First contact

How they must’ve stared — those others — the first time they encountered people wearing skins that were not their own. Sighting them from a distance, what confusion must’ve wrinkled those heavy brows: friend or prey?

And then the skinwalkers, our ancestors, approaching with spears at the ready: how little thought they likely gave this dilemma themselves, accustomed as they would’ve already become to the amorous embrace of the slain…

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. How does the story end? In my dream zebras take Washington, DC, wildebeests take New York. The skinwalkers are gone, long gone.


  2. Geez, I don’t know. I wish my visions were as optimistic as yours.


  3. We honor the others by wearing their skin and eating their flesh…. in my judgement…..


  4. Perhaps, yes. But I do think it makes sense to date the original animal/human split to the invention of clothing. And that invention made nakedness possible not merely in an existential, Garden of Eden sense, but also in the reductionist sense of a radical diminishment of our own pelts, which could only have been the result of conscious selection for less-hairy infants through selective infanticide. At the same time, the shamanistic imagination hearkened back to an Edenic time before the split, when animals and humans spoke the same language. Many hunter-gatherers saw animals as, essentially, people wearing – and defined by – distinctive pelts. So there was angst about killing all along.


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