The soil in my backyard was a sandy mix of gravel and dirt barely capable of supporting so-called civilized life. Sure, it was great for growing weeds and poison ivy and random baby oak trees that sprouted from the neglected acorns the squirrels had forgotten in their winter fervor to stash food wherever they could bury it. But I was trying to grow carrots.
It was an annual tradition.
Miraculously, I always managed to get the seeds to sprout, fan out leaves, and form into long winding gnarled up tendrils that fingered through the ground. But they would grow together at odd angles as if they were offering poorly plotted directions on how to navigate the New York City subway system to a foreign tourist who spoke only intermittent English at best. By the end of the season, no matter how much I tried to thin them, they were a muddy tangled mess of roots.
Nonetheless, I would harvest these so-called carrots and make a point of cleaning, peeling, and cutting them up into small misshapen discs to add to some soup, stew or shepherd’s pie where they could hopefully blur into the background without vying for the center spotlight of the dish. These weren’t the sorts of carrots any cook with any sense would want to draw that much attention to, and regardless of what I did to try to improve upon their lackluster flavor or hard-yet-still-spongy texture, the resulting food was always barely palatable, proving that the labor of love does not make all things better.
Even the wildlife avoided them.
Despite the abundance of rabbits and squirrels that frequented my devoid-of-dogs backyard, everything that passed through and even many of the returning critters that lingered awhile left the carrot patch alone. In fact, nothing touched them all season long every year, and my husband cringed at the eventual harvest that meant more cleaning, peeling, cutting and dicing than the impending outcome warranted. Perhaps even more distasteful was the eventual outcome itself of having to sit together and politely smile while trying to choke down the unpalatable bitter pale orange tubers as they disgraced yet another bowl of curried lentils or lamb stew.
So, imagine my surprise to discover that my carrot patch had been raided just as it was reaching its peak stage of undergrowth, right before the harvest. The thief or thieves had come during the dark cover of the new moon, as the mantle of night was as black as it could possibly be. The carrot patch was a muddled up mess of upturned roots, crushed and gnawed upon pale orange tendrils, and scattered gravel and sandy soil flung about. Trampled broken leaves littered the ground in disarray and muddy prints snaked through the surrounding soil.
The carrots were ransacked.
My husband surveyed the scene and placed a hand on my shoulder to console me, squeezing gently to show his support. His relief at his improved situation could be felt through his touch, palpable just below his calm and collected exterior. He had been spared from the impending harvest and he could scarcely contain his excitement for all that he tried to appear outwardly supportive. But I could see right through it. I burrowed into his shoulder anyway, furious and hurt.
What dared come in the middle of the night to ravage my carrot patch? It had left some areas a little more intact, and something told me it would be back. So I staged a sentry. Poised and staring out my back window from the kitchen, I fixated on the scene and waited. Surely the motion sensor light would come on as the thief approached. I was ready shovel in hand, to make a complete fool of myself dashing out the back door to surprise the unsuspecting carrot thief.
I was unprepared for what I found.
I was nodding off dozing when the flash of the motion sensor light caught my eye and I jolted upright. I stared out the window, straining to make out a shadowy form in the carrot patch. At first glance, it appeared to be a rabbit. But it was strangely bulky and moved in a haphazard manner, jerking from side to side. It was also somewhat larger than a normal rabbit, and there was something… unsettling… about it. Whatever it was, I couldn’t place it. I leapt to my feet and darted out the back door anyway, arms flailing in the conditioned response I’d been working up all evening.
“Shoo… Go AWAY!” I shouted as I approached the creature. It just stood there, motionless. As I got closer, I became more aware of how it glistened in the light of the motion sensor, it had an almost ethereal or otherworldly presence and seemed to be bathed in an aura of hollow bluish light. But otherwise, it was as black as the night itself and I couldn’t make out any characteristics of real significance. The form seemed to both emanate and absorb light simultaneously. It continued to just stand there, surrounded by a scattering of soil, gravel, grit and what remained of the would-be carrots.
As I neared six feet of the creature, it turned to face me.
I was filled with an unexpected sense of unease as I approached. Something was unnervingly not right. It still more or less resembled the outward shape of a rabbit, but I couldn’t get a good read on it. Every time I tried to focus on the creature, I felt woozy as if I were looking into a deep abyss leading into the depths of the universe. Within the silhouette, there was nothing, no sense of where an eye or nose or whisker might be. It was just a void. It almost seemed as if it were not wholly there at all, like it was both there and someplace else at the same time or as if it were a spot on a mirror, one of those blemishes to the surface that you cannot seem to wipe away from either side of the glass.
Suddenly the creature emitted the most soul-curdling sound I’ve ever heard. Rabbits can make the most terrifying shrill screams when they feel threatened, but this was no ordinary rabbit screech. It was deep and throaty and bellowed forth with the resonance of something unholy unleashed. My mind reeled as it resonated within my bones and filled me with dread. As the sound washed over me, the creature flickered from within, more pale blue light electrifying deep darkness, and then vanished right before my eyes. My mind stopped racing and went completely silent as I lost my footing and fell to my knees, quivering.
I must have blacked out momentarily.
When I regained my composure enough to glance up, there was no sign of the rabbit-creature. The motion sensor light had gone off and it was completely dark except for some glowing orange forms that I hadn’t noticed before. The carrots! What was left of the pale, unappetizing tendrils also had an otherworldly quality about them, emitting a subdued pale orange glow like several nearly faded glow sticks found discarded the morning after a rave.
I never saw the rabbit-creature or its kin again, and I have since stopped trying to grow carrots. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the soil, but the idea of gardening just hasn’t had the same appeal, and I was never all that good at it anyways.
Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails
This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).
This Is What We Get for Eating Poop
The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.
The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.
You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:
Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…
So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.
So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.
This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.
And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…
And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.
This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.
So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…
Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day
So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…
Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.
Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)
OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.
Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.