Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brother Wolfy and Brother Bear Go Swimming

Brother Wolfy and Brother Bear Go Swimming

It was a beastly hot day in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea. Father Sun was shining in all his blazing glory, and Sister Wind was in hiding. Brother Wolfy decided that he would go for a swim, and thus cool off, and perhaps catch  fish for dinner. He was so pleased by this idea that he immediately set out out for the Inland Sea. The Inland Sea borders all along the Woods, and it was said that if one could swim far, far, far enough, one would come to the Egde of Urth! Brother Wolfy scoffed at such notions, as a wolf really has no need to swim very far at all. But perhaps it would be pleasurable to paddle about, like one of the young pups who so liked to play and bark and go round in lazy circles. 

As Brother Wolfy was ambling thru the brightly lit woods, and thinking of his not much younger days, he didn’t pay attention to his treads, and suddenly tripped over something and went kersplat down on the trail! Well, he certainly was embarrassed as it wouldn’t do for a mighty wolf to be seen tripping over his own paws! He sheepishly got up, and looked around to make certain that he wasn’t seen as you just never knew who was watching in the deep forest.

Just as Brother Wolfy started to grin at his own clumsiness and steal away, he heard the booming, bass voice of another forest creature! And it was laughing at him! It was coming from all around him, and laughing at him! Well, this would not do! So Brother Wolfy turned around, and around again to only find that terrible laughter mocking him at every direction. Brother Wolfy just was not sure what to do, when the booming voice asked him, “Well my goodly, young wolven friend, since you are so mighty and strong, where am I?”. At this Wolfy stood quite still, and cocked his ears this way and that, and then decided that perhaps it was time to try a different approach. Brother Wolfy was no ordinary wolf, mind you. He was a very smart and crafty wolf, as all his pack mates knew well. But whenever he was stumped, instead of rushing in with bared fangs and trying to scare some other woodland critter, Brother Wolfy would tilt his head and think of another approach. As his noble sire, the current leader of the pack had told him many times, “Better to walk around the den, and get the entire warren of rabbits, rather than charge in and only get the smallest one”. So Brother Wolfy now considered his other approaches and silently stood his ground. “I must confess, Sir, that not only do I not know where you are, but I do not know who you are?”, he admitted to the trees and leaves.

At this, the terrible thunder that was laughter quieted, and a still moment came, as if a reflection had come upon them both. “Well then my young pup, let’s take this one question at a time, shall we?” The same voice rumbled, but without apparent rancor. “As for the who of me, I am the ursine beast that walks, swims, climbs and laughs! I am he who eats fresh meat and fish, nuts and berries, and I love honey!” Then the unseen voice gently chuckled and Brother Wolfy could almost feel it’s smile. 

“This is an interesting creature”, he mused as he sniffed the air. But there was no scent about and he was still confused. “Of course even with such a fine, long nose you can’t smell me, my young lupine friend”, came the voice again. and again the sound was all around him, as if playing off the very trees in the woods? “Ah well then, since it is rather obvious that you have absolutely no idea where I am, then I will tell you just who I am. I, my young friend, am Brother Bear!” the voice replied. “Oh bollocks”, replied Wolfy, “Everyone knows there are no bears in the woods! There hasn’t been a bear sighting in many generations of the Wolven Clade”.

“I’m afraid that the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, to coin someone else’s phrase”,  said Brother Bear. “And as for why you cannot scent me, perhaps you nose is pointed in the wrong vector!”, said the large, mostly brown and grey bear as he slowly climbed down from a tall, stout maple tree. “You see my friend, we bears are solitary in nature, and I have been in these very woods for a very long time.” Brother Bear clambered off the tree trunk, and facing Brother Wolfy, bowed deeply, as only a bear can bow, and then saluted the wolf with a crisp furry paw to the head.

“Ah, a colonial bear then” Wolfy mused as he now caught it’s scent. “I had been told that your kind was only a myth, a story to keep our pups in line when scampering off too far in the forest?”.  The bear replied with a mischievous grin, “Well, of course that particular myth was started by no less than me, and encouraged thru the years so that the woodland critters would not even know of my passing by. Think of it as a convenient cover, if you will”. 

