Winnie-the-Pooh and the Angle of Dath, by Dave Hughes
Description: A. A. Milne’s stories and poems about Winnie-the-Pooh became instant children’s classics. This parody, in the tradition of A. A. Milne, is not for children by any means.
After The House At Pooh Corner, it’s been four years since Christopher Robin went to school, and now Owl’s dead – murdered by an anonymous assassin who calls himself the Angel of Death (or more accurately, the spelling in the title) and promises more killings. That’s not all; the Angle brought a bloodthirsty pack of wolves to help him, and a demon-worshiping crow watches the chaos… and waits.
Rabbit races to find the killer and tries to shun his wretched past that caused his friends-and-relations to abandon him. Tigger tries to fend off the wolves and prove his strength. Kanga wants another child – with Tigger. Roo is an emotional teenage train wreck. Eeyore faces a huge change to his life and mental status. Piglet finds a bit too much solace from Owl’s old liquor cabinet. As for poor old Winnie-the-Pooh, all he wants is Christopher Robin to come back and make things right.
This unauthorized parody is by no means what Milne intended, but the style is the same, the charm is the same, and the structure is the same. The only thing that’s different is that religious fanaticism causes the Hundred-Acre Wood to lose its innocence… forever.
“I’m afraid the Hundred-Acre Wood can’t forgive you,” whispered the figure at Owl’s bedside, “so just hold still and cooperate for me.”
Owl snorted. He raised his head and creaked it over his pillow to face the ceiling rather than the window. His beak dragged a long thread of saliva across his dry feathers. When he leaned back again, an awkward plume of dust from his sheets and his scalp puffed into the masked face of the black-cloaked fellow in the cold moonlight of his newly built tree house.
“Um-” Owl began to speak, but his inside of his beak tasted like dried mud. He smacked his tongue up and down the short shell of a mouth in a rhythmic rattle until the whole inside was wet enough to talk with.
The visitor sat down on the nightstand, but sat up again when he realized it wasn’t a stool. The thing almost broke, which would have sent the piles upon piles of heavy books crashing down. In the brief shuffle he dropped his shotgun, but caught it just before a bump with the floor could make it misfire. Only two shots were inside, and if neither of them went into Owl’s skull, there would be trouble.
“Hallo there, good sir,” said Owl, his eyes still shut. “I do hope you realize this is an absolutely dreadful time to go visiting. Perhaps I must introduce you to the proper methods of visitation in modern etiquette, since you seem to not know a good time to-”
“Owl. This is serious. I need you to hold still.”
“Yes. It’s not very complicated, you just sort of keep your wings very stiff and-”
“I know how to hold still, you weird, whispering, um, whatever-it-is-you-are. What, dare I ask, is that whatever-it-is-you-are which you, in fact, are?”
The assassin said nothing.
“You could tell me, you know, when I dutifully ask as a resident of this tree house. It is your duty as a gentleman – that is, if you are a gentleman!” Owl couldn’t hold back a whooping chuckle.
“I can’t tell you who I am.”
“Are you perhaps the ghost of my great uncle Robert? Oh, how delightfully peculiar! Do tell me- did you figure out the meaning of life in your retreat to the Scottish Highlands after all?”
“Not him. I’m just, I can’t tell you. It’s secret information.”
“Why, do you not know? Have you forgotten in some existential artistic-aspiration bric-a-brac? That’s Roo’s department, go to Kanga’s house if you-”
“I can’t tell you, and that’s the end of it.”
Owl turned to his assassin and pointed at him with his left wing, yet he kept his eyes shut. “Well, then, if you can’t tell me who you are, why do you come?”
“I must carry out my duties.”
“I see. Then carry them out elsewhere, because another animal’s residence is not-”
“Please be quiet.”
“Me, be quiet? I’m the one trying to sleep, in my own household! You are so atypically silly for a visitor; you need my instruction more than ever. I mean, first you come at night -which is clearly the time all sophisticated owls go to bed, despite popular ideology against the idea you may have heard- then you insist that I hold still for some reason, then you won’t tell me your identity, and to top it all off, you put this downright freezing metal implement next to my eye, pressing it a bit harder than I would like, and-”
He opened his left eye. There was metal jammed against his head. It was a double-barreled shotgun, held by a masked figure in a black cloak.
“I- well, I never!” he said with a trembling scoff.
As the intruder whipped his hand next to the trigger, Owl rolled out of bed and sprung to his feet. The skin of his feet caught the oak floorboards and his claws dug into the cracks between the splinters.
Owl pointed his wing at the invader like his logic was more potent of ammunition than anything a gun could possess, which of course it wasn’t. “You, whoever you are, burglar, you should know better than to-”
With a sudden flopping and flapping of linen, Owl could see only black. The burglar put a pillowcase over his head. Owl could have lifted one of his legs to pull it off, but there was no time. The intruder could be anywhere with his gun, ready to kill Owl before he even had a chance to finish his personal memoirs about his religious pilgrimage to the London Zoo.
The one thing that was for certain to Owl, even in complete darkness, was the location of his weapon.
The burglar watched as the bird fumbled around with his feet along the bottom of the bed. He could have killed that old self-appointed scholar right there if not for how much his trigger hand quaked at the notion.
One swiping shink of bed-frame iron against the Queen’s steel, and the blinded bird stood on his left foot with a rusted saber pointed towards the ceiling held in the right. The wide side of the blade whipped in his own face as he flung it to his fighting stance, but he had bigger worries.
The assassin decided that if he couldn’t bring himself to do the deed normally then he would just have to try it the old-fashioned way. He grabbed a steak knife from the table next to Owl’s stove.
“I will have you know, you foul-minded brigand,” said Owl, “that I am a six-year veteran of the Royal Avian Armed Forces. To confront me would be an absolute waste of a young man’s life. This masterfully tempered length of steel ended the foul existence of several bird-brained villains on the Eastern Front, and it will end yours as well! I could take the trenches, and I could therefore take any lower-class derelict in my-”
A sharp pain swept across Owl’s chest. He spat out a startled hoot. He could feel warm wetness trickle down his feathers. Blood.
Before Owl could riposte, a shelf full of his old plates and glassware was knocked over and it pinned him to the ground. The Tree House began to buckle from the shock in little thumps underfoot. He crawled out from under the heavy weight on his back, but several more minor swipes of the knife were made into his flesh.
He scrambled with the claws of his free foot onto any higher ground he could find until he ran into the painted blue wall above his bed. He tried to bash through the wall and discovered it was not the window. When he did go out the window, he broke the glass and the window frame in one hard splash and saturated his body with even more unskilled cuts.
Owl left trails of blood in the air as he plummeted to the ground. He could feel the cold wind flush around him and the red fluids sucked from his veins. The pain was intense to the point where could only unfurl his bleeding wings just before he would have hit the cold midnight grass.
He broke his fall with a few strained flaps of his wings and landed gently. He could hear the footsteps of at least three other creatures on the ground.
“Tigger, is that you?” said Owl. “As you can probably tell I can’t see anything with this blasted pillowcase on my—“
“I’m not Tigger, bird.” The voice was low and rasping, unlike that of either the intruder or anyone else of the Hundred-Acre Wood.
“Oh. Well, whomever you are, would you be so kind as to go get help, being that there is a crazed murderer after me?”
“You be quiet, bird. We’ll hold you still. Our friend here shoots you.”
Two more feet planted on the ground, having descended from Owl’s tree house.
Owl realized his sword was still fixed in the grip of his right foot. He whipped it in the direction of the new voice. “Do not come any closer, or I swear I’ll slash you to ribbons!” said Owl.
The weapon was then gripped by the blade end and yanked from his grasp. The shotgun was once again held against his heart.
Owl could feel his pulse nudge the steel up and down.
Owl let out a shriek, then lunged at the killer and kicked him to the ground. His old talons could only penetrate the cloak and not the skin of whoever this was. Owl stomped in the vagabond’s face and tried to fly upwards. The killer snatched Owl’s foot and pulled him down. Owl’s wings flung up and down in a panicked daze as the other thugs chuckled in anticipation.
Owl felt a heavy foot on his chest. He was slammed to the ground with his back on the wet grass. Owl was drenched in his own blood, and it made him cold as the October breeze swept over the fluids and dried them.
“Now, hold still, Owl,” said the assassin.
“I will not hold still!” said Owl. He pointed his wing at the killer, but the thugs grabbed his wings and held them down, spread out on the ground. “As long as there is one breath in my body, I still have some kind of work to do. And I will continue to find a way out of this situation as I—“
Owl’s sword was plunged into his shoulder, nailing him to the floor of the forest. He choked on blood as it backed up in his throat.
“I will— I am— good sir, I will die a gentleman’s death! I am a hero of the Great War, and I swear to you my name will go down in history as—“
The gun was shoved against his throat, under the fabric of the pillowcase.
“Oh God, please, think about what you’re doing, I don’t want to—!”
The shot in the left barrel was fired. With the first big “boom” in the wood’s populated history, the inside of Owl’s head painted the grass next to it crimson.
The group stood and watched as the scattered blood carved rivers in the soil.
Winnie-the-Pooh and the Angle of Dath, by Dave Hughes