The Florida Monster Eye is Probably Not What We’re All Hoping For: A Completely Biased Report

This haunting beauty came awash on a beach in Florida.

And in other squid-news: A massive, unidentified eyeball washed up on a beach in Florida.

A passing beach goer discovered the eerie object glaring up at them from the sand. Instead of following the gut compulsion to make the thing into a hood ornament, they promptly handed it over to the good people at Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can’t blame the beachcomber.

You don’t want to be the dude holding the kraken’s eye. I’ve read enough nautical horror to know what happens to that guy.

So what is it, exactly? Does it have a squiddy origin? Further, is it worth our attention if it isn’t? (No. No it isn’t)

Like any washed up monster piece worth its salt, the eye has scientists divided as to its actual identity. Though the size denotes a cephalopod, (squid have notoriously gigantic eyes which can see 200 times better than a human; squid rock!) the presence of bone around the orbit have some casting doubt.

It’s likely that it might belong to a deep sea fish or swordfish of some kind. Only of considerable size.

As cool as an unidentified and gigantic fish might be, I’ll still hold out for the squid explanation. I’m biased. We’ll just have to wait until a definitive answer is discovered via DNA analysis.

Short Fiction: Squids Make the Best Captains

Squids Make the Best Captains

Complements: Mattias Ormestad

I gunned the SCUE Sub for the only observable point of light in the entire ocean. This was our last chance. People had died getting me this far. I wasn’t about to fuck up now.

Sonar blips told me I was still +10 kilometers away from source/0 central. What I saw was a staging area. Its blazing lights illuminated some kind of dig site. There was heavy machinery. Display was pinging something big. Big? Right. 0 central was a cyst. A tiny, puckering gouge of dirt that was probably the last vestige of humanity on this entire moon. All pressed flat by hundreds of cubic meters of sunless depths. And a kilometer of ice as a cherry on top.

I didn’t use sonar much. I didn’t need to be told to “Use her sparingly.” Hell, turning the broad emitter was just a practice in futility. There was no point in ‘looking over my shoulder’ as I fled. So onward I plunged.

I’d piloted skuas before. SCUE submersibles, an acronym for Single Cabin Undersea Exporters, were the bread and butter of Terra’s ongoing presence in aquatic alien environments. Everything changed seven months ago, when contact was severed. Now they pulled double duty. The little subs served as liaisons between outposts, as well as traditional hauling. No-one built a sturdier craft. Not with dollars on the line. Word spread slow, but consistently at first. All sector teams were accounted for, until the first month passed. Accusations flew. Unaccounted subs were the start of it. You couldn’t blame shit pilots forever.

The skua handled like its bird namesake. The maneuverability is what caught my eye in the first place. Vindicated my trade. It dove and weaved, expertly propelled by a hydrojet system. Just what I was used to.

She was capable of three cruising speeds, but I had her cranked. The hum of brinewater that flooded the ventral intakes sounded odd. But I didn’t worry; I just wasn’t used to hearing it like this –

Skua’s were wet deck machines, capable of cabin flooding per navigator necessity. This one had been enclosed while dry. It last saw use to a human. There wasn’t time to vent or mix ratios. I’d scrambled in through the diving bell, unawares. No time for arguments.

I could dry-live for days. No rush there. I could scoop gasses and breathe for maybe half that. Runs were rarely that long. This one wouldn’t be.

The unwavering light from 0 central stabbed out at me from the oppressive black sheet. Unchanging but near. It had looked the same at 100 kilometers. Only a wayward ping told me of progress. That and the ant’s crawl of uneven benthos my spotlights illuminated below. The sea floor dragged on and on.

It’s amazing my ancestors called places like this home. My tutors bred me well.

The overhead panel began chattering a disjointed rhythm. Again. As before, I decided to disregard it. I already knew it was seismic. I was aware that ground penetrating beams would just relay the same message. It would scream at me that the moon’s interior was coming to life. That, or a sizeable chunk of it. I’d already pushed my sensors well into this maelstrom. Anything at a distance was unreadable. A garbled mess of conflicting data points and readouts. It was a wall of distortion, but it was moving. Passive listening put it at +1,000 kilometers at present. At the start of my flight, it read +1,050. Whatever it was, it was gaining.

