Tag Archives: horror

Medical Microfiction: Pogonotrophy II

The Mo-Keepers

In the weeks following the conquest, politeness meant averting one’s eyes as we adapted to the new status quo. Tacitly we agreed to carry on with our iPhones and cappuccinos like we weren’t all infested with parasitic hair.

The luckiest acquired one parasite only, affixed above the lip according to custom. More commonly, two or three dotted one’s face.

But for others, it’s hellish. Yesterday, I passed a man writhing in a ditch, positively lousy with the things. Despite his swatting and shrieking, they skittered along his flesh until nothing showed but moustaches.

I averted my eyes and hurried past.

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Français : Général Emiliano Zapata - 1914 lice...
Why does this guy look so unhappy? It’s because the moustache is calling the shots! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you catch Pogonotrophy Part 1 a few weeks ago? Today’s piece comes from the same series that some friends and I have been writing on the Drabblecast forums under the heading of The Moustache Mythos. Eventually we plan to record the whole run and release them as a mini-podcast series, hopefully in time to commemorate Movember.

Today’s story gives a bird’s-eye view of what the world is like after the invasion of alien moustaches intent on world domination. I came up with the concept while thinking about Wookiees from Star Wars, and deciding it would be hilarious and a little disturbing if they got that way because they were colonized by evil moustaches.

The title “The Mo-Keepers” is an homage to Drabblecast episode # 39 – The Beekeepers, which is also about an invasive alien species. While I didn’t have this story in mind while writing today’s piece, after the fact I noticed the resemblance and decided to pay my tribute.

I realize my posts have been spotty this month. I much appreciate you guys bearing with me as I struggle to keep pace with school and work. This has been compounded by some other good news on the family side of things – my mother-in-law recently got a kidney transplant after spending years on the waiting list, which meant an emergency (and happy) day trip up to Atlanta to see her at the hospital.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods right now? What have you been writing about on your blogs? If you leave me a link in the comments, I promise to check it out during my study breaks!

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Medical Microfiction: Terminologia Anatomica

Dr. Howell tapped twice on a white band of ligament, directing his students’ attention to the cadaver’s belly. “The abdominal aponeurosis. Covers the rectus abdominis and compresses the viscera.”

Pencils scribbled. Heads bobbed.

“Moving on… Larry, switch to a deep view, please.”

“Sure thing, Doc!” With both hands the cadaver wrenched back another layer of muscle, exposing his innards.

“Note the positions of the internal viscera,” Dr. Howell continued. “The large intestine is especially good eating on a live human. People make a big deal out of the brains, but I say go straight for the guts. Less competition.’

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Steaks on a grill
Your organs from a zombie’s perspective.

I think lots of people could benefit from learning more about human anatomy – I’m writing this blog, after all! – but no one could benefit more than our friends the zombies. I mean, if you’re going to spend your days hunting down tasty, tasty humans, you could save yourself a lot of time and effort on the eating if you know how to bypass that pesky ribcage to get to the tasty bits within.

Terminologia Anatomica, which literally means “Anatomical Terminology,” is the book that sets the international standards for medical terminology. It’s where many of the definitions on this blog came from. This illustrious volume was published in 1998, and has allowed countless students, medical professionals, and amateur writers to confuse the general public when we say things like, “Serratus anterior’s assisting the external intercostals in respiration by forcing air through the larynx and causing the vocal folds to oscillate, producing phonation.”

Yeah. We talk real good.

Happy Friday, wherever and whenever this finds you! It’s been a good week here in the Jones household, as my mother-in-law received a long-awaited kidney transplant just two days ago and is recovering nicely. Organ donation saves lives, folks, and if you’re not already a donor, I’d encourage you to join up.

Otherwise, the zombies’ll get you.

Motley Microfiction: Organic Groceries

Mold everywhere. Mold on the Monterey Jack. On the leftover General Tso.  Mold dissolving that lone Granny Smith in the crisper into putrid rot. And then the most painful loss: all that free-range bacon, forever consigned to the blue-green arms of the selfsame thief who’d stolen the rest of Mark’s supper.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him of his folly. He should’ve picked up groceries last week, but there’d been cleaning to do, and that bother with the police… well, best not to dwell on past mistakes. Mark grabbed his chloroform, machete, and cloth bags and set out for Whole Foods.

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Apples (Granny Smith variety pictured) are amo...
Granny Smith, but not THIS kind… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s late here, but I’m feeling the urge to get a story out for you to cap off your weekend or jump start your Monday. Sorry for the spotty posting schedule over the last couple of weeks. I’m still finding my feet with classes and homework this semester, and now I’ve landed a research assistant position (yay!) which means even less free time for me to do the things I love (boo!).

