Updates no more

jeudi 31 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Cool Cat

The cool cat, Felis catus slickus, is believed to be a relatively recent sub-species of the common house-cat. There is little morphological difference between the two species, with the exception that the cool cat always has a uniformly colored fur, which can vary from black to orange to white, including any color that may be found in common house-cats. However, the most notable difference between the cool cats and your regular tabby is to be found in its behavior.
Unlike house-cats, who generally exhibit a number of behavioral tics when living in apartments without the possibility to go outside, and otherwise show a rather lazy, solitary lifestyle, cool cats have very marked behavioral traits, which do not vary depending on the environment.
For example, even though mostly solitary, cool cats will exhibit gregarious behavior during the week-ends. They tend to group together, identifying their fellows by as of yet unknown mechanisms, and such gatherings will often result in copulation, which has caused a rapid rise in the cool cat population in recent years. It is even feared that cool cats might soon displace the local house-cats as the most numerous member of the Felidae family in urban environments. How they know which days are part of the week-end is unknown.
In addition to this, cool cats, unlike other cats, seem to be unconcerned by the quality and/or provenance of their food. Everybody who has ever had a cat knows that they quickly develop peculiar preferences in diet, which, if changed, can even cause the cat to leave. Not so with cool cats. No matter if it is cat food or leftovers, cool cats eat whatever food is available.
Another trait of cool cats is that they love tainted glass surface. Be it sunglasses or just a tainted car window, cool cats will invariably be attracted to it, and try to hide from the sun behind such surfaces. Inexplicably, they will continue to do so even at night. Although a team of researchers of the New York Center for the Study of Completely Crazy Stuff (NYC-SCCS) has spent several months analyzing their eye-structure, they have found no differences between those of cool cats and of house-cats, and thus concluded that the phenomenon is purely behavioral in nature.
It has also been reported that cool cats are fond of opiates. Hospitals and pharmacies have recently complained about cool cat invasions. The animals were mainly found in ICUs, trying to bite through the infusion tubes to gain access to the morphine administered to patients. In addition, they have also been observed stealing food from patients, and, in one morbid instance, trying to eat the cadaver of a freshly deceased patient. Despite the numerous problems, it seems that at times, the patients themselves feed the cool cats, in an effort to gain their affection.
Other unconfirmed reports seem to suggest that drug cartels are also having a problem with the felines, because they target their cocaine and heroine stashes. It is even rumored that the police is now trying to train cool cats to locate drug caches.
Lastly, even though there is no genetic or morphological reason, cool cats avoid mating with regular house-cats. On the rare occasions where such a union does take place, the offspring inherits the traits of slickus in 94% of observed occurrences.

mardi 29 juillet 2014

Wakin' up

Morning ain't my time of day. Of course, I ain't the only one to say so. Lots of people ain't morning people, or so they claim. But today, once more, I realize that the first hour or so after I wake up is really just a long, drawn-out purgatory, through which I need to proceed before coming finally into my own.
It's not that I'm completely unable to function. I can do simple tasks, such as brewing up some coffee, or reading some piece of news I don't really care about. But I sure as hell ain't happy about it.
Everything that needs doing in the morning gets on my nerves, and, still so close to the sweet bliss of sleep, I feel lazy as fuck. My eyes are open, and my brain is trying to switch from the loose logic of dreams to the cold rationality of day. But my body seems pretty sure that someone, somewhere, made a mistake. “Get back to bed”, it whispers, like a lover when I leave to make breakfast.
The numbness leaves my limbs slowly, reluctantly, as the blood starts pumping with more force. The coffee, supposed to speed up the process, tastes bitter, unfriendly almost, as if going against the natural order of things. Everything is somehow wrong, and I wonder what is going on in this world, to force a man to go through this ordeal day after day.
It doesn't matter whether I slept for four hours or for twelve. Whether it's a lazy Sunday or a hectic Monday. Whether I'm going to work or whether I'm on holiday. Whether I wake up alone in the dark, or with somebody next to me in the sunshine of early afternoon. That first hour won't ever be as good as the rest of the day.
I tried to let go of it altogether. To stop sleeping, so I don't have to wake up. But it didn't work. And no matter how shitty I feel when I do, I wake up anyway. So I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, there sure as hell ain't no god!

