It's the end of a species, maybe. What has a cat got to do with it? Nothing.
|There were violets, millions of them, on the Earth. They sprouted wherever they could, little purple magnets to attract little yellow bugs. There were millions of these bugs, as well, but they were dying. The violets were dying, too. Someone had recently decided that the color was shameful, too sexual to be seen in public, growing from the cracks in the sidewalks. The men sprayed them with toxins. The women wore them in their hair. There was no harm in this, you see, not yet. They were destined to die anyway.
Fashion was an odd thing. The women wore dead plants in their hair, and dead animals around their necks. This was en vogue, this was flirtatious. Old movies, the ones before people figured out how to make the pictures colorful, they showed women wearing a whole animal skin. They would swish it around for the men to see. The men liked it a lot.
The day of the Last Violet would be a national holiday. Of course, it wasn’t the last one; it probably never would be. The last one in the city, maybe. The last one ever? No.
The children in the schools did their best to draw what they remembered of the violet. It was difficult to simulate the color, for all materials, crayons, markers, pencils, chalk, anything of that color was put in a pile and burnt long ago. People made a day of it. The burning markers were poison, but so was everything, really.
Adults got the day off work. It was a curious tradition, getting a day off of work to celebrate the successful eradication of a flower. Most of them used it to watch TV. Some used it to watch old movies about women with animal skins. They liked this day a lot.
In all the cities, this initiative had taken place simultaneously. There was a push by the Head of the Country to get the other countries to participate as well. Some did. Those that didn’t were threatened until the Head of the Country realized that the violet didn’t grow there. In places where the violet didn’t grow, there was a lot of sand. The people in the sand lived there out of stubbornness.
Now, there were no more violets in the city or in the ditches. The forests were full of them, but the forests were being made into cities. No one went in the forests anymore, anyway, so no one knew.
There were lots of things that were purple. There were vegetables that people cooked up and ate. There were other flowers, too, but they were grown in special boxes in which it was okay to grow things of that sort. There was clothing, long flowing robes and short, flirty dresses, worn by royals and by prostitutes. The violet was abundant. Prostitutes were abundant, too.
Many cities threw a parade on Last Violet day. People flew grey banners with grey flowers on them, to show their hatred for the thing. People made cardboard backpacks with hoses made of string. The string hoses sprayed imaginary chemicals on imaginary flowers. It was a big advertising opportunity for local businesses. It was very good for the economy.
People only hated the flower because everyone did. People hating people had gotten old and been outlawed long ago. People still needed something to shout at, though. Flowers had no feelings. It was easy to direct all of your hate towards something when everyone did the same.
The actual act of killing the very last violet had been carefully choreographed. First, the last violet was selected. There was a contest between all of the cities to determine whose violet would be the last one. It would be very good for the economy in that city. The city that won waited three weeks for all the other violets to be stamped out. After that, they waited another two days for government approval, and then the mayor and the entire town came out to see the destruction of the last violet. The mayor held a lighter to the flower until it caught fire. The last trace of the violet in the mind of the public vanished in a tiny, quiet wisp of smoke. The crowd cheered. The shops had special sales.
Violet was also a name for people. Women and men named their daughters Violet because they thought their daughter was beautiful, just like the flower. The flower was common, but now it was extinct. No one named their daughters Violet any more.
There was a woman named Violet who had a son a long time before. There were many like her, having sons and daughters, but this one named her son Bismarck and sent him on his way after a few years. She died soon after that.
Bismarck took a particular interest in his mother’s namesake. He thought they were pretty, just like a lot of people. He hated them, too, but only because he was supposed to.
There was a small, grey box in town. Bismarck lived inside. There were actually hundreds of them, but only one of them contained Bismarck and his life. Bismarck was named after another town somewhere far off. There were grey boxes with people inside there, too.
Bismarck drove a blue car. It was very old; no one sold blue cars anymore. He liked the color, though, so he kept fixing it over and over. Sometimes he felt like the only thing left of the original car was the frame and the paint. He was very nearly right.
Bismarck drove every day to his job. He never wanted his job because it involved animals, to which he was allergic. His allergy gave him red splotches on his arms and legs. They itched. His clothes, covered in hair, gave him red splotches as well. The animals didn’t know better though; they loved Bismarck. They were affectionate, the nameless beasts. They rubbed on his legs and begged for him to pat their heads. He did. They gave him red splotches.
He drove back home every evening, around seven o’clock. He had no family. He did have a hairless cat named Watterson. Bismarck had given him this name because he thought it was dignified, and because it had been the last name of his best friend growing up. Bismarck called the cat Watts in an effort to save time during pleasantries. The cat didn’t call Bismarck anything.
