I get lonely once in a while, but to tell you the truth, I prefer the mutts to people. They listen.
It was a long time coming, the End Times. But when it happened, it happened fast.
Mankind, we called ourselves. Should’ve been Mancruel. See, over the centuries, we’d managed to kill ourselves in war after selfish war, but the wars were only the obvious evils. Mankind’s demise came from the subtle evils. Pollution. Overpopulation. And greed. Lots of greed.
Humanity did a number not just on ourselves, but on our poor planet as well. We fouled the air, poisoned the waters and raped the land. Basically, like pigs, we crapped all over everything and ourselves as much and as often as we could. But we weren’t just a few pigs in a pen. Then came the virus.
Some folks, few that are left, say it came from a lab in China. That the Billionaires arranged it all to profit off the resulting pandemic, because profit they sure did. Others say it was Mother Nature’s way of saying, “You want to screw with me? I’ll show you mutts who your mama is!” Some say it was just God showing his disappointment. Me? I could care less. I just know that things are way different now.
Simpler. Cleaner. And I like it fine.
For instance; Long Island has bears. Queens has deer. Brooklyn has coyotes. The Bronx? The Bronx is a wasteland. Some things never change. And Manhattan? Manhattan has me.
The few folks that are left in Manhattan, they call me Wolfbearer. Mainly because I wear a vest made from a wolf I killed some years back. Hated to do it, but it was him or me. I preferred me.
I run with a pack of dogs I rescued from an abandoned ASPCA. They protect me and I find us food. Healthiest relationships I’ve ever had. Unconditional love. The end of the world had to happen in order for me to care about another living soul enough to die for. Go figure.
It’s a pretty good life. Simple and mostly drama free. There are some goofballs around, scavengers and such. They steer clear of me and the mutts. Once in a while, some of them get the courage to try and steal from us. It never ends well for them. Woof woof.
Each night, the mutts and I head up to the roof garden I built on top of the Belasco Theater. Vegetables, fruits. No flowers. The murder hornets killed off all the bees. I usually barbecue. Roasted peppers and deer meat, if hunting is good. Then we lay out on the roof and watch the stars come out. The full moon shines and is reflected in the now crystal clear Hudson River. The breezes are sweet and smog free. In winter, the mutts and I relocate to a townhouse on the upper west side where we keep a nice, roaring fire in the fireplace. It’s a good life.
The Boys, the secret kings of the world, figured if Americans were busy fighting each other, they wouldn’t notice the end of the world was coming.
How’d things get to this you ask?
Well, it sort of started during the short tumultuous term of our last president. The Smirker, I call him. He fomented great divisions in America, fanned the flames of racism, and general hatred of anybody different. Half the people loved him, half hated him, and in the end it didn’t matter. The Smirker was just a distraction. A patsy. For who you ask? The Billionaire Boys Club. The megarich men who built civilization and tore it all down when they got tired of it.
See, the Boys, the secret kings of the world, figured if Americans were busy fighting each other, they wouldn’t notice the end of the world was coming. The Boys figured that, with overpopulation, humanity was headed for extinction, and they decided to save themselves. Sure, they could’ve made cold fusion public, and that would have maybe stopped global warming, but what to do with all the damned people? Ah, but a virus! That was the ticket. Reduce humanity to a much more manageable size and start over from scratch. With the Boys in charge of course—as always.
So, the Boys built remote, mini cities. Cold fusion. Biodomes full of genetically engineered crops. Billions of animal DNA samples to clone when the world got up and running again. Geothermal heating, hydro cooling systems. In a few hundred years, civilization would be starting over, and the Boys would rule the world. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?
And there’s us. The immune. A handful of colorful characters who, through some quirk of genetics, lived through the virus. All seven waves of it. We survive in different ways. Some hunt, fish, and live off the land. Some scavenge. Me and the mutts, we do a little of both. I know a hundred different ways to make chili taste like a gourmet meal. Plenty of food left in the city from when almost everyone fled for the hills. But there are places the mutts and I steer clear of. Alphabet City. What’s left of Chinatown. Washington Heights. Especially the Heights.
See, a troop of Boy Scouts, all of whom had been sexually abused, formed a nasty little tribe and claimed Washington Heights as their own. Their head scoutmaster, an ex-Navy Seal, turned them into a band of survivalists. They set themselves up in the Cloisters. Folks who try to pass through there are never heard from again.
What do I do with my time? I drive a Hummer when I’m not racing the electric blue Porsche up Park Avenue. I wear FuBu, L.L. Bean, and Air Jordans. I carry a flashlight, compound bow and arrows, knife that would make Crocodile Dundee proud, a thermos full of honey mead (I had a pagan girlfriend once), and a bag of treats for the mutts.
I sing rock operas at the Met in Lincoln Center. I shred metal on electric guitar at Carnegie Hall. When I strum the high C, the mutts go wild.
I get lonely once in a while, but to tell you the truth, I prefer the mutts to people. They listen. They play. They love in a pure, innocent, passionately free way I’ve never encountered in my 60 years on this beat-up planet. And who knows? If I keep up the guitar solos, maybe one day I’ll be discovered.
Richard Courage is a peer counselor for people recovering from mental illness. He lives in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan and sings blues and folk rock. His play The Very Last Dance of Homeless Joe was accepted into the New York Theater Winterfest 2021.
Header photo by PHOTOARTDESIGN, courtesy Shutterstock.