I’ve been writing in the meantime, and storing up quite a few stories that I can’t wait to share with you! My problem is making time to write up a thoughtful, researched post to go with each story, especially for the medical-themed ones. I absolutely detest the spread of misinformation, and I’m committed to making sure my scientific posts are as accurate as possible so that you don’t ever lose Jeopardy! because of me someday.

Say hi to Alex Trebek for me why you’re at it!

Today’s post is about a man with a well-rounded diet. He eats humans of all varieties! I had fun with the wordplay – thinking up foods that have people names that he would have stored in the fridge. Did I have you going for a minute there? 😉

How was your weekend, friends? What’s been going on in your neck of the woods while I’ve been glued to the textbooks?

Friday Fictioneers: A Branch Too Far

It began with a nest of sparrows in the oak overhanging the driveway.

Phil, annoyed at scraping bird poo off his Porsche each morning, sawed off that hospitable branch and laughed at the frantic chirping as he fed the whole thing into the woodchipper.

After that, the oak turned downright hateful. Halloween-like, it scraped fingers on his bedroom wall at night and, with one well-placed branch, punched a hole through the bay window.

The neighbors spotted him scaling the trunk the next morning with a chainsaw. Minutes later, it all came down – oak, Phil, and chainsaw – right on the Porsche.

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This story was written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’s weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction event. The challenge is to write a 100-word story using a photo prompt. As always, I welcome comments and constructive feedback and love browsing the other entries as well!

Copyright: Roger Bultot

Medical Microfiction: Coremorphosis

Apt Pupil

“Mommy, the doll in my eye hurts me.” Cora rubbed her tearful eye.

Amanda knelt and examined the little girl. “What do you mean, sweetie? You don’t have a doll in your eye.”

“Yes I do. You have one, too. Everyone does.”

Amanda opened her makeup compact and gazed at her pupils. Her reflection in miniature stared back. “Don’t worry, Cora. It’s just your reflection”

But the child rubbed her eye. “It’s hurting me!”

Amanda checked again. In Cora’s left eye, a dark figure oozed from the pupil. It seized the miniature Amanda and held a knife to her throat.

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English: Kewpie doll.
It’s cute until you get one in your eye. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coremorphosis is the surgical formation of a second pupil in the eye. The Greek root for “pupil” is core-, which means “doll” or “girl”. The ancient Romans applied this word to the eye because they thought the little reflection you see when you look in another person’s eye resembled a tiny doll.

Incidentally, the name “Cora” comes from the same root.

So this is a story about a natural doll and an artificial one. Cora’s eye contains a double image: the true reflection of her mother, and an unnatural figure whose intentions must surely be bad. I for one don’t trust any reflections in my eye that don’t belong there!

Ever wonder what causes red-eye in your photographs? It’s your pupil’s fault .The pupil of the eye is actually an absence. It is the hole in your iris that allows light to enter, which through an astonishing process gets converted into nervous impulses that your brain translates as sight.

English: Glaring Red Eye
Red Eye, or vampire? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to think the pupil was an actual object that made up your eye. After all, it’s solid black! In reality, its dark appearance results from the fact that all the light entering it has been absorbed or reflected inside the eyeball itself. Red-eye happens when a sudden flash of light bounces off the back of your eyes too quickly to be absorbed. The camera captures the color of your blood coursing through the choroid behind your retina.

There are some conditions that will make your pupil change color. Leukocoria gives the pupil a whitish appearance, sort of like an animal’s eyes in the dark. Leukocoria is usually a symptom that something is malfunctioning in your eyes, so if you notice this symptom, make sure to get it checked by a doctor.

Happy Friday, everyone! What was your best accomplishment this week? What’re you looking forward to this weekend?

Motley Microfiction: A Saucy Puppet Show

Hugh Harker, that promising young thespian, met a tragic end last week. Something involving a squirt gun filled with cognac, I believe. He’d been about to fulfill his lifelong dream of starring in the titular role of Broadway’s newest musical, Don Juan.

It was his last wish that the show go on. We, his dearest friends, promised to make it happen.

No one wanted to star alongside a cadaver, though. No problemo! We cast puppets in all the roles, slapped some strings on Hugh, and no one knew the difference. The critics raved, and now it’s sold out through March.

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Bender Bending Rodríguez

Did you catch all those Futurama references? This is what would happen if you made friends with Bender. It’s all squirt guns and cognac until someone ends up in a saucy puppet show.

Today’s story is about fulfilling all your dreams, one way or another. Remember the story of the Monkey’s Paw? Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it, but not in the way that you expect. Maybe you just wanted to star on Broadway, but your friends took it to the next level and made sure you got your wish even in death.

Hopefully that’s not too grim for a Monday morning!

Anyway, Homer Simpson really knew how to do the Monkey’s Paw thing. Be specific, folks, and keep your wishes sandwich-related, and you’re probably in the clear.

