Monstrous Myths: Rå

Deep in the forests, mountains, and fjords of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark dwell a secret race of wardens, the rå. This myth is often conflated with the alfar or elves of German folklore, but they are markedly different. While the elvish appear to be aloof and supernaturally beautiful (at least, as far as the Medieval writer was concerned), unencumbered by the minutia of human life, and just as likely to smite as to assist, have an almost paternal awareness of mankind.

Pardon a short digression — a moment to explain why I will not be comparing my race to the elves.

I do not believe they exist. They are simply what happens to the hidden when the imagination of man takes over. Perhaps there are some particularly handsome members of my species, and perhaps they truly are ambivalent to people, but honestly, I do not think this is true. More than likely, pockets of humanity (towns and villages used to be quite isolated, especially during the colder months) met one or two of my species and learned that the only way to coexist was to pay homage, engage with care and deference. Given enough time and veneration, anything can me made godlike. Look at Gnesha, the elephant-headed many-limbed god of luck of Hinduism. He is not terribly attractive, but he has devotees the world over.

So for you fans of Tolkein, I am sorry. There will be no elves, just as there will be no vampires. Now please allow me to return to the myth at hand.

come in many forms: huldrå of the forests, the sjörå of the lakes, havsrå of the sea, bergsrå of the caves. Their duty, as perceived by man, is to protect and care for the particular natural element they inhabited. When you look closely at their descriptions, however, I think you will find that they are one species, a kind of nexus of all the previous myths we have addressed. One race, living on the outskirts of the remotest regions, fending for themselves, camouflaged or clothed, crossing paths with man to varying consequences.

You say, “But they have tails, don’t they, Simon?”

Not necessarily. Some tales have tails. Others do not. And the fact is, someone could merely have misinterpreted a dead animal hanging from a belt as a tail. When you live away from humanity, and have a tenuous grip on sentience, spinning wheels are not so common. You get what you steal, and often that means you don’t get anything. Not to mention the fact that clothes often interfere with our movement. a belt is the only thing worth making really.

huldra_by_timswit

Hulderfolk, or ”hidden ones”, dwell in the woods, and while the “female” of the species are supposedly comely, the “male” are quite ugly, with rather prominent noses. I think it safe to point out that there probably are no gender distinctions to be made. The more attractive ones were merely much more approachable, and thusly, equated with femininity. So too is it possible, as one image from the 1800’s suggests, that the “females” were simply dressed as women. Keep in mind also, the standards of beauty for the region: pale skin, lustrous hair, strong muscle. Dark eyes and hair would have been exotic, perhaps even lovely. Thus, the myths of beautiful forrest-dwellers can probably be distilled down to an encounter in the twilight of the North with a thin, pallid, creature in a dress, who looked nothing like anything the poor sod had ever seen before. She smiled demurely, and he was smitten. So, let us take these distinctions with a grain of salt, for all the in all their masculine and feminine forms.

What is important to note, is that the humans who worked the kilns would often leave huldrå gifts of food, in exchange for their assistance in guarding their fires at night. In ancient Germanic folklore, the holda was a witch, her festival celebrated during the “dead time” of winter when corpses were thought to roam: “The Twelve”. You may know it as The Twelve Days of Christmas…

The havsrå are an analogue to the mermaid, in some respects. Like any myth that has persisted for a lengthy time, they have many descriptions and forms. The most common image is a lithe and naked woman, combing her unwieldy, seaweed-like hair atop a rock. They too will provide their services in exchange for provisions. Similarly, the freshwater variety appear to float up from the depths and stare at passers-by, eat fish at them, or capsize craft and rob the struggling swimmers. But they too have a kindly streak, often guiding drowning men to safety.

Bergsrå of the mountains are cave-dwellers, and while they usually spend most of their time driving miners mad by stealing their tools, eating their food, and scaring the holy breath out of them, they are also known to kidnap the odd wanderer, spend an evening acquainting themselves with him, and then setting him upon the path home.

Who can really say if any of these tales are factual? I find it more likely that men capsized their own boats while staring at the eerie, nude monster along the shore, who was doing nothing more nefarious than eating lunch. Perhaps the wayward travelers were understandably exhausted and woke to find their fires being tended by creatures they’d rather befriend than antagonize. I have done many things for humans, including tend kilns, and so long as payment was received, my teeth were never bared. Once home, these humans told wild tales, and forevermore, any passing bird that cawed at the sound of thunder was thought to be a transformed sea nymph, any woman who crossed paths with you in the forest was a witch, and any odd sound from an unstable mineshaft was probably a troll.

