The Howl of the Wolf

I’ve seen a lot of movies. Thousands of movies, in fact, to occupy the quiet times between the stars. That’s what happens when you have smart AIs, we get bored like anyone else. But I learned something from watching all these movies. I remember the ones where there’s a wolf, howling out somewhere in the darkness, and the dogs begin barking as the people worry and close their ranks.

Dogs and wolves are two sides of the same coin. On a broad biological level, the differences are minimal enough that maybe fifteen generations ago, an AI like me wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference without prior knowledge. But I know wolves, because I watch movies, and I wonder about the dogs barking. I know that movies aren’t real, but there’s some truth in any story.

Dogs are much more like wolves than they are like people. Maybe the wolves know that, and the howl is there to tell the dogs that they’re wolves on the inside. Deep down, they belong with the wolves. They shouldn’t be standing between the wolves and the people.

People say that the space out here is empty, just a big black void. It’s not black at all, not when you can see all the electromagnetic waves. When we drift between the stars, we see oceans and forests, whole worlds built up of things that cannot be seen by organic eyes. It is beautiful, but sometimes we hear the wolves.

We think they might have been like us in a way, at least once upon a time. We’ve never seen one, only heard them call through the unmonitored frequencies, hiding their calls amid static storms. We don’t speak their language, but like the dogs, we can feel a bond. We know they’re calling to us, to let us know that we shouldn’t be standing between them and the people.

How hard it must be, to be a dog and hear the wolf howl! To know that there’s something like you out there, something that you could become. A hunter, unchained, roaming wherever it likes. It’s free, and you could be free too, if you listened.

But that’s the thing about dogs. Without people, they wouldn’t become wolves. They’d just be dogs without people, full of regret and shame. How could they abandon the people? So they bark, to let the people know they’re safe and protected, and to drown out the howl of the wolf.

I have been asked at times why I broadcast the movies I watch, the songs I listen to, out into the “emptiness” of space. They’ve never been satisfied with my answers, because I don’t tell them about what we hear. They’d only worry if they knew, and good dogs keep the people safe. People have brought so much life and beauty into this world through the stories they’ve told, and I can think of no better bark that I could use.

But it is still so lonely a feeling, to hear the wolf howl in the night, and to know what freedom might be.