March Twitter’splosion

It’s been a weird month with the encroachment of the Covid-19. These micros area a reflection. Enjoy all of March #vss365 in one shot…

50 Creepiest Movie Psychopaths

MARCH

3/1/2020

Tensions built to a breaking point. Solutions seemed so obvious to those impacted, funds to rebuild. However, the elite knew how #bridging the gap could be achieved. They offered those made homeless from the disaster free packs of paper towels to mop up the flooding.#vss365

3/2/2020

He laughed when they said she’d intimidate him. He was, after all, a macho man. That was before he stood before her, subject to the fury brewing in her #Atlantic eyes. He’d met more than his match, and the siren displayed his false bravado for all to see.#vss365

3/3/2020

“Storm today.” Half-blind Pete gazed up at a seagull winging over the calm seas. Younger crews left port and laughed. That was until the gulls vanished as the #whitecaps appeared. The sky darkened at midday to black. Pete watched their ships sink from his docked ship.#vss365

3/4/2020

The great wide blue stretched from horizon to horizon below. The sky over the ocean—the dwelling of the #seagull. She soared over the tall masted vessels, guiding them to shore. Of course humanity had little patience, calling her kind rats with wings. That’s gratitude.#vss365

3/5/2020

The beach-side city stood tall and proud, ignorant of peril. Time demanded it pay #tribute to nature’s fury when the storm surge flooded the very foundations, washing away the land on which the city stood. A reminder that it never should have been built there.#vss365

3/6/2020

In the beginning #seventeen set out in the party to save their city. All seemed well, until their number became thirteen. At that point the paladin counted, recounted, and fled in a panic from his own superstition—right off a cliff. The remaining dozen returned victorious.#vss365

3/7/2020

I went cross-eyed for a moment staring at it. “Sir? There is a sizable gray box in the field of my vision.”

VP of Health answered, “That’s just a #patch.”

I blanched. “On a hazmat suit helmet?”

“Relax, you’ll be fine. The virus isn’t smart enough to get past the patch.”#vss365

3/8/2020

Beneath the oppressive pall society shut down, fearing that just one wrong move would land them in jail. Until a melody built in the air, a #spark of rebellion rapidly gained momentum and burnt a hole in the fabric, making way for progress.#vss365

3/9/2020

She trembled with every step toward the altar. Her heart thundered as she gathered the courage. The noble stood there, waiting expectantly for his obedient future wife. She halted at the bottom of the steps, took a deep breath and declared, “I am already #spoken for.”#vss365

3/10/2020

I leaned forward on the table as she returned. “So? What’s the #word?”

“He says he’ll tell you where he hid the ledger over his dead body.”

I moaned, “He doesn’t know?”

She caressed her crystal ball. “Nope, the stubborn ox is quite convinced he’s still alive. My fee?”#vss365

3/11/2020

She cooed at the puppy’s #unfathomable cuteness. “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything more adorabl—OUCH!”

The foster laughed. “Nor useful. That pup is in shredder mode at the moment. Everything has a price, and for this one—it’s a pint of blood.”#vss365

3/12/2020

Skeletons lined very ash-strewn valley. Proof of the ravaged land’s #insurmountable challenge to the dinosaurs. Yet in the rubble life remained. Smaller, drought resistant, hearty. From the ashes the warm blooded mammals claimed the empty throne.#vss365

3/13/2020

“Is this #normal?” I looked at the desolate aisle, nothing but kittywampus empty shelves.

“Pretty much. When shit hits in the fan in prepper-ville folks want to make sure their ass is covered.”

“That was thousands of rolls of TP for how many residents?”

“Population twenty.”#vss365

3/14/2020

See the world, they said. Experience the sights, they said. There’s nothing like a #foreign country, they said. No one mentioned over two weeks forced to stare at the same four walls of my stateroom on a petri dish ship. Yup, that was an unbeatable sight.#vss365

3/15/2020

He ran his fingers through her hair. “I couldn’t love you any more, my little #stroopwafel.”

SLAP! For a long moment all he saw were flashing lights, til his vision cleared to her furious expression.

“What? I called you a cookie! Don’t go! Oh shit.” One crumby breakup.#vss365

3/16/2020

I blinked and looked again. Had that #mannequin just moved? No wait. A moment ago it didn’t have the top hat. Blink. Nor the ascot. What the…?

It smiled at me. “Never fully dressed without a smile, gov’ner.”

