Once upon a time, there was a prairie filled with all sorts of different animals. There were bison and antelope and prairie dogs and squirrels and wolves and foxes. But mostly there were badgers and porcupines.
One such porcupine, we'll call him John, was fleeing across the prairie which had caught on fire. But he wasn't the only one running. There were hundreds, thousands of porcupines dashing across the fields to get to safety. It was quite the spectacle; like something straight out of a nature documentary.
They were all running to Badgerland, where the resident badgers had built a stone wall that would repel the fire (don't ask how badgers built a stone wall, just go with it).
However, when they got there...
"Badgers! Badgers, drop the logs and let us in!"
The porcupines' tiny, little legs were too tiny and little to climb over the wall, so they needed to use logs as ramps.
One badger poked his head over the wall and looked at the porcupines like he had been woken from a nap and wasn't too happy about it.
"What are y'all shoutin' 'bout?" the badger (let's call him Steve) asked.
"Don't you see the fire? If you don't let us in, it's going to gobble us all up!" John said.
"Uh, gobble y'all up?"
"That's right! Gobble us all up! Like this! Om nom nom nom nom!" John said, pantomiming a fire gobbling up the porcupines, because that's what fires do.
Steve looked at John like he were crazy, which may or may not have been true. "Know what? Why not go jump in the ocean? I hear salt water gives fires indigestion."
"What's the ocean?"
"Beats me," Steve said with a shrug. "A little birdy told me about it. Apparently, it's like the prairie, except blue and you can't walk on it."
"Can't walk on it?! That sounds terrible!"
"That's what I said!"
Steve and John both shook their heads.
"So, anyway, can you let us in now?"
Steve did that hiss that's followed with "Yeah, about that..." "Yeah, about that...See, thing is, we were thinking about lettin' y'all in, but we kinda don't want y'all."
"What?! Why not?!"
"We keep hearin' 'bout porcupines stickin' their needles where they don't belong. Like bisons' faces."
"Where'd you hear that from?"
"A little birdy told me," Steve said. "Not the same one who told me about the ocean. A different one. I talk to a lotta little birdies."
"Wait wait wait wait wait," John said, waving his paw. "You're telling me that because two or three of us pricked some bison, you're not going to let any of us in?"
"Not two or three of you. I've heard at least..." Steve held up his nails as he counted. "Five. Count them, five times porcupines pricked innocent animals. That's—five is more than two or three, right?"
"I think so."
"So, yeah. We're not gunna let any of y'all in 'cause we don't want to be pricked. I ain't never been pricked myself, but I hear it hurts. And I don't like pain. Pain, it hurts."
"You do realize there are thousands of porcupines here who have never pricked another animal. Right?"
Steve looked up toward the horizon and then checked the imaginary watch on his wrist. (Did he even know what a watch was?) "Aw shucks, would you look at the time. I think I left the oven on back home. Anyway, good luck with that fire of yours. Caio!" Then he ducked behind the wall.
"...You've got to be kidding me..."
Another porcupine nudged John. "What's an oven?"
The mass of porcupines turned to find the fire at the edge of the crowd.
"Now that I've caught up with all of you, I'm going to gobble you all up!"
Steve's head reappeared. "Holy—! A talking fire?! And you're actually going to gobble all the porcupines up?"
"...Uh, yeah. I'm a fire. It's kinda what I do."
"I thought this one guy was just being nutty," Steve said, pointing at John.
"Nope. Sane as they come," the talking fire said. "Did you really think a porcupine could come up with a ranging inferno that gobbles up its victims?"
"...I guess ya gota point," Steve said. "Anyway, enjoy gobblin' up all these here porcupines."
"Hold up, you're not gonna try to save them or put me out or, or, or anything?"
"Wasn't plannin' on it."
"Why not? I saw a pack of wolves carrying a family of squirrels on their backs, and those guys are, like, mortal enemies or something."
"That's a touchin' story and all, but none of us badgers likes porcupines, so we're gunna hafta let ya gobble 'em up."
"Wow. You—you guys aren't very nice."
"No. No, I guess we aren't."
"Well, y'all fine folks take care," Steve said. "I hear there are some raccoons knocking a mile down, so we gotta go let 'em in. Toodles." Then he left.
The porcupines looked at the fire.
And the fire looked at the porcupines.
"Soooooo...you guys like being salted?"
Life's hard for a porcupine. It truly is.