Ep 08 – A Slow Pace Isn’t For Everyone

INTRO: (It’s about summertime. The Narrator’s laptop hums almost as loud as the grasshoppers in the warm evening. “Proserpina Bop” bleeds through her headphones as she answers a phone call. ) 

NARRATOR:

Okay, okay. Alina is actually calling me right now! Let’s hear what she has to say! Hello?

ALINA (thru a phone):

Hi! This is Alina. Is this… Mirai?

MIRAI:

Yes! Thank you for calling me. I can finally figure out what on earth I am listening to. 

ALINA (thru a phone):

Ah ha… Unfortunately, I don’t think you’d like the answers I’d give you. The most important thing I can tell you is that your brother desperately needs to hear this—

MIRAI:

Oh my god. You too? Why is everyone asking me to pass this along? He’s not interested in these kinds of stories anyways! He’s the only guy I know who reads nonfiction for fun.

ALINA (thru a phone):

Listen, you told me you’ve only listened to a handful of these files right?

MIRAI:

Yeah, I was going to listen to the 8th one today.

ALINA (thru a phone):

Do me a favor and keep listening. I mean give it to your brother asap, but you’ll understand soon enough. Your brother has been searching for something for a long time now. We just wanted to let him know it’s been home all along.

SCENE STARTS: (“Proserpina Bop” transitions to the new scene. Alina’s walking through the park, more excited than usual.)

ALINA:

So after meeting JD, I’ve realized there’s still a lot I don’t know about this park. I mean, the actual Jersey Devil is the park ranger. What else could be here?

SOUND: (Sam is blasting music per usual. Cerberus barking when she gets close.)

SAM:

Oh, Alina, I didn’t expect you back so soon.

ALINA:

Oh hey Sam. Yeah, yesterday was just so exciting, I wanted to come back immediately.

SAM:

Cool, well I’m actually helping out a friend today, it’s not exactly fun, but if you wanted to talk, you can come with.

ALINA:

Yes, of course I’m down. Who are we meeting today?

MUSIC: (“Welcome to Proserpina Park” plays) 

SAM:

How do you feel about turtles?

ALINA:

Uh, not much in particular.

SAM:

Oh well, that’s okay then. As long as you don’t hate them. A lot of cultures treat turtles with great value. They symbolize things like intelligence, longevity, and power.

ALINA:

Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense. It’s like that saying right? Slow and steady wins the race?

SAM:

Yes, that’s from Aesop’s Fables, but instead of a race, I’m thinking more like, holding up the world kinda powerful.

ALINA:

Holding up the world?

SAM:

In mythology, some beings like trees and animals are created to be large enough to hold up the world. They’re called World— 

ALINA:

Turtles?

SAM:

(laughs) Yes not really creative right? Although the Aboriginals here call theirs Turtle Island.

ALINA:

And we’re meeting one? A turtle so big it holds up the Earth? How does that work?

SAM:

Oh, no, no, no. We’re not meeting one of those. We’d have to travel for miles just to meet an eyeball. No, my friend is much smaller.

ALINA:

Who is he?

SAM:

His name is Xuan Wu, or the Black Turtle, the Black Warrior, uh etc..

ALINA:

Xuan Wu…

SAM:

Yes, it’s a pretty popular name, since it belongs to a Taoist God too, but possibly because of that, there are multiple stories and a bit of fanfiction between the two entities. 

ALINA:

Fanfiction?

SAM:

Yeah, believe it or not, it’s very common for fanfiction and mythology to mix. For example, not all the stories we know about King Arthur and his knights at the round table are written by the same author or even in the same era, but we consider it part of the whole narrative. 

ALINA:

Oh wow, I didn’t know that at all. 

SAM:

People always want a good story to continue. Now, you know about King Arthur, do you know about the Journey to the West?

ALINA:

I do! I took a film class about Storytelling in Asia and this was a big one in China.

SAM:

Yes, it’s one of China’s biggest stories featuring a lot of their legendary gods and creatures, including Xuan Wu.

ALINA:

Wait, the god or the turtle?

SAM:

Umm kinda both? Technically it’s the god, but he’s not the Taoist God— I know, bare with me, half of mythology is figuring out who’s who, but the god in the story is a king, and he has two generals, a turtle and a snake. 

ALINA:

So the story includes a snake as well?