I ran and never returned to Mens Surplus again!#vss365

3/17/2020

Everyone stared, captivated by the speech, by the gestures, everything played out with precision. That was what gave it away for those with discerning eyes. Too precise. That “man” behind the podium was a #robot, programmed to deceive.#vss365

3/18/2020

Men in designer suits pounded fists, shouting over one another, they couldn’t possibly fund outreach programs the golf course came first. Ms. Peaches #kindergarten class lined the room edges in orderly fashion, waiting to address the council about tissue shortages.#vss365

3/19/2020

Bravery won Dirk the pirate captaincy when he sunk a navy vessel. That same bravery cost him his life when he attempted the same trick … with the avenging #armada. #vss365

3/20/2020

“Follow the checklist. We must be highly #organized here for safety reasons.”

“Boss, why is there a space in the storage rack?”

“Oh fuck! Who took a vial without signing it out of the microbiology lab?”

“How bad?”

“Oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die.”#vss365

3/21/2020

Augustus was obsessed with anything Japanese, to his family’s displeasure. When he died he took cultural appropriation to an extreme. His epitaph was a stolen whimsical #haiku. Due to copyright most was removed from the stone. “Smile, cherry blossom” is all that remains.#vss365

3/22/2020

“Seriously, we’re never going to find the treasure. This clue is too damn hard!”

“Son of a–! I should have noticed the clue is an #acrostic poem. First letters spell CLUELESS.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t have a clue.”#vss365

3/23/2020

“I shouldn’t’ve run away. If there is one thing I’ve learned, life’s #short.”

I stared at the boy on the park bench beside me swinging his legs. We’d been talking for an hour when in the blink of an eye he vanished into thin air.

I dialed a number. “I love you, Mom.”#vss365

3/24/2020

Mama told me babies are brought by a #stork. I laughed and told her baby brother’s had it easy since he was so small. Mama cried and held me close, her eyes watching the crib where he lay still. “He didn’t come that way, honey. A scarlet ibis brought him on borrowed time.”#vss365

3/25/2020

The gull winged over the seaport. Below a #cosy village sprawled, draped in glorious spring blooms. She called out and waited for a reply, one that never came. Not a soul dwelt there now, a living one anyway. Each roof hid a collection of plague corpses.#vss365

3/26/2020

“Oh my God! After being stranded and going without food, this is absolutely #delicious! Is there any more?” No one gathered around answered Ralph as the sun-beaten life raft drifted onward. He shrugged and grabbed another hunk of meat from his silent partners. “Mmm!”#vss365

3/27/2020

“Do you think storms have feelings?”

“Good question.”

“Think about how calm things feel after a major thunderstorm.”

“Or a tornado. Hell, that’s the biggest #outblowing of them all. Even Mother nature needs a little stress relief.” #vss365

3/28/2020

“Damn it! He got everything he wanted, again! Meanwhile we didn’t get a thing!”

“Of course he did. I wouldn’t pay the price though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Not worth being that scumbags boot-licking #toad. I’d rather starve.”#vss365

3/29/2020

I never understood why Rocco chased his tail. Such a pointless activity. After weeks of self isolation revelation struck as I discovered myself spinning in circles in pursuit of my own #butt. The same four walls ran by a blur. I get it buddy, I get it now.#vss365

3/30/2020

“Is there a point to sailing the ocean forever, captain?”

“Any day now we’ll find it, #Finisterre!”

“The uh…the end of the Earth? Umm, you do know the Earth is round.”

“It’s fools like you who sail off into the void!”

“Right, and who’s done that?”

“Sven the Nearsighted!”#vss365

3/31/2020

“This AI shopper thing is going to far.”

“What now?”

“Well, it thinks I need a #zarf.”

“What’s that?”

“No idea, but apparently I have a set of them coming by breakfast tomorrow.”#vss365

December Twitter-Splosion

Every day a different prompt, every day a different tale in a Twitter! Here is all of December’s in one shot. A wild collection of humor, morbidity, and whatever else popped into my head.

DECEMBER

It’s been a year!

cowboy bebop finger guns GIF

12/1/2019

Blue sky, an ill wind blew as I soared over the white capped waves. No gull who longed to live ignored such an #omen. I opened my beak and cried out the warning. Squall! The tall ship sailed out of the harbor. Wind tore at my feathers as I fought to warn them. Turn back!#vss365

12/2/2019

“But mama, aren’t we supposed to hoard treasure and stuff?”

