Reflections

Here it is, or rather, here I am, in all my “glory”. In the late seventies I took one single polaroid photo, and kept it in my box. To avoid the meta data and photo recognition software (as well as other problems associated with displaying my image on the internet), I sent the photograph to an artist somewhere in Europe. He took some liberties, in an effort to make it more “artistic”, but I think the finished product is rather good. I do worry that it has not captured the eyes quite right, but then again, artists seldom do manage the distant stare of a malign intellect.

And before you scoff at me, I am malignant. If you knew how many times a day I peel the skin off of passers-by with my thoughts, you would never wish to come face-to-face with me, I assure you. Unless, of course, you fancy looking like an anatomical model of yourself.

Simonportrait.jpg

If you find me unsettling…good. It is as it should be. If not…see how easily you are fooled? The image will remain up for some time. I may at some point lock it. If I do, I will put the password somewhere or other, and you may hunt around for it. I apologize, but this may become necessary.

Be wary

What I am about to do now, may in some ways sting. I would say that I am being cruel to be kind, but truly, that has nothing to do with it. I am not kind. I am very seldom gentle, very seldom generous, very seldom anything close to what you know. I will not ask your forbearance. Rather, I will push you back, so that you can see me fully and know me for what I am.

I came into your lives too subtly, I fear. I tiptoed in, tucked my life, devoid of artifice, in amongst your favorite fairytales. At first, no one noticed, but now they have, and that is my fault entirely.

Since the website began, the majority of readers have delved only so far, probing to suss out the verity of my statements, or making only slight reference to me, choosing instead to focus upon the supposed quality of my work. But things have changed. The book is doing very well, and I do feel something of a measure of pride for it, as I do all the broken things I reassemble; however, I drastically underestimated the quality of its reception.

Many of the most vulnerable have seen fit to follow me, talk with me, lay bare their problems, confess feelings of kinship, friendship, trust. I have told them how unwise this is, but to no avail. And yet, they press. Not to make me uncomfortable, but perhaps, in some way, to have what they seek — a connection to something other than this reality they know. My protestations make very little headway. They tell me that they know I could never hurt them, that I am funny, give me nicknames. They reach out, “With open arms” as someone said, from their own generous spirits.

But there is something amiss. A perspective is askew. This thing, this journal, it has given you a very narrow glance, one tailored by the very thing that is its subject. You see my friendship with Rebecca and my aversion to harming her, and you think yourself safe. You follow my relationship with Chef and view it is a melodramatic love story, you even laugh at my confusions, my misdeeds. All these things are carefully crafted. All these things are tales, told by a monster whose chief desire is to eat, who excels at fine-tuning himself to the circumstances that arise.

You like me.

You have not the slightest grasp of who I am.

Do not mistake the trappings of humor, emotion, and self-reflection to be anything more than clever camouflage. I have known from the beginning that no human would ever care to read of my life without a pleasing presentation. I am clever. I am devious. I am a monster.

You cannot fathom how much time I have watched pass by; so much that I now remember less than half of that which remains hidden from me. These things you do — school, work, entertainment, fashion, gossip, television shows — to me are unfathomable. It is a charming kaleidoscope of strangeness that will inevitably pass away. These conversations that we have will vanish. These things you say to me will drift and lose focus, and eventually, I will not remember ever having them. In my head, are perfect, but entirely unusable maps of long-destroyed cities. In my thoughts, are words from languages no one sees fit to resurrect. I am a graveyard, and all things pass through these gates into oblivion. So please pardon me, if I seem at a loss, bemused, annoyed, or otherwise distant. Pardon me, if I do not rise to your tenderances. Pardon me, if I do not like being given pet names or told that i am charming. So many things have a brittle quality to them, as if at any moment, the clock will strike, and the sheer force of the sound will shatter all of this constant busywork to pieces. It is nearly impossible for me to find sure footing, peace, sanctity.

There are no such things to me, and if there were, no capacity to enjoy them.

I am not kind. No, not even a little. I could list for you whole populations of people I have ended. You declare kindness because I refuse children, help underdogs, carefully select criminals, but I am errant to give you that impression. These are lessons hard-learned, and some of the greater divides in my life are filled with corpses of those who did nothing more upsetting than to look at me in a certain way. Perhaps to the modern human, with so much knowledge of death and carnage beneath its documented belt, a discussion of this is not so upsetting.

