That’s not to say I ever stopped fearing fish, but by the time I stepped through the doors of the aquarium that fear had been buried under 16 straight years of education and exposure. I thought I had it beat.
But you’re not here for the story of my life. You’re here for the story of the Darkfish.
“And what do you ask in return?” She said.
The Druj shook her head at the question, as though saddened by a small, suspicious mind.
“My child,” she said. “Who made you so mistrustful? I ask almost nothing in return. A small inconvenience, and quickly mended.”
Performed by Ashlie White
So staring at this painting every day, well, you can imagine the kinds of tricks my mind started playing on me. Or at least, that I thought it was playing on me.
Subtle things at first. I’d let the colours blend, imagine the trees blowing in the wind and the water moving with the tide. It was only four months ago that the... strangeness began.
But the Hunter was not fazed; if anything, their tawny eyes seemed to catch light. They passed back and forth in front of the dead animal, examining it from many angles, clicking their tongue.
“Do you know,” said the Hunter, turning to their followers. “I think the animal did this on purpose. To frighten us. I think this ‘Tiger’ may be the one we’ve been looking for.”
It was the sort of place with the same number of people in it at 11am and 2am, and often the exact same ones. You could stick your head in the door at noon, and it would already be night inside. The people who drank there had been banished from the day.
The solitude, on the other hand, was, what’s the word? Palpable. I wasn’t at all prepared for it. They tried to tell us, but it’s something you can’t really understand until you go through it. Knowing you’re 3 trillion klicks away from the closest human. Well, the closest human who isn’t asleep.
Written by Mary Gillis, and performed by Jordi O'Dael and Alexander Saxton.
I remember even now, holding tight to my brother Thorsten’s arm as our grandmother described the Draugr’s corpse-blue flesh, his long fingernails, and how he crept away at night to gorge on the blood of children in their cradles. But as I say, such tales are no longer encouraged. The Christians say we have eternal life, and dislike the suggestion there is something unnatural about wanting to live forever.
The meat hissed as it slapped onto the grill, and the Pit Master pressed down with his chrome spatula, not hard enough to release the juices, but enough to sear the geometry of the cooking grate into the beef.
“It was big.”
I saw it a few nights after that. I was sitting in the kitchen, and I heard what I thought was the cat, coming down the hall. It wasn’t the cat. But it wasn’t much smaller, either.
Tradition has it they come out of the mountains once a year at Golowan Night, in midsummer, to visit the Town. They walk the streets; see what’s changed, and then they take one thing back with them.
Performed by Jonathan Shaboo.
From a central column, it branched upward; a disturbingly fleshy plant corralled into a rigid, diamond lattice. It had no leaves, which I thought strange; so few plants are ever out of season in a greenhouse.
Performed by Annelise Hawrylak.
Antlers are the fastest growing bone in the animal kingdom. In June and July, the antlers of a White-tailed deer can grow as fast as an inch a day. An inch. In order to grow so quickly, the bones need blood; lots of it, and so they’re covered in a thin, soft tissue filled with blood vessels. Velvet.
I am currently standing in the biomedical laboratories of the *REDACTED*—or simply the Institute, as I shall here on refer to it as—and am just outside of the main lab. In front of me is the holotype, species yet unnamed, currently thawing after being put on ice to best preserve its tissue.
Don’t worry though. I know I look a little intimidating to everyday people, but I promise there’s a reason for the way I look. I’m not gonna talk your ear off, either. I know most people hate having people next to them on the bus, but I’m usually able to change their minds.
But enough about me. Where are you going?
Performed by Joey Graff.
The rest of her pregnancy was without complication. The town marvelled; many had been sure she would die. But she had picked up a strange habit. It was remarked on in town how she would leave her home in the evenings, and walk along water’s edge in the marsh, even until long after dark.
Performed by Tara Wink.
See, what you oughta do is get yourself an older vehicle. Take the Chimera for example. That engine has been running smooth and clean for over 60 years. With a few replacement parts, of course. They just don’t make cars like this anymore.
Say, could you hand me that flathead over there? The missing leg makes walking to the tool bench a real pain.
Open your eyes. Don’t fall asleep, you mustn’t fall asleep. You have to stay awake, or the crows will eat you. Some think that they go for the eyes first, but it’s always the tongue. They take your tongue so you cannot cry for help, then leave you to bleed. The eyes they save for last.
Performed by Thomas Gough.
You've been so good this year that we decided to leave you an extra little something in your stocking. Just make sure to give it a few good whacks before reaching in, to make absolute sure that it's dead.
Performed by Anthony Botelho and Tara Wink.
Later, I found out it was the coldest that day had been in a hundred years. I’m convinced I nearly died on the road that afternoon. And there’d be times that night when I wasn’t sure I hadn’t, and that the cabin I’d arrived at wasn’t hell.
The letters swam, spilling into different words, which I read as they appeared.
“The crowning achievement of the Greatest and Best was Universal Discovery. Our voyagers found the outermost edge of the universe. Do you understand? The absolute end of everything. We found the answers we were looking for, and the answers you are looking for. We built this monument afterwards. Come and see.”
Performed by Amaka Umeh, and featuring Chris Vergara and Anthony Botelho.
I never thought a hospital could be so pleasant. It began to feel like a home and besides the healing, visits from friends, and watching some of the trashiest daytime TV you can imagine, it was a pretty uneventful winter for me.
Except for that one night of course.
Performed by Hugh Ritchie.
Not long after Thomas’ return, I started noticing strange things in and around the house. Noises at first, at night. Something like the sound of distant thunder. Boom… boom… boom… off in the distance, in the middle of the night. Oddly, at around the same time Thomas would leave bed.
Performed by Rachel Hart.
The chill wind blows and carries the smell of pumpkin rot. Creatures and bones and things peer from every home. The doorbell rings in the dead of night on a dark street. Do you dare answer? It must be time for more snips, and it must be time for Halloween.
Featuring, in order of appearance, Anthony Botelho, Rachel Hart, Jacob Duarte Spiel, Alexander Saxton, Hugh Ritchie, Liz Der, Chris Vergara, Margaret Rose, and Jada Rifkin.
Now, that all sounds a bit dispassionate and business-minded when I listen to myself. This isn’t supposed to be a sales pitch. No… please don’t mistake me as being blase, this work really is my passion. As are the pigs.
The sun was right overhead. It was so hot I thought the plastic wheels of my travel bag would melt to the pavement. As I turned from the parking lot down the side of the highway, the fresh dose of codeine washed over me, like white surf on a sunlit beach. The pills made everything even brighter and hazier. I felt like I was floating on the thick humid air, floating down the road like a raft down a warm stream.
Performed by Liz Der.