Apologies for the delay on posting the website announcement for Archive of the Odd Issue #2: A Supernatural History! Finalization took longer than intended and we wanted to be sure all information was available.
Archive of the Odd is now available in both PDF and MOBI/EPUB versions! Full purchase links are on our Where to Buy page. The issue is complete with ten stories and over fifteen illustrations. Werewolves, killer birds, and creatures beyond the grave all make an appearance in stories that walk the line between humor, horror, and sincere reflections on modern life.
We hope you enjoy the stories and illustrations within as much as we enjoyed putting them together.
Avoiding Yesterday Best Look- M. Maponi (illustrated by Karolina Mochniej/Art from Cards)
Birdwatching Notebook Found on a Colorado Trailhead- Gabrielle Bleu (illustrated by Rieroo)
Channelsea- Sarah Jackson (Illustrated by Toeken)
Community Posting Board- Ellen Edwards (Illustrated by Alina Gottbrecht)
Field Notes on the Strawberry Sentinel- B. Myers (Illustrated by Will Taylor)
Notes on a New Cephalopod by Ephraim T. Foxxe-Grace, Naturalist- Nik Sylvan
Okami in the Bayview- Mary Salome (Illustrated by DS Oswald)
The Recovered Files of Threnody Lane Elementary- Daniel Simonson (Illustrated by Renée Elizabeth Clarke)
Seventh Page of the Heartwell Gazette- Kiya Nicoll (Illustrated by Alina Wahab)
Water Babies as Causal Factors in Female Family Annihilation- Angela R. Eder
Between the Shelves is a showcase of Archive of the Odd stories outside of the main zine.
The following story is by the fantastic Dale W. Glaser. Dale W. Glaser is a lifelong collector, re-teller and occasional inventor of fantasy tales. He needs air, food, water and stories in order to survive, not necessarily in that order. His lifelong love of written words has manifested as a devotion to the English language almost exclusively, which is probably just as well because if he were to master any of the dead tongues that conceal ancient mysteries and invoke malevolent forces, we’d all be in trouble.
Note from the author: I was an English Major who held a part time job at the school’s music library, which was a single large room with one set of shelves for vinly LPs and another for bound music scores. Like many other creatives, though, I’ve long harbored a wish to visit a library so vast I could get lost in it. “Excerpts”, similar to a lot of my fiction output, is an exploration of the old chestnut “be careful what you wish for”.
Department of Library Philosophy
100 LEVEL COURSES
LP 101: Introduction to Library Philosophy (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: None (Required for all freshmen unless waived by advisor)
Students will learn the layout and unique organizational system of the Weyer Memorial Library, including which areas are open for general use and which rooms, stacks and alcoves are off-limits due to the value and rarity of contents, the unpredictable side effects of said contents, or the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Deputy Chief Librarian Snyder. The course also covers several international and interdimensional classification and identification methodologies for tomes of eldritch secrets, and proper handling techniques for various ancient materials including papyrus, vellum, clay tablets, inscribed bronze amulets, and gibbering souls confined to glass spheres.
LP 121: Library First Aid (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: LP 101 or equivalent
Students will learn prevention and treatment of common physical maladies sometimes incurred among library patrons, including eye strain, papercuts, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries, particulate inhalation, third eye blurring, bone bruises, and dehydration and malnutrition due to spending more than 72 consecutive hours attempting to decipher long-dead languages. (Note: students interested in prevention and treatment of mental maladies associated with exposure to library materials, including delusions, hallucinations, and speaking in tongues should enroll in the cross-disciplinary PSY 211: Libraries, Mental Health, and You, offered through the Psychology Department.)
LP 141: Modern Research and Analysis Strategies (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: LP 101 or equivalent
Students will learn various techniques of source and citation validation to determine the authenticity of authorial claims, critical thinking approaches for separating authorial intent and perspective from verifiable fact, and identifying characteristics and overall trustworthiness of texts written in the early onset of madness, the deeper throes of madness, or from the other side of rational thought altogether.
200 LEVEL COURSES
All Library Philosophy courses at the 200 level and higher require LP 101. LP 121 is strongly recommended. Additional prerequisites as indicated.
LP 201: Introduction to Inventory Management (fall/spring)
Students will learn effective approaches to overseeing a library’s collection of assets, including periodic and systematic surveying of stacks and shelves to ascertain that all physical media are present or accounted for in checkout records. Secondary aspects of methodology, including never going into remote stacks alone, nor on the nights of planetary conjunctions, as Deputy Chief Librarian Snyder is suspected to have done, will also be covered.
LP 211: Basic Bookbinding and Repair (fall only)
Students will learn the tools and techniques necessary to prolong the lifespan of books as physical objects and maintain their readability, including page-stitching, cover-gluing and booklice mitigation, as well as methods for converting non-standard media into bound volumes suited to the library’s shelving system. All materials provided and covered by course fees.
*New for 2022-23* LP 221: Library Self-Defense (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: LP 121
Students will learn both time-tested and innovative strategies for escaping and surviving hazardous library situations such as shielding from energies, sacrificing body parts, and evading predators. Note: this year we are pleased to welcome guest lecturer Irulan Bokara, Chief Librarian and sole survivor of the Sinkhole of Six Thousand Ghouls, formerly known as the Asmodeus-Farleigh Library Annex.
LP 251: Introduction to Architectural Considerations (spring only)
Students will learn the fundamentals necessary for understanding a library as a building in physical space and not merely the abstract collective of books and other media, the unique structural and infrastructural demands of a large library, and the environmental impacts of various building sites and styles.
LP 299: Assistant Librarian Internship I (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: Four LP courses, completed or concurrent, including at least two 200-level or higher
Students may earn three credits by working four six-hour shifts per week in the library, assisting the staff with cataloging, re-shelving, cleaning, maintenance, and other duties as assigned. Unpaid.
300 LEVEL COURSES
LP 301: Bookkeeping for Keepers of Books (fall/spring)
Students will learn basic principles of accounting useful for overseeing and maintaining a functional library collection, including appreciation and depreciation of assets over time.
LP 311: Private Collection Assessment (fall only)
Students will learn appraisal methodology and provenance determination as applies to collections of books, scrolls and artifacts made available for purchase via auction, donated by Molitor alumni, or otherwise bequeathed to the university archives via blood oath, generational curse, geas or tynged, or spontaneous materialization in previously undiscovered stacks.
*New for 2022-23* LP 321: Library Search and Rescue (fall only)
Prerequisite: LP 221
Students will learn analysis strategies for determining whether an individual who has been reported missing and last seen in an occult library has become lost in the stacks, has been possessed by Murmux, the Archduke of Crawling Things, and taken shelter in air ducts, has been abducted and transported to an adjacent dimension, or has achieved forbidden transcendence and lost all ties to the mortal plane forever. In the first three sets of circumstances, students will learn cutting-edge techniques for locating, placating, and guiding the afflicted back to relative safety. Note: this course will also feature guest lecturer Irulan Bokara.
LP 331: Intermediate Bookbinding and Repair (fall only)
Prerequisite: LP 211
Students will learn the tools and techniques necessary to grant eternal life to books by binding a mortal soul or metaphysical incarnation to the physical objects, including spirit-stitching, anthropic aspect-gluing and pit fiend mitigation, as well as methods for converting the library’s shelving system to supplemental imprisonment configurations. Most materials are provided and covered by course fees, although students must independently obtain suitable sentient essence to be bound.
LP 341: Advanced Bookbinding and Repair (spring only)
Prerequisite: LP 331
Students will learn the tools and techniques necessary to anchor books to the objective, material world reality as physical objects and maintain their presence rather than allowing them to manifest as numinous timespace phenomena, including tangibility-stitching, existence-gluing, and nascent sub-universe mitigation. No materials needed, but students may be charged for any library collateral lost in collapsing portals and/or metavoids.
Students will investigate approaches for expanding the physical capacity of a library to better accommodate its growing collection, both in terms of traditional construction methods and spontaneous lifelike non-Euclidian growth of the building seemingly of its own accord. Special focus will be given to the nascent Goathorn Wing of Weyer Memorial Library, which bears some resemblance to Pre-Akkadian descriptions of portals to the Underbelly Dimension of Subsumed Shadows, found amongst the personal effects of Deputy Chief Librarian Snyder.
LP 399: Assistant Librarian Internship II (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: Seven LP courses, completed or concurrent, including at least two 300-level or higher
Students may earn three credits by working four six-hour shifts per week in the library, assisting the staff with translation work, restoration, inventorying, banishments and other duties as assigned. Unpaid, but moderate to high chance of being offered a permanent staff position, including new Chief Librarian, depending on outcomes of LP 499.
400 LEVEL COURSES
LP 401: Senior Seminar for Library Philosophy Majors
Prerequisite: LP department advisor approval
Students expecting to graduate with a degree in Library Philosophy will be given the opportunity to design their own library, incorporating elements from all LP courses including physical layout and construction, content acquisition, organizational and archiving systems, staffing, warding, and emergency failsafes. Students will be encouraged to work closely with Dean of Library Philosophy Zachariah Gwion throughout the semester and will present their plans to the full department at the end of the semester, with consideration for the annual award of the Atheneum Prize.
