Let Them Eat Cake!
by Casey Moriarty
“That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.”
– William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV Scene III
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
“Aye, aye, it must be so. I’ve oversailed him. How, got the start? Aye, he’s chasing me now; not I, him… that’s bad,”
– Captain Ahab in Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Canyon Del Muerto, Arizona: 1954
For the twelve year old Joseph Sigo, life at Chinle Junior High School was… dichotomous, to say the least. Some days, he’d walk from the canyon towards his school with his heart thundering in anticipation over his after school studies with the dazzling Arion Kaneikokala, a lovely young lady who was both one year his senior and slightly worse at math than he was. Other days, he felt a knot in the pit of his guts because he knew he’d be facing a cruel taunting and perhaps even beating from Lupa Akheilos, a greaser considered to be the ginchiest (and certainly handsomest) kid in the school by most; the dark shades and leather jacket he sported perfectly complemented his shining Jelly Roll haircut and made all the dollies swoon. To Joseph Sigo, however, Lupa was just a bully of a most vile and ruthless temperament, who on certain days would taunt and mock him for no discernible reason.
Today, unfortunately, was one of those days. As he walked towards the great blue doors that opened into the large adobe schoolhouse, his heart sank to see the thick and chiseled features of Lupa slide in to block his path.
“Where you goin’, Faggo?” Lupa said, grinning and revealing the perfectly white teeth that hid behind his olive skin. The bully deliberately bumped into Joseph, causing him to drop the brown lunch bag he was carrying.
“I’m sorry, Faggo, let me get that for you,” he said, picking it up.
“Come on, Lupa, I just want to get to class,” Joseph pleaded.
“Bein’ a couple minutes late ain’t gonna killa ya, Fream,” Lupa said, reaching into the bag, “Oh, hey! Peanut butter and jelly! Your mommy make this for you?”
“My Mom died,” said Joseph.
Lupa pretended to look sad, “Oh, how awful of me! Sorry ’bout your dead mom. But I guess if she didn’t make it, you don’t need it.”
Joseph couldn’t help it: tears were now streaming down his cheeks. “My grandma made it! Please give it back?”
“Buzz off, wet rag,” the bully said, lifting the sandwich to his mouth.
Now Joseph was openly crying, and openly mad, “Lupa, give it back, or I’ll…”
With a sudden movement, Lupa used his free hand to seize Joseph’s wool flannel shirt, bringing his dark shades within an inch of Joseph Sigo’s black eyes.
“You’ll do what, you little faggot?”
The cruel greaser was a full head taller than Joseph, and capable of being just as intimidating as he was charming. Today, such a person would likely be diagnosed a sociopath. But this was the 1950s, and there was less of a critical eye on just what was happening in the schoolyards. So when Lupa stared down Joseph through the soulless opacity of his dizzyingly hip shades, the poor boy found himself in the grip of fear and with no hope of recourse through authority. So he merely stammered, “Uh… um… uh… nothing, Lupa.”
The bully released him. “That’s what I thought, Faggo,” he grinned, and took a big bite of the sandwich.
When Joseph Sigo arrived back home, he was late and it was dark. He’d had a tough time finding the little house that he and his Grandmother lived in, since it wasn’t exactly surrounded by landmarks or electric lights. It simply sat, with an empty desert stretching around it in all directions. The reservation they lived on was small, but not so small that people lived particularly close together.
“You’re late, Shorsey,” came his grandmother’s voice as he stepped in the door.
“I had detention,” said Joseph, “I was late for a class.”
“Shouldn’t be late,” said Grandmother, “How was your sandwich?”
“Uh… it was good, Grandma,” Joseph lied poorly.
“You think I miss when you don’t eat? A big eater like you, and you’re looking skinnier every day,” said Grandmother, “And late for class? Not good, Shorsey, not good.”
“Grandma, I’m twelve now, don’t call me Shorsey anymore,” said Joseph, “I’m almost a man.”