Brother Wolfy scratched behind his ear, as only a wolf could do, while reflecting on the very strange events of the morning.  “Well then Brother Bear, since you seem to be so eager to make my acquaintance, perhaps you can tell me something that I don’t know?” asked the wolf.

“Come along young Wolfy, let us travel together towards the Inland Sea, and perhaps we can tell each other a few stories?” said Brother Bear as he softly dropped onto all four, huge, shaggy paws and simply started along the trail. Brother Wolfy arched an eyebrow in question, then when it was apparent that the mountain of fur that was Brother Bear would not wait, Wolfy trotted to keep pace.

This most unlikely pair padded companionably along the trails, and sometimes each would lead, and sometimes they walked together. Brother Wolfy noticed that his ursine companion never seemed to slow down, nor speed up. His shambling gait was always steady and certain. Yet, Brother Wolfy was younger, and his fur was as dark as midnight, and he would sometimes bound forward, or divert off a side path for a bit. As they made their way thru the woods, Father Sun was slowly crossing Daughter Sky, and the pair stopped to rest in a clearing that was filled with all manner of brightly colored flowers. 

“So Brother Wolfy, would you like me to tell you what you were thinking when I had the root of my tree trip you up?” asked the old bear. “Aye, crap on that” replied the wolf indignantly. “I merely didn’t look quickly enough at the ground under my paws. There was no tree root that you made do anything”, he said dismissively. “...and how could you ever know what I was thinking?” Brother Bear stopped, and lifted his snout into the air and sniffed. Then he sniffed again, as if searching for the smells of anything that could be eaten. “Simple my friend, you see we bears can sniff out thoughts! You should be skeptical whenever someone makes a claim, that’s true enough.” The bear paused, and sniffed the air one last time. “Lemme see now, what was it? Oh yeah, I smelled water in your thoughts. Not just water, but the very Inland Sea that is our destination. And not just the Inland Sea... but...” Again he sniffed the air. “Oh yes! I’ve got it now I think... young pups that paddle in circles! That was it.”, the bear said, and sat down as if that decided the matter.

Brother Wolfy was a tad consternated, as no one had ever sniffed his thoughts before. So, Wolfy padded about in a slow circle around the old bear, trying to decide just what all of this meant. Meanwhile, the old, brown and grey bear started to lightly snore and enjoy a nap. “Well, this is a right proper cock up of a day” said Wolfy under his breath. After all, he had heard that one simply never awakens a bear, unless one has the desire to live a very short amount of time, and in the belly of the bear at that. 
“I may be old, and colonial, but my hearing is perfect young pup.”  mumbled the bear between snores. “And it’s time we both rested as we have a long journey ahead of us, and also will need to fill our bellies rather soon”

At this Brother Wolfy tilted his head, and then smiled and decided that, perhaps, the old bear might just have the right of it. And after all, Father Sun was still quite high up, dancing with  Daughter Sky, so a nap would be the best way to rest for a wee bit.

Sometime later, Brother Wolfy awoke suddenly when he heard a loud noise, that sounded as if the Urth itself was shaking and perhaps Uncle Thunder had come to visit! As Wolfy was opening his sleep filled eyes, he saw that Brother Bear’s head was violently shuddering and the most awful sneezing fit was being blown from Brother Bear’s nostrils! Well, thought Brother Wolfy, thank the Godz that I am not in that line of phlegmy fire!
“Yeah” said Brother Bear when he could stop sneezing and start talking, “I haz gotz an awergy to sumpn in da woodz”. Then Brother Bear proceeded to rub his large snout in the grass under paw, and wipe off buckets of snot. “Ironic isn’t it? A veritable denizen of the forest, brought to his knees by one of the smallest of things” he said with a lopsided smile, and pointed to one of the clusters of brightly colored flowers. “See that small purple flower there? The one with the long ivy like leaves? Well, yes sir, I’m here to tell ya that it is poison. No really, it’s called Nightshade, and every time it blooms, I blow boatloads of boogers!” At this, Brother Wolfy arched an eyebrow and tried, rather unsuccessfully, to cover his chuckling. 

