In the editorial introduction, Jablokov explains his relative absence from short fiction in the last decade due to family and career calling on his times. tsk tsk. Priorities, Mr. Jablokov, Priorities.
Here he provides an unsettling view of the near future, where humanity has tweaked the perceptions of animals to ‘enable’ them to living in urban settings, but with all apsects of that urban life removed from their perception, leaving them believing themselves to be living in the wild. We follow one cougar as it cagily explores territory marked out by another male, all this done in blissful ignorance of the landscape it is inhabiting is one of cafes and humans engaged in leisure activites.
And there is another, largely unnoticed, male ritual going on, as one male, observing a quartet of other people, is trying to put himself into a position to be the putative mate of one of the females, who is currently partnered with his employer.
The most unsettling element of the story is the view of the work of the observer, in one of his roles of looking after a pig farm – except that the pigs themselves have been horribly genetically tweaked to be little more than nonsentient pork factories.
The closing scenes, set in a now abandoned urban landscape, with nature gradually returning, rounds off an unsettling view of how it is possible to be blind to what is happening around us.