dimanche 27 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Finless Fish

The finless fish, Exocoetus sinfina, belongs to the Exocoetidae, commonly known as the flying flish. Unlike his relatives, who have unusally developed pectoral fins which allow them to glide over the water to escape predators, the finless fish is characterized by an absence of lateral fins. Only the caudal fin (the tail fin) remains.
Like all other fish, the finless fish moves forward by undulating its body. However, due to the lack of lateral fins, it uses its gill openings to change direction, opening and closing them to go right or left. In addition to its natural swimming motion, the finless fish can accelerate to speeds of up to 60 km/h (~37 mph) by violently expelling water through its anus. However, due to the speed and the lack of lateral fins, it can only slightly change direction while maintaining its top speed.
Biologists have emitted a number of hypotheses as to why the finless fish has lost its lateral fins in the course of its evolution, but none have been proven to this day. One of the most prominent ones, formulated by Dr. Marcus Pescus, of the South-Asian Institute for Fishy Studies (SAIFS), stipulates that the absence of lateral fins allows the finless fish to explore the coral caves found in the tropical Asian oceans, its natural habitat. The lack of lateral fins makes it easier for the fish to extricate itself in case it gets stuck, and allows it to go through smaller tunnels. However, it has recently been shown that finless fish prefer open waters to coral reefs, and as such coral-cave exploration would not exert any selective pressure on them. Dr. Marcus now insists that Sinfina used to frequent said caves, and only recently changed its habitat.
Another theory stipulates that the absence of lateral fins makes its body more hydrodynamic, allowing it to escape predators at greater speeds. But it seems unlikely that the small gain in speed would warrant the considerable decrease in mobility, as mobility is a much more important factor in escaping predators than pure speed. Besides, a number of finless fish die each season because of said lack of mobility, when, trying to escape from danger, they propulse themselves into rocks or boats. The force of this impact can be quite substantial, and it is believed that the finless fish crashing into their boats is what gave the Japanese the inspiration for their Kamikaze fighters.

jeudi 24 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Formeleon

The formeleon, Brookesia forma, is one of the smaller members of the Chamaeleonidae. At barely two inches when fully grown, and unable to change its green color in the slightest (except during mating season, when males are of a slightly lighter shade of the same color), the formeleon might, at first glance, look like a rather uninteresting species of chameleon. At second glance, however, it often doesn't look like a chameleon at all.
Indeed, unlike its cousins, some of which change color to camouflage themselves, the formeleon changes its form to hide its presence. From a thickish leaf to a stout bough to a roundish fruit, the formeleon easily blends into its environment, invisible to both prey and predator. This ability is due to its extremely flexible joints, which are also present at the base of its ribs, as well as its unusually elastic skin. This morphological oddity, unheard of in any other species of vertebrates, allows it to shift through an almost infinite number of shapes. In some extreme morphs, it can even change the overall volume of its body. Due to the constraints its form-switching imposes on the size of organs, its eyes and tongue are much smaller, relative to body size, than those of its cousins.
When scientists first discovered the formeleon in 1846, in Madagascar, they thought rather little of it, since its unvarying color often allowed them to spot it easily, even if the shape would have otherwise camouflaged it. They saw its shape-shifting capabilities as an unusual, yet impractical ability. However, as it became apparent that most of its prey and predators are color-blind, the formeleon was seen in a new light. In addition, the first few individuals had been found on or near the ground, where its color stood in stark contrast to the brown of the fallen leaves and stout tree trunks around it. But in recent years, it has been proven that formeleons live mostly up in the foliage, where it is nigh on impossible to spot, both form and color being used to blend into its surroundings. In addition to Madagascar, the species has been discovered over most of Africa, as well as southern Asia. The reason why it took so long to realize the extent of the formeleon population is presumed to be precisely because its camouflage is so effective.
In both African and Asian culture, the formeleon holds a special place. It is believed that formeleons are what originally inspired shadow plays. Originating from India, where the species is common, they have lost their connection to the animal as they were adopted by the chinese. However, if one places a formeleon in front of a fire, it changes its shape continuously, in an effort to blend into the ever-changing form of the flames, which causes its shadow to morph with it.
In Africa, this same ability helped it become a mythical creature which, depending on the tribe, might warn of impeding danger, conjure up demons, or both. For this reason, it is often depicted in tribal paintings, as well as on weapons or at the entrance to residences, either to ward of evil, grant inhuman abilities, or for luck.
Like all chameleons, the formeleon's diet consists mainly of insects, which it catches when they venture close, unaware of the danger. Deforestation and environmental pollution are the main cause for the decline of the formeleon population, which has been accelerating at an alarming rate these past years.

