If Animals Had Elemental Powers

There would be parrots with water powers.

They would live under water.

They would make raucous noises like “Squawk! bubble bubble bubble! Squawk! bubble bubble bubble!

This would be very disconcerting for the sailors.

There would be burning tyrannosaurus rexes. They would not be extinct because their fire powers would allow them to survive K-T extinction events such as the one that killed all of the non-elemental dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The burning tyrannosaurus rexes would laugh and laugh as they rampaged through American cities but in turn people would laugh and laugh and laugh at their flaming stubby little hands.

It is actually possible that the flaming dinosaurs would not survive but it is definite that any tyrannosaurus rexes with K-T elemental powers would still be around, so, anyway.

There would be at least one Metallic Hopping Vampire. He’d be like a Hopping Vampire, only with powers over metal. That’d be so cool!

And there would be sharks who could jump twenty feet out of the water, hang there, and form bullets out of the wind to devastate their enemies. To hunt these sharks you would need a bigger boat. A bigger, bulletproof, flying boat. And lasers. And even then it would be a near thing.

There would be octopi who would assemble in eight-octopus teams using their aquatic telepathy. It is arguably not so good to be able to talk to fish when one is the King of Atlantis but it is very good when one is a fish and normally unable to communicate at all.

There would be koi with the ability to disrupt bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a terrible element but it is the element that koi get and the koi are not technically to blame for its presence in the traditional Chinese six-element cycle.

Who is to blame for that, anyway?

Bees. Bees are to blame for the traditional Chinese six-element cycle and also they sting people so Hitherby Dragons will not give them any elemental superpowers they do not already possess.

There would be elephants with special elemental ninja powers. For example there would be an elephant master of snow and ice. If you asked the other elephants who the coldest elephant ninja master is, they would invariably trumpet, douse you in water, and then indicate the snow elemental master. In addition there would be a shadow elephant—an umbral elephant, as it were—who could slip under your door and then manifest and charge you.

Charging shadow elephants are very scary even if you take away their credit cards because the phone book overflows with companies willing to extend shadowy elephant ninjas new lines of credit with no questions asked. They can even do it mid-confrontation, so that it might go like this:

“Ha ha,” laughs strong-jawed Buck Williams, brandishing the elephant’s credit card and thus preventing it from charging.

“Trumpet!” trumpets the shadowy elephant ineffectually.

Then the shadowy elephant spies one of many NO QUESTIONS ASKED credit card offers on the table next to the door where strong-jawed Buck Williams, son of Giorgi, keeps his unread mail.

Swiftly the elephant seizes it.

Swiftly the elephant mails it.

Then the elephant, oh so ungraciously, looks smug.

Buck’s eyes widen. In bullet-time, he turns and lunges for his elephant gun. He fills it with buck shot. He levels it. But it is too late.

“Trumpet!” trumpets the triumphant elephant.

He doesn’t ever pay for the charges. It’s a bad debt!

The elephant isn’t the last elemental animal we will examine. There are also earth beetles. These are beetles capable of burrowing through the dirt. Right through the earth! People can’t do that. We don’t have the requisite elemental mastery of earth, which is the problem.

Earth beetles are also good at throwing gigantic rocks at their enemies and at making clever balls out of dried dung.

“What a clever ball of dried dung!” one might praise, seeing them.

Such a compliment makes earth beetles puff up with pride!

Metallic Hopping Vampire would like to clarify that hopping vampires are not animals and so his hypothetical metal powers have nothing to do with the premise for this entry. Oops!

Finally there would be owls who fly around shooting lightning at things. One of them might try shooting lightning at a K-T-powered tyrannosaurus rex.

Bam! K-T extinction event!

That’d show those elemental-powered animals.

After a while, Martin says, “Today’s insight is apparently . . . not to taunt large predators that can cause K-T extinction events.”

Solemnly observes Jane: “People needed to know.”

Dead Bunny Tango

Dracula is undead. Dracula defied God.

Hopping Vampire is undead. Sun and moon spirits animated his exposed corpse. Dracula cannot go to China. If he did, sun and moon spirits would animate his corpse too. He’d still have defied God, so he’d still be Dracula. Only, now he’d be Hopping Dracula. It’s too embarrassing!

