Not all of us remember what it was like before, but I remember what it was like to be wild.

We slipped through the underbrush, searching for berries and stalking plump grouse. We paused, still has death, waiting for the telltale rustle of our prey. The smells of the forest and the whisper of the wind brought in as much information as our eyes and ears– there is so much humans have forgotten how to feel and smell and hear.

We danced in the moonlight and slept on sunlit rocks. We followed gurgling brooks to their sources and explored wild places that no human had ever seen. We lived every day in the moment, and every moment was joyous and fascinating. I used to dream about those places when I was little.

Now the memory grows more faint; but I still remember. We were the shadows in the thickets, the reason they whisper about predators that haunt dark places. We were the eyes that watched you, the paws that stalked you. If I step away into the forest, I can still feel it: the senses sharpen, the attention focuses, and I am just a filter for the moment. A bundle of fine-tuned senses, bone, muscle, and sinew, driven by instinct.

All the same, when we heard engines, we ran. It was an awful sound: an assault on the ears, an assault on the sacred sound-scape of the forest. I still have nightmares about being hunted, about running from bright searchlights in the misty darkness.

As a child, it took me years to overcome the urge to RUN when a motor started. The sound of an approaching engine filled me with nameless dread. My parents thought I was just afraid of loud noises. Perhaps it was not strange that a child that commented on the footsteps of mice in the attic might have sensitive hearing.

I was called strange a lot as a child. Perhaps it is strange to remember what it was like be wild, to remember what I was before I became human. Although I’ve never met another who remembered (or at least one who would admit to it,) I know I’m not alone. There are so many of you, and so few of us; is it so strange that we are recycled into human bodies when we die?

They say the soul carries an imprint of its past lives. Is it so strange that we remember? That we carry the memory of our past into your present? You who slaughtered us as “lesser creatures,” you’re not so rational or perfect. A fox or wolf or lynx is perfect. It does not kill out of spite, or seek to eradicate an entire species. It just is. It just seeks to survive another day.

You humans, on the other hand… you’re every bit the monsters we thought you were.

What It Was Like To Be Wild  © 2020 Leland Lydecker

Recently the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a bastion of the left-leaning press) broke the news that when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm in 2017 to reduce the visibility of political news, the company’s engineers intentionally designed the system to disproportionately impact left-leaning news outlets.

While assuring Mother Jones editorial director for growth and strategy Ben Dreyfuss that the algorithmic changes were not designed “in a way that favored or disfavored any single publication or class of publisher,” Facebook deliberately and knowingly wrote its algorithms to favor right-leaning pages while suppressing left-leaning ones– and this was done with Mark Zuckerberg’s explicit approval.

Indeed, the Zuckerberg who once claimed he would prefer to leave the politics to others has been doing anything but. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Zuckerberg is now an active political operator. He has dined with President Trump, talks regularly with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and has pressed lawmakers and officials to scrutinize rivals including TikTok and Apple Inc., people involved in the discussions say.”

The whispers in the docks, fairways, and corridors of KEL Port were darker tonight. Up near general intake, where new arrivals to KEL26 were processed, Port Security officers were clustered in small groups muttering amongst themselves. In the cozy noodle shop on Sub-Level B, the little family of Tau-Ceti immigrants weren’t greeting customers with their usual cheer. And down in the Mog’s cantina, where most of KEL Port went to eat and drink, kindly, straightlaced Loadmaster Teller sat in corner, plastered out of his mind, having an angry argument with an empty chair.

Something was surely amiss, Radco thought, but puzzling out exactly what was proving to be a difficult task. Calamity was like a disease to humans; it might not have struck anywhere near them, but it deeply affected them nonetheless. To remain unaffected by the general air of unease would mark him as an outsider, unnatural and automatically suspect.

Radco shivered at the thought. Humans were notoriously cruel to outsiders.

Hello. My name is Leland, and I’m a poor quitter.

I’ve worked a string of abusive jobs, and stuck with them far longer than anyone should. My first full time job gave me exactly 4 days off per year; I worked there for eight years. The second is essentially a meat grinder that operates on the assumption that employees will be used up until they fail and then replaced. I worked there for seven years. A job that wants me to fold 18 hours of work into 8 hours of paid time in blatantly unsafe conditions is nothing new to me.

I once held hope for change at this workplace. When I was hired, the recruiter told me the company wanted my expertise because they were trying to move in a safer, more regulatory-compliant direction. I’ve since determined that was a lie. This company is mired in the past, built on an ethos of doing everything in the most half-assed way possible. And almost no one at the executive level wants that to change.

A crow fluttered down from the heavens and landed on the railing amid a patter of falling snow, its arrival unobserved by those inside. Dull black feathers became tattered clothing, grease-stained blacks and greys blending into the shadows of the fading day.

The crow cocked his head and contemplated the scene on the other side of the glass. A fresh-faced boy, previously engaged in daubing paint across a canvas, paused and glanced out the window. Was he watching the crow? The falling snow slowly coating the old wooden porch and the forest below? Or the way the fading light outlined the bare-branched trees?

We make a lot of sacrifices in the service of becoming successful. We sacrifice leisure time to take on additional duties at work or spend more time writing. We sacrifice time with our friends and loved ones. We sacrifice our hobbies and the things we do for fun. We sacrifice our health, both mental and physical.

But it’s worth it, right? If we just work hard enough, one of these days it’s all going to pay off. We’ll be able to pay off our student debt, or afford to buy a house, or be able to send our kids to college, or land a book deal that we can support ourselves with, or develop a big enough following that we can live off the proceeds…

We spend our lives following this mirage of success. One day it’ll pay off. One day we’ll get where we’re going, and we’ll finally be able to relax, catch up with friends, spend time with our loved ones, and do the things we enjoy. People chase this mirage until the day they die– which is likely to happen sooner rather than later if you never give yourself a chance to relax.

We need to talk about this.

Many of you are probably wondering what happened to me– did I get arrested? Die? Give up? And no, it’s none of the above.

Remember when I called the Other Job a cancerous mass that’s slowly consuming my life? Well, the Other Job is why I’ve been more or less absent the entire month of June.

People don’t like unrest. They don’t like challenges to the status quo. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve noticed about a certain percent of the population every time something like the death of George Floyd happens. I guess we (marginalized groups, the poor) are supposed to just shrug and keep going every time one of ours gets murdered.

What happened to George Floyd should never happen in a free and democratic nation; and it doesn’t escape me that we are far from living up to the freedom and equality the United States allegedly stands for. I support those protesting for change. I support those rioting in outrage. Silence and complacency kill.

For many of us, the world is falling apart. A large section of the populations is struggling to survive without income, while in “essential” sectors, such as healthcare, retail, and transportation, employers are working their employees into the ground to keep up with the booming demand.

Depending on the source, anywhere from 50% to 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck– and the general consensus is with the higher of those numbers. The vast majority of Americans also have no emergency savings. When your workplace folds up or is ordered to close, and you find yourself quarantined at home with no income, what are you to do?

Wondering where the blog posts and Patreon content are at? Well, so am I.

All joking aside, though, I know exactly where they’re at. I have a couple of blog posts and a ton of writing planned out– I just need time to work it. The Other Job continues to eat an extremely excessive amount of time– 75 hours this week– and I’m running on empty.