Friday, August 12, 2011

FICTION: Letter to a Sir from a Sire Darrin Albert

Why are drunken humans often called party animals? Why did the chicken cross the road? Why is the hustle, bustle, and minutiae of human living sometimes compared to a rat-race? Sometimes there are just too many questions than answers, even if the supply happens to meet the demand. However, scientists warn us about anthropomorphism and assuming too many human characteristics in animals. And we must always be warned to the opposite: assuming too few animal characteristics in humans. So while the characters in this tale can speak with a nomenclature usually esoteric to a more human race, this probing may also expose some of the more so-called "instincts" usually considered esoteric to a more "animal kingdom."

Planet "Hater" may be a world like Earth, but in many ways it wasn't. The same can be said for the sister planet "Heart" (both of which were aptly-named anagrams of "Earth" in a universe where each planet casted not one but two shadows). On planet Hater, Gorilla Warriors and Navy Seals here were less misleading than on Earth as the former really did have hands for feet and the latter really did have whiskers. And that was not to mention the newly-ordained Combat Wombats.

Rumor had it, at least on Earth, that it was the defenseless prey who defended and were thus innocent victims of a more predatory pedagogy. But rumors are like tumors and not always benign. Planet Hater took this "innocent bystander" idea even further than Earth. This particular story is about a scorpion and a turtle that resided on planet Hater. The former, of course, was equipped with an offensive array of weaponry whilst the latter was equipped with a defensive array of armor. Each creature represented an endangered species of animal on the planet Hater. That was the bad news. It turned out that on this particular planet there was much more time, money, and efforts to save the turtles as opposed to the more lowly scorpions. That was the sad news. During the societal discord regarding which kind of creature to save, Silas and Tunic remained fast friends. In fact, they shared a brotherly love for each other even more deep than that between amorous lovers, as the bond was sustained without the primal and lascivious distractions of coitus that physical attraction can bring. Needless to say, the turtle Silas and the scorpion Tunic made a promise to each other that they would save the turtles and scorpions in equal amounts. As predicted, Silas used his shell to help protect Tunic and Tunic used his weaponry to help protect Silas. This love reflected not only their feelings for each other but also their feelings for all of inter-species creature-kind. And that was the good news.

Scene 1: The birds and the bees (or turtles and scorpions, of course)

Setting: The Wigwam tree-house of Silas and Tunic, Northwest forest of Tagonist, May 7, 11:00 AM

"What's it like, I mean, what is it really like, to be liked?" asked Tunic as he sat in the kitchen intently staring and listening to the radio about the recent organized save-the-turtle campaigns throughout the capital forest of Tagonist.

Silas replied as he polished his painted under-belly alongside Tunic, "It is funny how news like this is neither like hearing the good or bad news first, but rather like getting it at the same time. How flattering it is that my turtles are heralded. And yet, how disheartening it is that the scorpions I love are pigeon-holed as the aggressor."

"I mean, bees may have stingers but at least they are also known for their honey," said Tunic with a despondent air as he pretended to sting himself in a somewhat jovial caricature of self-injury. "What are we but vermin, the kind that make rats seem cute and cuddly in comparison?"

Silas humored Tunic's little drama by placing his shell in front of the stinger as if to prevent the attack, "But you and I know none of us can help who we are or perhaps even the pressures that are assigned by each habitat. Who is really more nefarious, the parasite or the host?" They both held their poise in the Wigwam tree-house until both became sleepy.

"But everyone is so swayed by emotion," said Tunic in a voice loud enough to put Silas back in a state of rested wakefulness. "I don't know anybody who finds a leech more cute and cuddly than a puppy."

Silas said reassuringly with a modicum of humor, "At least leeches will stick by you in the end."

"I mean no disrespect, but how can you make jokes at a time like this?" asked Tunic as he tried his hardest to hide a residual smile from creeping to the fore.

Silas prodded Tunic a few times with the side of his shell to get him moving towards the door. "Now, do you want to go to the penny arcade or would you rather go somewhere more posh, like the dime store?"

