The Shelf, And What Happened There

Mercury is a cookie. She is tall and gorgeous. Her hair is long and flows down her side. Her primary ingredients are whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, and coconut. She’s a lot like a gingerbread man, but she’s prettier and has less ginger.

She cools on a pan for a while. Then Emma, who is five, picks Mercury up and puts her on a shelf next to the other cookies.

“You stay,” Emma says. “Talk to other cookies! If you have to go outside, tell Mommy first. That’s the rule!” Then Emma leaves.

“Hi,” Mercury says to the other cookies.

On the shelf, there’s a rabbit, and a dashing pirate, and a wolf, and a faceless man. All of them are cookies. All of them say “Hi,” except for the faceless man. He doesn’t have a mouth, so he doesn’t say anything.

“I’m a cookie,” Mercury explains. “I just cooled.”

“Welcome,” says the pirate. “We’re telling stories. Do you want to join in?”

“I’d better listen first,” she says. “I’ve never told a story before.”

“I bet you’ll do fine,” says the pirate. Even his voice is dashing. It brightens Mercury’s heart. “But you can have a turn after the wolf.”

“Okay,” Mercury agrees.

The rabbit says, “There’s a place. Very far from here.”

“How do you know?” asks the wolf.

“An angel told me.” The rabbit makes a throat-clearing noise, and continues:

There’s a place that’s white and cold and its sky is dark. It hangs high above the world. It looks down on the Earth. My people live there: not just one, not just ten, but thousands. Thousands of rabbits, their fur white with frost. The enemy cannot find them there. So they live in peace. There are plenty of things for them to enjoy. There’s one there whose heart is one with mine. She waits for me. She doesn’t care how long. She looks down at the Earth; and waits; and loves me.

“Ah,” says the wolf. “That’s very fine.”

“What’s love?” Mercury asks.

“I don’t know,” says the rabbit. “Not really. But when the angel said it, it meant something to me.” The rabbit coughs. “It’s your turn, pirate.”

The pirate thinks. “In the morning,” he says, “I’ll set sail.”

“How do you know?” asks the rabbit.

“Some things you just know,” he says. His voice shares both a sadness and a quiet joy. “It’s like this:”

In the morning, I’ll set sail. I’ll go to a faraway place. I’ll fight many battles. I’ll be a hero. Everyone will admire me. But you can’t be a hero forever. Someday, someone will get in a lucky blow. I’ll crumble. I’ll die. That’s okay. Whoever kills me, they’ll give me back to the sea. And my life will have meant something.

The rabbit thinks. “You’re lucky,” he says. “To know all that.”

“I suppose,” agrees the pirate. “But it’s sad that I won’t have someone to mourn me.”

“I’ll mourn you,” says Mercury, impulsively. “I’ll think of the sea, and say, ‘goodbye.’”

The pirate laughs. “See? A happy ending. But it’s the wolf’s turn.”

The wolf considers. “I could live,” she says.

The faceless man makes a noise.

“I could,” says the wolf. “It’s part of what a wolf is. Listen:”

This is what it means to be a wolf. This is the promise written in our bones. If we’re fast, if we’re smart, if we’re strong. If our senses are sharp and our footfalls soft, we’ll live. There’s always meat for a wolf, if we dare to find it. There’s always water. There’s always warmth. Some don’t make it. Some die. They get sick. They get killed. They go lame. But if you’re strong, if you’re fast, if you’re smart, you’ll live. That’s the only story wolves know. It’s the only one we need.

The faceless man makes another noise.

“I don’t know if I’m strong enough,” says the wolf. “So I don’t know if I’ll live. But I won’t give up. I’m a wolf.”

Mercury says, “You’re very brave.”

“Not brave,” says the wolf. “Just me. It’s your turn.”

“I’m made of oats,” says Mercury. “I was baked in the oven.” She thinks. “That wasn’t a very good story, was it?”

The pirate laughs. “You’ll tell a better one tomorrow,” he says. “It takes a little practice.”

Emma comes into the room. “Wuf!” she says. She picks up the wolf. She gnaws on the wolf’s ear. She leaves the room.

Mercury makes a startled noise. “Hey.”

“Ah,” says the pirate. “I wouldn’t have thought it’d be her, next.”

“What happened to the wolf?”

“She’s gone to war.”

“War?”