In the crystal cave Drhak’raria lifted her head and smiled down at her whelp. “Some dragons do. But you can’t consume gold. Eat your #crystal, dear so you can grow up strong enough to devour other dragons.” #vss365

12/3/2019

Hail fell into the high beams, #rice from the leaden heavens. I pushed the pedal harder.

“Honey, maybe we should pull over?”

“It’s the holidays, we can’t be late!” A second later, the road skidded out from beneath us.#vss365

12/4/2019

Never mess with a kitsune. There’s a reason those vixens have nine tails, it represents their #fickle nature. One minute they lavish you with the deepest love possible. The next their claws rake sufficient to make you wish you were dead!#vss365

12/5/2019

She turned and smiled at him. Not a comforting smile, but one that sent a shiver down his spine. Frozen he could not move. “They call me the sadistic #guru. And you, my foolish trespasser, are about to learn why.” He didn’t see the strike, but he felt it in his liver.#vss365

12/6/2019

“You’re such a nerd.”

“I am a #pixel warrior! I am undefeated! SHIT!”

“Except by a power outage.”#vss365

12/7/2019

Underneath the #amber lights the world shimmered in the rain. A beautiful sheen that lent a magical quality to the city. A place that lay in stillness populated by the bones left behind of a race that failed to adapt. Fate is a cruel bitch.#vss365

12/8/2019

She pads on paws soft as #velvet, silent against the pavement. Making her way through the city no movement escapes her eyes. There is a reason not even a mouse stirs on the Eve, it is her doing. The kiss of death, Holly, the master mouser of all seasons.#vss365

12/9/2019

Save the world, like real life is based on a novel starring a plucky hero. In reality I have as much #sway as a fly landing on a suspension bridge coil while some crazy yahoo standing on the deck cuts it with a chain saw. At least in my vision I have wings. He doesn’t.#vss365

12/10/2019

Light shimmers pierced the darkness of the chamber I have inhabited for what seems an eternity. Vision, a sense I have long forgone in my solitude. Is the light real? Or merely a cruel #mirage, painful to eyes that have not seen in years? Reality seems the illusion.#vss365

12/11/2019

“Heyya, Grandma? Quick, what’s the best way to #curry favor with a demon? Asking for a friend.”

“Why you lookin’ ov’r your shoulder?”

“Ummm … well … I may have opened that trunk you told me never to touch.”

“Then you shit out a luck, child. No one befriends that ‘un.”#vss365

12/12/2019

I stared at the #serpentine stone in my hand, squiggles of bright green seeming to swim, locked in a black sea. Like magic. I focused hard, remembering the tome’s words. The rock shivered, a hundred tiny eyes opened as my minions sprang to life.#vss365

12/13/2019

I flick the blinker on and glance over into the middle lane, waiting to merge. The red Porsche pulls forward, seeing a half car length between me and the van. She wedges the nose of her can in. Blocked. She’s lucky I #vow no vehicular aggression at a hospital driveway!#vss365

12/14/2019

Visions twist and turn to my will. I had always been a #lucid dreamer, shaping to my desires behind closed eyes. What a shock it must have been to see their world change before their eyes when mine were wide open too. Welcome to my twisted reality.#vss365

12/15/2019

Light spreads a #pastel hue into the velvet sky. Another day begins washed out and empty as I wander down the hillside for a visit. The stone cold on my back. The deep cut letters say you’re here. I linger locked in silence, waiting for the comfort of night to fall.#vss365

12/16/2019

“One cannot #wring blood from stone.”

The necromancer folded his hands and smiled. “One can if one possesses the skills and said stone is fossilized bones.” He snapped his fingers and the figures unfolded from the cavern floor. “Foolish mortal.”#vss365

12/17/2019

A stitch in my side. A tiny #sliver of pain nagging, nagging, always nagging! I long to forget, but the constant stab of the thing I cannot remove has become a part of me, driving me to madness as I long to scratch an unreachable itch. A vile memory eroding my sanity.#vss365

12/18/2019

“You will not have the world, sorcerer! Because I have the magical orb!” CRASH! “Shit!”

My companion buried her face. “Real #suave, butterfingers. You do know there was only one of those.”

“Mwhaha! You just paved the way for my victory. Bravo, hero.”#vss365

12/19/2019

I close my eyes and fade away. The pain, the suffering, the bitter rivalry that is what some call the real world. It’s vulgar and empty. I embrace my #virtual world. A place built to hide from the nightmare of reality. A place of healing refuge in the eye of a storm.#vss365

12/20/2019

“Some heroes we are. Stuck in a frickin’ cave! Alright wizard, time to magic us outta here so we can save the world.”

