Friday, June 22, 2018

Corpse Colonies

Bone-white ants chew tunnels through the corpse. Others chew apart nearby leaves and bring them in an procession to the empty stomach, where others chew those leaves into mulch for fungi and more still chew that fungi into layers of pale-grey plaster that smother rot. In the smallest chamber of what used to be a heart, a pale queen lays row after row of glistening eggs. The colony is expanding, slowly, but utterly surely.

Soon the colony will reach maturity, and the corpse will rise.

Wants: To reproduce. Carrion colonies wander aimlessly, searching for corpses, or living things they can turn into corpses. They will try to kill anything they come across to make new homes fit for juvenile queens.

Needs: To eat. A constant supply of fungal plaster is required to prevent their corpse-colony from rotting, and a constant supply of vegetable matter is require to grow the fungus. Corpse colonies can be tracked by the trail of mutilated vegetation they leave behind.

Morale: Ant colonies do not give up. If enough damage is done to an inhabited corpse, they will abandon it, the entire colony will swarm, hoping to pull victory from the jaws of defeat by turning their attacker into a new home.

What happens if you eat this monster: Preserved behind layers of fungal plaster, the corpse in which the ant colony lives dries, but is kept soft but movement. It can be eaten like jerky. The ants themselves are also edible, as are their eggs, although both are quite bitter.

What can be crafted out of this monster's body: The fungal plaster the ants use to prevent their home from rotting is a very effective antiseptic, and serves as the base for many healing unguents,

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Purity of Form

We had heard rumors about the place for years, and obviously dismissed them. When a surveyor actually found it and brought back pictures, we assumed he was playing a prank on us. But someone upstairs took him seriously and sent a science team, and they brought back samples. Now there was a new laboratory somewhere in the mountains.

Our little outpost was the connection between that lab and the outside world, and we were all trying to get a peek at the hermetically sealed containers that were being shipped out. Security staff weren't privy to anything that was going on. But six months later, I was rotated into duty at the laboratory, to escort scientists as they run their tests.

As you crest the ridge and enter the valley, the first thing you notice is that it is filled with beige trees with white leaves. The trees have bark made of keratin, making them uncannily smooth. The leaves of the trees are pale white and tend to droop. They are made of skin, albino skin, the better to absorb light. In spring some grow "flowers" made of fine eyelashes.

Squirrels climb with small hands and chatter with almost-voices. Sheep walk on their knuckles and grow thick coats of coarse human hair. There are no birds, but bats are everywhere, hanging from trees with wings like emaciated hands. Even snakes have scales like tiny fingernails. Every animal has human eyes.

During summer the smell of human sweat is inescapable. Even in the laboratory it seems to cling to everything. Only in our hermetically sealed hazmat suits are we spared.

I'm showing Jones how to put on his suit, making adjustments every time he does it wrong, which is every time. My job is to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid in the valley, which is usually easy. New guys usually just follow along in grossed out daze.

When we're over the ridge and begin descending, picking our way past thorny, bone-like shrubs and into the treeline, he begins breaking the unwritten rule for security staff and starts pestering the scientists. Luckily, Dr. Vasquez is willing to indulge his curiosity.

"There aren't any normal plants and animals at all?" asks Jones.

"None. Even the microorganisms seems to be descended from inhabitants of the human gut. Normal plants can't sprout here, and normal animals die of allergic reactions." says Dr. Vasquez.

"Why?

"Its called allelopathy. These organisms all produce a protein that kills all non-human forms of life."

"That's why we have to wear these suits?"

"To protect us from allergens, yes. But also to protect the valley. We are genetically similar enough that diseases could spread from us to them."

We hear the sound of gagging and turned. Jones has taken off his facemask.

"It smells like sweat!"

"PUT YOUR MASK BACK ON!" I bellow, running.

Jones can't stop gagging, his throat is closing up. I wrestle his facemask on and open up the oxygen valve, but he is already slumping to the ground. Dr. Vasquez checks his vitals. Jones is unconscious, but not dead. He'll probably survive if we can get him back to the laboratory, but that means hauling him out of the woods, up the slopes, and back over the ridge, and we'll have to do it as fast as possible.

I hoist Jones on to my back, and, as I turn to Dr. Vasquez, I catch something out of the corner of my eye.

The first thing I saw was the eyes, and I think, for a moment, that they were a man's eyes. I almost call out to him, when I see the face. The body is shaped like a big cat, but it has the hairless skin of a human. Human eyes, wolf face, human skin, tiger body. It paces towards us carefully and confidently. We run, and somewhere along the way I drop Jones.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Seedware.pdf

I have spent a couple of months slowly giving the yearblog entries some much needed editing. Now that that has been done, I have compiled a new pdf with the edited entries.

You can view and/or download it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Defense of Irkutsk

The last monster of summer had shoved its way through thin arctic ice, and begun its journey south. The hole in the ice had frozen-over before being spotted, and the tracks covered by wind-blown snow. The thing had wandered in its fugue of hunger and adrenaline for weeks before being spotted and called in by a militia outpost, already much too far south for comfort. The hunter-killer Hind squadrons were unavailable, protecting Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Valdivostok, or else receiving necessary maintenance, and so militia groups were hastily mobilized and assigned military officers.

Five tanks along a ridge. All had their hatches open with men standing in them. Most manning DShK heavy machine guns, but two have binoculars. Mist blankets the land.

The lieutenant had been gazing through his binoculars since dawn, as had the militia sergeant. The lieutenant was restless, occasionally taking his focus off of his binoculars to take in the landscape, or glancing at the sergeant. The sergeant was diligently scanning the fog, making a point of paying the lieutenant no mind.