Grandmother scoffed, “A man? A man wouldn’t let some bully take his sandwich. A man would fight back. And what about that girl, uh… Ariel?”
“Arion,” said Joseph. The thought of her made his heart skip a beat.
“So, let’s see, you let these people rob you, and I bet this girl doesn’t even know you like her,” said Grandmother scornfully.
“You don’t get it, Grandma,” said Joseph, “Lupa’s much bigger than me. What would be the point of standing up to him? He’d kick my ass.”
“Language, Shorsey!” Grandmother scolded, “What do you think your father would say about that?”
“We can’t ask him, can we?” Joseph said, now a little mad, “No one knows where he is. He’s probably dead.”
“No, no. Your father ain’t dead. I believe we’ll see him again one day,” Grandma said, smiling.
“Whatever, Grandma,” Joseph said.
“Watch your tongue!” she scolded again.
Her son, and Joseph’s father, Lawrence Sigo, had been a Navajo Code Talker and decorated member of the United States Marine Corps. He’d won medals fighting the Axis during World War II, and had been there on that fateful day at Iwo Jima when the American Flag was raised. Joseph was a toddler at the time. His memories of his father were fractured at best, though he remembered a strong and moral man. After Iwo Jima, though, Lawrence Sigo had not been heard from again. He was declared M.I.A. and the town of Chinle mourned; likely he’d been killed or captured and then killed but no one knew for sure. Grandmother always believed, or pretended to believe, he’d find his way home. As far as Joseph Sigo and the US Government were concerned, though, Lawrence Sigo was deader than Anne Frank.
“Regardless of what you think of your father’s current status,” Grandmother said, “My point is that he wasn’t afraid to stand up to the bullies. Well, you lost a sandwich, but Hitler wanted to take over the world. Imagine what would have happened if your father, and the men like him, had said ‘Oh, but they’re so big. They’ll kick my ass.’ We’d all be speaking German! Or dead! And you can’t even stand up for yourself on the schoolyard? So what if he beats you up? Your father would be ashamed.”
Joseph went to bed without answering his Grandmother, but he lay awake all night thinking about her words. She was right, after all. Lawrence Sigo, who fought the Nazis, and the Japanese, would never have let some greaser idiot take his sandwich. And he would never have been afraid to talk to some girl; if he had been, there’d be no Joseph because he’d never have married Mom.
It was the thoughts of his dad that were in his mind when Joseph returned to school the next day. He almost couldn’t wait to see Lupa – and after school, Arion – and he fantasized during the whole walk to school about how he was going to kill two birds with one stone today. He might lose, but at least he’d be without fear. Lupa didn’t accost him on his way to class that morning, so he thought all day about his coming battle. He didn’t see Lupa at lunch, either, and for the second half of the day his thoughts turned to Arion. He imagined himself, talking to her more smoothly than Lupa ever could, and impressing her by taking down the bully. When school ended, he practically raced to Room 9, where he helped her (and a select group of other, less attractive students) with their arithmetic.
When he arrived, early as always, the classroom was mostly empty. Slowly, the few other students that studied their math homework with Joseph’s help trickled in, where they greeted their tutor with a general derision over his superior mind. Moving from desk to desk to offer advice, Joseph kept turning his eye towards the clock as the minutes ticked away. The math study lasted only an hour, and there was yet no sign of Arion. After twenty minutes of this, Joseph’s shoulders drooped in disappointment. It seemed she wasn’t coming.
Finally, though, like a ray of heavenly light, into the room she burst! Resplendent in a plaid pencil skirt and blue blouse, she seemed a bit harried; still, though, nothing could outshine her beauty. Trying his best swagger, Joseph chivalrously approached her to offer assistance with her bag.
“Hi, Arion,” he said, grinning as he thought, be smooth, be smooth, “Can I help you with that bag?”
She smiled back as she handed him the bag. Smiled back! Handed him the bag! Taking it, he escorted her to a nearby chair.