Bismarck’s grey box was surrounded on all sides by clean cut, violet-free grass. The use of this grass was for children and animals to walk and play on and for adults to sit around and drink poison on. People also roasted meat and ate it while standing on the grass. Bismarck didn’t use his grass for much of anything, but he kept it very clean anyway, to make it appear to outsiders that he did use it and liked to keep it nice in case someone happened by for a visit. He knew he would never use it, and that no one was likely to happen by, so this was a lie.
One day, Bismarck went to work like normal. He arrived at work with splotches on his arms and legs, and when he went inside, they got worse. He didn’t like to scratch them, because he thought people would think less of him. The doors in front of him sensed his approach and opened before he had to touch them. This was an invention to stop the spread of germs, and to speed the flow of foot traffic.
Bismarck’s office was as he had left it. It usually was, since he only used it to hang his coat. The cabinets along the walls had once been used to store papers to keep them organized. Now they were kept around because people liked the ideas they invoked. No one used them to store anything, except sometimes alcohol. They were locked for that very reason.
Bismarck hung his coat on its hook, switched on the lights, and left his office. He passed the receptionist on his way to his work. She did her job the best she could. “Hello, Bismarck.” She greeted him. He had forgotten her name again. He smiled as warmly as he could to compensate.
There was a door in the hall ahead of him. On the door, there was a nameplate identifying the room beyond as a ‘procedure preparation room’. Below this, it read ‘Authorized personnel only.” Bismarck was one of the authorized personnel.
He pushed the door open. It was heavy and wooden and arcane, with little swirly bits carved into the edges. They didn’t serve any purpose. The handle spread germs.
A man was inside the room, and a woman. Their mouths were covered by greenish-blue shrouds to protect themselves from germs. The man’s last name was Forrester, the woman’s, Shipman. The woman went by Beth, because it was her first name and it was shorter. The man went by John for the same reasons.
John and Beth were preparing a tray to bring into the next room. All sorts of things were on the tray, many of which were very dangerous in the wrong hands. There were tools for cutting and carving and slicing and snipping and even for stopping the heart. They were all covered in chemicals, to protect them from germs.
Germs were very small and they were everywhere.
John noticed Bismarck enter, and greeted him curtly. Beth looked up to see who John had greeted, then did the same. Bismarck returned the gesture.
In the next room there was a small furry creature, very much loved by its owners. It was not like Watts, Bismarck’s cat, because it was a different species altogether, and it had lots of hairs to make Bismarck’s skin turn red. The furry creature had eaten many things in a brief moment of erratic behavior, some of which were very sharp and dangerous. Some of them were poisonous to the creature. It was the job of Bismarck to open the creature, take out the bad things, tune it up like a car, and reassemble it. John and Beth were supposed to help.
They entered the next room wheeling the tray behind them. One wheel was uneven, and squealed as it turned. It had been like this for some time.
The room was a dull shade of aquamarine, unadorned except for a poster on the right wall that depicted the anatomy of the human eye. This was completely useless. There was also a sink, a long stretch of counter-top, and a light mounted on an articulated arm.
In the center of the room lay the patient. It was breathing chemicals to make it sleep.
Bismarck put on aquamarine gloves. They were to protect the animal from germs, and to protect Bismarck from blood. The blood had germs, too.
Beth handed Bismarck a small knife called a scalpel. He used it to open up the animal. The inside was squirming around and bleeding, and it smelled like blood and soil. Bismarck tried to breathe through his mouth.
Deep inside the animal, there was a stick that people used to communicate. It was very sharp, and it was stuck in the inner workings of the animal, jamming up the cogs that made it go. There was a lot of blood escaping. Bismarck picked the communication stick out with a pair of forceps and placed it on the tray. Blood soaked into the paper mat that protected the table from germs.
Beth and John put the animal back together with thread and a needle, like it was a quilt or a pillow. Eventually, they would have to take the tread back out, but the animal would have sealed itself up by then.
The animal’s owners arrived shortly after to take the animal away. They put it in a box and put the box in their car. It was time for lunch.
Bismarck drove his car to a box that exchanged burgers for money. He drove up beside it and put money in. It spit a burger out at the other end.
Bismarck sat in his car and ate the burger. He parked so that he could clearly see the highway. He watched all the cars go by. They were mostly grey, but some were red or even yellow. The people that owned these cars were likely very wealthy. On the other side of the highway, there was a spillway for a factory. The people in the factory made chemicals to protect against germs, but the spillway was full of them.
Bismarck looked at the clock. His time for lunch had run out. He tossed the rest of the burger out into the parking lot and drove off.
The receptionist greeted Bismarck again. He had remembered her name; it was Tracy. “Hello, Tracy,” He said. She smiled.
Bismarck went into his office to find someone had turned off the light. He turned it back on and hung up his coat again. There was a file laying on his desk that had not been there before.
In the file, there were instructions on a field job. Bismarck had been called to the outer edge of the city to treat an animal that could not be moved from its place. This happened often, but usually it was a call to the local zoo, not to the outskirts of town. Bismarck took the file and put it in his briefcase.
