Love Letters to Earth

by Henry Quicke









The Fachee believe that during the great flood, which lasted thousands of years, fish were the undisputed rulers of the earth.  Of course, the ruler of the earth is nothing compared to Wah, the ruler of the sky, who can cause the world to flood or dry up on a whim.  So after a long period of rule, the fish became jealous of Wah’s power and complained to Wah.  “What good is ruling the earth if we can be dethroned on a whim?”

“Good point!” said Wah, who with a single wag of his finger then withdrew the floodwaters and with them the fish’s power.  Wah decided that in order to keep the creatures of the earth appreciative, or at least uncomplaining, he would keep them occupied in a permanent state of battle.  So he invented a wide variety of creatures and set them loose upon the earth, explaining to them that a contest had been declared and that the winner would have complete control over the earth and would answer only to Wah.  He relegated the fish to the lowest ranks of the animals.

The Fachee are high up the food chain, but they take their battle just as seriously as the other animals.  They know the stakes are high; the smallest error could result in their subjugation to a junta of skunks.

These are the warrior traits the Fachee believe are in their favor: they are, on average, more intelligent than most creatures, which allows them to coordinate complex battle plans; their voices, on average, have a greater tonal range than other creatures, so that their communications on the battlefield are more finely tuned with meaning; they are better, on average, at throwing things (rocks, spears, arrows from bows), far better than their closest throwing rival, the eagle, whose bombs are rarely accurate and damage little more than pride.

These are their weaknesses: they have dull and quickly-decaying teeth, bad for jaw-to-jaw combat and a sometimes painful distraction in the heat of battle; their two-legged gait is slow and somewhat awkward, so that most four-legged creatures could overtake them in a retreat, laughing at the human awkwardness as they stretch their jaws out to nip the skin off a Fachee’s ankles; they have no fur, so they must hunt other animals to steal their skins; they sometimes act against their better judgment, proceeding rashly into battle, or challenging a much larger animal out of pride alone; and their children have a tendency to wander off.

Wah gave each species of animals its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so that no one animal has the clear upper hand.  The grizzly, the Fachees’ most frightening rival, is strong and intelligent, but is a poor thrower and has such a weakness for fish that a man with a rock can sneak up on and fell a fishing grizzly with a single well-aimed throw.

The Fachee are boastful about their victories and use every opportunity to fortify each other with pride.  When they hunt down a deer and kill it with a single arrow they say, “Look at that, could a grizzly have done that?”

“No,” someone will respond, “we are clearly superior to grizzlies.”

At dinner, the women will make a thick and flavorful stew with the venison, and they’ll say, “Taste this stew.  Could a squirrel have made that?”

“No,” is the correct response, “we are clearly superior to squirrels.”

To an outsider, such talk makes the Fachee sound insecure.  But the Fachee don’t live in big cities where they can go to the zoo and see animals in cages or walled compounds.  They don’t walk out of their apartment buildings and find dogs and pigeons begging them for scraps of food.  They have to find other ways to reinforce a sense of natural superiority.

One might expect that with so much at stake, the Fachee would slaughter animals indiscriminately.  But the Fachee don’t underestimate their foes.  They believe that an all-out slaughter would cause many species of animals to ally against them, and the Fachee, as boastful as they are, know they would not stand a chance in a one-against-all battle, even with superior intelligence and throwing ability.  Instead, the battle is fought mainly in skirmishes--five Fachee meet up with an angry bear, or a pair of eagles dive-bombs a stray Fachee child.  At this rate, the battle might take thousands of years to win, but the Fachee are long-term thinkers, and in the meantime, the world remains in relative balance, no species ever gaining a clear advantage.  The lives of the Fachee maintain the weighty sense of purpose that comes with dedication to a cause, while their occasional victories help reassure them that they are making progress.

Only once have the Fachee singled out another species for annihilation.  It began one day when a woman awoke in the village to find a pair of groundhogs plundering last night’s leftovers.

“Get out of here, you bastard groundhogs,” she said, in the usual way that Fachees will try to put down other creatures.  Such intrusions had happened before, but this was right outside the woman’s tent, so the insult rankled her.  She sent her son to follow the groundhogs and teach them a lesson--beat them with a switch, maybe, or throw dirt in their holes.  When the son returned, he was shaking with fear.

“Mother, they have surrounded us,” he said, claiming to have found nests of groundhogs ringing the village.  A council of elders was called and a state of emergency declared.  Scouts were commissioned to scope out the extent of the siege.  The elders believed that the groundhogs’ plan was to steal all the Fachees’ food and starve them into submission.  Many feared that if the Fachees didn’t submit, the groundhogs planned to sneak into their tents and dig their oversized teeth into the napes of the their necks.  Something had to be done.

A war party was formed, and the party fanned out through the woods, chasing, digging up, and spearing every groundhog they could get their hands on.  They stalked and ambushed them.  They formed circles and chased them inward, tightening the noose on the swift and slippery but not very bright animals, until they had trapped and slaughtered as many as they could find.  The carnage lasted three days and nights, and no one could sleep until the battle was won.

And then, when the elders were satisfied that the Fachee had proved their superiority and taught the groundhogs a lesson, they instructed the war party to capture the last two groundhogs alive, one male and one female.  The frightened and defeated creatures were brought before the elders.

“You have once again proved to us your foolish and inferior nature,” said the elders to the groundhogs.  “And we, as usual, have shown ourselves to be stronger, more intelligent, and better communicators than you.  You were courageous warriors to have surrounded and besieged our village without our knowledge, but that, as you see, was not enough.”

The groundhogs, either out of fear or disdain, turned their faces from the elders and tried to squeeze themselves from the vice grips of the strong Fachee warriors.

“And so we have proved our natural superiority to you, but like all naturally superior creatures, we have the capacity for mercy, and this is why we are letting you go.  Just as the great Wah let loose all creatures of the earth in pairs to multiply and run free, so we release you to multiply your species on the condition that you will, with your meager communication skills, teach the generations of groundhogs after you never to challenge us again.”

With that, the groundhogs were released and scampered off into the woods.

That is why the Fachee are kind to groundhogs.  They know that the groundhogs will never wage another war against them.  Now, when a Fachee hunts in the woods, or collects berries, or strolls on a moonlit night with a loved one, he always brings little scraps of food to throw to the groundhogs who come begging.