“It’s why we’re here,” says the pirate. “We’re waiting, to go to war. We’ll fight back the enemy. To protect everyone else.”

“Oh,” says Mercury, feeling a little stupid. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay,” says the pirate. “A lot of us get confused after baking. I’m sure you’ll be a fine soldier. But you have to live longer than I do, to mourn me.”

“And go home,” agrees the rabbit. “I don’t know if your home is like mine, but you should go to it. Afterwards. You seem nice.”

“I don’t have a home,” Mercury says. “Just you.”

“Then you should visit, afterwards,” says the pirate. “Visit the rabbit on the moon. Make a grave for me, down by the sea. See if the wolf survived.”

The faceless man makes a noise.

“You could visit the faceless man, too,” the pirate adds. “He’s the best of us, you know.”

“I will,” Mercury promises. “But oh, I’d rather if you lived too.”

“Ah, lass,” says the pirate. “It’s not such a world as that.”

Night falls. For a time, the cookies are silent. Mercury passes into dreams and visions. When she wakes up, there’s a tiny angel sitting next to her on the shelf. The angel’s not a cookie. She’s a girl. She’s got wings sticking out through holes in her jacket. Above the wings, the back of her jacket reads Magic.

“Hi,” says Mercury.

“Hi,” says the angel. “It’s the first dawn of your life, so you get a wish.”

“I wish I could be with the pirate when he dies,” says Mercury.

The angel dangles her feet off the shelf. “Wouldn’t you rather save him?”

“If I save his life, he might die again,” says Mercury. “But if I’m with him when he dies, he’ll know he’s remembered.”

“That’s sweet,” says the angel. “So I’ll see what I can do.” The angel sparkles and vanishes.

Slowly, the other cookies wake.

“Good morning, Mercury,” says the pirate. “Do you understand stories better after a good night’s rest?”

“I think so,” says Mercury. “I have a people, too. Like the rabbit.”

“How do you know?” asks the pirate.

“Because I’m alive, and someday I’ll be dead,” she says. “And in the meantime, this is how it must be:”

I have a people, in a faraway place. They don’t know the kinds of things I’ll have to do. They don’t know what it’s like at war. But they’ll know I’m fighting for them. There’s a boy in a field, and he looks up. He remembers that we’re fighting. There’s a lady in a school, and she looks up. She remembers that we’re fighting. All my people. Not often. But sometimes. They stop, and they remember.

“Mm,” says the pirate. “I think you’ve got it.”

“Thanks,” says Mercury.

Emma comes into the room. “Pirate!” She picks up the pirate. Then she looks at Mercury. She thinks. There’s an angel on one of her shoulders. There’s a devil on the other. For once, and Emma finds this very strange, they’re both saying the same thing.

“TWO cookies,” Emma says, happily. She picks Mercury up. Then, a cookie in each hand, she leaves the room.

Tunnel Rat (I/IV)

It is 1973.

Jenna lives in a cedar house. It’s very tall. Most of it is one room. She has a bed in the corner. It’s a mattress on the floor, with sheets and blankets, and it’s next to the mantelshelf. There are hangings on the walls. The floor is hardwood.

Her brother is named Sebastien. He could be a hero, if he dared. She thinks of him as one, anyway. Sometimes, when she’s troubled, he’ll sit behind her as she hugs her knees and lightly scratch her back through her blouse.

“We’re not really people,” he tells her, now and again. “I don’t even know if we have souls.”

“That’s silly,” she says.

He shrugs. “Mama says that everyone has a mortal body and an immortal spirit. But if we turn into our spirits, we just disappear. So we must not have any. That’s what happened to Grandpapa, you know. This life is all we get.”

“You’re mean,” she tells him. But she doesn’t ask her mother for the truth.

In January, 1974, she hears about the monster for the first time.

“He’s looking for us,” Tara says. That’s her mother. “I can hear him, hunting. I can feel him. Like a wolf in the woods.”

“We have to leave,” says her father, Ben.

Their voices are hushed, but Jenna can hear them. So can Sebastien, but he’s pretending not to notice. Tara’s looking at him, though; and eventually he turns, and stares at her with his sharp dark eyes.

“We’re going to have to make him ready,” Tara says, to Ben.

“Him?”

“I don’t want him to fight for her,” she says. “But he probably will, and if he does, we have to give him a chance.”