LP 411: Extralegal Acquisitions (fall only)
Prerequisite: LP 301 and 311
Students will be provided with rational frameworks and given the opportunity to debate the relative costs and benefits of obtaining volumes to add to a library collection via means other than transactional exchange and inheritance, including archeological expeditions, disaster recovery and salvage, and enduring the Astral Gauntlet of Uz’Baar.
*New for 2022-23* LP 421: Advanced Library Search and Rescue (spring only)
Prerequisite: LP 321
Intended as a direct follow-on to LP 321, in which students will learn advanced methods for entering and exiting hypothetically hostile adjacent dimensions, including combat techniques useful in circumventing spirituum obscura cursed with eternal servitude defending the boundaries of their benighted realm. Note: this course will also feature guest lecturer Irulan Bokara, assuming her survival of LP 321.
LP 431: Legal Liabilities (fall only)
Students will learn the differences in management approaches for private versus public collections, including design and implementation of policies which allow access to library materials while maintaining collection integrity and security, via a historical overview covering innovations in patron identification from thumbprints to a drop of blood to digital multi-factor authentication. Other topics covered will include the contours of laws governing penalties for knowingly sheltering dimensionally unstable metavoids and other contraband, failing to properly and fully neutralize an animating sentience, and allowing senior library staff to explore self-manifesting stacks alone.
LP 451: Advanced Architectural Considerations
Prerequisite: LP 251 and 351
Students will learn more esoteric aspects of library construction, from rare materials suitable for constructing Faraday cages to house volumes with dark auras, to physical security countermeasures for books and other artifacts capable of autonomous mobility. Students will also learn practical deconstruction and disposal methods for library rooms, wings or other features which spontaneously manifest despite not appearing on blueprints and never having entered library staff’s awareness previously, assuming no current or former library staff is currently restrained within said features.
LP 499: Assistant Librarian Internship III (fall/spring)
Prerequisite: Ten LP courses, completed or concurrent, including LP 321, 421 and at least two other 300-level or higher
Students may earn three credits by working four six-hour shifts per week in the library, assisting the staff with translation work, restoration, inventorying, banishments and other duties as assigned, very likely up to and including locating, accessing, and entering the Underbelly Dimension of Subsumed Shadows, to rescue or retrieve the corporeal remains of Deputy Chief Librarian Snyder. Paid only in glorious renown and eternal gratitude. Expedition to Underbelly Dimension offered in spring only.
We are excited to announce the lineup for our second issue and Between the Shelves for the coming months! The table of contents for the second issue is announced below. Focusing on the perils of naturalism (and the monsters it so often reveals), the full title is A Supernatural History, and our contributors promise to deliver! You can preorder the second issue alone or as a bundle with the first issue.
For Between the Shelves, we have three amazing authors lined up.
August 6- An Excerpt from the 2022-2023 Molitor University Course Catalog by Dale W. Glaser (promo attached, with image from TuendeBede! We will add promos to this post as they are released)
September 15- Issue #2 published!
October 1- The British Mummy Kings by Matthew Goldberg
November 5- Excerpts From Notes On the Bag Game by Bryan Miller
We cannot wait to share these stories with you. Thank you for being with us, perusing the Archives, and sharing the mysteries we uncover.
Between the Shelves is a showcase of public domain stories of the type that Archive of the Odd publishes. We are not associated with the authors in any manner, and they are most likely dead.
This Between the Shelves is an example of the type of bestiary page we’re looking for for our second issue, which is themed around monsters. It was part of a series from Weird Tales called Folks Used to Believe, in which Alvin F. Harlow would describe the history of some classic monsters. This particular article is from 1927. The original can be found here. Hope you like semicolons!
For 2,000 years and more no fabulous animal was more universally accepted as really existing than the dragon in its various forms. The dragon which St. George, an early Christian hero, slew, was of the usual type—a thick, scaly body somewhat resembling a lizard’s, bat-like wings, four legs with clawed feet like an eagle’s, the body tapering into a tail which, like the tongue, had a sting in the end of it.
Even after 1700, a nature writer, though admitting that some doubted the existence of the dragon, said that there were “in Arabia Serpents called Sirenae, which have Wings; being very swift, running or flying, at Pleasure; and when they wound a Man, he dieth instantly. These are supposed to be a kind of Dragon… Dragons are also said to be bred in India and Africa; those of India are much the largest, being of incredible Length; and of these there are two Kinds, one living in the Marshes, which are slow of Pace and without Combs on their Heads; the other in the Mountains, which are bigger and have Combs. Some are of a yellow, fiery Colour; having sharp Backs, like Saws. These also have Beards. When they set up their Scales, they shine like Silver. The Apples of their Eyes are (as it is said) precious Stones, and bright as Fire, in which, it is affirmed, there is great Virtue against many Diseases. Their Aspect is very fierce and terrible… Some do affirm that the Dragon is a black Colour; the Belly somewhat green and very beautiful; that it has a triple Row of Teeth in each Jaw, and very bright, shining Eyes; that it has also two Dewlaps under the Chin, which hang down, of a red Colour.”
Pliny, the old Roman writer, tells of how dragons in India concealed themselves in trees and sprang down on elephants, fixing their teeth in the elephant’s neck and sucking its blood. The elephant’s blood, Pliny declared, is very cold, and was therefore much sought by the dragon in hot weather. One dragon could drink all the blood in an elephant’s body, but was made so stupid by it that when the elephant finally fell from weakness, the dragon was frequently crushed beneath its body.
Closely akin to the dragon was the griffin, whose head, shoulders, wings and forefeet resembled an eagle’s, while the body, hind legs and tail were a lion’s. Griffins were the monsters who guarded the deposits of gold in the mountains of Scythia in ancient times. The wyvern had a body and feet (only two) somewhat like an eagle’s, save with scales instead of feathers, bat wings, and the head and tail of a dragon. The hippogriff had four legs; the forepart and wings were those of a griffin, the rear half of the body was that of a horse. A famous magician named Atlantes did his traveling on the back of a hippogriff.
Between the Shelves is a showcase of Archive of the Odd stories outside of the main zine.
The following story is by the fantastic Rhonda Eikamp. Rhonda Eikamp is originally from Texas and lives in Germany. Primarily a writer of short fiction, she has had stories published in Lackington’s, The Dark and Vastarien, among many others. When not writing, she braves the labyrinths of German legalese as a translator for a law firm.
Editor’s note: The timing of this story is perhaps fortuitous, as the US is currently facing a national blood crisis, and all countries are in constant need for blood. Blood is lifesaving for many people with blood diseases or cancer, as well as victims of trauma. Look up “blood drive near me” and sign up for one, if you can! Cormack (the editor) just gave blood recently, and feels pretty great about it, as it gave him an excuse to eat cookies and convince other people to lift heavy objects, as well as the whole “save up to three lives” bit. Most donations are extremely uneventful and leave you feeling fulfilled- though the same can’t be said of Kelly-Ann’s experience.
Warnings: Blood (obviously), mourning, hallucination, past child death
With creative blood diseases trending for the third year in a row, our Living TissYou blog presents you once again with a countdown of the ten most unusual, eccentric and – sometimes – charming blood diseases wild minds have engineered or medically induced over the past year (and there’s a contest at the end!). There was one difference Kelly-Ann and I noticed this year and that was a proliferation of what you might call performance artists, those using the altered blood they engineer to create altered states in those around them, rather than just in their own bodies. In other words, lots more external manifestation (okay, let’s just say it – lots more blood sprayed around!). Here goes:
10. Riffing off last year’s Snaking Blood, (those tubules slithering along the ground still give Kelly-Ann and me chills, the good kind), we now have redkarma8’s Blood Medusa. This one was copied a lot once it came out, but never as creepily as ol’ redkarma8 manages to make it in their originalvideo. If you clicked around at all this year in fact (or even just left your house) you’ve probably run into some guy or gal with a shaved head who thought they could pull it off. Believe me, the coagulation engineering needed to keep the “snakes” on your head and writhing down the sides and back (or in the air – again, check out the original!) is not something a rooky blood designer will get right.
9. Not all that original and not technically a blood disease (my better half didn’t even want it on the list, see below), in fact more in the category of a plug-in hack for wannabe blood designers, is Streaming Scarlet, a live-feed from an anonymous source that lets you hitch a ride through the creator’s veins via a nano VR camera. You’ll need VR immersion (never was a word more appropriate) yourself for this one – a flat screen just renders it into a square of viscous red and doesn’t do it justice. It’s the wrap-around, vertigo experience of being blood here – the flow – that counts. There are plenty of live-feeds that will take you down the esophagus or even up the mud road, if that’s your thing, but there’s always that sense of being the pinhead on the end of a camera, penetrating, eventually to be pulled back out. The Streaming Scarlet feed is different, brilliant and dizzying. If our anonymous contributor is telling the truth, their technology is new, with a camera that is virtually (pun intended) indestructible and will keep streaming until–and even after–the streamer’s dead. It’s that forever immersion factor that makes me toss it in to this year’s mix of our 10 best.