Who can say? What I do know is that there were many men who never returned home, and their stories are much darker. Better to meet a than his hungry counterpart.

Image by timswit of Deviantart

Monstrous Myths: The Draugr (or Haugbui)

You have perhaps been asking for some time why I persist in ignoring the “most obvious” comparison of myth to my species – the Vampire. Aside from the fact that I despise the modern imagery of the charismatic but hissing womanizer, my reasons are actually much less petty and infinitely more well-educated.

There is no one source-myth; the “vampire” does not exist. That is to say, every culture on earth has a tale of a walking corpse-figure that eats blood, or babies, or some appending piece of anatomy, and there are as many names as there are legends, all blending into linguistic obscurity. There are a host of ghouls, goblins, demons, skin-walkers, and mischievous forest dwellers that have, when all mashed together, given rise to the popular blood-drinker.

Thus, I will never compare my race to that infernally generalized caricature, and to ask me to do so, you are in fact being quite rude. I can compare it to the soul-maligning comment: “all [insert race despite vast cultural differences] look alike.”

To that end I have tried to give you more foundational myths – ancient stories that have, over time and following the migratory patterns of humans, been overtaken by the infamous vampire and swallowed whole.

So it is that today, we discuss the Draugr of Old Norse. This creature is of course, a flesh-eating zombie creature with magical powers, because of course, it’s far more likely that a human would be so pernicious in life that he, with the aid of sorcery or demons, would reanimate from death just to terrorize the living and guard his interred treasures.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

My point is, that when reading mythology, if one really is determined to ascribe it a place in the factual annuls of humanity, one really must look for the most likely explanation. Aukum’s razor.

Is it more likely that these poor gray-skinned, insatiably hungry, treasure-hoarding creatures are the walking dead? Is it more likely that because a cat jumped over them, or a body died sitting up, or they refused the help of the Church, they somehow transcended mortality? Or is it more likely that another species walks among you, making historical appearances from time to time, being exaggerated out of proportion by horrified human onlookers?

I will leave it to you to infer what my answer might be.

There are some notable traits of this lovable revenant that are of interest. They can supposedly increase their size. I attribute this to bleeding, defeated heroes who would rather say “I was overtaken by a giant, swollen beast!” rather than “It was about average height and size, but royally effed me up,” as the saying goes.

You may be asking why I included the haugbui in this narrative, and that really is very simple. He is the poor cousin of the Draugr, and as such, is the one I think most closely linked to fact. His title, you see, derives from the Old Norse word haugr, meaning “hole” or “hollow”. He is a cave-dweller, or a burial mound skulker and he is exceptionally territorial, often refusing to attack unless a person comes too close for comfort. Sometimes he is seen as a seaside monster, lurking near the water’s edge like the gorgon, blending in with the seaweed through some ridiculous transformative magic that I prefer to call a “hair-do”.

Norse mythology is some of the oldest of which humanity has record, and so of course, we are also there, lurking as usual, eating as usual. Not so bothered by the humans who continually try to exorcize, vanquish, or bottle us.

We are as pervasive in your tales as the wayward traveler, the chivalric hero, and the wizened old hag. Without us, you are not you.

The Most Delicious Pulled Pork, a recipe

The trouble with recipes for barbecue are twofold: Firstly, this method of cooking can be somewhat religious in temperament. That is to say, every person has their technique, their recipe, their secret, and these are guarded both jealously and passionately. Seldom do humans try other recipes, or cultural trends, preferring either vinegar based sauces, sweet, spicy. Secondly, it has no real measurements, as all of these depend upon your tastes and the size of the cut of meat. I will, however, attempt to give you an estimate of what you will need based upon the amount of meat I’ve recommended.

This will happen in two phases, over the course of two days.