Jenna goes outside, and down to her beach, and sits on the shore, and there’s a voice in the waves, and it is speaking her name. So she calls to it, and an oceanid rises from the water, and sits beside her on the sand.

“What’s going on?” she asks it.

“They’re trying to decide how to keep you out of the monster’s hands.”

“Monsters aren’t real.”

“This one is,” the oceanid says.

“Oh.”

“He’ll take you away, and he’ll empty you out, and use you to make gods for him.” The oceanid sighs. “He’s very excited about it. The wind told me. The monsters have been hurting your line for generations, and it’s only recently that it’s started working at all. But he’s plum used up the source he has.”

“I don’t want to make gods for him,” Jenna says. “It’s personal.”

“I know.”

Jenna runs a finger in wavy lines through the sand.

“Sebastien will save me,” she says. “He’s a hero.”

“Maybe,” the oceanid says.

“Or you,” Jenna says.

“He’ll come,” the oceanid says, “and Tara will grow claws and try to rip out his heart; but he’ll put his gun to your head, and she’ll back away. And Sebastien, he’ll fight for you, and he’ll die. Heroes usually do. And the monster will take you away, and unless he drives very close to the shore, there’s nothing I can do.”

“I could live with you,” Jenna says. “Somewhere quiet, somewhere deep, under the waves. I could be a fish. I could be a mermaid. I could live all my life with the sound of the ocean and the dark of the deeps.”

“You’d grow very cold,” the oceanid says, “if you lived in the sea.”

“Oh.” Jenna frowns.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why does Sebastien have to be the one to fight?” she says. “He’s coming for me. Why can’t I fight him?”

The oceanid lifts a hand, and her fingers twitch, and the rhythm changes of the waves crashing against the shore.

“It’s hard,” the oceanid says. “You’re too young to fight him physically. You’re small and clumsy and you don’t have your power yet. And you’re not a hero. If you did kill him . . . I mean, if you picked up a gun and shot him, or a razor and razored him, and he died, then it wouldn’t be heroic. It’d just be blood and death and pain and you’d feel guilty about it for the rest of your life. It’d stain you.”

Jenna looks at her.

“And making gods to fight him . . .” The oceanid shrugs. “. . . I don’t know why that doesn’t work. But there must be a reason, because if it were that simple, there wouldn’t be any monsters. Just hanged corpses and bitter ashes on the tree of the world.”

“Oh.”

“So if you found an answer,” the oceanid says, “it’d have to be different.”

“What kind of things answer monsters?”

“I don’t know.”

“What would an answer look like?”

The oceanid raises her hand. The sea crashes down, hard. The water runs up and chills Jenna’s feet. The seagulls shriek. The air is full of noise.

“Don’t face him,” the oceanid says. “Find someplace dark and distant, on the other side of death. Never let him see your face. Run, and hide, and seal the walls of your home against him. Hide until the wind so changes that you can change the world.”

“Is that a good answer?”

“. . . it won’t last,” the oceanid says. “But maybe it’ll help.”

The family moves. The cedar house is left behind.

Ben trains Sebastien to fight.

“The more you become yourself,” Ben says, “the more you die. The more you disappear. The more you become something unreal.”

Sebastien fences. He has a sword. Ben only has his hands. Ben is winning, and more than once the calloused edges of his hands knock the sword aside without a cut.

“If you fight a monster,” Ben says, “your goal is to win as a normal person, with normal limits. You’ll feel the wind blowing in your soul, trying to change you into something better, more powerful, more absolute. You’ll look at your enemy and think, ‘This could be so easy.’ Don’t. Live in the world of fumbling and stumbling and failure and folly. Live in the world of screaming in hopeless panic and wounding yourself with your own sword. People can live. People can win. Heroes can’t.”

Ben strikes a blow, and the sword twists in Sebastien’s hands, and he falls, and as fast as that Ben’s knee is on his back and Sebastien cannot move.

“Good,” Ben says.

“And if he comes, and I fail,” Sebastien says, “I let him take her?”

Ben hesitates.

“Well?”

Ben rises, and walks over to the bench, and sits. “It’s your choice,” he says.

“Why?”

“If he takes her,” Ben says, “we can get her back. And that’s hard, and painful, and we might fail, but we can still win. If you transcend, we’ve lost you, and it might not even help her. I can’t make that choice for you. For one thing, you’ll be the one in the fight.”

