Art Pact 272 - Seven Aspects of Animals

One: Seven hundred of the world's finest swans will be performing in a lake tonight. The swan ensemble comes from all corners of the world and includes the famous whooping swan choir of lower Germany, plus (controversially) a dance routine from the black swan group of Australia. Swan society has become considerably more open in the last hundred years, but this still marks the first time that black and white swans have performed together on water in public - certainly on such a large scale, arguably ever (our reporters have been to several mixed performances in the past, but they were all small affairs marked specifically as rehearsal spaces to get around the strict swan segregation rules that still exist in some states). The performance is expected to be attended by several well-known swans.

Two: In some cases, rabbit warrens have been found to extend for hundreds of miles underground, right down to the lower edge of the Earth's crust. There are several theories about the existence of the specially heat-resistant bunnies which must be necessary to excavate such amazing feats of lagomorphic engineering. The first is that they are ordinary rabbits, mutated slowly over the course of millions of years to be able to withstand the great depths and terrible temperatures attendant to such proximity to the Earth's molten mantle. The second is that tunnels were actually eroded over the course of billions of years by acid-releasing extremophile bacteria or archaea, and simply repurposed by the rabbits at their top levels. The third, and most likely, is that no such tunnels exist, but that hyper-intelligent rabbits near the surface have captured our robotic explorers and programmed them with false depth-readings and images.

Three: Butterflies routinely kill other butterflies. This is a fact. No amount of gun-freedom talk can erase the simple statistics that show that a butterfly living in America is far more likely to kill another butterfly-American with a gun than equivalent butterflies living in Europe, Asia, or Africa. Gun freedom exponents can argue the case until they are blue in the face, but they can't change that. They only way they could win such an argument, in fact, would be to take their guns and shoot their butterfly opponents until they are the ones that are blue in the face. Butterflies being unusually argumentative, there is growing suspicion that this is actually happening. Further research into butterfly gun violence and the causes of butterfly gun violence are eagerly awaited. Predominantly by those butterflies who wish to use the research as an excuse for more butterfly-on-butterfly gun violence.

Four: This wombat is quite the arsehole. Look at this wombat go. Who the hell does this wombat think he is? Does he think he's some kind of koala, for god's sake? I mean, you have to hand it to him, he's a dapper arsehole. He's got that cute little nose, and the kind of trim but at the same time roly-poly physique that the ladies all go for, but you have to ask yourself: would you choose this wombat over a koala? He clearly thinks you would. That crazy walk is as much as saying "look at me, I'm here and as far as I'm concerned I'm the best thing since sliced bread!" But to the outside observer - to the trained observer, the one who knows his koalas, this wombat is no koala. This wombat, to those unbiased people, is an arsehole.

Five: The glass squid complains that her friends are so transparent, but somehow fails to extrapolate that to her own life. She's got that one big eye, always looking up so that she can see threats or prey passing above her, but it's got a plank in it that's the same size as the motes in all her friends' eyes. No glass squid is an island, after all. They say that, do glass squid. It's a thing, possibly because they're insecure about their size. Among squid in general there's an anxiety, I think. Everyone wants to be a kraken, nobody wants to be a bobtail squid. She sees that in her friends, and she rightly points out that not everyone can be a kraken. But they she goes home and looks in the mirror and fails to see that she's been eating not because she needs to eat, or even because she likes to eat, but because she's trying to stuff herself full to attempt to attain an unrealistic (and unhealthy) image of size that's been pushed on her by society at large.

Six: The highest flying ever tardigrade refuses to accept the title, throwing the whole awards ceremony into a strange tizzy. Armitrade Buzzlow, the tardigrade in question, says that she saw her friend Goosepring fly higher: "He just kept going and going, up into the sky forever." But the academy of advanced survival won't give out altitude prizes to those that vanish in space. So, unable to award the medal to the rightful (by their eyes) winner, they end up giving it to the second place, who accepts - causing Armitrade to point out in the press that now the academy are distributing their prizes to the third placers, since she of course sees herself as in second place to Goosepring. This is the sort of nightmare that will take decades to sort out, if not centuries.

Seven: Underneath stones is where you'd think to look for woodlice, right? Underneath stones and bricks. Like, maybe a piece of wood you'd dropped in your garden by mistake when you were doing that renovation on the conservatory the year before last. The renovation you were really proud of until Phillipa started going on and on about how the door wouldn't close properly with the way you'd raised the floorboards, just on and on and never mentioning anything else, right? I mean, what a way to drain the joy out of something. And then she complains that you never do anything around the house? Well, it's hardly surprising now, is it? You've been successfully trained out of trying to make an effort. That's on her. But sometimes you still think about it, but never when you open the bathroom door in the middle of the night and find five woodlice in a tiny boat rowing from one end of the bath to another while a sixth woodlice rides a bike along the side of the bath, and all of them stop what they're doing as you turn the light on. They stare at you, horrified. You stare back, both horrified and confused. This goes on for a while. This staring. You're looking at them, they're looking at you, and you carefully tie up your dressing gown where you pulled it on haphazardly and it didn't quite cover your right breast, but when you come to think of it why would woodlice - why would any crustacean, really - be the slightest bit bothered about a human breast? They stare at you, and you stare at them, and after what seems like a minute's silence you just back out of the room, pull the light cord throwing the whole place into darkness, and you walk back to your bed, clamber in next to Phillipa. "You got that bladder thing again?" she asks, because for some reason she has to have a report on every time you go into the bathroom, and you say "No, just thought I wanted to go but I didn't.", and Phillipa nods dozily because we've all been there, haven't we, and she rolls over and falls back to sleep.

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