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The Jaguars of God

A dream of a strange judgment day

The end of the world began before dawn, before the fire rose in the sky. As the light spread across the land, they began landing in their thousands. Panthera onca in all his glory. Black jaguars, white jaguars, red jaguars, mottled and spotted jaguars in all their patterns.

They were first seen as dark spots in the sun, but quickly, quickly they fell to earth. And they were glorious jaguars, fully 10 feet long and at least 400 pounds. And they fell and so fast did they fall that none survived. A jaguar may land on all four feet, but it cannot survive the impact of free-fall. Those few humans awake wept to see such noble beasts perish on the face of the earth.

And soon they were falling all over the world, in all areas humans tenanted. It was almost besides the point to ask where they were falling from; they were just falling.

For with the ending of the Long Count the world was ending too, and one end appointed was that all be devoured by jaguars. Perhaps, people mused as they ducked the panthers and other miscellaneous cats, and dealt with the damage they caused, it was too much to expect an orderly apocalypse from a group of gods so incompetent that their best fire-lighting method required suicide. Or perhaps the centuries without sacrifice had driven the responsible deity (who, given the sacrifices in question, was perhaps less than sane to begin with) into a sadistic madness.

The rain continued, and the bodies piled up. Soon people began to worry. The panthers had been a reasonable source of dinner meat, and the pelts had been useful, but in some places the piles of panther corpses were hundreds of feet high, and the oceans were choking on the fetid rivers pouring into them.

The body piles consumed most of the land now. It was a rare place that did not have its carpet of maggot hills and all the shambles had thrown up their hands and ceased butchering jaguar corpse. How many had fallen now? Millions, certainly. Perhaps billions. The sky-darkening rain continued. And months later, the first jaguars began to survive the fall. How pitiful, people said, putting them down with a pistol, perhaps, or a rifle. They couldn’t let a jaguar - a noble big cat like that - slowly die of shock or thirst.

No longer were there graveyards for the jaguars, or respectful cremations. People ceased to wonder when the rain would stop. There were no longer funerals either for people crushed by a jaguar. Did people even go outside any more? It was hard to say; one saw so few people any more. And there was no longer any more reason to go up, as they began to say, into that wasteland. The smell was everywhere. Life before the Fall was a distant story. In those days, they told the children, men were taller than they were now. Yes, my child: there were giants in those days.

They ceded the surface, retreated underground. Open the earth and let the heavens fall. Let the ground vanish under filth and decay. They would survive. The jaguars would harrow the surface and find none, and would starve. And when this whole inexplicable business was over, they would emerge and pick up where they left off. The stories might say all humans would die, but stories could be read many ways. Perhaps the humans already had.

Did that deity laugh to see the first of his jaguars fall - fall and not break a leg? Fall and slide down the great mountain and begin to hunt?