“You could fight him.”

“When I married Tara,” Ben says, “she made me promise I wouldn’t fight for her. But then the years passed, and he never came. Now . . .” He hesitates. “I guess I’ll have a choice to make, too.”

Jenna is watching. She is listening. Her eyes are dark and still. After a while, Sebastien comes and sits with her, and Ben goes away.

“You’re going to die,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says. “We’re not people. Life and death are strange for us, and we have no souls.”

He shrugs.

“My life,” he says, and turns his palms upright. “It’s hardly real anyway. So there’s nothing to lose. I might as well fight, and maybe you won’t have to suffer. Don’t you get it?” he says. “It’s the only way I can save you.”

Jenna dies. There’s an awkward silence.

“I shouldn’t make my points so forcefully,” Sebastien admits.

(See also The Tunnels (I/IV))

The Golden Age

The Asa-gods kill Ymer, and the maids of the world-mill grind him up to form the world. And in the garden of the gods there are golden apples of immortality; and in the sky the wolves chase the sun and the moon; and there is chaos and mist and all things are beautiful.

The Earth in these days was a ball of oil, and socks, and innocent men, surrounded by a seething sea of greenhouse gas. Woe to the modern world; for every day, a few more socks are lost, a little more innocence, a bit of oil, a bit of gas. Soon we will have nothing, and even this paltry silver age will end.

At the well wise Udr kept a record in which were written the names of those who would commit fraud; those fell betrayers of the public trust; those foredoomed from the beginning of the world to abuse their office. And as each is chased from their office by the hounds of scandal, we know that Udr puts a mark beside their name; and it suffices to prove a man’s innocence to say, “His name was not in Udr’s record.”

In those days, the young were well-behaved; and standards of public morality were high; and no one wanted to write a book. We know of this age only because a skald would sometimes wake in the night to see the army of grim-faced inquisitors standing beside; and they would say, “We need you, skald. We need you to write a book.” And the skald would scream. But they were relentless. They’d even correct punctuation. And in the end, the books were written.

In those days before the first of the heightened terrorism alerts, terrorism was actually negative. There were bombs just laying around in the streets, in unmarked briefcases, and terrorists would hurry up to them and remove them before people could get hurt. It was not a destructive art, back then. Their terrible vengeance manifested in constructive urges: they would build, they would create, they would descend on people’s homes in great construction gangs and craft (occasionally unlicensed) extensions.

The music of those times was a kind of occult gargling. One had only to listen to it and feel all one’s urges for violence and sexuality instantly disappear.

In those days, everyone agreed with you. Even about that.

It was a golden time.

Hunting With Wolves

This is a song that a wolf sings. It’s not a normal wolf. It’s a person who’s also a wolf. That’s important, because normal wolves don’t sing in English.

I hear the wind blow
Stranger in my ears than I would like it to be, so
Softly now, so softly now that the hunt has begun,
And all the pack runs.

Beneath me a blur
Run on stones, run on water;
And the air all astir
The hunt calls to her daughters.
Around me they race
Run on stones, run on water;
Feel the call of the chase:
Blood is calling to slaughter.

Snapping teeth, striking claws,
Softly now, softly now,
And all nature’s laws
Say react, live, and be now;
Harry, wound, turn away
Softly now, softly now,
Until the end of the prey,
And there’s nothing to see now.

If you must have a because,
If you asked of a Seer
What prey was, what it does:
It was born that it die here.
No matter why, should I die
And find myself far,
Still would I hunt through the skies,
And I would hunt down the stars.

Ponies and Wolves

“It won’t affect us.”

The marvelous, magnificent silky-maned pony named Butterfly tosses her head. “It’s practically a world away.”

“That’s true,” agrees Pearl.

They look out the window. The sky is bright with fire and loud with the engines’ roar.

“Someday,” Blossom says, sadly. “I mean, you know that. Someday, we’ll have to get involved.”

“That’s true,” Pearl agrees.

Butterfly stares up at the fire. “It might be over by then.”

“It seems like it’s been going on forever,” Blossom says. “And it’ll probably last twice as long.”

“Twice as long?”

“It’s math,” Blossom says. “Each time someone dies, there’s a 50-50 chance someone is left to take revenge. So one, plus one half, plus one quarter, plus one eighth, and all the way until you get two.”