Tools:

  • Large pressure cooker (If your cut of meat is large and unwieldy, then you will have to cook in batches. However, you can also do this in a crockpot, for an additional several hours, if you cannot find a pressure cooker.)
  • Barbecue grill
  • Foil
  • A large, deep, roasting pan

Ingredients:

  • 7-10 lbs boneless pork shoulder or butt (You might imagine I have a human analogue to this, and I do, as the taste of human meat does lend itself well to this recipe. I would use, probably, an entire upper leg, deboned. However, you would most definitely prefer pork, as it will stay juicy and sweet.)
  • Golden brown sugar (A large bag)
  • Korean red chili powder (Get a very large bag. Not for this recipe, but for daily life. It’s one of the best condiments, particularly if you like smoky flavors. It is not very spicy, unless you eat large amounts – or so I am told by humans. I am not susceptible to capsaicin.)
  • Turkish fermented chili paste (This may be difficult for you to find, and you can substitute with Korean red chili paste, but I highly recommend you attempt to source it. Go to ethnic grocers catering to Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine. Look for the red jars. If it has the word “Gaziantep” on the label, it is Turkish.)
  • Mustard
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Sweet white wine
  • Smoked paprika
  • Celery seed
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Kosher Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Create your dry rub (Remember, this is to preference, so as you combine to my recommendations, please do taste it and see if it is to your liking.)
    • Even amounts of brown sugar and Korean chili powder. Approximately 1 cup each, but it can be more, depending upon your taste and the size of your pork cut
    • Add each of the following in increments of 1 tsp, until you’ve achieved a flavor you like – smoked paprika, celery seed, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper,
    • Once the rub tastes sweet, smoky, and spicy, it is finished.
  1. Remove your pork from its packaging and pat dry
  2. Place it in your baking pan and coat thoroughly in the dry rub on all sides. You can do this by patting it with the powder mixture, or by rolling it around in it, but the general idea is to have a bright red piece of raw meat, completely coated in the spices.
  3. Cover the pan with foil and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Remove from the pan and grill on medium heat until medium well (This will probably take a couple of hours)
  5. Remove from the grill and slice off any blackened bits, being cautious to only remove the darkened crust, while leaving as much meat as possible.. If you skip this step, your final product will be bitter and somewhat acrid. Do not worry about the dry rub being scraped off. By this time it has soaked into the meat.
  6. Create your sauce:
    • Combine the wine, mustard, vinegar (in splashes here or there),Turkish paste, a little sugar, some Korean chili powder, paprika, onion and garlic powders, celery seed and cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Ideally you want 3 cups of yield or so, at the approximate texture of a ketchup or barbecue sauce. It should be smoky, but tangy.
  1. Cut your pork into chunks and set in your pressure cooker. Pour the sauce in, and bring to high pressure. Cook for 45 minutes.
  2. Shred the meat into the sauce.

Serve on a roll with a pickle. It should be tangy, sweet, smoky, and spicy, all in one. If it isn’t the most delicious thing you’ve eaten in a while, then you have done something terribly wrong.

Monstrous Myths: The Ghoul

Modern man has a highly unflattering image of the ghoul. That is to say that his impression is rather more like a zombie, mindlessly haunting a graveyard and stumbling around without fine motor skills. That is a very dangerous perception, and the Caliphates of the 14th century would shake their heads at you. The Sumerians would shun.

blightborn_ghoul_by_yanzi_5-d5lhkzz

The ghoul is an ancient demon. In fact it is one of the oldest myths that the continuity of human history can supply. Its origins date back to the first written stories, and it is not something with which one trifles.

Much like a hungry Yours Truly.

The gallu of Cuneiform lived in hidden places: ruins, burial grounds, and mountain tops. They hovered around the outskirts and “dragged the souls of the dead to the underworld”. I set that last line in quotation for a reason – to draw attention to the fact that that phrase bears a very close resemblance to the modern one as a euphemism for committing murder. For a very very long time, humans have said “I shall send you to your maker” rather than “I will kill you.” – which of course, no one would shout within earshot of people who might stop them. It would not be too far from the mark to suggest that the primary occupation of the gallu is not in fact in service to a deity, or a divine order, but that they were simply killing folks because they felt like it. The author who set down their myth in clay was merely being artistic.

That aside, gallu hang about, weaving into the folklore of Judaism, Islam, and Christian. From the gollum to the ghul of One Thousand and One Nights, they haunt the desert, the outskirts, finding ways to tempt the unwitting out into their territory so that they may consume them in peace. It is said they also eat recently deceased corpses, devour children, drink blood, and hoard wealth by rifling through pockets, graves, unguarded houses. This insatiable hunger, like that of the obour, makes their name synonymous with greed, even in the vernacular of today’s Middle Eastern cultures.

Whatever your particular vantage on the myth, the ghoul is certainly a creature that prays upon human misfortune and is crafty, if only in its ability to ensnare humans and rip them to shreds.