Pluck it down then, from that shelf on which you keep it. Examine death for what it is — the total cessation of all that you are. Imagine what it would be like to lose the person you care for most, and then blame me. Blame me, if you be wise.

Those humans who know me, understand this. All of them are broken. All of them walk a fine line between reason and madness. Every single one of them has known appalling violence. Every one of them pegs me for what I am — a signpost at the end. Do you honestly think that any of them truly love me? No, of course not. They are terrified of me. They are certain that I will snap. Every one of them has escape routes, contingency plans. Every one of them knows that I am a ticking bomb that may one day suddenly decide to abandon all of this, as I have before, and leave nothing behind me.

This experiment was meant to prove that no human would believe. Now I see that the situation was worse than I imagined. Humans will believe, but they refuse to be afraid. There will always be a hero, the curse can be kissed away, that creature you should fear, is but a prince in disguise.

I am not. I am ancient, I am cold. I am very very cruel. I meet you now in a shape that is pleasing, I greet you with but one one thousandth of my lifespan. I hand you a few moments here, a few there, and you see this as representative of the whole. You message me and find me agreeable, but never see the twisting discontent inside my skull as I try to compress the enormity what I am into this tiny instant. You tease me, and find my replies amusing, but this is all predetermined, by a thousand such conversations I have witnessed, time and again.

You read this journal. You think you know me.

You are wrong.

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.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 2 – History

These are some of the questions most commonly asked by my readers, regarding my history and life among humans. If your personal question has not been answered, please feel free to put it in a comment below, and I will answer it as soon as possible.

Historical

Where have you lived and when? / I want a timeline!

I hesitate to indulge you. While it is true that this is the subject of some discussion in my published canon…it is also a potentially dangerous thing into which we may delve.

I don’t want some eager researcher tracking down a photograph I do not know exists and waving it about like an idiot. And while I have done an exquisite job of confiscating all such materials, it is at least plausible that there remains some historical tidbit a silly person might use as a means to locate me.

But the promise, you insist. I know gentle reader. Fear not.

I awoke near the Black Sea, some time in the mid 1300’s, along the border between Georgia and the Golden Horde. I traveled west along the coast to the Byzantine, then on to Hungary, across the neck of Italy, and then onto the South of France. I arrived with the plague in Marseilles, and was driven even further west through Aragon and Navarre to Castile. This took a fair span of time as the Inquisition and Crusades were on-again-off-again the whole time. For the next two or three hundred years, I bounced around what is now Spain and France, eventually occupying a lovely patch of shite in Normandy. In the mid 1600’s, I became an Englishman. Just after the dawn of the new century, I made the perilous trek to the New World, where I stretched a bit. What I mean to say is: the land was vast and rich in the extreme. Beyond a terrible need for soap and other goods— and by this I am implying human flesh — I had no need for colonial culture. I pressed the westward bound, always, and as trade went inland, so too, did I. By the Victorian, I was already in the Rockies, and came to the west coast of the Americas with the Railroad.

Unlike most of my species, who seem to claim one territory and occupy it fiercely, I am a peripatetic soul.

Have you really lived as a woman in the past?

This is a more complicated issue than I usually let on when I post on my website, so I am glad that you asked.

As i’ve indicated in the biology section, my species seem quite genderless. If we have one, I have no idea how to discern it. Thus, I have never experienced any particular aversion or fealty to a gender identity. The truth is, humanity is not only patriarchal and misogynist, it is downright savage.

In previous centuries it did me almost no good whatsoever to move around as a woman, since the activities of women were always overseen by men. However, they were also overlooked by men. It was sometimes advantageous to hunt in that guise. When a ruffian vanishes from the path on his way home from the pub, no one suspects the poor, unfortunate scullery maid. That being said, the suspicion of witches, foreigners, odd looking sorts, was high, and there was no makeup in those days. So playing both sides was a balancing act.

