May 2016


Ambitiosior stultitia is highly sexually dimorphic, like all the organisms in its ecosystem. It has trilateral symmetry and three sexes, (male, female, and neuter), again very similarly to the norm in its ecosystem.

The male Ambitiosior stultitia is a hemolymph drinker, with a sharp proboscis for that purpose and wings. The female, also winged, uses a similar proboscis to take milksap from sedentary pseudotrees. The wingless neuter is a photovore, feeding on sunlight.

But the true distinction of Ambitiosior stultitia is the final stage of its life cycle. Rather than mating, the three sexes spin a cocoon together and emerge after a pupal period as the mated form, which utilizes the nutrients gathered by all three progenitors.

This form, which is wildly dissimilar from the others, was initially classed as a different species. It has wings, is heavily armored, and emerges pregnant from its chrysalis. With no working mouthparts, its only purpose is to find and kill a suitable host in which to lay its eggs, after which it dies.

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Rex growled at the sliding glass door. “Look at them out there. Running around like they own the place.”

The birdfeeders visible through it were host to a pair of fat orange squirrels who seemed content to laze about eating seeds when it suited them. “They’re mocking us, and they know we know.” Tiger seemed at ease, but the violent herky-jerky movements of his tail belied this.

If there was one thing cats and dogs could agree on, it’s that squirrels were a bad thing.

Rex kept his throat at a low rumble. “I tell you, if I was out there…”

“If you were out there, you’d make a lot of noise, tree them, and they’d sit there smirking until you went inside.” Tiger had seen it a hundred times before.

Tiger continued: “If I were out there, I’d stalk one and murder it and leave it where all could see.”

“And that’s why you’re not allowed out.” Rex well remembered what had happened when the dead squirrel had appeared in the master suite.

“Because I’m too good.” Tiger did take a lot of pride in being the only confirmed squirrelslayer in the household.

“Because you’re too dishonorable.” Rex found the idea of sneaking distasteful; battle was to be joined head-on.

“Keep telling yourself that.”

“Fine, I will.” Rex kept glaring ouside. “Still, I’d love to know what they’re plotting.”

Out in the garden, the squirrels each had one eye on the glassed-in predators. One rolled over with a lazy chirp: “Our plan is working.”

“Yes, brother.” The other twitched his tail rapidly. “They’re so preoccupied with us, they’ll never see it coming.”

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ZATS

Zombie cats, or zats, are the third most common form of zombified animal (after zogs and zice, respectively). They are driven by compulsion to slaughter the living and eat their flesh, but as normal living cats exhibit the same behaviors, it’s less noticible.

As with all post-necrotic beings, zats need a steady stream of living tissue to sustain their unlife. Unlike normal cats, this craving cannot be sated with canned food or butcher meat. Experts recommend a supply of feeder pets, available at most well-stocked pet stores, fed to the zat at a rate of 1-2 per day. Outside zats will hunt small rodents naturally but if left unchecked will not consume all of them, leading many to rise from the grave as zice.

Post-necrosis can be caught from zats but it is rare as the retro-prion has to mutate to infect them. Avoiding bites and scratches is still advised, and de-fanging and de-clawing are commonplace for that reason. Zats still have enough unholy strength to crush feeder mice in their toothless maws in most cases.

Like all post-necrotics, zats are suceptible to rot. To maintain your zat in peak condition, experts recomment a thorough wipedown with formaldehyde every 12 hours and a longer immersion in embalming chemicals once per week. Most local funeral homes will provide these materials for a fee.

Since these intensive standards of care are equivalent to those lavished on most living felines, zats are among the most popular post-necrotic pets. With proper care, they will enjoy unlife for up to a decade before they finally disintegrate.

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MINCH: Hi there, I’m Minch, and I’m the owner and proprietor of Minch’s Hot Yoda.

[External image of MINCH’S HOT YODA in the strip mall opposite Tanget]

MINCH: We offer a full slate of classes in the ancient exercise form of yoda, from beginners to experts. In a world that’s largely burned out on trendy yoga, our yoda classes offer the same dime-store philosophizing along with the ability to kick some serious ass.

[Video of MINCH’S HOT YODA students fighting each other with foam lightsabers, jumping about like grasshoppers and visibly sweating]

MINCH: Our lightsaber drills combined with Dagobah-hot temperatures guarantee that you’ll lose weight, gain strength in your core, and send your midichlorian count through the roof assuming you believe in that nonesense.

[Video of MINCH’S HOT YODA students stacking rocks and lifting X-Wings with pulleys]

MINCH: Whether you’re interested in the meditative, deliberate Puppet Yoda style or the hyperkinetic, unrealistic CGI Yoda style, Minch’s Hot Yoda has it! Darksiders need not apply. Open on the fourth, fifth, and sixth days of the week, since the others don’t count.

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The sanctum echoes with the sound of a million million children singing a wordless song. Many have tried to describe it, or to reproduce the melody.

All have failed.

They do say that it is by turns sad and joyous, happy and despondent. It is a song of soaring glee brought low by terrible sadness, and adversity conquered through the strength of joy. It is the song of all the innocents lost, and all the innocents saved, when they were at their most vulnerable and fragile.

Why the sanctum would contain such a sound is a great mystery, as the being said to be buried there is remembered as no friend to children, no friend to life.

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Sobbing, he held her limp body in the midst of the summoning circle. The daemon paced back and forth outside its protection, clutching his lapels like a salesman. Every move was feline in its easy, supple motions with menace coiled in wait for a lightning strike and barely contained.

“How will I know it’s really her?” he sobbed.

“How did you ever know what was really her before?” purred the daemon. “Does anyone really know another’s heart? Can they?”

“And…it’ll be like she never died?”

“Of course, of course,” said the daemon. “You’ll never know the difference until the day comes for the Darkfather to claim his prize, and she carves out your living heart to offer upon his black altar.”

The man sniffed. “A small price to pay. What about her, afterwards?”

“Why, I do believe that will be none of your concern,” the daemon replied. “Suffice it to say that it can’t be worse than her present predicament.”

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This is mostly hearsay from travelers who have lost their way in Naix or pilgrims who have returned alive from treks in the blasted wastes where the Creator died. But I feel like the essential parts must be true, as they line up well.

We call it the Dead Hand because it consists of five bodies of water radiating out from a central plateau. They might well be called lakes or seas because while they are quite large, if quite thin, they are salty. So salty, in fact, that nothing can survive in them and a few mouthfuls are fatal. Many a pilgrim, I imagine, has made it through the Naix wastes dying of thirst only to perish after a few bitter mouthfuls.

Around the fingers is a broken landscape rent through with canyons and gullies; all heading downhill, as the fingers lay at the lowert point of the basin. Thunderstorms in the highlands, the result of clouds from the sea breaking on their peaks, routinely send gouts of water through the canyons to carve them wider and deeper. Any unwary in them are drowned by the brief torrents.

There are wilder tales of the inner plateau, of nature behaving strangely and of impossible occurances, but anyone who has made it that far would be mad with thirst.

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