The Duel of the Critters

Post content includes reference to mental health including anxiety and self-destructive impulses, but doesn’t go into a lot of detail. This one’s actually not too bad, I don’t think. It also has hamsters. Or squirrels. Or something. Demonic ones, yes, but still. And wolves, but honestly they barely get a look-in.

There’s this story, variously attributed to a Cherokee or Inuit elder, or else just someone’s granddad, or occasionally to Billy Graham, depending who you listen to.

You’ve probably heard it, or seen it printed on a tea-towel or something on Amazon.

It’s the one about the two wolves.

Granddad dispenses wisdom to a reverent youngster. Inside every person, says this mentor figure, there are two wolves, constantly locked in mortal struggle. One represents positive attributes – kindness, love, hope, whatever; while the other represents the darkness: anger, fear, despair, et al.


Youngster says, “But which wilf will win?” (Or something like that.)

And Gramps replies wisely, “Whichever you feed.”

See? Meaning.

But, honestly, despite the slight frivolousness of my presentation, I actually kind of like the story. I don’t know where it really came from, but it’s a good illustration and carries a good lesson: if you spend your time concentrating on the negative, the darkness inside you, you make it stronger. If you want the good to win out, attend to it.

It’s a sensible idea.

It’s just a shame it doesn’t work.

Well, not always. Because sometimes you have things in your head that make it quite tricky to even see which is the Jedi wolf and which is the Sith wolf, and of course if I’ve learned anything from Star Wars since the prequels and the new trilogy it’s that apparently both Sith and Jedi are equally flawed and the Jedi are mostly corrupt and idiotic while the Sith are corrupt but better at it because they’ve had more practice and Star Wars has shifted a long way from its early, starry-eyed good-versus-bad simplicity and everything’s grey and nebulous now and nothing matters.

Aaaanyway. I have mixed feelings about those movies, honestly.

In the end, all that blether up there is just groundwork so you’ve got some idea what I mean when I tell you about my extra two critters at war. I’m not entirely sure what they are. I’ve already got the wolves, obvs, because everyone has; but I’ve got these two other things as well…

I wanna say… squirrels? I love squirrels. Hamsters, maybe?

Definitely squirrels.

Yeah, well, one of them you’ve already met if you’ve spent any time trawling this atrocious mess of a blog. That would be Zuul. Now Zuul is, as we’ve already discussed, less your conventional squirrel and more a sort of demonic hornéd and be-taloned terror-squirrel: a horrible slavering toothy monster from some Hittite hellpit, and yet equally an alluring, captivating, bewitching temptress still from some Hittite hellpit (in this form she does not appear even as a terror-squirrel, and I have less than no clue what I’m talking about I may be a little drunk if truth be told). And, actually, she’s from inside my head and the Hittites never had a demigod called Zuul, or a god called Gozer – they were made up for the film. Which is kind of a shame, truth be told.

Anyway Zuul has… goals… which she’s usually busily trying to impose on me, as articulated in posts passim ad nauseam; but in most circumstances I can generally tell her to get lost effectively enough.

But when I do that, and she slinks off back into her basket and sulks, it is no thanks whatsoever to The Other One, who you’d think would be on my side helping me out, but you’d be way too optimistic if so. I don’t know what her name is yet. What’d be a suitable name for a secondary, opposing demon-squirrel-demigod-hamster? Fuzzy? No. No, we’ve got a rat called that, more or less. Think less rat. How about Biscuit? No… What? Well, no, obviously not.

Caramel! No. No. You’re still thinking sweet treats.

Hmph. Hungry now.


No, still lacking a certain something.

Um… Azmodan?

Holy beans, that was a swing, wasn’t it? A little on-the-nose, I think, tonally. We want some happy medium between the two.

Ah, I dunno. Anyway, point is that there’s these two squabbly little bastards doing their thing, and their thing is annoying.

Zuul we know. Like I said, she has her goal. And fuck her for it, I say. Azmo-peanut doesn’t help because she’s the one who occasionally, apropos of nothing, will pipe up and go, “Hey! Hey! You know that headache you’ve got? Or that slight dizzy spell? Or how you feel like your heart’s running a bit fast? Hah, yeah: you don’t wanna know what that is, but, ah, hehe… Maybe don’t start any long projects, hey?”

Astro-plasmanut, you see, is my hypochondria. Hypochondriasis, if we’re being formal. Health anxiety, if we’re being modern. Which, as I may have mentioned before, isn’t as funny as most sitcoms that feature it might have led you to believe. It can make a day really quite difficult, if I’m honest.

And you see, the problem is that when I described Zuul and Mephistofluffy (still working on it) as being at war you might have picked up the idea that they’re fighting each other, like the wolves are. Well, sometimes they do, admittedly. You’d kind of expect it: one represents my brain trying to destroy me and the other represents my brain trying to get me to panic that I might be destroyed. Shouldn’t they be squabbling with each other? Well yes, they should – and yet, for the most part, they’re not, because they’re bastards. No, most of the time they’re both fighting me.

Sometimes they take it in turns. I’ll just be waking up and they’re muttering to each other under their breath:

“Whose go is it? No, I’m sure it’s mine. You had her yesterday. It must be mine…”

And then sooner or later one of them will start.

There’s a weird pattern to it, though. It’s odd. Sometimes, Fuzzy-zazel gets the first word in, and starts badgering me about some symptom or other – like this crickly neck I’ve had for like months now and I think it’s probably just down to sleeping and working posture (I mean my postures for both sleep and work, not that I have a posture for sleep-working); but she’ll pop up and remind me that it’s definitely that extremely serious vascular condition I’ve almost certainly got and which is just about to rupture something and that’ll be me, right?

And that, perhaps inevitably, nudges the other one to involve herself as well.

“Werl,” she says (strong Hittite accent there); “If you’re going to drop dead anyway, y’know, you might as well…” – and there follows a robust series of talon-gestures designed to illustrate to me exactly what I might as well. To which I generally respond, “Fuck you you fucking fuck” with more or less vehemence depending how I’m feeling at the time, and most of the time she slinks off back to the aforementioned basket.

Oddly enough, it generally doesn’t work the other way, though. When it’s Zuul that’s got the ball rolling, so to speak, for some reason she doesn’t tend to disturb the other one. The other one, in that case, may well just sleep on till tea-time. I do not know why this is. It is something I reflect on occasionally, but honestly, like a quantum system under observation, Mephistofluffy… Are we going with that? Really? Okay… Anyway, the mere act of looking at her, if too close, too direct, too insufficiently side-eyed, will often wake her up and then it’s my fault and not Zuul’s at all and I’m not having that.

Anyway, point is, humans, right? Messy menageries of metaphorical mental monsters manipulating moods… Or maybe manifesting moods?

In conclusion… Eh. Pfft. Brains, huh? Whatcha gonna do? 🤷‍♀️

(All right, not the most convincing end to a post, but it’s quite late and words are hard when you’re half asleep and more than half intoxicated.)

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