The Sloth King

            In the latter half of the latter half of the industrial age, during a period of intense instability on earth, the animals of the world staged an uprising in which they attempted to overthrow the ruler of beasts, the mountain lion, who announced with great tact and dignity, that it would step down for a time, to see if anyone else was better suited to reign. A great election was held, but each of the animals voted for their own kind, all except for the koala, who got mixed up and selected the sloth after mistaking it for itself. In this way, the least likely creature astonishingly replaced the lion as leader of the animal regnum. Many demanded a new election, but the coyote, grinning its teeth, forbade it and forced all to acquiesce to their prior promise of submission to the new sovereign.

            Refusing the customary celebration, the sloths immediately chose as their representative, the last known pair of mapinguary giant sloths, who lived near the mouth of a great cave, at the base of a holy mountain deep in the Amazon rainforest. Rather than take it easy and sleep as sloths are known to do, the newly crowned king and queen straightaway sought to foster a utopia among the remaining species, in which both predator and prey alike would remain in a sacred state of balance, like the symbiotic relationships sloths cultivate on their own bodies, where algae, fungi, moths, beetles, and other creepy-crawlies help to prevent an excess of parasites. Leading by example, the royal couple soon taught all to live in harmony. By camouflaging and resting like sloths to conserve energy, as well as utilizing the healing water of natural springs too, their beastly brethren began to restore their faded forces on the sly, in order to outwit and defend against humanity, whose myopic technology, whether by accident or on purpose, constantly sought out better and better ways to extinguish their planetary neighbors. Soon, all predatory animals and parasitic vermin alike, were placed on high notice, and told that at any moment, their services might be needed to wage war against the overlords of their persecutors, who persecuted their own kind too. And sure enough, in due course, these targets began to be taken out, one by one.

            By the time these same leaders found out about the sloth king, they put a bounty on his head, worth more than any contract killing in the history of the planet. Yet whenever mercenaries would take a stab at assassination, the sloth king would somehow escape death, each and every time. On one occasion, a special forces team finally tracked down the heretofore unseen creature and opened fire, but the thick, matted fur covering his near impenetrable carapace exoskeleton, allowed him to survive the bullets long enough for medicinal treatment, while a cleanup crew of jaguars finished them off. Another time, the best hunter-tracker of humanity managed to locate the legendary mouth of the cave where the mapinguary monarch mates lived, but before he could shoot the sloth king dead in the head, the mysterious mapinguary emitted such a strong odor, that the huntsman became dizzy and fainted. His body was never found by anyone other than the anaconda, who disposed of him shortly thereafter. So ineffective were additional efforts to locate the sloth king that eventually, the leaders of humanity, still under steady attack, offered the elusive icon a truce.

            Try as they might to tempt him, the sloth king could not be bought off, and so humanity had no choice but to combine their efforts with the other animals, and terraform the planet back into the garden it once was. As soon as the exact terms and conditions were agreed upon, the sloth king and queen abdicated their throne, and returned to the deepest recesses of the Amazon, where they planned to live out the rest of their days in peace and quiet. But, the destabilized overlords of humanity, still seething with anger, sent, in secret, one last contract killer to pay the sloth king a visit. His murder was mourned by all of the animals, including those who once scoffed at the idea of a sloth at the helm of their collective. But little did everyone know, before the sloth queen lost her companion, she had become impregnated with a baby, prophesied by the wisest of the baboons, to resurface in the world at a time when its presence would be needed.