughter at her disdain for the voice she was sure they heard.

Growling to herself, she thought that she might just volunteer to work with these aliens.


Paul said...

What was the challenge that these paragraphs answered?

GuyStewart said...

I put it in the "intro". Visit Bruce's website -- he's GREAT!