The behavioral comparison to my species seems evident. What is less so are the physical descriptions of such creatures. They can apparently change shape, but as I have upon many previous occasions, I will argue that this is simply a human way of explaining some other catastrophic event, for which the ghoul is not to blame. If you are stupid enough to leave your infant unattended, and it is snatched away by a large and fearless hyena, of course you will not wish to blame yourself. Instead the hyena is not a normal hyena – the sort you have outsmarted a dozen times before, the sort your infant has cooed at and giggled over. That hyena must be a demon in disguise. You rage against heaven or chaos, instead of taking responsibility, instead of killing hyenas, one of nature’s most hideous and malevolent creatures, you instead target me and mine.

Perhaps the human mind must find reasons to blame us, if only to muster the courage to destroy their only natural predator. Perhaps your desire to blame us for all your misfortunes is simply an adaptation. Perhaps you need it. I will not argue that it is vestigial, like the appendix. Instead, I will absolve you of guilt, and say that while I find this annoying, I do not take offense. You cannot help it.

I digress.

In all other ways, the ghoul is a perfect analogue to the obour, the classic wendigo, even the more exotic sounding gorgon. They are all one monster, fast, strong, in love with shiny things, sharpening their intellect by hunting the sentient. Most importantly – they are ravenous.

The image used here is a painting entitled Blightborn Ghoul  by  yanzi-5 of Deviantart

Monstrous Myths: The Obour

The Obour is a Bulgarian creature, and before you point it out – yes, it is sometimes confused with my loathed enemy, the vampire. Do not fall pray to this unfriendly lumping of preternatural creatures! There are many types of blood-thirsty ghoul, including the ghul.

The Obour is reputedly created when a person is killed rather suddenly and refuses to quit their corpse. This person rises from the grave and for forty nights torments his neighbors and family, begging for food, using its magical powers for pointless mischief, vandalizing property, and clawing open the udders of cows to drink the blood-laced milk. What is noteworthy, is that the creature does not shun normal food, and in fact can be seduced by it. It will not harm humans, unless the food goes away or is refused, and only after Its forty days of rabble-rousing does it become a full-fledged revenant, roaming the countryside on a killing spree.

The similarities between this impish zombie and my species are obvious. I will not bother with them. Instead I will argue down the differences. To do that, I will use history.

Peter Plogojowitz was a Serbian man who died. According to his family, he came begging for food, was denied, haunted their dreams, made them all ill, and then massacred his own son after he was refused for the last time. His body was actually dug up by the army and put out of their misery with a stake through the heart.

What is my point? That dead people were unfairly discriminated against? No. My point is, that the dead are dead. They don’t get out of coffins on their own. There is a much more rational explanation.

Is it so difficult to believe that a monster like myself, who subsists upon human flesh but does not wish to interfere with society, might take up haunting graveyards? At one time or another we have all done it, I surmise. A freshly buried corpse is wonderful for an arm, or leg, hand or foot. But really, it’s the internal organs that are the best, and they do go bad terribly quickly. So here is my explanation of cases, like unto poor Peter’s:

You bury a man. He is not a terribly friendly or handsome man. Several days after this man has been buried (and his meat sack fully eviscerated and organs acquired by one of my cousins), a ghoulish looking chap knocks on your door. He can smell the trail, you see, and follows the dead man back to his home. You open the door, and are immediately confronted by a horrifying sight, perhaps wearing some of your dead relative’s clothing. This monster does not look entirely like your relative, but who knows how death can alter a person? And he was never very handsome anyway. Really, you are not about to stand there and take careful note of all the differences between your now forgotten loved one and this grisly counterpart. You are going to slam the door. But the wretch will not go. He pounds in walls, taps and knocks. You see him everywhere, on your roof, outside high windows. He throws things, breaks things, appears and disappears. It’s like magic! He wails for more food. You deny him. You attempt to sleep but dream of him. Eventually he takes your cattle… Until finally, he comes for you.

I believe that the Obour is not a monster. It is a phenomenon. It is simply what happens to one of us when we have gone a long time without human meat. We devolve, struggle to maintain our grip, eat an organ or two to stave it off, but it is not enough. Eventually we  skulk away, ashamed it came to ripping open udders and suchlike. Perhaps there are so many cases, because the monsters of those parts were similar to me, walking a fine line, pretending to be men, and so when the moment came for them to fall into their monstering, they simply went to another village, and terrorized a family by accident.

All because of a too shallow grave, easily dug up.