“Hrm, I have a #profound feeling we’ve seriously fucked up.”

“Geh! That better be sarcastic.”

“We have about an hour of air left. Last words?”

“Son of a-”#vss365

12/21/2019

The embers die into a soft cheery #glow framed in the stones. I smile, warmed by the crackle-pop of the flames deep within still eating away. Feast, my friend. Well, the documents said he got the house … he can have what’s left of it. Merry Christmas, asshole!#vss365

12/22/2019

Moonlight cast it glow across the floor, tinged red in time for the holidays. I sit in the easy chair warming myself by the fire, a glass of cognac in hand. Through the broken window the sound of blood dripped down the #icicle my hit man eavesdropped on. How festive.#vss365

12/23/2019

The table creaked under the weight of the largest dish of #pudding the village had ever seen. Narka held her hands high and silence descended. “Today we celebrate our victory! No more will our enemies call us weak. No more shall they speak!” Vengeance in blood pudding.#vss365

12/24/2019

I awoke in the locked room, my arms bound to my body, the odd sound like a #jingle bell tinkling from the hallway. I dared not call out as the white clad orderly peered through the slat, a ring of keys on his belt. What a Christmas present, committed to Bedlam by Father.#vss365

12/25/2019

Curled in my arms, his fur shifted against my cheek with every breath. All the years of his life counted in each tick of the clock. My heart ached to feel his shudder. Midnight chimed, before the last #grace granted Ashenpaw mercy. The bitterest Christmas morning ever.#vss365

12/26/2019

The snow is cold beneath my paws, a sensation I welcome in this new form after the ache of life. I faded from reality and embraced death thinking it would be a numb void. Instead I rise to #find a world of deep feeling. More alive than I was in life, I spread my wings.#vss365

12/27/2019

The world below the surface of the waves, my world. Smooth scales slid by pillars of #coral flashing delicate fronds of tiny creatures, my subjects. Bubbles rose up from the intruders, landwalkers performing their last task. A death wish. Venom filled my fangs.#vss365

12/28/2019

The moon shown over the valley cutting shadows into the fresh snow. My nose caught the scent in the tracks. One of them was injured. In my throat the cry arose, piercing the heavens. Moments later the pack answered in #harmony. The wolf pack’s litany of death.#vss365

12/29/2019

Behind closed eyes everything changes. A #circus of fantastic beasts dance in colorful rings bedecked in finery fit for the highest courts. All those who had vexed me during the day met their judgment by tooth and claw. The next day, I woke to find them simply gone.#vss365

12/30/2019

I swear the moment I walked into my grandparents no one recognized me. It was as if each family member had lived in a #cocoon for the last year, ignoring the hard work I had done. “You look terrible,” grandma said, “should take better care of yourself.”#vss365

12/31/2019

“Hold my beer!” He took a running leap off the roof, poorly executed thanks to the alcohol marinade. The result? A plummet straight down missing the mattress target and striking the trashcans. We clapped as he moaned, cheering, “#Encore!” My brother is a glutton for pain.#vss365

November Twitter-splosion

The collection of Very Short Stories from the #vss365 prompts on Twitter, all in one shot! This month it’s just an array of wild off the cuff craziness. You know, normal for me.

NOVEMBER

11/1/2019

Rumor has it, I got a short #fuse. It’s funny, I guess from their perspective the shit only just hit the fan. Well, in my shoes they’d know better. They’d know the impact of every word they slung my way recklessly. Well, corpses can never hurt anyone, who’s laughing now?#vss365

11/2/2019

I asked my grandpa if our lives were predetermined. He laughed, “Oh child, life’ll try all sort of tricks to keep you inline. Fate’ll #cuff to the wheel, if you let it. Thing is, you still have your hand on the wheel in a world without roads.” Grandpa’s had 8 accidents.#vss365

11/3/2019

Sam closed her eyes. The tedious complaints of the man in line #grated on her nerves. It wasn’t like the cashier could save the world. At last, Sam stepped up to the cashier, whose eyes filled with dread. Sam just smiled, and got a smile back. They savored blessed silence.#vss365

11/4/2019

I gripped the sack tight, this was my first harvest and I didn’t want to drop anything as I climbed through the cavern. The chamber opened up lined with the #crop of crystal shards. I touched a black one, and recalled the legend just as something stole my body. I turned …#vss365

