As of today you can purchase all the Creature’s Cookbook series, which includes two novels (Let us be honest, the first book is the length of two novels) and a collection of short stories. They are available in every format.
It’s appropriate that these came today:
As I can now begin mailing out your prizes to you–those who won the Halloween challenges!
I hadn’t forgotten, but was merely waiting…
This is a post which was deleted from Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place. In chronological order, it should be first. Merely one of the many things that had to be trimmed to reign me in to a sensible word count.
“Which one of you did this?”
They exchange a look. I cannot tell which one of them is more contrite. I would say the larger of the two, but his tail is capable of sagging, and that does skew the perception somewhat. The other hangs his shaggy head and fans his gaze over my feet, up my legs, a battering at my face, but then fluttering to the concrete.
I narrow my eyes.
“Which one of you is responsible?”
Tongues appear. Then both back away from me in a sense of certain destruction as I tap my toe dusted in one-of-a-kind 19th century porcelain. Tiny, hand-painted Romanesque figures are stopped in their last dance around the maypole, ribbons fluttering in the dead breeze. The carefully procured set still in its box was the product of several decades of searching; worth a down payment on a house, or a brand new car, it lies in porous little shards.
“I will eat you,” I seethe.
Both of them cower. Back to the bar I chase them, until the dog hides in the kitchen and the monster climbs the barstools. His coloring book is open and his half-chewed crayons are scattered. In the poorly shaded image, I see the truth — young girls dancing in a circle, holding hands, their hair done up in ribbons. Several weeks ago I caught him looking in that box; and now he has done it again to disastrous effect. Just so that he could color it properly.
I count. When this fails, I divide. Giving up that for rage, I proceed immediately to factoring a polynomial. My x’s and y’s in a row, I lick my fangs and take deep breaths. Insurance. There was insurance on it. I can make a claim. I can photograph it. I can contact the adjustor immediately and make a claim. As I do this, the two assailants chew — the larger at his paws, the smaller at his crayons.
The evidence is emailed, and the adjustor contacted. I squat beside the pieces and shift them with my claws. Such a gorgeous set of six cups and saucers, pot, sugar dish, and creamer. Every tiny hair and feature captured with the precision of a laser, and here it lies, having gone the way of all flesh.
Some poor soul, sat at this thing with a brush in his hand. He wetted it with his own tongue, he peered into a magnifying glass. Some day, perhaps, he went blind from the staring by gas lamp. Perhaps this set, the trifle of some corseted trophy wife, sat on display in a drawing room. They survived wars, transatlantic voyages, fires! My kinsman, shattered on the floor.
Fred sniffs. “Fix.”
“It can’t be fixed, Fred. You can’t glue this back together and make it whole. It was beautiful because it had survived for so long. It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
He drops from the stool like a Chimpanzee and saunters cautiously to me. With that grace that is ours alone, he plucks pieces up and begins to arrange them on the ground, carefully setting the curved bits and flattened fragments of plate into lines. Occasionally, he lifts several bits and looks them over, then they are replaced in different order. Disconsolate, I watch his work, willing to allow him whatever liberties he likes, now that the beauty has been slain; it might as well be devoured. A living tableau of Death and the Maiden.
As the pastel shapes are spread out, like an unfolding map, I see it. A puzzle — it comes to life, and for a moment, I am stunned out of my grief.
The maypole has multiplied. Three stand in a row, and girls composed of disjointed shards dance in a swirling line around all of them. They do not match perfectly, but the image is clear.
He points at it, and nudges me with a grinning face. “Fix!”
With a sigh, I go to the back and fish out a piece of thin wood. It was to be used as a secondary tool shed, but this is a worthwhile cause, I think. Fetching some goops and glues, I sit beside him on the ground, and we two immortals, with our teeth and our claws, turn this broken pottery — the stuff of civilization — into a pretty mosaic. Grouted and frankly lovely, it sits on the metal table in my shop and dries.
A priceless relic that is utterly worthless.
And Fred climbs back onto his stool and colors his pretty little picture.
What are we, I wonder? Are we destructive in our hearts, or constructive in our thoughts? Do we create, or do we annihilate? Or is there a difference. Dancing round that maypole, praying for spring, dreading winter, but preparing for it. Running from shadows to light torches to beat them back. What are we?
When it has cured, I hang it on the wall in my bedroom, and stare at it. Chef straddles my hips, dangling his legs on either side of mine, his chin on my shoulder and his face pointed at our dread collage.
“It’s pretty. The colors go really well with the room.”
“I could have re-outfitted the entire Bistro.”
“Fuck me. It was insured, right?”
“Yes, but not at value. And that is not the point.”
“I know. You don’t like seeing things come apart. But you know, clay comes from somewhere. I don’t see you out crying over rocks eroding, or coal mines. Don’t see you out there sighing at the fucking coastline.”
And he is right. I care very little for the earth. I know why this is, in the secret heart of me. I know that I do not care for it because it is all circumstance. It is a pile of pieces that crashed into the ground and stuck, no order, no cleverness. As lovely and remarkable as the accident of organization, through evolution and trial and error, nothing is as gorgeous as that which comes from purpose and intent. Nothing is more stunning than a mind which turns something formless into something so dainty, molds mud into perfection.
“I can’t believe he saw that,” Chef whispers as he pulls his shirt over his head. “I saw that stupid thing a dozen times, and I never noticed that the figures overlapped like that.”
He points. “See? She was half there, and half on the cup. And that girl is half saucer, half pot. It’s like the image was a whole one that got cut and sculpted into the set.”
“A two-dimensional image folded into three dimensions.”
He flops backward and wraps his feet up around me. I set my hands atop them, and tap the soles.
And now I see this broken thing anew. Once it sat in parlors and watered the well-heeled. now it unfolds its mysteries and shows me what civility looks like when it is unbent by monstrous hands.
I find that I like it very much.
“I think…I will call it ‘Teatime’,” I say with cocked head. “I wonder if there’s a market for Monster Art.”
“Have you seen the Chihuly museum? Looks like a Dr. Seuss book. I half expect Who’s to wander out from them. How much do the sell for — those ceiling ones that look like he threw all his practice pieces up in the air and backlit them?”
“They’re organic masterpieces!”
“They look like a neon ocean floor on acid. Like some Disney shit.”
I grimace back at him as he rolls up in the bed like a burrito folding itself. The light from my brilliant red chandelier casts a rosy glow. I shake my head as I listen to him snore.
Tomorrow, if Fred returns, I will have him sign his piece. He knows his letters well enough now.
You may find Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place on the Tapas app.
When I began this series of website entries, it was to demonstrate something of a “unified field theory” of monstrosity, if you will. My reasoning was simple: I am a monster, and if there were other species of hideous man-eaters shuffling over the earth, I would have seen them. For the sake of this experiment, it falls to me to demonstrate that your own mythology, as varied and complex as it is, supports my hypothesis. No monster does better in this capacity than the Boogeyman, and so, in the spirit of this Halloween season, and in celebration of the arrival of my second book, I have decided to pursue that infamous figure shrouded in darkness. My mission takes me from the rooftops to the bowels of the earth.
The Boogeyman is largely undefinable with androgynous leanings and an amorphous appearance, but notable for several key commonalities: he is ubiquitous, terrifying, and born of the shadows. In almost every culture, every country, there is a boogeyman. Spiralling away from Europe into Russia and south to Africa, these divergent stories diverge hardly at all — even their names are closely related linguistically. Variously described as dark, clothed in black, able to blend into the night seamlessly, this monster has one purpose: to torment children.
All the world over, you may goad your little ones with the horrors that could befall them for not eating their vegetables, but you also bless them to protect from such hazards.
There were cases of children vanishing. There were instances of abduction. Long before there were understandings of psychology or criminal analysis, these things were attributed to monsters. And every parent knew that the monster must be invisible to have gotten past their protections.
Every child knows that the monster will find them no matter where they cower and there is no blanket on the planet thick enough to protect them. Sometimes lurking beneath the bed, in the recesses of a closet, or in the corners of rooms by night, this devil invades their dreams. He is just waiting for a moment to gobble them up or spirit them away. The poor dears, heads full of nightmares, go to their beds certain that they have reached the end of their lives.
I think you can see why descriptions of the Boogeyman are never precise. The fear is less tangible now, but in the days of my first memories, death was everywhere, and most children did not live into puberty. The Boogeyman only takes the wicked children, but it is the wicked ones who are most likely to wilfully disregard their parents, or run away into the night to be overcome by the elements or some other horrible calamity. And as you know from reading my short stories, there absolutely were child-predators. The threat was mind-numbingly real, and thus, extremely effective.
But was it all a perfect storm of imagination? Was there ever a real Boogeyman to whom the first instances can be attributed, or is this merely the product of the universality of bad parenting, unseen criminal mischief, and the fear of chaotic reality?
I think not.
In a data set packed with noises beneath beds, knocking on walls, disembodied shadows that shift ominously — all easily explained by heightened awareness and fear — there are a few encounters that speak to me, and some of them come from you, my gentle readers.
Once in a great while, you find a child staring out a window at the man with the sharp smile in their favourite tree. Once in a while, there is the hooded figure on the rooftop next door, looking in as if waiting for something. Once in a great while, a child is saved from drowning by a dark hand. Once in a while, the forest herds a lost little one from its treacherous grasp. Once in a while, the monster with whom they live, turns up dead of a broken neck. Once in a while, the man tracking them vanishes into an orchard and is never seen again.