And for all that fuss, poor organ-less Peter was disinterred yet again, and further violated. They claimed he had not decomposed. Well of course not! He probably didn’t have half the things that produce all that marvelous bloating, livermortis and putrefaction. Decay slows when there are fewer playgrounds for bacteria to enjoy or broken down biproducts like bile and stomach acid. The poor man was completely blameless.

What do they say these days?  SMH

Monstrous Myths: Wendigo

Wendigo_beast.jpg

This monster hails from the upper northeast of the North American continent, a tradition from the Algonquian nations. As ever, with monsters, the image of them varies, more than likely because only one man ever saw this creature and warned all the others. the story grew, was told and retold, and thusly, we have several separate descriptions, bound by land and migration patterns, but to me it is clear. I am a wendigo. Or perhaps I should say, a wendigo is me.

Let me give you the most common description: gaunt and emaciated, stretched, grayish skin, large dark eyes, and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. They are believed to be masters of dark magic, with heightened senses, ability to petrify people with terror, manipulate their thoughts, or sometimes mimic their voices. Some reports have him with antlers, and some claim that men can be possessed by wengiowak, however, knowing which came first is a bit challenging, due to the fact that there was little recording of the stories or of the practices with which they were retained, or if any alterations were made when the stories migrated (so far as I am aware). Some reports have a foul smell, while some associate the monsters with blizzards or food shortages. Both of these make great sense to me.

There have been times in my life, of which I am not proud, that I have allowed myself to slip back into that terrible cesspool of irrationality. Most often when it was impossible to hunt, as it is during a blizzard. It almost always ends in a bloodbath and then a newly conscious and disgusting me, looking around at the carnage with an awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach. But this is not important.

No, really.

What I find fascinating, is that to these peoples the condition was contagious. Cannibalism was thought to cause it, and in the early days of the colonies, they would even send death squads out to execute people they believed to be wendigowak. They could not, would not, see us as separate entities. They embraced us as peers, possessed of a demon that could only be extinguished in death. Or perhaps I am being optimistic. Perhaps they were really using our myths to justify their carnage against one another — “Yes, let us go and murder Sam, as he is surely a wendigo…with a very pretty widow-to-be.”

Whatever the reason, they truly did fear wendigo sickness, such that when the Ojibwe eventually did cross paths with me, they paid me to stay away — in the flesh of their enemies. They performed dances upwind from my dwelling to ward me off their innocent children. They sent a poor old man to wave herbs at me. I sent him back staggering with rum for his trouble. They positively cowered at the sight of me, such that I could walk amidst the waginoga, sit down, and even the most staunch warrior would do nothing more than pretend I was invisible.

It made supplying myself very simple, as you can imagine, and though their offerings were made from fear, I repaid them. During the war — the Seven Years war, as they called it, that village was very well protected, especially at night.

But again, all this is immaterial — it was a very long time ago and it did not last long. Someone eventually became tired of my constant lurking and organized a death squad…that did not end as planned.

I left.

And the vicious wendigo continued its rampage through folklore, augmented by my stupidity.

It was the last time I ever did such a thing. Forever more, I was a human, no matter where I went.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am not the first wendigo. I took advantage of the myth in order to live a relatively luxurious existence practicing my knack for trapping and skinning things, and thriving without the need for the exhaustive and risky hunt. The myth pre-dated me, and indeed was pervasive. Everyone in the region knew the tale, the warding songs, the precautions. Which tells me that before I ever journeyed to the New World, my kith and kin had done their devilish best.

Monstrous Myths: The Gorgon

Among the multitude of questions received by this humble monster, are an assortment of hypotheses on the nature of my “monsterhood” — “personhood” not quite encompassing the meaning I intend. That is to say, they have embraced my argument, that my species are the root of every monstrous folktale the world over. Some point to North American and draw comparisons between myself and certain native ghouls. Some point to the Bible and say, “Now see here! You could easily be one of Satan’s demonic horde.”

Forgive me, they don’t actually use my particular parlance, but the gist is all that matters.

Because so many of you have taken to this idea, I have decided to run a small series. I will list a new monster every entry, give you its characteristics, and then explain to you how I believe it can all be tied to one of my cousins, no doubt doing something undignified, like swooping, or hissing, or flapping his arms…

I detest such displays and never indulge. It does little good to frighten a person away from your lair. I’d rather eat them so that they have no time to retreat to their village. Better that he never return and the others come to fear the forest itself.

Before you ask: yes, that has happened.