There did come a time when the fairer sex was allowed to travel widely, own property, be single without the suspicion of being a witch, and yet still be seen as virtuous. When that happened, I bought myself my first real dress, and gave it a try. That was when I discovered that it was probably always better to travel as a female. Not merely because men will protect and shelter you, but because it attracts exactly the sort I like to eat. A woman at a coaching inn, alone, on her way to Canterbury or Edinburgh is a perfect lure for highwaymen. Unfortunately the limitations of my species often prevented me from undertaking actual pilgrimages, as trespassing on another monster’s territory is somewhat frowned upon. Growled upon, more like. But when I did eventually see fit to vacate my land, I did so in a skirt, and the perilous voyage across the Atlantic went very well.

There was an epidemic, but no one ever suspected me, the middle-aged widow, ill and tottering, protective of her crate of goods — her only possessions in the world. So it began, and as humanity’s love for artistry and costume advanced, so too did my characters. They became younger, prettier, more apt to step out in public.

So yes, I do live as a woman from time to time. The benefits of genderlessness.

As an aside, you can imagine my stance on the transgendered bathroom issue. I find it amusing that while a man is standing at a urinal, he is scanning those around him to make sure they are all indeed male, completely overlooking me, who is not even human. There is peril in prejudice, not simply because it teaches your children to lack compassion or discourages them from embracing their own complexity, but also because it allows me to sneak in, completely overlooked.

Shame on you, but thank you for the invitation.

What languages do you speak?

This is also a terribly interesting, but complicated question. You see, there really is no definite answer, because of when I learned to understand language, I did not speak, and I learned them so very long ago that many of the tongues I understand no longer exist. Things are also complicated by the fact that I did not learn my letters until the reign of Elizabeth, and so only learned to write English, but even that was the Early Modern English, and not the modern tongue. So please allow me a moment to specify.

I can understand (and possibly speak, though I’ve never practiced fully) Old Georgian, some dialects of old German, Archaic Hungarian, Italian, and Castilian, French, and Catalonian. I learned Latin, but it was already dead when that happened. As said before, I took up English and really never left its reaches, but did manage to converse with a few Native peoples of North America.

And now you are terribly confused, and I sympathize. Let us simplify this. Of the modern languages spoken on Earth, I am fluent (both speaking and reading) in English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese. This is by virtue of the fact that I comprehend their ancestors, and they all use the same alphabet. I also know Latin, but again,it doesn’t exactly get used often.

I prefer English. Why? Well, that is simple: it is the thieving continuity of all of these, sitting atop the others as it cannibalizes them and grows fat on their toil. A monster could not ask for a more monstrous tongue.

Simon were you ever seriously injured by one man alone, and if so how did he do it?

How clever of you to be so enterprising. You think I would simply hand you the means by which I can be destroyed? I am impressed, but excuse me for disappointing you. That has never happened, nor do I believe it can.

One man is not enough, even should he be decked out with a blunderbuss and kevlar. I do believe that when I take leave of my senses… I am unstoppable, but please do see the following question if you are so enthusiastic to have my head on a spike.

Have you ever been arrested, captured, or otherwise confined?

Yes. Upon too many occasions to count. Now, please do not misunderstand, gentle reader. As said before, this is not to imply that I am terribly easy to apprehend. That is not the case. I was taken prisoner because I allowed it. There isn’t much else to do when a crowd begins hurling rocks at you. You can either unmask yourself in full view and be crushed to death by the press of humanity, or you can let them take you to some hole in the ground, then escape later when the food runs out — and by this I mean fellow prisoners.

There are no chains that can hold me (Remember our foray into my biology). I can pull solid bars from stone. Straight jackets are a humorous diversion. I can leap about thirty feet in the air when I push myself.

So really, short of drastically injuring me, trussing me up like a fish, and burying me in a lava-filled sinkhole, there is no way to confine me.

Have you ever fought in a war?

With distinction. If you read my work, you know I have a certain lassitude that makes me less interested in morality. If you are intent to kill each other, why should I not reap the benefits? However, if I like you, if I deem your existence necessary, I will protect you. Heavens forbid, if I come to detest you…

I call those the “Fat and Sassy” times, and they ended as soon as you began photographing your soldiers. The Civil War flirted with me, but I saw those flashing boxes for what they were, and instead of being captured for posterity, invested in it. I was shot with a musket during the Revolution, ate rather well after the Whiskey Rebellion. I even made friends with a tribe of particularly blood thirsty natives who shared…well, I say shared, but I mean sacrificed their captives to me during the French-Indian War.