mardi 22 juillet 2014


Animals that don't exist will continue as always, but I'll skip the Tuesday random thoughts update this week. 'Cause you see, I was thinking, and after all, this one is more of a spur of the moment thing. No consistent theme or genre, just a bunch of rambling, hopefully written in a way that makes it seem somehow coherent and smart. But, well, not always, I guess.
It's a flash of insight, a little scrap of time, tied down by words. A pale imitation of emotions that cannot be ignored. A gushing out of ideas and feelings, captured, frozen and imperfect, through the act of writing.
It is not a thought-out story, a succession of metaphors and figures of style ever more complex, stitched together by a master idea that holds them in place, lets them click together and form a cohesive whole.
No, it is just a spur-of-the-moment thing, making no more sense than a picture taken at random while swinging the camera around aimlessly.
And that being the case, I don't feel bad skipping this one, since I'm on holiday.
Happy easter to you all!

dimanche 20 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Lost Mouse

The lost mouse, Mus erravicus, is a little-known mammal closely related to the common house mouse, Mus musculus. However, unlike his cousin, the lost mouse does not live in houses, but in backpacks. Indeed, the lost mouse got its name because of its habit of following humans when they travel, and, when spotted by them, looking “lost”.
At first glance, there is little difference between the lost mouse and other species of its genus. A more in-depth analysis of its morphological characteristics, however, will reveal that there are a few key aspects in which the lost mouse differs from other species of mice.
Its eyes, for instance, are slightly bigger and rounder than those of its relatives. The same can be said for its face. This, combined with the fact that, when discovered by humans, it does not flee, but rather looks up to its would-be captor, make it look extremely cute. This cuteness has evolved through the course of centuries, and attained such perfection that even the most ruthless of men would be smitten, giving it a bit of cheese or some crumbs of bread, instead of stomping it into oblivion.
In addition, mitochondrial analysis has shown that the lost mice specialize in long, sustained effort, allowing it to keep pace with a contingent of marching soldiers, or a pair of hikers.
Thus, the lost mouse follows its host, sometimes hiding in their luggage, and lives off of whatever leftovers they leave around, if they do not feed it outright.
In the past, the lost mouse was a symbol for travelers around the world. Even in ancient times, this peculiar rodent had a special place in some cultures. The maawi tribe of southern Zimbabwe would, when a young women or man came of age, gift them with a lost mouse, and send the on an initiation journey to complete their coming of age ceremony. The mouse was supposed to provide guidance and good fortune.
In Europe, journeyman apprentices would usually be accompanied by a lost mouse when they set out to complete their apprenticeship. In the late fifteen-hundreds, the species had become extremely common, and each new journey, even if it was only to the next village, had to be done with a lost mouse in tow.
In recent years, however, the custom of the lost mouse has been, well, lost. Most people today are not able to tell the difference between Mus erravicus and Mus musculus, and few are those who still see them as anything more than a pest.
The world population of lost mice has fallen to a few thousand individuals in the most recent estimates, a long way from their heyday, when the lost mouse was one of the most prolific members of its order. One of the reasons for this is that lost mice need to be removed at least 23.4 km (~15 miles) for it to be able to procreate, a feat which they can seldom achieve without any human help. Any less, and its sexual organs will not develop. It is believed that this mechanism is supposed to prevent inbreeding, since a lost mouse will not travel any further once it has given birth. Indeed, unlike other rodents, lost mice usually only have one litter. Due to the exhaustion from their travels and giving birth, they seldom survive for long once their offspring has reached independence.

