I was trapped in a glass box through which a shadowy figure peered at me.
The sound of my name broke the dream and I looked up at the radio clock. It was 2:00am. Turning slightly I saw, sitting in the middle of the room calmly watching me, a coyote.
"What the...." I yelped, sitting up.
Harry, it's me, Betty, her voice sounded in my head, for it was indeed Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess.
Betty, what's wrong? I was having a terrible nightmare.
So was I. The dreams are from Robert [She meant Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster]. A human youngster has captured him and is holding him in an empty fish tank.
Get me out of here! came a thundering voice that seemed to shake the desert. Of course only Betty and I heard it, as it was beamed directly at us by Robert.
Do you know where he is? I asked.
Yes, let's get in your car.
I let Betty into the back seat of my 2007 Camry, and she directed me west on Pearblossom Highway. She did not lie down on the seat, figuring that anyone who could tell she was not a dog at 2:00am could live with the knowledge.
Betty, what happened?
Robert was with other gilas watching the full moon, which is particularly enchanting tonight.
Yes, that reminds me, why did no one call a meeting of the New Moon Club this month?
There was nothing to talk about.
Michael Flynn pled guilty.
So what happened to Robert?
A teenage boy sneaked up and grabbed him.
We drove into Littlerock, past the Family Dollar Store where I get my provisions. Betty directed me to turn right, up a residential street.
On our left was a stretch of leftover desert, overrun with non-indigenous weeds. On the right were tract homes on irregularly sized lots, some pleasantly kept up, some in stages of neglect surrounded by swaths of leftover desert hosting old tires and jungle gyms. As we neared the first corner Betty told me to park.
For obvious reasons, Harry, I will stay in the car. It's the first house across the street.
I surveyed the single story ghost of Mid Century Modern, with its angled roof (covered with white gravel) and triangular upper front window. The surrounding yard was spotted in somewhat random fashion with a variety of water-retentive shrubs, not entirely unpleasant. There was a black Ford pickup in the driveway.
What am I supposed to do?
Start walking and Robert will contact you.
I got out as instructed and headed towards the house, which was bathed in surreal moonlight. Robert came through loud and clear.
Harry, my god, I am dying of claustrophobia. The little shit!
Robert, I thought back, I'm crossing the street. It looks like someone is home.
The kid's mom is out partying. Someone picked her up and she didn't need the truck. The kid is asleep. Go to the right of the house, around the truck. The third window. He's passed out and won't hear a thing.
I arrived at the third window, aluminum framed, set in stucco, and I understood the depths of Robert's despair. When we pass houses with aluminum window frames set in stucco, Robert gags and covers his eyes. He says no sentient being should live in such a structure.
The screen came off easily and the window was unlocked. There was a desk under the window with the kid's stuff all over it. Along the wall to the right, on the floor, was a mattress under a sleeping figure, a teenage male still dressed, his head under a pillow.
How am I supposed to come down on that desk without making noise? I asked (telepathically), surveying my overripe physical self.
Just do it and we'll take it from there. I am dying here! Do it!
Then I noticed the table across the room, with a fish tank and Robert peering at me from within.
Peek-a-boo, he thought, Now get in here and save me!
I remembered Betty in the car and this restored some of my courage, though I wasn't sure why. I put my hands on the sill and hoisted up, sticking my head and upper torso through the window, then resting my hands and paunch on the sill.
Robert, is this what it takes to make life meaningful?
I am too old for this.
I resumed pushing myself through the window without much of a plan. Hauling one leg through, I managed to extend it to my left across the table, then I lay down and pulled the other leg through. The figure on the bed did not stir. When I made my first move to get a leg down, a laptop spilled off the table and crashed onto the floor.
I froze and watched the sleeping figure, which stirred for a few moments then became still again.
Tip-toeing over to Robert I lifted the lid off the fish tank and pulled him out, setting him on the table. His eyes were shut, his body still.
I'm trying to keep the kid asleep; it's not easy.
Robert, why didn't you bite him?
The little shit knew how to hold me at the neck so I couldn't turn and bite. So humiliating. I want to bite him now. In fact I want to eat him.
Not a good idea, Robert.
The kid in question began to stir.
He's waking up; I can't stop him.
And indeed, a tall thin form leaped up from the mattress, gawking in amazement at the scene before him.
Who the fuck are you? he demanded of me, his eyes also on Robert.
And who the fuck am I? asked Betty, sailing through the open window and landing beside me, the three of us staring purposefully at the boy, who stared back in awe and confusion.
Betty took charge.