Jolly good fun, those bygone days. Now its all drones and ethics and backhanded economic policy. It makes me hungry just pondering.

Have you ever eaten anyone famous?

Yes. No, I will not tell you whom, but if you’re intelligent, you’ll know one when you see it. I’ve given you an approximate timeline. Cross-reference that with all mysterious disappearances of unsavory sorts. And I mean that word in the philosophical sense, not the culinary one. They are almost always quite savory.

What is the single greatest difference between the modern era and the century in which you were born?

Sewers. Clean water. These two things go hand in hand, I think. But these are the things that are meaningful to me. If I were to try and determine what would be most meaningful to a human… I should think it would be trade and the way governments operate. The modern age is a global bread basket with a penchant for democratic principles. When I was “but a lad” it was not unheard of to pass several corpses dangling from trees, tied to charred stakes. Every archway had a head on it. Every town was garrisoned. You believe I am joking, but when I moved to England, parliament had only had considerable power for a short time, and because they had a queen who refused to marry, they struggled to gain even more.

What I mean to say is, it was probably the most enlightened time that had ever been, where law and order were becoming concerns, and the rights of the people were considered. And yet… there was an incredible number of capital crimes, some as silly as eating deer. Yes. Deer were off limits. Why? Because all the land was divided by nobles. There were no “Free Parks” or “Nature Preserves”. There was only one man’s land. If you caught and ate his deer, he could come and put you down.

Nowadays, First Worlders become obnoxiously hostile when their deer hunting is limited to a certain time of year, and are free to petition their governments if they have legitimate complaints. They receive trials, they are given representation. And most importantly, they force everyone else to do the same by simple intimidation. It’s a fine kind of irony, that.

Impressive, really.

Simon with all your acquired knowledge of our kind why no real attempt to know more about your “neighbors”?

Ah. I rather thought this question would arise. I wonder if I can explain it — a difficult task, because it requires me to imagine how I think you might feel in order to compare it to my own sentiments. Imagine, if you can, that person who drives like he has no idea there are rules that govern the activity, or the people who stand at the top of the escalator even though they know quite well that disembarking pedestrians have no where else to go, or the parents who simply stand there while their children wail in the middle of a market because they have the strange notion that parenting has little to do with behaving like a parent, or the bureaucrat who insists upon asking for a form that you cannot possibly possess without having the thing which you are attempting to obtain.

Combine in a pressure cooker and bring to temp.

I feel un unyielding, unending, perpetual short-tempered fury, and when one small infraction occurs, well…it becomes rage.

That is not to say I have not crossed paths with them. I have, while traveling across another creature’s territory on my way to new patches of land. The resulting kerfuffles are…uncomfortable. I am met with hostility. I have no mercy.

You can imagine the results.

So, no. I do not often force myself to reach out to them. If anything I ignore them, and only ever think on them when I can sense that one is near. Otherwise, I treat them as you might your mother-in-law, or your boss.

What is the average area of your species’ territory? Also is it based on our population or a physical amount of land?

This is an excellent question that gives me a great deal of pause. Indeed, I am not sure I can accurately answer it. My own territory spans an approximate area of 100,000 acres, though not all of it is accessible to man. The borders are established somewhat haphazardly, by lakes and rivers, sometimes human contraptions like infrastructure. They are maintained by scent and my own senses.

When I think about the secondary question, it stirs my mind. You see, you are asking me to put into words things to which I have never given previous thought. I do not think the population matters much, as some of my kind have territories quite devoid of human life. I do believe that to some degree, all our “habitats” are largely rounded, and that we place ourselves at the center, rather like a spider in a web. I say this, because I know that when I travel to the southern reaches of my territory — which is incidentally where my home sits — my ability to discern the proximity of my northern neighbor is depleted. He is capable of sneaking up on me, and frequently does. When I purchased the warehouse, this was a point of concern, but I gave in to the notion of dwelling in such a splendid, derelict, repurposed space. I had to have it, and so I compromised location.

Now my neighbor drops in whenever he feels like it, and annoys me to no end.

Real estate is a tricky thing.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve found inside a human body?

