When Nick finally left, several hours later, she thought it was the best dinner she'd ever had. They'd eaten, drunk wine, fed each other, drank more wine, and laughed and giggled like a couple of school cubs. And between everything, they kissed. Then they kissed and hugged. Then for good measure, they kissed some more.
She leaned against the door with a contented sigh, listening to his footsteps heading down the hall. She didn't think she'd ever get tired of his kisses. They were pure magic.
After changing into her pajamas, and cleaning up after dinner, she found she wasn't sleepy. Her body was still tingling from his arms and lips. She curled up on the couch with her phone and opened her web browser. On a whim, she Zoogled “predator-prey relationships” and was surprised at how much there was.
On closer inspection though, most of the web sites turned out to be gossip sites dedicated to rumors about suspected couples; first and foremost on every one of them was Gazelle and her lead dancer, Tyrone. Any other time Judy might have been fascinated, but knowing the truth about them, and understanding from personal experience what it must be like for them, she found she had no interest in the output of the rumor mills.
She went back to the listing of web sites and paged through them looking for something a little more substantial. Buried deep on the last page of the list was an 8-year-old study from Zootopia University. She clicked on it and was hooked after only a few sentences.
The article, “A Historical and Contemporary Study of Predator-Prey Romantic Relationships,” by Dr. Lawrence Huffer and Dr. Shelly Fürlong, Zootopia University, Department of Anthropology, opened by stating that predator-prey romantic relationships were rare, but not unknown. It discussed the legend that among the founders of Zootopia, there was a lion and zebra who fell in love after escaping from a brush fire that nearly killed them both. To date, all verified cases of predator-prey romance have involved a male predator and female prey. It said there were only five confirmed cases; two historical and three contemporary, although there were probably more who were in hiding for fear of public disapproval. The researchers claimed to have interviewed the three living couples and compared their answers with what was known about the two in the history books to arrive as some tentative conclusions.
For predator-prey romance to work, four things seemed to be required:
These four things didn't guarantee a romantic relationship would emerge, they simply laid the necessary groundwork and foundation upon which one can be built. But without them, no romance would ever be possible.
Judy was dumbstruck as she read the outline in the article. It was a near perfect-encapsulation of her and Nick's relationship. She'd even recited an abbreviated version of it to him this morning when she told him when she fell in love with him. And now that she thought about it, it was also a repetition of the progress of Tyrone and Gazelle's relationship; at least the way Bogo told it. She sent Nick a text.
JUDY: Are you up?
NICK: Yeah. Why?
JUDY: Go to this web site and read it!!!!
She included a copy of the URL for him. After sending it, she kept reading. It concluded with the two paragraphs she thought were incredibly fascinating, as well as a footnote at the bottom. The two paragraphs read:
The existence of predator-prey romance is difficult, if not impossible, to explain in terms of evolutionary biology. The parallel rise of intelligence in multitudes of different mammal species all at the same time – but only in mammals – is equally difficult to explain, particularly since all the evolution apparently happened at the same time and in the same direction; giving rise to intelligent mammals talking and walking upright, yet retaining all their primitive appearances and features.
Another aspect of modern mammals that is difficult to explain evolutionarily is that predators now enjoy many vegetables in their diet while prey have learned to enjoy seafood and fowl. This simultaneously occurring overlap between their preferred diets is baffling to evolutionary theory.
She thought the footnote was equally fascinating. Part of it said:
Recent discoveries in the last year or two may point to an alternative explanation for the rise of intelligent mammals other than evolution. A large meteor, or small asteroid, may have exploded in the sky over Zootopia's current location some 2000 years ago, catastrophically flooding the atmosphere with radioactive, mutagenic gases that affected only mammalian DNA, mutating it and adding to it, to produce today's intelligent, walking, talking mammals.
A common addition to the DNA of all mammals would explain why predators suddenly stopped hunting mammal prey and eating them since it would now feel like cannibalism. It would also explain the existence of predator-prey romances, taking them from the realm of evolutionary impossibility to the realm of the rare and unlikely, but now possible, although always childless. Additionally, the common mutagenic DNA added to both predator and prey would explain their new, common dietary preferences.
Support for this possibility comes from trace samples of unusual minerals found all over the world at approximately the same depth in the soil, indicating an age of about 2000 years. The concentration is strongest around Zootopia, which perhaps not coincidentally, is where the first predator-prey treaty was forged to begin a common civilization. While the available evidence is tenuous at best, the explanatory power of this theory is impressive.
She couldn't contain herself anymore and bounced to her feet, pacing excitedly around her apartment. She sent Nick another text.
JUDY: Read all the way to the bottom and don't forget to read the footnote too.
Was it really possible, she thought? Everything about her relationship with Nick argued that it was true. It even hinted that Lance's thrill of the hunt idea was valid. If they were only 2000 years from the jungle, all those old drives would still be there, alive and well, strong as ever. If their civilized intelligence and manners were the result of a cosmic accident, it might even account for the night howlers being able to drive them savage. After catching Lance yesterday Nick had theorized the two might be related. Maybe he was right.
Her phone buzzed with a message from Nick.
NICK: Wow!!!! Unreal!!!!
JUDY: I know!! It explains a lot!!
NICK: Even Lance's “thrill of the hunt” thing.
JUDY: I thought about that too. ☺ There’s so much to talk about here!
NICK: Yeah, but right now I’m getting tired. Go to sleep, angel face. Talk to you in a.m. I ♥ U
JUDY: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