Authors: Leonard Kirke
Tags: #alive, #bittersweet, #burger, #burgers, #chemical, #chemicals, #comedy, #dead, #death, #dog, #drama, #fast food, #fox, #funny, #ghosts, #Grim Reaper, #hamburger, #happiness, #humor, #joy, #Kafka, #Kierkegaard, #laugh, #life, #living, #Lynch, #magic, #mystery, #opossum, #philosophy, #possum, #racoon, #sadness, #scare, #scary, #skunk, #spirit, #spirituality, #wonder
The three animals were hunkered down behind the trunk of a
massive tree, growing alone a short distance from the road. They were breathing
"How could he see us?! How?! We're ghosts! People don't
see ghosts!" said the Skunk, still in a panic.
"Calm down," the Dog said, not much calmer than
she was, "is he still behind us?"
The Possum took a peek around the right side of the tree.
"I don't see him."
"How could he see us?! He's just a human!" The
Skunk was hysterical. "We're ghosts! What could he want with us,
"QUIET!" the Dog demanded. "He'll hear you!
Listen, we need to figure out our situation. We can't just keep wandering around
with this guy chasing us. We don't know who, or what else, might come after us,
or what might be after us already. We need answers about who we are, where we
are and why we're here."
"Or," suggested the Possum, "we just need to
book it to
. Come on, let's haul a-"
A gasp from the Skunk cut him off.
"Hey! Don't swear!"
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Because..." she answered, trying to find the
right way to explain, "swearing is bad! Bad words!"
"Bad how? Socially unacceptable, maybe, but under the
"Would you two be quiet?!" the Dog cut in.
"We need to think!"
"Maybe it's just a coincidence..." suggested the
"What?" the Dog was confused.
"Maybe he wasn't chasing us. Maybe there were some
living animals behind us that we just didn't see."
"Oh yeah," said the Possum sarcastically,
"right. Maybe they were INVISIBLE animals. You know, like we'll be
eventually, if we don't get to Stub-"
Suddenly, a voice from nearby interrupted him.
"GET IN HERE! NOW!" It was the Raccoon, popping
his head out of the thicket on the very edge of the forest.
"Hey, it's you!" exclaimed the Dog, surprised.
"What's the problem?"
The Raccoon pointed behind the huge tree where the three of
them were hiding. The Possum peeked behind the right side of the tree again,
with the Dog and Skunk leaning over behind him to try and get their own view.
"There's nobody there!" yelled the Skunk to the
Raccoon, "What's your
Suddenly, the man in the hood appeared from around the left
side of the tree. Without time to react, the Skunk was caught up in his
noose-like device. The Possum and Dog had already begun to run away but, seeing
the Skunk in trouble, the Dog ran back. Growling, he bit the handle of the
device, yanking it away from the hooded man. After a brief struggle, the Dog
managed to loosen the rope around the Skunk's neck. They retreated into the
forest together, where the Possum and Raccoon had already fled.
Once again, the Dog, Skunk and Possum were all left panting
and exhausted, leaning against the trunk of another huge tree. The Raccoon sat
nearby, casually eating a banana.
"You...you saved me!" the Skunk was in awe.
"I just...well, you know...I couldn't..." the Dog
was embarrassed by the Skunk's adulation and had trouble finding the right
words, "I couldn't let you...you know."
the Skunk squealed, throwing her paws around
the Dog and giving him a tight hug.
"That's okay...you don't have to...that's okay..."
The Dog wasn't very comfortable with all the hugging.
"So!" exclaimed the Possum as he turned to the
Raccoon, "I thought you were going to go at your own pace? I didn't think
you wanted to join us?"
"Actually," replied the Raccoon, "I WAS going
at my own pace. At least I was until the kook with the noose and the big van
came after me. I ran into the forest and tracked you guys down. You know, in
case what's-his-face showed up, I could warn you. He can't get us in
"How do you know that?" the Possum asked.
"Logic. He seemed pretty reluctant to follow me in, so
I'm guessing he won't enter the forest for some reason."
"So what do we do now?" asked the Skunk.
"I still think we need to figure ourselves out,"
said the Dog. "That guy might come back, or something else might happen.
"Dude," said the Possum, "I thought we
weren't going to worry about the "Why?" and just live in the
"We can still do that," the Dog replied, "I'm
not saying we shouldn't keep going for burgers. In fact, my memory of that
is the only solid clue we have to who any of us
used to be, or where we might have come from. It's the only familiar place any
of us know how to reach. I'm just saying we ought to keep our minds open and
see if we can't figure anything out about ourselves. Maybe the
will trigger more memories."
"The unexamined life is not worth living, eh?"
said the Raccoon.
"Is that a quote?" asked the Skunk.
"I think so. Plato, right?" asked the Possum.
"I think it's Socrates," said the Skunk.
"It is Socrates," said the Raccoon.
"Are you sure it isn't Plato? Isn't Socrates a
fictional character?" the Possum asked. "Didn't Plato write about
Socrates in a bunch of novels or something?"
"No!" replied the Raccoon. "I mean, there is
some speculation about the historical existence of Socrates, but NOVELS? You're
way off! Socrates was-"
"QUIET!" the Dog shouted. "This isn't
"Yelling isn't nice..." the Skunk was offended.
"We were just having a conversation."
"I'm sorry. I just think that discussing historical
figures isn't the best way for us to spend our time..."
"You want to discuss something more applicable to our
present situation, then?" asked the Raccoon.
"In other words, you want us to find the truth that is
true for us, the idea for which we can live and die?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess..."
"Who said that?" asked the Possum.
"Kierkegaard," the Raccoon replied.
"Isn't Kierkegaard where Vikings go when they
die?" asked the Skunk.
Raccoon replied, "totally different
"STOP IT!" yelled the Dog.
"Sorry," said the Skunk, ashamed.
"I have an idea," said the Dog.
"And that is...?" wondered the Raccoon.
"We should pray."
Everyone stared at the Dog, dumbfounded, except for the
Skunk, who seemed somehow reassured by the suggestion.
"PRAY?!" exclaimed the Raccoon. "Listen, if
there is a God, I doubt he is very interested in us, considering he's left us
out here without any explanation." He motioned towards the Possum.
"It's like he said earlier, a human life has no coherency. Why should this
life...afterlife...whatever it is we're experiencing right now, why should this
be any different?"
"Hold up," the Possum interrupted, "how do
you know what I said earlier?"
"Yeah!" agreed the Skunk.
"I told you, I followed along in secret in case that
guy showed up..."
"EAVESDROPPER!" the Skunk shouted accusatorily.
The Possum snickered.
"We're losing focus here, people!" The Dog tried
to regain some order and focus. "Now, are you going to pray with me or
"Well, it's not really my thing," confessed the
Possum, "but what have we got to lose?"
"Exactly! We need to do SOMETHING!"
"Fine," the Raccoon accepted the idea grudgingly.
"Will you be leading us in this prayer, then, Father?"
The Dog obviously didn't appreciate the sarcasm. He wanted
to tackle this project with sincerity all around.
"Yes, okay, I will. Bow your heads." The others
knelt and bowed and closed their eyes. "Okay. Um. Alright. Dear
"That doesn't sound very reverent," the Raccoon
said critically. The Dog shot him an angry glare before continuing.
"Almighty God, Master of the Universe, Lord of all
things! We need...help. Direction, specifically. We are ghosts, and we're lost,
and we don't know what to do with ourselves, aside from going to eat a burger.
We kind of figured that if we died we'd go to Heaven or reincarnate or
something but we're pretty much at square one here, so if you could please send
us some kind of direction, we would really appreciate it."
The Raccoon coughed derisively.
"WE WOULD BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO YOU FOR YOUR INFINITE,
UNWAVERING MERCY. AMEN!"
"That was a really nice prayer!" the Skunk assured
"Thanks...I just hope that God heard it."
"If he exists," added the Possum.
"Well, hopefully somebody or something out there is
omnipotent, and benevolent, and will be able to help."
"Aliens, maybe," the Raccoon suggested, not very
seriously. The Dog was annoyed at his continued sarcasm. Given their
predicament, skepticism seemed like the least-helpful approach to take.
"Yeah, well, I'd be grateful for just about any kind of
help now. Come on, guys, we need to get moving..."
Suddenly, a mysterious voice began to speak. It seemed to
the four animals that it was coming from everywhere around them, as if the
forest itself was speaking to them.
"I can offer information." The voice spoke
matter-of-factly. It echoed with an ethereal quality, deep and clear, but none
of them could tell where it was coming from.
As it spoke, a mist began to form around the animals, and the canopy of
the forest above them seemed to glow faintly.
"W-w-what was that?" the Dog stuttered. "Did
everybody hear that?!"
"Maybe it was God!" said the Skunk excitedly.
"I am not God," the voice said.
"Are you an angel?" the Skunk asked hopefully.
"A...devil?" The Skunk was becoming quite
"Then...what are you?"
Nearby, the mist thickened in a certain spot, and slowly
this mist began to form itself into the humongous, cloudy white figure of a
"I am what you are."
The Dog herded the other three behind him, taking a
"What do you want?" the Dog stammered. "Are
you...answering our prayer?"
"Yes," the Fox replied, "to the best of my
"Do you...often answer prayers?" the Dog asked
"When I hear them, and am able to answer them."
"Do you hear them often?"
"No. This is the only time that it has ever
"Oh," the Dog felt somewhat assured by this for
some reason, "so how can you help us?"
"As I said, I can offer you information."
"And what would that be?"
"The food left on the doorsteps made you fade
"See!" the Raccoon spoke up, "I warned
"The food you seek delays the fade," continued the
Fox, "so the more you eat, the longer the delay."
"Yes," the Fox answered, "it is unique in the
"It tastes like all the other fast food crap to
me..." said the Raccoon.
"It is unique because of the effect of delaying the
fading of spirits."
"Tell us," said the Dog, "why are we
"You are here," answered the Fox, "because
you traveled here."
"No, I mean like...existentially. Why are we ghosts? Is
there anything more to the afterlife than wandering around?"
"I do not know why some spirits are left to wander. I
have experienced no other fate, and I have only met those who have as well. I
can only warn you of your choices."
"If you continually eat the food you seek, you will not
fade from this world. However, without it, you will all eventually fade. You
may also choose to eat the food left at the houses to quicken the fade. If you
keep yourselves from fading, you will never know what lies beyond. If you fade,
you will face an unknown fate."
-" the Raccoon
blurted out, before being cut off by a disapproving "
from the Skunk.
"You may leave this forest once," the Fox
continued. "If you return to it, you will not be able to leave it. You
will become a part of it, and tied to it. The forest is many. It has many eyes.
It knows many things."
As the Fox spoke, the animals watched in awe as the canopy
of the forest above them suddenly formed a multitude of disembodied eyes within
the thick of the leaves. The Skunk, frightened, let out a tiny scream and hid
behind the Dog. Then, the green drained out of the leaves, forming a massive
arm that descended to the ground near them, scooping up a large handful of
dirt, which was then left to sift through the fingers like sand dropping slowly
through an hourglass.
The colorless leaves began to glow with unnatural hues,
changing slowly like fiber-optic Christmas tree lights. The animals watched as
figures appeared around them in the forest, transparent like them but not
glowing. Time became strange; as each scene played out, it seemed to be in real
time, but as soon as it was over it was difficult to remember, as if it had
happened much too quickly, or much too long ago. An old man and a child taking
a walk in the woods went by. A man and a woman carved their initials into a
far-off tree, and then kissed. Squirrels stored acorns on a branch high above
them. A wildcat went prowling.
A man dragged a large bag into the woods and began digging.
Another large, light green hand reached down from the leaves and grasped for
him and he ran. The voice of a woman could be heard, calling out after him; the
lilting nature of her voice was betrayed by the ghastly accusations she hurled
at the man. She said strange things, some in a strange language, before
whispering "...the forest knows, the forest sees you..." and fading
away to silence.
When the dirt in the palm of the massive hand had nearly all
fallen to the ground, the green drained from it and returned to the trees,
ending the constant multi-colored glow. Then the form of the hand itself gently
crumbled into the dirt and fell to the ground. Everything had gone back to
normal. The Fox resumed his speech.
"See all that it can do. It knows the secrets of those
who pass through it. The only other fate open to you is capture. Avoid it, that
is what I advise. This is all that I know."
As the Fox concluded, his head began to slowly spin
clockwise around his neck. The eyes of the Fox, glowing a dim yellow, began to
flicker out, like the headlights of a car with a dying battery. Mist began to
surround the massive white form of the spirit, covering it more and more, and
finally, when the Fox himself was no longer visible, the mist dispersed and the
Fox was gone.
For a while, the animals sat in stunned silence.
"It's just one of those days," the Possum said at
"What kind of day are you talking about?" asked
"You know. One of THOSE days."
"What do you guys want to do?" asked the Dog.
"Should we just let it happen? Should we just fade?"
"I don't know..." the Skunk answered in a confused
and miserable voice.
"It sounds pretty much inevitable," said the
Possum. "I don't know about you, but I'm not leaving this earth without
one last Stubby Burger. Who's with me?"
The other three animals looked at each other and, after a
moment's consideration, nodded in agreement. Determined to resume their
original course, they headed back towards the edge of the forest.