“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years with the mice and sheep”

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2013)

My last stint at running a city went rather badly. I cared little for the opinion polls, which were grossly misinformed. The pollution and crime were natural by-products of a bustling, modern city. You never hear people criticising Las Vegas do you? My decision to genocide my townsfolk is what really did for me. After having been tried and very nearly convicted of crimes against humanity, it was decided that I would avoid 1,008 years in prison if I promised to never run a town of people ever again.

I needed some group to bully in order to fill my days though, so I took the midnight train towards Cunnyton, a hopeless little berg located far away from human civilisation. So far away in fact that I’d be the only human sod there, a fact brought home to me by the strange cat who began Gestapo questioning me on the train. I swiftly informed him that I was the only totalitarian around here and that he should watch himself. Never saw him again.

When the train pulled in, I was greeted by four different animals who immediately professed me to be the mayor. That was a formality of course, I was the only thing there with opposable thumbs. Hence I wasted little time exerting my control over these naïve animals. The population would only ever rise to 10, which is definitely a lot less than what I was used to. But at least this meant I could administer some personalised oppression, and not even your top tier dictators could boast that. I’ll give Mussolini one thing though, at least his trains ran on time.

I had heard about these animal crossing points before, and how the indigenous population just coasted and scrounged, rent-free, never doing a single thing to improve the place. Obviously this would be punished in duke horse, but I first needed to get the regime’s wheels in motion, because a complement of only four foot soldiers (as opposed to four-foot soldiers, equally as problematic) simply wouldn’t do.

It was especially disconcerting to see that my first four infantrymen were a wolf and an alligator, which was a strong start, but then the other two were a mouse and a frog. Did I even want to ask why the alphas hadn’t eaten the betas before I arrived? There were serious questions to be asked here, so I stormed over to the Town Hall – if you could call it that, pokey as you like – to meet with the one running the show up to that point, an irritating dog-type thing called Isabella.

“Can you explain all this?” I barked at her, trying to talk her language. “Umm… w-what do you mean?” she replied, all squeaky and high-pitched and annoying. “This town is a shambles, I can’t find a bug net anywhere And there are too many trees.”

At this, Jezabelle became animated again and composed herself. “Well… that’s where we can make a real difference to Cunnyton! We can undertake public works projects and town ordinances and mould the town to whatever you want it to be!”

It was all well and good, but a hundred grand on a bridge that’d take a day to put down didn’t exactly entice. I was lost in thought for a while, trying to ponder how I would put together some kind of military force, how I’d kickstart the war economy. It was all about making Bells and selling shells, although these were probably unlikely to get me enough wartime capital.

“Are you alright, Mayor Burkey?” It’s the annoying dog again. “Yes, yes, of course. Now, show me to my palace.” Again Mirabelle assumed a hangdog expression, but simply said. “Um… yes, sir, of course. Please follow me.” Admittedly I had little hope of there being a palace there for me – certainly none appeared to be visible from the top of the world cylinder, looming over the little people, when I disembarked from the train.

And my dreadful thoughts were confirmed when the dog brought me to an honest-to-dog tent. “What’s this?” I snapped. “Umm, well, your house hasn’t been built yet, and-” “But you knew I was coming. Camps like these are for the POWs, not me. Are we clear on that?” “Yes, sir…” she said, head rightfully bowed in shame. “Make sure a proper house is built for me in one hour.”

Again, Annabelle started dithering and said, “…but Mayor Burkey… I was hoping to and see the shooting stars…” then her face lit up. “Oh, you should see them Mayor Burkey, they’re just wonderful!” Was I hearing things or what? I just shook my head, knowing my work was cut out for me at this stage. “Well then you’d better get started, hadn’t you?” It looked like her eyes were welling up with tears, but I didn’t have time for all that – I had to nash to the shops before they closed. It was all real-time around Cunnyton, a lot slower than other dictatorial jobs I’d taken.

The shopping district had all of the usual staples one would expect from an animal town, like a museum run by a blathering owl, a shop run by a squeaky little errand boy, a post office manned by pigeons, and a clothing store run by the three ugly hedgehog sisters. By the time I got back, the dog was gone – just as well – and the tiniest, pokiest house was left for me, entirely empty as well.

That was it for me then, it’d be time to decorate my house with whatever furniture I could find, in a bid to impress the Happy Home Academy, who seemed to be far too big for their boots otherwise they wouldn’t have given me a staggering 88 points and informed me that Nazi memorabilia was last year’s buzz.

From there it was a matter of catching all available bugs and fishes to add to my encyclopaedia, or donate to that sleepy owl at the museum, along with the myriad of fossils that seemed to show up under the earth every day, a real dinosaur graveyard just waiting to be excavated. No chance of any of my subjects helping out here of course, a real hapless lot they were, and quite soon my dream of building a fearsome animal army lay in ruins.

Still, at least I could enjoy an early retirement, a chance to get away from it all. Taking a boat trip out to the island was a bit of fun. It wasn’t a booze cruise to see the girls in Thailand, mind you, but it was an opportunity to make fat stacks off the exotic fish and bugs there. I just wished I could have had bigger pockets to carry all my poached gear in.

Either way, I found myself taking an active part in Cunnyton’s welfare, about an hour a day every day for a couple of months, and actually enjoying it in spite of myself. I made sure to occasionally bully the dog every so often for good measure. After all, I’d been saddled with a never-ending mortgage on my house, which never did become a palace. And the villagers never did become an army. But that’s alright because, under my supremacy, Cunnyton was never going to become a paradise. But at least we built some nice lakes and fountains to spit into.

10 June 2022

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