The mechanical squeal grew piercing, forcing me to lift a limb in response. I toggled the output to shut the damn thing up. The modulator ticked but remained unaffected. This was serious. I found myself nosing for another control. Maybe a little sonar peep was in order…

I was no coward, but I hesitated longer than normal. In the following and expectant silence, I knew the emitter was swiveling into place. The display sputtered to life and I did a double take. Heavy green splotches denoted something, some things, maneuvering out there in the black. I would have sworn aloud, if it didn’t take so much concentration to guzzle o2 in air.

Rechecks and triple takes didn’t make the problem go away. It only hammered home a simple, upsetting truth. I wasn’t moving fucking fast enough. The objects that approached were different than the Wall. They moved with a fluidity and precision that indicated life. They separated, flitted about, and cavorted like a pod of whirling porpoises. Or like hounds on a scent.

Nothing on this moon moved like that. The only complex life discovered were sea skaters; multi-limbed creatures analogous to insects. They clustered amidst the ice shelves, far above where tidal friction actually made it warmer. Only the odd corpse drifted down this far, like rigor mortis snowflakes. They fed the teeming yet primitive biospheres of the bitter ocean floor.

As I read shot after shot, ping after ping, I felt in my gut that I was dealing with something familiar. Whatever was out there tugged at my natural instincts. Gracefully pleading for me to sympathize. Damn it, was I identifying with auditory discharges? The thought unnerved me. I wasn’t going to escape. These – things, were going to get me. Try to run as I might, I was swimming through soup; like a bad dream.

I had to make a stand. Right now.

Surging forward in the cabin, I grasped the controls with a series of tremulous limbs. I panned the sonic emitter before anything, for I knew I’d be facing my invisible adversary soon.

No – adversaries. Thankfully I’d brought some backup of my own.

I kept a grip on the depth-leveling system, sweeping the skua into a low glide above the lumpy bottom. With a few fancy stunts, I could kick up substrate. Make some nice cover for a getaway. But for now I kept horizontal. I’d stow that move in my bag of tricks.

Time to put this SCUE through her paces. I fell onto the conn, working my multiple points of leverage to their fullest extent. I had to maintain momentum to have any hope of reaching 0 central. Leaving the engine tank wide to the elements would be key. I needed to liberally drown the pump, while at the same time tightening the crafts expulsion nozzle.

With a flick, I tightened the aperture. I prepared for a maneuver that could very well knock me senseless inside this metallic can. In that moment, I cursed the human that had last used this submersible. He might be a tutor, but fuck him all the same.

Though fear flashed up and down my pigments, I acted. Pushing her so hard I nearly choked the throttle, the skua tucked and rolled in one effortless movement. In that same instant, I initiated the reversingbucket, expelling a torrid flurry of water in a forward spout. I steadied myself inside the machine, momentarily perplexed. I’d done it. As she reoriented, I realized that I was drifting in the same direction as before, impetus maintained, only now the skua was propelled rearward across unseen plains; towards my lit destination. Without affecting thrust, I had managed to fare the craft backwards.

The tumble was a classic ploy, familiar to all swimmers. Mundane. Humans could even master it, though no-one took to it with such practiced ease as my kind. My dry friends could never hope to whip about so quickly.

Filling the compartment with water would have been a start.

One of the display panels illuminated emerald green when the blast of sonar filtered back into perception of the skua’s sensor equipment. No need to look. I knew they’d be on me.

I’d cut my speed in half.

Another prompt indicated the echoes were less than a hundred meters away. Damn. Yet I could see nothing. Only relentless black.

It was time to bring out the cavalry. Keep this train rolling. I released the fasteners securing storage space in the back of the sub. Despite the whine of thrust, I heard two distinct clacks. Eyeing my velocity, I was aware that I was still coasting along at quite a clip. I was likely moving too fast, even now. Not a good idea to leave reinforcements in the dust.

Like an afterthought, I realigned a series of plates within the sub’s chassis by flipping an overhead switchboard. The entire vehicle shook. I could almost feel the pools of flowing water course along the outside hull. It juddered again as I sealed valves seemingly at random, jabbing at the center console. It was deliberate. I was creating subliminal eddies along the skua’s exterior. The roiling skeins of liquid swelled up just as the first obie squid flicked into sight off the starboard pane. It wobbled when it caught wash. Dozens more surged up through the vortexes I’d distorted.

