926: Time Vulture
Title text: In a way, all vultures are Time Vultures; some just have more patience than others.
This comic is about the time vulture (hence the title), a fictional creature made up by Randall. Cueball notices that his Cueball-like friend is followed by a time vulture, making the exclamation Dude, you've got a time vulture.
The primary food source for vultures is carrion, or rotting meat. A time vulture, as explained by Cueball, is a type of vulture that can live for millennia, spending very little energy and it can even slow down its internal clocks so time speeds past, a kind of forward time travel, to the point where its prey dies. In this way it can thus always wait long enough for the prey to die of natural causes no matter how long it takes, as seen from the preys point of view. So in principle they kill their prey by using aging, as Cueball explains, although in fact, like any vulture, they just find prey that has already (almost) died, as from their point of view every living thing is just about to die. But as other vultures they do not participate in the actual killing. Time vultures thus just need to locate and find any one living creature (of a reasonable size), then it becomes it’s prey as it then just waits until it dies, spending hardly any energy while it waits. Real soaring vultures can also stay afloat for considerable time spans without actually using any energy as they just float on thermals.
Thus the time vulture will now keep soaring over Cueball’s friends head for the rest of his life, and then when he dies (whenever and of whichever cause) it will descend and feast on his carcass. This should in principle not make any difference to the friend, since most people in principle already lives with the knowledge, that they will eventually die and their body will end up being destroyed in one way or the other. Typically it will not be caused by vultures, but for instance by the fire of the Crematory or by the decomposition caused by small animals and germs in the earth we are buried in.
However, it is not very nice to be reminded of this every living second of the rest of your life thus the consternation of the friend and his question and statement; But what if the prey doesn't die? and I'm not about to die...
The question doesn’t make sense since no living creature that we know of, that are large enough to matter as prey for a vulture, can survive through the several millennia that a time vulture can wait. Thus the prey will always die (as Cueball tries to explain).
And because the time vulture can slow down their internal clock, in its point of view, everyone who ever says "But, I'm not about to die", would say so right before they die; actually anything a person ever says after the time vulture has locked on to that person, happens just before they die as seen from the vulture's point of view. In humans point of view it could be many years after the statement was made, but for the time vulture, a human lifespan only last a mere moment.
It is thus really more of a philosophical comic about the fact that we all have death waiting for us, you could say it soars above our head and just wait for it to happen. And in relation to the deep time of the geology of the Earth or the expansion of the universe, the time it takes for people to live their lives is hardly worth mentioning...
In the title text it is stated that all real life vultures are actually a kind of time vultures, as real life vultures also sometimes spot a dying animal, not quite dead yet, and then wait for this prey to die. But time vultures are able to wait for millennia for their prey to die, whereas regular vultures do not have that kind of time, before they need to feed or land, thus the comment that some vultures have more patience than others.
Real vultures and their preying habits was referenced in 1746: Making Friends, directly in the title text.
- [Cueball is watching a large black bird, with apparently fractal wings, which hovers above his Cueball-like friend who walks towards Cueball and now turns to look at the bird over his shoulder.]
- Cueball: Dude, you've got a time vulture.
- Friend: Holy crap! What is it?
- [Zoom-in on Cueball who now looks at his friend who are now standing close to Cueball looking up at the bird off-panel.]
- Cueball: They're predators that use aging to kill prey.
- Friend: Huh? What do you mean?
- [The panel zooms in on the Cueball's face. The friends reply comes from off-panel.]
- Cueball: They live for millennia and use little energy. They can slow down their internal clocks so time speeds past. To hunt, they lock on to some prey, and when it stops moving, they eat it.
- Friend (off-panel): But what if the prey doesn't die?
- [Zoom out to Cueball and his friend that now look at each other.]
- Cueball: I don't think you quite understand.
- Friend: I mean, I'm not about to die...
- Cueball: From the vulture's viewpoint, everyone says that moments before they do.
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