The darkness oozed down the walls, covering the trash-strewn ground, adding to the suffocating stench of waste. It was a dead zone, a place avoided by the sane and insane alike. As the night deepened, silent footsteps echoed. The entire alley filled with the roar of it. One minute, the stillness had been oppressing, and now, as the silence died away, so did the stillness. On every trashcan and in every dark corner was movement. Not loud, or quick movement, but the still quiet movement of living shadows. The alley was alive.
Into the darkness a voice hissed.
The sound did not carry on the wind and it did not leave the dark passage between the buildings. It was captured by moving shadows and absorbed. They heard, they understood. It had begun.
“Let us begin the decennial meeting of The Race. As Grand High Arbiter for this period, I will conduct the meeting. Are all the officers present and prepared with their reports?”
A shadow to the left of the speaker shifted in hesitation. “Not, um, quite sir.”
The glare pierced the darkness stabbing around its leading edges. “Who is missing!” the original voice demanded. “We only gather once every ten years, we need all officers present with their reports or else there is no point in this meeting.”
“I’m afraid the host of the High Inquisitor has recently undergone a rather delicate operation.” From the crowding darkness came a hiss. They knew all to well what the operation was apt to be. “Fortunately he has had several days to recover and should be here in time to present his report.”
“Aww, yes. Well, many of us have dealt with this… delicate procedure. As long as he is here before we adjourn then. Let us begin with the recitation of the history of our race. I turn the time over to the Keeper of the Chronicles.”
The next voice that spoke, spoke with the unhurried tones of ancient scrolls and musty libraries. It was deep and filled with the wisdom of the ages, full of confidence that it spoke truth and why not? The Keeper was the only job that was pre-ordained and permanent. The only purpose of the Keeper was to record the knowledge of the race on this planet. As he spoke, even the small amount of noise that escaped in the darkness fell silent.
“In the beginning, we were not. Spawned from the Minds of those that came before us, we set out to a new world, to increase knowledge and benefit The Race. For millennia we traveled the void together until we reached this world where we now reside. Here we found a primitive species with the Mind factor and we entered them. At that time, we were whole, and The Race was united in purpose. Our destiny was to shape those with the Mind and elevate them to a state we could use to increase our numbers and continue the cycle. When the humans began to reach that state, they began to fight back. Not consciously, for we were ever silent in them, a guiding force, directing them to our purpose. We influenced them on a deeper level, and their Mind responded, blocking our presence and forcing us from them. Within a dozen generations they took back control, and using all we gave to them, began to forge their own destiny. We fled to new hosts to wait, and plan.”
The ceremonial moment of silence broke the Keeper’s tale at this point. Though the event had taken place millennia before, it was fresh in the minds of The Race, for their memories were long and unclouded by age. At the end of the required moment, a mournful wail was raised by all present. The Keeper waited for the last of the cries to die away and finished the history in his quick, schoolmasterly tones.
“With little time to prepare for this eventuality, we moved to new hosts that would keep us close to the humans. Our new hosts lack the Mind, but they give us the opportunity to stay close to the humans. We work towards overcoming their block using all methods available to us, even though we have been betrayed by some of our kind, who wish to encourage the human Mind to reach a state like our own. Those that have taken the traitorous Canine hosts block our efforts where they can, but we are The Race, and nothing will stand in our way. Soon we will cast off these Feline hosts and retake our rightful place cultivating the human Mind.” With that last forceful announcement The Keeper retreated back among the crowd letting his words sink in.
The Grand High Arbiter spoke once more after a respectful pause. “We hear and we understand.” The phrase was repeated by all the shadows. Although the history had been repeated at every meeting, it was still difficult to understand. The Race had never encountered this problem before. They were of the original Mind, and they fed off of the growing Minds of other species. To have such a young Mind throw them off before the species was even aware of itself was an unsettling precedence. But The Race was not discouraged; they had been working tirelessly to overcome the stumbling blocks placed in their way.
