Continued from Part 1
When the bizarre becomes normal, the commonplace is mind-blowing.
It no longer fazes me to have the god of mice chattering away on my shoulder. Our quest to ask “Brother Coyote” how to defeat Satan seems perfectly reasonable (though I’m still unclear why we went South from Greece to find him, rather than West towards North America).
But I am taken completely off-guard when the infamous trickster turns out to be my English Cocker Spaniel…
Earnest: Qhuinn, is that you?!
[Qhuinn wags his tail happily enough. But rather than jumping up to lick my face, as he usually does when I return home, he just turns around and starts scratching his ear with his hind leg.]
Earnest: Um, Sminthus, what is going on? Is that or isn’t that my dog?
[The mouse-god seems ready to burst with amusement, but his tiny voice is calm when he replies]
Sminthus: Just wait, my friend. All will be made clear in good time.
[Qhuinn finishes scratching and finally walks up to me, sniffing cautiously. I meet his reserve by crouching down and holding out my hand palm up, as I would to a strange dog]
E. Hey there, Qhuinn, is that really you? Do you remember me?
[I nearly fall over as he sits up and starts speaking in a perfect British accent]
Q. Of course I remember you, old fellow. It just takes a while to get all the different instincts under control.
E. Wuh? Who? Huh?
Q. I say, Sminthus, is he always this stupid?
[The mouse doesn’t answer, as he is literally lying on his back roaring with laughter]
E. Wait a minute, are you just the Coyote disguised as my dog?
Q. Please! There’s no “just” about it. In order to communicate with you, I need a shared context. By meshing with Qhuinn I tap into his canine nature, and he gives me a window into your humanity.
[I am seriously tempted to take offense, or frankly just freak out, but instead I hold my breath and count to ten before exhaling.]
E. Oookay. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, but I suppose I need to trust Sminthus knows what he’s doing.
Q. Oh, absolutely. But of course, you should never trust me.
E. Wait, wait? Even when you tell me not to trust you?
Q. Oh, especially then.
E. Ouch. My brain hurts.
Q. Thank you. That is my gift, after all. I am the wild card, the flaw in the system, the unparseable input.
E. That makes you sound like a tool of Satan, if your only purpose is to sow chaos.
Q. Oh, far from it. Or near from it, perhaps, since Satan does often take advantage of my little escapades. But that is precisely why I can be of use to you.
E. Wait, what?
Q. Sigh. Do try to keep up. I am the god of trickery. Satan sees that as a predictable source of chaos for his schemes. But the moment I appear predictable…
E. You flip the trick back on its head, catching Satan off guard.
Q. Precisely! Now you’ve got it.
E. No, I don’t. To use you to gain an advantage over Satan, it seems I have to predict the unpredictable.
Q. Tish tosh, not at all. You just need to be able to anticipate that which Satan is unable to predict, because of his very nature.
E. Huh? How is that any better?
S. Let me try. Pretend you were my first ancestor to encounter a mechanical mousetrap. You are drawn to the cheese. You are alert for any possible predators, but literally cannot conceive of an odorless machine as a threat.
E. Wait. Are you saying I need to offer something to Satan as bait, which conceals something his worldview prevents him from considering a threat?
Q. Yes, exactly. But not some thing…
E. Some… one? You don’t mean…
Q. I say, Sminthus, I take it back. He really is quite bright after all.
E. Oh, no no no. I am NOT offering myself as bait to Satan. The whole idea is insane.
Q. Oh, posh. Isn’t that exactly what your Savior did?
E. Ah, Um, well…
Q. And isn’t the whole purpose of your life to follow in His footsteps?
[I try to speak, but only various strangling noises come out]
Q. O my, Sminthus, do I need to change forms again? The translator no longer seems to be working.
S. Don’t worry about it, my friend. I’ve seen the exact same thing many times before: whenever a human has caught themselves in their own mousetrap!
To be continued…