Aug 30, 2013

Is There Love Between Dragon and Basilisk?

Illustration by Koren Shadmi

2600 years ago, when day was black with the fumes of war, a son of the sky fell for a daughter of the earth. Because they could not mingle the fluid in their veins, the male and the female did not conceive a child: they built one instead.

Caped Kimkao
by Mark Facey

I had this dream of a magic child brought into being by reptile parents. It would be and do whatever its parents could not. The dream began with that child telling me, "I am human, but my parents are reptiles. You can't find their species in science books.

"They made me, put my parts together, but we are not the same. They belong someplace else. Not here. I have to put an end to the war."

Bizarre sort of dream, but inspiring.

VIDEOS after the jump.

Aug 28, 2013

Felix Walked Around with a Hole In His Mind

A man with a face like a broken bottle accosted me. His parents had named him Ring-a-ding-ding, so he became a conqueror of galaxies.

No, they abandoned him as a baby because he had all the charm of an unlanced boil and then storks raised him.

Andras et Malphas
by Felix Labisse

And now for an extra bit of grotesquerie: 

Never try to lance a boil yourself. Includes helpful diagram, suitable for the faint of heart.
An abandoned house overtaken by animals. Dreamlike, more-real-than-real photo essay.
Meet the serpentone. Because even the brass family must have a redheaded stepchild.

by Felix Labisse

Remember the last time you went to the acupuncture clinic and they locked up and left you behind? No? Well, this guy does.
Michael Bukowski, artist and Lovecraft aficionado, presents us with a peculiar dolphin.
Illustrator Steven D'Arbenzio likes to paint dudes with empty eye sockets. The style is too cartoony to gross you out -- and yet satisfyingly weird.

Aug 25, 2013

Three Despicable Villains You Can Use Any Way You Like

Before we begin: None of these people exist and yes, you are free to use these characters in any way you like. Think of these character sketches as writing prompts.

Specul Geist, whom I first mentioned here, runs a secret agency even most secret agencies don't know about. He is a prolific author of indoctrination and behavior modification literature. He is married with four children; only his wife knows what he does for a living. Geist's extended family thinks he works as a therapist. Nobody knows of the parasitic twin living in his brain.

Likes: torture, brainwashing, maraschino cherries.

Dislikes: David Foster Wallace novels, sex.

Crowning Achievement: Developing a backmasking method so precise that it makes targets commit suicide at a desired date, with a 2.5-hour margin of error.  
George Washington Bridge
by Neil B

Jolene McKay, former nursing student, has a thing for burying people alive — up to their ears. Jolene always digs her "sacrificial pits" before she selects a target. First she lures unsuspecting males to her woodland cabin, and lets sexual play progress to the point where most of their clothes lay scattered on the floor. The lady injects the hapless men with a paralyzing drug that does not hinder the physical sensation of pain, then she renders them unconscious. She enjoys studying the terror in a victim's eyes as they come to and realize she's plugging up their nose with dirt.  

Likes: fashion design, bestiality, ant farms.

Dislikes: dogs and little children.

Crowning Achievement: making a tiara of human mandibles and finger bones.  

by J. Tovey Frost

Gwadzerk the Awful is a failed experiment by human standards: a botched combination of mantis, naked mole rat and alien DNA. The genderless Gwadzerk thinks of itself as the apex of creation, however.

Having escaped from the lab where it was created, Gwadzerk assembled an army of mantids, field mice and snails to do his bidding. None of these creatures possess much in the way of brainpower; the quality of efficiency is not strained.

Gwadzerk inaugurated its criminal career by orchestrating an assault on an empty parking lot. Why it should do so remains a mystery, but down to the last minion, everyone agreed the assault was a remarkable success. Until seven in the morning. When cars began to roll in.

Likes: eating incompetent minions for breakfast.

Dislikes: Mozart, car horns, daylight.

Crowning Achievement: taking over the mind of a marmoset, so at least Gwadzerk now controls a creature with opposable thumbs.  