jeudi 17 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Human Ant

The human ant, Pseudomyrmex sapiense, is one of the most extraordinary creatures in the world. Or, to be more precise, it is one of the most extraordinary colony of living beings in the world. Making its first recorded appearance in Jean-Claude Toubib’s “Insectes des Amériques, et autres petites bêtes” (Insects of the Americas, and other small creatures), written in 1547, its existence has been largely hidden from the public eye, for reasons that are all too obvious.
The human ant is a close relative of Pseudomyrmex ferruginea, a species who lives in symbiosis with a tree, using the plant as a nest in exchange for protection against predators and pests. When humans first settled in central America, ferruginea’s habitat, about twenty-thousand years ago, it seems that the ants evolved to establish a similar symbiotic relationship with humans. The humans would carry the ants within their bodies, and enable them to access resources that would otherwise stay out of reach for the small insects. In exchange, the ants would scout out the area at night, leading their hosts to plentiful patches of food, as well as serve as an alarm system for approaching danger. At least, modern theories suggested that this is the beginning of the human ant’s evolution. But it does not stop there.
Curiously, the human hosts of the ants would, at the end of their life, drown themselves in deep, eutrophic ponds. These waters, devoid of oxygen in the lower layers, have ideal conditions for conservation of soft tissues as well as bones. Due to their small size, and the fact that they are an inhospitable habitat to most forms of complex life, they are usually devoid of fossils. However, the peculiar habit of human ant hosts has created what is believed to be the most complete record of mammal and insect evolution to this day. It is this find that enables us to retrace the story with great precision on a morphological scale, which in turn allows us to infer much of what has transpired on a behavioral and evolutionary scale.
One way or another, the ants took greater and greater control of their human hosts, to the point that they became able to influence, and later control, their host’s movements. Since the needs of the two species were not entirely aligned (the nature of preferred food, the amount of sleep humans needed, as well as the large amount of energy consumed by their brain), the ants used their new-gained influence to skew host behavior in their favor. In the beginning, this was mainly done through the release of specific pheromones, but in later specimens, clear physical alterations can be seen.
As the relationship progressed, the ants started to infect humans at an increasingly early stage in life, which allowed them to “train” their hosts to perform behaviors detrimental to themselves, but beneficial to their guests. In combination, the ants were able to influence the morphological development. At first, it seems their main concern was to increase the space that was available for them, either by increasing overall body size, or reducing the size of specific organs. The brain was no exception, and in less than a hundred generations, the majority of human hosts were left with only their reptilian brain, and the parts that controlled motor function and sensorial input. The prefrontal cortex had disappeared completely, and infected individuals lost the ability to perform higher cognitive functions.
These specimens, driven solely by their guests’ pheromones, were equivalent to robots. Machines at the mercy of their masters, unable to take any independent actions, procreating only when the ants needed a new home. And so they remained until this day, even though no significant changes in the human DNA have been found.
Toubib’s manuscript, when he presented it to his colleagues, caused an uproar, and it was quickly decided that it should be banned. But interest in the ants did not die so quickly. Several people in the nobility, as well as a number of eminent scientists, saw the human ants as the perfect workforce.
They would do the most strenuous of tasks without complaining, as long as it allowed them to reap something of benefit to their insect hosts. And the things most valuable to ants are not the things most valuable to man.
In the years that followed, several expeditions set out to bring back specimens to the old continent, and explore their potential as cheap, obedient labor. However, it soon became clear that the ants, once removed from their natural habitat, were very hard to train, being incapable of understanding the concept of a differed reward (e.g. working today to get paid tomorrow). The project was quickly abandoned, although some specimens were kept in secret, either for “fun”, or to be used in tortures (the prospect of becoming an ant-riddled zombie could cause even the most hardened soldier to confess).
In recent times, however, interest in the ants has resurfaced. The way the manipulate the human mind, and the precision with which they managed to eradicate cognitive functions while preserving the physical control mechanisms of the brain, might hold a clue as to where “intelligence” comes from. It might also enable us to better understand the functions we perform everyday, and enable us to build artificial systems that can perform physical tasks as well as actual humans. And who knows, somebody might just stumble upon a way to train the ants ?

mardi 15 juillet 2014

Moving House

It's a strange things, this new computer. It needs breaking in. It's the first time in a long while that I have a full keyboard, numpad and all. And dutch qwerty. I'm used to swiss qwertz. Changed from OSX to Linux Mint 14 (latest version that seems to work with my amd radeon graphic card). From 13” to 15”. So much change so fast. It's hard to keep up.
I've had my MacBook for five-and-a-half years. Still 10.5. One of the last models sold, a month before the change to 10.6. Lucky me.
It had been my door to the endless Internet for years. All my texts. It had contained more information in it's small frame than any other part of my life. It had been vibrant, its existence an integral part of mine. An extension of my self, a part of who I was. But as the beer seeped through its keyboard, and the screen went out with a *pop*, it became a simple object, devoid of purpose.
I knew it was over. There was nothing I could do. The battery was fully charged, and the screen had gone black. I couldn't even turn the fucker off in a last ditch effort to save him. It was too late. And suddenly, inevitably, everything that I had invested in it disappeared. The bond I had forged with that machine got cut off violently, leaving only a mirror image of the aluminum husk that now lay before me.
For the 20-so hours without a PC, a strange feeling came over me. The emptiness started filling with things pure and beautiful. A breath of truth blew away clouds of static, and it seemed I was becoming the world again, the real world. But it couldn't last.
I bought a new laptop, windows pre-install because I'm lazy, and spent the next one-two hours setting up Linux for the first time. And now I'm back were I don't belong. And I like it.

dimanche 13 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Slutterfly

The slutterfly, Synchlora copula, is, in fact, not a butterfly, but a moth. Although the phylogeny of the Lepidoptera is not without arguments, the difference between moths and butterflies is generally accepted. Moths are mostly night active (although there are some exceptions), and their antenna are much more developed than those of butterflies. So it is, too, with the slutterfly.
The species is believed to have evolved ten million years ago in tropical Africa, long before the apparition of modern man. Like most moths, the pheromones emitted by females attract the males, who can trace even single particles of a potential sexual partner's scent. But due to the vast geographical distribution and the number of related species, the slutterfly has developed a means of reinforcing this signal beyond what normal moths are capable of.
All animals, not only moths, use pheromones to convey information to other members of their species, be it fear, sexual readiness, or genetic information. Given the less sensitive nature of their sensory organ when it comes to airborne particles, most mammals emit a huge amount of pheromones, at least in comparison with insects. Slutterflies use this to their advantage.
The female slutterfly lies its eggs in the small of the back of passing female mammals, just underneath the skin. These eggs, in turn, hijack the mammals pheromone-machinery, adding a subtle twist to them, which is recognized by male slutterflies. The males are attracted by the scent, and fertilize the eggs. Once said eggs mature, the detach fro their host, and the muscle movements used during fecal excretion push them out of the skin, causing them to land in proximity of the dung that will serve as nourishment for the larva. In case the eggs are not fertilized within a certain time of their laying, they will undergo parthenogenesis, and develop all the same, although with lower genetic variance.
However, the hijacking of the hormonal machine in its host is not without consequence. Animals that have been visited by a female slutterfly have a higher rate of fertility, and the species has long been considered an omen of good fortune in African tribes. Young woman would paint them in the small of their back as a sign of procreative availability. In some tribes, they mating cycle of the slutterfly would influence that of the tribe itself. Those woman who had been visited by a slutterfly would be considered especially valuable for procreation, and only the best hunters of the tribe where considered for mating by those women.
In recent years, this ancient sign of fertility has been popularized in western culture, although the ancestral meaning of fertility and procreation has been lost. Seen as a pure symbol of sexual availability, the slutterfly tattoo has given its vernacular name to Synchlora copula in a strange twist of anachronic irony. And what once was a symbol of family and high standing within society, has now become a means to indicate absence of procreation and easy pickings for sexual intercourse.

