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Authors: Chad Kultgen

Strange Animals

BOOK: Strange Animals
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Contents
chapter
    

one

“You're an animal.
You're here to eat and fuck. That's it. There's no God judging you, no heaven waiting for you, no karma, no greater meaning, no purpose to life. Nothing you do on this planet will ever matter. You're an animal. You're here to eat and fuck. That's it.” This was the advice Karen Holloway gave her friend in a crowded bar.

God and religion were constructs of humanity that had long outlived their purpose of explaining the natural world to a primitive population that had no means of discovering the truth. The universe was likely infinite, and although most of its makeup was unknown, there was no evidence that anything supernatural had had any hand in its creation or continued development. Despite our advanced scientific understanding of a wide variety of things, we had not yet evolved beyond certain animal motivations. Chief among them was the need for sexual interaction. In the modern
era, this need could be met without the once-unavoidable consequence of pregnancy. And even when pregnancy was the accidental outcome of that animal impulse, a woman had options. Choosing to have a child meant choosing a life of servitude and obligation to that child, over any ambitions a person might have for themselves, but there was no need to make that choice. These were things that Karen understood to be true.

“As we know, I have a slight difference of opinion on literally everything you just said. And I think it's sad that I'll be in heaven hanging out with all of my family and friends—except you, because you'll be in hell, burning in a sea of liquid fire.” This was the response Tanya Campos gave to Karen.

God was a very real, conscious entity, and the various religions that had existed throughout history and into the present were merely different methods by which that God spoke to different cultures. Science could explain the natural world, but religion explained the spiritual world. Evidence of God's hand in the universe was in everything from the miracle of childbirth to the design of a snail's shell. Human beings were the only creatures that God imbued with souls and free will, which separated them from the animal world and gave them dominion over it. As for sex, it was ideally something to be shared with a spouse, but in the modern era, as long as your partner was someone who at least loved and respected you, then it was impractical to abstain until marriage. With proper use of contraceptive methods, a woman could choose when she was ready to start a family. And while the pursuits of personal fulfillment outside of raising children were certainly worthwhile, being a mother was the most important thing a woman could do, and if that ultimately meant abandoning other individual goals, then so be it. These were things that Tanya understood to be true.

Karen said, “Okay, let's address your retarded idea of heaven first. Then we'll get to why you can't complain about not getting laid when you're standing in a bar full of guys who would gladly
fuck you, and then when I give you advice about letting go of your hang-ups, you tell me that I'm going to burn in hell. That's a seriously shitty best friend.”

Tanya laughed and said, “Here we go.”

“Yep, here we go. So you think that when you get to heaven, it's going to be all of your family and friends, right?”

“Yeah, that's the idea traditionally held by literally billions of people all over the world.”

“But no one ever thinks to mention that maybe old Uncle Jimmy who molested a couple of kids in the family might be in hell, do they? Nope, it's always all of your friends and family. No one missing.”

“Maybe old Uncle Jimmy was genuinely sorry and he repented, so he gets to go to heaven, too. And maybe we all forgive old Uncle Jimmy, because once you're in heaven you're at peace in a way you've never experienced before, and you understand things much better than just a human brain is capable of.”

“Fair enough, but what about old Grandpa Johnny who killed a few dozen people in whatever war was going on in his generation, and nationalism told him that as long as he was doing it for his country, it was perfectly fine, so he never repented? Old Grampy Johnny is always right there waiting for you in heaven. Everyone gets in, no matter what, it seems like.”

“I just said
you'll
be roasting in hell, and I'll be sad about that.”

“Okay, asshole, then what about the people who claim to have died on the operating table and come back to life? Their immediate family are the only people they ever see in the white light. Wouldn't your grandma also have her heavenly entourage, which would include her grandma, so on and so forth, until you have a giant group of dead people that includes every fucking person who has ever fucking lived on the entire fucking planet? You never hear that story, do you? You never hear some idiot saying, ‘I went to heaven and I saw every person who
ever lived, even cavemen, because we're all related if you go back far enough'?”

“I can't wait for you to die, so you'll get answers to these questions and you can stop being an asshole all the time.”

“When I die and when you die and when anyone dies, we're not getting any answers. We're just going to fucking rot in the ground. So live it up while you can.” Karen raised her glass and took a long swig of beer, then said, “Does this beer smell weird to you?”

Tanya sniffed her beer and said, “No.”

Karen said, “Weird. It smells metallic or something.”

Tanya said, “Maybe it's a bad tap. I don't smell it, though.”

Karen said, “Whatever,” and she took another sip.

Tanya laughed again. “Anyway, you were baptized. You still have a chance to avoid eternal damnation.”

“Bitch, please. You know what really kills me about you religious assholes?”

“There's something else, besides everything you just mentioned? Your well is deep. Please enlighten me.”

“You all think we live in a religious society. But we don't.”

“You mean America?”

“Yeah.”

“You know the stats better than I do, probably, so you have to know you're talking bullshit now.”

