Returning to our October story, Dealing with the Devil, we were onstage with Jonathan Menkhir and Satan as they delved deeper into Jonathan’s beloved wife Chloe’s history as he tried to win her freedom from Purgatory. Let’s see what happens next.
The devil never mentioned the box, nor did I. I could still feel its weight in my pocket as the curtain drew wide to reveal the bedroom set from Fiddler where we had enacted the nightmare scene together. The devil began to blather on about how this was the bedroom set we had picked out together, but it was not – I recognized it as the one from the stage production, and a lousy facsimile at that.
Everything about this setup felt less and less substantial as time wore on. Chloe began to look even flatter and further away, just a fading photograph of a memory depicted as one of those life-size cardboard cutouts. The scene that surrounded me was sloppily finished chipboard and nothing more, painted too quickly in a bad last minute attempt at deception. The more that I stared at it the less real it became, all just caricatures of my life. The chipboard began to erode away to cardboard, the corrugated surface subtly showing from behind the façade. The decadent velvet draperies were nothing more than flimsy sheets of paper. I pulled the ring box out of my pocket. The box itself was made of folded cardstock; the ring inside just a circle of wire with a pink sequin in place of the rose quartz. It was all an illusion, and the production value was terrible.
Satan continued pontificating on the bedroom set. He droned on like a sleazy car salesman, the kind that would sell you a lemon of a junker by trying to convince you it was first rate, who would move decals to a beater car in order to convince unsuspecting and naive buyers that the car was a genuine Rolls from back in the day. At any minute, I expected him to hold open his white silk suit jacket and try to sell me a fake luxury watch.
“Lies, all lies,” I called out. “Just what do you take me for?”
The devil stopped suddenly, fire rising in his amber eyes. “Aw, Johnny Boy, you have to believe. You cannot lose faith in your love for Chloe. She is waiting for you to make the right decision, and we’ve barely even started.”
“This has nothing to do with Chloe, leave her out of this,” I retorted as a sudden gust of wind knocked over the cardboard cutout standing in the middle of the stage. “I was right at the start – you never had a grip on her. This is not Purgatory or a game, it’s just a cheap knockoff to connive me into your clutches. I’m not buying in.”
The devil began fuming, heat and smoke rising from the collar of his ill-fitting white suit, which was starting to look like as if it were made of rice paper rather than silk and was now slightly smoldering. A shrill whine echoed forth from his yellow teeth, “Now, Now, Johnny Boy. You simply MUST believe. You can choose the outcome but you must choose wisely.”
I shook my head. “I don’t believe you. There are no choices here that hold any meaning: a cheap replica of our sweetheart ring or the prop setup from Fiddler? None of that matters now. What is done is done, Chloe is gone and I am alone and that is how it is. You have nothing to offer me.”
The wind that had knocked over the cardboard cutout pretending to be my beloved bride was picking up. The cardboard and crinkled paper stage eroded around us into nothing more than brittle dry chaff. What was left of the paper dream morphed into mere leaves as my yard again came into clarity, the piles I had been painstakingly raking now scattered again.
“So you’ve made your choice then, Johnny Boy. And to think, you two could have been so happy together,” Satan cackled, “my dear, Jonathan Menkhir, you have chosen… poorly.” Satan’s head rolled back on his neck as he erupted in a fit of laughter. As he cackled to himself, a grating squeal bellowed forth from the depths of the cavernous pit of his gaping maw. He seemed to turn inside out, doubling back and swallowing himself as he reverted to the form of a gaunt man picking up a pile of dog poop from where his Westmoreland Terrier had so fervently buried it. The dog turned towards me, smiled a wide yellow-toothed grin and winked before it trotted along with the dog-walker in tow.
I reached into my pocket and fingered a small box. As I took it out to examine it, I realized it was the exact box that the genuine sweetheart ring had been kept in before it had been lost. The burgundy velvet case was still intact and was the real deal, not a poor facsimile. Sure enough, when I opened it, the actual ring was there, gleaming at me as sunlight danced across the faceted rose quartz. The devil dog was nowhere to be found, but I could still hear him chuckling on the passing breeze.
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: