“A place without challenge, flaw, or soil.”
Invasion-free for over 18 years.
It is a graveyard. It is the lemurs’ graveyard. It is the place, near Happy Valley, where lemurs go to die. They grow old. Then they swim across the ocean. They run across six lanes of traffic. They reach the lemurs’ graveyard. They dig cute little graves for themselves and lay down in them. Then they die. Leaves float down from above to cover them. That is why no one in Happy Valley knows that the lemur graveyard is there.
Katie and Joe eat lunch in the lemurs’ graveyard. It’s a picnic lunch. Joe drinks a Diet Mountain Dew. Katie drinks a Coca-Cola. Joe tosses his can into their picnic basket. Katie leaves hers on a lemur’s grave. It’s bad, but, in her defense, the shiny red autumn leaves provide camouflage for the can.
One by one, the lemur spirits begin to sift out of their graves.
Coraline hovers by her grave. She licks one paw.
Michael suspires stormily from his grave. His brow is clouded. He was the first of all lemurs to die.
“I call this meeting to order,” Michael says. “Humans have previously offended us with their disco music and laissez-faire economics. Now they desecrate our graves. We must therefore seethe outwards in a boiling ectoplasmic lemur sea and destroy the closest human settlement—Happy Valley.”
Something disturbs Coraline. She expresses hesitation.
“We destroy without qualm,” Michael says. “This is the lemur motto!”
“It occurs to me,” Coraline says, “that neither our existence nor our rage is in any fashion probable.”
Michael hesitates. “And why is that relevant?” he asks.
Coraline swoops into the sky in ghostly fashion. Her eerie eyes scan the world around Happy Valley. Soon, in great swirls of colored light, the other lemurs rise to join her.
“Look,” she says. She points. “Pygmy zombies.”
“They also know rage against humanity,” Michael says. “These upstart hominids offer no end of offense!”
“They are shuffling towards Happy Valley,” Coraline says, “but confounded by the natural geography and their own height, they find themselves tracing a terrible circle around that ridge. If I am correct, they will never reach the habitat of humanity. Their hunger for brains grows but they can never satisfy it.”
“You have a hypothesis?” Michael asks.
“Pygmy zombies,” Coraline says. “Lemur ghosts. And the distant moldering corpse of a terrifyingly large potato bug.”
“A potato bug need not be terribly large to terrify,” Michael says. “But granted. These things are not probable. Is there a common element?”
“Adversity,” Coraline says. “It is clear to me. We provide adversity; we bring terror, growth, and change to the population of humanity; then, with terrible effort, they defeat us. Where we have passed we leave the littered population of their dead. But they will win, because we are a test, and nothing more.”
“Hm.” Michael’s nose twitches. Then he leans close to Coraline. He sniffs at her fur. “You have been sneaking out of your grave.”
“Yes,” she admits.
“To somewhere . . . buttery.”
“The B-documentaries,” she says. “At the drive-in down the road.”
“Ah,” he says.
“Even had I not seen this story,” she says, “played out a dozen dozen times, still it would be obvious that we were the pawns of a greater agency, existing outside the normal processes of the world.”
“It could have been radiation,” Michael hazards. “Perhaps there was some sort of . . . atomic explosion near the graveyard, and we are atomic ghosts. Everyone knows that atomic radiation can cause such effects as these. It might also explain the pygmy zombies—they’re ordinary atomic zombies, but their growth was stunted by power lines.”
“I can tell,” Coraline says, “that you’re no physicist.”
“I took my degree in English literature,” Michael admits.
“We are unnatural,” she says, flatly. “And history shows that we are doomed. I recommend that we retire to our graveyard and apply for tax-exempt status as an article of the lemur faith.”
“Yet,” Michael says, “I see no adversity in Happy Valley.”
“Hm,” Coraline says, dubiously.
“No doubt,” she says, “it is that very absence of adversity that inspires our existence.”
Michael frowns. “The legend of Happy Valley,” he says, “is that it is a place without challenge, flaw, or soil. It says so on the sign.”
“It must have soil,” Coraline says. “Otherwise, no plants would grow.”
“To the east,” Michael says, using his incomparable vision, “I see a city besieged by ‘devil grasshoppers.’ And to the west, by carnivorous Verizon-men. In Happy Valley, there is no pain. Do you understand why this offends and concerns me, Coraline?”
She curls in on herself, somewhat nervously, and thinks. “They alone have despoiled our sacred graveyard; so why should they alone be safe?”
“That is the nature of my offense,” he says.
“And we are giving serious discussion to leaving them be, which, in effect, plays into their adversity-less hands. Had we possessed merely ordinary ghost lemur intelligence, we would have attacked, and ravaged their people; yet, through the sheer coincidence of our advanced lemur minds, we are considering abandoning the project.”
“You follow the thrust of my thoughts perfectly.”
Coraline ponders. “It may be,” she says, “that the character of the valley forbids our entrance in force.”
Michael drifts slowly downwards on a wayward breeze. Uncertainly, the other ghosts follow.
“We will not enter by force,” he says. “We will enter by stealth, and make the pygmy zombies our allies. Against a subtle and painless invasion, they will have no hope.”
Five years pass, and Happy Valley changes their sign.
“A place without challenge, flaw, or soil.”
Beware the pygmy zombies and ghost lemurs.
Masters of disguise—They Could Be Anyone!
Scared by this sign, ninja werewolves stay away.