“I think your assumptions are wrong,” says Old Grey. Old Grey is the most discerning mathematical mind among the marvelous, magnificent silky-maned ponies. “It can only last once as long as forever.”

The world shakes.

“Miles away,” Butterfly says.

“Who do you think is attacking?” Blossom says.

“Wolves,” Butterfly says. “Great wolves of the sky.”

“We’ll need some way to get up there,” Blossom says. “If we want to fight them. I mean, when we do.”

“We’re magical,” Butterfly says.

“That’s true,” Pearl agrees.

“I believe that if we all gather together, and wish as hard as we can, we’ll be able to fly.”

Pearl looks over, slowly, in mild confusion. “Wait,” she says. “If we can do that, how come we’ve never done it before?”

Butterfly tosses her head dismissively. “It’s not done,” she says.

The world shakes.

“Ponies,” says a garbled voice.

A young girl staggers into the room. Her hair and face is singed by fire, and she cannot breathe. She makes directly for the ponies, but falls before she reaches them. There is bone sticking out of her leg. She is not moving.

The ponies are very still.

The girl is very still.

The ponies are very still.

The girl is very still.

The ponies are very still.

The girl is very still.

Hesitantly, gently, Butterfly canters forward. She touches the girl’s hair. “Elise?” she asks. “Are you all right?”

“Elise?” Blossom asks.

“Elise?”

Something cold is setting into the ponies’ hearts. Something cold, and something fiery. They do not cancel out.

“It’s war,” Pearl says.

The words hit the others’ ears like a shock.

“Yes,” Butterfly says. She can’t stop pushing and prodding at the young girl’s ear, as if her stillness could become a simple dream. “Yes. The wolves must die.”

They gather together. The wishing begins.

A Brief Explanation of Werewolves

Werewolves are humans who are topologically isomorphic to wolves. This means that they can easily fold themselves into the shape of a wolf when exposed to moonlight or strong emotions.

Werewaffles are humans who are topologically isomorphic to waffles. This means that they can easily fold themselves into the shape of a waffle when exposed to syrup.

Syrup comes from werewolves. If you tap a werewolf, you get syrup. This syrup allows werewaffles to transform. Tapping werewaffles produces strong emotions. It also produces moonlight. There is a factory on the moon that does nothing but hunt down human werewaffles, kidnap them into outer space, and tap them for moonlight. When they run out of werewaffles, they have to steal cows. That’s why so many mutilated cows turn up in the Midwest—it’s the favorite spot for bootlegging moonlight heifers.

As the moonlight bleeds out of a werewaffle, it deflates. This changes its fundamental topology. At the “Vickrey point,” also known as the “wolf-waffle threshold,” the topology changes; the underlying human is now topologically isomorphic to a wolf.

Creating a werewaffle is more difficult. A werewolf who wishes to become a werewaffle must eat sufficient waffles to cross the wolf-waffle threshold from the other side. This is difficult because waffles are most delicious with syrup. In order to obtain syrup, a werewolf is naturally tempted to put him or herself on tap. The Vickrey point recedes even as it approaches: the werewolf is caught in an endless loop known as Gelley-Klimpson equilibrium or “the grand cycle of life.” Enraged by the futility of it all, the werewolf often resorts to destroying small New England towns. New England towns are otherwise irrelevant to our narrative.

Fenrir’s Day Off1

1 requires familiarity with Norse mythology.

Silverware clatters. People talk. Waiters bustle.

The wolf is bigger than the sun.

There are voices in the restaurant. One of them is resonant. “And then my hammer smashed right through the whetstone,” it cries, “bearing straight on to kill the giant Hrugnir!”

“But what of the clay giant?” another man asks.

The wolf is bigger than the moon.

“Ha!” Deep laughter, and joyous, fills the restaurant. “They’d given him a mare’s heart. When he saw Hrugnir fall, he was so scared he wet himself!”

“That’s bad,” the second voice comments. “I mean, if you’re made of clay.”

The wolf is bigger than the vault of Heaven.

A waiter named Steve approaches the wolf. There is a thin gold cord wrapped around his ankle. He smiles. “Have you decided on your order, sir?”

“Of all the places,” the wolf whispers to itself. “Of all the places to eat, I had to choose the place where the Thunderer was eating.”