SAM:

Actually the snake has always been a companion to the turtle, both in Journey to the West and the actual mythology.

ALINA:

Is there a reason why there’s a snake?

SAM:

Well, snakes are really important to Chinese mythology, as they’re the closest animals that resemble dragons. There’s a lot more we can discuss about snakes in Chinese mythology, particularly ones like the Legend of the White Snake or the Snake Creation Gods, but we can discuss that another time. I just like that they’re not depicted as the mean, trickster types like in other stories. But uh, back to why there’s a snake with the turtle. 

There are multiple versions of the story, but they’re pretty similar. Xuan Wu, while studying to become a Taoist god, learns that he must cleanse himself entirely before he’s able to reach enlightenment. Now, you would think that, that would mean like, meditating for many years, and releasing his materialistic possessions, but it’s actually a little bit more gruesome. He either gets rid of or tries to cleanse his stomach and intestines of all sins or humanity instead. 

ALINA:

Uhh yeah, definitely won’t be human after that. 

SAM:

Would not recommend; but somehow, because this is mythology, he survives and becomes a god. His organs or whatever’s left of his sins turn into a turtle and a snake.

ALINA:

But if these guys are born from sin, wouldn’t that mean they’d be like evil or something?

SAM:

Yeah, in most cases, they terrorized people until Xuan Wu came back and managed to stop them. He felt like it was his responsibility to take care of them so he taught them to be better and the turtle and snake became his followers.

ALINA:

So the turtle and snake both came from the same place and thus are always together?

SAM:

Yes, they’re together even as the Four Symbols in the Chinese constellations.

ALINA:

Chinese constellations?

SAM:

The Azure Dragon to the East, The Vermillion Bird of the South, The White Tiger of the West, The Black Turtle of the North, and, okay well there’s technically a fifth one, The Yellow Dragon of the Center.

ALINA:

Four symbols but five beasts?

SAM:

They’re constellations so obviously they’re based off the night sky that changes every season, but the Chinese also like to link the five elements hence why there’s another dragon. 


ALINA:

And if the Black Turtle is of the North, then I guess it’d be the winter constellation? 

SAM:

Ding-ding-ding, we have a winner. It’s ironic, seeing as reptiles do so terribly in the cold, but both creatures symbolize power and what better way to describe the cold harsh winters of the past. Can you guess which element it is?

ALINA:

Element as in?

SAM:
Philosophy? Cosmic? Energy? Need more nouns?

ALINA:

Hmm sorry, I still don’t understand.

SAM:

Well, there’s another version called the classical elements. These are based off natural materials found on Earth such as the earth, wind, fire and water.

ALINA:

Okay, that all makes sense, but elements of philosophy?

SAM:

I’m not really an expert, but it’s kinda like everything is intertwined by the rules of these elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. 

ALINA:

So only fire, water, and earth are in both categories.

SAM:

Correct, the turtle and the snake belong to the water element, obviously because they’re both reptiles found in the water. Which is the reason why I’m going today.

ALINA:

Water?

SAM:

Yeah, more precisely it’s bath time for Xuan Wu, and he’s really particular about how his shell gets cleaned.

ALINA:
(laughs) You really like to take care of the creatures here don’t you?

SAM:

They need someone to look after them. JD sure isn’t going to. It’ll ruin their rep if they’re seen washing the turtle’s back.

ALINA:

Sooo, about last time, with JD? Can you not hear creatures? Is that why you blast music by yourself all the time?

SAM:

Alina, please. You’re here to learn about the creatures in the park. Nothing else.

ALINA:

Why? Why can’t we talk about other things? I’ve never heard of a relationship where we can only talk about one thing. 

SAM:

Well that’s how I want our relationship. If you’re looking for a friend, that’s the one thing you won’t find here in the park. 

ALINA:

How can you say that?

SAM:

Alina…

ALINA:

You know what, fine. Have fun with your stupid pet turtle… I’m going home. 

OUTRO: (We return to Mirai. “Proserpina Bop” transitions back to her room.) 

MIRAI:

Dang, I wish Alina had called after I listened to this! They were doing so well before too…Who knew Sam could be so cold? I wonder if they’ve made up by now? Also what’s Sam’s deal with not wanting friends? I think I would have cried if someone told me that…

SCENE ENDS: (“Proserpina Bop” ends the episode.)

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