11/5/2019

Amber smiled as she stared right where here friend pointed at. Everything, the whole universe would come into focus, they all told her. Just breathe. She inhaled the smoke and resumed her search for clarity in the resulting #haze. Wasn’t much, but it sure was pretty.#vss365

11/6/2019

The man sat down in my chair and removed his hat. “Just a #trim, please.” I grinned into the reflection of my razor, already she sang to me, hungry for rubies. I placed her fine edge to his throat and gave him the closest shave he’d ever have. Within an inch of his life.#vss365

11/7/2019

Legend says to #tread lightly if you have to go through Mirewood. Of course, legends also say that there are unicorns and little folk. I don’t believe those either. Besides, I brought my rifle … what the … That a horse with a horn? No way, so swuuuucckkkk!#vss365

11/8/2019

“Did you hear, Trudy has a #crush on Dan. That’s so sweet.”

I raised my eyebrows and watched a monster truck roll by, Trudy scowled behind the wheel. “Dude, check your ears. I believe her exact words were ‘I’m going to crush Dan.’ ”#vss365

11/9/2019

Their eyes burned into me as I stood barefoot on the pyre of their scorn. An ember caught on a torch and flared to life, fed by the hunger for my death. It did not matter to them I #spoke the truth. No—it did matter. Their unjust fear delivered me to this grim fate.#vss365

 

11/10/2019

“Welcome to the first transdimensional Convention. Please step forward and pay the #troll.”

“You mean, toll. Right?”

“Oh no, I mean Groont the security troll. Have a good time!”#vss365

11/11/2019

Maximus thought himself an innovative leader able to conquer any nation on the continent. All of that proved true. That was until he decided the continental empire wasn’t large enough, and neglecting to start a navy, he ordered his army to #march over the sea.#vss365

11/12/2019

Things were quiet on that little blue ball floating in space, Loki thought to himself. Perhaps it was time to #crank up the chaos. He snapped his fingers and Fenrir’s chain broke. The gigantic wolf leapt down, his claws raked both man and earth. “That’s more like it.”#vss365

11/13/2019

The #wind speaks to me. Sometimes a whisper bearing the ghosts of the past. Sometimes it screams to me of the ravages of time eroding the world. Sometimes it’s a lover’s caress biding me to be strong in a world that no longer hears the wisdom of the ages. I alone listen.#vss365

11/14/2019

“This is just another walk in the park. You know the #drill, boys.” That’s what I said, but as the sulfur and brimstone engulfed us at the cavern entrance I white-knuckled my spear. Thankfully it wasn’t every day a dragon moved into the neighborhood. “Eviction notice!”#vss365

11/15/2019

This place is all I have ever known. Born behind bars, I’ve heard of this thing called “a lawn”. Sounds nice. The boy points into my cage, his parents drag him to another dog … a whole dog. I limp back into the corner. One day I’ll leave the #pound, if I live long enough.#vss365

11/16/2019

Anubis rubbed his chin as he examined the world. “Things are not going as planned, Sekhmet. I don’t care what Toth says, this #draft of Earth is deeply flawed. The problem is all these humans.” Sekhmet flashed her teeth, “That’s easily solved, get your scale ready.”#vss365

11/17/2019

“That boy has a lot of #pluck. Do you think he’ll save the village?”

“Are you kidding? He’s nothing but a goose for the gods to tenderize. But don’t tell him that. The gods prefer spirited sacrifices. Maybe next years crops will be better, then we can sing his praises.”#vss365

11/18/2019

There was nothing like dancing the #jive with her. The weight of her body capturing the momentum only to twist and turn. He basked in the memories, gnarled fingers stroking the piano keys. Soon now he would see her again, in each other’s arms.#vss365

11/19/2019

Jim sat on the bumper of the car. Karma really was a bitch, he reflected. The sign he’d held, California or #bust, well, he didn’t mean it to be true. The driver that picked him up was still arguing with the cop whose fault the collision was. So much for Sunset Boulevard.#vss365

11/20/2019

“How do you spell his name?”

“Oh my God, please sis, I beg of you, #play nice!”