"Silhouette, twelve o'clock" said the lieutenant .

"SILHOUETTE, TWELVE O'CLOCK" screamed the sergeant. The lieutenant winced in spite of himself, and the five tanks pointed their guns north. The lieutenant and the sergeant both focused on the shape in the mist.

The mist cleared briefly and revealed a tree.

The sergeants face remained carefully neutral. The lieutenant and the sergeant returned to scanning the landscape.

"Movement, eleven o'clock."

"MOVEMENT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK!"

The guns of the five tanks shifted left.

The fog shifted in the morning breeze. Nothing moved. The sergeant began to smirk. Then there came an echoing call, halfway between a scream and a trumpet, and the monster came charging at them.

"FIRE!" screamed both the lieutenant and the sergeant, and the call of the creature was met by the crack of the guns. The shells hit around the creature, some traveling too far, some coming up short. Shrapnel tore into its legs and belly and it began to bleed, but it continued its charge.

"FIRE!" the officers screamed again. This time the guns were loaded with APFSDS rounds, tungsten darts designed to pierce armor. They zipped through the creature as though nothing were there. It stumbled, and struggled to get up.

The lieutenant waved the line of tanks forward, and signaled the machineguns to open fire. The combined sound of five heavy machine guns is felt as much as heard. Fifty heavy bullets per second began tearing apart flesh, sending up eruptions of black blood.

Up close, it looked almost like a mammoth. Almost. It had too many trunks, and they were too long. It had too many tusks, and they were too sharp.And, as something tore its way out of the monsters belly and charged at the nearest tank, the lieutenant realized it had been pregnant.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Intelligent Design

Humanity was created for a purpose. We are vessels, with just enough soul to be possessed. We are servitors, with enough intelligence to do work but not enough to understand. We are clay, substantial enough to be molded but not so substantial that we pose a problem for the potter. We are neotenic, children who can become something greater. We were made to be transformed. We were always meant to something more.

There are older beings, mature beings who were once like us, but whose forms have stiffened. They envy our youth and our adaptability. They peer at us from great distances, from around angles in spacetime, and from the distant future. We must beat them to the punch and decide for ourselves what we are to become.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pheonix Fire

The flame of a pheonix burns things back together. It burns things into health. It burns wood into trees, sickness into health, and metal into magic. If you light a funeral pyre with a pheonix's flame, it will even burn death into life.

This story is from the ancient days. Before all things had been created, before all things had taken their places, before the people built cities and organized their affairs. Across the land there was only death and those that feed on death. The people huddled under unrotting logs, fought with jackals for scraps of unrotting carcasses, and those that spent the night away from the warmth and light of a bonfire were never seen again.

One youth declared that the world could be better, and so he would make it better. The people had heard talk like this before, and knew that it always ended grand promises and a brave soul wandering away from the fire, never to be seen again. So they discouraged him, telling him about all the others who had failed, and when they saw he was determined to go, they wished him well, although in their hearts they knew they would never see him again.

 The youth wandered the lands for an uncounted period of time, stealing meat from jackals and sleeping in what shelter he could find. He found only mud, carcasses, and maggots. Nothing that could make a change or give him hope.

Eventually he resolved to climb to the peak of a mountain and see what he could see. Clambering upwards, he began to hear the sound of laughter. When he reached the top, he saw a great bird made of blue flame, laughing at the state of the world from above. The youth picked up a branch and held it aloft, lighting it from the bird's belly as it passed. He then began to descend from the mountain, to bring back to the people this new thing he had found.

As he descended, he noticed that the branch was becoming heavier. When he looked at it, he was astonished. Out of the bottom of the branch were growing pale white roots, seeking the earth. Out of the top of the branch were growing bright green branches, seeking the sun. The branch burned, but as it burned it grew.

The branch grew so heavy that he could not carry it. He planted it in the mud, where it grew faster and faster. The fire spread from the growing tree to the branches, logs, and stumps that littered the earth. As it burned them, they sprouted green branches of their own. The fire spread from wood to flesh, burning the carcasses that had lain in the mud for longer than memory, and as they burned they began to stand and run. The fire grew into a wildfire that covered all land, and it burned all day and night.

Next morning, the sun rose over a grand forest, through which wandered now-living wildlife. It was the most beautiful thing the youth had ever seen, but as he stared he realized he could no longer spot see any of the landmarks he knew. He was never able to find his way back to his people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ooze Cyborgs

Ooze slime is a translucent yellow-green substance with the consistency of honey. It is a complex material, capable of regulating virtually any organic chemical reaction, as well as acting like a muscle. When young, oozes are simple scavengers, slowly squirming their way through tunnels and caves, eating whatever they find.

As they grow, they get smarter. Sooner or later, a young ooze's dreamlike sentience will direct their body to preserve, rather than dissolve, useful organs.

Most common are bones. Incorporating the skeletons of animals it has eaten allows an ooze to sustain a discrete shape, with useful features like limbs. Ooze skeletons are always unique, created by mixing and matching bones from many creatures. If an ooze is lucky enough to find a set of plate armor, it will wear it like an exoskeleton.

Oozes are also fond of glands. The powerful stomach of an owlbear might be re-purposed as an acid spray, the venomous sting of a wyvern might be implanted at the end of an "arm", and the flame glands of dragon hatchlings have obvious uses.

Oozes are translucent enough that incorporated organs can be seen from the outside. Those familiar with oozes, and with the interiors of local monsters can guess at the capabilities of a mature ooze.