“You think there’ll be more?” Maribelle asked. “More like him?”
“It is a certainty,” Judith replied. “In time.”
“I guess so.”
Judith sipped her tea. “Man had no predators left,” she said, “so we had to go about creating one. As if it all wasn’t fucked up enough.”
Maribelle stared. “In all the years I’ve known you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you use profanity.”
“Sometimes no other word will do,” Judith said. She looked out the window. “I suppose we’ve had it coming.”
“What do you mean, Judi?”
“It’s all out of balance,” Judith said, not looking at Maribelle.
“The animals at the top of a food chain must always be the fewest in number,” Judith said. “It’s a natural law. But Human beings are the most overpopulated species on the planet, and there we are at the pinnacle of the pyramid.”
Maribelle swallowed a mouthful of her sandwich, not tasting it.
“When a species becomes too numerous, like we are” Judith said, “Nature always steps in to cull their numbers. Either a new predator evolves or there is an outbreak of disease. Well, we’ve had more than our share of diseases, but we always find a cure, don’t we? Or at least a treatment to halt the disease’s spread. Nature will always correct any imbalances, given time. Oh, we’re talking about Nature’s timetable, here, so most of those corrective measures might not even be noticeable to those living today. It’s a drawn-out process, to say the least. Most of the time.”
“Some say global warming is the means that will accomplish it,” Judith said, “but Humans are so damned resilient, the only ones who will suffer are those without benefit of our precious technology, the Third World, the poor.”
“I’m not sure I’m following you,” Maribelle said.
“Think about your father,” Judith said. “His annual crusade to bag that elusive trophy buck.”
“Which he never does,” Maribelle said.
Judith smiled. “Each year the deer population becomes so large that it is then beneficial to cull their numbers,” she said. “Otherwise some disease outbreak would occur. And because our forefathers killed off all the natural predators of the deer, the bears and cougars and wolves, it is left to Human beings to carry out that function.”
“Hunting season,” Maribelle said.
“Right. Human beings are subject to the same natural laws as are deer. But we have killed off all our predators, and we have our technology to defend us from the microscopic threats. We live today in defiance of Nature.”
“So sooner or later Nature’s gonna ball up a fist and let us have it?” Maribelle said.
“Imagine our world ten-thousand years ago,” Judith said. “A group of men sitting around a fire at night, cowering from the animals that might eat them. Today those same men would be drinking beer and telling ribald jokes.”
“Sure,” Maribelle said. “They have guns.”
“They have technology,” Judith said. “Man’s technology has always saved his ass, my dear. But what if it has at last turned on him?”
“You think that’s happening?”
“Ask yourself this,” Judith said. “If Nature did design a new ‘super-predator’ to cull the numbers of Human beings, what would it look like, or be like? As smart as us, to be certain. Perhaps smarter.”
“And with no compunctions against killing,” Maribelle said. She had half her sandwich left, but she no longer felt hungry.
“Thus we have the great irony,” Judith said. “We may have custom-designed our own super-predator. Mankind may have raped Mother Nature one time too many, and the offspring of that violation could well become the creature that will replace Human beings as the dominant animal on this planet. A new apex predator at the top of the food chain.”
“Adam,” Maribelle said.