jeudi 10 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Office Hermit

The office hermit, Carausius officinalis, is not, as might be inferred from its name, an over-zealous company employee. It is, however, one of the youngest species of insects known today.
Belonging to the order Phasmotodea, otherwise known as stick insects (Europe and Australasia) or stick-bugs (United States and Canada), it is closely related to the Indian stick insect, Carausius morosus, a favorite in laboratory environments. The fact that it was first identified in Europe and North-America might seem confusing, in light of its Asian origins, but a recent theory of its evolutionary history, put forth by doctor Mohammed Lee, from the Tokyo branch of the Institute for Nonexisting Insect Studies (INIS), might be able to shed some light on the origins of this uncanny insect. To better understand this theory, let us first look at the animal in question.
The office hermit is found mainly in office environments, particularly in Universities and affiliated institutions, although in recent years it has spread throughout the entire spectrum of office-bearing infrastructures. The reason for this is evident if you take a look at the species. Like all stick insects, the office hermit's main defense against predators is camouflage. Unlike its relatives, however, it does not resemble a stick or a leaf. Instead, it looks very much like a pen, or pencil, rendering it inconspicuous in any office. Whereas most members of its order have a diet composed of leaves and green plants, the office hermit thrives on paper. Especially the bleach-free variant.
The animal is night-active, spending the day-time perfectly still, preferably somewhere out of sight, to avoid being picked up by mistake. Given its ability to reproduce by parthenogenesis (meaning that individuals can reproduce on their own, without the need for a sexual partner), a single individual can populate an entire office in a matter of months, or even weeks. But this same ability means that genetic variation can be extremely low within the species, or a sub-population thereof, because of the lack of genetic exchange through sexual reproduction. This peculiarity is what allowed doctor Lee to confirm his theory about the evolution of Carausius officinalis.
Given that its closest relative is indigenous to India, and the species first appeared in Europe and North-America, doctor Lee stipulated that it had to represent an evolutionary offshoot from one or several escaped laboratory subjects. After analyzing the genome of several "wild" individuals, and comparing them to records of captive animals, he concluded that the origin of this new species resided in the Center for Stick Insect Studies (CSIS), in Norwich, Great Britain. This theory, however, did not explain the huge morphologic variations found within the species, and between the office hermit and other families of Phasmotodea. Combined with its unusual diet, and the fact that both of those characteristics seem to have appeared in a matter of decades, the office hermit violently contradicts what we know of evolutionary speed in insects. However, a more recent study of the entirety of the animal's genome might provide some answers.
Scientists at the New York Center for the Study of Completely Crazy Stuff (NYC-SCCS) have identified a cluster of genes which seem to be highly unstable, and thus extremely prone to mutation. Even though such high plasticity on aspects as important to the survival of an individual, such as morphology and dietary habits, would usually result in a highly increased death-rate in offspring, developmental research by the NYC-SCCS suggests that selection already occurs at the very first stages of development, minimizing the cost of producing non-viable offspring, and only allowing individuals with a high chance of survival to complete maturation. How the animals are capable of recognizing defective individuals this early in their life-cycle remains a mystery.

Being considered a pest at first, the office hermit has recently found new appreciation, as a number of institutions across the world have decided to put it to work. It has been observed that the animals are especially fond of humid paper, probably due to the fact that the soft paper is easier for them to chew and digest, and water is not always within easy reach in an office at night. The NSA is reported to use this technique to attract the animals, and use them as a means of destroying highly sensitive information. And several start-ups are experimenting to try and use the species to transform paper-waste into high-quality fertilizer.
In the meantime, there has been a surge in the number of online stick-insect enthusiasts looking to trade different morphs of the species, and office hermit breeding farms have sprung up throughout the world.

mardi 8 juillet 2014


I don't know. I really don't. There is this gap, you see. And I can't seem to cross it.

The feeling is crystal-clear in my heart. The feeling that comes and goes. The feeling I want. The one I hate. I can feel it flowing through me, affecting mind and body. It is there. It is real.

The feeling is crystal-clear, pure as a tear. It makes sense. I know it does. Down there, somewhere, lost in the confines of my being, it reaches out to my consciousness, a piercing shard of light. The feeling is real.

When the sun sets after a hot summer day, streaking the sky in bright hues of pink, and mauve, and deep blue.

When the rain falls, hard and wet, onto the green leaves of spring.

When the snow blankets the fields and trees, soaking up the sound of my steps, crunching underneath my feet.

When the leaves fall, turning round and round in the harsh wind. Mist rises through the trees, and the earth is wet and damp, and nothing is alive anymore.

The feeling is clear.

The feeling is real.

The feeling talks to me. It tells me where to go. It tells me who to speak to. It shows me who to be.

The feeling is real.

But I am not.

dimanche 6 juillet 2014


As most of you may know by now, I am kind of an author/writer guy. This being the case, I do actually submit work to publications from time to time. And sometimes, they even end up publishing me. This is the case with "Garden Gnomes", an online magazine which will be publishing three flash-fiction stories of mine in their upcoming anthology "Sulfurings : Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah".

To find out more about the Garden Gnomes, and to purchase this amazingy awesome anthology (I haven't read it yet, but I'm in it, so it must be pretty rad), just go to :


And thanks for reading !

