Clusterduck
Anas myriadanas

The clusterduck is a waterfowl that is capable of making local, temporary, quantum clones of itself. These quantum ducks are indistinguishable from ordinary ducks, but they randomly come into existence and snuff out of existence.

It appears that the number of quantum ducks is tied to the mental state of the clusterduck. There are more when it is stressed or disturbed, and fewer when it is content. Breeding clusterducks tend not to generate quantum clones, as ducklings imprinting on them are easily confused.

Clusterducks tend to form pair bonds for life, and the drake will generate more quantum clones when his hen is raising ducklings. It is still extremely unclear how food ingested by the quantum clones winds up in the stomach of the clusterduck prime, but extensive lab testing has proven this to be so.

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“This is boring,” said Sasha. “I wanna hear about the Blitzen Party.”

“You mean the Donner Party?” I said. “I guess cannibalism is more exciting, even if it is kinda gross.”

“No, the Blitzen Party,” Sasha insisted. “They had been good so they were saved by Santa Claus.”

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“Come on, come on, come on!”

Sean writhed on the couch as his character on the screen attempted to make a jump over a yawning chasm.

It failed; the character screamed as he fell to his death.

“Aw, man.” Sean shuddered, and felt fresh wrinkles spread out from his eyes as the requisite year of his life was drained away.

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“I’d like to take Annie to the lodge, but Uncle Bob has cats up there and she’s allergic.”

“Man, when are you going to get rid of her? Your girlfriend is such a cougar!”

“Only during a full moon. You try being allergic to yourself ans see where it leads you.”

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When Gristoe arrived at the lab he found it locked up with yellow hazard tape everywhere.

“What happened?” he said. “Let me guess: that fool Mariana Brinson thought so much her brain fell out.”

“Yup,” said one of the responding officers.

“I knew it,” said Gristoe.”The problems of a zombie physicist.”

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Dear Inspector,

It’s always a murdering psychopath, isn’t it? Really, if serial killers were as prevalent in real life as they are on the TV, we’d all be dead by now. And, honestly, who would need to do it in this day and age? The sort of twisted psychopaths who one slashed their way through the 70s can now satisfy their every urge growing fat on a sofa with an internet connection. Add to that the investigative tools now at peoples’ disposal and…well, I won’t say it’s impossible, but psychopathy certainly seems to lose its appeal.

The challenge then becomes what outlet is there for a violent and amoral person such as myself to cultivate a smug sense of superiority, especially when matching wits with investigators who, lacking the wits of Holmes, nevertheless have the university of Moriarty behind them. Ten, twenty years ago, I would have been a serial killer. Now, I’m a freelance web developer (more or less). It’s not enough to run rings around police with cars that barely have wi-fi.

No, I have laid in a much more cunning game for you and yours. And I’ve even designed it to get easier for you as things go on, in case I am too subtle. But the motivator here isn’t just death, though there will be plenty of that to go around if you bide your time.

Oh, and don’t try to cheat by using the internet. I’ve seen to that.

Sincerely yours,

Serpentarius

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1848 was not long after the official inception of Southern Michigan University and the incorporation of Hopewell as the country seat of Muskogee County. Mayor Jacob Rayman was embroiled in scandal and eventually hung for the death of his wife, who disappeared during a picnic that spring. Rayman insisted that the last he’d seen of his wife was when she followed a black butterfly into an old farmhouse.

In 1888, Gerald Compton, a philosophy student at Southern Michigan University, didn’t return from an outing. A thorough search by the Hopewell Police Department and the Muskogee County Sheriff only uncovered Compton’s sketchbook. It was found in a disused silo and was full of nature sketches, apparently from life, of a black butterfly.

1938 saw a new society club appeared in the pages of the Hopewell High School yearbook. There were several photographs of the four young women in the club, frolicking and smiling. The yearbook was published in May; none of the participants were seen again after June of that year. The name of the organization was the Black Butterfly Club.

The 1978 underground musical scene in and around Southern Michigan University included a duo that lit up crowds at small venues. They has just pressed their debut LP when they vanished after a concert near the edge of town. A thorough search turned up only a pre-release copy of the album, signed by both members of Black Butterfly.

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