Zombies are undead. Traditional zombies are people who just think they’re dead. Modern zombies actually come back from the grave to eat people’s brains or defy thermodynamic laws. If they ate Hopping Dracula’s brains, he’d be even more embarrassed. He’d have to hop and drool. No one would be seduced.

Bunnies are undead. Shops sell bunnies to children. The bunnies bite the children. The children turn into bunnies. The parents give the bunnies back to pet shops. That’s how the pet shops profit! Bunnies won’t bite Hopping Dracula. Since he hops and is undead, they think he’s already a bunny.

Bunnies live in pet shops. Pet shops keep bunnies in the back. They’re not safe in sunlight. The bunnies wriggle their noses. They eat carrots. They think about eating human souls. Pet shops handle bunnies with special holy gloves. The gloves are blessed by a priest. This keeps the pet shop personnel safe. If you have blessed gloves, you can handle a bunny. You can also handle bunnies safely if you can make the symbol of the cross with your index fingers. You cross one finger over the other. This makes the bunny remember Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. The bunny hisses. It withdraws. The bunnies still blame the Romans for that. If you don’t have index fingers, the bunny will devour your soul. Count your fingers before confronting a bunny!

Jesus’ sacrifice seems to have been good for sinners but bad for the undead. It’s not clear. Bunnies and vampires aren’t reliable in matters of theology. No one knows why they fear the signs of God. Maybe they’re not scared of the sacrifice on the cross. Maybe they’re thinking of James. James was the strongest bunny hunter ever. He also hunted vampires. He beat them up with a giant depleted uranium cross. He left a trail of blood across Europe. This was from the bunnies, not the vampires. When he killed vampires, there was no blood. Vampires do not bleed when they die. Instead, they turn into insects.

James killed bunnies. This made them bleed and fear the cross. He also killed vampires. This made them fear the cross and turn into insects. Then James would squish the insects. The insects turned into paste. This is how James invented peanut butter. He gave the credit to his good friend George Washington Carver. No one would eat peanut butter if they knew a vampire hunter invented it. People have a weird investment in the origin of their food. Once it’s dead, it’s just protein, carbs, and fat. Vampires are dead. That’s why they’re just food. If they were alive, they’d be better for testing pharmaceutical products on.

Peanut butter has a lot of fat. This is because the peanut butter farms overfeed their vampires. They do not give them good quality blood. They give them only the blood that they can’t feed to real people. Also, they give them a lot of peanut butter made from the bad parts of other vampires. Stink bugs! It’s very gross. Then the vampires are herded to a special room. Bang! An automated depleted uranium cross hits them in the head. They die. Bugs run everywhere. You should only eat free range peanut butter. That’s more humane. The vampires roam happily in airy crypts. They eat only the healthiest blood. It’s taken from people who don’t have anything better to do. Then the vampires are humanely killed using Buffy. Vampires love getting killed by celebrities. It makes their eternal night.

Bunnies are not as excited about getting killed by celebrities. Of course, you don’t make peanut butter out of bunnies. Bunnies don’t turn into bugs when they die. Most turn into dead bunnies. A few turn into mutated dinosaurs. Once, James made a horrible mistake. He killed the Easter Bunny. Bang! Raar! James felt bad. “I’ve killed the sacred symbol of the resurrection. I thought I was just killing an ordinary bunny. I’m sorry, Easter Bunny!” Then he took the little mutated dinosaur to monster island. “Run free, little Godzilla! Run free!”

That’s exactly how it happened; and if you watched the History Channel, you’d know this stuff too.

Practical Matters Involving Salvation

Hopping Vampire suffers a period of religious confusion. “I’m lost without faith, ” he says. He invites representatives of major religions to visit his home. Then he hides!

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a rabbi. He’s come to teach Hopping Vampire about Judaism. “Hello?” asks the rabbi. “Is there anyone here?”

POUNCE!

“This rabbi’s blood is very Judaic,” says Hopping Vampire. “I can tell he had a powerful covenant with the God of Abraham. Maybe that means that Judaism is best.”