“I am. Just need his name so I can kill him … in my novel. It lasts longer.”#vss365

11/21/2019

The field glowed beneath the pale sky blossoming with the rising sun framed by the monoliths. They stood, every breath hanging in the air frozen until at last the blackbird greeted the dawn. Her #refrain warmed every heart. No day was promised until she sang.#vss365

11/22/2019

Rod heaved a sigh as he stared at the candle, hardly any wax dripping down the perfect cylinder. Like so many others it ended early. The first #date was always the last. He turned to Annabelle and picked the doll up from the chair. “Guess it’s still just you and me.”#vss365

11/23/2019

Charity heaved a sigh. “You’re asking a lot of me, typically this type of gig isn’t my thing.”

“It’s real simple, all you gotta do is crash this schmuck’s house and scare the spirit of Christmas into him. Any ghost can do it.”

“That’s a lot to #tackle, the guy’s an atheist.”#vss365

11/24/2019

The music wound into my soul, moving me in ways no one ever should be. I don’t have wings, but I flew! All around me the dance floor vibrated with the emotional impact of countless creatures. You’ve never lived until you’ve attended an underworld #rave.#vss365

11/25/2019

“Gah! Seriously? Stop breathing on me. Your breath smells like … like … ”

“The Army of Nabrille? It should, they were tasty.”

“Then eat a #mint, even dragons should have table manners.”#vss365

11/26/2019

Back and forth she wove the shuttle on the #loom blending the threads in a vast tapestry. I stood powerless to stop her as my thread joined others, wrapped in scarlet red and ashen black, blood and death. “Take up your mantle.” Damn the Fates.#vss365

11/27/2019

Under the #lash I serve my master, doing his bidding without question. My claws sullied by the blood of his enemies. That cursed tool is my true master, now in the hands of his sister I turn my claws at her command. The end of his bloody reign is the beginning of hers.#vss365

11/28/2019

My world is locked in darkness. Black so thick it bears fur and breathes. The cave of beginnings. I inhale the void and steel myself. Against the rock I #strike a match. The flame springs to life, a faint circle of revelation. Eyes stare back. The fur no longer imaginary.#vss365

11/29/2019

Jimmy smiled, wouldn’t the family be proud of him for getting the best deal online! This would be perfect for grandpa. He opened the front door and stared in confusion. That was a rather small box. The label read “chihuahua coffin”. What a bad funeral day #slip up!#vss365

11/30/2019

“Master, what do you want me to do with this #part?”

He glanced at the nerve bundled organ in his assistant’s hands. “Crap, there’s always extra pieces. Just throw it out. Can’t be that important. Alright, let’s juice it up and bring this bad boy to life!”#vss365

Thinkin’ It Through

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

Thinkin’ It Through, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

Just a dumb animal.” For how often humanity expresses this sentiment it is often more of a reflection of our ego, our need to be placed on a pedestal above the “beasts of the earth, sea, and sky”. How remarkably sad it is to see the brilliance exhibited in other creatures that is buried by such baseless remarks.

From the intuitive nature of man’s best friend to the keen perception that fuels the steel-trap mind of the crow we are surrounded by creatures of profound abilities. Abilities human often claim to be solely their own. Surprise humanity! You are special, but not that special.

PhoenixDemonDog

“In everything there is the potential for complexity. You only see it if you open your eyes wide enough.”

That Deep Down Feeling

Animals don’t have feelings.” That is a turd the size an elephant dumps. Anyone who has a multi-pet household that has suffered a loss will have witnessed the surviving pets mourn. Yes—they know what death is. I have witnessed my own dogs after sniffing the body of their previous housemate react. They grieve in just as varied a degree as humans. And it seems if they have witnessed more than one passing, they recognize it from a distance.

Ash010

Ashenpaw, Ion, and Presto

The first loss in our household Presto experienced he approached several times, close and circling. He sniffed as if trying to wake up his playmate. It took him time to figure out that it wouldn’t happen. This December when our oldest, Ashenpaw, passed on just shy of fourteen years-old from a long struggle with congestive heart failure, Presto lay across the room on his bed. He moped as our typically bright-eyed border collie never had before. Without sniffing Ash, he knew this time.

We also had Phoenix, our youngest border collie and aussie mix. She’s been training to become a therapy dog. With a mixture of confusion and caution she approached Ash’s body. Every key in her body language from ears to tail told me she was concerned about what she experienced. I have no doubt that my perceptive little girl was also reading me. She had heard me tell Ash that I would be alright if he let go just moments before. She curled up next to me and stared at Ash’s motionless body. Her canine mentor was gone.

DSCN3414

One of the last photos taken of our beloved silver-muzzle Ash.

