There is a time called “Once Upon”, in which there is not measure, no number, no marking of passage, no specific order. It is a universe all to itself, with its own rules and we cannot impose upon it anything from this world. Scientists are mystified by it, theologians laud it, but ultimately know nothing about it. Physicists secretly relish it and attempt to achieve it with their theories, but they are still far distant from the poets and mystics , who visit it frequently, and give us only snapshots of the wide pallet of colors and ideas that exist there.
In that place were pigs. I am sure there are many, but I will be speaking of only three. They are called “little” but that is only the case in comparison with the enormous hogs of twentieth century United States. The fact is, for Once Upon, these pigs were pleasantly average, well-mannered and interesting to speak to. Not minuscule in any sense: size, intellect or hope. Especially hope. Their hope was powerful and full of wisdom and strength, gracious and without end. The direction of their hope is this: that they might live safely, with security and peace all the days of their lives. They would like wives and children, perhaps multiple of each (please remember they are pigs), but they were unready to even consider such luxuries. First, they needed a life of security in which wives and children could be placed.
And so, although they were brothers, they wandered apart from each other to seek where security could be found. They did not intend to wander to different nations, but only within a day’s walk of each other, for in their wisdom they knew that security is best found in numbers. Yet, they also knew that wives and children would demand independence, so they kept a fair distance from each other. And, in the end, intentions are not reality.
The first pigs name was Prime, which was not a name at all, but simple a designation of birth. Birth is often a mockery, however, and Prime’s fortune was ill found. He came across a farmer who was getting rid of a huge pile of straw, and he called out to the pig: “If you wish, I would gladly pay you to carry away this straw.”
The pig thought for a moment and realized that while straw makes a piss-poor shelter, but shelter it is, and it might be enough to bundle stacks together, make a frame, place loose straw upon it and so make a house. The pig was about to accept the farmer’s offer, when he remembered to inspect the straw before accepting it. He dug into it, and sniffed it and realized that it was full of the most foul-smelling stench-mold he had ever smelled.
“How much would you pay for me to carry it away?” he asked.
“Well enough,” said the farmer slyly.
“I fear I have no cart in which to carry it.”
“No worries, I’d be happy for you to take this wood cart here, and if you should carry it back, I would very much appreciate it.”
“If I took it, I would surely bring it back, for what would I do with it otherwise?” Prime was a pig full of integrity.
“Well, then, have we a bargain?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Prime. He collected the cart, took a number of hours piling the straw upon the cart and approached the farmer for his pay. The farmer gave him three gold coins, which seemed like a more than fair price for his labor, so he then pulled it himself toward the dump site.
At the dump site, he unloaded the straw, breathing in the noxious fumes for the second time that day, and then, finally finished, he walked away from the pile. A man ran after him, saying, “Good sir, where are you going?”
He said, “I have finished my labor and must return this cart.”
“But you must first pay the dump fee.”
“Oh, I had no idea there was a dump fee. This is an empty field, and it looked as though dumping were free for there was no sign posted otherwise.”
“Sorry, this is a government field, and you can’t just do as you please with government land.”
“Ah, well, how much is the fee?”
“Three gold coins.”
“But this is all I have!”
“Of course not, sir, you also have that cart.”
“No, I don’t! I have to return the cart to the farmer who loaned it to me. “
“I am sorry, sir, but that is the fee.”
So he handed over the three coins. He returned the cart to the farmer, by night, for he did not want to face the man in case he knew of the fee and so had cheated him of his labor.
Prime walked on, and found he had a cough. He coughed more and more, and soon he found himself unable to walk. Kindly Old Woman passed by, and offered him a ride to the local clinic on her ass. (Don’t be crude by thinking that. You know I meant “donkey”, but “ass” is more old-timey.) There he was diagnosed with Black Lung, for which there was no cure.
He received a grant from the government to pay for housing. As he arrived at the housing department, they looked at his voucher through slit eyes as though he were a thief and said, “You are granted field 2547 as an allotment for housing.”
Prime coughs and says, “Is there shelter there?”
They reply, “On every allotted field are the materials to make housing. You must build it yourself, for this is an opportunity, not a handout.”
They give Prime a map to Field 2547 and as he arrived, he saw that he was granted the very same pile of straw for housing that had given him his illness, not moved even an inch from the spot he had labored so hard to place it.
He slept as far away from the pile of straw as he could, but it rained hard that night, so the next day, with soaking clothes, he determined to make a shelter out of the straw. He used his initial plan, making thin bundles of the straw, creating the frame of a house and then covering it with the loose straw he had left over. That night he slept with some ease.
The next day, the Wolf came.
He is called “wolf” only as a formality. He had no teeth, no fur, no legs. Rather, he was a deep, dark cloud, ever swirling, ever blowing, ever creating a vortex which has no end. He travels from land to land in Once Upon, never stopping, always existing, always creating harm from nothing, and causing all to descend into nothing.
The Wolf, in his travels, came by Prime’s house, surrounded it and whispered with his voice of thunder and hurricane, “I AM THE WOLF, LITTLE PIG. AND YOU WILL LET ME IN.”
The pig shivered in his damp clothes, and replied, “I would really prefer not.”
The Wolf replied, “I AM THE VORTEX. I AM THE FEAR WHICH NO ONE ESCAPES. I AM THE POWER OF THE END. YOU CANNOT AVOID ME. CHAOS AND DEATH FOLLOW ME IN MY WAKE. BREATHE IN, LITTLE PIG, AND KNOW THAT MY DARKNESS DESCENDS.”
“I know of you, Mr. Wolf, and I tremble before you. Should you pass by my house, I shall worship you and you shall be my god and I will do as you say.”
“WHAT CARE I FOR WORSHIP? I AM THE DEVOURER. I ONLY CARE FOR YOU AS THE TINY MORSEL YOU ARE. NOW I DESCEND.” And with the merest breath the Wolf swallowed up the straw and it descended into the emptiness.
Prime, however, was wise, and during Wolf’s last, slow speech, he slipped under a straw wall and hid behind a stone, large enough to shelter him from the swirling chaos. As Wolf was satisfied with his tiny meal, he passed by and traveled to another land. Prime, meanwhile, coughing horribly, traveled back toward his home town.