Hi, guys, it’s Kelly-Ann here: Sorry, Dan, but this one’s lame. We all know what blood looks like and maybe some of us want to “be” blood, as you put it, but it’s still just a camera. An intrusion, not an alteration. Nothing’s being done with the blood, there’s no artistic statement. What does it tell us about us? We can agree to disagree, but three thumbs down on this one!
8. The Captive Audience, or Not Another Bloody Flash Mob! (sorry, no link). This is Kelly-Ann’s favorite, probably because, amazingly, she came across it herself by chance. We both give blood regularly, but Kelly-Ann went without me a few weeks ago outside our regular schedule (remember, people, only donate every 3 months!) and encountered possibly the first occurrence of one of those creative blood-disease flash mobs (they’re popping up pretty much daily now in every city, just in case you’ve been living in a cave, so unless you’re very rural you’ve probably been close enough to a performance to have had a hallucination or two). I’ll let Kelly-Ann take it from here:
So – you’re all fam in a way and you know Dan’s and my back story. I won’t go into it again. The last three years have been hell for both of us and blood donation for some reason helps me cope. So …sorry, Dan, I go more often than you think. I was at the school gym where they set up, a larger crowd than usual, I thought, but I’d settled into my chair, about the middle of a row, and was happy knowing the blood slipping out my arm would help someone somewhere, maybe even a child, when I realized donors all through the crowd had started pulling out their drips and jumping up from their chairs all at the same time. Knives came out (this is where I started to freak thinking it was some kind of attack), but then I realized they were slitting open their blood-collection bags and flinging the blood around as hard as they could, in the air, over everyone, basically creating a nice little afternoon blood shower. Of course this is not the artistic part and it’s why Dan calls this the Captive Audience – people were just too shocked to move and who’s going to rip the needle out of their arm to try and get away?
And that’s when the hallucinations started.
The authorities know what it is now, sort of, after the mob had fled and the police took samples. After we all came to. A drug in the aerosolized blood, something akin to mescaline but quicker-acting, instantaneous in fact, and not necessarily needing contact with mucous membranes. One woman two seats over from me had managed not to get a drop on her, but her eyes – dilated and an odd ivy-green – said she saw. Her face said she was on the edge of that rapturous calm (some say apathy) that’s been associated with the flash mob’s victims (beneficiaries?) ever since. So yes, we know what it is, but that doesn’t mean we know how it works. This is a blog, meant to be a brief list – Dan’s reminding me – of the year’s best, but I’ve had these questions ever since this happened to me and there’s nowhere else for me to let loose on the subject. No one else online even seems to be trying.
Because the question is this – why does everyone in the crowd see the same thing? Because they do, those questioned right afterward always confirm it. That should be impossible. Why does every crowd see something different? At the donor center we saw – cities. Or it was only one city or it was one building, rising from the various points on our blood – drenched skin like lacework buttresses of cathedrals, black cobweb lines that built twisted towers that were so beautiful people were sobbing. Beasts that seemed made of stained glass were climbing in the works, headed for the tips of the towers. We all knew what would happen when they got there and then we forgot again. It lasted for ten seconds or twenty and the doctors and nurses and donor-center volunteers all stood with their necks craned and all of us in the reclining seats lay on our backs and watched and for a moment the world was one colorless tower.
You’ve been following this trend, I’m sure, so you know – other crowds surprised by a flash mob in the last few weeks have seen other things. The worm child is one, as long as a city block, they said. And there’s the honeycomb with teeth, that seems to swoop down and swallow the onlookers. No one can ever remember what the flash mobbers look like.
But here’s the thing, bear with me, family – I saw something else besides the city. Because I sensed eyes on me from the donor chair on my left, I looked across. There was a man in the chair staring back at me. He had red hair like Dan’s, that deep autumn-leaf red and the pale skin to go with it, and he looked familiar but at the same time he didn’t. Forty-something. His clothes bothered me. Too shiny. His fingers were long. Nothing of the flash mob’s blood seemed to have touched him. He paid no attention to the colorless city, though I could see the fractal lower edge of it in the air behind him. He smiled at me.
I don’t remember anything else. There was that huge collective sigh just then, because the effect of the drug was over. The city had vanished. People were starting to scream about the blood on them. I tried to sit up, get a doctor’s attention, but then everyone was. When I looked back of course the man was gone.
It’s me, Dan, again: So my wife flirts with strange guys during blood donation. Oops, I’m already in the doghouse for even writing that. But to get serious – she swears there was no one in the chair beside her before the flash mob started. So, if anyone out there’s had this experience – an “individual” hallucination inside the crowd hallucination – let us know. As far as we can tell, Kelly-Ann’s was a one-off, but it would be good to know if people are seeing weird smiling people like this.
7. Returning to a more upbeat entry, next in line is Rainbow Man. The idea behind this is the fact that the blood flush in the skin will alter depending on how the skin is reflecting light, so we both assume Rainbow Man is working with skin alterations here rather than strictly a blood disease. The “original” disease in this case is argyria, the silver poisoning that turns skin gray-blue, but Rainbow Man has engineered a spectrum of colors that change constantly depending on his circulation. Simple but charming! Check it out.
6. We’re not just here to report, dear reader. Sometimes we like to try these things ourselves and since her experience at the donor center Kelly-Ann’s become a little obsessed, for lack of a better word, with getting hold of some of the outlawed DIY kits. After the very recent emergence of Blood Pets, I was badgered (again, no better word) into finding this one for her and my dark-net buddies came through for me. The technique is simple: a finger-prick blood sample, dribbled into the black-box container about the size of a fist. The “pet” emerges about two hours later. Just a red blob to start with (I’m assuming the mechanism is the same as that used in Snaking Blood and Blood Medusa), but with a disturbingly greater amount of autonomous motion. By “feeding” the blob with more blood applied at various points, the user then shapes (and grows) it into the pet they want. You may not have seen these on the street yet. People seem to be keeping them in their homes away from the public eye for now. “Comforting” and “loving” are how the few online posters describe the creations, and in the rare videos their pets indeed appear to have taken cute forms I think of as puppies or cats or hamsters. Ours stayed fetus-like for quite a while and I dubbed it the Larva (doghouse time for me again), but it’s become more humanoid since, with stubby but discrete limbs that probably won’t carry its weight for a long time yet. Large head, a hint of facial features, wispy hair. It’s begun to cry at night. Kelly-Ann carries it around everywhere, feeding it. Recommended only if you’re very sure you know what you’re aiming for.
5. In the category of true performance art, we next have Blood Angels, by the artist known as Stephanalia. We all recall making snow angels as kids, and as a dad you can’t wait to show your own kid how to. Stephanalia has engineered her red cells to be repelled from one another like magnets the moment they hit the air. When she slits her fingers open and presses her hands to the canvas, the blood immediately spreads out in those intricate wing patterns, making a different “angel” each time. The paintings themselves might not be so compelling (a person could see anything in the patterns, they could just as well be hellish rather than heavenly), but the fascination is in the performance here, in watching the videos as the blood seeps from her fingertips (my tip: over and over and speeded up) for a truly hypnotic experience that will help you forget your cares for awhile.
4.Radiant Man may be radioactive or he may have found some other way (I hope for his sake) to make himself glow like that. This might be related to Rainbow Man, but this isn’t some color effect – it’s light. The lumen output is supposedly that of a 40-watt bulb. You could definitely read the instructions on your DIY kit by the light of this guy, but take care – we have no information on whether the effect can be turned back off.
3.Carrie Markham may be a name to you. Olympic gold swimmer, pretty, funny on TV, who for some reason last year decided she wanted tastebuds all over her skin instead of just on her tongue and found a designer who was willing to engineer the proteins involved. Again not a true blood disease but we like to be inclusive here and it does involve the circulatory system. And it’s another effect that experts say is irreversible. It means for Markham that she tastes every surface she touches, tastes everything in the water she swims in (mostly chlorine, I’d imagine – who would want that?). It means tasting the skin of anyone you touch – even a handshake – just as if you’d licked them. Her partner at the time, Rosalynn Hunter, wrote a very personal memoir about their sex life afterward. Markham claimed it enlivened her, made her a better, faster swimmer, before the news of her breakdown came out. Remember, people – this is a list of the best, as in the wildest, but not necessarily anything we recommend you try at home. This one’s for the adventurous maybe. I’m just happy Kelly-Ann wasn’t drawn to try this one out, and with that we move on to second place…
The opposite of Radiant Man, so to speak. Not some kind of Invisible Man however, as the meme would have it. ImGregorSamsa may become invisible someday, but for now he’s just rendered himself translucent. This was another must-have for Kelly-Ann. It came in a 0.5-ml vial; application is by syringe (included). By the second day I was bumping into her when she stood in a certain angle of light. Not sure how this one works, dear reader, though I remember a lot of my college chemistry. Something in the blood interfering with the free electrons, erasing grain boundaries, the capillaries just beneath the skin modulating incoming light, changing the wavelengths so they pass through. This has to be affecting not just her skin but everything in her: blood, bone, organs. It’s the one best-of my wife’s tried that I would undo if I could. People don’t just fade away. Strangely, the effect carries over to the Larva whenever she’s holding him, which is almost always now. Last week she joked (this is a woman who can keep a straight face) that she and her blood pet are going away, to the place that guy from the donor center showed her, Mr. Flirting Hallucination, and I wish I could get my hands on the guy (you men out there can feel with me on this) because it’s gone past the stage of a joking matter. Her transparency is more transparent every day. Obsessive is one thing, irreversible is another. I joked back that she ought to try Radiant Man on top of it so I could at least see her by the glow, that if the two diseases worked together it might keep her from vanishing entirely, but it didn’t get a laugh out of her. If anyone out there’s tried the Disappearing Act and knows how to reverse it, contact me . I’m scouring the internet, no joy so far. Not recommended, no matter how adventurous you think you are.