Suddenly, the interior was saturated in a riot of color. Obies, short for Orbiters, were semi-intelligent cephalopods bred expressly for hazardous environments. The hardy creatures were outfitted with protective membranes and gill-rebreathers for extended trips. They handled cold better than most squid, myself included.

Obies were much like satellites. They tended to circuit friendly subs in tight defensive formations, their pudgy tentacles and balloon mantles earning them their other nickname, stubbies. They were duty driven, brave, and an awful bore to talk to. And luckily or not, they were positively screaming at me now. The light shows streaming across their pudgy forms were actually a form of pidgin language. At a glance, I could see that most of them were confused. Flares akin to “What’s going on?” and “Where are we?” An honor bound few declared, “What would you wish of me?”

There was no formation in their movements.

An overall sense of bewilderment rippled through the squadron. Then I realized – It was probably the noise. I’d shut off directional microphones before cast-off. A deafening roar had picked up several days ago. Like the sound of endlessly shearing glaciers. The cacophony was probably 10x worse! Per regs, the little guys had switched receivers to wide bands. The idiots would probably go deaf before thinking to downgrade range.

I yelled back at them in their simple tongue, “Turn it the fuck down!” The order filtered quickly through the ranks. They settled, and before long I had them taking up flanking positions with my SCUE. And not a moment too soon.

I found myself avoiding sonar readout yet again. An immature thought emerged. Maybe all of this would just pass me by. I could stay in the depths, protected by distance and anonymity. This lightless world could be my refuge.

I was immediately disturbed; I’d actually taken the idea seriously. Not the most shining of moments –

The obies were probably out there chanting battle hymns, and here I was, so advanced – intelligent, and ready to turn tail. There would always be the side of me that wanted to condemn humanity. My kind hadn’t asked to be here. We never wanted to end up clay in the hands of…

Hands. What a lopsided term. My kind had already been so perverted; we hardly realized.

I read out the sonic returns. It made my hearts chill like ice, but I faced up. We were in trouble. The forms were so close I wondered why we couldn’t see anything. No report from obies. My instruments told me there was enough meat out there to outmass the SCUE three times over. I threw out pings as if they were cannon fire. The tangled mess of signals churned about like a blender. They neared. Then I saw it.

At the furthest extent of the twin-beamed spotlight, the faintest illumination registered. A single figure resolved from the ether, wending like a tumbling torpedo. It was like watching the barest hint of gray on black. Human eyes would have missed it. Then there was a torrent; another and another until a dozen of the shapes romped before my lonely light source. I knew there were more beyond, but no others presented themselves.

They were exactly like torpedoes, which should have put me on alert; yet my sensibilities were still foreign enough from human that I settled on an alternative. They were living. As they neared, I found myself more and more certain. They were squid.

One drifted close enough for detailed analysis. Onboard diagnostic read Mastigoteuthidae, but variables were spiked. The computer’s prediction was all but shit. I’d have to do this myself. What I saw distressed me.

Its skin was translucent, with a hint of an entombed, ashy notochord. A glare of light reflected over its marbled surface. I could see now, all of them, they were completely naked. The revelation struck a blow. It was primitive; a glimpse into time. Nevermind they shouldn’t be able to live out there!

They moved through a complex medium of configurations, but there were no communication buds. No organic or inorganic wavelength patterns, no apparent posturing. These things traveled as a whole, yet appeared individually blind and dumb. I could make out no fins, lobes, or tentacles at either end. No eyes. Just a long seamless fold of jelly which somehow drove them forward.

Jet propulsion?

A pair of them approached, causing my instincts to scream hostility. I didn’t know why. The obies were chattering incessantly now. They’d come to the same conclusion as me. An alien figure dove low beneath my view port. To follow it, I swiveled my sitting harness. Reaching a single limb, I halted my inertia and peered after it. It was licking to and fro near the slowly receding bottom. I could see inside. In the harsh, clinical light given off by the submersible, I could make out the sea bottom behind it!

It was doing something else. A thick, syrupy film was being expelled into the water around it. This wasn’t ink. It spread like molasses. Like a disease. To my shock, the sludge began flowering outward, on its own. Driven by some unknown, external will.

Turning about, I could see all of them. Every one of them bled openly, like some perverse stigmata. In the next instant, they were sweeping down onto us. Almost before I could react. Almost.

