Here I am, kicking off a new series for October 2022 in celebration of fall. Last year, you were invited to join us for Total Monster Makeover. This year brings yet another adventure, this time hosted by none other than the Devil himself… Enjoy this short story and additions over the course of the month.
It was an uneventful autumnal Thursday. I was raking for the third time that season to clear the tendrils of brittle plant detritus that kept sidling over from my neighbor’s knee-deep leaf pile of a yard. A gaunt silhouette of a bearded man wandered by, walking a dapper white Westmoreland Terrier. The dog circled three times and pooped before proceeding to bury the evidence by flinging yet more leaves onto the steaming pile with rapid sweeping motions of his hind feet in a grandiose orchestrated dance. As the dog-walker bent over to scoop up his spoils, the dog stared at me intently and winked, amber eyes gleaming from behind his furry facade. It was not a friendly kind of a wink, mind you – more one of those somewhat sinister I-know-something-you-don’t winks. Then the dog opened its mouth and addressed me.
“My dear Jonathan Menkhir, it is a pleasure if I dare say so myself.”
Taken aback, I stared at the dog. The gaunt man stood unmoving like a statue, caught perpetually in his hunched position firmly gripping his unappealing prize, eyes staring unblinkingly ahead. The dog cocked its head to the left quizzically and spoke again.
“Surely you heard me, fellow Jonathan. What, have you never seen a talking dog before?” The Westie’s yellow teeth flashed an unnervingly wide toothy grin.
“You… you can talk…” I muttered, letting loose my grip on the rake handle. The rake fell to my side releasing a spurt of leaves upon its pillowed landing.
“Why yes, my dear lad, and so much more…” The dog’s eyes twinkled. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Beelzebub Lord of the Flies, Abaddon the Destroyer, Lucifer the Shining One…”
I just stood there, motionless and unresponsive, soaking up my circumstances. I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog, I thought. The words the dog spoke fell haphazardly along the wayside of my mind because they were meaningless in comparison to the messenger, at least in that moment, and they didn’t fit my image of how the devil would appear.
“You would probably best know me as Satan.” The dog sat pointedly and smiled, eyes still fixated on me. He had a proper air about him and seemed almost noble but in a forced snake oil salesman kind of way. At least, insomuch as a Westmoreland Terrier could seem both gentlemanly and conniving.
I finally found my voice buried deep within my throat and coughed up a response. “Oh, OK, I guess. So what brings you to these parts, um, Satan?” It wasn’t the best-articulated thought, but given that I had suddenly found myself talking to a somewhat prim and proper small purebred dog claiming to be the devil, that wasn’t surprising.
The dog stood and wagged its tail. “I wanted to make you an offer, my dear Jonathan. ”
“I am not interested in bargaining with the likes of yourself, Satan,” I retorted, surprised by how clearly the words fell from my lips and how quickly I seemed to adjust to the fact that I was talking to the devil as a small white dog as if it were nothing extraordinary and this was just another mundane Thursday afternoon. I guess I was better rehearsed in this comeback than I’d expected, having neglected the faith in my adult years after leaving many of my childhood fears behind.
“Come now, I know your heart’s desire, and that would be to see your dear Chloe again.” The devil dog wagged his tail again. “I can make that happen, you know.”
Chloe, my mind flooded back to the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, my college pen pal, my beautiful bride who had died nearly two years ago due to complications with the pregnancy. We had met through theater, having played opposite one another in Fiddler and becoming inseparable after. We had only been married for a little over a year after finishing college and moving into this house together when she had become pregnant with our first child, a little girl we had planned to name Abilene. It should have been the happiest time of my life, but it had been ripped from me prematurely. There wasn’t a day that passed without my thoughts returning to my beloved Chloe, I missed her with all my heart and soul.
Seemingly reading my thoughts as they overflowed my eyelids and trickled down my face, the dog grinned again. “Why yes, dear Jonathan, you can be with your beloved Chloe again.” His tail wagged even more feverishly.
Shaking my head, I spoke. “No. That you cannot do. Do not tempt me with your lies.”
“My reputation is unearned, my dear fellow. I mean you no ill intent.” The devil dog cocked its head to the left again. “If you wish to see your dear Chloe again, all you need do is come with me.”
“What, to Hell?” I asked, offended at the mere implication that my precious Chloe was doomed to such a dreadful place. “What do you take me for?”
“Not to Hell, my dear Jonathan, to Purgatory,” the dog stated matter-of-factly. “It hasn’t been that long since her passing and the decision is still being weighed, as one might expect. We request your… input… on some matters.”
Nightmarish Nature: Komodo Dragons
This time on Nightmarish Nature, we are considering Komodo Dragons. These awesome lizards are the largest in the world and are native to Indonesia. The lizards don’t get to be full-sized without feasting on a lot of meat and are known to prey on animals notably larger than themselves, even including deer and water buffalo. But honestly, they pretty much eat anything they can get a hold of, including smaller Komodo Dragons.
