The River at the Edge of the World1

1 which is to say, the sky.

Once upon a time, there were the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rooster (but not Hen, since girls are a different animal), Rabbit, Monkey, Dragon, Horse, Hopping Vampire, Snake, Goat, and Alien. They could not decide what order the zodiac years would go in. So they held a contest: they would order the cycle based on the order the various animals reached the far side of a river.

“Hey!” said Hopping Vampire. “Why is this river made of sanctified rice?”

“Purely a coincidence,” said Rat, ruffling whiskers.

“And patrolled by Ninja Tathagata, with his kung-fu grip?” asked Monkey, who had had unfortunate encounters with Tathagata before.

“Look,” explained Rat. “I am not responsible for the condition of this river, which we have chosen at random.”

“But there’s a billboard,” said Ox. “River by Rat.”

“Calvin Klein,” said Rat. “It’s River by Calvin Klein. Abbreviated Rat.”

“Ah,” said Ox. “That makes sense, then.”

“Besides, what are you worried about?” asked Rat. “It’s not like you have anything to fear from rice or Ninja Tathagata.”

“This is true,” allowed Ox. “My anti-enlightenment stare defeats all Buddhas!”

“It’s a NINJA BUDDHA,” said Monkey, in frustration.

“Okay, look,” said Ox. “Just in case, we’ll distract Ninja Tathagata with the goat’s Buddha Call.”

Monkey looked hopefully at Goat.

Resignedly, Goat trudged a ways down the river. “Help, help,” he said. “I am suffering the pangs of desire brought on by ignorance of the true nature of reality. Can anyone save me from the burdens of the skandhas?”

Ninja Tathagata’s ears sprang straight up. “Someone’s in trouble!” He threw down a Ninja Buddha Ball and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

“RUN!” said Rat. “Before he returns from Ninja Nirvana!”

They all bolted for the river, save for Hopping Vampire, who could not touch sanctified rice.

Ox was the strongest swimmer, so pretty soon Ox was almost to the far edge. But secretly, Rat was riding on Ox’s head!

“I’m so clever!” laughed Rat. “Soon I’ll rule the zodiac!”

“What’s that?” asked Ox.

“I mean, look out, Enlightenment Shuriken!”

Ox weaved from side to side in the river, dodging the hail of shuriken manifested by Ninja Tathagata’s magnificent beneficence towards all living things. He was almost to the far edge, when Rat LEAPT for the shore!

Suddenly, Rat’s chest burst open and Alien jumped out! That’s how Alien won the zodiac, and why so few people are born in the year of the Hopping Vampire.

Darn it, Ninja Tathagata!

Somehow, it’s all your fault.

One thought on “The River at the Edge of the World1

  1. You write the best koans.

    I came from rpgnet for the new Nobilis supplement, then realized/remembered how cool this site is. I’ll be working my way through the archives from the beginning. Thanks for being faithful to your own particular brand of wierdness. It’s an inspiration to us all.

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