Wednesday, October 31, 2007

the professor is dead!

scarlet here, folks. sit down and take a deep breath... i got some hella bad news to lay on you: professor ichbonnsen is dead!!!

he died doing what he loved -- huntin' da monstas., that's like a good thing, right? (uh, not the dying part, i mean)

and it's not as if we didn't all see it coming. the guy's hunting MONSTERS -- how do you think he's going to bite it?, not that i'm saying it's his own fault, mind you.

damn. i'm gonna miss that grumpy bastard.

ok, you want to know what happened. well, i wanna TELL you what happened! jus' lemme try to find my stuffy voice, so i can science this all up like the prof would.


k -- i'm in my zone...

professor ichbonnsen and his sooper-duper sidekick were off to find the amazon dragon. this thing is supposed to be a football field long -- and prolly hungry nuff to swallow the home team, pep squad, and all their little dogs, too.

prof's got that wad'o'cash burning a hole in his pocket. so we rent ourselves a helicopter guy. TWO EYES on this one. (makes a difference -- eye-patches are a sure sign of evil... you're paying attention, right?!) we hire this guy to take us as close as possible to the DRAGON'S LAIR.

gawd i love saying that!


anyhoo, what's "as close as possible" you ask? search me. as close as mr. now-i'm-paranoid-as-well-as-delusional is comfortable with, maybe? he says that we need a clear spot for putting the boat into the river. (did i mention we bought a freakin' boat? well, we did.) i guess maybe that really was it.

of course, it woulda been nice if we could put down PAST the cannibal-witch-doctor-poison-blowdart-shooting natives!


'scuse me. i don't KNOW they were cannibals. i jus' figure. (very unscientific of me... bad scarlet! no biscuit!)

k, so i'm not kidding, folks. we fly out into the crazy sweat-shoots-out-of-your-pits-no-matter-how-much-old-spice-you-wear humid jungle... copter boy puts us down easy, then breaks out his you-are-so-not-doing-what-i-think-you're-doing playboy to read while he sits on his ass and waits for us... i, SUPER SIDEKICK get the boat motor to start... we're heading up the river and THEN

(ready for it?)

blowdarts! like, a dozen natives heard us coming and decided to roll out the welcome mat.

i know! i know! it's totally indiana jones! ...LOVING IT.

so, we get through the gauntlet (ooh! good word, scarlet!) and then... well, we keep boating on. um, not much more to say about that.

anyway, we get maybe 3 hours away from copter boy, and then ditch the boat. we get out and walk to where the DRAGON is supposed to live. it's only like 10 minutes away.

there's supposed to be this lake there... and we find it alright. 'cept, the water's pretty much gone. just a big muddy hole in the ground there now. yum.

the professor, he's going on like usual... he says, yes, this is the place... but where's the water? and he's counting out paces, and saying "it ought to be over here..."

well, i can complain, cuz i spent every day with the guy, and pulled his arse out of the fire more than once -- but no one better put down my proffy where the science is concerned! sure nuff, back behind some big rotting trees, there's a cave entrance. and just like he figured, it looks like this thing used to be underwater -- so this must be where the DRAGON used to come out.

and we look down and -- guess what! -- there's the DRAGON we've come all the way out here to find!

'cept, i should really write it [dragon] -- cuz this kitten, he's tiny! he's like the size of sausage... no -- bratwurst. not even a fine, spicy kielbasa.

"is it a baby?" i ask.

and proffy, his mind is going bangbangbang -- he sees the bigger picture! this DRAGON was supposed to be a hundred yards long when the portuguese soldier found it. but then, it kept being smaller every time someone sees it after that. and -- hey look! -- the water just happens to be all gone now...

mr. studly ichbonnsen figures that this is the one and ONLY dragon -- and that it needed water to be big... like maybe there's special minerals dissolved in the cave down there...

maybe an earthquake caused the water down below to drain off... or maybe peoples diverted the water for crops or stuff. who knows? not me.

so this is all we get: a little cocktail-dragon.

the professor was really looking forward to this. like he said, "i always wanted to see a dragon." that's all i can think of to explain it...

he actually picks up the sausage. it's sitting there in the palm of his hand, and he's glaring at it -- almost like it's the dragon's own fault that it's so darned tiny.

it was kinda cute, actually. looking up at him with these little beady eyes...

but then bit him.

and the professor -- he goes stiff as a board, and FALLS DOWN.


it gets even better than that, too! this mud is like quicksand or something -- (maybe slowsand, now that i really think about it) -- cuz the prof is slowly sinking into the mud, head-first!

i grab him by the feet and pull him out. dragon-butt wriggles away... whatever -- i gotta take care of my monster hunter!

i check for a pulse... it's getting slower and slower. i do the suck-and-spit maneuver, trying to get the venom out. i don't know that it did any good, though. only thing to do, so far as i can see, is to get him back to town and find a doctor!

so that's what i do. i drag the prof to the boat. and, yes, he's a heavy bugger -- but i eats ma spinach. we're back at the boat in nothing-flat, and it's GO GO GO!

c'mon, engine, start!

out of my way, crockigator -- no time!

poison darts whizzing past my ears again -- but i can't even pause to enjoy it.

copter boy! get the rotor spinning! ...don't ask me questions, just DO IT!



and then when we finally get the prof to the doctor...

after all that...

he has the NERVE to tell me that the professor is dead.

...c'mon, doc! do the electric paddles thingy, just for me?

but, no.

the professor -- he's...

he's dead, jim.


so, there ya have it. he's dead.

dead, dead, dead.

i'm using a chunk of the "blood money" to get him a good coffin. i'm going to stay here with the body overnight -- (just you try to pull me away!) -- and then tomorrow he goes in the ground.

then... i dunno. i guess i go home.

or maybe i head to brussels. the prof has notes, unsolved files... i could take up the good fight.

couldn't i?

well, i'll write at least one more post. i'll let you know how the funeral goes, and then that's it.

what a sucky way to end monster month. :(

From Brazil: The Amazon Dragon

Note: Possible candidate for Monster Month? If we find the beast, update file and shuffle it into the order. Big monster = big finish!

[click to enlarge]

We are all familiar with the image of dragons as giant fire-breathing lizards with wings. The Amazon Dragon, however, is closer to the Medieval image of dragons as wyrms. That is to say, this creature is actually a monumental worm.

The "Dragon" was discovered by a Portuguese soldier circa 1600, deep in the Amazon jungle. From what I've been able to piece together, the animal was approximately 100 yards long. Its body is banded with alternating purple and black rings. It has rows of gray snake-like legs on either side -- rather like a millipede. Its face has been likened to that of a fish.

The creature seems to be amphibious. According to the soldier, it rises out of a river and breathes air -- then dives back beneath the surface.

I am in possession of a map -- drawn by the soldier himself -- that purportedly leads to the Amazon Dragon's lair. Comparing it with recent geological surveys, I think there is good reason to believe that there will be underwater caves in this area... Which would help explain how the great beast has remained hidden for so long.

Over the past four centuries there have been several further sightings of the Dragon. Each time, the size is reported as being significantly smaller than it was previously. The last sighting, in 1910, put the creature at a length of only 30 yards.

Is it shrinking?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Betrayed By The One-Eyed Pilot! (part II)

4. Confessions


"Thank you."

Marooned by the one-eyed pilot on a deserted oil tanker -- somewhere deep in the southern Indian Ocean -- it seems like a good moment to have a snack and take stock of the situation. Scarlet has laid out a picnic blanket. I grimly chew on stale ham-and-rye; she's drinking chocolate milk.

"So. Care to explain?"

Scarlet casts a fiendish grin. Her straw sucks loudly at the last drops of milk.


This is Scarlet's tale:

On our seemingly endless journey, the antsy girl was forced to entertain herself in the back of the helicopter -- while I "edumacated Mr. Judas-pants" in front. It wasn't long before she discovered his secret stash of personal belongings... Which she had ample opportunity to riffle through.

After the paddleball and yo-yo incidents, the pilot and I were more than happy get some peace. As long as she was silent, we were content to ignore what was going on behind us. Lesson learned: If Scarlet is being quiet, the serious trouble-making must be underway.

"Tucked in cozy between his tighty-whiteys and his socks," she discovered a large wad of hundred-dollar bills. That's what tipped her off that something was amiss. Good girl, I think, that was probably the blood money he got paid to dispose of us.

On the second oil tanker stop, when she insisted that she needed to "go potty" and "de-skankify," Scarlet was secretly angling to take a look about. It's a good thing that she did, too. Those big canvas-covered crates -- they were full of weapons. The Pilot, it seems, mixes with very bad company.

Given how things were shaping up, Scarlet thought it prudent to "yank an insurance policy" for herself.

"But a bazooka?"

"Oh! Don't worry -- I got something for you, too." She digs around in her bottomless rucksack and pulls out a black pistol. I take her gift gingerly and examine the thing. A "Glock Automatic Pistol" -- undoubtedly missing any serial numbers. And it's loaded. I quickly pocket it...

I hate guns.

5. The Hideous Hold

Time to explore.

The last oil tanker where we stopped had no crew on deck -- but it did have two helicopters and cargo strapped down. Here, there's not even that.

"Ooh! Let's go downstairs! I wanna see what makes this tankahr so very, very supahr."