Beyond Bad Breath
If you’ve ever wondered just how far really bad oral hygiene can take you, then look no further. Although the Komodo lacks the bite strength to employ strangulation as an attack strategy, like crocodiles do, it is a dangerous and formidable hunter. Long assumed to be the result of bacterial infection, Komodo bites are outright deadly, and this is in part due to their thick viscous saliva. It’s all about the spit, ’bout the spit, that trouble. Eat your hearts out, Rottweilers, you ain’t got nothing on this.
And Komodo Dragons rend their victims’ flesh with serrated teeth and saw into the muscle, adding to the wounds’ ability to fester. Because of course they do. If you want to see some horrifying pictures of how this plays out, you can read about it in this NIH National Library of Medicine account of a zookeeper attack and recovery, complete with full color images not for the feint of heart. Just wow, what a meaty mess…
Bacteria Versus Venom
It has more recently been shown that Komodos, like other Monitor lizards, actually do possess venomous saliva, and that this can inhibit clotting and cause blood loss, paralysis, and extreme pain, symptoms previously believed to result from bacterial infection. It’s possible that their bite contains some of both, and in reality the why doesn’t matter so much as the ewww factor.
So regardless of whether there is venom or bacteria at play, a Komodo Dragon’s bite is nasty nasty. Like you don’t want any part of those so-called love nips, even more so than with sharks. (Side tidbit: male sharks have a propensity for biting during mating, so female sharks’ hides are thicker to withstand this sort of engagement. In fairness, sharks use their teeth to explore the world around them, so this comes as no surprise really.)
If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:
Nightmarish Nature: Reindeer Give Pause
So reindeer aren’t generally thought of as all that scary, unless you have elafiphobia. But since it is the holiday season and they are among the most celebrated animals this time of year, here are some fun facts about reindeer and their deer kin that are weird and even a bit creepy.
Female reindeer also have antlers and continue to grow them during Christmastime, whereas the males shed theirs in November. So the antlered reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are girls.
Some reindeer make a clicking sound as they walk so they can stay together as they travel through adverse weather. Better than yelling “Marco” (or “Polo” in response) around every bend…
Deer have very good night vision and reindeer can even see ultraviolet light, which helps them to spot predators and find food in the arctic. Speaking of food, deer have been known to gnaw on bones or flesh (including that of humans) and even eat small animals like birds and mice.
Some deer species, like Musk Deer, grow fang-like tusks instead of antlers, making them appear vampirish. They use their tusks like other deer use their antlers, with males fighting one another during breeding season. Tusks also come in handy when foraging for food and fending off predators. Plus they really up the deer’s Goth presence…
And if you’re into teeth, upper canines among whitetail deer are rare and have been highly prized. They’ve even been incorporated into prehistoric necklaces and royal jewelry, ‘cause teeth used as decorative accents are always a bit macabre.
Previously on Nightmarish Nature
So there are some fun, somewhat creepy facts about deer. If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:
Oh, and in the spirit of the holidays, here’s the reindeer’s top pick for a Christmas song, Must Be Santa as sung by Bob Dylan…
Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades
OK so I lied. The dust hadn’t fully settled in Cozmic Debris, the space opry I’d written over the course of this month (you can catch up here with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In fact, it’s blown over into Nightmarish Nature for one last final huzzah…
The Last Chapter of Cozmic Debris
Kara-2-6000 had just signed on with the Voyager probe and was eagerly engaged in her first mission, en route to Mars with more components for the terraforming effort. It seemed like a pretty simple gig, cleaning up the space dust that accumulates on the vessel after landing on the red planet. She had been trained to keep her eye on her work and pay attention to details, that the dirt tended to collect in unusual ways in strange places, and that it was critical she contain and seal all of it to keep the spacecraft in proper working order. She entrusted the computer to keep the vessel on track, as it was preoccupied with doing and never engaged otherwise. No matter. She’d never been to space before and the newness of it had her rapt attention. What stories she would have to tell once she paid off her student loans and got her human body back, for surely Mars must be an exciting place…
And now for Nightmarish Nature…
So, this time on Nightmarish Nature we’re visiting Terrifying Tardigrades… Wait, seriously who comes up with this stuff anyway? Tardigrades are actually kinda cute, at least in the nerd fandom sense, and are remarkable in their ability to survive and withstand crazy adverse conditions. For all that the AI art generator doesn’t seem to have much of a clue what their anatomy is like, they really don’t do anything that scary, unless you’re a yummy little single celled critter that lives in moss in which case pretty much everything has it out for you… Oh, I see that the Cozmic Debris space opry usurped this segment. May as well run with it then.
So what’s so terrifying about tardigrades anyway?
So I don’t actually have much to say about tardigrades except that they started this whole crazy journey here on Haunted MTL. A Facebook friend posted a link to the Ze Frank True Facts video on them (linked here if the below video doesn’t load), and I was instantly hooked. It’s a great series and is part of the inspiration behind Nightmarish Nature here on HauntedMTL. So if you like learning about all kind of crazy animal facts and nature weirdness, feel free to check it out. I will mention, the show contains adult themes and is designed for (im)mature audiences, so keep that in mind as you foray into the freaky side of nature, literally.
To more of my Haunted MTL series on Nightmarish Nature about things that are a bit more terrifying, please feel free to revisit previous segments here: