August 30th 2002

The Butterfly

Paque was a rat. When pigs grew wings Paque would spin a cocoon like the butterflies. He would sleep in it and emerge transformed. He would, in his younger days, watch the caterpillars climb into them in the spring and then wait until they came back with better names. He would marvel at the perfection of their lives, being that they were all given second chances. That they were born again with wings enough to carry them far off into the possibilities of a greater world. But Paque was a rat. A rat that lived with a great many other rats. When pigs grew wings Paque would fly away. Because if pigs could fly then surely they'd let a rat.

There was a war once. A war that was fought amongst men about something that no one can rightly recall. Prone to squabbling, it didn't come as that big a surprise to anyone else. The way the dogs tell it, it was as if the humans had been looking to do away with themselves. The way the dogs tell it, they were too disenfranchised with themselves to do away with anything but. So they blew themselves up. They set upon the world, year after year, a terrible shaking. A shaking of the land and the trees and the oceans. And, after years of drawing lines and daring themselves to cross them, they finally set about inventing clouds that could choke the air out of their lungs. A choking so great that none of them, not one, survived. The dogs tell it the best being that they were, at one point, the best of friends. How the clouds did not kill the animals is anyone’s guess. Science is a thing born of men. And with them it went.

Mind you, this was all eons before Paque was born and long before the Great Fight against the upper mammals. Paque's grandfather used to go on about hearing tales about men from the dogs that he fought with during the Great Fight. He would tell Paque and his brothers that men were ignorant creatures and that it was just a matter of time before they destroyed themselves. That was why Paque's grandfather fought with the others against the upper mammals. Because they were the next closest thing to men. So Paque's grandfather and all of his friends and brothers went off one day to fight them. Some of them died and some of them didn’t. That's the way of fights, some do and some don't. The reasons for such allegiances are often lost on the majority when they are in the midst of it. Once there they wonder what possessed them to think it romantic or honorable in the first place. Paque’s grandfather lost a leg fighting for something that would prove to lead to the loss of something far greater. When Paque was very little his father was taken away in the middle of the night. The Terribles knocked on the front door and asked him to go with them. They assured Paque's mother and grandfather that he would be home by morning. Paque's father told them that everything would be all right. But when the morning came Paque's father did not return. And he never would.

After his father had been taken away, Paque would day dream that he had spun a cocoon, that he was sleeping. That one day his father would return to them with hopeful wings as proof that all was not lost. So for some years Paque would, from time to time, look up at the sky and wonder. But in the sky he would find nothing. Not a single pig.

Even a rat can think up something to say. Maybe even something worth hearing. The fodder of the world rarely comes up with anything beyond grunts of yes and no and excitability. But once in a while one of them might think up something to say. Even a rat. The world is drowning in the courageous inner monologues of those that march to their own drummers and all that. But generally things are quiet. Mistakes are made all round, leaving the majority bitter and safe within the bosoms of their discontent. For rats such as Paque’s grandfather it was best to see the world as the mistake of those who took a good idea and made it bad. The fact that Paque’s grandfather didn’t realize that the idea was bad to begin with wasn’t his fault. It’s nobody’s fault when it comes right down to it. It’s just one of those things that you find yourself unable to remember with any clarity. Which came first? The bad idea? Or you befallen by it?

The Assassin

Being that it was a Sunday, Peewit knew that Levin would be in a foul mood. Sundays were particularly stressful for the old dog as it was the day when new recruits arrived and did their best to impress Levin. Being that Peewit had been the principle dealer of dread for so many years, Levin liked to taunt him by reminding him of the reality of his situation. The rules were simple. When Peewit was replaced he would be killed. He knew too much and was therefore a liability. So he lived his life in fear. Strange for a creature that had dealt in terror for most of it. Every day was an exercise in his own hypocrisy. He terrorized others in an attempt to abate his own.

Walking down the hall Peewit stopped to peer out an opening in one of the crumbling walls. Out past the mounds of debris and carcasses stretched the green folds of a forest. In contrast to the bleak walls and damp interiors of The Massive, the forest loomed in Peewit’s mind as something that beckoned some past notion of his breeding. That there was a time when dogs such as him ran through that forest, their tongues hanging freely out of the sides of their mouths, slobber slipping off into the wind. In all his years at The Massive Peewit had never been in that forest. Levin forbade it. It was a place reserved for birds. And being a dog named after a bird was not good enough. And even then, Levin had given him that too. The name feared above all names. The Terrible Peewit.

Despite the stress that his position brought, Peewit admitted to himself that there were others far worse off. For all those dogs that arrived on Sundays only one of them would get a posting. The rest got death. In all, Peewit had one hundred and thirty six other dogs working under him. One hundred and thirty six younger, stronger dogs that all coveted his position relentlessly. The only thing that kept Peewit safe was his name and the legendary cruelty that came with it. For no other creature in the world had taken more life than Peewit. Not one. It had taken him most of his life to come to terms with what he was. On that Sunday Peewit finally had. And in doing so realized that he would be killed.