“Uh… so, uh… what do you need help with today?” he asked, trying his hardest not to stammer. This manliness thing is hard, he thought, how did Dad do it?
She giggled, though, so evidently he was doing something right.
“Well, uh… my math homework,” she said playfully. This was going great! Joseph handed her the bag and she pulled out her papers, “I’m not so clear on this pre-algebra stuff.”
Joseph smiled and offered his help. The next forty minutes seemed to fly by, and he had her talking and even laughing as he showed her how to handle polynomials.
“You’ve got it,” he said, “You really don’t need much help.”
She smiled again, “That’s a shame. I was hoping I could come to your house later and work on this some more.”
“Uh, um… uh, yeah,” he said, “That would be great.”
Then he remembered his Grandmother. Whatever.
“Yeah, yeah, come over whenever… My Grandma won’t mind. Maybe she won’t call me Shorsey when you’re around.”
“Shorsey?” she asked, giggling.
“Yeah… uh, it’s what she and my dad called me… when I was little. Short for ‘small horse,’ because I was their little horse. My Navajo name is Dark Horse,” he said, stammering.
“That’s cute,” she said.
“Uh… thanks,” he said, “but… uh, maybe don’t tell anyone.”
She just smiled. As Joseph walked home that night, he didn’t care that it was dark. He was happy. And he was happy all night. And he was happy in the morning, even as he walked towards the blue doors of his big adobe schoolhouse. But as he walked towards the school, he heard a familiar voice.
“What’s up, Shorsey?” it was Lupa.
Joseph turned, “What did you call me?”
“Shorsey… great name,” Lupa said derisively, “But I like Faggo just as much. Faggo.”
“How did you…” Joseph sputtered, the color draining from his face.
“You’re sweet on Arion, aren’t you, nosebleed,” said Lupa, “So you oughtta know: we’re jacketed. Where’d ya think we were last night? Makin’ out like, wow, you little dipstick. And she told me all about you and your cute little crush and your stupid nickna- OOF!”
Joseph had tackled Lupa and administered a knuckle sandwich straight to his proboscis. The bully was bleeding from the face now, and Joseph had every intention of pummeling him within an inch of his life. But that’s not how reality works; when you attack someone bigger than you, you often get a beating, and today Joseph “Dark Horse” Sigo got the beating of his life.
He never made the mistake of not being afraid of Lupa again; although the bully disappeared from the school shortly after that day. Joseph also never spoke to Arion again.
SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA: PRESENT DAY
The man once known as Joseph Sigo was now the mighty being known as Shark Horse thanks to the machinations of the evil Joseph Mengele. It had now been a year since the powerful creature that sat on the legs of a horse but beheld the fearsome visage of a murderous Great White Shark had used his abilities to take down the returned Third Reich. After the fall of the New Axis, Shark Horse had taken time to walk (or rather trot) the earth, getting into various adventures that we’ll elucidate later. He had occasionally returned to visit his friends the Turtles, hoping to complete his training and control his powers. Finally, he’d settled in the city of Santa Ana, where he’d elected to use his abilities for the highest good protecting that city. He’d become something of a legend in the area, although most citizens did not believe in his existence.
Today he was following his Shark Senses to the sound of a woman’s fearful screams. Galloping as fast as he could, he sensed two quickened heartbeats inside of a dark and dank alley; he swooped inside to see a doughy, knife wielding man perched over a young and fearful lady.
“Quit fightin’, bitch, it’ll be over quick,” the man was saying, and began to fiddle with his belt. A rape in progress! Not today.
“Unhand the lady, sir,” Shark Horse bellowed towards the would-be rapist. The man didn’t turn around; if he had, his response would probably have been different.
“Fuck off,” was all he said as it was, with his back to the beast behind him. It was his last mistake.
