I had strange dreams last night. I saw a field of stars populated with thousands and thousands of charging horses, their hooves like a thunderstorm all around me. I felt like Mufasa must have, right up until they came stampeding over me. Can’t say I cared for it much.
But talking about dreams was more something I used this for before the whole world disappeared. Back when I had people to talk to about weird dreams and enjoyable work to do when I woke to take my mind off it all. Can’t say I don’t miss those days.
One thing I feared in the absence of humans, fires, have failed to materialize. Perhaps other parts of the country weren’t so lucky. Maybe there is already a great fire spreading from sea to sea, and it will eventually swallow me and what’s left of my civilization. I’ll be driven into the ocean, and lose any chance I had left of eking out some sort of pleasant existence.
Then I’ll be eating grass. My search for power met with modest success this morning. After topping off the fuel in the generator out back, I found myself a real estate magazine and started browsing through the listings for homes with some environmentally conscious options. Can’t say I haven’t dreamed of having the money to have a house. Under the circumstances, I think I would’ve preferred to keep the apartment. I don’t even have a single other person to appreciate it with me. I could go to one of those movie star mansions in Hollywood, one of those sprawling estates, and now nobody would stop me. But what would be the point? Not to mention the distance; a few blocks is one thing, but no way some animal wouldn't find me if I had to travel that far. Still might do it anyway if I can ever figure out how to drive. Might be fun to explore those houses, see what sort of neat things got left behind there. But not now. For now, I need a place as close to downtown as possible, with as many different alternative power options as I can find. Though this isn’t the bay area, there were still plenty of listings. The prices of most of these homes were more than I would probably make in my lifetime, but that didn’t matter now. Would you believe the GPS in my phone didn’t work to help me find my way there? Apparently you need a data connection or something, which is well and totally down now. Fortunately one of the cars we had in for servicing had a road GPS inside with a battery, and I took that along with me to check out a few of the properties that were closest. I visited several, crossing into patches of residential that were just as deserted as the city proper. No evidence I saw anywhere during my walk indicated intelligent life, though I saw several raccoons and even a fox investigating an overturned trash bin. Only the first of many outside pioneers into this formerly human territory. As before, I moved most during the heat of the day, counting on that to keep the majority of the dogs indoors. Are stray dogs nocturnal? I don't actually know. I'm not. Wonder if tiny horses can change their schedules like people can, or if we just don't have a choice and get tired no matter what. See that, how I used the word "we"? Yuck. I wonder if being some sort of alien horse has made me somehow separate from the predator and prey relationships here, the way many animals even today would hesitate to attack humans for reason of novelty alone. I’ll probably have to figure out some sort of defense eventually. I can’t run yet, though I haven’t fallen over while walking in two days. Horses buck I know, but that works better when your throat isn’t within biting distance of most predators on the ground. I could take the gun my boss keeps in his desk drawer, but what would I do with it? I don’t have hands. Even if I could somehow pull a trigger with my teeth, I’d probably break one and there’s no chance I’d fire straight. Could I build some sort of harness? Maybe rivet some brackets onto a gun, and wear it on my shoulders or something? A rifle would probably be easier… The scent and touch of humanity is still strong here, and nothing large threatened me. Were I still human, I probably wouldn’t ever have to worry about predators here, except perhaps feral dogs if they got really hungry. Little in southern California is much of a danger to a prepared and alert human adult. Put a few shots into the air with a shotgun, and the dogs would probably go running. I bet a shotgun would rip my little hooves clean off, even if I did find a way to fire it. Unfortunately, while I am alert, I am also the size of a dog, and much slower than one. It's possible one of the packs will eventually corner me and the last surviving human will meet a grizzly end. Not sure if that would be better than living my entire life in a world without another intelligent being to talk to. Guess we'll see which I get to experience. Of course, there may also be a day when mountain lions or coyotes or something make a go at me. Can't wait. Not today. Today I found a home I think will do; a modern-looking building listed as having several key features. Not only was the entire flat roof covered in solar panels, but it also came equipped with one of those fancy new Tesla in-home systems for storing the power, instead of relying on the grid for day-night distribution the way most homes did. Even more useful to me, the shielded gutters connected to a large cistern instead of the city’s drainage system. I didn’t break any windows to get in and look around, not when I considered the chances of being able to replace a window as a no-handed horse creature to be near zero. Getting into the gate and around back was difficult, but the home hadn’t been locked from the side-garage door. It was eerie wandering through a house with the look and feel of being lived in. Photographs of an elderly couple hung on many of the walls, along