Artwork by Alice MILANI

Los Angeles, 2025: the Big One, the earthquake of magnitudine 8.3 in the Richter scale, expected since many years, hits the towns which is entirely wiped out by the fires. Among the survivors, taking refuge in the Sierras above the city, there is Mc Farlane, a genetic engineer from Tyrrel Corporation, the company specialized in the production of replicant life forms. After many years living alone in the woods, Mc Farlane finds he needs some help to hunt for his food, and he has enough know how to build this help by himself. But may be what he has built is too good to be just a hunting help.

Old man Mc Farlane lived alone. He had no need for anyone; for many years he had lived in his small wooden hut in the forest, since when he run away from Los Angeles in flame. He would rather not think about these times, when he lived in the big city: the past was gone, and could not come back. Now his life was all different.

Every morning he would get out of his small house with a gun, and lie in ambush in the forest. He had to wait for a long time, but sooner or later a fawn, an hare, an opossum would pass by: with great calm he would aim, and shoot; usually a single shot, ammunition was hard to get. Most of the times he was back with his prey before noon, and started with a will to skin it and prepare his dinner.

In this way in the forest it looked as if time was never going by. On the contrary, it did go by. One day the old man was lying in ambush as usual near the spring; a fawn come to drink, but the first shot missed the aim. Then the second shot also missed, and before Mc Farlane was ready for the third one, the fawn had vanished in the thicket. Only then the old man looked at his hands and saw they were shaking; he looked at the woods far away, and saw he was not focusing well.

That night he had no dinner, and a lot of time to think. He thought to many things he did not want to think about since a long time: to what he was able to do in the past, when he was living in the city, and worked at the Tyrrel Corporation. Sure, he did need help. And he would build by himself what he needed.

In a cupboard in his hut there was a suitcase, which he had not opened since when he had loaded it on his pickup, running away from the Tyrrel Corporation building in flame, the day of the great earthquake, the Big One. He still remembered the fire clambering up the walls of the huge building behind him. Of all the store of knowledge on genetic engineering contained in that building almost nothing was left, apart from what was in his suitcase...but maybe it was enough.

The old man worked for weeks in his hut, and only once every two-three days, pushed by hunger, he went out to try once more his luck in hunting, with alternate results. Until one day he came out of his hut carrying something in his arms. It looked like a cat...but it was not a cat like the other cats. It was a cheetah.

[Fig. 1]

...he gave it milk with a feeding-bottle ...

The old man spent a lot of time to raise the cheetah puppy; while it was a cub, he gave it milk with a feeding-bottle, later he taught it to hunt by towing some deer skins with the pickup.

Finally his helper was ready to hunt. Mc Farlane did not even need to carry the gun. They lied in ambush together in the thicket, and when a fawn came, the old man nod to the cat. The cheetah is the fastest animal on Earth, it can run more than 100 kilometers an hour; but the replicant cheetah built by Mc Farlane was even faster, it was barely touching the ground like an aircraft taking off.

No animal in the forest could escape the cheetah, once the pursuit had started; and when it had caught up, a bite with the sharp fangs on the throat, and the hunt was over. Afterwards, the cheetah would seize the prey with the teeth and would bring it back readily at the feet of the old man. Then at home Mc Farlane would share the food with his helper.

[Fig. 2]

...the fastest animal on Earth...

The cheetah of Mc Farlane had other extraordinary abilities. The cheetah only hunt at daytime; on the contrary the replicant had an excellent view even in darkness: it only needed to open the shining eyes, and he could see the prey where the human eye could only see dark. Moreover he was able, not even Mc Farlane knew how, to turn off the shining of its eyes in the dark, to become utterly invisible to his victims. And when it ran, it made no noise at all.

The animals of the forest had for it a paralysing fear: every bush could hide the silent runner, and if there was some noise, then it was not it, because the cheetah made no noise at all. Every moving shadow could hide the invisible hunter, and if there was something which could be seen, then it was not it.

That's why the animals in the forest were to afraid to come, by day as well as by night, near the hut, and they begun to move farther and farther away. Mc Farlane and his helper had to walk longer and longer to find prey, until the old man could not go any more, and the cheetah begun to go hunting by himself.

Every day the old man would send the cheetah to hunt; sometimes the replicant would be away the entire morning, and would come back only in the afternoon with some prey held with the teeth. Sometimes it would go out in the night, to catch the prey unaware in the dark. However, some days the cheetah could not bring back but a hare, then after the old man had eaten there was not enough left for the beast.

With all this, the man and the beast got well together, and when Mc Farlane wanted the replicant to go hunting, he had no difficulty in obtaining obedience: the cheetah loved to hunt, it was in its blood, that is, in the cheetah genes which had been used to manufacture it.

Until one day the cheetah stayed away the entire day. At dusk it came back to the hut, it stopped, as usual, in front of his master, and to his feet deposed only a fully unfleshed bone. The old man shivered, but he pretended it was OK; he new very well the meaning of what had happened. The cheetah did not want to hunt for him any more. The replicant men had also rebelled, and this was why nobody had tried to build them any more.

[Fig. 3]

...and to his feet deposed only a fully unfleshed bone...

Mc Farlane closed himself into the hut, while the cheetah lied in its bed under the porch. When night had fallen, the old man had came to a decision. He got out on the porch, and nodded to the cheetah to go hunting.

The replicant stared at him in the eyes, without moving, for too long. Then he moved on slowly, walking as usual without any noise. The old man went back into the hut, and remained on watch at the window until the cheetah had disappeared. Was the beast really gone to hunt in the forest, or was it right outside waiting for an easier prey?

Mc Farlane slipped out of the door, and started walking towards the road, were his old pickup was, trying as much a possible to make no noise.

Around him, the wood was dark and silent. That was the problem. If there was the cheetah, he would only feel the fangs on his throat. When he got near the road, he could not stand it any more, and he started running towards the pickup; he opened the door, jumped into the driver's cab, and slammed the door.

While he was still catching his breath, he looked for the keys of the anti theft device. He did not have them...he had not used the car for a long time, he had left the keys in the hut.

The old man went out again in the night. For the entire duration of the walk along the path, he was trying to breath as little as possible not to be heard, to the point of feeling suffocated. When he got to the hut he begun to catch his breath again. In a few seconds he found the keys, and got out quickly. He looked around, and saw nothing but the shadows of the trees. He listened, and heard nothing but the wind whispering among the leaves.

He started along the path, and he was beyond the half way mark when he heard a rustle in the bush behind him. He turned terrorized...and then he realized there was nothing to fear from the creatures of the forest who made noise. He sighed with relief and turned again towards the road. But now there were to shining eyes staring at him from the path in front of him, and then he realized that there was no point in running any more.

[Fig. 4]

...two shining eyes staring at him...

The old forestry road which goes up in the woods, were once upon a time there was the hut of Mc Farlane, has been closed for years. Right after the bridge there is a barbed wire barrage, and a sign-board written in large letters:



If you can see, it is not it

If you can hear, it is not it

I am not sure Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott would approve of this story, but it is their fault if it came to be. I went with my daughter Alice, then 8 years old, to see ``Blade Runner ", and a few days later she came out telling me this story, which I faithfully wrote, adding only a few technicalities from my hard SciFi culture. The illustrations were also drawn by Alice.