Scene 2: Protesting against protesting

Setting: Hall of Mess, Tagonist Forest, May 9, 3 PM

Silas was eating cereal in the Wigwam tree house (i.e. hall of mess) early in the morning when his bunk-mate Tunic strolled in wearing his pajamas inside out, backwards, and unbuttoned. "Wow, with a look like that you make a hobo appear quite dapper in comparison."

"You are too funny, Leonardo," said Tunic as he approvingly looked at his attire in the reflection of the toaster. "At least I don't live under a rock wherever I go," said Tunic with mixed humor and agitation. Tunic stumbled over to the fridge, acquired some repast, and settled down alongside Silas.

Silas smirked smugly, "I would say I pinched a nerve, but I lack the claws to do such a thing. When did you get home last night?"

"Oh, I think the bar-keep said it was 2 AM when she kicked me out," said Tunic reluctantly.

Silas continued between bites, "I hope you don't mind me saying, but it was probably for the best. Predator-Hunters are only that much meaner when they are drunk. That Barn owl Dusky seems very clock-wise, if you will. Not only is she adept at night-catting, but she can literally turn her head all the way around like a sun-dial." Tunic took another bite of cereal as if the act served as a means in which to accent a point well-said.

"Barn owl?" asked Tunic with frustration. "You talk about her as if she were born in a barn, er, I mean trailer. Truth be told, I sort of fancy her. I mean, as far as those with plumage are concerned. We are going to the protest rally tomorrow night, as a matter of fact. It turns out that Wendel of the Navy Seals, Pinky of the Emperor penguins, and even Gorgi of the local Gorilla Warriors will be there with signs in tow."

Silas chimed in, "Military types, eh? I am glad, mind you, but swap teams and riot squads are predatory in nature. I hope thugs like that can stir up some sympathy or respect. I still remember that cartoon in the Tagonist Herald depicting the Navy Seals with 'say no to picketing' on their picket signs. Sometimes the line between irony and hypocrisy can be a bit blurry."

"Well, some of those guys don't need tear gas to shed a tear of compassion for scorpions," said Tunic somewhat defensively. "I actually ran into Lat and Rallo at the tavern. As usual they will be there with all their fellow arachnid friends. They are not much more well-liked than scorpions, but hey, every little bit helps. But I was hoping to get more enthusiasm from you."

"I know, Tunic. I just don't want to get your hopes up. But I will try to get my turtle and tortoise friends to attend. Hopefully this year their fear of getting fired from their jobs won't stop them. That is the vote of confidence we need. I mean, you get a bunch of spiders, scorpions, snakes, rats, and cockroaches together you don't exactly drum up sympathy or money. One might as well dress up floats in thorns and call it a thorn-parade for the Creepy Crawly Convention."

Silas stuck his hand in the cereal box frantically searching for any toy that may be present and said, "Well, don't forget that unpopularity alone is not a logical prerequisite to justify hate or prejudice....wait a sec....I got it!" Silas held up a small gold-colored coin wrapped with a clear baggy. "Oh wow, I won a fake coin with an R on it," Silas said as he thumbed the coin, baggy and all, into the nearby trash with a perfect swish.

"What are you doing?" asked Tunic as he ran to the bin and rifled through the trash for the coin and held it against his chest with a fervor usualy reserved for Gollum and his ring.

Silas said as he shook his head from side to side, "Well sorry, I am not current on currency and failed to note that such a coin were of legal tender."

"You don't get it, mate," said Tunic with a slight shortage of breath. "I was reading about that sweepstakes yesterday during breakfast. If you collect enough coins to spell W-I-N-N-E-R, you win a ten year supply of cereal! The food-stuffs can be collected on an intermittent schedule over a ten year period or can even be redeemed more quickly on an as-needed basis."

Silas moaned with an ignorant zeal, "Oh come one. Everyone knows that all the letters are readily available except the one you really need."