This story goes out to a dear friend of mine as his belated birthday present. May you enjoy many more years of cognac-filled water guns. And don’t worry: this present doesn’t come with any strings attached! *rimshot*

Medical Microfiction: Phytogenous

Texas Lawnmower Grassacre

The phytologometer, which allowed humans to understand the speech of plants, quickly revolutionized the world. First we learned that sunflowers had been asking for aloe, thanks to severe sunburn. Aloe also wanted aloe, but for “adult” reasons. Grapefruit, that surly bastard, had been telling us to piss off for years, although you don’t need a phytologometer to get the message.

Grass, it turns out, doesn’t take being mown and trampled on so lightly. It got its revenge last month, when the clippings in our lawnmowers turned the blades on us.

We’re still collecting the limbs of all the dead golfers.

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Grand Cayman Golf
Watch the grass beneath your feet! (Photo credit: Fevi in Pictures)

Today’s word is not phytologometer. That’s just a word I coined from its roots: plant (phyt-), speech(log-), measurement device(-meter). Greek and Latin are the Build-a-Bears of the medical world.

Phytogenous refers to anything having a plant origin. For example, it could refer to coal created from dead plant matter, or to a cotton t-shirt. In medical terminology, phytogenous probably refers to a disease or condition caused by plants. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter poison ivy, you had a phytogenous rash.

In today’s story, revenge is the phytogenous product. I imagine grass doesn’t take that well to its treatment, even if human tastes and preferences actually expand the reach of grass to areas it would never thrive naturally.

Which brings up an interesting question: why, exactly, do we surround our houses with well-kept lawns? What’s so special about this one plant that it dominates our aesthetic?

The history of lawns is a bit of a sad one. In the United States, native grass species were purposefully overrun by European varieties preferred by the incoming colonists. Did you know that the famous Kentucky Bluegrass comes from Europe? What false advertizing.

Additionally, the lawn aesthetic has some racial and class-based connotations. For many decades, having a properly groomed lawn was associated with social order, morality, and traditional values. It indicated the health and masculinity of the dude living there, and showed he knew how to control his property. Obviously this excluded anyone without the means to own property or pay for the upkeep of vast swaths of green. Well-maintained grass was a visual calling-card, a secret handshake indicating you were rich enough and white enough to matter.

Lawn
Uncut grass: does it look immoral to you? (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

To this day, there’s still some association between lawn care and morality. We sometimes look down on neighbors who let their lawns run wild, even though the plants are just doing what healthy plants do. Homeowner’s associations usually require residents of their neighborhoods to maintain grass lawns. Whenever someone gets creative and decides to, say, use artificial grass, the busybodies come out to reassert the social order.

And then there’s golf courses. Now don’t get me wrong: golf is a wonderful sport, and like with all sports, better than the behavior of its worst fans. But the sight of a golf course invokes the thought of country clubs, which at their worst, still preserve the race/class association of a lawn. Their membership fees and dress codes smack of class-based exclusion and carry the implicit message that money equals character. I’m also reminded of incidents like the Augusta National Golf Club’s infamous resistance toward letting women golf on the course, despite it being the home of the Masters.

It’s a good thing the grass hasn’t revolted against its oppressors. Yet.

What’s your opinion on lawns? What would be a better and more imaginative way to decorate our yards?

Medical Microfiction: Anonychia

The Shadow Over Ian’s Mouth

You know that dream where you lose all your teeth?

For me, it’s a recurring dream. I had it last night, in fact.

I was treading water in the ocean completely naked, and something brushed past my toes. A boneless, clammy thing. It was waiting for me to sink. It wanted something from me.

I floundered; I couldn’t breathe. I opened my mouth and inhaled water. Then it extended slimy appendages down my throat and yanked out my teeth.

When I awoke from the dream, I immediately felt around inside my mouth.

That’s when I realized I had no nails.

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holding tooth #2
Losing your teeth? Better check your nails, too.

Anonychia is a condition where you’re born without nails on your hands and/or feet. In this  story, a Lovecraftian horror from Ian’s dreams is the cause of his anonychia. It’s a classic bait-and-switch: he thought it wanted his teeth, but really it was after his nails.

The title is a really bad pun on a classic H. P. Lovecraft story, The Shadow over Innsmouth. If you haven’t read it (and really, you should!), it involves a race of half-human, half-amphibian monsters called the Deep Ones. I like to think that the thing in my story might be one of these nasty fellows, but who’s to say for sure?

On the subject of dreaming, I don’t really have recurring dreams. I do dream about zombies at least once a month, but it’s a different dream each time. I’ve been told that dreams about losing your teeth are somewhat common, but I’ve never had one. Maybe we have such good dental care nowadays that this once-common nightmare is going the way of the dinosaurs.

That is, it’s slowly turning into birds.

Do you ever have recurring dreams? Have you ever dreamed about losing your teeth, or your nails, for that matter?