With all the speed of Seabiscuit dashing past War Admiral to win the Pimlico Special, Shark Horse fell upon the hapless criminal and destroyed him. It would be inaccurate to simply say “killed him” or even just “ate him.” No, this wannabe molester of women had his body annihilated in a way that would make a crematorium jealous. If he was anything, he was a fine red mist, but even that may have been too generous; this evildoer had been reduced to his component parts and would never harm anyone again. Shark Horse looked down at the young woman, trying not to appear too terrifying as he licked the last bits of dead rapist off his face.
“Are you, alright, ma’am?” he asked in a soft voice.
“I am now, Shark Horse,” she said, “I can’t believe you’re real.”
“Oh, I’m quite real,” the icthyous vigilante said, “Now is there anything further I can do for you? Can I offer to assist your recovery in any way?”
The woman got to her feet and placed a soft hand on Shark Horse’s rough and jagged nose.
“How can I ever thank you?” she asked.
“Think nothing of it, miss, justice is its own reward,” Shark Horse answered in his best Christopher Reeve impression.
“No, no, I don’t think you understand,” she said, adding a sultry purr to her voice, “How can I ever thank you?”
She began to run her hands toward his pointed tail, searching for… something.
“Oh, well, uh,” Shark Horse stammered a bit sheepishly, “Well, uh, I’m flattered, but, uh… I’m not human.”
“That’s okay,” the young woman said; it was a bit creepy, but Shark Horse wasn’t one to judge.
“Well, uh, I’m also… technically… and this is a bit embarrassing, not… uh, strictly built… uh, as a male,” he sputtered. But she already knew that; she’d found his mare parts hiding under his sharklike tail.
“I’ll make do,” she said, preparing to go to work.
“Well, uh, careful, because my dermal denticles can cut you, they’re very sharp,” Shark Horse said, hoping not to scare the lady off.
“I’ll be okay,” she said, but as she prepared to give Shark Horse a bit of Shark-love, a bright spotlight threw the fearsome shape of a fin into the sky. Shark Horse sighed with disappointment. It was the Shark-Signal, the very same one that he’d gifted to the Santa Ana Police Department a few months ago.
“You have to go?” she asked sadly.
“I must,” said Shark Horse.
“Can I call you?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m sorry, miss. I have enemies. Now I must away,” he said, galloping up the side of the nearby building and off into the darkness, leaping over obstacles using his mastery of the free-running art of Sharkour. He was frustrated, but luckily his Turtle friend Don had invented a device that allowed Shark Horse to take care of his own… needs. So it was that he dashed over buildings and across dark streets to meet Commissioner Gallardo on the roof of the Santa Ana MCU.
“Glad you’re here, Shark Horse,” the Commissioner said.
“Indeed,” said Shark Horse, “How can I help?”
“Last month, you saved this city from the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan, and the mayor wanted to thank you.”
Shark Horse snorted with frustration, “I’m sure his thank you isn’t going to be as nice as the one I could have gotten if not for your damn signal.”
“I don’t know about that, Shark Horse,” the Commissioner said, “You see, the mayor has acquired you a ticket for a concert this weekend. By a band. He heard you were a big fan.”
Shark Horse’s eyes widened a bit, “Cake!”
Shark Horse didn’t much go for pop culture, but Cake had been his favorite band since he was Joseph Sigo. Seeing them live would be a dream come true, but…
“I’m a Shark Horse, Commissioner. Thank the mayor for the gesture, but I can’t exactly stroll into a concert and see a live band. Pity though; I would have loved to see them.”
The Commissioner smiled, “The Mayor has that covered, Shark Horse. He arranged it for you to go back stage. You’ll watch the show, safely hidden from the unknowing crowd, and afterwards, you’ll meet the band.”
Shark Horse could barely contain his joy. Meet… CAKE? This was the happiest he’d been since… well, since that fateful day in 1954, when he briefly thought he had a date with Arion Kaneikokala. He trotted and cantered about the rooftop, humming the band’s hit “Shirt Skirt Long Jacket.” The Commissioner smiled, pleased to see Shark Horse in such a good mood.