1. And our winner is…drumroll please…
You and Me. Yeah, that one. Bet you guessed. Not a lot to say about this, since no one knows how it works or even if it really does. Except that, if true, it would have profound implications for our society as a whole, for everything that makes us human, and that’s why I’ve awarded it first place here. It would be utterly transformative. A simple formula, again injectable, that alters the electric charge on the blood cells of the two who take it, so that for a few hours they are telepathic with one another upon skin contact. The labs that have administered all those corny mind-reading tests on the couples who take this are obviously shocked by the 100% results. It’s the dream we all have, expressed in a thousand books and movies: to know someone completely, to understand their choices and what moves them, why they do what they do.
Boy, do I want this one. Place an order, my guy tells me, he can get his hands on anything. But Kelly-Ann says (her half-disembodied voice from behind me says) that she won’t take it with me if I do. That there’s a wall you don’t cross. That there’s a reason the wall’s there.
I need input on this one, people. Your comments, your impressions if you have tried You and Me, even your views on whether to go for it at all. Because it’s a divisive issue in the Living TissYou household right now. Not shouting-match divisive, don’t get me wrong. We’re quiet when we discuss it. Although she’s much quieter, her voice almost faded away along with her body now, like the transparency is having an effect on her vocal cords or she’s holding the Larva up in front of her mouth again, nuzzling.
So there you have it. Living TissYou’s Top 10. As you can see, we did a lot more of our own experimenting this year instead of just reporting, and we’ll keep you posted on that.
Just a quick note here at the end. Kelly-Ann may not talk a lot about our story, but I don’t have those qualms. It’s exactly three years ago today that our beautiful little boy Lawrence died of leukemia at the horribly tragic age of 6 and we started this blog soon after. About the same time really that the creative blood-disease fad took off. In a way it hijacked what we’d set out here to do, which was create a space for others who’ d gone through the same thing. Still, even though only a few of you hail from the beginning when the blog was more an informational tool on naturally-occurring blood disorders, each of you has joined the Living TissYou family for your own reasons and we’ve done our best to serve all of you equally, even when it took Kelly-Ann and me places we maybe shouldn’t have gone in our grief. You see, there are good and bad ways to grieve, I’m convinced. One thing I never do is wonder what Lawrence would have grown up to be like – whether he would have resembled me, for instance, physically or in attitude. That way cray-cray lies. I’m practical at heart. I keep it in. Kelly-Ann has always been different that way and the diseases she’s tried on this year haven’t helped. There’s been such a change in her since the man at the donor center smiled at her. She keeps saying he had inhuman teeth and that she wanted to go to the colorless city with him. She’s become quieter, apathetic really, all that brashness and the strength I loved gone. Since yesterday the Larva’s been walking on its own, a real climber in fact, and it makes her cry to have to hold it down. I locate her by the sobs. I can see all the way through her now.
It’s all made me want to quit the blog at times, but then I remember the “you” in Living TissYou. I can’t know what creative blood diseases people will come up with next year and how it will change us – I can’t even know what tomorrow will bring (or take from me) – but I know I’ll be here week by week, blogging and recommending (or not), and I sure hope some of you will still be out there and that you’ll join me.
From the Archives is a highlight of public domain stories of the type we will showcase in Archive of the Odd. As such, we have no rights to these stories and do not bear any responsibility to or for the authors, who are almost certainly dead.
Our author for the day is Malcolm Ferguson (1919-2011), a horror writer and essayist active from 1944-1951. “The Polar Vortex” was published in the June 1946 issue of Weird Tales.
What follows is a transcription (both in the story and in real life!). The original can be found on the Internet Archive here.
Warnings: Isolation, descent into madness, death, terrible scientific ethics
Among the effects of the late Leopold Lemming, multi-millionaire turned scientist and dabbler, was a small, battered old chest containing several hundred yards of wire on which had been recorded sounds, and a two-hundred-page transcript of an experiment. Lemming had made his money in real estate, which is quite another tiling from science, and in spite of his considerably advantageous investments in new scientific inventions, most people thought of Lemming as a shrewd businessman and only a dabbler in the sciences, or, as they put it, the pseudo-sciences.
This opinion continued throughout the estate’s auction at the appearance of such fantastic objects as rune-hilted swords, waxen images of notables, volumes of Paracelsus, the Book of the Dead, and Cotton Mather, all copiously annotated in a cryptic shorthand, with now and then a vehement objection bursting into English as he disagreed with one or another of these. There were quite a number of these objects, some common, some very esoteric indeed, but all apparently appraised as to their validity. Then there were volumes on the sciences— astronomy, mathematics, physics, predominantly, all bearing this code of the modern Pepys, whose choice of objects was so strange.
The most curious acquisition made from Lemming’s effects, however, was the battered old chest, which contained the manuscript in English, the dictaphone wire, and a small sheaf of notes, which turned out to be the case-book of an experiment Lemming had made in connection with his observatory at the South Poke. These effects gave evidence of a shocking ruthlessness, blindly idolatrous to the acquisition of scientific knowledge, revealing a curiously terrible experiment, which could be pieced together from the notebook Lemming used and the wire-reel—
The Case-Book of Daniel Imbrifer
1 Feb.: I am opening this notebook with high hopes. I think Daniel Imbrifer will be an excellent subject. Clerk by day, student by night, he strives with the valor of Prometheus. He’ll do.
And now, two years to the day since I laid the cornerstone of the glass-domed observatory at the South Magnetic Pole, I’ve met him in a bookstore, vastly hungering for knowledge and forasmuch as he could not buy both books and food. Just under six foot tall, raven-haired: that he was a fathomer of dark pools was reflected in his eyes. I hope to plumb the depths of those pools and stir them into a mad wrath that spews up the long-hidden debris of their deepest abysms. I want to whip up such a tidal frenzy in his mind that all surface craft will be lost, and derelict thoughts be riven from their mud-moored deeps.
But not a bit of this eagerness could be seen in my casual introduction as we both groped for the same book. In a moment he knew me from various news photos and articles. We talked, I feigning interest in several odd volumes, he unfolding forthright views on science and myth alike under my discreet probings, proving with ever)’ word to be the man I wanted for my experiment. A noble mind, full of youthful energy, impatient to storm the gates of wisdom.
17 Mar.: Imbrifer and I sat late in my library, and over the third highball I showed him the model of my Antarctic planetarium. I had mentioned it often — now I was ready. I explained to him that there was to be a council of scientists there, and cunningly interwove names known to him and names known only to my mind. I spoke with regret of my unsuccessful attempts to get someone who could represent the layman, since all these men had pursued their theories so long that they were blind to all others. A good pupil demands clear expression from his teacher, and often finds the weak places in an exposition I argued. With such a student we could inaugurate a series of round-table discussions, of seminars, of papers and paper-chases.
How could he be anything but impressed by this, and by the model of the sheer-glass, double-thick hemisphere in the deserted waste of the Antarctic, whose winter is a perpetual night. I dissembled the model and showed him the subterrene dynamo, the storage passageways, enough devices to insure the safety of a dozen men for a year at least.
I showed him the telescope alongside the observatory, which, even in the model, could be raised cunningly from its garage just as coastal guns are brought into place. And Imbrifer saw that the telescope could fathom the skies, recording on die deep screen before him what it probed, as if on an oversized television screen. It’s a delicate machine, yet especially made to withstand cold — with the advantage that in the winter nights of the South Polar region there are a minimum of deflecting heat waves.
Imbrifer took it all in, and I’ve taken him in — he’s hooked. I have yet to get him to take the custodianship of the place until the “conference” starts. Say a month from the time we leave him there, flying away; his eye fixed as a cyclops’ on the sky. I have yet to explain to him die apparatus for projecting an artificial skyscrape in cloudy weather. Perhaps I’ll leave that until he gets there.
All, but he’s a prober — all concerned for the science of the thing; lured to look at the fascinating, and away from my magic-making skullduggery. Teasing his mind to reveal its secrets, catching himself in superstitions and intimations of mortality, and then perplexing himself with “Why?”. Anon playing cat and mouse with a whim, letting it go and catching it again.
