While the scientific community raced to seek out and destroy the hidden DNA time bomb within humans, the world at large went on as if almost nothing bad had ever happened or ever would happen. Nothing catastrophically bad, that is. Of course, the amount of cases of PTSD quadrupled after the Dog Demise, but delayed stress syndrome had been increasing exponentially anyway what with the wars, the hurricanes, the floods, the earthquakes, the failing economy and the rise of unemployment and bread lines.
Panda Parker thought of it as the ‘Pompelmoose Pass’ syndrome; a line taken from a Dr. Seuss book. “Too many Poozers in Pompelmoose Pass” is what she thought when the freeways were jammed, the stores were perpetually low on cartons of eggs, you couldn’t buy pork chops anymore and there were movie ticket shortages.
Scientists called it “too many rats in a cage syndrome” where the effects are a display of abnormal behavior including hyper-aggression, failure to nurture young normally, increased mortality, abnormal sexual patterns and infant cannibalism.
Panda, who was Dell’s first cousin on the maternal side, shuddered when she read the description because she knew it was true. Except for the infant cannibalism which was probably right around the corner. She wasn’t in denial about the state of the world, even if Dell was. While Dell blithely went about ignoring all conditions as long as the Starbuck’s continued to flow, Panda was eagerly preparing to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlive the zombie hordes that were sure to crop up everywhere after the inevitable meltdown of society.
She spent her mental awareness on imagining worst case scenarios that she might need to overcome. Every car trip, therefore, became a potential escape route. Every trip to the grocery became an expedition to lay in supplies, and her apartment was set up so that she could block off access points with heavy furniture in the event of a home invasion.
It wasn’t ideal: ideally she would like a real bunker somewhere, fully stocked with weapons ammo and enough food to last 100 years—but she was working on it. It didn’t seem gloomy to her. It gave her hope and a mission.
She had taken gun safety classes, self defense classes, gardening and canning classes at the Co-op, and was hoping to learn about plumbing, basic wiring for electricity and how to construct a solar oven. The list of things she needed and wanted was very long, but she kept plugging away at it because she knew—she felt in her heart—that this was vital.
Six months after the dogs died, when the shock had abated a little and was no longer a palpable tang of grief, disbelief and loneliness hanging in the air, Dell texted Panda to see if she wanted to get together for lunch. She was particularly excited to show Panda her newest accessory.
Panda arrived early at Chicago Fire on Capitol and grabbed a seat outside with her back to the building. From this vantage point she could see any approaching danger and no marauder or berserker could come at her from the rear. While waiting she calculated how many floors of the high-rise across the way would likely succumb to flooding when the levee’s broke. She then amused herself with a mental picture show of herself, harnessed and loaded with grapple hooks and wearing pitons on her shoes, moving from tree-top to tree-top in a flood until she was able to reach higher ground and safety. She was winding up this fantasy to a satisfactory conclusion when she spotted the brilliant red coif of her cousin Dell mincing her way on ridiculous 4 inch heels. Behind her, not quite used to harness and leash, she half-dragged a curly-haired pig. One of those Hungarian ones that actually grew a curly pelt of hair. In a pink tutu and wearing Minnie Mouse ears on a headband.
Panda sighed and grinned at the same time. Although adorable at 20 lbs, in 3 months that pig was going to weigh 300 lbs and be a nightmare to groom. She had a sudden vision of Dell hog-tying her sow in order to shave her on a yearly basis. Then she wondered if that kind of hair was actually good for anything. Could it be woven into sweaters for instance? Would the sweater smell like pork chops in the rain? She’d have to Google it later and find out. In the meantime Panda knew that pig was in for a lifetime of fashion and hair-grooming torture, subjected to everything from dreadlocks to pink hair bows all over its body.
Dell squealed as she arrived and the two girls air-kissed and hugged before sitting down.
The pig, exhausted from the ordeal of being dragged and trotted down a busy sidewalk, collapsed onto her side with a snort and instantly fell into a deeply porcine sleep state.
If it’s one thing hogs are good at, it’s sleeping.