Once in a great while.
We are dangerous. We are killers, each of us unique. I have never willingly harmed a child outside of war, but I have eaten them. I have my ethics, my feelings, but they are mine alone. I am certain that many of my brethren have spirited your babies away. I am sure that there are many shadowy figures who wait to hear that some little one is nothing but a pain. Perhaps they are salivating in the wings, all too happy to make the baseless threat a reality.
Once in a while, however, a wild child is found.
In the twelfth century, only a few decades after the Norman Conquest of Britain, in the town of Woolpit, two children turned up in a field. They spoke a language no one had ever heard, and were entirely green from head to toe. The young boy was reportedly sickly and died, but the girl acquired English and told her benefactor of a land of eternal twilight. Called St. Martin’s land, its inhabitants were all a fine shade of green. According to this young lady, she and her brother were tending to a flock of animals, when they found a cave and wandered toward the sounds of bells, as if traversing a corridor between worlds.
The accounts that survive are extremely suspect for their vagueness, and modern historians would love to say that whether or not the events actually happened is irrelevant. Some discount it altogether as nothing but folklore, but yet again, they base this assumption only upon the few references to survive the ravages of time. Others believe it must have happened, and that the twilight realm was merely a larger cave, and they wandered out into the sun.
Before you ask, I cannot tell you if these events actually transpired, as this was before my time in England; Indeed it is before the time I remember as my awakening. I can tell you, however, that the story was extremely well-known in my day, and most everyone believed the siblings had been stolen from their beds by a vindictive witch, the fairies, or our friend, the Boogeyman. Compare the tale to Hansel and Gretel, first transcribed by the Brothers Grimm, but predating them. The abandoned little siblings fed a terrible diet of sweets by their cannibalistic captor, kept in the woods until the time was right to make a tasty pie. Everyone knew the Babes in the Wood, and everyone knew that they were lucky to escape.
The girl supposedly lived a normal life above ground, and she never exhibited any magical talents. She married well and was employed. She seemingly never tried to rediscover her colony of green people. And the green people never came looking for their lost children. If it is folklore, I fail to see the point. It could be the delusions of sickly children, but there are entirely too many details for which there is no account. I find it more likely, as odd as it sounds, that it did happen and that there is an explanation for a cloister of people living underground, suffering from chlorosis.
Anyone who has studied feral children knows that they, by definition, lack language. Yet these two spoke a tongue no one, not even their gentleman host, knew— and in those days, England was a cesspit of languages; Anglo-Saxon, Flemish, Briton, Gaelic, Dutch, Norman French. Someone had to have taught them this language. In an era when traveling was fraught with dangers and very expensive, it is doubtful that their ancestors migrated from a prohibitively distant foreign land to start a colony in a subterranean vault.
It is difficult to imagine what sort of person keeps animals in a cave, herds sheep underground. It must needs be someone who never wants to be seen, but eats meat by the pound.
And then again, there is the name of their idyllic sanctuary: St. Martin’s Land. Saint Martin of Tours is the patron saint of alcoholics. If the savage children had no knowledge of faith or English, I wonder how they know to call it that.
There are many explanations for these events, no doubt. It could be a simple story carrying on the ancient trope of the mystical “other” who reveals itself to align with the tainted world of man. It could be that there was a kindly hermit hoarding orphans who had nowhere else to go. It could be that the Boogeyman meant to gobble them up, and had himself quite the collection.
Hell, it could be all three.
Or it could be something else entirely. What that is, I leave to you. Is the Boogeyman real? Who took all the lost children? What peeks out from the treetops as you sleep? Why is it, over all the world, the creature is the same? Is he bad, good, or just terribly complicated?
You know from reading my book, gentle reader, that I often discuss history — and in, quite possibly, and unexpected way — from the standpoint of someone who not only lived through it, but continues to find it fascinating. Humans tend to think of history as something that no longer has any function except as a standard, but that is not how I see it. I have a much more metaphysical perspective.
Let us craft a metaphor: I assume you know about gravity and the rules that govern the tug between very large objects, the complex and inextricable patterns that weave when many such bodies interact — for example, the solar system. These planets tug at one another, like dancers with hands clasped. History is not dead. It is not something that ceases to matter, no matter how long ago it transpired. History is, in fact, a large orb, ever-increasing in volume, dwarfing the tiny instantaneous present, rolling over the possible future. Everything you do swivels around that massive sun, though you perhaps, do not recognize it.
I do, but that is not because of any innate superiority. I merely have the benefit of perfect hindsight.