Lingering there in front of the opening Peewit feared that Levin would find him out. His master had the uncanny ability of being able to solve those around him simply by watching and listening and there was nothing that Peewit feared more. Levin’s long silences and sudden bursts of bizarre conversation were the only thing. Because it was such behavior that had resulted in Peewits long years of murder. That unpredictability that all maniacs possess. And it haunted him ceaselessly. Turning from the view, the old dog walked into the shadows of the hall and disappeared.

The Master Of The House

Levin Ames was the ruler of the world. He was also a chickadee. Cute and ruthless, just the way you'd imagine a chickadee to be. Levin had never been anything but the ruler of the world. The males of his family had been since the beginning. A strange thing, if you stop to think on it, that such a small thing might end up ruling the world. But true. Not very menacing the chickadee but smart as all hell. Levin's father used to say that all the time. ‘Not very menacing Levin! But smart as all hell!’ Tyrannical failed to be mentioned. Important to remember if you're intending to spend a great deal of your life trying to convince yourself that you're not really all that bad.

It was Sunday and Levin longed for it on every day besides. On Sundays he got to wander down to the concourse and fly up and down the line of new dogs that came from miles around in an attempt to find a position in what had come to be know as The Terribles. Levin’s father had started it. In need of something more persuasive than a random bunch of bickering animals, he thought up the idea of having an entire group of giant dogs guard The Massive and the nearby grounds. Being that they were the largest creatures left on land, they were perfect. From there The Terribles sphere of influence spread to nearby communities where they terrorized the populace and abducted animals at random. Most ended up in the rubble, their carcasses on display as a reminder of who was in charge to anyone foolish enough to think otherwise. It was a tradition that Levin delighted in. For at the end of the inspection he would choose the most vicious and stupid of the lot and have the rest put to death. And no matter how many died the next Sunday new ones arrived. Being that a great deal of the world had sunk into the ocean, Levin occasionally thought that one day the dogs might run out. But then he would remember how fun it was to have them killed and would think no more of it.

Levin’s only true concern was for Peewit, his most trusted and long lived servant. As much as he toyed with and teased Peewit, Levin knew that without him things would slip. Having spent countless years ridding the world of mammals in general, his fellow birds looked to him to either keep them in line or do away with them altogether. The trick was convincing them that birds did not think themselves superior in all respects. Just when it came to what was best to do about things in general. That is why a chickadee came to rule the world. For who would not trust such an innocent looking creature such as that? No one. Be they skunks or rabbits, snakes or rats, they all saw them with clouded eyes. For the voice of a chickadee, being as fragile as it is, is impossible to trace back into cruelty and subversion. But in truth, it is the perfect voice for just such things.

It was Sunday and Levin was glad for it. On Sundays there was death beyond the eyes of those that expected the voice of innocence. On Sundays he used his real voice and when he did it made the whole world seem as if it was beneath his genius. Despite the fact that he had been born into a plan crafted by another. Despite the fact that his most trusted servant had realized that that voice was empty.

The Butterfly

Paque stepped out of the front door of the Paper House and looked up and down the road. It was empty. On Sundays no one went to the Paper House. They all went down to the field and played sports and ate and talked about pointless things. Everyone except for two others. Mr. Shaky, the Paper Housemaster, and Wilma, a girl from down the road some ways. Every Sunday she would journey to the Paper House and spend hours reading, as did Paque. When he first began doing it he was vainly searching for some record of his father’s arrest. And then, after some months, he gave up and turned his attentions towards reading as much as he could about The Great Fight and the history of things. But he did not come to the Paper House for any specific reason any longer other than to see Wilma. He would sit, pretending to read, and sneak glances at her when she was not looking. Every Sunday for four months he had been doing it. And in all that time not a word between them. The only one that spoke at The Paper House was Mr. Shaky who would sometimes ask Paque to keep an eye on things while he ate his lunch outside on nice days. Besides that it was dead quiet.

Wilma had left. After watching her walk down the road from the Paper House roof, Paque gathered his things and made to leave. Standing there, his eyes lost on some point in the dirt, he felt the wind come up and blow his whiskers strong against his snout. There would be rain, he thought. He would be glad for it. Being that Monday meant work and that his work consisted of digging, rain would mean staying home. If anything, Paque loved nothing more than to sit at home in his grandfather’s chair and stare out the window. From that view he could see the road and The Paper House and even the tops of the trees in the forest way off in the distance. He would sit there for hours on end, rocking back and forth, lost in thought. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he would be shaken by terrible dreams and leave his bed to go and sit in the chair. It was the one place in the world that filled him with a sense of peace. It was there that he would sit with his brother when they were very little and watch the road for their father.

Stepping into the road, Paque walked quickly towards his house, fearful that someone might come by. If anything, Paque was not a social animal. He considered small talk a waste of time, which made it appear to most that he was not very swift. He had a habit of looking at his feet and scraping about in the dirt when others were talking to him, as if he had done something wrong and was being reprimanded. Most of the time it worked like a charm. Having put his head down to shelter his eyes from the wind and the dust, Paque walked the breadth of the road, climbed the stairs to the porch, and as he went to unlock the door, came upon an envelope laying on the door step. Picking it up, he undid the bolt and went inside eying the thing, curious as to who had left it.