I think, this is perhaps my most adored question. The list is quite varied, and I have made an effort to curate the collection. Yes, I kept them, because…well…how could I not?

I have found cutlery, magnets, surgical implants or pins that came loose and migrated in the blood stream, bullets, screws, nails, coins, and drugs in little carrying punches made from balloons. I have, on two occasions, found plants growing in the lungs, and once, a long long time ago, an eel in a bladder.

The strangest? I was very chipper, cutting along, hair off, skin in the bucket, “la-dee-da” as the saying goes. Then suddenly there was an organ that should not exist. It was not an organ. It was a giant, sixteen pound tumor. And suddenly, I am very put out. I do not like eating diseased flesh. Upon close examination, I determined the thing to be benign, and so carried on with eating the gentleman, but the tumor gave me pause, I must admit. I am no stranger to horror and science fiction — for reasons that probably seem obvious — and so I had visions of it being some sort of twin, curled up in a sack, feeding off his life force in an eternal calcified coma. But alas, it was just a tumor.

I ate it. Why not?

I think I’ve figured out where you live.

Good for you. May I point out the obvious: that this is not a question. It is also not terribly illustrative of your brilliance. I have scrubbed as much detail as I can from my work, but if a person is familiar with the area, they will know where to look. Do be careful though. You may actually find me.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 1 – Biology

Long ago, when I began recording my existence for all to see, I made a promise that I would answer your questions as they came to me. While I have done some justice within the body of my soon-to-be-published chronicle, there are a few issues that somehow never get raised in casual discourse. Therefore, allow me, gentle reader, to fulfill my vow.

I have grouped the questions into three distinct types: Biological, Historical, and Culinary. Each category will be answered in a separate post. If your personal question fits one of these three categories, feel free to scroll right to it. If your curiosity has gone unsatisfied, place your query in a comment…or wait and see if it eventually appears in the forthcoming texts pertaining to my humble life.

Biological

Can you describe your anatomy in depth?

This question, or some variation to this effect, has been asked a dozen times by all sorts — from scientists and doctors to cryptozoology hobbyists and armchair UFOlogists — and while I do touch upon it regularly, I shall answer it again as it is of such critical importance. It may be that you have just found this page, or scanned my work and come searching. Perhaps you know nothing of my species, and this I will amend. For your safety, of course.

I have made the argument that all myths of monster, ghost, and foul thing more than likely spring from encounters with our breed in the darkness, and I do firmly believe it. I have been the world over and never encountered anything worse than me — with my senses, I should have seen Bigfoot, if they do indeed exist. My species are naturally ugly, can seem to shape-shift, make odd sounds, exhibit malevolence, and depending upon what clothing we wear, I imagine it would be easy to paint us bird-creatures or swamp men.

Humans are not very good witnesses when encountering horrible or terrifying events, regardless.

We are average size, though you must remember, that the average has risen. In ancient times, we were considered somewhat tall. We are thin, wiry, with hard, lean muscle and little body fat. Our skin is rather pale, and sometimes grayish in hue. Our hands are ever so slightly odd — with long fingers snubbed at the ends, capped off with claws that retract if desired. The nail beds are not a healthy human pink, but plum-colored with dark edges. Our feet are equally bizarre, lower arches, more flexible toes, hooked with thick talons that make the climbing of trees a simple thing and the wearing of shoes a most distressing event involving a once-monthly session with a sanding tool. We have no hair, not a single follicle; however, atop our head is a glossy mass of filaments with a life of their own. My best guess, for I have never elected to dissever one and examine it, is that they are some sort of sensory organ. They move in reply to stimulus, and perhaps in some way, they are to blame for many of my seemingly supernatural talents.

I have a disaffinity for electronic devices. That is to say, while I love them and their utility, they despise me. I think that my nerves are not well-insulated, and so my natural field interferes with them. I cannot wear a watch without it dying. I can explode a lightbulb merely by proximity. I can sense devices, even wiring in walls, and sometimes can even perform tricks at will.

I can detect small sounds at great distance and sort through these noises to find but one single note. I can sense things, like pressure changes, the presence of my relatives, and most critically, when I am being watched. I can see in the dark and dilate my pupils quite large on demand.

