The Origin of Dogs (old fiction)

I like dogs a lot.

 

When they were still young, Adam divided up the world between his two sons. To Cain he gave responsibility for plants, the great trees and the blades of grass. To Abel he gave responsibility for the animals, from the eagles soaring overhead to the sheep grazing in the meadows. Now, everybody knows about when the relationship between the brothers went sour, but it didn’t start out that way.

In the beginning, they collaborated. They shared. Abel had sheep, and Cain had grass, and the world was good, or at least the bits they spent time on in. But it was no Eden, and weeds and wolves both flourished, stubborn creatures seeking out their own destiny in the shadow of Man. Cain, he just pulled up the weeds that choked out the most succulent grasses, and that was that. But Abel was a different sort.

He found the king of the wolves one sunny day basking beside a clear pool. The king of the wolves had just feasted, and he and Abel greeted each other amiably enough. Then Abel said, “The sheep would like it very much if you wouldn’t eat them any more.”

The wolf yawned and said, “Aye, and so would the elk and the deer. What of it?”

Abel looked uncomfortable. “Well, they live in the valley next door to us. I sleep among them. It’s very disconcerting to wake up to a scattered flock and blood everywhere.”

“Yum,” said the wolf.

“And they complain for days afterwards.” Abel blushed. “They’ve had it very easy in the valley, you see. I find their company pleasant. They’re not very bright, it’s true, but their fleece is so soft. The tufts left on rocks and shrubs make such nice things.”

The wolf did not seem impressed with Abel’s choice of favorites, but he wasn’t an unkind animal. “Tell you what,” he said. “There’s plenty of game around. I’ll keep my pack away from the places with your smell on them.”

Abel was very pleased by this, and thanked the wolf, and went home again and for a long summer of years, he and his flock lived in peace. Sometimes he’d exchange howls with the distant wolves, blessing them for their consideration. Once a year, he’d visit the king of the wolves at the pool, and they’d chat.

Now, times were getting harder as the memories of Eden faded from the land. One year, Abel got news of a fierce winter coming to his valley. This was bad, but his brother Cain had found another valley, further to the south, where winter would still be far away. So Abel set about trying to convince the sheep that it was time to move.

Unfortunately, as Abel had admitted to the wolf king, sheep aren’t very bright. By the time he’d convinced any one sheep to move, the others would start wandering back to their usual grazing grounds. It was a hopeless situation. He spent so much time trying to move the sheep around that he missed his yearly meeting with the wolf king, and one day, he heard a familiar laugh above him.

He looked up, and the wolf king crouched on the top of a tall rock. The sheep didn’t even notice, he was so high up. “They’ve gotten fat and slow without us to chase them around,” the wolf king said. “What are you trying to do?”

“A bad winter is coming,” Abel explained. “We have to move south. But they won’t move!”

“Aye,” said the wolf. “We’ve smelled the winter coming. It’s a shame, ’cause my pack’s got six puppies to bring up. The two youngest won’t make it.”

Abel blinked, and looked at the sheep, and looked at the wolf king, and that was when he thought of the Bargain. “Hey,” he said casually. “How about your pack helps me move the sheep– without eating any, mind– and I’ll make sure those two puppies survive?”

The wolf king stared at him for a long minute, and then lolled his tongue out. “Man lost a lot of power in the Fall. Let’s put together a better bargain than that, shall we?”
In the end, Cain and Abel each took home a child of the king of the wolves, and to the king of wolves they made this promise: “Your child will share my place. Your child will share my fire. Your child will share my food. My children and your children will grow together, side by side, pack and family.”

And in return, the king of the wolves promised: “These children, and their children, will always walk beside you. They will sense what you cannot sense. They will catch what you cannot chase. They will hunt what you cannot kill. They will obey you as they would me.”

And that’s how the flocks got moved south, and that’s how dogs came to be.

The Gossamer (old fiction)

I’ve been thinking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic all day. It’s a show I keep meaning to watch, because I’ve heard such good things about it, and I loved My Little Pony when I was small. MLP:FiP seems like it fixes so many of the things I didn’t like (for I always have complaints about what I love), and covers over the rest over with both style and substance. But I haven’t gotten around to watching it to find out yet!

Anyhow, in digging through some old writing on old hard drives, I found this. I think it dates from about 8 years ago. Since I’ve been too out of it to post this week, I thought it might be fun to share this.  Structurally it lacks almost everything I’d put into a story today, but perhaps I was aiming for a different aesthetic?

(The ‘stay tuned’ at the bottom is also from the original file.)

There are worlds layered like pages in a book.

In many of these worlds, Cinderella is not a person, but a role. In one such land, she is their Cinder Queen, born and reborn every century among the ashes, sought out by her Prince-Consort and raised to magnificence and glory. She is their conscience, their angel of compassion, their dove of mercy, but it is her Prince-Consort and his father the Regal who rule this land. She is the guardian of children, and of young women, and she may intercede on their behalf. While she reigns, her command on such matters is law.

But the exiles are not human, and the Prince and Regal do not listen to her pleas on their behalf.

They are odd creatures, fragile, with spindly legs. They resemble the sturdy, squat horses of the land, but we shan’t call them ponies… no, let us call them the gossamer. They come from the south, a tired, ragged band, telling stories in the cadenced speech of the fey, of a dark castle and how it crumbled and set them free. Ten lands they claim to have passed through, seeking a home, and in each they were told, “Try the next land, they’re much nicer than we are.”

“How will you earn your keep? Will you pull for us?” asks the Regal dubiously. “We have fine oxen. I do not think you could compete with them.”

The leader, flame-red, says, “We are tired and hungry and weak from years of service, Your Highness. We could not outpull your oxen.”