Given this, I have noticed something over the last, oh…perhaps three hundred years or so. It began with exploration— not the sort you did in the 1200’s for the sake of trade, but the sort done with science, immediately after the great enlightenment. Men began to wander around, picking up rocks and dusting them off. Men began to hypothesize incredibly simple (and therefore obviously true) things like evolution. Men began to wonder whence they came, and how long ago.
Their efforts, however, were greatly hampered, by the slow momentum of technology and one other thing — the mysterious vanishing of knowledge.
This is when I saw it: the eerie emotional state that slowly, creeping along like a fog, overtook the human mind. Psychology began to shift, and the focus of horror and revulsion became, not “the other”, but “the other within”. There is a profound gap in your mind. I compare it to walking into a room, and forgetting why you have gone. Standing around, looking at the place, wondering what it was you meant to do — Douglas Adams coined the term “woking” for this, and it is a lovely phrase I intend to utilize. So, deep in the subconscious dungeons of the human mind, a lost soul is woking…wondering what in the hell happened before the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria, wondering what was lost with war and the Dark Ages, wondering just when humanity began to be “human”, wondering if everything it knows…
You maintain many misconceptions about antiquity. You look back upon tiny tablets and instruments you uncover and propose frankly insulting notions. For example: you look at the pyramids and an increasing number of you shrug and say, “Well, they could not possibly have done that, and so they must have had help from aliens.”
Superior beings from interminable distances away, came to this rock in craft we know not how to classify, and decided to cut up massive rocks and arrange them in clever stacks. Of course. How could I be so stupid to suppose that in fact, it is highly likely that there is a vast lack of information and that humans probably did it themselves. It is probably impossible that they moved these monoliths by encasing their ends in wooden wheels, thus turning the entire stone into an axel, and then slowly, via ropes, leverage, and sheer focus, rolled the things into place as was done in my lifetime. I suppose it is improbable that the evidence of canal and diamond saw usage found recently in the Valley of the Kings is ridiculous — I mean, they’d only been mining diamonds for… what? Ever.
Yes, this is all rhetorical sarcasm.
You have mysteries behind you, and I suppose it is not unreasonable that you will fill in those blanks with whatever thing seems to pack the space best — aliens can do anything (because they are imaginary in this context) and so they explain everything quite nicely. Until there are contradictions, until no one can agree with which aliens, how, when, and for what purpose. Rather like you did with gods, demons, and yes, my species, you can now use aliens to self-medicate your psychological defect.
But why are we discussing this?
Because I know, and have always known, that there is a disparity in the timeline of man. Nearsided men who look backward imperfectly always speak with such absolute certainty, whether or not it is warranted. They declare that civilized man is only 10,000 years old.
I defy them.
When they find things they cannot explain, like copper-lined clay jars that hold a modest charge when filled with vinegar, they shrug. When they unearth — or in this case pull from the deep — something like the Antikythera Mechanism, they make faces and say “I didn’t know men could do that! They must not have been common, the product of one single genius who died in obscurity, because we have only found one, you see.” When they look at the Roman aqueducts, their holding tanks that use properties of physics to move water uphill, their lines so straight that they deviate over vast distances by less than an inch, they often are awed.
They should not be awed. I tell you there is an enormous pocket of information folded into your blood, that no one will ever open. It is lost. But every now and again, men discover tiny hints, develop new ways of looking. First it was genetics, and you discovered that there were many races mingled together, that your entire race was actually composed of a multitude. This is marvelous enough, especially when it can be used to track your migration across the world.
Now that you know how to seek, you find.
Simon, you say, please come to the point. Why are we enduring this drawn out discourse upon the idea that already makes us cringe?
Something happened recently, and I find it fascinating. That is why.
It was recently discovered that Neanderthal, that long lost, red-headed, step-cousin of current man, built some of the oldest structures ever found, the earliest of any hominid. And they did it underground. Deep in Bruniquel cave in France, about 300 meters from the entrance, these “primitives” shaped and arranged natural mineral stalactites into little rooms. You are not the first masons. You are their descendants.
Homo sapiens is not the dawn of civilization, a race of superior entities that resulted when the best of nature got together and “humped”. In fact, the more you look, the more you find that it is more likely that these groups of hominids had very evolved and complicated ways of existing, ways that may have been passed to you. Ways that perhaps, even now, tug at you. It is possible that the desire to build is not yours, but belongs instead, to your Neanderthal lineage. And maybe buried in sands deeper than those which surround Ur, there are other Berbebez, Gobekli Tepe, or Bimini Roads.
It is not aliens, unless you consider those ancient parts of your firmament to be wholly alien to you. I advise you to look into that dark mirror. I advise you to embrace these shadows of your ancestry, and smile.
There are pieces missing, and I know that they pull at you in nearly imperceptible ways, but this unquantifiable force is dangerous. It gives rise to the most heinous of fictions.
These fictions are what bury humanity, better than any desert or jungle.