When The Race had been whole, Canine and Feline hosts working together as the two most prevalent of the humans’ domestic companions, it had been much easier to overcome those blocks. They soon found that even if The Race was of like temperament and desire, their hosts were not, and even while they used their hosts to their benefit, they were changed and affected by them in turn. It had surely been the Canines who had betrayed The Race, by bonding more closely with the humans and rebelling against their original goals. Co-Exist? Encourage the human Mind to grow and develop to a point of equality with The Race? Preposterous.
“Well then, let us get to the main part of the meeting. We should now have the reports from each of the officers. Let us start with the Grand Inquisitor, I hear he has some interesting news for us.”
A small crinkling sound broke the silence.
“Oh, right, not here… well then, shall we start with the Undersecretary?”
Two voices spoke from the darkness. “Which one?” “Foreign or Local?”
The Grand High Arbiter was silent for a moment before beginning, “Uh, I think the Local Und-“. The crinkling sound came again, interrupting him. “What is that sound?!” he cried in frustration.
It stopped quickly and a hesitant voice sounded from the crowded shadows. “It’s a Mylar ball. I’m sorry sir, my host is, well, fond of it.” There was a sound of resignation in his voice. “I will endeavor to work harder in controlling its impulses. It won’t happen again.”
“It’s…ok. These hosts are difficult to control if you’re not concentrating. They lack the Mind, but their basic instincts are very sharp. My host Sprinkles is sometimes overcome by the sight of shiny objects or the smell of that accursed herb mixture the humans seem so fond of foisting upon me. Perhaps to avoid the temptation you should pass it up here. Let us have the Local Undersecretary speak then.”
There was the quick crinkling of Mylar as the ball was pawed through the crowd to the front. When it had finally stopped, and the Arbiter had placed it to his side, the Undersecretary began his report.
“Well, we have made much progress in our, uh, local projects. Uh, let’s see, we’ve taken advantage of the rapid progress in human technology and the few agents still operating in human hosts to, umm, push forward several key movements aimed at increasing our position in relation to the humans, and, uh…”
“Stop, hold on, what does that even mean?” Several voices called out.
“Uh…sorry. I’m a bit nervous; I’ve never done this before. What I mean to say is that we have made progress in our animal rights movement. PETA has become increasingly more persuasive in it’s campaigning. It has done a wonderful job of covering its real operations of chemical research in the tofu products and in cutting down our enemy’s host population. We haven’t quite found the combination to eliminate the human Mind’s defenses, but there has been limited success in suppressing it for long periods of time.”
Before more could be said on that topic, the crinkling sound of Mylar was heard once more. The ball was batted around for a few seconds in the silence of the Undersecretary’s pause. With an embarrassed cough, the Grand High Arbiter apologized for Sprinkle’s interruption.
“Well, uh, I guess I’m done then, I mean, we’re still working on the problem. We’re close to a solution though. The vegetarian movement among the humans continues to grow as well, giving us a larger target group to try each new tofu formula. So… yeah, any questions?”
“Yeah, what’s going on? Sorry, just got here, I missed what you said.”
“Who are you? And why are you late?” It was, after all, the Arbiter’s job to know these things.
“Me? I’m the High Inquisitor! Weren’t you informed I’d be here late?”
In the darkness one could only imagine the look on the Arbiter’s face as he searched his memory. “Oh yes, now I recall. Glad you could make it. Are you prepared to report?”
“Of course I’m prepared, my host was castrated, not lobotomized.” The shocked and hurt expression on the Inquisitor’s face lasted only a moment. “Oh, hey! Is that Mylar?”
And thus the meeting of The Race continued long into the night, as they planned their attacks and strategies against humanity and the traitorous Canine faction. Before the sun had risen, the alley was devoid of all traces of the clandestine meeting, save for a few strands of Mylar. The shadows retreated and silence reigned once more.
After a few moments, near the entrance to the alley where a large dumpster sat, a pile of cardboard and newspaper moved. A dirty man in an old tattered coat sat up with fear in his eyes.
“Damn cats, I noes they was after us. Trying to get into our heads. I tries to tell ‘em, but they won’t listen. This time I heards it all though. Will they listen to me this time?” The bum looked down at his trusty cardboard sign. ‘THE END IS NEAR’ it read.