"I understand," said Tunic sincerely. "But I clearly remember reading the probability of finding each letter because I was thinking about this horrible famine at the time. The 'R' is the golden goose. There is only one R and thousands of the rest."

Silas said with doubts, "Wait a minute. Are you sure?" Silas grabbed the box and read the fine print on the inside of the box. "What can I say, it appears you are correct. I guess we better hunt down the rest of the other easy letters so we can... hold, wait a says that the promotion is not available to scorpions or any of their registered supporters. Apparently a portion of the proceeds go to the save the turtles fund like almost everything else these days."

"Damn! Why can't you just take your name off the sympathizer list and redeem the prize and pretend you don't know me?" said Tunic with anxiety. "We desperately need that free food. This ten year drought in Tagonist is getting really old. Don't be a dumb-drumb."

Silas said assertively, "You are right in that we need the food, but I refuse to take my name off the sympathizer list, even if I could. It takes a full year and ten documented hate-crimes, or what they call love-crimes, to get off that list. You are going to be the one to redeem the prize, and I will be there with you during the ride. That food is going to be highly coveted in this fair forest, and the pangs of hunger are going to make them have mercy on your species. I don't see why they wouldn't let you win as long as you gave a generous portion of the cereal to the Drought Resource Project for Repast Distribution."

The very next day, and after lots of claw-twisting, Silas and his friend Tunic went together to the forest newspaper and brought the cereal box and winning "R" coin with them. They had decided after much discord, hugging, yelling, and hand-shaking to make the whole thing a media stunt. Little did they know that the news ignited what might be called an un-civil war fueled by a drought, hunger, anger, bigotry, and the group dynamics associated with riot-logic. Silas and Tunic were right in that they had the most important letter of the sweepstakes. But they were wrong in thinking the other letters were an unlimited resource. Not only does culture have a way of influencing the news, but the news also has a way of influencing culture.

As soon as the news hit the stands, the various "Save The Turtles" groups and the "Eliminate The Scorpions" groups united and began campaigns to collect as many of the so called unimportant letters they could find. Hate groups were formed in different districts of Tagonist to make sure that if anybody was going to win the prize it would certainly not be a scorpion or a sympathizer. In many of the patriot minds, they figured if they were going to starve to death they might as well bring the enemy down with them. Since logic was a more limited resource than emotion, the editor-in-chief of the forest paper slanted his paper to further rile up the community and increase revenue.

Scene 3: Sleeping in the it really a bad thing?

Setting: Mansion of Fido, garbage district, Tagonist Forest, May 12, 1:00 PM

Twenty-seven houses down (north of the Hall of Mess) was an extremely lavish dog house in the center of a large clearing in the trees. It had central air conditioning, heat, and other amenities that would make even our most pampered canine friends on planet Earth more than a mite jealous. Of course, not all dogs have a positive upbringing, and this one was more irritable than some of Tagonist's other junkyard dogs of the garbage district. Fido (pronounced Feedo on this planet) not only ran the forest paper but was also the forest mayor. The vet knew that Fido was abused by children who would pull his ears and play with him in a rather unsafely way. The vet remembered the dog-house-calls late at night and the plethora of ear ointments necessary to mend Fido up like a fence. Of course, Tagonist was very progressive, and recently established a psychonarian on the forest's east side to treat psychological problems. So while Fido had been prescribed various psychotropics for his post-traumatic-stress-disorder, he would still occasionally bite the mail-man. He failed his anger-management training three times at the School of Angry Fish for the troubled and bitter. The instructor was a recovered Piranha named Malice, and rumor had it that it was Fido that provoked him into rushing against the glass of his aquarium until he was knocked out, fired, and eventually found floating on top of the fishbowl after OD'ing on Tetra-fin. Rumors were wafting around Tagonist like gnats on a hot day and for obvious reasons the incident was not covered in the Tagonist Herald.