Photo by Wei-Hang Chua

Music for Villains
After the Jump

Aug 23, 2013

Soaring to the Skies of Dawn, Falling through the Empires of Man

When the Langobards poured into Italy, howling all the way from Pannonia, I dug up the gem, packed up my things and left. Whrxstakozl had figured out I would look for temperate climes. I summoned the secret map, and looked up the closest viable refuge: Carthage Underground.

Keep 'em Coming
by John Stortz

568 AD. The Lombards (Langobardi), having left their native Scania to wreak havoc on their southern neighbors, established a kingdom in Italy.

9-16 AD (approximate dates). Roman historian Velleius, by extant accounts a sloppy and bombastic writer, claimed that the savagery of the Langobardi exceeded even that of their Germanic cousins. This is the earliest known mention of the Lombards in writing.


I hit 362,666 page views today, so we ought to celebrate! Because 666 is a lovely number. It's symmetrical. I like it. Shall we look into the history of 666?

And what better way to conclude the celebration than marveling to Steve Martin's mad banjo skills -- in a face-off against that living legend of bluegrass, Kermit the Frog?

Aug 21, 2013

The Department of Total Convenience

The life of a backmasker is full of secret thrills -- once you move past the stage where your conscience matters.
— Specul Geist, 1990

My pulse quickened when I held the Post away from the light and the headline hit me. I staggered. I sat. Two kids were dead.
"Congratulations," said the section chief.
"Congratulations," said the regional chief.
Their approval tasted like burning honey.

Killer Tune
by Enkel Dika

This prompt took partial inspiration from PronunciationBook, a strange, if quite sophisticated channel on YouTube.

PronunciationBook has spawned a speculative subreddit where users gather to share clues and insights into the true nature of this project.

Wash that down with a bit of reading on broadcast signal intrusion. The unexplained cases are quite riveting.

Aug 16, 2013

69 Ways to Reinvent Zombies: Part Two of a Truckload

by Melissa Ballesteros Parada

Part Two of a Truckload*

7. Have you ever heard of heterotopic ossification?

No? Well, it's basically a medical condition where bone forms in unexpected places. And it comes in several flavors. Sufferers of stone man syndrome, a.k.a. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, don't live for very long; osseous elements form independently of their skeleton, hampering their movements and eventually rendering them immobile. You turn to stone, slowly, irreversibly — there's no known cure. No effective treatment. It sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Now imagine that an airborne virus (or a wizard; at this stage, they're pretty much the same thing) gives people a fictional disease that progressively ossifies their brains. Driving the infected person nuts, the disease causes an insatiable appetite for healthy brains.

8. What about thanatophoric dysplasia?

This inherited skeletal disorder gives you extremely short limbs, a narrow chest,  short ribs, underdeveloped lungs and other serious problems. Children born with this rare condition do not live long enough to reproduce, so they do not pass on the disorder.

What would happen if a mysterious event suddenly forced your body to contract and take on inadequate, dwarfish proportions? It would space out your eyes and swell your forehead. Your arms would shrink, and so would your legs.  Can you wrap your mind around the pain and discomfort that would cause?

Just think of how difficult it is to keep a level head under duress. Physical and psychological pain pose great challenges to the most rational of us, as they touch us in places where thought is unclear. Consider the possibility of hundreds, if not thousands of people who suddenly find themselves shrinking, and hallucinating from the pain.

9. Congratulations! You've got a rare case of histotoxic hypoxia!

Cyanide poisoning, for instance, keeps your cells from taking up and absorbing the oxygen in your blood stream by inhibiting cytochrome c oxidase, a vital enzyme in the respiratory electron transport chain of mitochondria and bacteria.

Picture a molecular biology lab where a scientist works on a bacterium that can simulate the effects of histotoxic hypoxia in select parts of the brain. But to what end? Who knows... Maybe to replicate the Phineas Gage effect?

Gage was a 25-year-old railroad construction foreman in 1840s America who took an iron rod through the head, lost a hefty chunk of brain matter** and yet survived. At least his body did. To his friends he became unrecognizable. Mild-mannered Gage took to drinking and whoring and name-calling and pig-fu... OK, I don't know for a fact there was bestiality involved.