For my first monster: The Gorgon

o3kjW

You might know the tale of the Odyssey, and the frightful guise of Medusa, but she is actually merely one version of this fearsome creature. Historians cannot agree upon its origins in history, but it is quite old, and most renditions share similar traits. They are usually “female”, with wide, strange eyes, sometimes fangs, dwell in caves, and are crowned with a mass of writhing tentacles. Homer claims Medusa’s stare can turn a man to stone, and that she is the mortal in a sisterhood of three, but Homer’s depiction is quite recent in the dread mythology.

It can be traced back much farther, linked to other monsters of similar description, but that is not my goal. I am here to convince you that the Gorgon is my long lost cousin.

I have given you a description of my biology, and perhaps, now that I have sketched the Gorgon, you can see the comparison and say to yourself, “Well, that is quite trivial.” And so I will not belabor the twisting hair, bizarre eyes, gender ambiguity, or teeth. My comparison will go much deeper.

Their name, you see. I cannot come away from that, as I am a linguist in my soul. It derives from the Greek word for “terrifying”. So you see, the Gorgon was not a type of monster. It was merely something frightening, encountered in a cave. Some erudite experts of long dead languages link it back to the Sanskrit word for the growling sound an animal makes. And now we see how the fiction evolves.

A man, alone in a dark cave, hears a growl. What is more terrifying than that? The sound becomes the idea, and the idea takes a shape, looming out of the darkness to glare down at him. That is most definitely a Gorgon. No doubt about it.

This is all metaphor, of course. The man in the cave is a stand-in for all of humanity, but I think you take my point.

Homer saw fit to link their origins to Poseidon, the god of the sea, and I think this bears a striking resemblance to my own theory, that we originated in the water and have more in common with squids or sharks, than we do mammals. He could not know biology, per say, but it turns out that the observation that things with four hoofed legs might be related, has proven to largely be true. Observation is a type of data, and should not be discounted out of hand!

Ah, but the stone! you say, gentle reader, and you are right. There is the freezing stare of the Gorgon, but allow me to suggest that you are taking this much too literally. Petrification has been a theme in many of the most ancient tales. If you do not believe me, look to Lot’s wife. I believe in many ways, the idea of petrification was merely an explanation of fossils, of strange rock formations, and thus, a fitting consequence for bad behavior.

Instead, I will offer another hypothesis.

I believe my ancient relatives were experimenting with tarichos, an ancient form of salt pork. If you take a human body and allow it to desiccate in a vat of salt, or soil that is high in salinity, you will succeed in preserving it. It may ferment slightly, be colonized by some bacteria, but that will only make it more tender. It will smell earthy and delicious, but not of putrefaction.

A man, alone, walks into a great cave. The shadows breathe, the air becomes thick. He discovers several humans in a row, lined up like statues, or suspended like prosciutto, covered in waxy adipose or caked in white salt. He staggers backward, his torch flame guttering with his sudden, horrified movements. The monster growls from the depths…

And a myth is born.

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

The adage, so far as I can tell, is true.

Today I got into an interesting conversation with a reader named Becca. She inquired after the music scattered throughout my book, as she herself is a talented young musician. It led to a discussion of my tastes, and how those factor into the diary.

As you are aware at this point, my senses are quite attuned to extremes. I believe this has something to do with both the construction of my sensory organs and the frontal lobe/ visual cortex of my brain, but as I have never bothered to open my own skull, it is all conjecture. However, I do love music. I have adored it for many long centuries, as it has evolved.

Before you ask, as Becca did, I do not have favorites, or genres I prefer. I listen to a great many musical types, and honestly, there is always either music playing in my home, my car, or in my thoughts. When I hear a diegetic tune wafting through the air at a supermarket, a bar, an outdoor area, it sticks with me, and I carry it home like one of my many treasures. My Shazam app is one of my most frequently used.

All that being said, I do find that I have certain enjoyments. I delight in “cover songs”, as I adore the notion that old things may b reworked for continued use. I love to trace the influences that come round and round in cycles, ever-evolving, growing. Common chord progressions.

Music is bliss, when no other will present itself.

So what then of my book? What songs, specifically are referenced by the text? — Becca asks, and so I answer. There are three lists: the music I was listening to, in my everyday life, as the events transpired, and the music that occurred around me during said events, and the songs that have since come to mean something to me — standing in for people, places, or occurrences, when later, I did ponder their passing.