The obies had formed a defensive grid. By delegation, they had decided to face this threat head on. I had something else in mind.

I tacked a line of obies for intercept. They dutifully obeyed. A rampant warrior’s call flashed through their ranks before they dove into the fray. I pictured Flight of the Valkyries. No one said obies were subtle.

An arm of the squadron cinched into place, reinforced by another and another, all the way back to the SKUE. Their rotund bodies began to flare in sequence, building up a static charge. With their combined might, they were preparing an arc. Emitters built into their bodies were strong enough to incapacitate a stubborn walrus. Together, they might even deter a starving whale. It was shallow reassurance, but I was biding my time.

For a moment, the posturing seemed to have an effect. The sinister cloud condensed. Comparatively pale in the light, the squids brushed along the periphery. Testing bounds before diving headlong into obscurity. The screen of unbidden sludge was spreading, but it wasn’t advancing.

I was going to make it. I was actually going to fend this off. Whatever it was. Just long enough.

We were probably close enough to 0 central to expect reinforcements. Any moment now. They had to know the SCUE was out here. The phalanx of obies was bristling. You could see it for kilometers. A request passed down the line like dominos. I readily acknowledged. A pulsing flash of red undulated down my tentacles.

I told them to fire.

The obies released a yellow-hot javelin straight into the midst of the unknown. Then all hell broke loose.

A contingent of faceless squid shot into view, pulling porous streamers of slime like distended contrails. It was a living entity, clasping out voraciously. The speed was – primal. One torpedo raked a group of obies that struggled to scoot away. It was like watching insects flattened by sap. Struggling, screaming in their luminous way, the squid knew they were doomed.

Even at the distance, I could see the little fucks. They called for their brethren to fall back. “Protect the pilot,” they said. “Protect the pilot.”

Requests for orders filtered back to me. I ignored them. My eyes were fixed on the cloud. The tiny creatures trapped within, looking for all the world like dumplings in a stew. They spoke to me across the gulf. I knew they spouted encouragements. Even as the clipper-streamlined predators descendent upon them.

I finally saw the tentacles, expelling forth like an inverting stomach. The obies were torn to shreds.

The attack was relentless. Obies regrouped and fought as best they could, but it was hopeless. Inside, I placidly watched the chaos unfold.

Now that they were so close, closer than ever before, I was entranced. There was such purpose to their motions. A mindless hedonism. The violence tugged at a place long forgotten.

One hesitated, seeming to notice the SCUE for the first time. It twirled in slow motion, carried along on a centrifugal axis. I could have touched it. A beady eye rolled into view. A black, cancerous growth. In that instant, I knew it saw me; relayed a message to something hideous and unseen. I didn’t want to know. As desperately as I tried to shut myself to this entity, something persistently nagged.

I was looking into a mirror. One cracked and malformed, but a mirror all the same. Whatever alien intelligence had forged these creatures, twisting their bodies to unknowable form and function, I suddenly realized I was no different. We’d both been taken from something purely cephalopod, and molded into something other. Just as humans had done to my kind, the Cloud had twisted them into a facsimile of itself. A sick parody.

Amidst all this, I held fast to this fact. I’d use my spite and disgust to drive me on. It seemed apropos.

Better than to be lost in fear.

At any moment they would turn on me. Those cruel freaks. I knew I didn’t have much time.

I was at the conn again, using every limb I could spare. I kicked the engine in the teeth, spinning the skua into an abrupt dive. At the throttle, I cut the intake and then inundated it again. A diagonal sweep of drift almost drove me into the sea floor. Almost. A scar chewed down into the sediment, driven by the sheer force of my inertia. It was a brushstroke across a canvas. A ruddy column of debris shot up, blinding me instantly. And hopefully blinding everything else. It hung heavy, the spotlights glared against a living brine of sifting bacteria.

Sorry guys, I thought to the obies. I have to get the hell out of here. Somehow, I knew they’d understand. They’d fight the good fight until the last. It was bred into them.

Making sure to stick the leveler, I flopped out of my harness and reeled along the floor. The skua drifted precipitously.

Time was short. Not having bones could be a bitch, but I couldn’t stop now.

I pulled myself bodily through a hatch, no longer thinking of my imminent death. No longer caring.

Progress was painful and slow, but I reached the hull. I had to crawl through a stanchion that blocked off the bay housing for the diving bell. Once inside I paused for a split second.

