Anthrahsia, by Ember Komodog
What if someone said, evolution was only the first step? The idea that humans evolved from apes is a very popular theory, but why is it that only apes have evolved into something greater? Is it so impossible to believe that other animals are incapable of breaking free of their quadruped, instinct-driven lives, and walking on hind legs? What if a dog could stand on two legs, what if a dog could talk? What if a dog could laugh, and love, and hate and feel? What if a dog could be a productive member of society, if he could be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a dentist? Welcome to the real world, welcome to the world we live in, where the theory is no longer a theory, but an inescapable truth. They are the Anthrahsians, and they are real, there is no denying their existence; they live among us, they work, play, live and love. But like all minorities, there are always those who will persecute and hate them.
The sun broke through a tiny gap in the luxurious velvet curtains, illuminating the exquisitely furnished apartment within. The light cast itself upon the velour duvet of the king-size bed in the centre of the immaculately clean room. The occupant of the bed stirred softly as the sun played across his face, his dreams of happier times faded swiftly as he gradually awoke from his sleep. Cym sat up slowly and stretched his powerfully built arms outwards, flexing his tired muscles and willing energy back into them after his lengthy slumber. He stumbled out from under the sheets, pulled open a drawer next to the bed and carefully chose a pair of beautiful silk boxer shorts. He grumbled to himself; "damn sun, need to close the curtains properly," yawning loudly, he plodded to the bathroom, his toes clicking on the varnished wooden floor with every step. He clasped both sides of the sink, and slowly looked up into the face that had caused so much anger and fear for so many people. His glassy green eyes reflected nothing, the emotionless gaze that had withered his competition on so many occasions, but these were also the eyes that had caused young children to cry and scream in the streets. His scaly, crimson skin looked old and withered, doubtless due to the years of coffee-fueled nights trying to get one more step up the promotion ladder; but just as likely due to the physical abuse he suffered from the hands of "normal" people. His dirty orange dreadlocks hung loose by the sides of his head, scraggy from years of neglect and abuse. Cym sighed deeply and turned the shower on. He stepped back and looked at himself from head to toe. "It's good to be a Komodo Dragon," he thought to himself.
The water washed over Cym, steam rising from his sweat drenched scales, a long slow sigh escaped from his lips, as he shut his eyes and contemplated the day ahead of him. Get up. Get showered. Eat breakfast. Walk to work. Get something thrown at him by a vindictive member of the public. Tell people all over the world if it's going to rain or if it's going to shine. Come home. Eat dinner. Collapse in bed. Cry himself to sleep. After a while it all became routine. He knew his quasi-fame as the local weatherman afforded him a certain level of authority and respect, certainly above what most Anthrahsians have to put up with. It also meant that there were a lot of prejudiced people out there who thought that they knew everything about him because they see him on the television for five minutes every day; and of course it granted them special power to abuse and torment him on his way to work. Cym reached out and slowly twisted the taps until the water stopped. He slumped up against the wall and let his gaze drift upwards, "how did it get like this?" he murmured to an invisible audience. Letting out one final exasperated sigh, he stepped out of the shower and grabbed the nearest towel.
The beautiful oak wardrobe stood before Cym, inviting him to open it and see the glory within. He was very proud of his clothes; he had spent most of his life trying to afford them; like most Anthrahsians he had grown up poor, oppressed and starving. It was only his fierce determination and burning will for equality that got him to where he was today. His claws delicately caressed the handle of the wardrobe; a slight smile crept across his reptilian face as he daydreamed of the smartly dressed Komodo he would soon become. He flung the doors open and his slight smile transformed into an enormous toothy grin. At least a dozen beautiful designer suits stood before him, each one beckoning him to slip them on. "Always the best part of the morning," Cym whispered gently to himself. After careful deliberation, he plucked his favourite out: an immaculately hand-made grey suit, with a purple velvet lining. He would give his critics something good to look at as they launched heavy objects at him today.
Cym found himself adjusting his tie, a simple red silk one, when he heard the knock at his apartment door. "Odd", he thought "don't people normally ring the doorbell before arriving unannounced?" He hastily did his cufflinks up, swallowed thickly and softly tiptoed to the door, his clicking toes silenced by the specially designed shoes he was now wearing. He pressed his ear up to the door, cursing the fact that he declined to have a spy hole installed instead of the large brass knocker that stood in its place. Cym's eyes darted from side to side, looking for a possible exit should he need one; the last time an unexpected guest had called, he spent the next week in a hospital bed recovering from a hate-crime inspired assault. "Who is it?" he called out in a frustratingly timid voice. "Cym, open the door, I need to speak to you," came a gruff, grizzly response. He relaxed immediately and flung the door open. "Tol....." he began, but before he could finish, he found himself being picked up off the ground and being pressed into a huge mass of warm, soft fur, two tree trunk-like arms wrapped around his comparatively scrawny body.
"Woooooah! Ok Tolstoy! It's good to see you too! You're gonna have to put me down though bro, can't talk to you if you snap my back in half!" Cym laughed,
"Sorry Cym, but you know how I am," Tolstoy replied with an enormous grin on his big face
"Yeah, all too well sometimes," Cym retorted with a hint of playful sarcasm "that last time you bruised my back and I spent 3 days in bed trying to get feeling back into my spine!"
Tolstoy smirked and playfully looked at his feet in mock apology. "Please, don't stand in the hallway, come in, come in!" Cym said enthusiastically.