“Pardon?” Steve asks.

“It’s my day off,” the wolf explains. “They all think I’m just tangled up in the terrible cord the dwarves made for me. But I’m not.”

“Oh.”

“You can’t expect a wolf to spend his whole life bound with a vicious cord,” says Fenrir. “Not on a beautiful day like today. So I took a day off.”

“No, sir,” says Steve. His voice has sympathy in it. “I do the same thing myself, sometimes.”

“Do you?”

Steve nods.

“Then can you help me get out of here?” Fenrir asks.

Steve smiles.

“I wound up with a piece of whetstone stuck in my head,” grumps the Thunderer’s resonant voice, rising once again above the sounds in the restaurant. “Stuck in my head! Can you believe it? The sorceress Groa—”

There is a pause.

“I smell wolf.”

A great tall man rises from a corner table. His hair and beard are redder than the setting sun. He walks over to Fenrir’s table. Steve stands in front of it, as if to block his view.

“Is there, by any chance, a wolf here?” the Thunderer asks. He tries to look around Steve. Steve wriggles back and forth a little, in place, conspiring to obstruct the Thunderer’s view.

“Sir,” says Steve, “you can’t imagine that we’d serve . . . wolf.”

The Thunderer narrows his eyes suspiciously. Suddenly, he shoves Steve aside. But the wolf is not at the table. There are only four great gray pillars, scattered around the center of the room, holding the ceiling high.

“I still smell wolf,” says the Thunderer. But then he shrugs. It is a peculiar little shrug. It is the shrug of a man used to much strangeness in his life. He walks away.

“You can sit back down now,” says Steve. Fenrir sits back down.

“Thank you,” says Fenrir, gravely.

“Kindred spirits,” says Steve. “If you want to skip out on your check, I’ll pretend you’re in the bathroom.”

Fenrir’s tongue lolls. He slips away.

North

Wolf knows the world is flat.

Under the world is the dark place. Wolf knows. Under that is the darker place. Then there is stone. Then, wolf thinks, there is the other side.

On the other side are unwolves.

Wolf chases caribou. Wolf hunts the weak to make the caribou strong. In each generation the weakest caribou die to wolf. So the caribou grow strong. Wolf eats the caribou. That’s why wolf is strong.

It is wolf’s thought that unwolves chase strong uncaribou. This makes the uncaribou weak, and ever weaker.

The unwolves uncare. The unwolves unknow. But the unwolves are weak and hungry.

Wolf finds himself on a bridge, in a town, in the north. Wolf looks down and sees the water. The water is dark. Below that it is darker. Below that there is stone. Wolf knows. Yet wolf can see unwolf, on the other side.

Unwolf ripples. Unwolf shines in the water. Unwolf is not wolf, because unwolf is weak and hungry and reversed right to left.

Wolf’s tongue lolls.

Then wolf goes out. Wolf goes out into the deeps. Wolf chases a strong caribou to the bridge. It is a very hard hunt. On the bridge they fight, wolf and caribou. People look on. People are shocked. They gasp. They drop their shopping bags. They take pictures. But they do not understand.

Wolf pushes the corpse of caribou into the water.

It is a gift. It is a teaching.

Perhaps, wolf thinks, unwolf will understand.

Why Don’t Ducks Have Hides?

Ducks don’t have hides. They have feathers!

Bears have hides. That’s why you can’t see them. Look! There are no bears in evidence.

Geese have down. Down is a quark. Geese are indeterminate! If you observe geese, they collapse. That’s why geese aren’t used to guard houses any more. Burglars got too observant!

Elephants have hides, but Daredevil can see them. This is because he does not actually see. Instead he has enhanced all of his other senses.

Giraffes have spots. Here and there. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. You get through the bad spots to get back to the good spots. That’s the giraffe attitude towards life.

Fetuses have placenta. The placenta is a form of currency. It is a medium of exchange. Fetuses use the placenta to obtain goods and services. Fetuses have a strong economy. Everybody invests in fetuses. That’s why they don’t use pladimas or plaquarteras. It’s too much money. Fetuses don’t have anything they need to buy that would merit upgrading their currency past the cent. They could get a Ferrari, but it wouldn’t fit into the womb. It would need to be a mini-Ferrari, and those are nice and all, but at a certain point you just can’t have miniaturized fetus versions of everything. It’s bad enough that they can buy crack, nicotine, and subscriptions to special fetus-enabled massively multiplayer online games.