with images of people I took for their children and grandchildren. The house itself was quite modern in construction, with several double-paned walls of glass (not on the sunward facing sides, a suicidal design choice in So-Cal), far nicer furniture than anything I’ve ever owned, and digital cameras and gadgets as well. That wasn’t the only reason why I chose the location over the many others in the book with similar power choices. It might’ve also had a pool, an indoor spa, and several levels of basement. It might’ve been the proximity to downtown, or the well-outfitted workshop I found in the top level of the basement. Asking price? Just shy of two million dollars. Needless to say, they got less for it from me. I found a spare key, and took it with me back to my headquarters. My search consumed much of the day, and I didn’t want to make a move at night. I wasn’t sure what sort of animals might come out at night to feast on humanity’s carcass, and I didn’t want to find out. Passed through some familiar parts of town on the way back to the garage. You’ll never guess who I ran into on the street: my neighbor's dog, the one that scared me so bad on my first day in this joke of a body with his barking. Somehow, he’d gotten out of his yard. Not all that surprising, really. I’ve seen dogs jump fences and dig underneath them with ease. I turned a corner near my old street and there he was, hurrying up to me. He seemed leaner than when I’d last seen him, his eyes a little wild from all the time alone. By the look of him, I was afraid I was going to get attacked. Never could’ve outran him, and if my first few kicks didn’t scare him off, I’d be dogfood. He didn’t attack, though. He growled, whimpered, and whined, but didn’t attack. Just stopped and looked at me, like he was as alone as I felt. Maybe he just missed having people around. No way was a dog smart enough to figure out that I was really human (I AM!). Whatever the reason, the hungry dog just looked at me. Poor thing was absolutely huge, taller than me. I couldn’t say what kind of mutt he was, but I’m sure there’s some husky in his family tree. His eyes were that eerie blue huskies sometimes get, the kind that look almost human. I wonder if they look more human than mine. Not knowing what else to do (and because I’d done it back when I had a dog), I tried talking to him. “You know, you don’t have to be hungry. There’s a pet store on the way, I bet we could find something to eat for you.” He just sorta kept looking at me. I didn’t run away, but I did start waking again, past him. He followed. Not closely at first; far enough away that he was out of reach. Almost as though he was afraid I was going to hit him. When I stopped to get a drink, he seemed to recgonize exactly what I was doing, and he got close enough to let me pour the rest of my bottle into his mouth. By the time I got to the pet store he was walking almost beside me. I got plenty of good looks at those sharp teeth, right at eye level like that. I think I know what it’s like to be friends with a wolf now. I talked to him during the walk. Not like he talked back or anything, just sorta talked about what I was doing and where I was going. It's nice to talk to some "body" even if it's just me doing all the talking. Broke into a pet store. God, did it stink. More like a pet mausoleum. Small animals, fish… all dead in tiny boxes. Can’t say that wasn’t depressing. Cut open a big bag of dog-food, and waited while my friend ate. Not sure why. Just seemed like the right thing to do I guess. Unwrapped one of those big bone treat things and gave it to him. Have you ever wondered how dog treats taste? Awful. That done, I set off for home. I thought I’d escaped, but turns out the dog was following me again. This time he didn’t look so hungry, and the glazed look was gone from his eyes. I could’ve sent him away (maybe), but even if I’d wanted to I wouldn’t have dared with such a large animal. He didn’t actually come into the garage. I wonder if he’ll be out there tomorrow. Never knew his name, so I named him “Huan.” His owners aren’t around to argue with me about it. God, I wish they were. If Huan didn’t like the way I assigned him a name, he didn’t object. I wonder if he can read horse expressions as easily as dogs can read human ones. I made it back before sundown, barely. Ate a delicious salad with some dressing from the rec room (I saved the dressings), and changed my recorded radio message to include the address of the new location I was moving to and the fact that the radio transmissions might be sporadic for the next few days while I got everything set up. I kept the part about wanting to meet up with and work together with any survivors that might remain. God, I hope someone’s out there. My (stupid) hooves are sore from all the walking on sidewalk. It’s hard to tell, but it looks like I may’ve worn away some of the surface. They look smoother than they were the first day. I don’t like the idea of wearing horseshoes one bit. The thought of nailing something into my feet is about as horrific as it was a few days ago when this all started. Maybe I can find child’s boots and strap my feet into them. Just so long as I can stop the bottom from being worn away on concrete, I should be okay. Assuming I can even get them on without my hands. How the hell is there a species with brains large enough to stick a human mind but no opposable thumbs? How did this animal evolve? I guess that question can go onto the table with some of my others, such as “how did every human on earth vanish at exactly the same moment?” I wonder which of those is harder to answer. —A I drew Huan! He didn't pose for me or anything. Also, I'm still using my mouth, so I can't capture how awesome he looks in person. Hopefully he'll look less hungry soon.