Your name is Freddy, is that right? Freddy, your senses are accurate, I am a talking coyote. The gila monster you abducted can talk too, although only telepathically.
That's right, Freddy, beamed Robert, warming to the encounter, What do you have to say for yourself?
Freddy was not too bad a sport, it turned out.
So uh, Freddy began, I didn't know you guys were magic and gods and stuff. Sorry.
No problem, I said, suddenly seeing some promise in the kid. Can you let us out the front door?
And I want to take this newspaper with me, Robert said, nodding towards a copy of the Sunday Los Angeles Times that Freddy's mother had left next to the fish tank.
Sure, Freddy said, take anything you want. You guys are the bomb!
I grabbed the paper and we headed to the front door. As we said our goodbyes, I felt that Freddy was wistful for our companionship, and I resolved to visit him sometime soon.
What was that about the newspaper? I asked Robert, when the three of us were safely in the car.
I was reading an article through the fish tank that I want to finish.
Betty nudged the paper with her snout and read the title: "State voters are fed up with major parties" [12/3/17].
It's a breakthrough article, Robert said, not because the information is new or surprising, but because the Times ran it. I am feverish with ideas about this, about the prospect of American humans creating a new major party.
I'm the human around here, I objected, What do you care about human political parties?
I care because humans are in our desert for good. The gilas' future and all of earth's future is tied to yours. Betty, can you call Jesus and Gandalf to meet us now? We need to discuss this!
You're welcome, Robert, I commented dryly.
Oh yes, thanks for saving me, Harry and Betty.
We returned east on Pearblossom for a few miles, parked at my little cabin, then headed into the desert. In a few minutes we came upon Jesus and Gandalf seated around our usual fire pit.
Gandalf, the only fictional character in our circle, spoke first.
Robert, welcome back to the land of the free!
Chuckles all around.
Jesus asked, Robert, what's the big emergency about a newspaper article?
Here's the gist, Robert replied [He has a photographic memory and recited verbatim from the article]: "A statewide survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found 64% of likely voters agreed with the statement that the Democratic and Republican parties are doing 'such a poor job that a third major party is needed.'"
People have other choices, don't they, Gandalf asked, like the Libertarians, etc.
Not really, Robert replied, Listen to this [quoting again]: "The new, low level of trust in a political world run by Democrats and Republicans comes at the same time that so-called 'minor parties' have withered on the vine in California." The article mentions the two most familiar minor parties: the Libertarians (who are cultishly academic and under-obsessed with being understood and/or effective) and the Greens (they label non-believers any color but green, the color of plant life). Neither party can fill the growing void. Do you see what this means?
There were a few moments of silence while the group pondered what this could mean that would merit waking everyone up in the dead of night.
Finally Jesus replied, Robert, apparently what you are telling us is that the field is ripe for a new major political party, at least in California and maybe the rest of the country. I think we all see the logic, but why the urgency?
Yes, added Gandalf, Could we not have discussed this in the morning?
Robert surveyed us for a moment, then looked at me and said, Harry, as the human present, surely you see the urgency.
I see the urgency, I replied, but not for us, tonight or ever. Any new party will be handled by the powers that be- the same powers that handle the existing parties- but they will be disguised as new powers. If I am right, then not only can we forget about creating a new party tonight, we can forget about it forever. Robert, you're usually the cynic among us. Did your abduction rattle your intellect?
I think not, Robert flared back in his signature huff, I am perfectly aware of the normal course for political party creation among your kind. First comes the money- channeled to the right power centers- then come the newspapers announcing that not only do we need a new party but, presto, there appears to be one.
Yes, said Betty, and this is accompanied by the revelation of a framework of beliefs- the party platform- which will be hung across the stage, concealing the familiar pursuits we thought had been left behind.
Yes, yes, tell me things I don't know, sputtered the increasingly exasperated Robert, and we knew to give him his stage. He continued:
What I'm telling you is that you have to act now, before the money and media do. To do that you need to interest another set of people with money, people who have perhaps not delved into politics before, but who are, well...philosophical about life.
Oh Christ!, I moaned, not able to contain my annoyance further, then recalling present company, Sorry Jesus!
No problem, said Jesus, but I must say I see Robert's point. In your society money is the expression of influence. No money, no influence. Therefor Robert is correct: You do need money to engender a new major party.
Fine, I replied, then kindly tell us, Robert, how you think we should entice these monied interests.
Sure. You entice them the way you would entice anyone: by telling them that you will solve their problems.
Robert, interrupted Gandalf, that's what all the parties do. How would this be different?
