Just down the way though, avoiding the crocodile’s many sharp teeth, Hermano passed a number of Palm Reading shops promising to tell your fortune, and came to a window filled with nicely groomed animals in smart silver cages, and coloured fish in huge green tanks. It smelt nice. But here in the Manhattan Pet Shop Hermano saw an extraordinary sight. It was a huge bearded hamster on a wheel, running around and around, but going nowhere at all, just like Hermano had done in the Depository. Yet this hamster was smiling as he went and looking very serene indeed. Through the window the hamster was watching the humans too, in their headphones, running on machines in the gymnasium opposite, all like little hamsters themselves, or even like slaves.
“Don’t you want to get off though, Sir?” asked Hermano, as he poked his snout around the door. “I could help you, brother.”
“By Golly gosh, no,” answered the Indian creature, who was originally from Gujarat. “Why would I be wanting to get off? The World is being a ball, friend, like a globe, a circle or a tear drop, perfectly round, so it is.”
“It is?” said Hermano, remembering what the cat had said too.
“As round as the Great Wheel of Fate and Fortune, my good friend, or as Karma itself. So if you are ever down, you just have to keep on going and then you’ll be up again, especially in New York City. Never give up then, friend. Simple. For the great wheel always turns.”
Hermano thanked the Indian Hamster for his strange wisdom and went on. But now Hermano was growing rather frightened at the thought of where he would sleep that boiling hot City night, with a huge moon rising in the Manhattan sky already. Especially if everyone, including so many smooth street rats, were looking for accommodation too. As Hermano went on he began to notice that although New York seemed filled with millions and millions of human beings, fighting for the yellow cabs, or shouting and screaming at each other, or pushing and shoving, or shopping and eating and buying stuff, very few of them seemed really to be talking to each other at all. Not properly anyhow, like Hermano had to Raoul and Yage and Che.
Instead they spent their time looking at their mobile phones, in offices, cafes, shops and restaurants, or peering at their computers and laptops and iPads. Or playing games on consoles that made strange noises, or listening to music on the headphones round their ears, as they walked or jogged or roller skated frantically along. It all seemed very confusing to the arboreal tree rat, this city, but sometimes as if they were in a race. Hermano guessed that this must just be the modern world then. He thought of Yage again, and wondered how everything could be connected, if the humans seemed so much in their own worlds.
Hermano noticed too some of the humans with animals, and how amazingly similar they were to their owners. There was the huge, slavering bulldog walking beside a giant, muscle-armed, snub-nosed bodyguard. There was the elegant saluki, strolling beside a beautiful Persian super model, its snout lifted high as her high heeled shoes. There were the young men in very tight Jeans, with perfect hairstyles, carrying little poodles and chiwahuas, as if they were bunches of flowers. But there were the tough New York street cops too, in helmets and dark glasses, sitting on top of huge, stern faced horses, with leather eye guards and the tramps and kids on the streets, as well, with mongrels and strays at their sides. At one point Hermano stopped on a busy, short little street and asked a New York pigeon who seemed to have a damaged wing where he was.
“Can’t you read, buddy?” answered the bird, looking up at the Black and White Street sign, “This is Wall Street, pal.”
“Wall Street?” gulped Hermano, “So this is where they’re building their Wall then, to keep out little rats and migrant humans too?”
“Course not, pal,” answered the pigeon, “That’s far down south. No, this is where they make all the money. Not like Main Street where the ordinary animals and humans live. That hole there, where the fountain is, there used to be two of the tallest buildings in the city there. Here though they make Millions and billions and trillions. Although money means a wall to many, and going up in the world too. Up and up and up. Though it makes them all like slaves to me.”
“Day in, day out, working non-stop just to make human money,” said the Pigeon, trying to flutter his wounded wing. “Slaves. Like the scandal of dogs in this city.”
“Scandal?” said Hermano.
“Puppy mills,” said the Pigeon, “All over the place. Breeding little dogs as pets, but since their owners want only the sweetest, cutest or the prettiest, so they look good on a lead, they’re being farmed. All those puppies.”
Hermano was horrified. Now the tree rat noticed some very dishevelled looking foreign animals trundling along though, looking around as if they were about to be attacked by a condor.
“Refugees,” explained the scrawny pigeon gravely. “Who’ve left their own countries, because of war or disaster or persecution? And it’s not just animals, pal. I heard last year around the world Sixty five Million humans were driven from their homes. Think of that.”
Hermano was appalled. It sounded terrible, this human world.
“So where you going?” asked the pigeon, but looking up longingly again at the skyline.
“I guess I’m looking for somewhere to stay,” answered Hermano, “Safely for the night.”
“Try the web then,” suggested the pigeon.
“Web?” said Hermano in surprise, “you mean animals here really use this Internet too, just like Humans?”
“Nope,” answered the pigeon, scowling, “Charlotte’s Web. A downtown spider started it in the window of a sewing shop, but it runs everywhere now. Like those electric cables you see nowadays; Internet cables, and Fibre Optic cables, Telephone cables and electric cables. To connect all the humans on their machines, with their electricity. But on Charlotte’s web animals still use Morse code, tapping the spiders’ webs, to send news and so plugging into Animal Media. It’s all the rage. ”
“Oh,” said Hermano.
“Then of course there’s the bird telegraph too, Twitters, and the bumblebee network, Buzz feed,” said the pigeon.
Hermano nodded but the tree rat couldn’t speak Morse code and he wandered on again. Hermano had come to a place called Greenwich Village, although it was a village inside the city, and so no longer a real village at all. As he went Hermano began to see a great body of water too, like a lake. It was sunset now, the flames of the fading sun burning orange across the great Hudson river and as Hermano stopped and looked out, tears welling in his huge brown eyes again, with all the strange things he was feeling, all alone in New York city and so far from the Amazon, he saw a giant figure rising in the distance, on a little island. It was made of glinting metal and holding something in its raised hand, like a sword. It was an enormous statue of a human being.