29 Mar.: It is agreed. Daniel Imbrifer will fly with me on the 14th of next month. I promised him the crop’s cream of scientists, and so regaled him. He’s to represent Everyman, or his equivalent in the Enquiring Man of Today, at this intellectual Olympiad. While most of this is secret, I have had his picture taken as “assisting me in research” and it’s appearing in newspapers here and there. For one month, I told him yesterday, he is to be the sole caretaker at die polar observatory, relieving the four men now on duty there. He is to study the earth and the heavens, the vast deeps of space, and the tiny realm of man. I explained that as one goes to a foreign country to learn its language, here was his opportunity to study astronomy, to contemplate, with all the resources of modern science the stars and the space between the stars. But little does he realize, storming the gates of wisdom, that this may be too much; that like no other man on earth this world will be too Ettle with him.
Of course I’ve shown him that physically he will be quite safe. Physically, yes, as snug as a bug in a mg — auxiliary heating equipment, an emergency dynamo, and an oil-heating system if these should fail. A veritable anthill of tunnels stocked with more food than such a student as he was used to, rayed out, dry, cool, and air-
conditioned, into the ice and frozen earth below.
14 Apr.: At the South Pole. The giant plane landed on the rough ice outside, taxiing to within 100 yards of the polished dome, which had kept its perfect sheen under the combined protection of an oil which prevents blown ice-particles from forming and piling up, an invisibly fine-veined deicing system raying throughout the sheer glass dome, and a judicious placing of the observatory at the bottom of a shallow bowl which is perpetually scooped by the winds themselves, yet is shallow enough to give the observatory an excellent horizon.
The four caretakers, on shift for a month, greeted us enthusiastically. I have to keep them as much out of Imbrifer’s way as I can, and exert all care that they pack their books and cards and magazines and games with which they passed the time and beat boredom back. I hit on the scheme of opposing such “vain frivolities” for my student-friend with a sanctimonious air that was quite out of my character.
15 Apr.: At the South Pole — or, to be technical, at the hypothetical magnetic South Pole, diametrically antipodal to the magnetic North Pole. Today I leave Daniel Imbrifer to his studies, to burn the midnight oil in the uninterrupted Antarctic night. And with problems as ponderable as the night is long.
He and I checked the observatory’s apparatus — its temperature kept evenly at a chilly 58.6 degrees Fahrenheit, its air-conditioning functioning perfectly, preventing heat-waves from piling up under the dome, but creating a steady, fountain-shaped current of air, and keeping sight of the stars undistorted. And below us purred this giant dynamo with a low, even pulsing which was barely perceptible.
The lighting in the dome has been cut down to three shielded stroboscopic lights. One casts a wan light over a study table; another at the head of the bed on a gooseneck to swing over the low bookshelf; the third by the apparatus for raising the telescope. This was the extent of the furniture under the dome, and the smooth, heavy, steel floor has only the trap-door leading to the underground plant, in the center.
Around this is a steel ring, flush with the floor, which will reveal its purpose to Imbrifer in a short while. I checked its mechanism, as delicate as a watch, and found that when heavy clouds obscure the heavens the electric eye will release a jetty vapor to fill the empty air-space between the inner and outer layer of glass in the dome. The ring in the floor will become a band of light, projecting on the dome’s vapid black an exact replica of the heavens as they would have appeared as the earth turns. And just as readily the cunning show gives way to the real one. Perhaps this device will ignite the powder train which will set fire to Imbrifer’s brain, until he feels a tottery Atlas indeed.
This device I set in motion, and yet one more.
The dictaphone, whose wires will start with every sound and stop with every silence, catching every stirring above the ounding of the pulses in the brain’s turine. So.
(Extracts from the Diary of Daniel Imbrifer.):
16 Apr.: At 1350 hours by my watch, Mr. Lemming and his four caretakers left, having instructed me thoroughly regarding the equipment I will need to use here. It is strange that there is no communication with the rest of the world, or any reception of news of any kind. I objected strongly when he started to take the radio out, but he flew into such a rage that I finally let him have his way.
He has an outline study program prepared, with questions for me to ponder. Insolvable questions categorically stated — about dwarf stars, variable stars, comets, nebulae, gravitational pulls, orbits, the origin of the Milky Way and its present direction of movement.
The bookcase contains a dozen books on astronomy, celestial navigation, and mathematics, plus a strange typescript volume containing a collection of folk-lore and mythology concerning man’s contemplation of the heavens. Selections from Pliny, Max Mueller, Sigmund Freud, Sir James Frazer, Oswald Spengler, Dean Swift, Fiona MacLeod, Andrew Lang, Novaiis, and the literature of ancient Egypt and Arabia, all showing man’s perplexed fascination with the night sky.
B UT all my scrambling around is but the reflection of my loneliness. For immediately as the green Castor and red Pollux on the plane’s wings grew dim against the less-colorful stars, loneliness rushed to my heart and took possession of my marrow. This tiny toadstool at the earth’s Ultima Thule was to be my place of vigil. Well, I must stick it out now. If all goes well I can afford to try a few experiments of my own after all this.
18 Apr.: The sky being brilliant, I summoned the sentinel telescope and swept the heavens, the stars crystal clear in the Antarctic cold. Those of higher magnitude delineated as suspended in space. But what caught my eye as I followed the majestic sweep of the Milky Way across the sky was a void, an empty well in the sky — a sudden break in the spate of stars. This hole or blind spot is remarkably situated to catch the eye, being near the zenith, in the lower left quadrant of the Southern Cross. Find the Southern Cross — the cynosure of all navigators below the equator, and this void gapes before you. It is the Coalsack, gaping utterly devoid of stars from this hemisphere’s most conspicuous spot.
20 Apr.: My calendar and my watch tell me it is the 20th of April, but my irregular hours will soon trample down the barriers between the days, since there’s no daylight and dark to distinguish them. I find myself pacing the even surface of the steel floor. I linger over my meals, but the whole eating process can’t be protracted over threequarters of an hour, somehow.
I now know what the dour Scotch caretaker meant when he got wind of the fact that I was to spend a month here, alone. “It shouldn’ be, mon. A young lad like ye. It’s nae guid for ye to be withouten a roof. Ye canna keep yer skull’s cap on withouten a roof. ’Tis agin Nature and God.” And with that he took two quarts of whiskey and with finger to lips he hid them in amongst the canned food. A little later he was about to give me a pack of cards But Mr. Lemming interfered.
Mr. Lemming is a strange figure. Commonplace enough in appearance, yet how he tramples beauty and life under foot in his search for truth. Doesn’t he realize that truth should be cut in chunks man can swallow? That science, unless devoted to the orientation of mankind to this world, rather than to the bedevilment of mankind for your own satisfaction and perhaps even knowledge, is a perversion. Mr. Lemming’s damn-the-cost attitude is too big for this world.
I thought today that I’d at last be able to turn my thoughts to earth, at least for long enough to get my breath. But I didn’t count on the genius of Mr. Lemming, who produced an image of the heavens on the dome of the observatory. It’s a clever thing, throwing every detail visible to the naked eye upon the glass dome. … I suppose he’d explain it as “for the guidance of the council’’ but I see it as an effort to sever my mental associations with the man-sized world and draw me out into the realms of space.
How little I realized when I came here. Is it really my imagination, or is Mr. Lemming trying to condition my thoughts? How? Why?
I remember a puppet-show in which a man suddenly appeared as a fearsome giant, after I had become used to the deft, graciously proportioned Lilliputians. Thus our premises of thought are altered, yet we are always human beings, not titans, nor want to be.
22 Apr.: I could not bring myself to write anything yesterday. I studied and made notes on the Southern constellations, examining the double stars all wound up in each other’s fate, die dwarf stars looking what their name implies under the terrific weight of their bodies. I could not help but imagine attributes for the various stars, a childish trick firmly rooted in the mind of man.
23 Apr.: I’m still studying books on this world and this universe. I remember of a man studying the phenomenon of sleep for so long and so deeply that he inhibited himself from going to sleep — he “murdered sleep,’’ and had to seek rest in a sanitarium.
24 Apr.: After writing the words above I went to sleep readily enough, but awoke in sudden fright, somehow startled, perhaps by a cramped position. The first thing I saw was that baleful emptiness, the Coalsack, yawning like an ape’s gape in the night. Dark in a world of dark.
25 Apr.: Tired. I had better not write. Brain fog. Sorry, Imbrifer, old boy, but the first person is not well.
26 Apr.: Today I took one of the books and went downstairs, but the lighting is bad. I could feel the stars above me if I could not see them. It was worse, as if the fourth dimension were lurking to swallow me into thin air. I had better stand and fight like a man. If I’m going to fear anything I want to find it out before it finds me out.
(Apparently at this point the noises transcribed on the wire do not reflect alarming aberations. An inordinate amount of pacing back and forth restlessly, a good deal of talking to himself, though nothing as fascinating or understandable as the diary. Very little laughter except for a sardonic chuckle. At one point Imbrifer took to running around tine observatory, but whether from nervousness or from a planned project to exercise, cannot be known.)
27 Apr.: Poking around in the below-surface regions trying to consume as much time as possible making dinner, yet at the same time subconsciously speeding up, teasing myself with my bodings, when I found a covered disk in the center of the floor inset in front of the hatch-ladder. I unscrewed the two screws that kept the cover in place and found a mariner’s compass.