By doing this, I was going to damage the SCUE sub irreparably, if not destroy it outright. I was naked. There had been no time to suit up. I’d be at the mercy of the elements. The cold would bite through me in an instant. Probably kill me from exposure anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. And that was optimistic. I was less than +10 kilometers away from home base. I wasn’t going to make it, but I was going to try.

Clambering into the diving bell, I looped a single limb to the control switch. The silence was tranquil, but outside was anything but. I prepared myself.

A steady hiss fluttered my funnel groove like a deep unending sigh. I had to completely expel any unequal pressure. A gift from my human patrons.

I’d plied these depths before, fully clothed and packing a heat shield. I hadn’t liked it then, either. This would be painful. I hoped the shock wouldn’t kill me.

The gas stopped, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I’d been grinded beneath a boot. Time to act.

I overrode the safety locks with surprising ease. No getting away from it now. The bell lurched downward with a sudden acceleration. There was a clang and a groan, and a rush of water. Then I was pulled savagely into a frigid embrace.

I was ready for the pain. Nascent adrenaline surged through my expanding tendrils, fueling me.

Swelling myself out, I took a deep sift of brine across my gills. It would have to do, but fuck it was cold.

I spun in one smooth and practiced motion and jetted into the night. My fins flapped out, fully extending for the first time in a long time. One last gulp and I propelled myself into the alien sea. I ignored the earsplitting concussion as the skua imploded.

It would mask my departure.

Ahead of me I could make out the staging area of 0 central. A single light, seemingly faint, yet compellingly near in the close, impending dark.

This piece of fiction was inspired by one of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Challenges over at terribleminds.com, 2nd Game of Aspects. Though she ain’t so flashy at over 3,500 words. Gotta work on sticking to spec!

Aspects chosen were Lovecraftian, Bottom of the Ocean, and Some Kind of Alien Virus or Parasite.

Deacon or Queen: Where’s the space monarchy in Prometheus?

Like, WTH? Ammiright?

So what’s the deal with Prometheus?

We’ve all heard the story. A film with staggeringly high expectations, destined to be an instant classic in the genre. It would be a return to form for Ridley Scott’s gritty, mood-horror universe. It was going to make sci-fi scary again.

Well I suspect that’s the problem right there. Anticipation is a razor’s edge. All too often, opinions are split down the middle. Say what you will about the flick’s wonky literary values, hard to follow motivations, and flat characterization; Prometheus just couldn’t live up to the hype. In the business, this is what they call a nonstarter.

But wait, I hear you say. Didn’t some of the great cult classics of old start off clogged in negative reviews? John Carpenter is still haunted by the world’s initial reaction to The Thing. Hell, even Alien had to find its footing, way back. Won’t Prometheus follow suit?

No. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, but I’m not. I’m always right. End of story.

Why? One reason. The special effects are too good. Anyways —

A bunch of people I admire completely tore Prometheus apart. And you know what? I think it’s warranted. To an extent. Those’re some gaping plot holes you got there, movie. But at the same time, I’ll confess. Yes, I’m one of those people that took the movie up on its intrinsic entertainment value. I was happy to overlook a few weaker points supporting the ‘more or less’ derivative plot.

Was it the eye candy? The brilliant score (C’mon haters, you know it had good tunes)? The strangely prevailing leniency I have with these sorts of movies? Maybe it was some other magic ingredient that lifted Prometheus out of the mire. I don’t know. Just… let me come back to this.

I’ll throw all of that aside. There are better reviewers out there than me, and they’ve put forth some fine cutting-slash-insightful takes. I’ll share what stood out to me.

The aliens! What else? Moreover, the relationships of said aliens posited by this movie and how they connect with the canon of previous films. Holy crap. I sounded like a real reviewer just then! Back on track – Mr. Scott answered some long standing questions, and left a whole lot more unfulfilled. Ergo: insidious plot holes!

Such as: The Space Jockeys. Redubbed Engineers. Good or bad? To this, I can only shrug. So the elephant guys turned out to be strangely effeminate body builders. With melanin deficiencies. It’s safe to say these beings are a major point of contention. If you like your space gods decked out with proboscisesprobosci? – you will probably dislike this film.