“Obviously we live in a dipshit country. More people believe in angels than climate change. But I'm not talking about opinion polls. I'm talking about the nuts and bolts of our society—how things are actually run. If I went out tonight and I killed someone, and then in my trial I said, ‘Well, I believe in God just like everybody else, and I think he's all powerful just like everybody else, and I know we all believe that he can talk to people if he wants to. And he
did
talk to me. He told me to kill that person, so I did it. I don't know why God wanted that person to die or why he wanted me to be the one to kill that person, but I
don't ask questions. When God tells me to do something, I do it. I was just following God's plan.' If I said that shit, even if the entire jury was full of evangelical idiots who speak in tongues on Sundays and really think that God talks to them every day, I'm either going straight to jail for life or getting the death penalty. Period.”

“Right, because you broke the law.”

“But a jury of my religious peers, who all supposedly believe it's possible for God to tell me to kill someone, should forgive me for breaking man's fallible law in order to carry out God's divine will. They should believe that I was operating under orders from above, and who are they to judge me anyway? Isn't that one of the basic tenets? Judge not lest ye be judged?”

“Yeah, but that's not how God operates.”

“Bullshit. If God knows everything that's going to happen, if he has some plan that we all have to follow, then he knows about every murder before it happens and he lets it happen, even though he has the power to stop it. In fact, he sets up every murder in the first place. I mean, fuck, if you boil it down, every second of human suffering and misery was designed and carried out by God.”

“You're really fired up tonight. I thought this was supposed to be a night where I get to bitch about getting dumped, and you get to cheer me up.”

“I know. Sorry. I'm really bitchy lately. I'm stuck on my dissertation, and it's driving me a little nuts.”

“You still haven't turned in your proposal? Jesus.”

“Oh! Lord's name in vain! See you in hell.”

“I'll repent.”

“See, you're not as religious as you think. No one is. That's all I was saying. Another round?”

“Okay, but then I need to get back. I have to finish that paper tonight or I'm screwed.”

Karen didn't mention religion or God again during the rest of the conversation with her friend. Instead she found herself
thinking how strange it was that although we are all animals with roughly the same mental capacity and roughly the same access to information, both general and specific, we can come to such radically different conclusions about the nature of reality. She wondered if it would always be like this, or if at some point in the future a general knowledge base would be accepted by the whole of humanity on which every individual would base their view of existence. She hoped this would be the case, but became sad as she reflected that she wouldn't live long enough to see that future.

“It's not even
midnight. I thought you guys were going to turn it up now that Tanya's single again,” was the greeting Paul Barkley gave Karen as she walked in the front door of their apartment.

God and religion were very likely constructs of humanity, but no one would ever be able to disprove or prove the existence of a God, and argument of first cause would never be solved. The universe was vast and mostly unknown. It was just as likely that it was created in the big bang as it was that the entirety of existence was the result of a computer simulation in which every human being was merely a subroutine or an algorithm producing and analyzing data for a purpose that would never be known to them and might not even exist. Sex could be a recreational activity, but it could also be something sacred shared between two people. Having children necessarily meant not being able to work as hard or as often as you'd like on personal endeavors, but the idea of being old without children, without a family, wasn't pleasant. Love was an electrochemical reaction in the brain, but it was very real and no less consuming than if it were the same intangible, magical enchantment that most people seemed to accept as an explanation. These were things that Paul understood to be true.

Karen replied, “I know. She had a paper to write or some
thing. I think she's probably just afraid to try and find another guy because she has got to be terrible at giving head.”

“How do you know that?”

“She's only had sex with three guys.”

“That doesn't necessarily mean she's bad.”

“Come on. Yeah, it does.”

“Wait, so are you saying that the more people you've had sex with, the better you are at it?”

“Of course. How can that not be true of anything? The more you do something, the better you get.”

“Then you must have been a serious fucking slut before I met you.”

Karen laughed. “Fuck you.”

“Hey, that was a compliment.”

“You always know how to flatter a lady. How was your day?”

She sat next to him on the couch and kissed him. He said, “Long. Jobs suck. You should milk this PhD thing as long as you can. Stay in school forever.”

“I'd love to. Unfortunately I don't think I can get another extension on my dissertation proposal.”

“And how close are you to finishing it?”

“It's hard to say. I mean, I can tell you that I've written exactly zero percent of it, but since I don't know how long the final proposal will be, I can't really tell you how close I am to finishing.”

“You're insane.”

“And that's why you decided to move in with me.” She kissed him on the cheek again. Paul reached up, turned her head so their lips met, and kissed her with obvious sexual intent. He said, “Actually,
that's
why I decided to move in with you.”

“Ooh, such a sexy man.” Karen took off her shirt and her bra and playfully shook her breasts at her boyfriend. She took him by the hands, stood up off the couch, led him toward their bedroom and said, “Now I want to show you why I moved in with you. We can sleep in. Tomorrow's Sunday.”

BOOK: Strange Animals
9.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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