The Mystery of the Infinitesimal Equus africanus asinus

There was a rustling of unknown origin in the tall grass. A strange
shape appeared lumbering around in the grasslands at the edge of the
forest. As soon as these anomalies appeared on the Laboratory’s sonar,
Viktor and Einida set aside the natural human emotions of fear and
dread, and gathered their gear, to go out into the cold, dark night in
order to investigate this mystery.

A coyote howled. Allowing herself a shred of human emotion, Einida
contemplated the possibility of a hideous death from a pack of Canis
latrans.

“What was that?,” hissed Einida after hearing the rustling of more grass.

“Grass rustling,” whispered Viktor, with unhelpful obviousness.

“Iknow that. But what caused…?”

“Not enough data has been collected….,” interrupted Viktor.

They stared in the direction of the noise through night-vision goggles.

“The hell?!…,” sputtered Viktor.

“It…it… looks like a donkey? But it’s so tiny,” Einida said in
disbelief.

“How can such a stalwart animal become miniaturized? The donkey is the
most noble friend of humankind, if one chooses to ignores the whole
‘noble dog’ notion. Do you suppose someone’s invented a shrinking ray
gun for animals? Or have mad scientists been tinkering with the genetics
of these darling donkeys?”

“Well,” said Einida, slipping as usual into lecture mode, “the donkey
has served humankind for thousands of years, as a pack animal, a source
of dairy products, and even as a form of transportation. Donkeys have
been so important to civilization that they were buried in the royal
tombs in Egypt. I could go on, as the history of the donkey is quite
riveting….”

“Yes, I do not doubt you, but what purpose could a miniature donkey
serve? It can’t carry much on its back. It isn’t big enough to scare off
a coyote. What practical use would they serve, and who would create such
a bizarre distortion of the natural order?”

Einida pointed a red light at the donkey’s hindquarters. “What’s that
tied to his tail?”

Viktor gently grabbed the tail and untied a bow. An envelope fluttered
into the dry grass. Viktor quickly opened it and started reading aloud.

“Dear Esteemed Colleagues,

I discovered these mysteriously miniaturized equines and I am baffled by
their utility. I urge you to study them closely and to develop some
research studies that will determine their abilities. What are these
magnificent asses good for?

Unfortunately, the study of animal behavior is not my area of specialty
and so I have donated two diminutive donkeys to your Laboratory in hopes
that you can answer these questions.

Sincerely,

An Anonymous Scientist.”

The grass rustled again as a second donkey stumbled into the light.

Viktor took out his radio and said, “Mr. Adams, come in. I have an
urgent pick-up for two… er, minute donkeys at this grid reference….”

After giving the coordinates to Mr. Adams, the Laboratory’s resident
groom, Viktor thought for a moment. He rubbed his hands with glee and
said, “Just imagine the opportunity that has been dumped into our laps,
as it were–the chance to delve into the brains of these amazing
animals, to explore the intricacies of their thoughts, their emotions,
their etiquette….There’s no time to waste! To the Stockade!”

But Viktor’s curiosity had gotten the better of his good sense, for he
was soon to find out that despite his desire to harness and shape these
petite equines, these Liliputian neddies were his equal and indeed his
superior in certain areas, to the extent that it was by no means sure as
to which of them, at the end of the evaluations, would be proved the
master and which the ass.