I tripped the release on the compass, setting it in motion. The release somehow broke in doing so, but I soon overlooked this as I watched the strange action of the compass. It fluctuated, wobbled, and spun for a moment, and finally settled down to spin slowly but steadily. Deliberately and determinedly it set about to register All Points North. Around and round and round.
I suppose it sounds natural, but it was a possibility I had never anticipated. Apparently set in the center of the building’s foundation, it won’t budge. It’s the only compass here, too. Is this the reaction a compass should make when located as this one is? The earth’s axis seems very real to me, as if it ran directly through the center of this building. I wonder if a plumb, suspended free, would swing round instead of back and forth. I wish there were enough space to try it.
I’ve been sitting here musing for three hours now. Here is empirical evidence that I am the Man in the Mulberry Bush, and all men grope around me…
(Here is interpolated the first of the recordings from the wire, following a mad crescendo of laughter.)
“…Laugh, damn you, laugh. It will steady your nerves. Now let me think this thing through. Here am I at the imaginary point around which this giant gyroscope whirls. This small compass is cogged to whirl about the same central point as does the earth, but, though concentric, it whirls faster, being somehow the center of a smaller circle. Only at this orbit is the spin registered, since everywhere else it’s off-line. Even a mile off the distance absorbs the whirl, though the compass begins to act queerly. The laws of gravitation offset all centrifugal force. Well, they do here for that matter, but there’s still all that extra ‘whirl’ left. No, it can’t be…
“Where is that whiskey the Scotchman left. Here if I can reach it. … I seem to be walking all right on this dizzying disk. If only that damned compass would stop acting like a weather-cock in the center of a cyclone. Ah, here it is…
” ’Tell me why the stars do shine …’ Say that’s good; it’s a long time since I sang that in church.
’Tell me why the stars do shine Tell me why the ivy twines Tell me why the sky’s so blue …’
How about that ivy business? That’s strange. North of the equator it spins counter-clockwise, just like a cyclone. South of the equator the vine twines clockwise, just like the cyclone. At the equator the effect is most dissipated. No crises there. But at the center of this little ‘o’, this orb, it spirals to beat hell. And that, as Kipling would say, if he had been drinking, is why we have no ivy at the poles. It’s also why you don’t see streamers around the South Pole come Mayday…
28 Apr.: I awoke lying across my bed, feeling rotten, fully dressed. I am not a drinking man, and feel down at the edges. But perhaps it’s a good thing. This place is getting me down — and I don’t mean because it’s down under here, either — that’s a lot of imaginary nonsense. It is, truly enough one of the poles, though, and like only one other point in the world, its antipode, its nadir, its opposite.
I feel better now. Perhaps I can study again.
29 Apr.: Today I contemplated the space between the stars, looking first at our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centaurus, and then I found (with difficulty) the external galaxy in, or rather behind, the constellation of Centaurus. This is another Milky Way — this wee haze amounts to somewhere near as much as most of the rest of our horizon’s view for size. From Alpha Centaurus light is supposed to take four years and four months dragging its heels at its usual speed in a vacuum getting around to us.
2 May.: My precarious equilibrium has been maintained, largely by not asking myself too many questions and by “not thinking about anything.’’ As I spun the telescope away from a variable star I was watching, stars of the Milky Way swam across my field of vision as so many motes. Many of them are larger than our sun and several thousand light years away. And then the bottom dropped out, as it were, as if this were too much for this mechanical contraption. It registered nothing. Nothing. A blank black. I looked up. Yes, the stars still shone. But the telescope’s field was a blank. Fearfully and with moist palms I turned the dial. A star appeared at the lower right corner. I spun the dial away, up and to the left. Another star appeared. Then the troupe of the Milky Way, as if the celestial ballet had started afresh. I’m afraid I whimpered at this, and fell all a-tremble, like a puppy. I had accidentally stumbled on the Coalsack, and it had taken me unawares.
There is something about that celestial blindspot that makes me want to cower in a comer, but this damned place is round.
3 May.: My watch stopped when I slept. I can tell time roughly by the stars, but I might easily become confused and lose track of the days. Then I’d be afraid to reckon up for fear I’d lose a day, or a week, and have it here ahead of me. I wonder if my pulse stopped or whether it was some baleful influence here. Last night a terrible dream wrought me. A vine twined quickly out of space and seized my head. I awoke, screaming. And right above me was the lurking pit out of which the spiral spun. It seemed ages that I cowered in bed, cursing my cowardice, afraid of reality, afraid of dream.
4 May (I guess).: Relief! Relief, damn Lemming! Something he hadn’t thought of. A straw for me to clutch at as I whirl in the center of this polar maelstrom.
An earthly phenomenon. One he hadn’t anticipated either. He who ruled out snow and the rushing balm of a frozen death from his little study of this poor student, Daniel Imbrifer. He who created the glassy image of the heavens to taunt me; who exposed me to the gaze of the deeps, to the hypnotic pull of this vastness of space, drawing me out as oil on water, in an element equally foreign and fearsome.
The phenomenon sheds more light rather than less, the Aurora Australis. This earthly phenomenon has helped me get my feet under myself at least for long enough to learn that my mind is that of a poor earthling and should not seek to soar too far. In this assurance I have won for, though I lose my mind, I have really gained it.
Life surges back and the pulses pace for a moment more sedately. At first the Aurora Australis marched slowly in crackling white radiance, as if the atmosphere were rai n i n g manna; then in colored energy, dancing from horizon to horizon, taking in its bounds at a Borzoi leap. Lord, once again to be an awestruck earthling and watch the hound of heaven, the leaping Loki, the frozen lightning, the shattered rainbow, energy snared and transformed by witchery, a hyperborean Ariel, an impersonalized nervousness which drives out my own. My pen flows evenly, swiftly, as this phenomenon continues, because when it dies down my energy will begin to charge and leap up.
Later: The Aurora Australis has gone, but my mind is still in the ways of men. Though alone on the night-side of the world, I know the rest is there; that the sun greets most men the world around. That work and days go on I know, that men work at the vast drop forges, at the antiquated plows; that they ogle the women and test their strength with other men at games; that they are often cruel, but that there will always and ultimately be beauty and a warming of the heart; and though many are killed, some will see light and humility.
Later: Perhaps I can last out the month, though I doubt it. I’m afraid to compute the time and date by celestial means. I’m afraid that time has stood still or perhaps has crept at snail’s pace, as if the snail had started at the back of my skull-bone and had not yet lumped up under my hair at the top of my head— but such thoughts spin into the abysms of madness. And yet even unafflicted people use mad concepts, though they no more realize than they do the fact the earth is spinning and time speeding with it, though they see that the sun rises and sets, while I do not.
This “morning” I awoke quietly, and kept a blanket over my head until I had my wits about me. Then boldly looked out at the skies sinking into infinity, suspended in infinity. I think I can stand it today, though. I tried to make a deck of cards, but fearing I would become superstitious as luck played tricks with me. I would have embodied luck as an unseen presence behind me, fearfully pointing a skeletal hand at a card. And there is enough behind me that I have to keep driving back mentally. Sometimes obsession rides my back like a twining corpse.
I will choose my thoughts carefully today (today being determined as the period until I grow sufficiently tired to seek rest). I cast about me for something to do, to keep me occupied. In this calm moment I see that it is quite probable that Lemming did, wholly by design, plan to use me as his guinea pig. Since one man has willed that this be so, and since I cannot alter it, I will let this record continue as long as it will to express this emotional dispersement and end either when I’m rescued or as it will.
(From the wire dictaphone.)
“I am alone on earth.
“Once there were Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Adam and Eve have gone off and left me here all alone. I make the world go round on course, on time. But what if I should fall asleep and it should stop, and the rest of the universe be spinning except the world?
“There’s a good boy — crank the spit. If I could only really tell why I turn this world around…
“It’s all in your imagination, Danny — it’s all in your imagination. Damn that blasphemous compass. I’ll break it, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll get something heavy and drop it on it. This chair will do…
“There, that’s better. But oh, it gapes like an empty socket! What have I done?”
(Now the diary again.)
Later: Yesterday I broke the compass. But I solved nothing by that. It still goes around in my mind. I was childish and I am just aggravating myself. I am sorry. It would be better if I left it undamaged. Then I could see that things are as they are and get a foothold on facts that are fast eluding me.
(The wire record again. )
“Eieeaaah…, stop, world. Stop whirling. That ape’s hairy black arm grasping the world from that ebon emptiness of the Coalsack turned inside out. Stop spinning me swivelling. Too fast. The world grasped as seaweed clenches a clam — but whirling as the ape’s arm spins it, unkinking. No, no, grasping hand, pressing palm! Sweat pearled.