How do the Engineers stack up with the original film? Well, for one we learn what conniving jerks they are. They created us. And possibly all life on earth. They also guided humanity in its infancy, becoming a part of myth and legend. Alien astronauts anyone? It’s also revealed that the Engineers are spread throughout the galaxy err… at least two separate planets (Three if you count their presence on Earth… uh – four if you count their home world..). Prometheus takes place on LV-223, whereas the original involved LV-426. Engineers are predominantly genetic manipulators, so it’s safe to assume that most of the life appearing on screen was tweaked by these dudes.

Bringing us to phallic parasites and black ooze. Creepy, perverse, disturbing. It’s unclear whether these things are just elaborate WMD’s (as the characters assume) or part of some religious system. (Lots of alters, giant statues, fancy chambers. Seems religious to me.) It’s been suggested that the Engineers worship death, while their creations (humans) worship life. Are the creepy crawlies designed specifically for the purpose of destruction? Probably. How do they fit into the canon? Pretty well, though they are unlike our traditional facehuggers, you can still connect the dots. Maybe these Engineers engineered a different strain?

Do they prefer variety? Were the different Engineer ships on the different LV’s destined for the wholesale destruction of different worlds? Strains of xenomorphs tailored for each? What stopped them? Infighting? A change of heart? A civil war? Pro-Human Rebels? Or did they just lose control of their own weapons?

Here’s where I found the greatest divergence from the original canon. By original, I mean the first quadrilogy. It’s all about the birthing sequence. Scott wasn’t a fan of the Queen from Aliens. In fact, he’d planned for the xeno in the first film to have a completely self-contained life cycle. Prometheus does see a return to form in this respect. A newborn #in quotes# “Alien species” is introduced, completely divorced from the Queen aspect.

The Deacon; so named for the head-point. This creature has received a chilly reception. It’s goofy looking, though Ridley gets points for playing with the pharyngeal jaw.

Meet the Deacon. He may not be pretty, and I’ll agree – he ain’t as cool as the traditional xeno, but he raises an interesting plot conundrum. What kind of wild divergence is the alien species capable of? Did the crew of the Nostromo stumble upon a “humanity killing” craft? Or did they mix into the gene pool by mistake? Were xenos bred to wipe out something even gnarlier than us? Did we in turn, produce a rogue strain?

Like introducing a virus to a human host, it needs to evolve or die. Maybe the Queen life cycle is just a fluke. In the end, did human tampering agitate the evolution of something greater than the sum of its parts?

Like I said, I don’t know. But herein lies the fact of the matter. It could be that I like asking these questions. Open-endedness, interpretation; the whole connect-the-dots motif. I like doing that. As an audience member, I like having my creativity challenged. Perhaps that’s why I tolerated Prometheus so well.

There is a sequel on the way, however; and I wholly expect Mr. Scott to ruin every bit of construction I just made. When he does, I’ll be with you guys. Keep a seat warm. I’ll make sure to practice some snide remarks about story logic.

Whittlesey is an asshole but we need more douchebag monsters

So recently I was going through one of my favorite monster stories. It’s called Relic and it’s by the thriller genre’s very own dynamic duo, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Going back through the years, I’ve probably read the thing half a dozen times. What can I say? I was one of those kids raised on Godzilla, Jurassic Park, and any other abnormally sized or scaly monstrosities put to film. Novels are a great time sink for kids who can’t get enough of the stuff. Actually, it was probably that Jurassic Park benchmark blurb of Booklist’s on Relic’s cover that hooked me in the first place.

Relic

I would literally read the thing summer after summer. There was a large swath of my young life dedicated to these books. If it wasn’t Crichton’s two stories, it was Relic. The book is insanely readable, so it isn’t a surprise that after catching a viewing of the movie adaptation on Netflix (I’ll just hurry past that subject for now…), I found myself refreshing my familiarity with the novelization. (I needed to get the taste of the movie out of my mouth! …Moving on…) Once I peered in, there was no going back. It turns out those old shackles that held me so firmly back in ’96 were still in place.

I couldn’t put it down.

It’s always fun to see what you remember, or just let that nostalgic wave wash over you. You can usually get more out of a book you’ve read as a kid by reading it again. I did all of those things. I devoured the thing in three or four days, and I found myself coming away with something I didn’t expect. Warning: Here there be spoilers.