We are perhaps several times stronger than an able-bodied man, faster than any human in small bursts, and due to the construction of our joints, quite flexible and lithe. We are acrobats, but our endurance is poor. We lack stamina. We expend calories more quickly, eating several times what you do in a day.

An addendum to this question is the notion of phylogeny: what family do we occupy? Without hair, umbilical attachments, or mammary glands, it is a certainty we are not mammals. I know that shallow cuts and injuries do not bleed, but deep gashes ooze a pinkish liquid. Otherwise, the skin knits closed with rapidity. I know that while I prefer warmth, the extremes of cold do little more than make me sluggish and I do not sweat. I can hold my breath for long periods of time, almost fifteen minutes, but must have oxygen eventually. My teeth fall out of my head and grow back easily, and so I am tempted to believe they are not like your teeth. I have yet to find any mind-altering substance that affects me. I do not recall ever having a fever, a cold, a flu, or any other illness. I have no allergies, no aversions, no weaknesses of any kind.

But we are intelligent, and that is dangerous.

I have learned recently certain other facts about our species, but that is best left to the book, if you’ll pardon my adherence to the rules of publishing.

Do you monsters go to the bathroom?/ Do you have sex?

I chose to make this a separate question because, while it has to do with our physical form, it requires its own tactful reply that does away with vulgarity.

I have spent a great deal of time…well, for lack of a more dignified phrase…dissecting humans. Your nether regions are quite complicated, and mating seems to be a strange horizontal dance that borders on two wriggling snakes attempting to thumb wrestle. My breed have no such complications. We have more in common with dolphins or neutered cats. We expel waste. That’s it.

You want to know how we mate. If not by behaving like two marbles attempting to connect at a specific point, while utterly failing each time, then how? I still have yet to do it, and so cannot give specifics. But really, would you want them if I could? Given what you know of how I eat…perhaps we should leave that to your imagination.

Do you get indigestion or food poisoning?

Certain botanicals cause me stomach issues, but never anything debilitating. Before you ask, we can vomit. Though it is something we do when we get food lodged somewhere it doesn’t belong. As for food poisoning, I really don’t know. I think, perhaps, like a dog, I am able to consume carrion. I have limits, in that I can smell when things are “off”. Why would I eat beyond that point?

So if you’ve been wondering why I cook at all, if I am immune to infection, that is your answer. My biology allows me to smell every nuance, taste every spice. I cannot help it. Cooking is my drug, my ecstacy, my passionate  love.

Have you ever lost a limb?

No. But if I fancied being one limb short, I would try that experiment, simply to see if, like a nematode, we could sprout a new one. Perhaps one day, I will cross paths with a member of my species I find odious enough to tie down. If that eventuality arises, I promise to execute an exhaustive study and report my findings.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on my history.

Tapas and Sushi

My literary agent  is a very energetic person. So much so, that I sometimes feel that she must be part cocoa bean. I have to fight the urge to siphon off a dram for recreational use. She bounces when she walks. Her face does not simply form expressions, it is possessed by them. She gushes about my work, such that I sometimes feel guilty for not reiterating how much gushing actually goes into my work.

Today she has enthusiastically arranged for me to make the acquaintance of my publisher, which I suppose is a good thing. You scoff, because to you that is obvious. Of course it is a good idea to get to know the tiny human female who will be responsible for dissembling your treatise to the world! But no — to me, it is not so obvious, gentle reader.

There is but one thing that unnerves me, and that is meeting new people. I can never be certain how they will see me, and this case is even less predictable. Because, you see, she has read my autobiography. I will encounter not just the woman, but her beliefs. Thus, I am conflicted as I ready myself for the encounter.

Do I dress to appear more or less human? Male or female? Do I leave off the false eyelashes and eyebrows and let the chips fall where they may? What sort of person is she, and how will she respond — fascination or horror?

My agent never seems to notice. She takes the facial discrepancies in stride and thinks this whole “persona” business is a clever marketing ploy. Bless her, she is a PR person.

I present myself promptly at the sushi restaurant, but find that I am already late. This is unfortunate. They will have strategized; Laurie will have warned our guest that I am — what is the phrase she uses? — eccentric. Now Ms. Horsley will have expectations, and every word from my mouth will be scrutinized.