"We should check the bridge and living quarters first," I grunt.

"I call Scarlet-Saves-The-Day -- Again -- privilege! Maybe they've got KONG down there."

She's bouncing up and down on her toes.

Oh, alright...


Down, down the ladder, from a circular hatch on the deck... Five stories down into the dark hold. The light from above is all we have to see by.

The compartment is empty and echoes with our footsteps. It takes our eyes a few minutes to adjust. This enormous man-made space, it is a marvel...

"Spooooky door! What do you think, Ms. Murdersville Slumbercamp co-ed -- shall we take go take a look? Why, yes -- I think so. Abso-freakin'-lutely."

I cut Scarlet off at the door -- a heavy metal thing, windowless, with a wheel that turns to lock it shut. A crowbar has been stuck through the wheel, preventing it from turning.

"Permit me."

I put my ear to the door. Nothing.

I rap on the door loudly. Again, my ear to the door. Nothing.

The crowbar slides out, and I pass it to my assistant. She weighs it in her hands, appreciatively.

I spin the wheel -- and give the door a shove to open it up a crack.


My heart leaps in my chest. Monsters!

Perhaps forty of them... Moving lethargically about the cavernous compartment.

Dark red flesh, four spider-like legs dragging a bloated and bulbous living mass along the floor, two more stiff limbs sticking straight up into the air. So alien... But then I realize what I am looking at--

Men! These were human beings! Something has transformed them. The limbs sticking up in the air were legs... In the main mass, I can just make out human faces -- distended almost beyond recognition. The entire being has been flipped upside-down; the things I mistook for legs are what used to be arms -- split in two where the radius and ulna would usually connect.

My eyes begin to penetrate deeper into the murk. I realize that some of these things are still wearing shreds of clothing. In the far corner, three of the beasts are ripping gristle from the carcass of one of their compatriots. Cannibalism. Around the corners of the room, there are perhaps twenty skeletons from previous kills. So much like human bones, and yet re-shaped into something new...

A terrible nausea shoots through my stomach. I know what sort of thing causes this.


6. Dear Diary

Several of the creatures suddenly perk up. With a hideous writhing gait, they begin shambling toward freedom.

I slam the door shut and spin the wheel. "Crowbar?"

"Crowbar." Scarlet hands me the tool, and I wedge it in, locking the door shut again.


Back topside, we've searched the bridge and found nothing informative. Now we're going through the living quarters, one room at a time.

Most viruses need some sort of fluid for transmission. I think there's good reason to hope that we haven't been infected yet -- but as a precaution, I break open a first aid kit to get us some latex gloves and face masks. "Nurse Scarlet" loves the new look.

It's when we find the first mate's room that we get our big break.

A half-man is lying on the floor. His skin is that terrible boiled-flesh mauve of the creatures, and grapefruit-sized boils have erupted around his neck. He has shot himself through the brain. Mercifully, he's fallen so that most of the gore is hidden.

Sitting on a small desk next to his body is a red book, helpfully labeled "diary." It's the generic hard-bound page-a-day sort that one picks up in a big box office supply store.

Scarlet comes in, and sees what I've found. "Oh, it just doesn't get better than this!"

I quickly open to the last entry. Scarlet reads over my shoulder...


The First Mate could see what was happening to him, and decided to take his own life. It had been coming on for the past two days.

He had seen what happened to the men that came from the oil drilling project. They were sick when they came on board. Then one changed. Then another. The tanker's crew had corralled them into an empty hold at gun point. But then the crew began to change, too. One-by-one, they joined the beasts in the hideous hold.

There are promises that medical help is on its way -- but no one comes. Everyone involved in this catastrophe is being abandoned. Panic and paranoia take hold; there are shootings. The captain, who hasn't changed yet, is locked up in the brig.

The First Mate apologizes to his girlfriend for ever getting involved in this mess...

What's that shuffling outside?

7. The Big Bang

I step through the open door to the hallway. Nothing.

I peek around to the other side of the door -- MONSTER!

Just behind the door, two feet from my face, one of the creatures has snuck up on us. My first impulse: I slam the door wide open, forcibly knocking the creature back a step.


Scarlet leaps through the door and starts sprinting down the hall. I'm not far behind.

The thing is groping at the door... Blind and deaf, I realize -- it's trying to pick up our scent. And then it does.

I catch up with Scarlet at the end of the hallway. She's lifting the grenade launcher onto her shoulder.


I can tell she's miffed -- but she complies. We fly up a flight of stairs, through the bridge, out to the deck. We've outpaced it, but it's not far behind.

"The captain is locked up in the brig," I think to myself.

"What now? Hide and seek?"

"Do you have all your stuff?"


"Then I'd say it's time to get out of here."


This is not my best plan ever. In fact, it's really no plan at all -- it's just taking the next step, doing the the terrible thing that must ultimately be done, no matter the cost.

Be bold.

Scarlet helps me get the lifeboat in place. We lower it down to the water with an audible splash! We climb down and begin paddling away.

A hundred feet distant isn't very far... But that's where I have us pause.

"Scarlet, would you do the honors?"

It takes a moment -- then understanding spreads across my assistant's face in a big puppy-dog grin.

"Aye, aye, captain!"

The grenade launcher hefts to her shoulder; she takes aim; I cover my ears with both hands.



Water starts rushing in through the side of the tanker. For safe measure I have Scarlet blow another three holes in the hull.

And then we paddle with all our might. The ship takes at least 45 minutes to go down -- but I don't want to take any chances, risking being caught in the maelstrom as its sucked under.

So we row. And then it's gone. And we're alone in a lifeboat -- hundreds of miles from land, far from any shipping lane...

[kerguelen continent - topography]

8. Adrift in a Lifeboat

We start rowing southward. Based on the GPS readings, it looks like we're about 350 miles away from Kerguelen. I'm worried about the ocean currents; I'm afraid they're pushing us farther and farther away from safety.

I take this opportunity to "edumacate" Scarlet a bit more.

I explain: Right now, we're actually floating over a sunken continent -- the Kerguelen Continent. It's about a third the size of the USA. Desolation Island is just the tip of it that sticks out of the water. Over the past 100 million years, it's been above sea level for three periods. We know that about 50 million years back it was covered with life. The last time that it sunk was about 20 million years ago.

This is a pretty recent discovery: it was announced back around 1999. But you see, someone was paying attention. Where prehistoric life used to be, there's a good chance that you're going to find oil. It's a terrible area to try and work in -- what with being so far away from civilization, and the terrible winds -- but isolation is just what this someone was looking for.

What do we have here? A Power with the resources to set up an illegal oil drilling operation. That equals an independent source of fuel. It has oil tankers for moving out the crude. Probably a whole fleet of tankers, if it can afford to be using them as floating air bases. And then there's a massive weapons smuggling operation... It sounds to me like a secret build-up to war!

But the people behind this conspiracy -- they found more than they were looking for. As the men at the drilling operation brought up the oil, they were also unearthing an ancient virus. Maybe it was native to the Kerguelen Continent 50 million years ago. Maybe it evolved underneath the ocean, in the time after the continent sank. Maybe it was even of extraterrestrial origin. (My foreign contact has suggested that there was a colony in these parts some time in the past...)

Whatever its origins, this is a zorn-producing mutagen. Those creatures that the drill crew became -- they weren't men anymore. They were zorns. We name mutants like this after the place where the affecting virus was found. So, what we saw back there on the ship -- properly speaking, those were Kerguelen Zorns.

As awful as it sounds, we have to hope that the men were infected quickly. If we're very lucky, they were just getting set up and hadn't even gotten a tanker out yet. Because if they did, and there's a ship out there somewhere carrying thousands of gallons of virus-laden fuel... I shudder to think.

But, we might be in luck. Whoever was in charge of this operation quarantined the infected men. Although, I'll bet they were just waiting to see what would happen. Maybe there were thoughts of using the virus for biological warfare. Something like this -- it'd be a far more valuable discovery than the oil alone.

Which is why it was all-important that we sink the ship. A human-affecting zorn virus must not be loosed on the world.

And yet -- there's still the abandoned drilling operation sitting out there, somewhere...



"Thank you."

Night has fallen, and we huddle for warmth together underneath a space blanket. I check the GPS again. It's bad: the currents are pushing us away from Desolation Island faster than we can row toward it.

"We're not going to make it like this. We're losing ground too fast."

"Well, phoo. It woulda been really cool."


"Ichbonnsen and Super Assistant Scarlet row a million billion miles... And then we step out onto land! All blistery and gnarly dreadlocks and mega-buff sailor arms -- but alive. The crowd goes wild!"

I drift into silence, thinking about how the story's actually going to end. Thirsty, sunburned, delirious...

Scarlet sees the look on my face and stops eating.

"What's the point, then, right? We've lost. Game over!"

I watch, horrified, as she tosses the last of her sandwich out into the darkness."

"Hey, don't do that!"

"Looks like we're getting out of this the easy way."

She's rummaging in her rucksack. My mind flashes to the gun she gave me, still in my pocket.

Scarlet pulls out the laptop and satellite phone.

"What's the number for pizza?"


Our connection is on-again off-again. But through the night, Scarlet attempts to send out S.O.S. emails with our approximate location -- every two hours, regardless.

