Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zoanthropes

Zoanthropes, shapeshifters, werebeasts: the names don't matter.

They watch us, and we watch them.

Pity and fear flowing back and forth across the barriers between us, it's hard to say who's worse off, or whether we peer at them through the bars of a prison or a zoo. They are bound by their natures - who could blame them for that? - and expect that their outrageous claims will be accepted, even when the facts that contradict them seem obvious to any who can see the undistorted truth.

They are delusional, it's clear - whether unwitting victims of some deep hypnotic suggestion, or by some accident of chemistry, it matters not at all - their perceptions are flawed, and they see what isn't there, hear voices pitched by their own imagining, and base their actions on those bizarre artifacts of their condition. We are patient with them, for our pity and compassion are real, but when their actions threaten us, risk our lives, then we have no choice but to act.

Many of them won't live out the week. It's hard to see them like this, know the fate that awaits them, and still smile blandly, keeping them calm and unsuspecting until the end comes.

And the end will come. All our arguments, discussions, and plans come down to this: reason, pity, and sentiment cannot stand against the ancient, bone-bred imperative to protect the self, the tribe, eradicate the threat. Soon, when the gates are next opened, Death will come through them, perhaps carried by a pale horse... or, perhaps, by some more fearsome thing.

Yes, Death will come through the gates, and in the presence of that Entity who brings such clarity to life, they will see too late that they have misjudged us, see too late that their delusions, the strange misfirings of their sorry, tortured brains have betrayed them at the end. Will they relent, recant, attest at last to the veracity of all we have tried so patiently to explain? Will they see in those last moments the reality so far hidden from their minds, our fur and our feathers at last revealed, our beaks and our fangs, the leaping, loping strides of the hunter that they have so far denied made clear? Or will they meet Death confused, still seeing soft and stubby fingers in the place of glistening claws, not grasping how flabby, fangless mouths could tear them with such abandon, how two of our legs could so swiftly outrun the fastest among them? We are few, but strong. We have been patient, more than patient, and we have shown them pity and compassion, and our pity and compassion were real. But no more.

Is that the gatekeeper's key?


Since I didn't have the time or energy (or, let's face it, the talent) to draw endless interlaced zoomorphic illuminations for the final day of the A-Z challenge, and I didn't want to skip the last day, even if I haven't been perfect about posting, you get a short story about Zoanthropes and unexpected endings instead. It isn't really too tightly linked to the Nine Worlds setting, and it doesn't fall into any of the other tags here, except, possibly, microfiction, if you really want to stretch the term, but you do what you can do. I hope it is an enjoyably creepy ending to this month's series of posts.

Many thanks to everyone who has stopped by during the A-Z event. I hope you liked what you found here, and will keep checking back. I will continue to post as much as humanly possible under the circumstances. I have really enjoyed reading through your posts this month, and have found some great new blogs as a result of this exercise in the past 30 days.

I'm hoping that the energy and the creativity will carry through to next year's event!


  1. I loved this piece! Such an intriguing premise.

  2. The fact that you're looking forward to next years' event offers the promise that energy and creativity should return to you by then. Thanks for sharing, and it's a pleasure to meet you via the A-Z Challenge!

  3. Nice piece. I looking forward to more. :)

  4. Thanks! Hopefully, I won't disappoint.