Medical Microfiction: Encephalic

Fireflies

Lights on.

I awake remembering the fireflies.

Brief consciousness. It’s probing my memories again.

I would scream, but I no longer have lungs. Or a face.

I remember everything now. Fireflies on the lawn of the graveyard. Then it broke from the mausoleum: a horror in flesh, studded with the mismatched limbs of the dead. They were still moving. As it groped for me, I glimpsed the inside of its putrid flank: rows of human brains embedded in rot.

Now it wakes me only when I’m needed. Another node in its processor.

I remember fireflies flaring and fading.

Lights off.

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neuron fractal 4
Neuron fractal. (Photo credit: Anthony Mattox)

Last time we talked about disembodied organs, I gave you a few suggestions on what to do you if you ever get to hang out with your liver. Today’s word encephalic means pertaining to the brain (not to be confused with myeloencephalic). Etymologically, it’s a nifty word because “en” means “inside” and “cephal” means “head”. To the ancient Greeks, the brain was “that thing inside your head”.

Well, I’m not one to argue with the ancient Greeks!

This story’s my attempt to write H.P. Lovecraft-style horror in 100 words. The problem is that Lovecraft never said anything in 100 words or less. As a writer, he’s known for his dense, descriptive writing style designed to evoke the feeling of terror.

Since the brain’s the name of the game today, I chose the central image of fireflies to suggest how an electrical signal brings a neuron in the brain to life. I’ll spare you the complex description of how neurons fire–at least for today–and anyway, it’s best done in person, with a pen and napkin and lots of hand-waving. We often talk about the brain using analogies about “wiring” because, at least to some degree, this is how neurons work. When a certain level of voltage is created in a neuron (called an action potential), the neuron “fires” and sends a signal down its long axon, or tail, which can have a lot of different effects depending on the type of neuron.

Human brain - midsagittal cut
Human brain – midsagittal cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this case, the poor narrator’s brain is being used by the monster of horror as a processor of sorts. Whenever an electrical impulse enters the now-disembodied brain, the poor guy becomes briefly conscious, just long enough to remember how he got there, before the monster switches him off again.

Fortunately, none of us will ever have to face such a fate. …I think.

Any other Lovecraft fans out there? What’s your favorite horror story or author?

Medical Microfiction: Cyesis

Bearing Gifts

When Martin stopped to help a stranded stranger, he expected nothing in return. The stranger, a Hopi musician, had blown a tire en route to a wedding at the local reservation.

“Look, I don’t normally do this,” said the musician, “but please accept this wedding gift as a thank-you. I can get the happy couple another one later.” The stranger’s eyes glittered as he passed Martin a little gift box.

At home, Martin unwrapped the gift: a positive pregnancy test. An attached note read, “From Kokopelli, Trickster, God of Childbirth.”

Real funny, thought Martin. But then the morning sickness started.

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Kokopelli quilt, made by my grandmother.
Kokopelli quilt, made by my grandmother.

Poor Martin. He’s experiencing what no man should go through: cyesis, a fancy word for pregnancy. If you’re like me, you might be wondering whether men could ever get pregnant or gestate, if we had the right technology.

While rare, there are some examples of male pregnancy in nature. Most notable is the male seahorse, which gestates its young in a brood pouch after the female lays its eggs.

Ever wonder why men have nipples? I love this question, because it gives me an excuse to share one of my favorite science videos:

Genetically, women are XX and men are XY. That means we all have at least one copy of the X chromosome. For you gamers, think of the X chromosome like the original version of a video game. Everyone installs the basic version and plays it first. The Y chromosome is like an expansion pack or mod on that original game. It gets added on later and changes some of the features of the original game. But since we all start off as female, men retain features of the female body plan. Thus, nipples.

Junior (film)
Cyesis, Gubernator-style! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But men don’t get a uterus. This is where hypothetical male pregnancy gets interesting. You see, for years I’ve assumed that having a uterus is what allows women to be pregnant. I was wrong. Having a uterus just lets women do so safely.

The phenomenon of ectopic pregnancy is well-documented in women, which is anytime an embryo attaches to an area outside the uterus (Look Ma, no uterus!). Usually it’s in a Fallopian tube, but in very rare cases, an embryo can even attach itself somewhere in the abdominal cavity! Interestingly enough, there’s no physiological reason the same couldn’t happen in the male abdominal cavity. The problem is that it would be unbelievably dangerous to man and fetus alike. Without a uterus to act as a holding cell, that fetus has free access to the rest of your internal organs.

That’s bad. That’s very bad.

So next time you accept gifts from Kokopelli, make sure he throws in a complimentary uterus in the bargain.

Male pregnancy reminds me that Father’s Day is coming up! Tell me about your plans in the comments section. Remember to treat Dad right, especially since he brought you into this world at great cost to his internal organs!