The following day it rains. We do everything we can to keep the computer from getting wet -- but this is a nerve-wracking development. The one mercy is that the ocean is still relatively calm. If the waves decide to pick up, then we're really done for.

I work on capturing as much fresh drinking water as possible.

In the afternoon the storm clears up. We do what we can to dry out our clothes. Hypothermia's a bigger threat than starvation at this point.


We make it through another night, adrift in the lifeboat.

It's a futile endeavor, but we keep taking turns rowing, trying to head in the direction of Desolation Island.

At least it's something to do.

We eat the last of the sandwiches. Night falls.


We're woken in the middle of the third night by something bumping against the bottom of our boat. We've been discovered --

By sharks!

We watch anxiously as they circle. We ought to be safe enough -- so long as we don't go out for a swim...

But then just around dawn, one big lout actually tries to take a bite out of us.

I beat him over the head repeatedly with my paddle, and he falls back into the water. A comically mouth-shaped crescent is missing from side of our vessel.

9. Rescue!

A helicopter!

Is it coming from one of the weapons smuggling ships?

No! It is a different model from the helicopters that we've become so accustomed to. It comes closer and closer -- we've been spotted!

It hovers above us. The propeller sends a fine spray of water in all directions, as dozens of fins continue spiraling around the lifeboat. A rope ladder descends. I send Scarlet up first. I follow close behind.

As a final insult, the big lout leaps up again and grabs onto the bottom rungs of the ladder. I kick his nose with all my might, steel-toed boot colliding with sandpaper skin.

He falls back down -- and at last we are free!


Our saviors are Captain K. and First Mate Todd -- part of a multi-national science expedition working in the Kerguelen area. They are about to take us back to their main vessel for medical attention...

I protest in the strongest possible terms. We're hungry, but otherwise in good health. What is imperative is that the weapons smuggling ring be exposed -- and that the oil drilling operation gets destroyed. Were it possible, I would go to the proper authorities myself... But I know full well that no one believes the word of "crazy" Ichbonnsen. Our two rescuers, however, would make excellent, credible witnesses.

I explain what we saw on our long helicopter journey, and how we were marooned by the one-eyed pilot. When it comes to the Kerguelen Zorns, however, I hold my tongue. Instead, I say the drill crew was dying from exposure to a "biological weapon."

Even with the more colorful moments of our adventure censored, Captain K. and First Mate Todd seem to feel my story is far-fetched...

Then Scarlet pulls out her Bazooka.

That convinces them.


We set down gently on the deserted oil tanker. The two helicopters and the many canvas-covered crates are still there -- nothing's changed. Our rescuers are truly astonished.

I hand over the red diary -- minus the last few pages, which I've torn out and hidden away. I emphasize again the dire importance of destroying the drilling operation. Then we split up to check out the rest of the ship.

While the Captain and First Mate are down below, Scarlet and I unlash one of the smugglers' helicopters. I am not a great pilot -- but my skills should be adequate to get us back to civilization.

10. Marked for Death

I hate to run off on our rescuers like this... But if we were to go back with them, I can easily imagine how events would transpire. Two mysterious individuals found in a lifeboat, claiming knowledge of a conspiracy... there'd be questions; there'd be denial; and then we'd wind up being the convenient scapegoats. Captain K. might have a chance of getting heard -- but not us.

We head for Réunion Island, flying low.

Before we land, I throw the pistol Scarlet gave me into the Indian Ocean. I make her get rid her grenade launcher, too. She's loath to let go of it -- but recognizes the liability it'll be if we get stopped anywhere along the line.

"Out of grenades, anyway," she shrugs.

We ditch the helicopter in a patch of jungle, and walk our way from there into town. It's been another all-nighter, and we're both exhausted. I check us into a hotel.


The next day we catch a small commercial flight to Madagascar. I'm trying to unknot the remaining mysteries -- with little success.

"We still don't know who wanted us dead. The Pilot taking us all the way out to a tanker in the middle of the ocean -- that was expensive... And, shall I say, flamboyant. Whoever it was, didn't just want us dead -- they wanted us infected by the Kerguelen virus. They wanted a tortuous, vindictive death."

Scarlet's fussing with a Rubix Cube. "Not to mention, ironic. The Monster Hunter being turned into a monster himself? Très Batman." She tosses the toy over the seat in front of her, where it lands in the lap of a napping business man. He gives a little shout of surprise. Scarlet slouches back in her seat and closes her eyes. Still worn out from the adventure -- as am I.

"Who wants us dead that much? The Opium Cartel? Maybe one of the government officials I was talking with in Brussels? The Martians? Who?"

Eyes still closed: "Prof, you've got the entire world against you. ...That's what I like about you."

Funny thing is, I think she's being sincere.

"You realize that you're marked for death, too, now. They're obviously going to come after us again."

She snorts.

"Where's the fun in being irrepressible if everyone likes you?"

She gives me a punch in the arm, rolls over, and then I think she's asleep.

"You're smiling."

I stop.


From Madagascar, a series of flights took us across the Atlantic to South America. We've spent the past two days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I've set things up so this post will be published after we've left town -- hopefully keeping any would-be assassins off our tails a little longer.

The blood money Scarlet took from the one-eyed pilot will be enough to cover another expedition or two -- as well as a few comforts along the way.

Some years ago, I came into possession of an old Portuguese map, detailing where to find the lair of the Amazon Dragon. Given that I seldom know where I'll be next, I took the trouble to commit the geography to memory. Now, with this generous "endowment" from the Pilot, I can finally fulfill a life-long dream...

I have always wanted to see a dragon.

Z - The Zompire Bat

[click to enlarge]

The Zompire Bat is a large South American carnivore related to the Vampire Bat. It stands about five feet tall and is found primarily in Argentina.

The bat's wingspan is approximately 20 feet -- however, it is too heavy to actually fly. It uses its wings instead to corral and capture prey, wrapping them in a deadly embrace.

The creature kills and eats large game: cattle, wild pigs -- and humans who are unwary. It is extremely messy, rending flesh, mangling the bodies of its victims... It actually only drinks their blood; the purpose of this behavior seems to be simply to create a good flow.

Zompire bats have very poor eyesight and are uncoordinated moving on the ground -- stumbling and dragging themselves about. When they hunt, they depend upon the element of surprise.

The bat digs a shallow hole and covers itself with dirt. When it senses that prey is near, it bursts from the ground -- imparting a sort of "dead rising from the grave" appearance. The wings trap its food, its powerful jaws clamp down, and the bat thrashes its head until blood is gushing everywhere.

Like other bats, Zompires use echolocation. However, whereas most species use high or even ultrasonic pitches, this creature uses subsonics (much as crocodiles do). The system only works effectively underground -- where perception extends in a 2 mile radius. Above ground, the portion of the call that is audible to humans sounds like hideous groaning and moaning.

Newborn bats are birthed directly into holes, where they are left to mature for several months. The bats seem most comfortable underground, and spend most of their lives hidden there. Wrapped in its own wings, a Zompire Bat looks quite like a large black seed pod or coffin.

It should be noted that the safest time to study the Zompire Bat is when it is hibernating during the winter months. It can be exhumed and examined for a brief period -- but under no circumstances should it be allowed to warm up. Dire consequences follow.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Y - The Yellow Riders

[click to enlarge]

Traveling in Australia, I met an old Gunwinggu man in the Northern Territory who told a strange tale. He reported seeing "little yellow people riding a dead man" some years ago. After weeks of fruitless searching, I finally did get a brief glimpse of the thing he described.

I was camped in the Simpson desert. Just after dawn, I woke to the sound of something rummaging through my provisions -- and there it was.

The creature looks much like a bleached human skeleton. One could easily believe that the emaciated thing is nothing but bones -- but it is covered by skin. It is headless, and moves on all fours. It doesn't have hands or feet, but rather insect-like points at the ends of its limbs. I was unable to see any sensory organs.

The ribcage is not closed; it hangs wide open, and is perhaps three feet wide. A large green-black sack hangs from the interior. I presume this is where the vital organs reside. It is also where the Yellow Riders dangle.

The Yellow Riders are small almost-spherical creatures with bright green eyes. There were perhaps fifteen attached to the skeletal being's ventral sack by sinewy roots.

As I came out of my pup tent, the Riders seemed to take notice -- making squeaky sounds and bobbing up and down. Their white mount took off at a gallop.

I leapt into my jeep and chased them across a field of cracking dried red mud... But the creatures quickly outpaced me -- meaning that the white thing can run at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour.

I have no explanation for what this thing that I encountered might be. It seems likely that the Yellow Riders have a symbiotic relationship with the galloping creature... All I can say for certain, though, is that it likes peanut butter.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

X - The Xem

[click to enlarge]

The Xem is a small subterranean creature, about the size of a hat. It feeds on rotting tree roots between 4 and 20 feet underground.

It has a coat of short fur and a small mane around its head -- all of which is dingy black-brown. However, under black light the creature fluoresces a brilliant blue. This makes it much easier to spot, if one is using a sub-surface periscope.

The Xem has four two-fingered limbs and no tail. It is slow-moving, but sure-footed. The round head has two enormous eyes, but no nose or mouth for breathing. Its metabolism is almost entirely anaerobic.