I look at the row of men standing behind the bar, slicing fish paper thin with deft hands, and wish I could just put on an apron and busy myself with that mundane task.

Alas.

Laurie’s face transforms into her massive smile as she spots me lurking. She waves me over and before I can extrapolate the dynamics, I am shaking hands with the Vice President of Content for Tapas Media. She is polite, but focused, and her gaze lingers a bit longer on my face than is comfortable. No doubt she is looking for the adhesive that keeps my eyebrows in place.

“I ordered tea!” Laurie announces. I toast her tactfully, wondering if she really requires any additional spring in her step.

Adrienne slides a menu across to me. “I know you’re the food expert here. Do you want to just order for us, and we can share?”

She has a nefarious twinkle in her eye that tells me she is challenging me to remove my teeth. The joke is on her. Sushi is more than soft enough to accommodate my falsies.

“As you wish. Any dietary restrictions? Or shall I have free reign?”

Adrienne presses her lips down on a grin. Laurie performs a small wiggle in my periphery — her full-body indication that they are indeed in each other’s confidence.

“See? Consistent! He’s like Lestat, when he decided to become a rock star.”

The comparison squeezes a grunt from me. I despise the v-word. Any linkage between that ridiculous, overworked myth and my species is a dangerous and obnoxious piece of sentimentality in which humanity should never indulge. Real monsters are not former humans, they do not mourn the loss of the divine, they do not languish in darkness, they do not stop at drinking blood. They are most certainly not sexy.

How undignified.

“Laurie, please—”

“Right, sorry! No vampires.”

I return to my menu as she begins brain-typhooning, similar to brainstorming, but because she is involved, it will include stream-of-consciousness emails, pictures, status updates, and several sentences uttered so emphatically I lose myself in the upheaval.

My thoughts fuzz over as I let my nose meander to the sushi bar. I was going to order us some salmon, but it does not smell as fresh as the tuna. Perhaps some scallops? Something spicy, I think.

Sashimi truly is an art, as the fish must be caught in a certain way, so that the meat is not tainted by the fear. I have been asked if I have ever eaten human raw. Of course, I have. Cooking is merely the best way to preserve something against the elements, or imbue it with spices. The flavor profile of mankind, however, does not lend itself well to Japanese seafood preparation. And that has nothing to do with the killing method.

Fight or flight only appears to enhance…

“This Wednesday is National Eat What You Want Day, so we’re going to take advantage of it. We will launch the book as Dark Comedy.”

My attention snaps back to the woman across from me. “This Wednesday? How can this be accomplished so quickly?”

A small correction, gentle reader: more unnerving than meeting new people, is the idea of being presented as a main dish for all to see, a suckling pig for the carving, without time to take stock and prepare myself mentally. I haven’t liquidated any of my assets or scouted new territory if this publishing business goes awry.

“It’s perfect for Dark Comedy!” Laurie beams. “And the holiday! Oh my god! If we don’t launch then…”

Also bothersome is the idea that anyone might find me funny. I have said, upon many occasions, that if any individual on this earth is more entitled to gallows humor, I haven’t met them, but the body of the work is not meant to be comedic. It has a deep and meaningful purpose. A sagacious, but self-defeating one, it would seem.

“Right?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge my antiquity and clarify.” I blink at the women, all smiles. “It’s not going to be a physical volume?”

Laurie flaps. “Tapas is a website and an app. Tell him, Adrienne.”

“It’s all in the name! We distribute content in bite-sized portions, five minute reading sessions. People can try a free sample, and then decide to keep going, if they get a taste for the story! The Cookbook is perfect! It’s exactly the type of storytelling we’re trying to inspire!”

She shows me her phone; metaphysical covers scroll by.

The idea sinks in, finally. I lean back with a sense of déjà vu. That was how it all began, you see — publishing, I mean. But most people were illiterate and typesetting was a sticky thing. Because of this, the first publications were small: folios, pamphlets, monograms. Then education caught, and the inexpensive newspaper was born. Such is your thirst for knowledge that street vendors stopped selling water and began hocking news.

“From penny dreadfuls to Bitcoin offal.”