Whittlesey, the novel’s main antagonist, is a complete and total fuck. If you haven’t read the story (how dare you) seen the film (can’t blame you) and decided to plow through my meager warning above (can’t blame you there either), let me explain. In the story, Whittlesey’s an anthropologist with the single minded drive to discover a South American tribe that was thought to be extinct called the Kothoga. As you might imagine, he was dead right, and the Kothoga aren’t really up on public relations with the outside. I’ll brush over the particulars and tell you that Whittlesey ends up getting captured after attempting to rescue one of his colleagues. Well, the rescue plan was secondary. The man’s a jerk, remember?

So Whittlesey ends up being transformed into a bloodthirsty beast after being fed this virus-laden genetics-mutating lily pad plant. The infamous mbwun monster is born! The reasoning behind this is left mostly in the dark, but wherein the mystery lies the heart of the book’s coolness factor.

Whittlesey/mbwun becomes a super huge, super strong gorilla/lizard/bear on crank. We’re talking about a very strong addiction. One that impels him to commit hideous acts when his fix is taken away. He needs the plant fibers to produce the necessary hormones to keep his diabolical internal workings humming. If he can’t have it, his only substitute is lodged securely within the craniums of many would be victims.

It would be a bad day to meet this dude in a dark alley. Don’t even bring up cold turkey..

But! It turns out his first murders weren’t even brought on by his junkie’s relapse from hell. The mbwun’s first victim is early on in the book. A poor chump whose alias is Ven. Poor Ven. Ven is a thief who decides to tag a shipment of archeological discoveries bound for the Museum of Natural History in New York. This displays some very poor judgment on Ven’s part. It turns out that the bulk of the stuff in the crate trace back to Whittlesey’s expedition. And Whittlesey isn’t happy to let his blood, sweat, tears, and humanity all go to waste. And sadly for Ven, Whittlesey never strays far from that crate. I’m sure we’re clear about what happened to Ven.

Some might argue that Whittlesey was protecting his last supply of the plant. I call bull. If Whittlesey wasn’t jonesing for the green stuff at the time of Ven’s untimely end, I’ll call him on the evil shit that he does.

Our favorite anthropologist mutant goes on to kill a bunch of sailors in New Orleans, an old colleague of his that (once again) got too close to his ‘precious’, a couple kids, some security guards, some members of a SWAT team, his former boss, and a whole mess of party-goers.

I know I know, you think I’m giving the dude too much credit. He is, after all, just a monster. Why do I condemn a beast who probably doesn’t know any better?

Here’s my case. Whittlesey shows plenty of pre-meditated behavior throughout the entire tale. He builds on previous murders. He gets bolder; maybe even a little drunk on his animalistic rage. He lets some people live (case in point, his once-friend, Dr. Cuthbert), while apparently going out of his way to kill others ( the museum’s Director, Winston Wright) when he clearly doesn’t need to.

Be it revenge, spite, self-pity, or whatever, Whittlesey goes on a rampage. And the thing that makes it memorable and endlessly entertaining, is the fact that the monster was once one of us. Just some dude with goals an foibles. Friends and shit bosses.

At one point after escaping a close shave with death, Ian Cuthbert relays a chilling message. He’s miraculously avoided getting his brain scooped out the back of his head and is barely holding onto his sanity. He rattles on about how “It knows,” and that “It hates us.” The most telling part for me was when he mentions its eyes. About how they showed “infinite sadness.”

It’s creepy, chilling, and great. It’s the many layered aspect of the museum beast that really stays with me. And has so for years. While I want to punch him in his grotesque face (for the love of god, he ate a damn puppy!), there’s an almost pitiable side to his character as well.

Whittlesey. Photo props go to helloqueen

Although his isotopes have been twisted and he’s expressing WAY too many latent or alien genes, Whittlesey is still just a twisted reflection of ourselves.

It’s always terrifying to know just how far we can fall. Given the same circumstances, could anyone do any better?

Here’s several other douchey monsters that were human once:

The Pak Protectors in Larry Niven’s Known Space series of books. If you hate pretentious supergeniuses with narrow aspirations, these guys should be at the top of your list.

Frankenstein’s monster from Mary Shelley’s timeless novel. Kind of obvious, I know. There are so many great versions, but a recent play production by Danny Boyle has Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature. This here is the granddaddy of monster pity/hate. Bring a tissue… or a punching bag.