The Xem's jaws are located in its midsection. The creature's ribcage is hinged at the spine; it has rows of tiny teeth where most animals would have a sternum. As the body swells and contracts, chewing is easily mistaken for breathing.

Xems live in small colonies of a dozen or so creatures, which move through underground tunnels between the trees that they depend upon for food. The adult Xem's fingers are not suited for digging; all of the tunnel systems are created by the young.

Infants are born in litters of 30 or more. At birth, the creatures have tough webbing between their fingers, ideal for excavation. Unlike their slow-moving elders, the young move about at a rapid pace, carving out living spaces for the next generation.

For unknown reasons, Xems have extremely high infant mortality rates: almost 90% of the young die within a month of birth. The bodies are transported to the lowest room in a tunnel system and left in piles to decay.

The sacrifice of the young does seem to serve an evolutionary purpose: many workers are needed to create living spaces -- but there are not enough tree roots to support such a large population. It has been speculated that a minority of Xems are born with a slower metabolism -- and that these ones are the few who survive into adulthood, while the rest simply burn out.

Betrayed By The One-Eyed Pilot! (part I)

1. Destination: Desolation Island

Himmat's phone rang. "Professor, it's... for you!"

On the other end, it's the one-eyed pilot. He has a lead on a new species -- and wants to help us with the hunt! But we are still in India; it's barely 24 hours since our underground adventure with the Grrrhearts. How did he find us?

"I read your Monster Month blog, Professor. You were not hard to track down."

Of course. Usually my expeditions have put me incommunicado with the outside world... But now with the PowerBook, satellite phone and Blogger, that's all changed. It's hard to get used to.


We meet the Pilot at the airport in Calcutta. He's flying a large, new-looking helicopter this time. Our destination: Desolation Island.

Îles Kerguelen, the Kerguelen Archipelago -- aptly dubbed "Desolation Island" by James Cook in 1776 -- is one of the most isolated locations on Earth. The land, owned by France, is located in the southern Indian Ocean, roughly equidistant from Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. The climate is cold and windy -- but not ice-bound. The archipelago's main island, Grande Terre, is surrounded by more than 300 smaller islands... Yet, only about 100 humans live there.

Prime monster-hunting territory.

Our quarry: Giant Aphids. According to the Pilot, insects the size of cows have been sighted on some of the smaller islands, grazing on the indigenous Kerguelen cabbage.

Immediately I'm suspicious of Martian involvement. These creatures sound ominously similar to the Elysian insect megafauna that have invaded central Africa.

2. "Are we there yet?"

The journey is too long to be made in one flight. We're going to have to stop and refuel several times. The Pilot says not to worry -- that he has friends along the way who will help us out.

Our first stop is the Maldive Islands. Refueling doesn't take very long. I send Scarlet into the airport for food; she comes back with a whole armload of plastic-wrapped sandwiches.

"For later," she says.


The second stop is somewhere far out in the northern reaches of the Indian Ocean, probably about parallel to Kenya. I see it first: A huge oil tanker, sitting dead in the water. The Pilot radios ahead. His conversation is succinct; it seems the ship is expecting us.

We set down on the deck, and the Pilot immediately starts refueling. "Stay close. And don't talk to anyone," he tells us.

We do as he says. The crew of the ship seems to ignore us. They're busy with forklifts, moving about huge canvas-wrapped crates. As we watch, a helicopter -- much like the one we're traveling in -- comes and takes away one of the parcels, lifting it off the deck by means of rope and hook, without even landing.

"We're ready to go," the pilot says. The sun is going down. Gold turns to lavender, and I can just begin to pick out the Southern Cross. It looks like this is going to be an all-nighter.


During the long journey I talk about our recent adventures: Scarlet playing Pied Piper with the Grrrhearts back in Meghalaya... My near-deadly underwater encounter with the leviathan off the coast of Sumatra, and the help rendered by the Porpische... Finding the Giant Mupp in North Korea, and our narrow escape through the Demilitarized Zone...

"I too, have seen... Monsters, Professor."

Ah-ha! I thought as much.

"This" -- our Pilot points to the black patch over his missing eye... "And this" -- he pulls his shirt open a ways, and I can see that a wicked scar runs down his torso -- from throat toward groin, as if he had once been torn in two. "It was a monster that nearly killed me five years ago."

His face looks green in the pale, hypnotic light from the control console. "Where were you? What kind of creature was it?" I ask eagerly.

His lips go tight. "I do not want to talk about it. I'm sorry." His brow knits, and he stares even more intently ahead into the night.


"Are we there yet?"


"Are we there yet?"


"Are we there yet?"


Scarlet has spent the past dozen hours in the cabin behind us. First there was the kazoo. Then there was the wooden paddle with a ball attached by elastic. (I took that away.) Then there was the yo-yo... Which was fine -- until "around the world" got out of control and the toy came flying into the cockpit.

Finally she settled down with a telephone-book-sized manga that she picked up when we were passing through Japan. Blessed peace and quiet!

Around one in the morning, she drifts off to sleep. I try to catch some shut-eye myself... But am woken by her snoring. (Yes, even over the roar of the rotor.)

Our third stop: Réunion Island, off the coast of Madagaskar. We set down on the tarmac in the dead of night, and...

"Are we there yet?"

3. Marooned!

Dawn comes and goes. Still we are heading south. Nothing but ocean has passed below us for hours. And then: another oil tanker stationed in the middle of nowhere.

Two of those familiar helicopters are lashed down to the deck, and more canvas-covered crates wait to be air-lifted away. But this time, no radio contact as we approach... Our helicopter gently sets down on the broad steel deck, and we pile out.

Not a human soul in sight. Where's the crew?

I ask the Pilot -- but he dodges the question, says "This is just a stopping point. Don't wander off -- we're making good time."

Scarlet won't hear of it. She needs to use the facilities, wants a change of clothes -- and just about works herself into a screaming fit.

The Pilot, red-faced and at the end of his wits, relents. "...But don't take long!"

Off she goes with her massive rucksack.

We finish fueling the helicopter... And wait. And wait. The Pilot is increasingly edgy. Just as he's about to go get her, she reappears -- a fresh pair of graffitied blue jeans, puffy winter coat, wet hair, and huge grin on her face.


Afternoon, flying under a bright but cloud-covered sky. More than a thousand miles of ocean behind us since Réunion. Just one more stop before Kerguelen.

"Are we there y--"

"Almost there," snaps the Pilot.

My voice is beginning to go hoarse. All night long the Pilot was picking my brain, encouraging me to tell more stories about the creatures I've discovered. The details of their peculiar survival strategies, how I was able to track them down... It's not often I have such an eager audience, so I was glad to oblige. But as I'm finally telling him about my first encounter as a young man -- with a Quillaupus of unusual size, back in the woods of Vermont -- I suddenly realize that he's managed to avoid telling me almost anything about his own history. I'd like to understand more about his motivation in joining the hunt...

But it can wait. There's the last oil tanker, sitting on the horizon.


"Private Scarlet, reporting for duty, Sir!" Scarlet salutes me. "Twenty laps around the deck? Yes, Sir! Thank you, Sir!"

Just as she's about to race off down the silent tanker's deck -- "STAY CLOSE!" the Pilot barks.

So she starts sprinting circles around the helicopter. She's wearing an old green felt and scarlet star communist cap now; dog-tags, rucksack, and white tank top -- despite the bracing wind. The Pilot is gritting his teeth, staring determinedly at the fueling hose, trying to will the gas into pumping even faster.

Again a deserted ship. Not even a spare helicopter or crates this time -- just a Mary Celeste dead in the water, waiting for no one.

Off in the distance -- perhaps it's my overactive imagination -- I think I can just see a glimmer of Kerguelen. Our legs are sore, and I'm looking forward to the next few days of hiking and short hops between islands. I have an idea about how to distill the odor of Kerguelen cabbage as a means to attract the Giant Aphids...


I turn around. The Pilot is pointing a gun at Scarlet.

"Let's all just calm down," I protest...

"You too, Professor!" I'm looking into the barrel of his pistol -- I raise my hands up where he can see them. Scarlet trots backward and joins me, hands up.

"Now just stay there! Stay where you are!" The Pilot is getting into the helicopter -- gun still trained on us. The rotor starts to turn.

I shout to the Pilot... "Why?"

From the cockpit he looks me in the eye. "You're a brave man, Professor! But you've made yourself enemies. Powerful enemies...!"

He picks something up from between the seats. "Thanks for all the stories!" He shakes my Bolex over his head victoriously and laughs.

Damn! Not the camera!

The helicopter lifts off.

It all happened so fast... I watch, stunned, as the one-eyed pilot rises -- 10, 30, 50 feet into the air.

My assistant is kneeling over her rucksack beside me, rummaging. She stands up, holding -- A GRENADE LAUNCHER.

Scarlet through a pout: "You are not a nice man."

With a deafening blast, the grenade rockets away... A flash, thunder, smoke!

The helicopter spins in the air--

And then regains its trajectory. A near miss. The Pilot races off, back toward Réunion.

Scarlet turns toward me with wounded eyes and a terrible frown...


"Always wanted one of these," she grins.

[to be continued]

Saturday, October 27, 2007

From Desolation Island: The Kerguelen Zorn

[click to enlarge]

Little is known for certain about the Kerguelen Zorn. My belief is that it is a human mutation induced by viral infection.

