The Shape of Perfect Beasts

News traveled quickly through the Animal Kingdom that their neighbors, the Plant Kingdom, had held a great contest. The winner embodied that most perfect of shapes, the ever-widening golden spiral. Rumor abounded. The snail was sure the artichoke had won. The starlings swore it was the spiral aloe, on the strength of their name alone. The cat placed her purring faith in the sunflower. All were likely candidates, as all carried the logarithmic spiral, whether in the radial placement of their seeds or their leaves.

Whoever had won, it was a contentious victory, and when asked, every plant was reluctant to answer.

“Why even hold a contest at all?” the lithops grumbled.

“The rules were a sham,” said the aloe vera, without comment on their sibling.

The fern refused even to answer, its fiddleheads quaking in anger.

At last, to get to the truth of it, the animals went to the slime mold, who had been unincluded in the contest, and was widely regarded as impartial as neither a citizen of the Plant Kingdom nor the Animal Kingdom. From the slime mold the animals learned the sunflower had won in the end, their color alignment with the golden coil giving them a slight edge.

The animals, intrigued by the celebration of the perfect shape, and many already boasting of their own ability to mimic the spiral, decided to hold their own contest. But the animals determined that their contest would be fairer, and the rules more stringent, than that of the plants. No trickery would give an advantage, it would all be based on physical form in relation to the spiral; curvature rather than coloration. The contest would be determined by popular vote, with the slime mold given a voice as well. Even if every animal should vote for themselves, the slime mold could break a kingdom-wide tie.

The animals gathered and eagerly showed off their forms and how closely they mirrored the golden spiral.

“Look how my vertebrae coil and let me nap secure in the most comfortable shape,” the cat said. She curled up and tucked her head under her tail, cat-shape melting into the golden-shape with a pleased purr. The cat felt a certain kinship with the sunflower, as her shining fur would have given her a similar edge in a more chaotic contest. Even with the rules, the cat felt confident in the curvature of her spine.

“Look how even in death, the bones of us remain in golden convolutions,” the ghost of the ammonite said. It was widely decided that ghosts were disqualified, and that one must still be in their own bones for the shape to truly be perfect.

“Look how tightly my home is coiled, and how I carry always the lovely radial on my back. Look how I trust my life with it,” the snail, distant cousin of the dead ammonite said, withdrawing their body into their shell, which circled just as the numbered sequence did. The snail was sure they would win, for they were as in their bones as one could be, when your bones were, in fact, a shell.

“Look how fast I can make the shape. Look how fast I can make the shape. Look how fast!” the dog said, spinning to chase his tail. It was widely decided that the dog was disqualified, as his movements were too erratic to make a perfect whorl.

“Look how together we make a great, unending spiral, bigger than the individual,” the starlings murmured as they flocked in a great tightening and enlarging shape in the sky.

“Look how straight a line my body makes,” the stick insect said. The other animals paused in creating their golden forms, to stare at the rigidity of the mimic. “Look how I hint, not at the shape itself, but at its possibilities. For a line grows ever-longer, as a coil grows around itself. I carry the birth and death of the golden spiral across the true contour of my thorax and abdomen.”

It was widely decided that this argument, in both making and destroying the spiral, was perhaps heretical and certainly not first-place worthy, but the stick insect nevertheless won the runner-up prize for most avant-garde.

The slime mold praised the cat’s technique in tucking her nose beneath her tail to make the golden radial. While the snail grumbled that this was another sunflower trick, the stick insect’s startling entry was so intensely discussed that few others had room to gripe about the cat’s win. The cat once more placed her nose underneath her tail tip and celebrated her win with a sunbeam nap, while the stick insect contemplated the line, that most perfect form.

Gabrielle Bleu writes horror, science fiction, and fantasy. When not writing, she watches birds and admires lichens. Her work has appeared in the Story Seed Vault, Utopia Science Fiction, and the Crone Girls Press anthology “Coppice & Brake.” Follow her on twitter @BeteMonstrueuse for birdwatching photos and the occasional thoughts on werewolves, and find more of her work at