The Regal rubs his beard. “Well, you’re fine looking creatures. Perhaps you could find service as the steeds of noblemen.”

The leader, flame-red, says, “Our legs are thin, and our strength is not in our back, Your Highness. The weight of grown men would break us.”

Exasperated, the Regal says, “What do you have to offer, then? We cannot simply take you in out of the kindness of our hearts!” (Though of course the Cinder Queen had insisted they could do just that.)

The leader, flame red, shakes out her mane and it flows like a sheet of silk down her neck and back. “We have beautiful hair. You may comb it.”

The Regal snorts. “Off you go, then. I’d tell you the next kingdom is nicer, but there is only the sea to the east, the stone to the west, and the snows to the north. Take your pick.”

The Cinder Queen goes to the flame red leader and wraps her arms around the gossamer’s neck and leans her head against the gossamer’s head. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and, “My name is Julie.”

The flame-red leader puts her head over Julie’s shoulder. “I am Kindle. Be at peace, little cinderella. This was no more than we expected.” (This does not make the Cinder Queen feel any better.)

They choose the snows to the north. Kindle, their flame-red leader, remarks, “Perhaps they will welcome us.”

“I’m sure they’ll appreciate your long silky hair,” says the Prince-Consort.

The are exiled from the kingdom during the yearly celebration of the Cinder Queen’s ascension, the green borders of the kingdom sealed against their kind. Julie watches as the brightly colored shapes trudge into the snows, until the colors reflecting from the snow can be seen no longer.

They walk north. They lean into the wind and snow, and they walk and walk, until at last the butter-yellow one stumbles, and falls. The other stop, and two more fall to their knees: sky-blue, sea-green. “Tiara,” says Kindle. “Robin. Flute.”

She sighs. “It is time, my gossamer.” The icy wind cuts across them, blowing her words away, and so she shakes out her hair. The others follow , and banner after banner of luxurious silken color is swept out by the wind. Slowly Robin and Flute climb to their feet, and even Tiara rises and the brightness of her hair streams out in the wind.

And the wind stops.

As their hair, tangled and wind-knotted, settles into place, their colors reflect from the still snow. They move, tiredly, and their colors twinkle back at them. Then, the sun comes out, and the snow shines. There is a great groan of ice and a tinkling noise and the colors shatter as the snows slide apart and a misty valley appears before them.

“Welcome,” the snow tinkles. “Be welcome. Be warm, and walk among us, so that we may reflect your beauty. We will eat the cold as you ate the wind. Be welcome.”

And this is how the gossamer came to Snowshine Valley.
(Yet To Come: Julie discovers children are vanishing from her kingdom! The Prince-Consort earns a name! The gossamer plant a garden! Details on gossamer variants and where they come from! But does the gossamer hair get untangled? Stay tuned to find out!)

Flash: Show Me How

He is broken, and tired of being broken.

His most relentless enemy is free and beautiful. When she falls, others help her up again. She does not have to fight for everything. People give her things. Once or twice, he’s been tempted to give her things. Alone of all his enemies, she does not seem to despise him. She looks at him with thoughtful eyes as he fights and runs and curses her.

He is tired of being alone.

He sits on the edge of the building until she finds him. She approaches, just close enough to speak, not nearly close enough to touch. He has a bottle. He pitches it off the edge. She catches it. She would.

“You might hurt somebody,” she says.

“You wouldn’t let that happen.” He leans back against the wall, wonders what it would be like to just fall. Would she catch him, too?

“No,” she agrees. “What are you doing up here?”

He stands, unsteady. “Saying goodbye.”

She arches one lovely eyebrow. He waves expansively at the twilight city. “This city… I loved it once, you know? But it’s got nothing for me. Kicks me like a dog. Nothing. No place, no reason. No point.” He realizs how drunk he is, and tries to pull himself together. He’d hoped she would come, if he waited long enough. And she had. So much easier than breaking into vaults, or hiring himself out to a bastard with a big plan.

“I don’t want to be here anymore.” He shows her the gun in his other hand. “Don’t worry. I wasn’t going to just jump. Make a big mess. Might hurt someone. Don’t want to inconvenience you.”

He turns and climbs back up the ladder to the rooftop. She drifts up after him. He hates some of the fliers, but she is– but why hurt himself with those thoughts now?

“–,” she says. He flinches. Of course she knows his real name. His file is easy enough to come by, for one of them. “Do you expect me to just watch? I care about more than messes.”

He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. When he opens them again, he gives her his best smile and lifts the gun. She moves, then, as fast as he’d ever seen her. Her hand wraps around his wrist, keeping his hand out, and her body is so close to his. “There are other answers,” she whispers.

Her words twang against his tension and he convulsively tries to yank his hand away from her grip. “Hospitals?” he growls. “Therapy? Group sessions?  I’d be better off dead. Save your pity for somebody who wants it.”

A frown flickers across her face. She doesn’t let him go.  He wants to pull her to him but he can’t. “What do you want? If you want to kill yourself, you don’t want me as an audience. You must know I won’t let you.”

“I don’t want your pity,” he repeats. I want you. Oh, please, God, I want you. He shies away from her question. “What do you want? Why did you come here? There are so much better ways to spend your energy. Drag me off to the lockup, already. Wash your hands.”

She hesitates. “I’ve… I… ” She stares at him. “I just don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Of course.

His mouth is dry, and he can taste the bitterness of her answer. But he has nothing else to lose, so finally, awkwardly, he asks his question. “Do you think– Am I even worth saving?” Give me a reason to try to become worthy of you. Oh please.

He has seen her smile before, in interviews, on television. Never in person. It is dazzling. “Oh yes. I’ve always thought you had… potential.”

He opens his hand and lets the gun fall to the roof.

Someday.