“Then mayhaps my large, ursine friend, it is time for us to proceed along, and find some food! My wolfen tummy is talking to me, and it says ‘Feed me now!” grumbled Brother Wolfy. “Agree highly Wolfy, and if my nose knows anything, it knows that there is going to be some fresh salmon coming our way very soon indeed!” proclaimed Brother Bear loudly, as he actually picked up his pace just ever the tiniest amount. Well, this is unusual, thought Brother Wolfy, the old bear does have an upper gear when he so chooses. So shamble they did, thru the woods and came upon an open field. “Look over there, at the edge of the field my young wolven buddy, my eyes are nor as sharp as they used to be, and were never as good as yours anyway, but tell me, what do you see?” asked Brother Bear.

“Hmmm.... I see bushes, and bushels of berries, my dear bear!” exclaimed Brother Wolfy. The old bear smiled, and put a huge furry paw to his nose and said “Aye yup, thought so.... it’s never let me down yet. I smell blackberries and raspberries and razzleberries, all sweet and succulent and ripe for the plucking. Just the perfect first course before our salmon fillets”.
The two buddies then scampered towards the bushes and enjoyed the sweet flavors that exploded on their tongues. Soon enough though, they both were satisfied, and after a few polite burps and belches, were along the way again. “I say, Brother Bear, how do you know that we will be feasting on fillets tonight?” asked the wolf.  Brother Bear smirked and replied “Told ya that this old schnoz of mine has never let me down. It smells the Inland Sea not too much further down... through the ravine over the next hill. And it smells large, tasty salmon near the shore. All we gotta do is tickle their tummies and scoop them up!”

Well now, Brother Wolfy had caught a salmon or three in his day, but he had never ticked a fish tummy?! No, his idea of fishing was to stare down at the fish, and mesmerize them with his large wolfen eyes, then simply clamp down with his quick jaws. This should be an interesting time to learn something new, he mused. Brother Bear raised his head, and sniffed a couple of times, then replied “Yes, learning a new way to do something is always of interest”, then continued to pad over the hill and into the ravine.

“Surely now you can smell the Inland Sea Brother Wolfy? Even with that long snout you couldn’t not know it is very near.” Brother Bear chided merrily. And yes! There was a fresh and wet smell upon the air now. A scent so crisp and clean that it felt like the entire Urth was glad to be alive. But try as he might Brother Wolfy, who really did have a keen nose, did not smell any fish? Well, nothing to be done for it, he thought. Tis doubtful that Brother Bear is taking the piss on me, so I shall just go along and see how his oh so magical nose can make a salmon. Maybe he’ll blow one out of his nostrils!  And Wolfy started to giggle at the thought and scampered ahead to where Brother Bear was rising out of the ravine. “I sniffed that you moron” grumbled Brother Bear as he chuckled “Altho, to be fair, it was rather funny!”.

As the two forest beasts came out of the ravine, they wandered onto a gently rolling beach, partially covered in grass from the edge of the woods. Approaching the open, sandy area of the beach they both smiled as they gazed upon the Inland Sea. It was so beautiful and inviting and clear. As if all the possibilities of the Multiverse were contained in that life giving water. The scenting of it was intoxicating, and the sound of gentle wavelets lapping at the shore lazily was in harmony with their inner souls. 
“You know my dear Brother Wolfy, you also have magic in your bones. Or somewhere. You are simply young enough that it hasn’t fully developed in you yet. But I would hafta say that every time I peer into those large eyes of yours, I know there is a deep magic there. Perhaps your eyes will be your magic?” wondered Brother Bear. “As your nose is your magic?” asked Brother Wolfy. The old bear just smiled and nodded. “You just need to learn to trust in yourself my young friend, trust that you are enough”.

As Wolfy was pondering these things, he watched as the big bear slowly padded into the water, letting the cool refreshing water buoy him up. Then Brother Bear gulped down a huge lungful of air, and plunged underneath the surface, swimming like a dolphin, grinning from ear to ear. As Brother Bear finally broke the surface back up again, he slowly rolled onto his back and floated, not a care in the world. Brother Wolfy smiled and ran into the sea, paddling like a lazy dog, and enjoying the cool wetness. 
“So tell me, Brother Bear, where are these succulent salmon that your prodigious proboscis says we are going to eat?” asked Brother Wolfy. Brother Bear slowly turned over, and let the water support the bulk of his weight, while standing on all fours. “You know what Brother Wolfy? I think that it’s time for you to see for yourself. I have given this much thought, and it’s clear to me that the Godz sent you to me, so that I might help. When you look at the water, what do you see?”

Brother Wolfy stood on all of his fours as well, but a bit closer to the shore as he wasn’t nearly as large as Brother Bear. “Well, I see the little wavelets.” Brother Wolfy said. “Hrmpfh” scowled Brother Bear, and closed both of his eyes. “I can see way more than that, and my eyes are closed! and my eyes aren’t nearly as magical yours!! Now try that again, and don’t waste my time here son”.

Oh sod off you old, lumbering bear, thought the wolf, and closed his eyes a bit to ward off the glare from Father Sun’s rays on the water. “I smelt that too, you idjit. Try to look at what you usually don’t! I don’t give a hoot what you really think of me, but try to keep the stench away from your thoughts please and thank you”, said Brother Bear, still as a statue. “Oh, oops. Sorry there Brother Bear. I’ve just never been around someone who can smell my thoughts is all?” apologized Brother Wolfy. “Well, right now your thoughts smell like a fart from something that crawled up into your innards and died” replied Brother Bear.

So Brother Wolfy closed his eyes a bit, and scanned the surface of the water. He looked right and left, up and down. The little wavelets were moving in an harmonious fashion, crossing each other at odd diagonals, and pushing colors in and out of his field of vision. The wolf lowered his head slightly, and then let the pull of the water take him along, as if he was drifting out to sea. On a sea of every color and sound. Whoa he thought, this is strange! He shook his long head and scratched the fur behind his ears as he heard Brother Bear snore again. Well, that’s alright then, let’s give this another go, shall we? Brother Wolfy asked himself. He remembered Brother Bear asking him to look at what he usually wouldn’t, so he squinted a bit, and looked at the space in between the waves. Where the crescendo of color would riot and melt into the deepness of the trough. As Wolfy kept scanning the water, and feeling the colors, and hearing strange, underlying musical tones, he felt his body slowly being pulled into the sea, into the space between the waves. 

Just as he was about to give in and allow himself to be pulled into that incredibly tiny yet infinite place, Brother Bear whispered in his ear “Not yet Brother, you are not quite ready to part the Sea of Everything That Is Possible. But you are ready for a swim”. By now, Brother Bear was poised over Brother Wolfy, and easily picked him up and held the wolf’s back to his chest. “Take a good, long breath, and we will go for a dive, and then perhaps you will truly see”, said Brother Bear as the two of them slipped beneath the top of the sea and dove down.

The bear wrapped his forepaws around the chest of Wolfy, holding him fast, and wrapped himself around the wolf as much as his great bulk would allow. Wolfy was quite curious, but not afraid. A buzzing vibration was felt, then heard thru every bone in Brother Wolfy’s body. “Don’t struggle, and don’t try to paddle, I will swim for us both” said Brother Bear. “It’s now your job to see, and to decide where we go, and where we don’t go. You must trust in yourself Brother Wolfy. You are the one who sees, and the one that makes our course. I am the one that will get us there, and protect you as best as I can. It’s called the Buddy System, little buddy”. And Wolfy felt a gentle chuckle. “When you need more air, let me know, I have enough for us both, for a very long time if need be” rumbled the bear again. And to prove just that, Wolfy felt the bear constrict his chest, pushing the air out of lungs. Then, with a firm grip on Wolfy’s snout, the massive bear somehow spun the wolf around, and placed the end of Wolfy’s long snout gently into his cavernous mouth, and breathed air into Wolfy! As quick as that happened, Wolfy was spun around again, and they continued the dive.

Brother Wolf could never say how long they dove, nor exactly where they went. But they would go thru vast forests of kelp,and over mountains of rock and sand, and encountered the most magical of sea creatures along the way. Wolfy actually didn’t even think of breathing much, he was so relaxed and entranced. “Remember Brother Wolfy, you must trust yourself to see the right of it, and the wrong of it, and decide then where is the best place for you to go” the bear buzzed.

At some point, in some place, in the depths of the Sea of Everything That Is Possible, Wolfy wondered if what he was seeing was real, or imagined? “Ha!” Brother Bear rumbled, “There are many realities, and not just the ones we see now. Perhaps best to think of it as narrowing the probabilities of what could be. And as we swim closer to it, and it to us, into what is. There are many places that you must not go to yet. And even things that you must unsee just as you see them. To do otherwise is madness, and pain and death.”

Just then the water turned quite cold, and very dark, and all Wolfy could see was a paper thin ribbon sliding sinuously in the current, glowing like an ember of a fire. As he turned towards it, he felt Brother Bear getting anxious, and restless. “No! You must avoid that one at all costs little brother, it is the deep devourer, and it’s magic is ancient and deadly!” As soon as the ribbon turned, Wolfy thought that the ribbon grew fatter, and a pair of black, ominous eyes stared at them. “Now! Unsee this monster and see another way out, before it sees us!” Wolfy felt Brother Bear’s fear, as the grotesque lamprey like creature, covered with warts and bumps, swam  determinedly toward them. Wolfy started to panic, and wasn’t certain where to go, so he started going up, to break the surface and return to the safety of the beach. As Wolfy was striving to go topside, his right knee was suddenly pierced by a million wasp stings, and he felt a shudder thru his entire body! Wolfy kept aiming ever upward, unaware that they were so deep, and he felt a sickly poison enter his joint just as they crashed the surface.  But not the surface where they had dove, this was some place entirely different! This sandy beach was littered with bones, and colored grey, and the air had a foul stench as if Death itself squatted there.

Brother Bear quickly disengaged from Wolfy and tossed him up the beach and out of the water, as if Wolfy were no more than a wet towel. But still, at his knee was the repulsive creature, with a thousand needle sharp teeth, attached to his knee, and oh the Godz it hurt!! Brother Bear was running on all fours, and somehow getting larger and larger with each step. When the mountain sized bear was towering over Wolfy, who was lying on the beach, trying to bite the Body Sucker off his leg, Brother Bear stood on his two hind legs, each now the size of a giant oak tree trunk, and lifted his massive head to open a mouth that was the size of a huge cavern. When he spoke his words filled the sky “YOU WILL NOT HAVE THIS LITTLE ONE YOU EVIL BEAST OF CHAOS AND ENTROPY!!”

Wolfy felt a slow, icy paralysis seeping into his leg, and then noticed that not only was the beach grey, and all the bones grey, but so was the sky and sun? Yet he could hardly keep his head raised so weak was he. Then he heard a cracking, a tearing voice from the thing attached to his leg, and when it spoke he felt as if he was being turned inside out. “This one is mine! Mine to claim, mine to clean, mine to keep!” Hissed the parasitic lamprey, which was also grey, with grey, hideous eyes, and evil oozed from it’s breath. “NO!” roared the bear, as if to shake the trees loose from their roots and topple them over. “THIS LITTLE ONE IS NOT TO BE CLAIMED BY ANY SUCH AS YOU! YOU HAVE TRANSGRESSED BEYOND YOUR DOMAIN! YOU HAVE UPSET THE BALANCE OF THE EQUATION AND I WILL BE YOUR UNDOING!” the mountainous bear brought down his head, and when he exhaled, tornadoes spun from his nose, and a hurricane from his mouth. The ugly lamprey merely smirked and when it spoke, again was the cracking, tearing sound as if to rend the Multiverse itself, and Wolfy, who was sapped of energy, and starting to turn as grey as the beach and sky felt the weirding inside of himself. “You circus reject, you wanna be Animal Cracker” it hissed. “What gives you the power to make a decision over me? You know nothing of what I represent, or what I can do. You puny form is as transparent as this helpless cur on which I denominate.”