The creature in question was clearly human to begin with. Evidence suggests that the transformation from man to zorn can take up to two weeks. In some cases, however, it occurs in a single day.

The infected person's skin becomes dark magenta -- as if it has been boiled. The head and torso become filled with fluid. The face and neck become so distended, they practically disappear.

Having become massively top-heavy, the organism inverts --- it drags its former head on the ground, and its legs stick straight up in the air. It appears that rigor mortis takes over in the legs... They become stiff, and much of their color drains away. The arms each split into two new limbs. Separation begins between the ulna and radius; one of the new limbs will have two fingers -- the other will have two fingers and a thumb.

The creature, now with four lower limbs, walks somewhat like a spider -- but dragging its slippery, sagging mass along on the floor. It is apparently blind, and finds its way by frantic, groping touch. In a low hallway, the dead legs may bump and drag above it -- almost giving the impression that the thing is walking on the ceiling.

The zorn-producing virus is highly contagious -- likely being transmitted by physical contact. My suspicion is that the virus originates from the submerged microcontinent beneath the Kerguelen Archipelago (AKA "Desolation Island"), which sunk into the ocean some 20 million years ago. I believe that an illegal oil-drilling operation recently unearthed the disease.

I have attempted to "quarantine" the virus. I hope and pray that no Kerguelen Zorns have survived.

Friday, October 26, 2007

W - The Whipping Molesque

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The Whipping Molesque, AKA the "Rocky Mountain Oyster," is a three-foot-tall mollusk native to the American Rocky Mountains.

The Molesque moves around using a large sucker-foot. Its shell is conical, bifurcated, and variegated with vertical blue/green ridges. When the creature is threatened, it slams shut like a bear trap, producing an echoing "snap."

The Molesque lives at the bottom of lakes, but comes onto land to hunt -- ironically for river fish. The creature sits waiting by the side of a river like a fisherman. When it senses a fish nearby, it shoots a long poison-tipped appendage into the water. The whip-like appendage paralyzes and grabs hold of the fish, retracts into the Molesque's shell, and the predator begins to digest its meal.

Like an oyster, the Molesque produces a pearl when something irritates its soft flesh. The pearls, which can be as much as a foot in diameter, would surely be worth millions if put to auction... However, if the exact location of these animals were ever revealed, it is almost equally certain that the gold rush of poachers would soon bring about their extinction.

In the name of science, and at great personal risk, I have procured and sawed open several pearls. It appears that the majority have been formed around birds, which presumably tried to eat the Molesque's flesh. One contained a human hand, severed at the wrist.

Although as yet unproven, it is my belief that Molesques go to water-filled underground cave systems to reproduce -- and that they also return there to die.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

V - The Vivecta

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The Vivecta is a hideous intestinal parasite. It is found in The Congos, and is associated with swampy areas.

Parasitic worms typically enter the host organism orally, and then attach to the interior walls of the gastro-intestinal tract. The Vivecta is unusual in this respect; it enters its host by burrowing through the skin, and then attaches itself to the outer wall of the intestines.

At this point in its life, the Vivecta looks like a twelve-eyed, blue-green iridescent beetle. Cutting pincers at either end of the body make incisions into the intestine. Partially digested food passes from the first incision, through the Vivecta's body, and back out through the second incision into the host again.

As the parasite ages, the carapace splits in two, and a long, ropey body develops between the two "heads". Each head progressively clamps down on the intestine with four strong legs -- until the Vivecta's body completely bypasses normal digestive flow. In essence, the parasite simply becomes an extra length of intestine.

In the late stages of its development, the Vivecta can measure 20+ feet in length. In cattle and in humans, presence of the parasite is sometimes mistaken for pregnancy. Hosts are typically somewhat malnourished -- but otherwise in good health.

Reproduction is parthenogenetic. Dozens of worm-like larva develop off the hoods of the two heads. They grow quickly while in the host's body, until after a week they are approximately nine inches long. Whereas the original Vivecta passively conforms itself to the shape of the host's existing digestive tract, the infants writhe spasmodically -- which is disturbingly visible through the skin of the the host's abdomen.

The larval Vivecta leave the host en masse, first burrowing through the intestine's wall, then passing out all at once through the nether orifice. The many perforations that they make in the intestines cause severe septicaemia, which almost always results in death for the host.

There are three distinct phases in the Vivecta's life cycle. After leaving the host's body, the larvae look like black, twelve-eyed snakes. Legless, they slither outward into the environment seeking soft, wet earth in which to burrow. When they find a suitable spot, the "snakes" dig into the ground and cocoon themselves in masses of sticky fiber.

Two weeks later, the Vivecta emerge -- in the form of a small winged fly. The flies seek out warm-blooded hosts... And the life cycle begins again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

U - The Ubertuber

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Ubertubers are currently the largest known species of sentient root. At maturity, the average plant has a mass equal to that of five elephants. Based on available data, it is believed that an Ubertuber's life-span is between 700 and 900 years.

Despite having consciousness, the tuber will spend most of its life in a vegetative state, passively absorbing nourishment from the environment. Only in times of emergency do the colossal plants become active, uprooting themselves for self-defense: e.g. when threatened by a forest fire, logging, or mining operations.

When awakened, the Ubertuber seeks immediate escape. If necessary, it is a fearsome foe -- tearing down trees and wielding them as weapons. Once it gets away from what threatens it, the plant will walk several hundred miles to find a suitable new home.

The root is semi-parasitic. It derives minerals and water from the soil -- but for certain nutrients, it taps into the trees around it. Consequently, one of the best ways to find an Ubertuber is to search a forest of great old tall trees for a patch where the trees are mysteriously shrunken and shriveled.

Ubertubers reproduce asexually by means of spores, which are released into underground streams. The reproductive cycle is usually triggered by flooding, when the water table is especially high. Given that Ubertuber populations are able to expand subterraneously, we currently have no clear idea how geographically widespread the plants are, or how many exist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

T - The Trick Squilligoss

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The Trick Squilligoss is a large oceanic amphibian found in the vicinity of Australia. The adult animal is between 8 and 16 feet in length. In appearance, it looks rather like a cross between a frog and a squid. It spends most of its time in deep ocean waters -- but has increasingly been sighted coming onto land.

The Squilligoss has four legs with webbed, three-toed feet. The legs have a cartilaginous skeleton that allows the creature to stand upright on land -- and also a muscular "skirt" which it can use for propelling itself underwater. There are two thin arms, which attach internally to a sort of flexible ribcage. Like squids, the creature's head has a mantle. Its beak is situated at the front of the body when swimming -- or on top of the head when it's standing. There is an air bladder on the ventral side of the head, along with two faintly bioluminescent eyes.

Normally, the Trick Squilligoss preys upon giant squid... However, due to decreasing populations of squid, the animal has increasingly been coming onto land to raid herds of cattle. Squilligosses appear in the local folklore of certain areas as a "Screaming Devil."

The Squilligoss' unearthly appearance easily "tricks" people into thinking that it is a supernatural apparition. Standing upright, the beak looks like horns. The neck bladder collapses and becomes wrinkled in a way that makes it look rather like a wide mouth with rows of long teeth. The mantle appears to be the grim cowl of a robe. Underwater, the beast emits high-pitched shrieks as a form of echolocation; on land these alien calls sound like "screaming."

The Trick Squilligoss only appears on land at night. Being most used to traveling in the murky depths of the Tasman sea, its eyes are sensitive to daytime light levels. Given the poor lighting conditions under which it has always been seen, it's not difficult to understand why terrified eye-witnesses would misinterpret what they're seeing...

A ghastly silhouette with glowing eyes, crouched over and feeding upon the mangled corpse of a cow -- a shadow twice the height of a man, which turns and lets out a blood-curdling shriek when disturbed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

S - The Slivener

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The Slivener is a twelve-foot-tall giant living deep in the forests of Kazakhstan. It is humanoid, has paper-white human-like skin, and seems to be nocturnal.

Not enough is currently known about the animal's biology to properly classify it. In some respects it is like a great ape, but in others it is more like a frog or the common housefly.

The most remarkable thing about the Slivener is its tongue. At first glance, it seems that the creature has pink, writhing tusks. However, it turns out that this is actually a single organ that protrudes from two facial orifices.

Bafflingly, the enormous snake-like tongue is unattached to the rest of the organism. It is able to slide back and forth between sides of the creature's face, always becoming longer on one side and shorter on the other.

The leading explanation for this is that the tongue is actually a separate, symbiotic animal. If so, we are looking at a truly unique evolutionary partnership.

One must ask: Can the tongue survive independently if removed from the Slivener? And if so, for how long?

Initial experiments aimed at answering these questions have proven... ill-advised. Further research -- and further researchers -- will be required.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

R - The Rasch

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The Rasch is a six-legged marsupial that lives deep in the bamboo jungles of China. It is named after the German explorer who first brought news of it to the Western world in 2006. Strangely, Chinese cryptozoologists don't seem to have been aware of its existence before then.

The animal is primarily arboreal, and has a long tail that helps it keep balance as it leaps from tree to tree. The fur is predominantly light gray, with three distinctive black stripes on the head. Its eyes are often said to be "flashing"; they are usually so dilated that they appear entirely black -- except for when light reflects off the retinas and they seem to glow (much like a cat's eyes at night).