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a mullah. He’s come to teach Hopping Vampire about Islam. “Knock, knock,” calls the mullah. “Is ‘Hopping Vampire’ home?”

POUNCE!

“This mullah’s blood is very Islamic,” says Hopping Vampire. “I’ve heard that the Qur’an is a work of perfect beauty. That might explain this delectable taste. I’d decided on Judaism, but now I’m not sure!”

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a brahmin. He’s come to teach Hopping Vampire about Hinduism. “Hello?” asks the brahmin. “Hopping Vampire?”

POUNCE!

“This brahmin’s blood is very Hindu,” says Hopping Vampire. “I can practically taste the ritual purity of the religious caste! Judaism, Islam, Hinduism—there are so many options for a virtuous vampire! I feel Pascal’s Wager weighing on my soul.”

FLASHBACK!

Pascal explains, “The idea is like this. It’s likely that there’s no God. It’s likely that we live in a meaningless and soulless universe. But can we afford to believe that? If God exists, this agnostic doctrine leads to endless torment. Who can afford to take that chance? You must choose a faith, Hopping Vampire, and you must choose wisely.”

“Pascal’s blood was very probabilistic,” says Hopping Vampire. “Very well! I’ll give him some credit. I won’t eat the next few visiting priests. But if they don’t convince me, I’ll eat the rest. I’ll still be damned, but I’ll also be stuffed!”

Hopping Vampire learned an important lesson! You shouldn’t waste priest meat. There are starving children in China. But if you eat all the priests, you’ll never find salvation!

Killing People is Rude

There’s a knock at the door. Hopping Vampire hides!

It’s a Taoist priest. He’s come to teach Hopping Vampire about the Way. “Hello?” he calls. “Hopping Vampire?”

What’s that behind his back? It’s exorcism tools! Hopping Vampire can tell. He’s too scared to come out, so the Taoist priest goes away. Hopping Vampire waits for an extra hour.

POUNCE!

“Ha! That was a good pounce,” says Hopping Vampire. “If he’d still been here, I would have killed him for sure.” Hopping Vampire struts.

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a Christian priest. He’s here to teach Hopping Vampire about Christianity. “Mr. Hopping Vampire? Are you home?”

This time, Hopping Vampire doesn’t kill. Instead, he offers tea! “I’d like to know about your faith,” he says.

“God offers you eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven,” explains the priest.

“Even though I’m a monstrous corpse animated by sun and moon spirits, driven to consume the blood of the living?”

“‘In my father’s house are many mansions,'” quotes the priest. “I’m sure there’s room for a hopping vampire. You can drink in bliss from the blood of the Lamb forever.”

“How will I get there?” asks Hopping Vampire. “I’m already dead—didn’t I miss my chance?”

“God is not stingy with his salvation,” explains the priest. “From your existence, I must assume that your higher soul has gone on to its just reward, but the lower soul that infects your rotten undead flesh and provides it with motive power may yet earn Heaven’s grace. All you have to do is love your neighbor, believe in Jesus, and make a sincere effort to stop killing and eating people. No matter how tasty and delicious they are.”

The priest didn’t actually say that last sentence. Hopping Vampire has an active imagination. Tasty? Delicious?

POUNCE!

“This priest’s blood is very Christian,” says Hopping Vampire. “I can tell the principle of universal love burns brightly in his heart. But how does this compare to the religious qualifications of the other priests I’ve eaten?”

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a monk. He’s here to teach Hopping Vampire about Zen Buddhism. “Hey, Hopping Vampire! Stop skulking and come out!”

The monk must be a local! He’s got Hopping Vampire pegged.

Once again, Hopping Vampire doesn’t kill. He offers tea! It’s got special herbs grown from the blood of priests. It’s a theological-hematological brew! “I’d like to know about your faith,” he says.

The monk hits him with a stick. Hopping Vampire achieves enlightenment. Yay! It’s a happy ending. Then the monk shoots him with a flamethrower.

Bad monk! It’s rude to incinerate enlightened hopping vampires. Rude, rude, rude! You should know better.

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.