“It’s me you want—wait—I’ll stand at the nub’s hub. I’ll howl it down. Eiii-ah ”
Notes of Mr. Leopold Lemming
The body of Daniel Imbrifer was found at the foot of his bed, his feet tangled in bedclothes, his skull broken on the steel floor. He had apparently set out to stand astride this mad world. I wonder—
Fortunately I entered first, well expecting such a discovery. The crew of the ship is quite different from the one which took me away two and a half months ago. Both crews believe I left Imbrifer for only a week (though he anticipated a month’s stay only), and no one knows the devices I have here — not all of them, or why. Now before they come in I will gather and put aside all the data on Imbrifer.
Here comes the pilot. I’ll be shocked at my discovery. Within twenty-four hours we should leave here.
After a long wait, the first issue of Archive of the Odd is now out!
This issue contains fourteen stories and ten illustrations, totally 50,000 words- for only $5! It’s been an exciting ride, and I thank everyone who has made this possible, whether by backing, submitting, or showing your support by following this blog. I hope to see more of all of you in the future.
You can get it on Etsy or Big Cartel– on Etsy it’s an automatic download with a link to a max-quality version (Etsy isn’t a fan of 100 MB files apparently), on Big Cartel it requires manual fulfillment but you’ll get access to the full quality version right away.
Azul- JR Santos, illustrations by Alina Gottbrecht Click Me- Rachel Rodman, illustration by Hira Rashid (spookyfolklore.tumblr.com) The Comments Section- Andy Tytler Goblin Universe- Barrie Darke, illustration by Hekatos Mist HALLWAY- RL Meza House of Fitted Stones- Daniel Simonson, illustration by Rieroo/Morgan Versluys Incident Report- Cormack Baldwin, illustration also by Cormack Baldwin Kullen Product Support- EV Smith, illustration by Renée Elizabeth Clarke Queen of the Underground- Maureen O’Leary, illustrations by Georgia Cook The Securities & Exchange Commission v. The Undying Sea- Simo Srinivas, illustration by DS Oswald A Series of Notes Found Scribbled Inside the Romance Novels in the 50p Section of My Local Oxfam- Georgia Cook, illustration by Alina Wahab Skipping- Simon J. Plant, illustration by Beatrice Olive Video Nasty- Jack Fennell, illustration by Toeken Welcome- Alexis Ames & Kat Veldt
Between the Shelves is a showcase of Archive of the Odd stories outside of the main zine.
This story is by the extraordinary Tara Campbell.
Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe’s Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection, and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her at www.taracampbell.com or on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom
“I cut you, I cut you, I cut you”: Contemporary Wedding Customs in the City of Failing Knives
Popular Sociology, September 2112
Luisa Benevides, PhD & Jonathan Phillips, PhD
“I cut you, I cut you, I cut you.”
These are the wedding vows in New Morristown, the City of Failing Knives.
In this city, knives do not cut. They lose their edge as soon as they are used. You will sooner sharpen a knife down to a metal thread than get it to cut. Other things cut: scissors, razors, even the side of a fork or a spoon, but in this city, knives continually fail.
Not only do they fail to cut, but they actually go one step further: they knit things together. Take a knife to a cake, and the pastry will bind into a dense, inedible seam of pastry. The rest of the cake will be salvageable, but you’ll have to break the remaining pieces off a newly indestructible swath of sweetness right down the middle.
In this city, knives do not cleave in the usual manner: they cleave things together. Wedding cakes are cut with spatulas, which makes for easier serving anyway.
But before cake: the ceremony. The couple will stand before the officiant, staring into each other’s eyes, get prayed over if that’s their custom, poet-ed at if that’s their preference, serenaded by a friend if that’s their thing—you get the idea. Then the couple will exchange rings and vows. Even in cases where couples have written their own, they always end in the traditional phrase: “I cut you, I cut you, I cut you.”
At this point the couple will clasp hands and turn toward the officiant. A knife-bearer will approach the altar with the instrument (and here there is great variation: for formal affairs, the knife will be silver and filigreed, perched on a satin pillow; for rustic weddings, a hunting knife might lie in a basket of wildflowers; fantasy fans have been known to arrange for a sword-like knife to arrive stuck in a “stone” crafted artfully of papier mâché. Whatever the implement is, for safety’s sake, it may only have one slicing edge, so as to be classified as a knife).
The officiant will take up the proffered knife (usually from an adorable toddler in a tuxedo, a cat in a bolo tie, or a dog dressed as a dragon, depending on the theme) and ask the couple if they wish to be knifed, to which they must reply yes, freely and without reservation. The officiant then raises the knife and utters the phrase again—a variation of “by the power vested in me by the [appropriate authority], I cut you, I cut you, I cut you”—then plunges the instrument downward toward the clasped hands of the couple, careful to not actually make contact. It is a delicate balance, because the more vehement the downward motion, the more potent the bond. The officiant must, however, stop before touching the clasped hands, to avoid the melding of flesh, or as in the infamous Atwood-Walters case, the severing of it. Because both power and precision are of such importance, many couples prefer to hire a professional officiant rather than entrust (and perhaps burden) a well-intentioned but nearsighted pastor or a close but potentially intoxicated friend with the task.
In rare but unfortunate cases where contact is made, and fusion occurs, hours of surgery and months of physical therapy may be required to achieve re-separation of limbs with full recovery of function. A tepid swing employed out of an abundance of caution, on the other hand, has been known to cast a pall over the rest of the day, and in some instances, has been cited as a reason for subsequent divorce, particularly when the union lasts fewer than five years.
In one particularly interesting variation on the ceremony, no officiant is used at all. Each member of the couple instead takes up the knife and pantomimes stabbing the other in the heart three times, speaking the phrase “I cut you” with each false thrust.
Imagine what it would take to stand before the love of your life and open up your arms to absorb the plunge of a knife headed straight for your chest. What would it be like to grip that handle yourself and, in front of Deity and everyone, bring the blade down, aiming right at the heart of the person you love most in the world while proclaiming, “I cut you, I cut you, I cut you”?
Could you do it? Could you swing with all your might, knowing your future depends on putting your whole soul into the blow—and missing?
Could you stab with enough love to make it last?
 We must note here that the goal of this article is not to explain the phenomenon of failing knives, for this has been well-documented as part of the history of alchemical weapons testing in the western United States in the second half of the 21st century. Our concern here is sociological, namely: how communities around the radii of the testing have survived and evolved.
 For further background on the importance this requirement, reference the startling account of the Atwood-Walters wedding. The most comprehensive account to date: Johns, Edward. “Perilous Love: Wedding Customs in the Western Territories,” NewUS Cultural Studies Vol 25(1):52-64 (2108). Fortunately, both parties responded well to surgery and recovered full use of their limbs.
 Many may wonder at the variation here—why the officiant says “knifed” whereas the wedding vows refer to “cut.” This may be due to vestigial traces of linguistic convention that have carried into the current century. It is not difficult to comprehend how “I cut you” bears a greater similarity to “I love you” than it does to “I knife you,” and may therefore be more reassuring to hear from a partner in the presence of sharp objects. Reference: Marks, Hailey. “Laughing All the Way to the Altar: Evolution of Ceremonial Vows East of the Mississippi,” Topics in NewUS Linguistics Vol 12(1):13-20 (2097).
 Older variations on this practice will include a query to the attendees as to whether anyone has objections to this knifing, but in modern times this portion of the ceremony is rarely followed. Marks, 2097.
 It was determined that the alarming error with Atwood-Walters was the result not only of improper equipment (knife-like sword instead of sword-like knife) but also of an officiant who had availed himself a bit too heartily of the prenuptial flask in the groom’s dressing room. Johns, 2108.
Between the Shelves is a showcase of Archive of the Odd stories outside of the main zine.
This story is by real-life archival assistant and Archive of the Odd consultant EK Smith, who would like you to know “I do not know how to spell Clonazepam”. Unlike the From the Archives writers (and perhaps our head archivist), Smith is actually alive. We hope.
Content Warnings: Medical malpractice, violence, death, the undead
Emergency Contact: [REDACTED] [REDACTED]
BP: 120/80 HR: 119 Temp: 100.6
Patient complains of fever, chills, persistent hunger and abdominal pain. Reports “throat is fine, it doesn’t hurt” but change in voice and breathing imply a common bacterial infection.
Medications: Amoxicillin 250 mg. Take 2 in the morning and call back at the end of the week.
Note: None Recorded
BP: 119/83 HR: 150 Temp: 103.1
Patient continues to complain of fever, hunger and pain, with increased agitation. Elevated heart rate and blood pressure indicative of anxiety and the overuse of nicotine. Patient encouraged to eat better and to reduce smoking. Request for further examination denied.
Medications: No changes recommended- Maintain antibiotics.
Note: Patient displays inability to comply with physician directions.
BP: N/A HR: N/A Temp: N/A
Patient has persistently called the office to complain, despite refusing directions. Escalating agitation and aggression indicative of acute anxiety issues.
Medications: Clonazapam 0.25mg every 12 hours
Note: Patient’s voice is rough and difficult to understand over the phone.
BP: N/A HR: N/A Temp: N/A
Patient arrived without appointment, exhibiting extreme aggression toward hospital staff, and became self-destructive when initially asked to leave. When approached, the patient reacts violently, once attempting to bite the nurses. Eventually, a sedative was administered. We have inpatient orders in place, despite my belief that this is a severe patient overreaction.