About ten years ago, Fido was sentenced to be put to sleep after biting a post-man to the point of breaking the skin. After he was acquitted on the grounds of PTSD, some have claimed that he received his recent wealth from a counter-suit against the post-man for slander and otherwise sullying his good Newfoundland name. His defense was that Newfoundlands were bred to save and not to destroy. Of course, he "naturally" credited his bravery (not genetics) when he was awarded the Purple Paw for rescuing 3 shipmates 10 years ago as he proudly and stoicly posed for his very own newspaper portrait striking nothing but his best self-righteous pose. For a model citizen, Fido had lascivious tastes and held a strong affinity for avarice. And as mayor and editor-in-chief of the Tagonist Forest Herald, he held both power of wealth and influence. He was savvy, and he could give the impression that he cared about environmental issues (despite the ever-growing clearing in the forest around his newspaper plant as trees were continuously being cut for more pulp). Fido was not a bigot per se, but his high status gave him an opportunity to profit from social discord in two ways. On the one hand, the drama between predators and prey allowed papers to fly from the shelves. And as mayor, he added to this drama by forcing a city ordinance that anyone found carrying a cereal token on his or her animal would be punished. Fido gave Silas and Tunic 3 days to turn in their coin (the minimum number of days allowed for any of Tagonist's repossession laws) under penalty of the law and bounty hunters guild.

Scene 4: Uncommon sense: What does popularity have to do with logic?

Setting: Wigwam Mess Hall, Tagonist Forest, May 15, 10 AM

"How much for that doggie in the window?" asked Tunic as he made a shooting gesture towards Fido's office down-town as he and Silas were doing their gardening several blocks away. "It is a shame I can't go predator and put him in a doggy bag," he continued as Tunic placed an onion bulb in the moist soil. The paper-chimp drove by on his unicycle and tossed the morning paper so crudely that it landed next to Silas and kicked up dirt in his face.

"Sorry!," the primate yelled as he hobbled and wobbled along the dirt-road on his unicycle. "It's par for the course in this kind of monkey business!"

Silas picked up the paper and dusted it off to the best of his ability and started to read the table of contents. He noticed some troubling news and frantically paged to B8 where a story about the cereal sweepstakes was located. Tunic knew something serious was being unfurled. With a mix of curiosity and fear he threw down his garden trowel and joined Silas. Tunic soon realized what prompted the turtle's sigh.

"I know what you mean. It is amazing how a silly paper can know about our very own arrest warrants before we do," Tunic said in a calm and brooding manner. Although it was almost common knowledge that Fido used to be a bloodhound doing police work before putting his journalism degree to use, it was hard for them to fathom that even his former connections with the force would allow Fido such an advance notice on cutting-edge news.

Silas said, "Fido is going too far, and we must go farther. I know turtles are unfairly stereotyped for being slow, but we will get there. Right now your problems are more serious than mine. Turtles are unfairly stereotyped for being slow, but I can live with that for now."

"Don't say that," Tunic said. "Please don't trouble yourself about comparing the net weights of our blood, sweat, and tears," said Tunic. "But I would be lying if I said I didn't need your presence at a time like this." Silas and Tunic gave each other a hug as best as they were able to wrap their various appendages around each other.

Silas suddenly left the hug formation and struck a pose of curious bewilderment. "What's wrong?" asked Tunic, becoming worried.

"I think I might have an idea," Silas muttered with a wry smile . "Think about it. Fido is not an out-of-the-closet bigot. He is just greedy. Remember that famous trial that Fido covered in his paper for weeks due to the popular interest and media attention?"

Tunic replied concurred through paraphrasing, "You mean the one where that psychotic orangutan Mr. Scopes pleading insane for leaving those banana peels on the steps of Forest Hall?"

"The two and only Scopes Monkey Trial." said Silas. "There is no better news than right vs. wrong. It is like combining sports and reality TV where there is a winner, a loser, and drama to boot. Moral issues are bigger than the Super Dog Dish, Siamese fighting fish tournaments, and bull-fighting combined." Silas appeared to have obtained a second wind, as if a large weight were lifted from his shell.

Tunic said with a modicum of reluctance, "I don't see the connection or relevance yet. But I am sure it is there."

