After the people were gone, the world remained. The people who had formerly occupied it would have been surprised at how things turned out. It took a long time, but into the structures moved the dogs. They had been in the structures, they had built their lives, their entire evolution flipped tracks onto one that was parallel to the people, so it was easy for them to develop the skills necessary to live in the houses.
It started out as straight mimicry. The dogs that were quicker started going through the rituals. The Feeding was accomplished, as was The Walking. A sort of hierarchy began to establish itself. The little dogs, the dogs that had seen the most of the human world from the inside of bags, who had been comfort animals on the planes and in the boardrooms and galleries and at the parties were the first to pick up on how to resume the world there. The little dogs became the intelligentsia, the Eloian ruling class, but there was very little division.
The big dogs that had been raised for security were immediately retrained to follow the little dogs. There had been pockets of dog life that had relied on such synergy already, and it was natural. It was best to take on as few new things as possible and, as their power and intelligence grew, to merely adopt their new qualities into their old way of life.
The rural dogs began to adopt the rural ways, continuing to herd and farm and hunt and provide, continuing to make food, with the help of the runners, who were willing to create the structures of a way to convey the food to the others. Something like shipping lines were established, and while the dogs were generally still unwilling to move along to engines, which were loud and unpredictable and required fuel they had no access to generally, they nudged into place, eventually gaining the intelligence to build outright, huge long gleaming rail systems to ease the burden of the pack animals. They knew what they needed, because they had always known what they needed.
The world rebuilt itself, with the dogs in charge. Eventually the set of things that they needed became more complicated and, because it’s how such things go, their language grew to accommodate it. As the complications in brain function necessary to language grew, so did the functions themselves, and with those functions, abstraction. The formerly hierarchical nature became one that was slightly more diplomatic, impelled largely by the smaller dogs, who knew that in a world that prized size and viciousness they had little chance if things changed, if the power were to become imbalanced.
They adopted, over the course of this new development, the things that would make civilization recognizable as such. Some of the dogs began adopting currency in exchange for labor, which further abstracted the system of economic well-being – they had gone from the communal pack nature to one that, while still considerable more group-oriented than the People had commanded, still valued the family unit more than the abstract group itself. They began, in this way, to move away from direct labor into something more like an economy, which meant that the labor thus done could be done more efficiently by expedient of rewarding the efficient and the capable, and allowing people who were neither to concentrate on those areas where they were both.
The dogs prospered, and inequality was introduced, and with it the Law, and the concept of Rules, and once again there were Good dogs and Bad dogs. They required rules to tell who was doing the work and who wasn’t, who was adequately paying for the work and who wasn’t, who was mindful of their place in the packs Great and Small and who was not. There were new niches for dogs – there were dogs that descended from the Guards, who became the police officers, who eventually guarded the prisons, there were little dogs whose long, long-ago ancestors had been Well Trained. There were prisons, there were rules about the prisons, there was rehabilitation.
It became apparent that, in addition to the efficiency, dogs now knew boredom. They were willing to do the things dogs did – to sleep, to chase, to run, but their brains were more aware of the despair of ending, there was awareness of the impermanence of the individual. This was a challenge, and it required more sophisticated distractions.
They turned to the human remnants, now even fewer than they had been. The reconstructed the arenas, they rebuilt the fields, they reconsidered the human pastimes of athletic contest. Some of them were difficult to reconstruct, but the field gave them clues. It would, then, surprise the People to know that the game that they adopted first and most vehemently was the one with the baskets. It was readily apparent how it had been played, or at least the general idea of it – there were rectangles, there were suspended hoops, there were balls.
They knew about balls. They loved balls. They had been, before all this, developed to love balls.
With the decision of athletic contests as a way to pacify by distraction and entertainment came a new kind of dog, one that was good at bouncing the ball up into the hoop, one for whom a very specific kind of teamwork was necessary.
Other animals did not develop such a way as this. They did not develop language or sports or an economy. The cats looked fondly on a new way to be domestic once more, to not have to do all their own hunting, and the dogs were happy to have them as com-panions, even though the cats never fully assimilated. They never really did so for People either, after all, so nothing changed.
What was interesting was what had happened to the rest of the People. The ones who had hidden, who had spent generations growing desperate, scared and feral. They had lost the hallmarks of their civilization, they had been diminished, reduced, in terms of the ways their brains could function in the world. But they became more common. It had been how they had done this in the first place, after all, they adopted on a biological level and they became neither ape nor man, a sort of incoherent, thoughtless predator that was a nuisance to the cities that the dogs had built, that were out there as a threat.
There was talk, after a fashion, of domesticating them. After all, for many thousands of years dogs and the once-People had cohabited. The People had built their civilization with the help of the Dog, and that was not something to be taken lightly, in a long-ago evolutionary sense. There was no real connection, but a Good dog is loyal, and they felt a sort of species-wide need to figure out a new place for the once-People in the world that the dogs had built.
The efforts failed, generally. People turned out to be even harder to domesticate than cats. They weren’t particularly trainable. They could be taught basic tricks, and they were fairly useful on farms as a way to convey loads of wood and things, if you could keep them from getting distracted or violent. Many tried, and they became common among the rural, and among the lower-class, which dogs it behooved to make friends with so that they were not a threat to the dog families – a dog had to make a certain amount of “friendship” with them to make sure that they wouldn’t turn rapacious.
It was from this corner, then, that a Dog had the craziest idea yet. He had gone through the effort and was an athlete, playing in the Greatest Game. He showed up, revealing that he had stumbled upon the former-human’s ability to use his hands and thumbs to throw, to shoot, to aim accurately at the nose in such a way that made it easier to score. The dogs were flummoxed, their initial reaction was to react badly, to declare the dog Mad, to do anything except think about the possibility, but the dog was insistent. He was convinced that the not-person would be the thing that could turn around the team’s then-dismal fortunes. He insisted, and it was brought before the Rules.
But it turned out there was nothing in the rules that said a former person couldn’t play basketball.
Coming this summer to theaters near you, Bud Air: The Former Human that Played Basketball.