When I unlock the apartment I wait for Mala to meow for her meal. When I kick off my shoes I anticipate her whiskers on my heels. When I set the mail on the table I wait for her to run her black ears beneath my fingertips.
When I set the grocery bags on the counter I expect her to inspect them. When the bags are empty I expect her to leap inside. When I open the refrigerator I expect to see her on the bottom shelf licking the bacon.
When I sit on the couch, Mala leaps up onto the armrest, descends the pillows, and approaches my lap. The moment I turn to pet her she’s gone. When I sit on the toilet I can feel her doing figure eights around my ankles. There’s nothing but tiles when I look down.
It’s a pavlovian response, but unlike Pavlov who conditioned his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, Mala has conditioned me to associate her with everything I do. People don’t train cats. Cats train people. Continue reading Paw Prints: On Grieving the Loss of a Pet
Every writer will have the same disparaging experience at some point in their career. (Especially if they think their ideas are super original.) It’s an experience best summed up by an episode of South Park.
In this episode Butters, an adorable social misfit, schemes to wreak havoc on the world that shunned him. He dresses all in tinfoil, takes on the alter ego of Professor Chaos, and glares down on the quiet mountain town. General Disarray, Chaos’s faithful companion, arrives with a wagon full of sticks. Chaos flips his easel and unveils his plan to build a giant shade to blot out the sun.
Chaos points to his blueprint. “South Park will forever be cast in a great shadow. Soon, all the people will have to live like moles!”
General Disarray perks up. This is a great idea, especially since he seen Mr. Burns do it on The Simpsons. Dejected Professor Chaos decides to move on to his next plan. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of another show. Chaos crafts schemes throughout the episode and every time he thinks he’s finally found his master plan General Disarray shouts, “Simpson’s did it!” and the plan is abandoned. Continue reading Stephen King Did It! An Essay On Originality
In 1859 British Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace ventured to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. He was collecting specimens when he happened upon a strange ant, far from its nest, stuck to a leaf. Wallace could’ve been forgiven had he suspected the ant was covering in webbing, given the mossy substance between its legs, but Wallace must’ve done a double take, because he spotted something odd. There was a tall growth, covered with strange bulbs, protruding from the ants’ skull. Wallace realized this growth was a fungus, a fungus that would be dubbed Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (or cordyceps for short).
Wallace visited the Amazon and found two more specimens suffering from the same infection that plagued the Indonesian ant. He might have discovered a mass grave had he tracked down the rest of the colony.
Cordycep spores stick to ants, break through their exoskeletons, and mutate their physiology. This parasitic fungus compels the ant, against its own interests, to climb a plant and secure itself. The fungus liquefies the ant’s insides, erupts from its skull, and sprays its spores. Cordycep devastate entire colonies at a time.
In 2006 the BBC aired an episode of Planet Earth featuring a segment called Attack of the Killer Fungi. This segment introduced Wallace’s zombie fungus to mainstream audiences. Continue reading When Writers Show Up to the Party in the Same Dress
My chauffeur has trouble concentrating on the road ahead. He checks the gas gauge more than anything beyond the hood. He’s more concerned with keeping his vehicle in working order than getting anywhere. He drives down an empty highway well below the speed limit.
His eyes wonder to the mirror, not to check for cars, but to examine his irises. They’re swimming in so much red they look like they’re glowing blue. He’s so entranced by the effect he doesn’t notice me, guzzling motor oil from a paper bag, in the back seat.
We’ve logged so many miles together he’s forgotten that I’m even here. He flicks the high beams on, thinking it’s fog he’s seeing, and not the secondhand puffs from a smoker who refuses to crack a window open. He adjusts his seat, blaming the sharp stabbing pain on his posture, and not the boot heel I’m pushing into his rear.
I slip a plug into the cigarette lighter and rest an exposed wire on my tongue. My saliva sizzles. Each static jolt is sugary sweet. I want to see how much energy I can syphon before he turns around. When my chauffeur notices the dimming of the headlights, he pulls over certain that it’s a problem with his eyesight. Continue reading Backseat Driver
Expect many more monsters from my forthcoming fiction. The creature from my new short The Pigeon King is especially insane.