“I don’t want to spoil the fun, Shark Horse, but… there’s also a job,” Santa Ana’s top cop said.
“I want a girl with a mind like a diamond. I want a girl who knows what’s best… A job? Sure, sure, what is it?” Shark Horse asked, still dancing.
“Well, uh… I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s been a string of killings around Orange County…”
“Yes,” said Shark Horse, “In some of our neeeigh-boring cities.”
“No one knows much,” said the Commissioner, “But there’s… something… attacking crowds. It seems random; parties, weddings… they’re just being torn to pieces. Everyone killed. But there’s always one surviving witness; all they say they’ve seen is some kind of… some kind of… blur.”
“The Black-And-White-Blur,” said Shark Horse, “I’ve read about it. Always accompanied by a terrible, otherworldly howling. You have a lead?”
“Not exactly, but… well, this morning it struck again. Destroyed a firetruck. Killed four firemen, right here in Santa Ana. No one knows anything.”
“I’ll look into it,” said Shark Horse.
He did, too, but several days of searching turned up no leads. His heart wasn’t exactly in crime-fighting at the moment; he was going to see the band Cake! In his glee, he almost forgot to eat a couple of muggers that he killed; but that would be wasteful.
Finally the day came; before the doors of the Santa Ana venue officially opened, Shark Horse was escorted into the theater and hidden behind a backstage curtain. There he waited; and, by the Great Spirit, how awful that wait was! The opening band was some terrible number that Shark Horse wanted to eat; but, late into the night, the show began!
There they were; Cake themselves, onstage in all their glory! They opened with a cover of Willie Nelson’s Sad Songs and Waltzes, then segued from Opera Singer to Frank Sinatra. It was the greatest thing Shark Horse had ever seen, and he’d personally controlled a kaiju and fought Italian Facism.
But as the concert continued, Shark Horse felt a certain unease in his Ampullae of Lorenzini. He shut it out, trying to enjoy the show, but, little by little, the creeping dread increased. Now Shark Horse felt the awful feeling grow; increase; spread; it was building to a crescendo of fear.
No! he was Shark Horse, he shouldn’t feel fear, especially not when seeing his favorite band. But now the feeling had spread from his Ampullae to the pit of his stomach; he was twitching and whinnying; Shark Horse was terrified.
That’s when he saw it; a speeding blur of black and white was making its way through the crowd, tearing into the audience like an evil, monochromatic lawnmower. It was killing people! Murdering them- his fellow Cake fans, he had to stop it- but he could barely function, let alone fight- but he had to.
He forced himself out onto the stage, scattering the band that was slowly realizing what was going on. Audience members, now in a panic, were trying to get out of the door but were being cut down by the blur, which was simply too fast for them. Even over the ruckus of the music and the screams, Shark Horse could hear the howling; that awful howling, like the bone-chilling cries of all the souls in Perdition. Shark Horse, despite his terror, was trying to move towards the object, but he could barely get a bead on it.
Then, having already obliterated nearly everyone in the venue, from the biggest fan to the lowliest security guard, the wicked whizzing blur darted to the stage, knocking Shark Horse down as it did so. Then, finally, it stopped moving; now Shark Horse had a full view of it.
It was horrifying; the creature was black, and it was white. Its black parts were slick and hairless; all the white was a snowy fur. Some of the hair on its head was dyed black and styled into a jelly roll haircut; it wore a crude leather jacket fashioned from human skin. The beast sported the pointed ears of a dog and when it grinned, its huge jaws showed a row of teeth that were each an inch or more long. When it spoke, its voice was deep and frightening. If this were a movie, the creature would be voiced by Vin Diesel or Liam Neeson or Benedict Cumberbatch. Its voice was deep and manly, is what I’m saying.