"Tagonist is over-run by mob justice and there is only one way we will get the trial we deserve," said Silas as his jovial demeanor turned more serious.

Tunic asked with burning curiosity, "What is it?"

"You and I both know that in the animal kingdom a trial is a privilege and not a right, especially for predators and their sympathizers," said Silas as if he were Sherlock holmes dictating a discovery. "Fido is an idiot, but he is a respected business dog. He will give us a trial as long as it profits the Tagonist Herald. And lucky for us, our jury will be the very same Exemplary Council of 12 that acquitted Fido of biting the mailman 10 years ago.

Tunic said, "yea, but Fido is a respected member of the community."

"It doesn't matter," said Silas. "The Exemplary Council of 12 do not make decisions on emotion. See, rumor has it that on Earth human juries are based on the judgments of any idiot off the street, where lawyers attempt to sway them with different pitches of sale."

Tunic asked, "as if one lawyer were the Avon Lady and the other the Watkin's Man?"

"Precisely," said Silas. "Not just anyone can be on a jury now, and that is the good news. To be on the council you must be licensed, trained, and highly educated. You show any hint of empathetic bias and you get the boot. So far, every trial they were involved with ended up in a hung jury. Fido knew this ever since he was acquitted during his private trial with no media allowed. It is my hypothesis that he knows you will be acquitted too but will keep mum so as to drum up drama, debate, and interest in the current affairs section of his paper."

Tunic spoke with confidence, "I have the claws to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming, but I have a feeling you are being perfectly serious. I understand that empathy towards a crime is correlated with how much the accuser understands the context in which it was committed. But we must remember that all the famous objects of scientific inquiry, including Jane Goodall's chimps, Pavlov's dogs, the precocious parrot Alex, and Albert's rat all represent cute animals. So what does the foreman do in all of this zaniness?"

"The foreman will take into account how much influence an innocent bystander has in relation to a crime," said Silas. "Crimes are not only caused by the agent of change that commits them but also the agents of change who do nothing to prevent them. Anyone found passing the buck is charged one dollar."

Silas started randomly cleaning debris off the table to throw in the garbage, "You almost make it sound exciting."

"Truth be told, I am afraid and sad," said Tunic with earnest sincerity as he dawned a plaintive face. "But sometimes the feeling of massive pain slowly turning to comfort is more soothing than the feeling of deep comfort slowly turning to pain, even if the baselines don't seem to suggest it."

Scene 5: Twelve angry organisms

Setting: Court-cave of south Tagonist Forest, June 10, 1 PM

As predicted by Silas, Fido agreed to grant the trial, but only with the mind of an ambitious entrepreneur as opposed to any humanitarian seeing-eye dog. And papers indeed flew off the shelves. So while things in Tagonist Forest were definitely not "business as usual," Fido's business was lucrative. The trial had been hyped for about a month in the Tagonist Forest Herald. Anger poured out of the pages among a people divided.

The trial was held in the large clearing near the estate of Fido amidst a midea frenzy. Each member of the Exemplary Council of 12 were allowed no more than one sentence on their ballot to represent their sentence, which was an age-old tradition. The group of twelve (composed from a random selection of predators, prey, parasites, and/or hosts) was formed into a circle with placards placed neatly in front of each with the following:

Snake- DNA and eugenics: Do messengers of tainted DNA deserve freedom, punishment, or isolation?

Dodo bird- Natural vs. social law: Does Lady Liberty have the authority to suppress animal urge or instinct in the presence of Mother Nature?

Dog- Classical/operant conditioning: If once-bitten is twice shy, where does the fault lie, when in the presence of a mail-man bitten?

Racoon- Medical vs. psychological abberration: How much more nefarious is the criminal's rabbid and contagious temper than the common cold, if both stir up unrest, pain, and discord in the hordes of the afflicted?

Ostrich (foreman)- Atrophy of the innocent: How guilty are the innocent bystanders who stick their heads in the sand and do nothing to prevent a criminal's hand?

