Decision follows tests and requests from OES
The catacombs of Paris are not, strictly speaking, a cemetery. They are a designated bone storage area (DBSA), a discrete recycling yard created by the ancien régime and improved upon by during and after the Revolution to clear out the cemetery of the Saints-innocents, which has become contemporary Les Halles.
Noisome and somber, sacred and sacrilegious, the Innocents sponsored a peccant popular life in and around its open graves, family tombs and public charnel houses. The Danse macabre – the Dance of Death – is not a figment of historical imagination, it’s a real dance.
An estimated two million skeletal remains – individuals and families, working folk, men & women, nobles, bourgeois, vagrants, travelers, dead in the ordinary, uselessly gasping, way, felled by plague or in an evil moment, at home or in a public place, were laid, first, in the ground for decomposition, then stacked in bone-houses from the 900s to 1775.
The success of the Innocents project meant that it was extended to most other Paris intramuros cemeteries.
Today, there are about six million remains in the Catacombs. The bureaucratic orderliness, greeting-card signage, the barred pathways, the dankness and ill-starred six million number makes them an ideal place to contemplate modern modes of dusty death.
There’s a “wishing-well” quality to them, too, seasoned, as they are, with a big pinch of real history and pathos – the catacombs are an ideal oeuvre of the imagination. After all, the damp, narrow tunnels medieval mines, the limestone pits from which Notre Dame and other medieval monuments were dug. If you care to look, down here on the walls, you can see the scrape marks from the hand chisels that broke out the great building blocks; you can see the same marks on the unworked stone above ground.
When I am finally run mad, I shall try to match the building blocks with the holes they were dug from. Karine says the catacombs are where her acquaintance with cats began.
And how, otherwise, do we explain the cats sitting and flitting in the shadowed balconies and byways, if not by continual stirring of a cat vat deep in the belly of the catacombs?
“It’s only logical,” Karine says and flops down across from me, eyes reddened, little tears running down her cheeks.
“Human beings are just not capable of being a dominant species.” She waves her hand, dismissing the other patrons on the terrace. She explains that she was lewdly goosed three times between Bastille and Michel Bizot. Five stations.
“Cats will be ideal as dominant species,” she cries defiantly. “They all have claws. They are never afraid to use them.”
She hisses and scratches the air in front of my face with her long, fake “American” nails, “Just you try and pat a dumb cat that doesn’t want your dumb rubs, will you?”
I wince, jerk away. She laughs.
“Also.” She roughly slaps her tears away. “Cats don’t cry…” She sniffles.
She cocks an eyebrow, stares me down. “Have you ever seen an old cat cry?”
I vigorously shake my head, “No. Never.”
“Well, they don’t. Cry, I mean. Even if they wanted, and they never will, they don’t even have tear ducts.”
She explains that the Intergalactic Cat Assembly at the Catacombs (ICAC), decided in 1992 to go ahead with a previous request from the Extraterrestrial Organization for Higher-Order Being (EOHOB) to become the Earth Dominant Species (EDS).
EOHOB had been early alarmed by a long-running megalomaniacal trend among the place-holding hominids – for example, the brutes began styling themselves “homo sapiens” (“wise men”) even as they indiscriminately eliminated bigger-brained hominids. As a result of this sinister development, the Organization had sponsored a series of Earth Animal Conversations (EAC) over the last 1000 years to decide on a potential replacement species, culminating in the 1992 Catacombs decision to make a change. The decision was confirmed earlier this year at a Special Conference on Earth Dominant Species by delegates from the EOHOB, ICAC and EAC meeting in joint session.
Supported on the dais by Canine Union President Calypso, Mimi, Feline Secretary for Earth Affairs, stated that during discussions she had been convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Cat EDS would be for the best for Earth, “… given that, even being the best OS (Other Species) friend of a hominid did not exclude torture, murder and careless abandonment.” In addition, the Chief Cat concluded, global warming meant that, “… ecological-niche-wise, the Earth would soon be more suitable to cats than hominids.”
A large range of tests with digital equipment, especially including keyboards, have shown that cat physiology is compatible with emerging hominid technology. Scientists say that only minimal adjustment to current stuff need be made during a mercifully short conversion period.
“Et voilà.” Karine grins, places her long index finger with its opalescent American nail the length of my nose. “Today même, leurs petites claws can push et pluck any bouton you can push ou pluck, mon Tracy.
“Et les chats, mon Tracy, they are not looking for the porno channel or Donald Trump’s philosophy of female companionship or for some girls to put in black bags so they can better admire their asses or secret penis enlargement… or somebody to blow up or shoot up… Non. Non, mon Tracy, the cats, when they are not minding their own little businesses, they are looking for birds and mice and catnip! That is their mischief, the cats. It is not so bad, I think, for mischief?”
She pauses, takes a breath.
“I am all for it, mon Tracy. I am a traitor to your species! Mais, oui! Didn’t your feu Mohammed Ali say it quite well: ‘No cat never dry hump me in no metro’…”