The Rasch is highly animated. It has a metabolism that is in over-drive. During the course of a 24-hour period it never sleeps. It is in constant motion seeking out flying insects, which are its food. Every action is fast, alert, and precise.

The price for life on fast-forward is an early grave. The Rasch is only conscious for three weeks. At the end of this period, it buries itself deep in a burrow and goes into a comatose state -- which it will remain in for the rest of its life, approximately 15 years more.

When the Rasch goes dormant, it takes its offspring with it to this "grave". The several young it has in its pouch will spend the next decade slowly developing -- before bursting to life for their own brief period of consciousness.

One must wonder: Sleeping for almost 25 years of its existence, what does a Rasch dream about?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Q - The Quillaupus

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The Quillaupus is native to New England, where it is usually found amongst woods of birch trees. It is furry, with blue and purple stripes. This makes for terrible camouflage -- which is presumably why it evolved to arboreal existence.

The animal has many sharp quills -- and many sharp eyes for sighting its prey. Its method of attack: the prehensile tail loosens its grip on the tree branch where the creature hangs, and the Quillaupus simply drops down upon its victim from above.

The typical Quillaupus is approximately the size of a raccoon; it preys primarily upon squirrels and birds. However, there is record of one Quillaupus that grew large enough to swallow a grown man in one fell swoop. Luckily for this man, the beast's teeth became lodged in the soil, and he was able to dig his way out to safety.

Friday, October 19, 2007

P - The Pak Mozg

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"Pak Mozg" roughly translates from Russian to English as "brain crab." It is a species that has recently been found on the southwestern coast of Novaya Zemlya -- an archipelago to the north of Russia, relatively close to Scandinavia.

What makes this crab interesting is that it has an exceptionally large brain, which dangles exposed beneath its dorsal shell. The ventral shell is entirely missing. This makes the crab quite vulnerable to attacks from seagulls -- but it is also, presumably, what makes the prodigious brain development physically possible.

The typical adult Pak Mozg is approximately 10" wide and 14" tall. Its dorsal shell is high and crested, which makes it look somewhat like a helmet. To an extent, this unusual shape helps deflect gulls' attacks.

If the crab is turned over, you can see the web of its nervous system adhered to the shell -- as well as a vestigial stomach lining. The creature seems to subsist solely upon zooplankton, which are captured by a swath of microscopic flagella. Two beady black eyes dangle from protuberances at the front of the shell. The only significant musculature occurs within the creature's four legs.

From 1954 to 1990, Novaya Zemlya was used as a nuclear test site; in the end, it hosted a grand total of 224 detonations. While there is no definite link between the tests and the appearance of the Pak Mozg, the concurrence of these events merits further investigation.

At this point in time, it seems that only a handful of fishermen have taken note of the new species. The ones I've spoken to jokingly refer to it as "the intellectual." When they see gulls flip the crabs over and peck out the brains inside, wry comments are made about the appetites of these "government agents."

Whether or not Pak Mosgs survive into the future is uncertain. On the one hand, they are astonishingly vulnerable to predators -- which seem to enjoy the crabs as a sort of delicacy. On the other hand, the animal displays a high degree of intelligence and adaptability.

It is known, for instance, that the first recorded generation of crabs attempted to lay its eggs on land in the daytime -- and was consequently slaughtered en masse by hungry birds. In the following generation -- several years later -- the crabs appear to have avoided the threat by laying their eggs at night. The most recent generation is reported to have stolen nets from nearby fishing boats -- and actually laid rudimentary traps for the predators.

It will be very interesting indeed to see how this trend develops over time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

O - The Opium Gore Golem

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The story as it's told is this: The most powerful and vicious drug lord in Afghanistan captured and enslaved a wizard. After suffering hideous torture, his body and will broken, the wizard finally consented to do his captor's bidding -- to summon up a commando of demon soldiers. The Gore Golems' bodies were constructed from the entrails of a hundred slaughtered enemies, and then animated by each being fed a portion of the wizard's own soul. The grizzly monsters now serve as the drug lord's personal body guard. They are unstoppable in battle; even the bravest man is paralyzed with fear when confronted by their demonic visage.

The truth of the matter is more mundane -- yet no less strange.

The "Gore Golem" is a semi-intelligent, quasi-insect species imported from the deep caverns of Mars. It is believed that six are currently on Earth, and it is true that they are in the possession of an Afghan Opium cartel.

The creature -- whose proper name is unknown -- is a horrid sight to behold. It stands between eight and nine feet tall. The barrel chest has two overlapping ribcages, and an exposed double-stomach digestive system. The thing is covered in grizzly, glistening shell armor -- which sweats blood, so that it's constantly coated with a wet red sheen. It is bipedal, walking on skeletal legs that somewhat resemble those of a grasshopper. The arms are dangerous whipping tentacles. The mouth is concealed in a thick, stump-like neck -- which is guarded by four miniscule eyes at the ends of long, prehensile stalks, that look quite like writhing worms.

"Gore Golems" are not intelligent enough to act as independent mercenaries; their mental capacity is similar to that of a trained horse. However, the animals are deeply susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. By entering a drug-enhanced meditational state, human handlers are able to command the "Golems" almost as if they were extensions of their own mind.

Indeed, over time as the telepathic bond between handler and animals increases, the human becomes able to control them from great distances -- even when they are miles away and out of sight. Given the tactical advantages this presents, drug lords are prone to choose their best and brightest soldiers to manage the Martian beasts. But, the power that the "Golems" grant is not without a price. Human beings who attempt to control these terrifying instruments of death are quickly drained of their mental and physical strength; no master has ever lasted more than six months.

When the handler dies -- eyes wide open, mad and staring -- the "Golems" go into a wild frenzy, killing and destroying everything in their path. Recapturing them and putting them under human control again is a difficult feat, always accompanied by loss of life.

Among certain opium-trafficking drug lords, possession of the "Golems" has become something of a status symbol. More than once, one of these men has ruthlessly executed a rival and tried to steal the beasts for himself. It is rumored that during a botched attempt at theft, one of the six animals escaped, and has since been running amok somewhere in the Hindu Kush mountains.

Cartel use of these creatures violates both international and interplanetary law (United Nations special code). My "foreign contact" has hinted that a mission may be afoot on his end of things to deal with the problem -- but details beyond this are not forthcoming.

A last detail, which I am reluctant to mention. Beyond the sheer physical power of the "Opium Gore Golems", and the undeniable psychological impact that they have on their foes, the creatures are also valued for their detachable shadows. When commanded to, the animal goes into an inscrutable dormant state, and its shadow rushes off from battle to report to its human master. I have witnessed this with my own eyes... And while I have no explanation as yet for how such a thing is possible, I continue to insist that it cannot be "magic."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From India: The Grrrheart

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The Grrrheart looks like a red jellyfish with four strong tentacle legs. The average specimen is approximately 2 feet tall, and has two eyes on stalks at the top of its body. The body appears to be composed of three overlapping "caps," from which lesser tentacles protrude. The entire animal is somewhat translucent.

The only known examples of this species were discovered in 2007 in a deep cavern in the Indian state of Meghalaya. They are apparently amphibious, being equally at home on land and in the water. It is hypothesized that they subsist on cave crickets and fish -- although evidence to support this idea has yet to be gathered.

Grrrhearts are profoundly malleable. They are able to travel quickly through cracks in the stone that are no more than an inch in width. It is unknown whether this is a prehistoric species that became trapped underground far in the past, or if it is more closely related to modern day jellyfish -- possibly even going back and forth between the caves and outside bodies of water. The fact that the animal is not blind lends some support to this second possibility.

The Grrrheart lives in large communities. When one animal is threatened, it lets out a warning cry -- which sounds much like the furious growling of a small dog. Dozens of Grrrhearts will rush to its aid.

Despite this fearsome first impression, however, the Grrrheart seems to have a generally non-aggressive, even playful nature. When gathered all together, great numbers of Grrrheart have been observed apparently "dancing" with each other, simply for the pleasure of it.

Scarlet Saves The Day

After my adventure with the Porpische, Scarlet and I spent several days enjoying the hospitality aboard The Oceanographer's science yacht. Such meals! Would that I could afford a world-class chef to accompany me on my journeys...

But duty calls. Three days ago we received word from a contact in India that something peculiar had been sighted in a newly discovered deep cave system. What a stroke of luck then that one of The Oceanographer's Indian interns was just about to return home! We said our goodbyes, boarded another helicopter, and a few hours later found ourselves on the tarmac in Calcutta.

My friend Himmat is an environmental activist. Contrary to what readers in the USA may be thinking, this has actually made him quite a popular man. He has spent the past 30 years going to mining communities -- often operated by foreign interests -- documenting the harm that has been done to the land and human health, organizing the workers to improve conditions. One of the miners he worked with ten years ago gave him the tip that set our adventure in motion.


The Miner is a foreman at the coal mine where he works, so he had no trouble smuggling us into the operation after-hours the next night. With Himmat, Scarlet, and myself close behind, he led us down through low black corridors, deep into the earth.

The Indian state of Meghalaya is famous for having a huge number of caves -- few of which have been adequately explored yet. A new side passage toward the bottom of the mine had accidentally broken into one of these caverns. Where (or even if) it opens up on the surface is as yet unknown.