Alligator- Instruments of pain: what percentage of a criminal's motive is influenced by the presence of the weapon itself?

Monkey- Emotion vs. thought: what percentage of criminal motive is influenced by logic and/or emotion, and how do they interact?

Elephant-Space and time: What part do the past, present, and future play in allowing the time and place for murders to occur?

Dolphin- Personality and conscience: If ill-mannered organisms have no conscience is that in and of itself a reason or excuse for a commonwealth's clemency?

Crab- Chance and fate: Should "tails" be guilty or not guilty?

Lemming- Life vs. death: To employ a punishment truly capital, must we abstain from the execution originally marked for the suicidal?

Ant- Predictions of industry: Politics of the Golden Rule: How must we treat others the way we want to be treated when not all want to be treated in a manner similar?

Presiding over the trial was Fido, of course, and he chose Dusky to take detailed notes as per instructed along with a generous portion of hyperbole to write a story of the decade for the Tagonist Forest Herald. Silas and Tunic, of course, were in the penalty box anxiously awaiting their fate. The coveted cereal token was sitting on a marble tablet with a regal ambiance as if it were made of real gold and not cheap plastic. The rules remained the same since Fido's very own trial. If each creature voted guilty, the punishment would be 50 years. If eleven of the twelve voted guilty, the punishment was 11 years, and so on, down to one. Each member received a chance to stand and speak his or her piece. Any member of the jury found to snicker, argue, or speak would be eliminated from the trial, as such faux paus were not the stuff of the dignified decorum of such an elite group. Each creature spoke in turn the following in the same trained matter of fact tone of voice:

Snake- "Insofar that lowly predators are merely messengers of knowledge, and thus exempt from the claws of crows, how can we truly be blamed, save for the blood that taints a pool of genes?"

Dodo bird- "By what amount of control does Lady Liberty hold, in passing judgment with Martial Law, when the Laws of Murphy have already been passed by a Mother of Nature?

Dog- "Be mindful of the carrot that pulls the pusher or the stick that pushes the puller."

Rabbid Racoon- "Via virtue of what impetus, irrespective of physical or psychological aberration, can turn the potential into kinetic with such willful delight?"

Ostrich- "What do the shadows of innocent bystanders say about their master's atrophy, denial, passing of bucks, and time buyer's remorse?"

Alligator- "By what amount of variable influence, irrespective of any false dichotomy, did the trigger play in pulling the claw?"

Monkey- "By what degree of influence, via virtue of virtue itself and that which is recondite, did logic play to jerk-the-knee as parasites, hosts, predators, and prey slowly change places?

Elephant- "If a picture is worth a thousand words, as if to see a tumor, so how much more is it to see a motion picture as if nefarious behavior itself were an aberration worth a billion words carried out not without the help of the accomplices of space and time."

Dolphin- "If one has no conscience, how can one be blamed for deed nefarious?"

Crab- "I called 'heads' as guilty and 'tails' as not-guilty as a coin was in the air, and it landed on its side between the table and the chair."

Lemming- "How many seekers of death are relegated to life-row awaiting a penalty of sentience?"

Ant- "If we are to treat each other as we each want to be treated, and if we do not each want to be treated the same way, does this tarnish a brass once golden?"

And so the jury was hung, as if guilty of reasonable doubt of the nature/nurture issue itself, at least according to the Exemplary Council of 12.

Scene 6: A metaphor is like a simile

Setting: Wigwam Mess Hall, June 11, noon

By the time Tunic left Dusky's Tree-House Tavern and came to his own place of residence, it was too late. Silas was on his back, revealing his painted and elegant under-belly enrobed in blood as if the inner beauty of blood, being thicker than water, could paint over the external beauty of candy shell or exoskeleton. "Those bastards!," screamed Tunic as he awkwardly rushed to Silas in a fit of hysterics as he assumed such a tragedy could only come from those who oppose scorpions. Tunic's eyes were blinded by tears, and he groped for anything to make his world visible again. He speared a nearby piece of paper with his stinger and began mopping up his tears as the ink, once visible, slowly lost clarity like the verbal equivalent of a voice decreasing in volume until nothing is left but echo and oblivion. The letter once read as follows--

