Evolution
rating: +11+x

"Evolution is fantastic, a truly astonishing process." said the biology teacher, while his students— the majority, at least— listened to him attentively, and one of them, a girl with luscious, curly hair, slowly shook her head as a sign of disapproval.

"Its natural processes are fascinating, but when there is human intervention, even involuntary, it produces… quite amusing results" he continued as he drew a geological timeline on the blackboard, while the curly-haired girl continued to shake her head skeptically.

"Consider the following situation… do any of you have or have had cats?"

"No."

"Yes."

"I prefer dogs, they're more loyal."

"Cats are cuddlier and less destructive."

"Cats are superior."

"No, cats think they're superior, it's very different."

"They act as caretakers, look after the children…"

"Cats are elegant, they hunt mice."

"Its tail moves like a snake."

"I prefer the koalas, they're so tender."

"Pandas forever!"

"Well, well, the thing is, everyone who's had cats has heard their pitiful meow asking for food or water, right?"

"Yes."

"Obviously."

"Well, I'll tell you something amazing, an evolutionary strategy that cats have developed over thousands of years of living with humans, since the first wildcat began to roam the shacks of the first sedentary humans… Possibly in Mesopotamia and not in Egypt as previously believed, it goes a little like…

Moonless Night, 11:45 PM

Victor felt the sting of fear, it was so abrupt he preferred to think it was just uneasiness. He deceived himself thinking that the sensation in the pit of his stomach was anxiety because he would be late to his girlfriend's house, and that she would be alarmed thinking that something had happened to him. No doubt it was that, that sensation —which he preferred not to call fear— was due to the anguish that his girlfriend would suffer in vain, it had nothing to do with ending up in a labyrinth of unknown streets, barely lit with dim yellow streetlights. It had nothing to do with the utter loneliness, with the sound of his footsteps creating echoes as the only company and the distant murmur of vehicles accelerating through streets which he could not see.

He was lost.

He had decided to take a shortcut; leaving the busy avenue and climbing up some stairs, he turned the corner of a basketball court, taking a block of red apartment buildings as reference, and finally got lost. He walked along a street too wide and too quiet for his taste, surrounded by houses with closed doors and drawn curtains. He tried to find their way but the names of the streets meant nothing to him.

The neighborhood didn't look impoverished- the houses were terraced and the gardens were trellised, while the sidewalk was filled with garbage bags torn open by dogs. The neighborhood didn't look impoverished, but it didn't seem safe either. It was his loneliness and silence that troubled him and created that void in his stomach- that void he preferred not to call fear, only worry- about not being able to arrive on time, about his cell phone being dead and useless, about the scarce amount of money he carried that was insufficient for a taxi fare, and the buses seemed to have disappeared along with the daylight.

He heard the noise of the television from afar, and was accompanied only by the occasional car turning the corner and quickly driving off, but he was otherwise alone, no human figure walked the same streets as he did under the yellow glow of the streetlights, and the few that he saw in the distance did not seem to be good people.

He had peeked into the alleys, gazing into where the darkness became heavier. He saw groups of people sitting and moving, going in directions where he would not encounter them.

He couldn't see their faces, much less guess how old they were, they could either be very young children with blissfully unaware and perfectly harmless parents —But could a 15-year-old teenager really be harmless?— Could they be hardened thugs, the kind who ask you the time then put a knife to your neck? Their voices were hard to understand and distant, but he accelerated his pace when that sting in his lower abdomen intensified. He knew he was vulnerable, very vulnerable, and he knew that he could end up being just another statistic, one of those that the news dispatches in a couple of minutes. He knew that he could disappear and, in the end, be just an enigma and a painful memory for his girlfriend, his parents and the few people who loved him in the world.

And in that state of mind, he came across a wasteland, which he watched with distrust from the opposite sidewalk. It occupied half a block, surrounded by three of its four sides by walls, inside there was nothing but rubble, garbage, and shadows, suitable ground for all kinds of illicit acts- those involving sex, drugs, and violence, or a combination of those.

And then he heard a cry.

It was faint, barely audible in the opaque silence of the night, but it was a cry. Sad, overwhelming, it made the night darker.

He noticed some cardboard boxes near one of the walls, closer than he would like. Large, empty, and broken boxes which still retained their original shape; the crying seemed to come from there. He crossed the street, approached carefully, and sharpened all his senses. If there was an abandoned baby, it must surely be there in the middle of the cartons, starving and cold.

His sense of smell informed him of something else, there was something there, beside squishy and unpleasant smell of garbage and dry earth, but also something else. Something like feathers or hair, like the stench of wet dog fur. But he ignored it, the stinging sensation of the stomach —what he insisted on not calling fear— was still there, but he decided to ignore it. If his thoughts were not concentrated on that invisible baby he would have thought that was what they called courage.

"Don't worry, baby, I'm with you now." He muttered more to himself than for the creature. The crying was getting louder, so he began to search through the cartons with caution. It had to be in front of him…

The change was abrupt- more than that, instantaneous- he was simply paralyzed, not only his body but also his mind, everything was simply turned upside down. The cry went quiet and was replaced by a hiss, almost like that of a viper, and a yelp and suddenly in front of him, still invisible. There was no longer a helpless baby but something that grunted, drooled, and barked, something frightful with claws and hair and teeth, and with a bristly tail, all of which he saw more with the eyes of imagination than with of clear sight. He was suddenly surrounded by things, things similar to what was in the middle of the boxes and which shortly before it had pretended to be a baby, things which had remained hidden, perhaps buried in the sand, and which now jumped over him, clawed their fingers with sharp nails into the flesh and covered his mouth, to make him disappear in the middle of the night, without a single scream, without a single witness.

"What did you say? Ah, you don't believe in evolution, I imagine you are a… yes, a creationist. Ah, you believe that evolution is a way of denying God. I imagine that you are evangelical, that is, Protestant, right? Are you Catholic? It surprises me, because the Catholic Church accepts evolution… No, it is not a joke… seriously it is not… I am an agnostic and it seems that I know more about the doctrine of the Catholic Church than you do!"

"Well, we'll discuss this later, what I want to tell you is this: cats are manipulative bastards, and their hungering 'meow' is what happens when superior beings coexist with less cunning creatures for millennia… the superior beings are the cats, by the way."

"Cats have learned to imitate the cry of a baby with their meows. I'm not lying to you, a cat's attention meow, whether out of hunger or thirst, has the same tone and frequency —it's not exactly like that, but you can understand it— like a crying baby, and they do so in order to call our attention and awaken our instinct to protect newborns of our species and direct it towards them."

"Clever, isn't it?"

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