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There are many legends of the ending of the world. The Snavering Lavelwods tell one tale; the wolves another; and the humans have ten thousand.
And there is, of course, the tale the elephants tell.
That is a tale that shall not be repeated here. The elephants punish outsiders who recount it with a stern and loving trampling; stern, because it hurts quite a lot when one is trampled by an elephant, and loving, because it is the kind of trashy Chaos/Sky/Time slash that humanity is better off not repeating.
But we will speak of the wolves and their legend. And touch on the legends of others as well.
In each of these tales there is a victory. The peoples of the Earth will not succumb to entropy, their legends say.
They will make new meanings from the ruins of the old. The ending will not win entire.
And this much is so.
But when the world goes cold there shall also be a darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon. Its wings shall be as soot and its hands as fire; and many legends will end that day.
Shaggy Wolf stalks the streets.
Lean Wolf follows behind him.
Humanity is gone. The cities belong to the wolves. Yet Shaggy Wolf is not content.
He tells himself that he is happy, chatting with Lean Wolf about the weather and complaining about how hard it is to get a taxicab.
But he is not happy. It is a lie. And Shaggy Wolf is not the best liar of the wolves.
So he cries: “Liar! Liar! Speak to us!”
And Lean Wolf cries, “Liar! Liar! Speak to us!”
And the wolves of the pack take up the call, and it echoes over the empty towers, the empty parks, the empty public restrooms that humanity has left behind.
And in the distance, an old wolf answers, and this is the story that he howls across the empty lands.
“In the beginning there was no world.
“In the beginning there was only chaos, inchoate and empty. There was the firmament. There was the sky. There were things and there were states. But they meant nothing. They were not a world.
“And into that darkness splashed the sphere named Eden.
“And all around it, clinging to its sides, their noses pressed against the glass, were the makers of the world.
“The elephant. The hawk. The wolf. The spider. The goat.
“The cranium beaver. The unicorn. The platypus. The noid.
“The Great Gallumphing Uniplex, with its three proboscises and its bright red eyes.
“And each of them dreamed very well.
“It is through dreams that we make the world. Dreams and stories. Not the little lies but the large ones. It is through the gall of these first few dreamers that the world was made.
“‘I have a trunk,’ said the elephant. ‘I can use it to blow water at my enemies. Then they shrivel up with embarrassment and run away.’
“And it was so.
“‘I can fly, you know,’ said the hawk. It’s very casual about this. ‘It’s like jumping, only I stay up there. It’s because of Earth’s yellow sun. If there were a red sun, I would probably lose this ability.’
“‘Beeeee,’ agreed the goat. That’s the hawk’s tragic weakness!
“Then it was the wolf’s turn. ‘I am the hunter,’ said the wolf. The wolf’s tongue lolled out.
“Then they feared the wolf. All of them edged away, every last one, except the spider.
“The spider whispered, ‘You don’t want to eat me. I’d bite your tongue!’
“And it was so.
“‘Beeee,’ says the goat. The goat was not quite so good at worldmaking as the others, but it had a certain clumsy charm. ‘Beeeee.’
“And the greatest of these dreamers was the man named Adam. He strode through Eden, crying out, ‘So many animals! Where did you come from? Why are you here? I’d better name you all with my Animal-Naming Device!’
“Then everyone was very consternated. Everyone ran in circles and was much afraid. For to name a thing is to take power over that thing.
“But they could not escape the Animal-Naming Device.
“So that is why Adam’s children lived in cities, while we hunted caribou.
“Why Adam’s children built empires while we had a rudimentary pack organization.
“Why Adam’s children lived in riches while we ran on injured feet.
“That is how we lost the world. Because our dreams could not stand before the fire in Adam’s mind.
“But the Lavelwod burned in its own dark way. It said to the wolf, to the goat, to the spider, to the hawk: ‘Fear not. The time of man shall pass, and the world grow cold.’
“Then we knew that the wolves would take the world. Then we knew that we would remake it. That we would dream our dreams where once dreamed man.
“We had only to wait.”
Then silence follows on the ending of the Chaunting of the Wolves.
And when the world goes cold there shall also be a darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon, and its wings shall be as soot and its hands as fire; and many legends will end that day.
Shaggy Wolf and Lean Wolf wander.
“What will you dream?” says the Lean Wolf.
“I mean, when we stop waiting around and get to dreaming. What will our angle be?”
“Ah,” says the Shaggy Wolf. “We will dream: ‘the things of man are ours.’ We will have their ships and their tailored suits and their situation comedies, but not, of course, their baths.”
“This is good,” says the Lean Wolf.
“And we will say: ‘we are the hunters,'” says the Shaggy Wolf. “When the sun grows weak we will eat its husk. When the stars grow weak we shall drive them from their constellations and hunt them down. The universe is great and vast and we shall know prey in every corner of its deepness. Also we shall have special sub-humans adapted to rub our bellies and make our legs do the thump-thump-thump thing.”
“That is especially good,” says the Lean Wolf.
There is a sudden horrid lurching in the world. There is a shifting and changing. The end is nigh.
“But is it true?” asks the Lean Wolf. “Will it really happen?”
Then the Shaggy Wolf is biting at the Lean Wolf’s throat, and the Lean Wolf is falling over, showing his belly, oblivious in his fear to the exact nature of his offense.
And when he has humbled himself, and the Shaggy Wolf backs away, the Shaggy Wolf says, “I know it is only a dream because I cannot bear it if it is not true.
“It must be a dream. A ‘truth’ is a thing that could possibly be false.
“This cannot be false. This is a dream that burns.”
On Saturday, July 16, at 11am, the world ends.
“Quickly!” says the Shaggy Wolf. “Howl!”
And there is a sound driving on the wind as the wolves, they claim the world.
And there is also darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon, its wings as black as soot.
“We are the hunters,” chaunt the wolves. “The things of the world are ours.”
“We’ll bite you!” cry the spiders, in their webs. “See if we won’t! Then we’ll inject you with venom and your insides will dissolve!”
This has always been a lie. Spiders don’t have any such venom. It’s all done with mirrors.
“Sometimes we just find peanuts,” say the elephants. “Just, you know, laying about.”
And the Snavering Lavelwods sing the Snavering Song.
The wings of the darkness close around the world, and the rising chill whispers these words: “I am truth.”
And that is the moment that many legends end.
But the wings of truth are full of holes, through which some scattered legends shine.
Wait! Did we miss the end of Charles and Iphigenia’s story? Is it all over for humanity, or will the factory pull out a final surprise? Let’s back up to where we were and play out the final minutes of the world—when the Countdown to Annihilation! continues . . . TOMORROW!