the warehouse at the end of the universe
The next time your day is starting poorly I want you to remember the following little true story. I realize that many professional writers might gasp at my use of both little and true in front of the word story but it is both little and true so I invite them to mind their own business.
When I was a younger Manion, I worked in a warehouse. Not a bad job… except for what I was required to do each morning, being low man/Manion on the totem pole and all.
Let me set the scene with two very relevant bits of information. First, the warehouse had a rodent problem. Mice were everywhere. Second, and this is where it becomes super relevant, the traps that my employer employed (another gasp from professional writers no doubt) were not the ones that incorporated a bit of cheese and a device that, once activated, brought down a piece of steel at a tremendous speed that would immediately make the offending mouse regret it’s dietary decisions. i.e. it was killed instantly.
Nope. They used a glue trap. Once the mouse touched it they were stuck to it and unable to extricate themselves due their hairy exterior. This would give them the remained of the evening to sit motionless and come to terms with their mortality. I can’t say I have a complete understanding of mice psychology, but I’m guessing it’s a pretty long night.
Then in the morning a human would come along and dispose of them.
My predecessor would just grab the trap and throw it into the dumpster with the mouse still very much alive. To this day I can’t think of a much more horrible fate than being a mouse sitting in the garbage waiting to starve to death. When the task was given to me I did what any caring compassionate being would do; I stepped on their heads to put them out of their misery.
And yes, it was as soul-crushing as it sounds. You cannot underestimate how adorable a little mouse looks when it is stuck to a glue trap. It’s like it sat their all night thinking to itself that its only way out of its predicament would be to practice looking up at the human adorably. And yes, I did try to rip the little guy off the trap a few times but it was always impossible. That glue had only one job and it took it quite seriously.
Five days a week I would start my day by squishing the adorable heads of upwards of a half dozen mice at a time. And then you wonder why I write such fucked up things. Trauma like that makes you wrestle with some pretty dark stuff.
And some not so dark.
I remember thinking a lot about the Ameglian Major Cow. These artificially-created, sentient creatures were introduced to me in the book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. They were a race of large cow-like beings that were bred to want to be eaten. Make sure to grasp all the ramifications of that last sentence. There have been a number of rather heady papers published on the philosophical implications of the Ameglian Major Cow, so don’t go barreling past it like it was just another sentence. Beings that were bred to want to be eaten.
“The waiter approached.
“Would you like to see the menu?” he said, “or would you like meet the Dish of the Day?”
Then the Ameglian Major Cow would waddle over to the table.
“Good evening,” it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, “I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts of my body?”
“Something off the shoulder perhaps?” suggested the animal, “braised in a white wine sauce?”
“Or the rump is very good,” murmured the animal. “I’ve been exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there’s a lot of good meat there.”
“May I urge you to consider my liver?” asked the animal, “it must be very rich and tender by now, I’ve been force-feeding myself for months.”
When you’d made up your mind it would then nip off and shoot itself, having achieved self-actualization.
Eventually I just convinced myself that I was interacting with Ameglian Major Mice. i.e. the reason they looked so adorable was that they were not only ok with what was about to happen, but that they embraced it. They considered it their destiny to be squished. I was just a minor player in a much bigger mouse drama.
I do realize that this is the type of recollection best offered up on a therapist’s couch, but you’ll have to do.
I think about those mice now and then, particularly when I hear people debating whether humanity is going to be responsible for creating the next intelligence on Earth (that will replace us) or if we’re in the process of evolving to become it.
It seems pretty obvious to me.
We can try and look as adorable as we want… but the heel is coming (a minor player in a much bigger human drama).
“…and the Universe, … will explode later for your pleasure.”
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe