Over the past many weeks, my husband and I have slipped into an odd routine. When we eat dinner, we turn on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to watch while we have dinner. We've just recently slipped over to season five, and the second episode, "Darmok," which was all about an alien species that communicated only through allusion and metaphor.
It's fitting, given this next story, and reminded me again of how easy it is to forget the lack of shared experience when you're writing (or talking or just living your life). Yesterday's fun post was a piece of that - I think I hit a dozen people asking me what a loonie was over the last few days. It's fun to find those little differences and then go hunting for the answer.
When it comes to the wide variety of mythology out there, from countless cultures, there's ample and fertile ground for fiction to find seed. If by reading a tale that touches on a mythology with which you're not particularly familiar, all the better - you get to learn something.
"The Bunny of Vengeance and the Bear of Death," by Eugie Foster
Mortal Clay, Stone Heart, and Other Stories in Shades of Black and White was unfortunately introduced to me via Foster's blog where she speaks to having been diagnosed with cancer and being afraid of the incoming bills for treatment, but I'll take the joy where I can find it: these stories are wonderful.
This story in particular follows Rabbit and Bear - Rabbit as the Spirit of Words and Vengeance, and Bear as the Spirit of Reason and Death - as Bear comes down to stop Rabbit from his plan of bringing more vengeance to the world. In a prison, they watch Rabbit's work while a horrific man is beaten to death by other prisoners, and then Bear asks Rabbit to watch this man's life over again, and made a kind of wager with him.
If Bear can bring death to this man's life in a way that changes Rabbit's mind, Rabbit is to leave the world of man - and take his vengeance with him. But if Rabbit is unmoved, then Bear will join Rabbit and bring death and vengeance to those who deserve it.
Unsurprisingly, Foster spins a tale that treads the edge between something dark and something almost chirpily full of vim - something I'm starting to expect from her writing - and the end result is bittersweet and finely crafted. The reader's journey with Bear and Rabbit is a slow ratcheting of tension and the sense that worse is yet to come, but the denouement is done with a few gentle strokes near the end, even if the message is not one overly uplifting.