Oh it will be different all right, because this party is going to solve problems that no other party has ever tried to solve. Take the revolution in male-female relations that has erupted among humankind. Clearly patriarchy's long reign is under attack, and it will no doubt be attacked again and again until matriarchy or patriarchy prevails. There is so much dismal strife around the union of your sexes, when that union should be beautiful and uplifting. I know you all hate it when I praise gilas....
Here we go, I muttered.
...but my kind has figured out gender relations, and we have neither patriarchy nor matriarchy- we have rule by lizard! We comprise a gender fluid society of equals.
Yes, I said, because neither gender has to take care of the eggs, which just sit there buried in the sand.
And that is bad because....?
I could contain myself no longer: Ok Robert, you're proposing we find wealthy people to fund a new party that will encourage the biological sciences to transform humans into cold-blooded egg-layers, as this will enhance human gender relations?
I looked at the others and asked: Am I the only one who thinks Robert is in shock from his experiences tonight and is not thinking rationally?
Let's hear him out, said Betty.
There was a pause. Robert spat, then continued: No Harry, that is not what I am proposing. Transforming you into egg-layers who do not have to rear young would be unnecessarily transformative. But it would be a relatively simple operation to provide human physiology with an estrus cycle.
Currently, unlike virtually every other mammal, humans have no estrus cycle; they are horny all the time. Some scientific speculation has it that humanity needed souped-up reproduction to counter the high mortality rates and particular stressors you faced when you lost your ancient habitat. The instability of successive habitats gave you no choice but to eventually take over the whole biosphere. Now that you're somewhat protected from the biosphere, you can ease up on the procreation.
I see where this is going, said Jesus. An estrus cycle would lower the rate of population growth while lessening the strife caused by non-stop physical lust. It's a timely concern, as humans are having trouble deciding what to do with their excess lust, especially the males. What is a powerful male supposed to do? Like his chimp cousin, the human Alpha male is driven to mate with all the females in his purview. What will happen to him now? Will he be killed, or sent to an institution for the defective? Your ideas make a certain sense, but be careful, the American president is talking code to those men as we speak, telling them that their downfall comes from defective armor, not wrong behavior.
You make a good point, Robert replied, which is why I believe we must act now, before other forces do. It will be no more than ten years until human science can regulate human sexuality. I suggest a forum for other beings who share the planet where they can describe to humans the many options for sexuality. The gila option has lasted for millions of stable years, and it delivers a fairly pleasant lifestyle. Most of my time, as a typical male, is spent in meditation. I've developed a special interest in human culture, which I study continually. But in the summer I'll be sitting on a rock or in my burrow, telepathically scanning the human internet, when a scent will come to me, a scent that fills my lizard soul with promises of wild delight- like a human on crack, emerging into an energy filled new world- but attuned to that world, unlike the human drug user, and I spring forth in pursuit of I know not what. Following the scent I come upon a female gila. I've seen her hundreds of times, but now she is different, transformed, seemingly just for me. Gila coitus has been clocked at three hours. I bet if your party promised the gila paradigm your candidates would sweep every election!
I had had enough. I stood and said, That's it Robert, you are officially full of crap!
Jesus and Gandalf motioned for me to relent, but I could not. Addressing Jesus and Gandalf, I continued:
Let's review Robert's proposal. As I understand it, he wants us to find rich underwriters for a new political party whose platform would include the ending of excess male libido, limiting it to a specific time of year. Presumably excess female libido will be curtailed as well. Can't you just see money and votes racing to this party? Robert, were you sniffing something in that fish tank? I saw a plastic tube near you.
Robert looked away. The kid was experimenting on me.
Oy! You get me up in the middle of the night to save you, and my thanks is I have to listen to you spout gila insanity until dawn.
Robert spat, his version of the thoughtful pause, then replied:
Have it your way Harry. You don't know what's possible because you've never tried it.
But I know what's impossible, Robert. Sleep it off. You're going to be embarrassed tomorrow.
And you will be embarrassed, Robert retorted, when social engineers remake your species without any input from you, the old model. This is your only chance.
I trudged towards home, listening to the dimming voices behind me. I had to admit there was a certain ridiculous logic to Robert's ideas, but I was too tired to think about them any more.
Twenty minutes later, standing before my bed, I had a vision. Was it a dream? In this dream a moonlit scent entered through the open window, a scent that turned on a long-dormant part of my endocrine system, kindling an explosion of sensation and desire, and a gnawing, almost desperate need to sate the desire. I forgot sleep and followed the scent back into the desert. I walked for a while and came upon a woman standing on the moonlit sand.
Damn, I thought, Robert may have a point. Who wouldn't vote for this?