But Gage, post-improvised lobotomy, destroyed his reputation. He stopped caring about politeness, debt or truthfulness. Phineas Gage had turned into a stranger with all of Gage's memories, but a nasty, antisocial bent.  
Back to our scientist in the molecular biology lab, happily poking and prodding his favorite bacterium. An order comes from on high: Shadowy forces want to give the bacterium a trial run. VoilĂ , instant mendacity and Tourette's for everyone. Would you want to live in a world like that?  

Photo by Maurizio Cattelan for Toilet Paper Zine

 Nine down, sixty to go! Stay tuned for the next installment. It'll be more fun than pulling teeth, I promise.

*Written to the sound of True Widow's new album, Circumambulation, streaming free on Bandcamp.
**Gage's frontal lobe was skewered, in case you didn't know. As for the iron rod, the Boston Medical Journal described it as an "abrupt and intrusive visitor" in 1868. Quote sourced via Wikipedia.

Aug 14, 2013

Never Been More Soberer, or, Confessions of a Professional Victim

For the record: When a person loves another person of the same sex, that's love all the same. Having fun in bed is a human right; so have fun in bed as often as you like, with persons of whatever gender you like. You won't get any grief from me.

But this prompt gets into the mind of a schizophrenic homophobe. I wanted to make sure you understand Mr. Cadwallader's delirium does not reflect my opinion or worldview. 

Mitchum Cadwallader heard on the radio that the gays were taking over, via telepathy this time. Spreading a faggot virus that could contaminate children from a thousand miles away.

Like, some Mary Macho would think a thought -- turn little Abby into a rug muncher. Mitchum grabbed his balls in fear.

Wish I knew who took this picture.

Cadwallader: Welsh family name, from given name Cadwalader, meaning "leader in battle."

Mary Macho: Derogatory term for lesbians in Mexico. Mitchum might spend a lot of time not paying attention to Mexicans. Ostensibly.

Fun fact about Wales: It is home to the oldest royal tombstone in Britain.

Fun fact about Mexico: Nobody's 100% certain where the word Mexico came from. A legend proposes the meaning "Land of the War God." Another associates Mexico with the goddess of maguey (American aloe).

Music for People Who Would Like the World to Make More Sense
(click here if you're reading via email)

Aug 11, 2013

69 Ways to Reinvent Zombies

Walking Undo/ead
by Madkobra

Part One of Many*

1. Zombies are spontaneous-generation clones.

You know that we shed skin cells every day, right? So imagine that undead clones of you start growing from the skin cells that you divest. And you'd spawn, shall we say, around four clones a week. No telling where they might show up. It's a bit like the lottery, except the prize would like to eat you raw.

We're talking the biggest zombie apocalypse ever.

2. You are the zombie.

No, no, bear with me. Instead of going full brain-gobbler at once, you alternate between moments of lucidity and flesh-devouring insanity. The, ahem, mood swings could be determined by the phases of the moon or something.

3. Lego zombies!

Let me explain how that works. In this scenario, it doesn't do you any good to chop a zombie's limbs off. Zombies can take just any body part and plug it into an available joint or socket, so... they're not made of plastic.

This allows for the creative combination of body parts, and in fact the 2008 movie Splinter has explored that possibility. If you're familiar with Splinter, you might argue that it does not feature actual zombies. Well... I'm fine with that. Shall we move on?

4. You are the zombie (again).

A pharmaceutical company which puts profit before people brings to market this miraculous, brand new anti-aging drug. It seems to work and everybody's happy for a while. However! Ah! Gods be damned! If you take it with MDMA, you start thinking and acting like a zombie. A young, plus-optimal zombie.

Not much thinking involved.

Zombie Meal
by Benjamin Castle

5. One night after dinner, everyone over 16 decides to have sex.

People without sex partners do it with furniture — pets — Barbies — Cadillacs — you name it. Much bloodshed ensues. At six in the morning, nobody remembers the horrors of the previous night. The sun rises over a red landscape of maimed naked people stuck in escalators and revolving doors. Still flailing about and trying to have sex with everything

6. The dead rise again as human-shaped clods of dirt.

When they catch you, they lock you in a bear hug and aggressively quote Dylan Thomas until you beg for mercy. No longer equipped with human teeth, they contaminate you by forcing humus down your throat.