“Scared, Shark Horse? That’s not your fault. Both the species that make you are biologically programmed to fear their natural predators. But it goes deeper than that, doesn’t it? You’ve been afraid of me for decades. Funny we’d end up brothers, isn’t it, Shorsey?”
The creature… But how?
“L-L-Lupa?” Shark Horse stammered.
“Not any more, Faggo,” the beast said, “I’m the Sea Wolf now. Half Orca, half wolf. I bet Father told you the other chimeras were dead?”
“Mengele?” Said Shark Horse, still struggling to get up after Sea Wolf’s attack.
“He made both of us,” said Sea Wolf, “I was made just before you were. But, for some reason, he loved your pansy ass the best. Said I was ‘uncontrollable,’ whatever that means. Flushed me down the toilet. Thought I’d die. He was an idiot. No wonder he loved your stupid ass.”
“Loved me?” Shark Horse bellowed, “He was using me! He didn’t love anything, he’s evil!”
“Heh, heh,” said Sea Wolf, “If he were around, I’d kill him myself. But I heard you took care of that.”
“No…” said Shark Horse, “Mengele’s still alive. You should be after him, not me…”
“SHUT UP!” Sea Wolf roared, “I’ve been following you for years. Since we were both still men. Well, since I was a man and you were a sissy! Aaay! I’ve been learning your habits; I wanted to know everything about you. So I could destroy you. I never forgot that nosebleed, nosebleed. And you want to tell me lies about our late Father now. So, Shark Horse, this is for being his favorite.”
Shark Horse then watched in horror as the monster ate Cake, gobbling the members down with his terrifying speed before anyone could react.
“NOOOO!” Shark Horse ignored his biological fear of Orcas and rushed at Sea Wolf; but the former school bully was stronger and slapped him down with his tail.
“You were always the smart one, Faggo, but my Orca brain has augmented my intellect far above your stupid fish brain. I’m your superior in every imaginable way,” said the monster, “I am Sea Wolf, and I could kill you. But death would only end your agony and silence your shame. Instead, I want you to live long enough to see your loved ones die. Maybe I’ll go after the turtles; or maybe your buddy the cop. Bye!”
Sea Wolf then twisted his wicked chimeric body, bashing Shark Horse with his thick and muscled tail. Shark Horse felt a moment of pain, then: nothing.
“Shark Horse, wake up!”
“Shark Horse! We need to go!”
When Shark Horse came to, he was being urged to awaken by a mysterious female voice. Groggily, he opened his eyes and gazed at the sad devastation around him – he’d failed; failed to save Cake, not to mention the hundreds of fans at the concert – this was a sad day to be a Shark Horse.
“Shark Horse, we need to get away,” the voice was telling him, “You can’t fight Sea Wolf! He’s much stronger than you… Than us. We must run away!”
“Shark Horse don’t run, baby,” Shark Horse replied as he staggered to his feet, struggling to open his eyes, “That monster has eaten one too many things that belong to me. If I don’t avenge Cake, no one will.”
“But you’ll die!”
“Nah, I’ll be-” Shark Horse started, but stopped when he saw who he was talking to. The purring female voice was coming from a creature that was halfway a fearsome hammerhead; and halfway a mighty Thoroughbred Stallion.
“I am the Lady Shark Horse,” the creature said, “and we need to get thousands of miles away from here, before Sea Wolf kills us both. Don’t you get it? Sharks fear Orcas just as horses fear wolves! This is one foe you aren’t strong enough to take on. Let’s go!”
Shark Horse had so many questions for this beguiling creature. But for now, they’d have to wait; Sea Wolf had killed Cake, and one way or another, he was going down. So Shark Horse simply repeated himself:
“Shark Horse don’t run, baby.”
How can Shark Horse defeat an evil ’50s greaser that outranks him on the food chain? (An enemy that he can’t help but be scared shitless of?!)
Who or what is the mysterious Lady Shark Horse? (And will Shark Horse at last get some Shark-Love?!)
The answers to all this and more in the next installment: