Anya looked anxiously down at her crystal ball, but instead of the tiny fragments and swirling mists she usually saw there were very clear glimpses, tricky to interpret but well-defined. She’d been beginning to think she couldn’t make it as a fortune teller after all, but maybe she was getting the hang of it.

“You will meet someone soon–very soon!” she said breathlessly. “A pale man with a pale mark … you will be very excited when you meet him, but–oh, there is danger. Great danger! You must beware–”

She looked up into her client’s face–a pale face, with a fat white scar down one cheek like the trail of an acid tear. She glanced down at the crystal ball again, and realized–stupid, stupid!–she had it oriented backwards, wrong side to the west. She hadn’t been reading her client’s fortune at all. She’d been reading–

“Talented,” muttered the pale man. He stood up, but not to leave.

Every once in a while some smart ass kid sneaks a machete or something into the zoo, lures Edna over with junk food, and hacks off one of her heads. For the kid, it’s a lark. For me, it’s one more mouth to feed.

If you’re going to look after a hydra, you have to be dedicated. And you have to realize that things always get more complicated in the long run, never simpler. Take love, for example. If you’re alone, it’s the simplest thing in the world: no double families to juggle at holidays, no having to orient the toilet paper roll the right way … but then you fall in love, and all of a sudden you’re making accommodations and trying to remember the anniversary of your first date date. Getting out of it isn’t exactly simple, either, which I think is why some people opt for marriage … which is even more of a mess. Not even mentioning children! And then you realize that it was never going to work out in the first place, and you get divorced, and instead of having one person who more or less likes you, you have one person who more or less hates you who usually starts going out right away with someone else who hates you (notice how it doubles?), and likely as not you’re on the rebound and are going out with someone again, so it’s not even like you simplified anything there!

At least when it gets more complicated with Edna, you know what you’re going to get. One more head, one more set of teeth to dodge, and fifteen more pounds a day of fresh meat.

I still like it better, though, when the kid leans through the bars and Edna eats the little creep instead of getting one of her heads chopped off. First of all, it teaches all the other smart ass kids a lesson. Second, it’s one less person, which makes the world just a little, tiny bit simpler for a while.

* Chalmers made sure that his rooms were free of pentagons, because only thus could he keep out the hamsters of Tindalos;

* Chalmers made sure that his rooms contained no parabolas, because he feared the Vietnamese pot bellied pigs of Tindalos;

* Chalmers used a putty knife and some plaster to eradicate all trapezoids from his rooms. He did this to keep out the garter snakes of Tindalos;

* Chalmers eliminated all polygons of n sides, where n is any integer greater than 5, in order to bar entry to the ducklings of Tindalos;

* Chalmers checked his rooms for hyperbolas (there weren’t any) because he feared the anoles of Tindalos;

* Chalmers would have destroyed all traces of ellipses in his rooms, to protect himself from the baby chicks of Tindalos, but he forgot.

The end
* With apologies to the late Frank Belknap Long.

Barbie knew she had enemies–that creepy clown doll, the sadly plain-looking ballerina, even (though this was more of a bitchy rivalry) Skipper. But it wasn’t until she stepped on the brakes of her hot pink sports car and got nothing but a dull clunking noise that she realized someone was trying to kill her.

She wasn’t helpless. Barbie had learned something from dating more than a few action figures in her time–G.I. Joe still sent her whiny Facebook messages. She dove out of the car, rolled, and came up in a crouch. The hot pink sports car smashed into a bedpost at a speed that would have pretzeled her. The room was silent. After a few watchful moments, she crept away.

Three days and two spa treatments later, Barbie had nearly forgotten the incident. She was having tea with Malibu Ken, who was as gay as a songbird.

“Did I tell you her brother has a new set of X-Men figures?” Ken said. “Hello, Wolverine!” There were more emotionally developed gay dolls in the room, but Ken was the most fun and the best dressed of them.

Barbie shook her head and lifted her teacup to her little plastic lips. Suddenly Ken squealed, lurched across the table, and swatted the cup away.

“I’m so sorry,” Ken said. “I forgot and put sugar in it! You could’ve gotten fat!”

The teacup’s contents spattered over a pop diva dress Barbie had been wearing earlier. The tea ate through it with a hissing noise.

“Oh. My. God,” Barbie said.

“Oh Barbie!” Ken said in despair. “And that dress was fabulous on you!”

Barbie wasn’t listening: she’d caught a glimpse of blonde hair disappearing under the bed sham and she dove after it. In the darkness under the bed, she grabbed hold of someone or something.

It was a rough fight: there was scratching, biting, and shrieking. Hair was mussed. Ken ran away, screaming for the weeble policeman. When they finally rolled into the light, covered with dust bunnies, Barbie was able to identify her attacker.

It was another Barbie–but from a fashion nightmare. Her hair had been “styled” into a page boy-meets-weed-whacker cut, and her face was grotesquely made up with magic marker. She looked old–her plastic scratched, her breasts distinctly 1990′s-shaped. Clearly this was Barbie’s predecessor, who had been handed down to the little sister. Barbie thought she would rather die than look like that.

Fashion nightmare Barbie just looked at her, tears streaming down her disfigured face, and nodded.

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