It is charming, this cycling of fashion, but troubling too. Genre fiction began in the periodicals of old: Dickens, Dumas, Melville, Burroughs. And here sits my humble, but very factual diary, about to be reworked into the fast food of literacy. It concerns me, because after all, I came out of hiding in an effort to cure your dependency upon the candy of artistic conceit.

The waitress approaches and helpfully points out the nigiri and special rolls. I order, but in the back of my mind, I am thinking about meals cut into morsels, plots disassembled. If absorbed in small pieces, at intervals, it could be beneficial, like a vaccine. After all, you would have time between entries to snap back to reality, to check your email, play Angry Birds, wonder if this weird story about a man-eating ghoul living in your neighborhood could be true. Perhaps you would even have an odd moment to contemplate a new home security system.

“People can read it as they travel to and from work, or binge it all at once,” she continues.

“Binging is unhealthy,” I mutter, too quietly, I fear. I wonder if they realize they are proving my hypothesis as they speak of fiction in gastronomical metaphor.

That would be too easy, I suppose. No rest for the wicked.

“Our hope is that eventually authors will embrace the format like you have, and just write for it.”

Dare I point out the premise of my work, yet again? I have tried with Laurie, but the intrepid entrepreneur sees only possibility.

“My life mirrors the format simply because it plays out in a series of events, linked by the central figures, but thoroughly lacking what could be construed as a cohesive plot.”

They chuckle, but Adrienne is still peering at my face, even as the first few rolls are brought to the table.

I cross my arms. “Forgive my stoic reception. I can see the utility of such an app in this technological age. I think my reservations stem from the fact that I collect antiquities — books, for example. The internet and its new language were sudden and confusing, and I am still adjusting. Trending, memes, friending, retweeting, LOLZ — it’s enough to make my head spin.”

“I see you on Twitter all the time! You’re great with social media,” Laurie persists, taking a piece from each roll.

“It has been very helpful. I can interact with people, learn from them, without having to explain myself. Everyone is anonymous there.”

“So you’re on board with the idea?”

“Yes. If anything, it will pull me further into the modern age. A monster does need to stay with the times, I think.”

She nods as if she always knew I’d see her brilliance. “We’re going to have to talk about how we want to market it. I’ll do a press release. Simon can put some entries up on his website, maybe some more recipes.”

“We’re working on banners and cover art.” Adrienne chews thoughtfully. “We really need a headshot of you.”

I blink. “No photography.”

Laurie clears her throat. “Simon doesn’t do pictures.”

“Why?”

I put a segment of spicy tuna in my mouth as an excuse to avoid the issue, but she is keen enough to wait until I have smashed the thing to a pulp with my tongue. “If you just told the world — and every alphabet agency in it — that you were an immortal, implicated in about two dozen deaths or disappearances per annum, and then gave out your recipes for same, would you want your face all over the internet?”

“Hmm. I see your point.”

She smirks. I sigh. She doesn’t believe it either. Like Laurie, she finds my precautions silly, if entertaining.

I’m telling you — one day you’re going to wake up and find that all frontal lobe activity has dwindled to a hum that reads rather like a celebrity Tumblr feed. I and mine will wander the earth like a scourge, gorging on the fattened calves and dimwitted offerings of your intellectual transgressions.

“Besides, it’d be pretty difficult to decide on which face to wear! I mean he’s a man now, but sometimes he’s a woman.” Laurie points at me with her chop sticks. “He has all these synthetic parts. Like that German guy on The Strain.”

The hiss is all I can manage.

Am I to always be plagued by Bram Stoker and his undead offspring? He should never have popularized the fiction of Romanian housewives. All that glitters is not vampires!

What is it they say these days?

Let me see: #thestruggleisreal.

She catches a look at my fixed expression and swallows her hamachi. “Sorry! Vampires. Right.”

“You won’t even take a selfie with me?”

My mouth falls open. “No!”

Adrienne’s blond head tilts as she grins. “But your face is fascinating.”

“I’m giving very serious thought to eating both of you.”

Laurie laughs. “Relax, Lector! If you eat us, we can’t do a sequel.”

I prop my elbow on the table and cradle my face in my hand. “How exactly does one sequel one’s life, Laurie?”

“Flashbacking?”

I return to my food — out of responsibility, I assure you. Discomfort and exasperation make me hungry. Bad things happen when I am hungry.

Tapas Media