Only The Miner had gone through to the other side, so far. What he'd seen there -- something fast and shiny -- had disappeared too quickly for him to get a good look. Whatever it was, though, it was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. He seemed tense, concerned about what threat an unknown animal down there might pose to his men.

Scarlet, on the other hand, seemed completely at ease. As ever, her jokes were relentless... Jokes about Santa Claus gathering coal for stockings. Jokes about canaries in coal mines. Singing: "girlfriend in a coal mine, I know, I know, it's seeeerious..." I was just about at wit's end.

Himmat gave up trying to translate her before we'd gotten even three levels down.


One-by-one we crawled through a small hole in the wall. Ten feet crawling on our bellies -- and then it opened into large, wet room the size of an opera house.

Despite having brought some powerful lamps with us, it was difficult to see how far the cave extended. We decided to forge onward and get a sense of the place.

Caves are not like human-made tunnels. There are massive stone hills to go over or around; there are chasms hundreds of feet deep to avoid; progress is slow and dangerous. Thus, we all felt a great deal of relief when, after perhaps two hours, we finally came to a smooth patch.

It was almost like a subterranean street. From what we could tell, we were walking a path carved out by a river thousands of years ago. Clearly it had been wide and powerful in the past -- but now, only a small stream remained. Spirits renewed, we quickened our pace.

Leaving the "opera house," we traveled through perhaps a mile of smooth, curving passages. Sometimes we had to duck down, when the ceiling was a mere four feet high -- at other times, we walked comfortably upright, the ceiling 20 feet above.

Then we reached the end of the line: a sheer cliff, dropping fifty feet down into a great underground lake. Our companion, the small stream, leapt from the ledge, and we could hear the distant impact of it joining the water below.

The lake room swallowed our light. There was no way to gauge how far back it went. So, with nothing else to do, we turned around and started back toward the entrance.


Scarlet was the first to sight the creature. She stopped and pointed to a shadow moving up ahead. We shined our lights on it...

Two feet tall, it looked like a sort of red jellyfish, standing upright on four tentacle legs. It had two small eyes on stalks -- which twitched from side to side, apparently irritated by the light. It stayed its ground -- and began growling furiously at us.

"It's so cute!" Scarlet exclaimed.

Then, a squirting sound. Dozens of these creatures are popping out of narrow cracks in the walls, heeding the warning cry of the one we've startled. Almost immediately we're surrounded.

Sixty-odd jellys are in the corridor encircling us. Every one of them growling. I'm thinking about what I know of poison jellyfish stings, and how many miles it must be to the closest hospital -- after getting past the boulders and chasms back in the "opera house."

Scarlet, on the other hand, is laughing her head off.


"Well arnchoo just the most vicious little squidlets?"

"Arnchoo! Arnchoo!"

The creatures go deathly quiet. They look just about ready to pounce...

And then Scarlet starts singing:

"You better run, you better hide
We gotta keep you out of sight
Be careful Sigmund.

The other monsters put you down
cause you're not mean
And now we've found
A friend in Sigmund.

Who ever heard of a friendly sea monster
Lovin' and laughin' his life away?"

It's unbelievable... But the beasts seem to like it! The first one that spotted us -- it's tapping its foot against the floor. And then the whole lot of them, they're -- there's no other word for it -- dancing!

The whole room full of "vicious squidlets" is dancing, spiraling around each other rhythmically. In fact, there's one pattern of moves I'd swear is the "Do-Si-Do"...


I point back down the tunnel, and Scarlet gets my drift. She continues singing the theme song from "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" over and over again -- and begins edging toward the underground lake.

The creatures follow!

Just like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, she leads the whole crowd of creatures back to the lake -- even more of them joining us along the way. And then she just stands at the edge of the precipice, singing her lungs out... And the beasts happily throw themselves over the side, down into the water.

Keeping my wits about me, I captured the entire spectacle at the lake on film. The last of them goes in -- and with great relief, we head back for the entrance.


Himmat, Scarlet and I part ways with The Miner at the facility's gates.

Himmat drives us back to his house, two towns over, where we can discuss next actions and catch some much needed shut-eye... Although, we were all so excited from the night's events, it was several hours before any of us could let go of the conversation. A new species! Other scientists must be brought in!

Given her role in this matter, I think it's only fair that Scarlet gets to name the creatures. And I will stand by that decision... Even though I do wish that she could have chosen a more dignified, scientific-sounding name. "Grrrhearts?"

"Because they're all... GRRRRR!! But then you realize that they're just a bunch of sweethearts!"

This is her explanation.

Well, she and I are clearly not cut from the same cloth -- but all the same, I'm beginning to think she has it in her to become a fine Monster Hunter after all.


Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the three of us, The Miner had other plans. It seems he was much more shook up by the experience than we'd realized. His only concern had ever been for protecting his men... Even if the creatures could be successfully pacified, he figured, their existence must surely lead to the mine being shut down and jobs lost.

After we left, he went back down to the cavern entrance with explosives and collapsed the whole area.

It's likely that the Grrrhearts, which lived much farther down the passage, are unharmed... But it looks like we won't be able to get back to them any time soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

N - The Noble Shelkay

[click to enlarge]

The Noble Shelkay is sort of a half-onion, half-periwinkle, half-rose creature. It lives in the most ancient of forests, building nests inside of enormous, mossy old trees.

Noble Shelkays live in small colonies with their own kind, eating flowers. They appear to co-exist quite harmoniously with the birds, mice, and moths that also share their tree-homes. The creatures seem utterly content; only on the rarest of occasions will Shelkays venture away from the nest.

The Noble Shelkay has a pretty chirping voice. The sing-song sounds it makes may in fact be a language -- but as of yet it has proven incomprehensible.

Monday, October 15, 2007

M - The Mountain Howler

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The Mountain Howler is native to Canada's Yukon Territory. It looks rather like an enormous yellow slug with two legs and a cavernous mouth.

The Mountain Howler is typically 2-3 feet in length. It consumes moss and lichen as it climbs sheer mountain cliffs. The Howler is distantly related to gastropods; however, unlike snails, its segmented shell grows internally -- providing it with a pseudo-skeleton. The rigid "legs" act much like pitons, assisting the animal during its climb.

The creature has no eyes to see with. However, it does have an excellent sense of hearing. When it comes time to mate, Howlers announce their presence to one another with an echoing breathy call, which sounds quite similar to a howling wind.

Like slugs, Mountain Howlers are hermaphroditic but need to come in contact with another of their species to accomplish fertilization. Also similar to slugs, concluding mating often requires apophallation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

L - The Littlefoot

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The Littlefoot is a white-haired carnivorous mountain ape indigenous to the Himalayas. Like the North American Sasquatch, this animal is an evolutionary descendant of Gigantopithecus -- a 9-foot-tall ape that lived as recently as 100 thousand years ago in China, India, and Viet Nam. At 12 feet tall, the Littlefoot now claims the title for largest ape ever to have walked the Earth.

Despite living in the same region, the Littlefoot bears no relationship to the mythical Yeti. Whereas notable primatologists such Jane Goodall have been convinced that Sasquatch exists, there is a consensus among serious scientists that the Yeti is a product of folklore and hoaxers.

However, that said, there are some important distinctions that must be made. "Yeti" is a catch-all moniker for several supposed animals, which include the Meh-Teh (the "classic" Yeti), the Teh-Lma (a three-foot-tall frog-eating Yeti), and the Dzu-Teh (a giant half-bear, half-ape creature, which walks on all fours). When people discuss the Yeti, it is almost exclusively the Meh-Teh that receives their attention.

My own research confirms that the Meh-Teh is most likely a product of the imagination... But the Dzu-Teh is quite real. It is what the Littlefoot eats.

The Littlefoot has several interesting adaptations that have preserved its anonymity for so long -- leading some to say that the beast is actually unfilmable.

First of all, there are its feet. In stark contrast with the Littlefoot's huge body, it has tiny little flat feet -- which make footprints easily mistaken for those made by a human wearing shoes.

Secondly, the animal lives in deep ice caverns, and only comes out to hunt during severe, near-blinding blizzards. Thus, eye-witness sightings are profoundly unlikely -- and the winds quickly obliterate the already misleading tracks that it leaves behind.

Thirdly, the Littlefoot is an extremely fastidious creature. When it kills its prey, nothing is left behind. It is careful to bring every bit of the Dzu-Teh carcass back to its lair. I have been lucky enough to get a glimpse of the ancestral caverns -- which after so many years, are now like bone cathedrals, meticulously decorated with thousands of old skeletons.

My having finally been able to track down a Littlefoot tribe's cave is almost entirely thanks to another man's misfortune. Three years ago, a fellow cryptozoologist became lost during a blizzard on Mount Shishapangma. He was tracking a Dzu-Teh -- but little did he know that a Littlefoot was just behind him, following the same trail. Camera in hand, he was about to photograph his "Yeti" -- when the Littlefoot struck...

But, just at that moment, an avalanche came tumbling down the mountain and took the lives of all three! Neither the researcher, the Dzu-Teh, nor the Littlefoot were ever found -- but miraculously the camera survived intact.