Medications: Emergency use of Lorazepam and Clozapine for use as chemical restraint.
Note:Patient is resistant to chemical restraints, and may require a higher dosage. The use of 4-point restraints is authorized with Law Enforcement on-site. Possible 5150.
BP: 150/101 HR: 40 Temp: 104.3
Patient appears jaundiced, especially around the face. Blood pressure is high, either from sedation or high stress. Since last visit, patient appears to have lost 10% of body fat, and the appearance of skin and eyes suggests dehydration. The infection has clearly gone unchecked up until this point, and the fever is steadily increasing. Intravenous saline and antibiotics are recommended. For staff and personal safety, the patient is to be kept under physical restraint as the sedatives wear off, until the patient can be assessed for aggression and possible psychosis.
Medication: Intravenous Nafcillin 1g per 4 hours
Note: Oh, for god’s sake. It had to be this one.Practice procedure for violent patients when administering treatments, and involve law enforcement about today’s earlier incident.
BP: 140/90 HR: 99 Temp: 103.7
Patient is conscious but not entirely coherent. Complains almost of nothing but hunger, and will not focus on any other topic of conversation. Despite this, the patient has refused all offers of our healthy food option, as well as the option of nutritional formula. I believe this is simply obstinance. If patient continues to refuse food, the implementation of a feeding tube while under sedation or restraint is approved.Patient also claims to have spots of cellular necrosis, “you know, like gangrene.” When examined, the spots appear to be nothing worse than a contact rash.
Medication: Continue with IV antibiotics. Paliperidone 40 mg daily by mouth for possible psychosis.
Note: With the return of some of the Patient’s better senses, time outside of restraints is allowed with accordance to at-risk violence policy. Do not hesitate to call in law enforcement if the patient becomes difficult.
BP: 85/60 HR: 75 Temp: 105.2
At 2000 Patient collapsed onto the floor during a period of monitored freedom, and has since been in and out of consciousness. When conscious, the patient is incoherent and violent to the point of biting medical staff. When unconscious, the Patient’s heart rate and blood pressure drop dramatically, while fever continues to spike. Scabs and rashes have begun to appear across the skin. Sedatives are not advised, given the dropping blood pressure, but it also appears that when used, they have little effect. A full blood workup has not revealed any substances used or infectious markers. Kidney and Liver function are to be closely monitored. Schedule for an MRI first thing in the morning.
Medication: 1 gram Vancomycin IV ONCE, and then every day split between every 8 hours with Dextrose 5W solution.
Note: I’m not going to get to go home today, am I?
BP: N/A HR: N/A Temp: N/A
Ten minutes before the scheduled MRI, patient began to exhibit signs of multiple organ failure. Despite expectations, before any dysfunction in the Liver or Kidney, the patient rapidly descended into heart failure. Within minutes, patient lungs were congested with blood, and the skin was cyanotic, with neck and upper torso veins distended. While ventilation was being administered, the patient went into respiratory failure, followed by liver and kidney shut down. It has been six hours since the patient was officially pronounced dead. Resuscitation and assisted survival efforts have been discontinued. THE PATIENT IS STILL IN AND OUT OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
Note: I’m either going to be arrested or earn a medical science award.
BP: 0 HR: 0 Temp: 65.3
The Patient has been “conscious” for 8 hours, now. We took its vitals, just in case, revealing that it has no pulse, no blood pressure, and in general, no organ activity at all. Three medical assistants were injured in data collection. Tests reveal that the central nervous and musculoskeletal systems are still active, despite no blood flow. Attempts to assess the mental state of the patient have been ineffective. Incomprehensible moans and violent outbursts seem to be the only response to human contact. We can’t seem to get the patient to eat.
Note: The authorities have been contacted. Police and fire departments offer no help, and the CDC will not be in until tomorrow night. I have my doubts they will know any more than we do.
BP: N/A HR: N/A Temp: N/A
We have quarantined this area of the hospital after the discovery that the patient has loosed itself from one of four binding points in its restraints. I don’t know if patient is the right word as they no longer fit the medical definition of human. It is still resistant to sedatives It managed to not only dislocate it’s wrist to get it free- it ripped off it’s own thumb. We haven’t been able to get near it since, but many have been scratched apart with the bloody remains of a hand. The patient has tried to bite everything that comes near it. I can only think of how hungry it claimed to be.
Note: There’s nothing left to be done. I’ve been trapped in with Dr. Ken and one of the police officers. It’s out there. The hospital is on lockdown.
BP: 0 HR: 0 Temp: 66.2
It got a police officer, after Dr. Ken found it trying to eat some of the plastic organ models in the exam room. It took direct shots to the chest like they were nothing, and just… tore the officer apart limb by limb. I think Dr. Ken passed out, and suffered a concussion, but I was still there. Still standing. And, well. There was the officer’s gun. The Patient can withstand gunshots to the limbs and abdomen. The same cannot be said, apparently, for the brain.
Medication: 14.5g of lead, shot directly into the brain. Take two in the morning.
(Note: this is specifically in regards to writing. Visual artists had a different gauntlet that we may discuss later.)
(Double note: this is being published before decisions are finalized, as we’d like to explain our process to everyone who we reply to. It is written in past tense, but some of this is ongoing. If anything needs changed, we will do so.)
The point of an archive is simple: to put objects into acid-free boxes until someone expresses interest in them. Sort of. Technically, it is to preserve and organize information in a manner that it can be easily retrieved by future researchers. It is to Know, while the researchers’ purpose is to Tell.
We are, however, a particularly odd archive, not to mention a fictional one. As authors as well as editors, we understand that submitting can sometimes feel like dropping your story in an unlabeled black box and seeing if it gets spit out again. So, we want to explain what’s going on behind the scenes. How are stories chosen? Why are they rejected? And what does it all mean?
First of all, there was not a single story that we would consider “bad”. When we say we enjoyed reading a story, we truly did enjoy reading it. There were many, many stories we wanted to include but couldn’t.
Total submitters: 216
Total submissions: 253
Continents represented: 6
(Note to any Antarcticans: please query, we want to bring that up to 7)
(This was from our initial Kickstarter campaign. All of this was dedicated to paying contributors- our editors are not paid, and there are no lights to keep on, as we work by the light of the moon.)
Total accepted: 15
Percent accepted: 5.9%
Our process is probably different from most any other literary zine, magazine, or anthology. First, we read blind, and to do so we had to separate pieces from their submission emails. We did that by downloading them and adding them to a shared file—a shared file which accidentally received the 3D model of a clown puppet due to an editorial error. This is the closest thing we have to a slush pile.
Stories were accumulated to sets of around ten, then read in batches in order to make it more difficult for the downloader to remember which story went to which email. From there, they were put in a file labeled ‘read’. Anything in traditional prose would be read through, but set in a separate ‘reject’ file (we enjoyed the stories, but we have a theme to keep). We tried to send rejections within a week of them ending in this folder. If something immediately stuck out with us, it would go into the ‘maybe’ file.
That doesn’t mean the judging ended with ‘maybe’ or ‘reject’. Our biggest file at any given time was just ‘read’—stories would move from there to ‘maybe’, or sometimes there to ‘reject’ as we read and re-read. The thing is that a good story is not necessarily one that packs an immediate punch—sometimes it’s the ones that stick in the back of the mind, turning over and surfacing weeks after we initially read them.
Next comes categorization. Folders for ‘Academic’, ‘Interrogation’, ‘Journals’, and every other form of story split the ‘maybe’ file into over a dozen categories. With a target of 50,000 words, to get a diversity of formats we needed to avoid redundancy as best as we could. At most, we figured we could have two stories of a given format, possibly three if some were flash. Here came the most difficult decisions. If a category had ten stories, we had to decide on two or three. Hairs were further split. Stories were read and re-read and read again. Stories we loved could be edged out on the thinnest of margins, but this doesn’t mean they were rejected. Instead, they moved back to the ‘maybe’ file as the rest faced the final round of judging.
Similar to the categorization, we then had to pour all the stories back into the same dish and separate them out by theme. Our EIC loves maritime stories, and it showed in the stories selected for the ‘maybe’ file. On the other hand, this issue is not themed—we couldn’t justify having six of our accepted stories be nautical. Likewise, we didn’t want more than one or two vampire pieces. Judgement was now between stories with similar subject matters, even if they were completely different formats. To show a breadth of horror, ironically, we would have to further narrow our choices. If we pared too far, close calls would be brought back from the ‘maybe’ file and judged anew.
In total, being selected wasn’t just about being a good author. We can say with confidence that every author who submit to us was good. It was about being some of the best of all the submissions, then the best in your format, and then the best of your theme. If that seems like a lot to ask, that’s because it is! This process also went on throughout the reading period before being finalized after submissions closed.
So, if you got a rejection this time around, don’t think we didn’t like your story. If we invite you to submit again when the submissions for the next issue open, we truly do want you to submit. If it matches the theme, feel free to submit the same piece! We want to read your work, and we want to share it with the world. Keep writing, and keep submitting!