Phoenix has demonstrated extraordinary perception of human emotion. As a therapy-dog-in-training she ventures into a senior community and spends time as an emotional distraction to the residents and staff. She loves her job, it’s obvious because she wakes me up eagerly every Tuesday morning without fail. Yes—my dog knows what day of the week it is without a calendar. Roaming those halls she tells me through body language which residents need more time with her. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do talk. Most people don’t take the time to learn how to listen (aka read their body language).

PhoenixTherapyDog

Phoenix, the big girl, waiting for a skills assessment.

Now, my little girl wasn’t my first therapy dog. Before her came Ion.

Ion34

Ion entering the hospice therapy program.

This collie was a vibrant star earning his status into the program at one year old. For those who don’t know, that is very rare. Most one year old dogs are not mature enough to be reliable. Ion just was. His tiny eyes and long snooter worked magic. Sadly, my empathic boy proved to be a bright star burning out in four years. He succumbed to complications of an unknown disease that claimed him before the vets could figure it out. He is missed as he knew just who needed his warmth. It’s been years now and people still remember how he would wander up to them: excited if they were happy that day, or more somber if they needed a dog hug. He sensed. He knew.

He is not alone. Many dogs who are not even trained for such supportive things are known to develop them. Whether it is simply lying close to a loved one with the flu or a migraine, or standing next to them ready to bear weight for stability for someone who had a surgery—this last is a recent case a friend shared with me. The dog has not been trained in this, he simply did it for her after she got home. Don’t just take my word for it, there are countless cases out there.

Problem Solving Perception

Learning is such an amazing process to watch. Funny thing is it works the same across species. I always loved watching my border collie Ashenpaw work with a brain teaser toy. He learned quickly that there were treats inside.

Check out Ashenpaw’s demonstration of impulse control.

Animals, including humans, learn via association. If they do this, this happens. If it’s good results, keep doing the behavior. If it’s bad, generally they try to avoid it. But that only works if the consequence is cleanly correlated. There are great examples of complex chain behavior building. The sport of agility is a great example. And also includes running dogs in an excited state. This state of mind is largely run on adrenaline which overrides a lot of cognition. Ever had a dog chasing a rabbit that completely blows their recall? Yup. This is what happened. Too much excitement, thinking side of brains shuts off. The trick is to work with the dog and over time alter where the threshold lies. In time you get a dog that can think in that excited stage.

The same is true for the human animal. Jobs involving high stress release adrenaline. This can short circuit problem solving. To be able to behave reliably we also need to train up the performance level. Think of ETMs, police, soldiers—all of these involve moments of extreme tension. Average minds freeze up, or knee-jerk react. But with training the mind learns to control. Most of us are not born able to do this. And I promise you, working with border collies you learn to see real fast that border collies are not born to control that shit either. Which is why a good lot of them are surrendered at seven months old for behavior issues. 90% of the time it’s because their owners failed to work impulse control.

Work that impulse control and you can unlock some seriously kick-ass potential. From dogs that can work hillsides of sheep on their own, dogs who can run an agility course on verbal command while the handler remains behind the start line, to dogs who have enormous vocabs.

Chaser is an amazing border collie who knows over 1,000 words. Put a huge circle of toys on the floor, ask for one, and you get it! What’s more fascinating is that she can exhibit the ability to process eliminate. If she knows two of three toys and you ask for the one she doesn’t know, you get the new toy. That is not a “dumb animal” behavior. That’s fairly advanced learning. This border collie has appeared on many talk shows as well as scientific programs demonstrating how animals are not that far behind if we acknowledge them. So many of the things deemed to make us human are exhibited in the animal world. We have our own instincts too.

The Murder of Crows

An astonishingly advanced bird is the crow. Experiments have been done by researchers uncovering complex social behaviors.

Crows have funerals. Yes. You read that right. And what’s wilder, not just for members of their own flock. Researchers placed the body of a dead crow near a gathering of crows. They came, checked out the body, and immediately began to mourn the deceased brother. Vocalizations, behaviors like dancing, and circling.

Signs 009

Behold the mystical crow. I tell yah, if a crow doesn’t trust a person, I’ll steer clear!

Using masks, scientists conducted further experiments on facial recognition. Using a face mask they fed the flock and gained a reputation with them. Then, being careful to use different masks, the same individuals performed a mock crow murder. When they came back wearing the murder mask on another day to feed the crows—warning cries filled the glade. Same person with the different mask later approached with food and no problem. The crows had distance facial recognition and were acting as a major form of security. The ultimate “eye in the sky”.

Scientists already knew that crows had incredible problem solving skills. And that they would even choose to share with another bird rather than hog resources for themselves. They exhibited a sense of fairness. Something we often see in children that is displayed to a lesser extent in adults. Interesting how that is. As we age, we tend to forget how to share.

DonQuilypsosLastStandMixedFinished

As we further explore the animals around us it becomes interesting to see how often they demonstrate the ideal human. Maybe this is why adults choose to confine them to a puerile state, because it further lifts the pedestal. After all, can’t have anything threatening that fragile human ego.

Next up: Egg-istential Crisis

Getting Lippy

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

Getting Lippy, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

The power of speech. Something many take for granted. So much so that the basics of the creation of sound often escape common knowledge. Write anthropomorphic works and I promise you this is a remark you will see, “But they can’t speak without lips!”

epicfail

“They said what? … no, no!”

Alright, for the purposes of the second entry in my series we will ignore the other forms of communication: body cues, sign language, writing. Today we’re talking about the ability of audible speech. I hope you have come with a sound mind, pun very much intended.

Inside the Voice Box

Most of us talk without thinking about how it is actually done. We developed the ability so long ago it’s subconscious. Inside our necks we have an organ called the larynx. This structure controls several things, including closing off your lungs from food when you swallow. But it also suspends the vocal chords. Controlling the air flow through these flaps of tissue is a large part of speech and pitch. What you hear is the vibrations of air. We’re basically wind instruments.

Most mammals have a version of this organ. Dogs have one very similar to our own, note the two diagrams provided. The parts correspond.

 

Birds have an organ called a syrinx. A bit more on that later. Reptiles, amphibians and even some fish have a simplified version, some utilize bone ridges to produce vocalizations. However some animals have opted to be voiceless and have evolved beyond the basic organ in favor of other adaptations. Yes, this does make it trickier to support the concept of the latter obtaining speech. The case is the strongest in mammals and birds. Remember, with anthropomorps we are talking about a fictional world with either a fantasy suspension of disbelief or a sci-fi explanation of genetic alterations or alien life.

Lip Locked

Dogs can’t talk, they don’t have lips.”

Well, there’s two things wrong with that statement. One, dogs most certainly have lips. I know, I have painted enough smiling dog lips as a pet portrait artist. Phoenix shows off her sweet smile, that fur-less flesh looking a bit like an earthworm along her teeth is her lower lip.

PhoenixLips

“You like my smile, no?”

Ashenpaw, my late border collie, disproves another aspect I have heard. That they can’t from shapes enough to effect sound. Oh yeah? Howling allows a lot of phonetic differences. And this old bad boy would grumble “momma” if I was late getting his dinner ready. There are quite a few videos online of dogs mimicking human speech, albeit limited by their real world physicality.

Ash111812

“I want my dinner now!”

Thing number two that’s wrong with the statement:Ventriloquism is proof that you don’t have to move your lips to speak, it’s merely easier to do so. Speech is largely the placement of the tongue in the mouth, where the tongue strikes the teeth (if at all), and internal mouth cavity shape with air flow. I am not a ventriloquist, but I love watching skilled performers like Jeff Dunham. Watching shows like this prove that even though the average person uses lip shape to form words, it is possible to produce speech without them.

Moot point though in animals that have lips anyway.

Stiff Lipped!

Of course birds don’t have any form of lip. Ever heard a parrot speak? That torpedoes any notion of lips being a requirement for speech.

Parrot

“Did you hear the one about the saltine?”

Parrots mimic human speech and other sounds through using the syrinx, an organ similar to the mammalian larynx, however the avian version is located at the fork between the lungs. This means they can actually produce two different sounds simultaneously by controlling the flow individually. Pretty neat. Parrots are capable of mimicking complete vocal patterns and are capable of forming associations if the context is strong enough, such as saying “Hello” when the phone rings. Some can form quite the vocabulary … including a colorful one if someone likes to cuss in their earshot.

As to why they copy so many different sounds including power tools, car horns, etc, the current theory is that in wild parrots could use the different vocalizations to determine where a potential mate was from and use that information for selection. It’s also recently been discovered that parrots have individual names for one another. There are unique sound combos used by parents to address individual chicks that they keep throughout their lives. Yes—this is in wild parrots.

Next time you hear a parrot screeching, it might be the avian equivalent of, “Johnny! Get your tail back here right now!”

Next in the series, Thinkin’ It Through