The story of how the camera came into the hands of the Chinese authorities, got smuggled out of the country, and then found its way to me -- is too involved to tell here. However, I would be remiss not to mention that there is a small movement afoot to rename the Littlefoot after the researcher who died discovering it: "Mullins' Yeti."

Despite my protests that the Littlefoot is an unrelated species, I expect sentimentality will win out and the name will stick.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

K - The King Shielyana

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There are several varieties of Shielyana, including: the Dwarf Shielyana, Zompire Shielyana, Emerald Shielyana, and King Shielyana. Of these, the King Shielyana is the largest and most majestic -- being approximately 50 feet long and covered with shining sapphire-blue scales.

Shielyanas are essentially a form of land whale. All cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are descendants of land-living mammals; Shielyana aside, their closest living relative is the Hippopotamus. In a moment of evolutionary indecision, after having returned to the oceans where all life began, Shielyanas decided that life on land really was better after all. Going from one extreme to the other, the Shielyana's aquatic forebears moved as far inland as possible and became desert dwellers.

The King Shielyana is native to the Sonoran Desert, with the majority of specimens being found within Arizona's state borders. Whereas most desert animals find shade during the hottest part of the day, the Shielyana thrives in the heat, and seeks out all-bright locations. The animal regulates internal temperature by raising or lowering its webbed dorsal fan.

Instead of teeth, the King Shielyana has baleen plates growing from its upper jaw, which allow filter-feeding. The animal's diet consists primarily of pollen and air-borne desert krill.

Shielyanas lead a solitary existence until it comes time to mate. Once they have a found a suitable partner, they spend the rest of their life traveling as a pair. The animal typically bear two young per litter.

Friday, October 12, 2007

J - The Jrumiglior

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The Jrumiglior is unique in the literal sense: only one such animal currently exists on Earth.

It is non-terrestrial in origin, having come to our planet in a meteor approximately 400 million years ago. It is not, however, independently space-faring. Evidence suggests that it was sent here by a second species, as part of a colonization effort.


The Jrumiglior exists in two distinct states: dormancy and activation.

In its dormant state, the animal becomes utterly rigid and its color turns to a slate gray. It is easily mistaken for a surreal stone statue.

Activation is triggered by extreme heat (in excess of 300°F). When the Jrumiglior's environment reaches this temperature, its blood / internal fluids re-liquify, and normal metabolic functions resume.

When dormant, the animal is frozen in a curled up position -- much like a pill bug -- and it is approximately the size of a small car. When activated, it unfurls itself, revealing a form 30 feet in length that is simultaneously reminiscent of a centipede and a prickly pear cactus.

The Jrumiglior has a segmented body. There are ten segments, each with two pointed legs. Internal partitions allow any one segment to be severed from the whole and still continue functioning independently.

Like yeast, the Jrumiglior reproduces by budding. At any particular time, each of the body's segments is likely to have between one and three new "bulbs" growing off of it. The animal is so long-lived, it is essentially immortal. Bulbs develop slowly; there is no record of one breaking off from the main body during its time thus far on Earth. (Given how infrequently the animal has been activated, however, this does not really tell us very much.)

In its activated state, the skin is green, wrinkled, and warty -- rather like a pickled gherkin. Blue vein-like structures are visible beneath the skin. Some of these break through the surface and develop into prehensile tongue-like organs. The creature's dorsal surface is punctuated with beady, jet-black eyes. These begin as cysts, which over time move outward, ultimately erupting through the derma in a largely random pattern.


Much of what we know about this animal's existence -- both on Earth and before coming to Earth -- has been pieced together from archaeology and occult tomes.

The earliest known images of it come from ancient texts that were discovered in Australia. The Jrumiglior appears several times in fragmentary writings attributed to a great race of conical beings, which voluntarily departed from our planet prior to the emergence of dinosaurs.

Images of the Jrumiglior appear again in hieroglyphics that date back to the Triassic Era, which were recovered in the 1930s from a deep, hidden cave in Antarctica. It appears that the creature was kept there in suspended animation for nearly 250 million years. The broken doors of its vault warn of dire consequences for those who would awake the beast. What sort of beings served as guardians, watching over the Jrumiglior for so long? As of yet, science has no satisfactory answer.

It is unclear how the Jrumiglior came into human hands. However, it has been nothing but a curse to those who have tried to possess it. My colleague, Professor Albert A. Zeef, has made an in-depth study of this history -- which I shall only briefly synopsize here...

For at least a thousand years, the dormant beast seems to have been kept in a hidden underground city in England -- whose strange inhabitants ultimately degenerated into cannibalism. From there, the beast was forcibly taken by a certain pre-Christian religious sect, which transported it to the USA -- carrying it underwater through the Atlantic with the aide of a peculiar, blob-like aquatic creature which I am personally unfamiliar with. The Jrumiglior came to reside in a small fishing town in Massachussets, where -- over generations -- the townsfolk have lost their humanity, due to interbreeding with a species distantly related to the Forg.

The last definite location of the Jrumiglior was in New England. A renowned "wizard" stole the beast from the misceginated forg/humans, and concealed it beneath his farmhouse dwelling. Due to an unrelated tragedy, the estate burned down -- and during the fire the animal was temporarily reawakened. This is where the historical record ends.


The Jrumiglior's current location is uncertain -- but humankind has reason to be fearful. Recent re-interpretations of the Australian texts have shed new light on the creature's distant origins -- and its possible future.

References are made to an unknown species living outside of our solar system. Their name, roughly translated: "The Contributors." Apparently Contributors use the Jrumiglior as a midwife to their own young. The beast is mechanically split open and thousands of fertilized eggs are implanted in its central body cavity. The Contributors telepathically imprint programming into the Jrumiglior's nervous system, and then send it out through space to colonize other planets. When the programming is triggered, the animal deposits the Contributors' eggs in their new habitat. Certain secretions from its body jump-start the maturation process, and soon the eggs begin to hatch. Thus, the Jrumiglior serves first as a protective vessel for Contributor eggs -- and then later, when the eggs are exposed and vulnerable, as a ferocious guardian.

From what we can decipher, the trigger which causes the Jrumiglior to deposit the eggs is some sort of alignment of the stars.

During the past year there have been rumors of the Jrumiglior being sighted awake and active near Mt. Etna -- an Italian volcano which is currently erupting. My contacts report that a large centipede-like creature has been spotted emerging from freshly hewn lava tubes... And that it has been seen on the horizon against a sky of fire, looking up -- as if waiting expectantly for some sign.

I for one am profoundly disturbed by the implications. If this creature is indeed the Jrumiglior and it finally enacts its intended purpose, then the extinction of native life on Earth may very soon come to pass.

Yet, there is hope. I have alerted a secret society whose very purpose is to find and contain the "Apocalypse Wurm." Let us pray for their success.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I - The Ichabod

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The Ichabod is found only in the deep swamps of Louisiana. Its diet consists solely of Polycephalic Forg-men. Once on the very brink of extinction, there is currently a resurgence in the Ichabod population. Hurricane Katrina helped re-sediment the Forg-men's habitat -- leading to larger than usual clutches of heads. With more prey available, there is hope that Ichabods may yet be able to reestablish themselves.

The adult Ichabod stands approximately seven feet tall. It has long, spindly legs that help it travel more easily through algae-clogged ponds. The legs have neither a skeleton nor exoskeleton; rather, they function purely through vascular tension. The body is boxish, and has roughly the proportions of a milk carton. Two long, prehensile tongues are used for capturing Forg-men. Its pie-plate sized green eyes have slit-like irises. The animal's skin is shiny-black with horizontal ridging, and exudes a thin, clear slime at all times.

The evolutionary origins of the Ichabod species remain somewhat mysterious. Our current best guess is that the creature is a zorn created long ago by a virus that no longer exists. [For an explanation of the term "zorn," please refer to my previous post about the Elysian Zorn.]

The "Insect-Amphibian Transmission" theory proposed by Professor Julian Roche suggests that the Ichabod might even be the result of two successive zorn transformations. The basic idea is that the first virus was associated with a variety of Black Slime Mold. It corrupted the genetic code of an insect related to the Walking Stick. Some time after this, the virus mutated again and was passed on to salamanders -- which ultimately became the Ichabod of today. DNA sequencing for zorns is notoriously difficult -- but Roche's preliminary results do lend some support to this explanation.

The Ichabod takes its name from the fictional character "Ichabod Crane" in Washington Irving's short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." To understand this, however, first a few words must be said about the life cycle of Polycephalic Forg-men.

The Polycephalic Forg-man is continuously growing and shedding new heads during the course of its lifetime. Heads that have been shed are often left in clutches like eggs, where they develop into new, full-bodied animals. The Ichabod survives by eating these heads.

Previously, while working on an unrelated project, Mr. Bonnichsen created a reasonably accurate illustration of the Polycephalic Forg-man. I have reproduced that drawing here with his permission.

The Polycephalic Forg-Man

When attacked by a predator, Forg-men are able to shed their current head as a defensive measure. With luck, the predator will be distracted -- chasing after the headless body, which scrambles off wildly. The severed head will ultimately grow a new body; but without a head, the decoy body dies in convulsions several hours later.

This defense is particularly effective against the Ichabod, which by all appearances is horrified by the headless body. Invariably, it runs away, trying to escape the thing... Much like Ichabod Crane fleeing in terror from the Headless Horseman in Irving's famous tale.