The next day, Bismarck drove to the site instead of the office. It was a small house on the edge of a new project. There were a great many trees beyond the house, more than Bismarck had ever seen in one place.
There were two people in the house- this one was truly a house, instead of a box like in the inner city. One was named Rutherford. The other was named Meredith. They called each other Ford and Mary to save time during pleasantries. These were very old names.
Inside the house, there was also a large animal. It was a bear. The bear’s name was Jumble and it was massive. Jumble was the name people gave to disorder in the old world, but now it was just the name of a bear. Ford thought it was whimsical. Mary agreed.
Bismarck walked up to the door and knocked to indicate his arrival. There was a garbage barrel burning on the grass around the house, which was not neat or manicured at all. There was junk buried all about. Bismarck suspected that people didn't often happen by for visits.
Ford answered the door by opening it. Bismarck’s badge, worn on his shirt, identified him as a veterinary doctor rather than an interloper or salesman. These two things were the same, but it was important to tell the difference. It was okay to shoot one, but not the other.
The bear was lying on the living room rug. The rug was made out of bear skin, but the head had been removed. Now it was just a round, fur mat. The live bear was making soft chuffing sounds.
Bismarck asked the two people in the house some questions about the bear. As it turned out, the bear was ill. It was ill because the food it ate was not protected from germs. This normally would not be a problem except that the bear had a very weak immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of protecting from germs.
Bismarck poked the bear with a needle, so that it would fall very much asleep. It didn’t fall asleep; instead, it stood up and made an annoyed noise. Bismarck was startled by the sudden sound and motion in his environment.
The bear charged at Bismarck, even though Ford told the bear not to. The bear called Jumble didn’t understand the language that Mary and Ford spoke; it just liked the sound of it sometimes.
Bismarck ran out the door. Jumble followed him, galloping on huge, primal paws.
Bismarck ran into the woods behind the house. Jumble followed him, panting through huge, primal teeth.
Bismarck ran off of a cliff, a sharp drop in the ground caused by a river working its way through the stones and bedrock. The river was gone now, all dried up. The bear was gone, too. So was Bismarck.
When Bismarck awoke, he briefly thought he was in his normal bed. He was warm, or, warm enough, and dry. His fall was cushioned by rotting leaf debris. The debris was from the trees, who dropped their leaves when they didn’t need them anymore. Children liked to play in the corpses.
Opening his eyes, Bismarck found himself in a deep valley. The valley was the river’s work, too. No one had been into this valley for a very long time, because no one cared enough to find out what was at the bottom.
Bismarck recognized that he could not climb the sides. He would have to walk the length and climb out when the sides became less steep.
Walking the length of the valley was calming to Bismarck, and also terrifying. He was excited, mostly, to be outside of the city in some place so mysterious as this. The floor of the valley was wet, and smelled like soil and leaves, and bred lots of germs.
The valley was getting more and more shallow. Bismarck reckoned he could climb out, and he did. His dress pants were covered in mud now, but he didn’t mind.
He peered over the wall. There was a large clearing, almost an open field, ahead of him. It was colorful with flowers and grass and little shrub plants. Most flat places like this were burnt for building ground.
Bismarck wandered out into the open air. The flowers made the air smell heavy. He didn’t know it, but he was allergic to them as well. The splotches on his arms came back. He scratched them, this time.
He waded into the grass, which was the roughest he had ever seen grass be. It was up to his waist, even higher, in some places.
Further ahead, Bismarck noticed something strange. The ground was a new color. It was deep purple and green all mixed in together, thick on the ground. Violets.
Bismarck was alarmed and angry, but also fascinated. He had never seen a violet up close. He plucked one from the ground and held it up to his face. He sniffed it. It smelled funny. He picked twelve more and stuffed them in his pocket. He didn’t count them; he simply grabbed a handful.
Bismarck heard the scream of aircraft overhead. He knew what they were up to, he was just astonished at the timing of it all. He scrambled back across the field, through the trees, into the valley. Behind him, thunder sounded. A wave of heat crashed over him and pushed the air out of his lungs. The violets were now dust and energy floating around him. Bismarck wondered about the bear.
Bismarck climbed out again on the other side of the valley and walked the other way. The sky was glowing, even though it was daytime. Smoke climbed into the sky and disappeared into the clouds. The clouds made the sky look like it would rain later.
Bismarck had to push the door to his house open. His red splotches had gone away, finally, but they would likely come back. He remembered the violets in his pocket. They were a bit ruffled, but they had managed to survive the journey rather well. He put their stems into a glass of water to fool them into thinking nothing had gone wrong, that they were still in the ground. They wouldn’t believe this for long, but for the time being, it worked.
Watterson climbed onto the windowsill shortly after and pulled the violets from the glass. He chewed them up with primal teeth and ate them. He threw them back up onto the floor in a small, purple lump. The lump was covered in germs.