Wolves have fur. This makes wolves furries. Since they’re already wolves, they don’t pretend to be wolves. They pretend to be humans. A small excerpt from wolf furry-play follows.

The alpha male struts in. He puts down his briefcase. He says, “Hello, honey, I am home! Since you do not need estrus to stimulate your sexual interest, perhaps you would be up for a rousing bout of Church-endorsed missionary position sex?”

“Oh, no, honey, not now! I am too busy shooting my gun at the wolf who culled the weakest members of our herd of cows! Bang!”

“That sounds like fun. Shooting wolves improves the strength of their gene pool! But surely we could have sex and shoot wolves at the same time?”

“That is very kinky. I admire your dirty mind!”

“Bang!”

“Bang!”

Together: “Bang!”

That is how wolves imagine human intercourse must be.

Birds feather their nests. Invest in birds! In the old days, everyone invested in birds. That made social mobility very easy. Today, few people invest in birds. Instead, they give them to other people. That’s their investment mistake!

Lions have manes. Sewer lions have sewer manes. Gas lions have gas manes. Sewer lions are like regular lions but they live in the sewer. They have long flowing hair. They stink. They are greenish. Gas lions live in the upper atmosphere. They are ethereal. They also stink, but it is only because the gas company adds a foul smell to them. Newborn gas lions are odorless killers. Legerdelions have legerdemanes. They’re tricky, though, so I can’t explain them here.

American eagles have lush heads of obviously natural hair. They’re not just the Presidents of the hair club for birds. They’re also members!

Fish have scales. They weigh your soul against a feather. The feathers are just laying around in the ocean. They’re duck feathers. They are very heavy. A fish weighs your soul on the scales to determine whether you deserve Heaven. Then the fish realizes that it cannot breathe air. It flops about in increasing agony. Someone hits it with a rock. That’s pretty much the end of things for fish.

Giraffes, on the other hand, don’t die when they find themselves out of the ocean. Maybe it’s because their lungs can breathe air. Maybe it’s because they’re immortal! Or maybe it’s just because nobody hits them with a rock.

Lemurs have lema. It’s a special kind of skin. It’s also used for lemons. That’s why lemurs seem so zesty all the time.

Clocks have faces. They are good at facing their doom. They know that they are counting down the seconds to their own oblivion, but this does not bother clocks.

Sharks have sharkskin. Ducks don’t like being eaten by sharks. When a shark attacks, the ducks try to hide. But they don’t have hides! They have feathers. This is sad for the ducks, but good news for the fish.

Depending on Shoes

Bombs do not stop the wolf.

It is coming to eat the world.

A crack team of astronauts carrying a nuclear payload land on the wolf. They send digger robots into the wolf’s skin. They drop bombs into the shaft. They fly away.

But the wolf only sneezes.

It is coming to eat the world.

McGruff the Crime Hound lectures children. “If a wolf comes to eat the world,” he says, “tell him NO!”

This does not stop the wolf.

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

Prayers fall on deaf ears. Threats are unheeded.

The Norse gods are specifically unreliable in this matter.

A specially engineered virus made out of dead camels does not help.

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

So people turn to their shoes.

“I’ll depend on our shoes!” says Mr. Brown.

“That’s right!” chirps Emily.

People turn to their shoes in a troubled time.

They pile their shoes at the edge of the world. They wait.

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

“I don’t know if they’ll really save us,” says Sid. He frets. “I mean, shoes aren’t really that much, when it comes down to it.”

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

“I heart shoes,” says Emily. “I heart them.”

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

People have to depend on shoes, you see, because the astronauts failed and the armies can’t march against the wolf and the planes and the viruses and the oil spills and the kitten stampede and the giant mutant fleas and the ice cream barrage and the tinfoil hats and the hawk and the dove are all useless against the wolf.

So people depend on shoes.

The wolf is coming to eat the world.

There’s a great stomping sound.

There’s a clamor and a clonk.

There’s a gagging noise and a choking noise.

Everyone in the whole world has their eyes closed. So they don’t know why. But the wolf is gone.

It’s important to save your shoe leather. Just ask Tyr!

Emily never found her shoes after that. It’s a pity. They were adorably cute Mary Janes.

She’d liked them rather a lot.