Dear Tunic,

I hope this letter finds you well. I must admit that I was rather dubious as to what the verdict of the exemplary council of 12 would be. After all, which is a more dangerous affair, the murdered innocuous or the truculent and unshackled? You, Tunic, represent the enemy now deemed free. Let me represent the ally deemed guilty. Only by your life and my death will the good and fair forest of Tagonist realize that we are all victims of circumstance in a world where shells and claws fight and flee against threats of pain and death. This is not a suicide note, but I do offer my commiserations if the state I am in does not suit you. The knife that moves my hand is a symptomatic effect, and does not reflect any cause of willful oblivion or motif of pain. Of course, any specific motive, for any given tragedy alluded, does not absolve the despondent tears and offer closure. Such madness atones for nothing save for my undeserved accolade. A hung jury is not always from a commonwealth's clemency, but the reasonable doubt perpetrated by perpetual machines where gears turn belts before belts turn gears.

You will find the winning cereal token in the flower pot by the fridge. You own the power to satiate comrades with unrequited compassion. Through fatigue and famine you will soon find an ability to ingratiate both civilian and patriot of the enemy. Do not be deceived by the insincere flattery of the intrepid coward. I received a shield and you the sword, and by greater disdain of hammer than anvil, weapons of destruction were relegated to the malevolent magnanimity of a motive deemed nefarious. This is despite each sharing habitats and ecosystems where sticks, stones, and words all obey the same cant of a coterie of reapers who refuse to soothe a malaise and dysthemia born of our mortal survival fears.

Know this. Though elected to a regal throne, I am not a king of avarice or nobility. And you, my beloved Tunic, are not a lowly knight. What separates predator from prey, or parasite from host, or love from hate itself, is but a blurry line dividing a conflict of interest amidst the same hazy, lascivious, and hedonistic ocean which is life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The phantoms of the night do not tell ghost stories. They share the horrifying tales of a creature kind still mortal, unwilling to learn from history as the epochs of time, handed from cohort to cohort, give way to a future just as uncertain as the past, where the only disparity separating former from latter are words erased and words yet to be written. Who am I, but one who shares the role of hero and villain, victim and perpetrator, or the hunter and the hunted.

Just because a straw man can be knocked down this does not imply, be it taciturn or salient, that all straw-men are flammable. In a milieu where actions speak louder than words, even words placed into anothers mouth, I would rather be called second-class than treated as such, if I had to choose. If one were to measure the net weight of blood, sweat, and tears to compare the pain of all victims of circumstance it might be futile. If I were to divide the infinity of time and space by the weight of pain of each victim the variability in quotients may indeed be masked by rounding error, as if dividing infinity by 5 were only slightly more dimunitive than dividing by 2.

I will be dead by the time you read this, but know this. I love you. And while a shield can fight via steadfast defiance a stinger can defend panic and fear. I know you can save Tagonist Forest from famine. Use your cereal token wisely and do not let it out of your hands until it reaches the appropriate party. Eat plenty, but don't forget to share the wealth.

Tunic's tears were drying as his stinger was being poised for battle. He noticed the smudges of ink of what had been a suicide note of sorts. He mumbled to himself, "what is this, those bastards kill my friend and leave a ransom note for the cereal token? Not over my dead body!" Silas ran to the flower pot by the fridge, took the coin, and swallowed it. He struck a pose as sincere and stately as the nobility on their currency.

Without hesitation he pierced his own stinger through his head as he whispered to Silas during a tender embrace of brotherly love, "If they want to end famine they will have to feel and acknowledge that scorpions have the same blood and guts as a panda, kitten, or turtle." The scorpion passed away in the arms of the elected enemy as the famine raged outside. It would not be until the cereal sweepstakes had just barely expired that the coin would be found by none other than a lowly vulture, possesing neither sword or shield, to clear the stage after the first curtain fell.

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