Detail from Mathilde Roussel's installation,
Lives of Grass 

69 is a really big number, so I thought I'd go easy on you and dole out my brilliant essay in easily digestible chunks. I fear that unmitigated exposure to the shining rays of my genius might perturb your digestion. Stay tuned for the next installment! It's free!


*Written to the turgid sound of The Fleshland by Coffins, Japan's #666 death metal crew. With song titles like "Dishuman" or "Tormentopia", how could you possibly cut a bad record?

Aug 9, 2013

Bliss Is a Pretzel with Your Name On It

Littleton picked up the STOP sign and, quaking in his boots, he made it past the front door. He made it to the curb and the pedestrian crossing. Nobody looked at him. The sun ignored him. The promised end of the world came and went with a sigh.

Invisible College
by Savageski Artworks

Aug 7, 2013

Choose Truth, or Choose the Quiet Pain You Know

Before breakfast, the shadow of cedars pointing away from the kitchen window, Marcia Lupei found she could not see.

When Marcia's sight came back, the world had sharper edges, and the air held a hundred children's voices. Latent, unexpressed. Marcia opened the window and howled: I am listening.

Red Riding Hood
by Giulio Rossi

Lupei: Romanian family name meaning 'wolf.'

As someone with access to a Romanian TV channel through his local cable service, I must admit to knowing next to nothing about Romania, save perhaps for the fact that it exists and contains people similar to myself whose language I don't understand. 

Romanians were at one point subject to the whims of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose final address to the citizens of Socialist Romania did not go too well.

Ceausescu made divorce all but impossible, outlawed abortion and so filled orphanages with the children of desperate parents. Illegal abortions led to a barbaric rate of maternal mortality. Both IUDs and the pill had been banned in Romania.

As a result of his social and economic policies, living standards declined sharply and Romanians starved as Ceausescu developed his cult of personality. Dictators will, more often than not, come to an unsavory end; both Nicolae and his wife Elena were executed by firing squad. They died on the same day.

24 years later, Romania has become a country where they build ten churches every month.

This prompt, as well as the brief postlude on Romania, were inspired by the video above. This young lady makes a living as a howling instructor and, well, I can't see anything wrong with that.

Romania controls more than half of the fabled Carpathians, home of Count Dracula and numerous other creepy-crawlies, such as the varcolac. So, I got to thinking... A girl who "shapeshifts" in preparation for howling activities... Describes herself as otherkin, so she's looking for something outside of what we term "ordinary experience"... What if someone howled their way into a psychic reservoir, a kind of well of souls, where all those Romanian orphans were held in suspension until someone vindicated them?

After the jump: Music for werewolves.
Reading via e-mail? Click here to check out the videos on the blog.

Aug 2, 2013

War, Love, Revenge -- Flamingos

Madam Astrodosia learned to hunt before she could read, and to sing before she could hunt.

Desirous of revenge against the black flamingos who took her father and ate him, Astrodosia crawled into the town brothel to learn the poison songs of prostitutes.

The Greater Flamingo is the largest species around, weighing between 2 and 4 kg (4.4–8.8 lbs) and standing between 110-150 cm (4360 in). While I was under the impression that black flamingos do occur in nature, I cannot at present verify my impression through a Google image search. By the by, if you don't have safe search activated, black flamingo will dredge up quite a few pictures of burlesque performances.

Burlesque is OK in my book, but I'd rather not look for black flamingos in a stack of scantily-clad women. I can think of better uses for my time.

E.g., talk some more about flamingos. The Lesser Flamingo stands at the opposite end of the scale, adults weighing no more than 2.7 kg (6 lb), standing no taller than 90 cm (35 in). Still, put a lesser flamingo next to a bee hummingbird -- if you really, really want to -- and the lesser flamingos will look like colossi. 

You know, colossi. Fancy old word for kaiju and that sort of thing.

Oh, shut up.