The Strange Beasts 

What beast crawls on four legs in the morning, walks on two at noon and three at twilight? asked the strange creature composed of an anthropoid head, a leonine body and the wings of a chiropter. The atomic kind, like every other beast, said the philosopher as she sketched an illegible landscape of dots. The strange creature fell silent and looked sadly at the blurry horizon.  

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The Giraffe and the Dromedary

A giraffe met a dromedary on the border where the sahra meets the sahel, a land of ones and zeroes. They sat down to make a campfire and have a conversation. The dromedary spoke of his upcoming journey to the southeast, to meet the great sea, its merchants and mariners, to voyage into the sunrise and to trade in silk and surprises. The giraffe spoke of her desire to travel north and west, to the legendary lost tree, the loneliest tree, the loneliest object in the world, which was cut off from everything else by thousands of miles of sand and stone in every direction. The dromedary was curious and wondered how such a journey could be profitable. The giraffe said that she had often been lonely, and it hurt her too much to think of the lonely tree. It was vital that the tree have a friend. The dromedary cautioned against this. First, the tree might not even exist, and even if it did exist, it had survived this long without a friend–to visit it now would be to tamper with its environment and ruin its chance at happiness. Secondly, the possibility that the giraffe would not overcome the temptation to eat of its leaves and shave the tree’s head were too great. In the end, this story would conclude with a corrupted giraffe carcass and a dead tree. The giraffe looked sad, and kicked at the ashes of the campfire with her hoof. It is an axiological problem, the giraffe said, and your neck cannot stretch high enough for this axis. The dromedary was offended, and rose to his full height, setting off at once into the rosy light of the dawn, to cross golden dunes and green savannahs until he encountered the richness of the sea with its pearls, goldfish, trinkets, amphorae, silk, alabaster, spices and shellfish. It is well known that the dromedary became a great merchant selling paper and kindling to the lands beyond the sea. The giraffe set off into the emptiness of the desert, to seek the lonesome tree that might be nothing more than a mirage. One of them remarked: better a dead giraffe than a dead dromedary.

The Ambassador

The visitor apologized and bowed deeply before the sumptuous banquet, claiming that it was not his custom to eat the flesh of beasts but only the flesh of humans. The empress, courtesans, warriors and scholars looked at one another with great embarassment, and then sank their daggers into their necks. Awed at their generosity, the ambassador began to feast, and feasted for one hundred days. When he had eaten and drunk, he concluded that it would be most fortunate to trade with this empire, and clapped his hands thrice to summon a scribe or diplomat. Nobody answered, for the palace was empty and quickly filling with sand.

The Commentary

The monk struck the novice each time he answered poorly, although the novice had been there for ten years, had read a thousand books, and could recite and solve the most complex riddles. Washing his hands with well water, the monk told the novice to read the book of nature before ever presuming to speak or act again. The novice went into the wilderness and lived among beasts and birds. When he returned, the monk asked him what he had heard. The novice answered. It is good to be a stone, for the river washes over it, the reeds cannot choke it, the birds and beasts most often cannot break it, and if they should, one stone becomes other smaller stones, who bathe in rain, sun and wind and wait with the earth in silence and strength. They drove the man and his commentary into permanent exile, but not long after, their monastery burned to the ground, and many monks went up in flames.