SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT Tom Mazanec Thanks to Oren the Otter for help with this effort. The marten climbed the tree and stalked along the branch that passed near the tree's neighbor. Just above the branch was a promising looking hole. John figured that either the hole was a nest that offered something suitable for eating, or maybe an abandoned nest which he could take over as his own nest. Indeed, there was an inhabitant in the hole, one with feathers and a very unpleasant attitude about his little visit. "Get out! Get out of here!" squawked the creature. Huh? Hmmmm...the post-transformation "dialect" of English. This was something to think about. But irregardless, he was still hungry. "You can speak? You were human?" John asked. "OK, OK. I was just hunting. I'll leave you alone." The bird landed on the end of his branch. It was a woodpecker. "Just be on your way, then" the bird replied. John began to turn around, then suddenly lunged into the hole in the tree and came out in a flash with an egg in its mouth, and in one motion jumped down to the ground and vanished in the undergrowth. The bird's hysterical cries echoed in the woods, but John ate his little meal anyway. The other egg had been crushed by his paws in his haste to obtain the tidbit, but that would just have to be chalked up as a loss. ******************************************************************** John heard the tiny sound just in time to realize that something did not mean him well. As a matter of fact, two somethings. A pair of coyotes, to be specific. He sensibly took advantage of that moment to flee at full speed, the coyotes in hot pursuit. The predators would catch up to him quickly, unless he got into a tree. The nearest one happened to be a dead tree, but it was going to have to do as a haven. Up John went and took refuge at the end of a branch. The coyotes stationed themselves at the bottom of the tree. "He'll have to come down sooner or later" one said. "One or the other of us will just wait until he does." "So you were human, before the Nacalites! Killing me would be can't!" "Surviving is what is important to us, now. Thanks to the gasbags, we are no longer human. You are no longer our species." "And that was not how you felt before!" came a voice behind him. John turned and looked behind him. The woodpecker was back, and her mate was with her this time. They began pecking away at his branch. "I left you alone. I only went after your eggs. They would never be people, anyway...just birds!" "They were our children! You killed them, and now it will be your turn!" "I never asked to be changed into an animal. That was the Nacalites doing - and you're being as bad as them! Those eggs would have just been birds, eggs I ate to survive. I was as human as you and now you're trying to kill me!" RATTITTITTITTITTITT! "Look, all right, so you loved dog was hit by a car when I was a kid. I remember how I felt, but that isn't worth a death penalty! The eggs didn't suffer the way Chaser did...and I only did it to eat." RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT... "What if the Nacalites turned someone into a bug? They could, you know! Can you be absolutely sure you haven't killed someone yourselves, without even knowing it?" "You knew what we were!" RATATATAATATATAT. "OK, I'm sorry. But if you do this, you're no better than I was. Maybe're just vigilantes...a lynch mob." RAT-TAT-RAT-TAT-RAT-TAT "I never even had a traffic ticket as a human...I worked in a hospice, trying to help dying people. Now this is how you decide I should die?" "If you were such a humanitarian, how could you do what you did to us? To our children?" RAT...RAT-TAT...TAT "They were not really children. Please, think about your old friends and family. What are they now? Are any of them carnivores or predators? Don't you think that they do the same as me, sometimes?" The pecking stopped, though the old dead branch continued to creak and pop. "Those overgrown farts are the ones responsible for this! I wish someone from the Q Continuum would turn them all into turds because they exterminated us, or for using peroxide, or some sin they never even thought of as wrong! I never hunted anything as a human, now I'm dying for hunting as a marten!" The branch broke and suddenly the woodpeckers were attacking the coyotes even as he fell to the ground. "Run!" they screeched, and he needed no further encouragement. He was off deeper into the woods, and those birds had really given him a something to think about.