Dec 152011
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

The Wolf and the Three Wise Monkeys
by Hal Duncan

Once upon a time, there was a Big Bad Wolf, a cultivated guy, top hat and tails, but a bit of a cad, a cur, a bounder, not a bad sort per se, but of dubious scruples and instatiable appetites, a propensity for exotic narcotics and avante garde Swedish art magazines featuring young male cyclists in sundry stages of undress. He came to me, he did, in the bathroom mirror one day, saying, Where the fuck’s my fairy story, scribbler?

Snickety-sharp teeth aglint in his grin, eyes of steel, he was switchblade, poetry, fury. What was I to do?

So I began: Twice upon a time, I said — since we’re starting again — there were three wise monkeys. Tom, Dick and Harry, Larry, Curly and Moe, what they were called… we dunno. Let’s call them See-No, Hear-No and Speak-No, the Brothers Evil, Esquire. A fraternity of swine, they were, unholy trinity of primal primate power-mongering, living lavish on their spoils of class war. They’d left their mother long ago, gone out into the world to make their fortune and fame, make a name to be spoken with awe. They built houses in the forests of Fantasia.

The first wise monkey built his house out of money, a papier-mache palace of five pound notes, no windows, so that everywhere he looked he saw the wonders of his wealth, blue notes layered and lacquered smooth to a mockery of marbling, balustraded balconies, broad steps sweeping down from a mezzanine to a ballroom with a bar fully stocked, bottles of every beverage you might name and then some. Blood of the indebted. Tears of the bereaved.

Alone in luxury, gaze caged in the grandeur of his greed, he drank.

It was beautiful. While he could still see it.

Enter the Big Bad Wolf.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin, says the monkey. Or chest and back, whole body really.

Couldn’t shave, you see, that monkey, lost his eyes in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, and that house of money caved, came crashing down on the sophisticated simian. The wolf hauled him from the ruins, ripped his throat out, tore open his soft underbelly, feasted on his innards.

Second wise monkey built his house out of bibles, thick leatherbound tomes of scripture inscribed on illuminated calf-skin. Closed and sealed, of course, the books mere building blocks of walls to muffle the sounds of the material world beyond. A vast cathedral of catechisms was mere vestibule to a mansion temple, a monastery tower of myth and morals.

— My father’s house has many rooms, he’d say, when visitors questioned the sheer scale of this city of the soul, when he still heard the questions. My father’s house has many rooms; I’ve got to measure up to him, you know.

Big Bad Wolf strides up, proud citizen of Sodom.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— What? says the monkey.

— Fucking let me in, kiddy-fiddler, says the Big Bad Wolf. Or —

— I can’t hear you, says the monkey, eardrums sealed with candlewax to mute all dissent.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, and that house of bibles fell as Babel, down upon the pious primate. The wolf hauled him from the ruins, ripped his throat out, tore open his soft underbelly, feasted on his innards.

Third wise monkey built his house out of bones, skulls of civilians slaughtered in airstrikes on foreign soil, fibias dug from mass graves of genocide, femurs of cannon-fodder carnage and collateral damage, vertebrae and ribs cemented in human glue, a fortress ossiary.

Squat and circular, the bunker of bone sat as a crypt, ash grey as concrete, filmed with the dust of death, only a few dark slits to let the light in, and a chimney belching black smoke, filling the forest with a stench of burning plastc, roast pork.

Many found it unspeakable. Not least the wise monkey.

Behold, the Big Bad Bhagavad Wolf, devourer of worlds.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— Aaaa, says the monkey.

— What? says the wolf.

— Aaaa, says the monkey, his tongue hacked out so no tribunal could make him talk of terror and torture.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, but that house of bones stood solid as a skull, the military monkey secure inside. He huffed and he puffed but that house stood steadfast and silent — monolith, monument, mausoleum.

— Fuck this, said the Big Bad Wolf.

So the Big Bad Wolf climbed onto the roof, to the chimney. Inside, the monkey was shovelling filleted flesh into the furnace when a stream of piss drenched the flames. And the wolf dropped down into sizzling, smoking embers.

Big Bad hauled that monkey from the ruins of flesh he hid in. Throat, soft underbelly, innards, you know the score. Found the monkey’s tongue, yanno, pickled in a jar on the mantelpiece, wears it round his neck to this day. Everywhere he goes it tells the atrocities it knows, to all who’ll listen.

And they all live happily ever after.

What’s the moral to this story? Is there a moral to this story? I don’t know. I just made it up one day, when the Big Bad Wolf came knocking at my door.

— Let me in, let me in, he said.

— Sure, I said, and there he was in the bathroom mirror, snickety-sharp teeth and eyes of silver. Tongue round his neck.

— Where the fuck’s my fairy story, scribbler?

So I gave him one.

— Cool yarn, said the wolf. Little preachy perhaps, but I liked it. Now… tell me the one about the Wolf and the Seven Little Archangels.

Hal Duncan was born in 1971, brought up in a small town in Ayrshire, and now lives in the West End of Glasgow. A member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle, his first novel, VELLUM, won the Spectrum Award and was nominated for the Crawford, the BFS Award and the World Fantasy Award. As well as the sequel, INK, he has published a poetry collection, SONNETS FOR ORPHEUS, a stand-alone novella, ESCAPE FROM HELL!, and various short stories in magazines such as Fantasy, Strange Horizons and Interzone, and anthologies such as NOVA SCOTIA, LOGORRHEA, and PAPER CITIES. He also collaborated with Scottish band Aereogramme on the song “If You Love Me, You’d Destroy Me” for the Ballads of the Book album from Chemikal Underground. His current proudest achivement however is the upcoming staging of his “gay punk Orpheus” musical, NOWHERE TOWN by University of Chicago Theater Group. He blogs at Notes from the Geek Show.

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