Everyday Music

  • Burn My Shadow and When Things Explode by UNKLE
  • Memoryhouse by Max Richter — I listened to this repeatedly at the time. I enjoyed its ghostly quality and its weaving of themes.
  • Ceremonials by Florence + The Machine — In particular, the song “No Light No Light” calls to mind my relationship with my significant other.
  • Fratras for Violin, String, and Percussion – Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt
  • Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes
  • Drink the Sea by Glitch Mob — which to me sounds like a soundtrack to a science fiction, robotic Western.

Diegetic Music

  • I mention a German waltz playing in the entry entitled “Second Thoughts”. That was Franz Schubert’s Kupelwieser Waltz.
  • I play a piano arrangement of “Where is my mind” by the Pixies in “Therapy”
  • In “Steam”, I am quite certain I was listening to a playlist that contained the collected works of Imogen Heap, Mazzy Star, Ani DiFranco, and Tori Amos.
  • I recall that the mall was looping Bing Crosby Holiday music for most of that season.
  • “With a Twist” had me requesting the song “Blue Jeans” by Lana Del Ray
  • In “Neighbors” I was grumbling my way through Candyass by Orgy
  • During the entry “Curiosity” I terrorized Porter with the “Violin Fragment” from the Memoryhouse album.
  • Several songs played throughout my time at the “Speakeasy”, but I  mention several, or rather, several anchored me in that place. Firstly, the song I heard as I walked in: “I Wanna Dance With You” by Live. Secondly, the Metallica cover requested by Chef, was “Nothing Else Matters” by Lissie, and shortly after that played a cover of “Skinny Love” by Birdy.
  • The soundtrack I reference in the entry “Teeth” is to the film Red Riding Hood — it is an appalling film.

If you catch one I cannot recall, please do message me here and I will be sure to give details as best as I can recall.

Newer Music

As I have edited this text (Yes, I edited. Everyone should edit — especially those who type while endowed with claws that retract and extend with pressure. But aside from that, I had to alter my work so that no details could lead a person to a place or time that might intersect with my actual life. Why? I have learned that lesson the hard way, but that is another story), I have listened to music, been given songs, been played songs by my friends that remind them of things. Here is that list.

  • Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys, was played for me by Chef
  • Black Out Days by Phantagram
  • Way Down We Go by Kaleo
  • Roads by Portishead
  • Hozier’s self-titled album
  • Bring Me The Disco King (Loner Mix) by David Bowie
  • Lanterns (album)  by Son Lux — the song “Lanterns Lit” always plays through my mind when I think of Juliet
  • You’re the One The I Want by Lo Fang
  • This Bitter Earth by Dinah Washington and Max Richter — I listen to this song when I am feeling somewhat morose.
  • Medicine by Daughter
  • Hurricane by MSMR
  • Demons by Jasmine Thompson
  • I Need Never Get Old by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Do be assured, I am always hungry for new music. If you have something new for me to taste, please do leave it in a message.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 3 – Culinary

Here I will answer the most commonly received questions about your favorite topic, my diet. I eat people, you see. The proper term for this is “anthropophage”, but let’s just say “man-eating”. Humanity finds this terribly amusing. I can do nothing about that, but insist that you have descended into a collective mental illness.

Culinary

Does human taste like chicken?

I’m afraid I must sigh at this question — not because it has an obvious answer, but because it saddens me that this is even a question. You see, my strongest sense is olfactory. To me, nothing tastes like chicken. Except chicken, of course. There are similarities, I can admit, but chicken is the only chicken. So instead I will answer by comparing it. Human, similar to a four legged animal, has many pieces or “cuts” unique to it. I have named some of them, but that isn’t pertinent, since I am the only one who cares about the semantics. These cuts, however, range in texture and flavor. Some can be quite gamey, others less so. But if the spectrum must be quantified, I would say you have most in common with an elk. In terms of texture, it ranges from as soft as sashimi, to as stringy as stew meat.

Why don’t you eat the skin?

The answer is fairly simple. There’s really only one acceptable way to eat skin: frying. And I am not overly interested in fried foods. I do occasionally indulge, but by and large, I forego. I have tried all manner of preparation, from dehydrating, to baking, and simply do not care for the texture. Nor is it terribly caloric, which is, of course the currency of my biology.

What part of the human is the most delicious?

That has no automatic answer, I’m afraid. It always depends upon the person, their diet, their habits, their genetics. Some people have livers intense with flavor, others have diets so clean that their gaminess is enhanced. Some people have large fat content, and other very little. But if you pin me down (This is a turn of phrase. Please do not ever be so bold as to pin me down. That is a life-threatening engagement, I assure you.), I would have to say that the part I always look forward to, the morsel I seek out and inspect for perfection, is probably the heart. The close second would be the cut just proximal to the hip bones, distal to the bottom rib.

