“Fear me, lowly sloths!” Gary says, though the words sound more like “aroohhroagoaruurrr.” You see, Gary is a sloth. Well, actually he’s a God, having rejected his inherent slothiness for loftier pursuits. Don’t ask him how he knows; he’s not sure. And you probably don't speak sloth. Few people do.
But Gary knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is destined to lord over his fellow sloths with infallible omnipotence, Quetzalcoatl reborn. However, Gary is unfamiliar with Mesoamerican mythology, so it is probably more accurate to say that Gary shall be the most powerful sloth to ever live in this particular tree.
His name isn’t actually Gary, of course. It’s Weeyoo, like his father, and his father’s father. Besides, Gary is a ridiculous name for a sloth. But the humans call him Gary. At least that’s what the plaque says that’s nailed to the low-set railing that surrounds the Cecropia tree tucked in the corner of what Gary suspects might be a much larger building. Gary can only guess at this fact, since he can’t read or even see that far. But many people have pointed at it, then pointed at him, then said “Gary.” So, you know. Two and two.
Gary spends his time dangling lazily among branches of waxy sweet-smelling leaves, curling his bottom lip up and pressing his tongue against the roof of his mouth to produce the hard guh sound that starts his name. Sloths have a difficult time with hard consonants. But if Gary is going to systematically eradicate his sloth brethren, he’s going to need a more intimidating name than Weeyoo. Like Gary.
Gary reaches a curled hand above his head. A few minutes later he plucks a leaf from a branch, and buries it in his wiry fur where his thigh meets his belly. He flicks absentmindedly at his tiny sloth penis, since he’s in the neighborhood anyway. He unrolls his tongue downward like a party favor, but it’s too short. Gary wills it—wills both of them—to be longer. His eyes scan side to side to see if anyone noticed; it appears not. One by one, Gary takes leaves and hides them, or eats them, or just drops them and watches them flutter to the ground. His soul burns with the fires of a thousand supernovae, singeing his heart black as pitch.
“Soon all the leaves will be gone, and you all shall wither and starve. Famine will wreak havoc on this tree—but probably not that one over there—and Gary your God will accept your sacrifices.” He smiles wide, his eyes droop.
“My bloodlust cannot be satiated!” Gary screeches, then yawns. Two girls on the other side of the railing clap and giggle and point at him. He pays them no notice. “There will be no survivors to tell of my glorious reckoning!” He slowly lifts his arm and hopes the small children will still be watching when he eventually produces a full fist pump.
Gary won’t mourn the deaths of the other sloths; nothing exhibits one’s divinity quite like remorselessly wiping out an entire localized population. It will be a few months before the leaves in his victims’ bellies digest, a few months before they realize no leaves remain on the tree. But Gary is patient. He digs out his pilfered leaf and nibbles on it, even though he hasn’t been hungry for days.
I will consume your subsistence, and then I will consume you. Gary burps.
From above, a fluorescent light flickers. Gary watches as one human shimmies across ceiling beams to replace the bulb, while another unclasps Gary’s hands and feet from his branch and repositions him in a new tree, with new sloths, just to the left. Gary lifts his face toward the light.
“Ask not for me to save you, for there is no salvation,” Gary says to these slightly browner sloths who smell different. They turn their heads slowly toward him from their huddled mass on the other side of the tree, and then turn again and nestle back into each other’s arms. Gary’s eyes close as he imagines this tree, but not that other tree, alight with a raging hellfire while he dangles victoriously from the rafters and awaits his ascension to Valhalla. He chews his leaf.
Katie Sisneros is a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She is a co-founder of The Tangential, a Minneapolis-based humor blog whose motto is "Don't be boring. Don't suck." but whose unofficial motto is "More whiskey, please." You can read her work in Future Cities, a short story collection published by The Tangential, as well as MPLSzine.
All rights reserved to Katie Sisneros.
Illustrated by Alex Fukui.