August 31st 2002
The Nuclear Fox
Peter Panic was a fox and being so made him rare. It made him rare because during the Great Fight the foxes were hunted to near extinction, leaving those that survived with no choice but to carve out bleak existences in the wilderness. But what made Peter more than rare, what made him unique, was that he was a nuclear fox. And to anyone’s knowledge the only one of his kind anywhere in the world.
The tales all tell of a fox pup who wandered far into the wilderness and came upon an iridescent lake with a low hum. And from that lake one night the pup drank and was struck down by a strange fever. Changed by the water, it began to see and hear things that escaped a great many others. But as time passed and the pup grew it began to have terrible visions. Visions that would send the fox into uncontrollable fits. So debilitating were these attacks that one day the fox awoke to find that it could no longer move its legs. Languishing there on the ground, it spent days crying out for help until its voice grew hoarse and then disappeared. Passing into darkness none can be certain how long the fox lay helpless, but it is said that some great creature came and took up the body and brought it into the south; and so Peter was saved.
The night that Peter dictated the letter he was visited by two of his closest friends. Rue the cat, Peter’s most trusted spy, and Harper Grey, a mouse of the most fearsome disposition and Rue’s life long friend. The two of them had arrived late, as they had been expected that morning. Peter had feared they had been captured and was relieved to learn otherwise. Turning his attention from the letter, Peter excused his secretary and turned to hear their tale of being pursued by crows over the many miles back to the encampment. When they were finished they left Peter to find beds and sleep for the first time in days. Having heard their report, the half images creeping around in Peter’s heading becoming clearer, he returned to the letter with a new found purpose, And thus began it, Dearest friend…
Womp’em & Silly Bird
Pigeons and crows. Perhaps the two most despised birds going. But abundant and therefore dangerous in a world ruled by birds. So it’s safe to say that being a minority would be quite a dangerous thing. One tiny slip up and it’s nothing but murders of crows and flocks of pidgins banging on your door in the middle of the night, slobbering dogs in tow.
Eons ago, somewhere back in the clouds of the mysterious past, Silly Bird’s forefathers left the ground and chose to live in the air. Now that’s not to say there were owls then, or even the sort of birds you can find today flying around, taking up with dogs, and generally strutting around with their beaks in the air. Back then they were reptilian, big as trees, and dumb as stumps. Somehow, from then until now, the only thing retained by the species was the last bit. Silly Bird often took comfort in the fact that his particular brand of bird was considered wise in days past. From all the stories he’d heard owls were supposed to be the wisest of all. And at times Silly Bird thought that might be one of the reasons there weren’t any left. Given the present circumstances, and their renown for being wise, perhaps they realized how ridiculous it all was and simply flew away.
It plagued Silly Bird to no end. Because if that was the case, and he himself was an owl, then how come he hadn’t known better? Looking down at the great and massive body of his friend Womp’em laying in the leaves sleeping, Silly Bird couldn’t help but giggle to himself. If he was to be a stupid owl then he had wound up with the right sort of friend, he though. And maybe that was better than being wise and alone.
Out in the yard Peewit found the usual Sunday scene. A line of slobbering, ravenous dogs stretched from one side of the yard to the other, all of them shaking in a contained frenzy. Near the far end of the yard there was a large table upon which various members of Court had come to watch the proceedings, among them Levin’s younger brother Cyril and his cousins Heron and Obius. The rest were magistrates and members of a supposed representative legislature that pretended they had some purpose when in truth they did nothing all day.
Stepping from the shadows of the hallway into the courtyard, Peewit’s arrival silenced the dogs, the court, and even a relative or two. Despite his own fears and worries he was still the most feared beast breathing and it was not lost on any creature in that courtyard. But more than anything Peewit had to make sure, on this day in particular, that he radiated that air of vile disposition for which he was known. It was the only assurance that his true intentions would not be revealed. He had promised the rat that he would do it. Their entire strategy depended on Peewit’s success. If he failed then their best chance to kill Levin would be lost. He had spent his life killing innocents for what? Nothing more than to secure a future for a species that was, to his reckoning, weaker and dumber than his. No matter what he had been told, no matter what everyone said, Peewit knew the truth. And it angered him so much that killing Levin was the only decent thing that he could think of doing that would abate the shame he felt for his life. So he agreed to help the rat and the fox for which he risked everything by coming to him. He more than agreed. He insisted upon it.