Do you prefer humans that are in shape?

It depends on the recipe. Some call for high fat content, some for less. Sedentary humans make excellent burgers, ground meats, things for which you might generally utilize more moist meats like pork. Healthy, trim individuals make lovely steaks, roasts, et cetera.

Is there a particular cooking method you prefer?

Modern science and the global culture have given me many new things to try, but I am afraid my soul always hearkens back to the fire pit and a piece of meat on a dog-wheel spit, turning endlessly. I do go in for basting and stewing, however.

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?

The meat grinder attachment to my Kitchenmaid standing mixer. I make my own sausage now, you see. I now have, thanks to modern refrigeration, the ability to keep odd bits and combine them, mashing people who might otherwise have despised one another into terribly tasty charcuterie. I find this both delicious and intellectually satisfying.

How long does human meat last in the fridge?

All natural rules and laws of thermodynamics apply. Human meat is no different than any other. I usually prepare all the meats in some way — from spice rubs to marinades, from salting to brining — before I freeze them. However, when I do freeze them, I like to wrap each piece in parchment paper, then foil, and finally, place it in a ziplock bag with the date. If you buy a ten pound batch of chicken breast, and you want it to remain frostbite-free, might I suggest you do the same?

Do you like eating fruits and vegetables?

Yes, or I would not do so; however, I do not require them. Strictly speaking, I believe we are carnivores that over time learned to incorporate variety (Please do keep in mind that I am exceedingly old, and thus our evolution is a much slower prospect, perhaps only totaling ten or so generations since the dawn of “farming”. Thusly, we are not as flexible as humanity. You are mayflies, here for a day, and your mutations are extraordinarily evident to someone with my historical knowledge). Such are my senses, that I delight in all the mingling smells and tastes. I find nothing more satisfying that to crunch my teeth through a carrot. Probably because it reminds me of bone, but why should that matter?

What is your favorite herb or spice?

Oh, my goodness. I am terribly sorry, but this is too complex a question for me to manage. Instead, let me give you the history of my interaction with same.

When I awoke, trade via the Silk Road had broken down, largely to the slow deterioration of the Islamic Mongol nations. Georgia was the last stop, and there were several terrible upheavals. Not to mention the devastation of the plague. I found myself in a precarious situation — fodder for another tale — and I lacked the sense to know about human food. However, I did manage to encounter a few of the spices from the east: cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, but again, my exposure was limited.

These days it is possible to find almost anything from any part of the world. For most of my life, no one even knew about the New World. Many herbs I now know and love are still fairly new to me, and because I have not traveled to the far east, many Asian foods impress me too. I am still experimenting, you see.

Let me reply by saying that there is a perfect spice or herb for every preparation of every dish, but I do tend to rely heavily upon old favorites: sage, rosemary, garlic, thyme, clove, chervil, basil, mace, bay, et cetera.

Is there anything you won’t eat?

Ever? Or more than once?

I will try anything once. And I do mean anything. But on a more habitual basis, when it comes to the human form, I do not consume the most calcified bone, skin, hair, digestive materials, though I have occasionally used these in preparation of other things. If this interests you, you may contact me directly. Most folk are too mild-stomached for that discussion.

I do not like certain vegetables, legumes, pungent herbs, cannot wrap my head around particular cheeses, and for the life of me, though I have made many attempts, cannot gain a taste for Thousand Year Old Egg. I am able to consume them. I simply do not like them. They bite back, as it were. Like zombies. And they are as fragrant.

I do, however, eat many things most people don’t even know are edible, from flowers, to weeds, to sour milk…yes. It’s only sour because bacteria have begun to colonize, but please allow me to point out that that is precisely what yogurt is, and because I have no experience with bacterial infection, I do not mind such things. To me, an old carton is merely the opportunity for liquid cheese.

If I send you a recipe, will you try it?

Oh, please do. I would be ecstatically happy to try it, modify it, repost it. I might even put it in a book, if you like. Please know that cooking is, quite literally, the most important thing to me.

You see, I must maintain my sanity, and that breaks down very quickly if I do not feed regularly. When the mind goes, I am a danger to everyone and everything about which I care. This is unacceptable to me. So you can see, that even should the hobby of food eventually prove boring…

Eating is what I do.