“CUR HE MAY BE, BUT HELPLESS HE IS NOT! I AM HIS PROTECTION, AND I WILL BALANCE THE ANCIENT EQUATION AGAIN YOU VILE MISPLACED GEOMETRY OF HELL!” Brother Bear beat his paws, that were the size of boulders, into the creature as he spoke, and dug deep, deep into the ancient language of the Godz. “Ah... here it is, your undoing. The very complexity that you think makes you so chaotic and terrible, is where your trust is misplaced.” The bear whispered. “You don’t know me, you unbalanced form without function. It always this way with your kind, seeking to prey upon that which is balanced and holy and good. Prey you upon this then” At which the bear neatly snipped the heart out of the body sucker, and with one infinitely tiny, yet sharp, claw, popped it like a balloon. Wolfy was certainly delirious as he saw and heard this because it looked and sounded like a million, million different insects with a million, million different kinds of wings all abruptly shot into a million, million different universes, and the body sucker started to deflate. As the repulsive beast was flattening, Wolfy felt, rather than heard, a sigh, as if this conclusion was inevitable.   He somehow knew that a certain celestial balance had been restored. but that was all he knew as he finally rested his head on the sand.

Sometime later Brother Wolfy looked around, and saw that he was no longer grey, and that the beach sand was indeed a sandy color again. Not sure what to make of that, he was just so tired and in pain that he felt as if maybe he should just die here? “No Brother Wolfy, I didn’t save you just to have you die comfortably” said a greatly reduced Brother Bear. “In fact, now I need you to return the favor. You see, I simply don’t have the strength to swim us back home, or for any length as far as that goes”. The bear seemed so small now, as if it was merely a cub. Wolfy gazed at the bear in wonderment,  and the small bear soon curled into Wolfy’s tummy and fell fast asleep. Wolfy kicked out his right leg, and slung the shriveled body sucker off his knee, and onto the beach. The creature continued to  implode, and finally became smoke, and then was no more. Wolfy eased into using his leg, and found that even though his knee was quite sore, he could walk, and even scamper a bit just fine. So... what to do with sleeping Brother Bear, and how to get back to Urth? Wolfy realized then and there that what Brother Bear had said was the right of it “Trust in yourself, little Brother. That is where the real magic is, not in your eyes, or in my nose, but in our hearts”.

So, Brother Wolfy did the only thing he could, he took the small bear by the scruff of the neck, and holding a paw over the bear’s nose, slipped into the Sea of Everything That Is Possible and saw his way back home. It is, of course, impossible to say if that dive took a minute, or an hour, or a day. It might have taken each of these, and none of those. All Wolfy knew was that at some point, he knew just where to turn, and when to go faster, and when to go slower, and when they were back on their beach, on Urth.

How strange, reflected Brother Wolfy as he tenderly laid the still sleeping form of Brother Bear on the warm sand. It looks as if Father Sun and Daughter Sky are still doing the Dance of the Midday? How long have we been gone? Where did we go? what really happened to us?

“All good questions my little brother”, said a yawning Brother Bear, as he sat up to his normal height, and scratching his normal, large sized belly. “But the real answer is that you trusted in yourself. That is where the bestest magic that ever has been, and always will be, is.” And with that Brother Bear stood up on all fours again, shook his fur from front to back and sniffed the air. “Why is that salmon I smell?” he asked. Whereupon Brother Wolfy gazed just under the surface of the Inland Sea,  and saw the possibility of salmon swimming in.

With apologies, and love,  to Neil Gaiman, I liberated your Ocean at the End of the Lane.