He waddled forward, got stuck in the door, breathed in deeply and stumbled forward as he collapsed into Cym's apartment. Tolstoy was an Anthrahsian fisherman, a little cliché one could argue when you consider he evolved from a grizzly bear, nature's finest salmon catcher. He was also enormous, put it down to a life of good eating and a "to hell with exercise" attitude. But it never bothered Tolstoy; he always said he'd rather die fat and happy than spend his life worrying about conforming to the conventional ideology of what the general public considered to be thin and normal. He shifted his considerable weight, pulled his suspenders up, adjusting his loose fitting linen trousers, and plodded over to Cym's leather sofa.
"Do you mind if I..." Tolstoy gestured at the beautiful cream leather.
"Not at all Tol, go ahead, but watch yourself, if it breaks on you, I'm not helping you up like last time," Cym said with a nostalgic grin on his face.
Tolstoy threw himself onto the inviting leather; he let out a sigh of content as the couch let out a sigh of desperation, straining under the bear's not inconsiderable bulk. He steepled his fingers over his stomach and fixed Cym with a gaze that spoke of ill-tidings.
"Ok Tol, what's going on?" enquired Cym with a dazed look on his face, "You've only ever looked at me like that when something bad has happened. Last time it was that fishing tax the government imposed on Anthrahsians, so what is it this time?"
"Cym, it's Garrett," Tolstoy choked, tears forming in his eyes as he forced the words out, "he's trying to pass the law for Anthrahsian registration."
At these words, Cym's blood turned to ice, the room felt cold and uninviting, a feeling of palpable disgust and anger slowly filled the apartment. Senator Peter Garrett was infamous to the Anthrahsian community, and a hero to those who hated them. For twelve years, Garrett had been campaigning against people like Cym and Tolstoy, always trying to find new ways to reduce their freedom and crush their civil rights underneath his steel-capped boots.
"Wh-what did you say?" stammered Cym, his voice barely above a whisper, a look of utter horror spread across his face, "if that law gets passed, every Anthrahsian in the world will be branded with a number."
"Yeah," Tolstoy interrupted, "and we'll have about as many rights and freedoms as a railway sleeper." Tolstoy now had tears rolling down his big cheeks, a look of anger, hatred, despair and sorrow etched upon his usually smiling face.
"How in the name of God is he getting away with this?" Cym sniped, a venomous look in his eyes, "no reasonable government or ruling system would even allow the proposition of such a barbaric idea! Let alone consider passing it!"
"No-one knows Cym, I've spoken to Daryl and Tori already, and they're pretty shaken up about it. No-one knows what's going to happen now. There isn't anyone who'll do anything, you know the way the courts treat us, if we so much as threaten him, he'll have us locked away until we rot!"
Cym sank to his knees, a feeling of utter helplessness overwhelmed him. This was the nightmare he had suffered his whole life. He and his fellow Anthrahsians were going to be branded, labeled, and thrown into a world that treats them not like people, but like a product, like livestock. Everything they had struggled to do to find acceptance was about to be destroyed, by one man, a single man with a grudge against his species. Cym fought back the tears he wanted to cry, he knew he had to do something, the very survival of his species, of those he loved and cared for was under threat. He looked up at Tolstoy, the sight of his friend so distraught gave him an energy fueled by rage.
"Tol, I'm going to do something about this, I cannot just sit here and let our very way of life be destroyed," Cym spoke with a reassurance in his voice that was more for himself than it was for his friend, "I'm going to go to work, I'm going to do my job, then I'm going to pay Senator Garrett a visit."
"Cym please, don't do it, he'll have you arrested, he'll find a reason!" Tolstoy screamed, the fear obvious in his tone, "every Anthrah who's ever tried to stare down Garrett has ended up in jail," Tolstoy's voice drifted off slightly, "or worse."
"Listen Tol, I know the risks, but don't forget, I'm a well known TV personality," a smirk crossed his face, "people are going to notice if I go missing, and they'll ask questions."
"That's if any humans even care! You know the way most of them feel about our kind! They'll probably be glad to see you gone!" Tolstoy's yelling was getting increasingly panicky, he had stood up now and was getting increasingly animated.
"I'm doing this for us, Tol, for every Anthrah in the world, if no-one else will do anything, then I guess the Weatherman will have to do it. Tell Daryl and Tori, make sure they know what I'm doing. I'll be back tonight Tol, I promise you. Come round at about 7, ok?" Cym was desperately trying to calm his ursine companion, he knew that Tol could get angry if he got scared, and the last time that happened, several humans ended up in hospital, and Tol ended up behind bars for a month. He wiped his eyes on his loose fitting shirt, and nodded slowly.
"Ok Cym, but for the love of God be careful, I am not bringing your cousins over tonight to find that your apartment has been cordoned off by the police."
"I'll be fine Tol, you'd best get down to the market, you'll be late for work otherwise," Cym said, a brave smile worn on his face "and I'd best be off too, got a lot of paperwork and whatnot to deal with at the studio before my broadcast tonight."
Tolstoy turned to the door, and shuffled out into the hallway, he looked back at Cym one last time, a look of raw emotion sketched onto his face. Tears rolled down his cheeks again, as he turned towards the elevator. Cym closed the door to his apartment, turned around, pressed his back against the wall, sank to the floor, and wept.