Walking down the line of dogs Peewit employed his usual tactics. He would stand nose to nose with them and stare them down until they refused to look him in the eye. And when they looked away he would mock them openly in a voice that silenced everyone save Levin, who commonly yelped with glee. On that particular morning Levin was late and it made Peewit nervous. Cyril had instructed Peewit to begin and he was in no position to tell Cyril that it was improper. By the time Levin arrived Peewit had made his way though seven dogs, and to Cyril’s delight was called over to the table to receive a reprimanding for beginning without proper permission. It wasn’t until he was half way to the table that Peewit realized that such proximity would offer him his best chance. By the time he reached the table his mind was made.
Standing there, his eyes level with the birds, he did his best to put on a shameful face while Levin began shouting at him. And as he did, by no fault of his own, the great dog growled slightly, giving himself away. And recognizing that something was amiss, Levin darted skyward in a panic as Peewit, realizing his error, lunged forward catching both Cyril and Heron in his mouth instead. Biting down he snapped both birds in half before thrusting himself onto the table and going after whomever he could. By the time he was finished he had killed five of them and had one pinned to the table under a paw.
The dogs in the yard had no clue what to make of it all. They realized that Levin Ames was the ruler of the world and that to disobey him meant certain death. Then again, the form of that certain death was the very thing that had tried to kill him and had killed most of his court and family. They looked at each other perplexed, some sitting down on their hind legs, others pacing back and forth trying to figure it out. Looking at them, Peewit lowered his head without breaking eye contact and bit the head off the bird he had trapped under his paw. He then flicked the body off the table and slowly stepped down. His face was covered in blood and feathers stuck to his head and neck. And up above him Levin sat hovering looking from Peewit to the dogs in the yard and back. And then, as Peewit knew he would, Levin went about it…
‘Kill him and you will become him!’ Levin shrieked.
How right he was.
The Master Of The House
There was nothing else that Levin could think to say. His greatest fear lay in the fact that if the dogs thought about it long enough they’d realize he had no real power to offer them. That if they left Peewit alone, Levin might as well hover there for the rest of his life. There was nothing to do about it, birds simply could not out muscle the mammals. But Levin also knew that power corrupted those that hungered for it. And all of the dogs present in the yard that day had come for one reason and one reason only, to become the next Terrible Peewit. So there was little thinking for most of them to do. They paced back and forth, glaring at the most powerful dog in the world, wondering how best to kill what they had been told could not be. And during those uncomfortable seconds, Peewit just stood there, his head motionless, staring at them all as if he were made of stone. And it unnerved the dogs in the yard that he didn’t move or try to run after Levin had spoken. That he just stood there and waited for them. So Levin shouted it again…
‘Kill him and you will take his place!’
And that was all they needed. As if coursing, they all went for him at once.
I am sorry to be the barer of ill news concerning your brother Henry. This past week he was attacked and gravely injured by a bird while attempting to ford a stream some miles from our encampment. He managed to make his way back to us before succumbing to his wounds, delivering in the process a vital piece of information that may very well help to end these long dark years that we have so unfortunately endured. Beyond that dearest Paquate, he was a beloved friend and will be missed. It was Henry’s wish that he be buried with your mother and grandfather and asked in the event of his death that you be contacted. I have therefore dispatched this letter with someone who will be able to help you in this endeavour. I will make sure they are by no later than the day after this letter is delivered you. Please look for them.
Paque had not been called by his proper name since he was a child. He had not been called by his proper name by anyone but his father. And Henry knew that. Paque let the letter slip from his lap and stood up. And as if it were something as ceremonious as the coronation of a king, he slowly grabbed the chair and turned it so that it faced the opposite direction, looking up the road. If someone were to come then Paque thought he had better make sure not to miss them.