10 December 2010
By Curtis C. Chen
The rain started the same day the animals started talking. Noah was sitting in his office, staring out the window at the gray clouds, when the female pig with an Australia-shaped blotch on her right ear trotted into his open doorway.
"I don't want to go with Ricky," said the pig.
"Who's Ricky?" Noah asked.
"Whoa!" The pig stumbled. "You can understand me?"
"Yeah," Noah said. "Why didn't you ever talk before?"
"I've been talking for years!" the pig said. "Okay, hold on. Repeat back what I say exactly: multi-variable calculus equation."
"Multi-variable calculus equation," Noah said.
The pig nearly fell over. "How long have you been able to understand our talking?"
"What do you mean, 'our talking'?" Noah asked. "You don't mean all animals can talk?"
The pig snorted. "Okay, don't go anywhere! I'll be right back!"
"Where would I go?"
The pig ran away. Noah looked out the window. Lightning flashed in the distance, and fat raindrops slapped against the glass, distorting the skyline of the distant city.
"Okay, I'm back!"
Noah turned to see a camel hunched in the doorway behind the pig.
"We have camels?" Noah asked.
The pig nudged the camel's leg. "Go on, say something! Let's see if he can understand you, too!"
The camel looked at the pig with baleful eyes, then said, "A radical government may be toppled by a reasoned populace."
Noah repeated the phrase.
"Bloody hell," the camel said. "How long has he been able to understand us?"
"I don't know!" the pig said, hopping up and down. "I just came in here to tell him about Ricky, and he could understand me!"
"Ricky," the camel said, with obvious disdain. "Why do you hang out with that wanker?"
"He's not so bad. I just don't want to spend forty days at sea with him, you know?" The pig ran over to Noah's desk. "There are other male pigs, right? I can get a new partner?"
"Not my department," Noah said. "You need to ask Eliza about that."
"Right!" the pig said, and ran off. The camel stared at Noah.
"Can I help you with something?" Noah asked.
"Did you see that ludicrous display last night?" the camel asked.
"Chelsea and Everton," the camel said. "What was Ancelotti thinking?"
"Is this sports?" Noah said. "I don't really follow sports."
"Typical." The camel shook its head and retreated back down the hallway.
Noah picked up the telephone and dialed a four-digit extension. When the woman at the other end answered, he asked, "When did the animals start talking?"
"How long has it been since you left your office?" Eliza asked.
"Don't change the subject," Noah said. "Are they actually talking, or am I hallucinating again?"
"Interesting," Eliza said. "Why do you think you might be hallucinating?"
Noah hung up the phone and ignored it when it started ringing. He looked out the window. The rain was coming down harder now, in glowing sheets of luminescent green. He was pretty sure that wasn't supposed to be happening, either.
Photo: Camel by Catherine Joll, Cyprus, September, 2008