Z. King

Animals that don't Exist

The Lazy Fly

The lazy fly, Musca ignavus, is one of the most annoying animals on the planet. And not as lazy as its name might indicate. Like all the members of the order Diptera, the lazy fly has only two wings. In most of the species of this order, the second pair of wings have been atrophied, and serve as gyroscopes to keep the flying of the insect as steady and precise as possible. This evolution alone is already an impressive feat of natural selection. But the lazy fly has taken things to another level.
Where most diptera use the rapid circular motions of their modified wings for flying, the lazy fly uses it to produce sound. It can emit frequencies between 160 and 230 Hertz. A common housefly, Musca domestica, has a wing-beat of 200 Hertz, but due to the doppler effect, the effective range of sound we perceive is the same as the one emitted by the lazy fly. Except that the lazy fly does not need to fly to produce sound. The modified wings allow it to project sound around itself in a four-meter radius, effectively tricking people into believing there is a fly buzzing around, when the culprit is sitting on your toast, sucking up the jam.
The lazy fly is a master at misdirection, tricking its enemies into searching for it where it is not, projecting sound into the distance to distract its predators while it is having lunch. However, the lazy fly cannot project this sound when it is actually flying, since it has to use its modified wings to stabilize itself. In those moments, the buzzing is twice as loud as that of a normal housefly, the sound coming from both actual and modified wings. This makes the lazy fly an easily identifiable target when in flight, and is presumed to be one of the reasons why it so seldom takes to the air. Which is how it got its name.
Despite the lazy aspect of the fly, which seems to sit around eating while it lets its sound do the actual flying, the production of said frequencies, as well as the precision with which they are projected around the room, require and immense amount of energy. More so than that used by common houseflies to fly around.
The sound-projection capabilities of the fly have recently been analyzed by a group of scientists at the University of Tandenburg. Their results suggest that the modified wings of the lazy fly are the most sophisticated sound-projection system to be found to date, and efforts are under way to analyze and imitate its mechanisms. But the uniqueness of this sound-producing insect has been harnessed since ages past.
It is believed that European tribes have been using the lazy fly as an instrument since as far back as 16'000 B.C. Illustrations found in the Lascaux-cave, in France, suggest that during certain rituals, scraps of food were put in a small indent in the wall with peculiar acoustics. Once the fly was inside, feasting on the food while emitting its confusing buzzing sound, the physical structure of the cave amplified the sound, and a clever arrangement of rocks and pieces of wood or animal skin were used to modify the pitch, thus creating one of the first musical instruments known to men. And powered by a fly.
Evidence of similar usage of the fly have been appearing around the world, from the Aboriginal fly-flute (a hollowed-out piece of wood with a number of holes that could be open or closed) to the African buzz-bass (an empty calabash with a number of holes on one end, which, again, could be opened or closed to modify pitch). More recently, the fly has become a symbol of music for some, most notorious among them the band "Red Hot Chilli Peppers", which featured a picture of the fly on their 2011 album "I'm With You".

jeudi 3 juillet 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Sandfish

The sandfish, Cephalaspis desertii, is found exclusively in the California desert. It is the only species of Cephalaspidomorphii known that has survived the genus’ extinction during the Devonian period (420 mil. years B.C to 360 mil. years B.C.). It is believed to have appeared two hundred million years ago, living in what was then an area covered in a shallow sea. How it managed to survive during that 160-million year gap is unknown.
As the land began to rise and form the Rocky Mountains, the shallows were drained of their water. But the process was slow enough to allow evolution to keep pace.
Unlike most "modern" fish, the Cephalaspidomorphii have a bony exoskeleton covering most of their body. In the sandfish, this feature is even more pronounced. The whole animal is covered in seamless bone, head to flippers. This allows them to avoid loss of moisture, but requires them to shed their exoskeleton in order to grow. The exoskeleton is costly to produce in energy and nutrients, and tough to break. In addition, the sandfish is at his most vulnerable after having shed his old skeleton, and before having completed the new one. Because of this, sandfish only seldom shed their skin, and grow very slowly.
They have also evolved two separate mechanisms for breathing on dry land. First, their air bladder has been modified to have a greater surface, and thus absorb more oxygen. In addition, the gills are constantly immerged in mucus, to maximize gas exchanges. But the exoskeleton that prevents water loss is also hindering this exchange.
The sandfish has only one opening in his body, which is used to both absorb prey and excrete waste, as well as respiration. This double-function is used efficiently by the animal, since the smell of the waste and the high CO2 concentration is used to attract its prey, compensating for its limited mobility. Even though the same opening is used for both feeding and excretion, the sandfish does possess a full gastro-intestinal track, that doubles back on itself, so the entry and exit are situated next to each other. Again, the use of only one opening in the exoskeleton favors moisture-retention.
The sandfish uses highly modified flippers to crawl forward, but because of his heavy exoskeleton, his speed is very slow. To capture his prey, he uses what, at first glance, appear to be chelicerae. This confusion has caused the sandfish to be classified as an insect in the past, but a more detailed anatomical examination has shown that the pseudo-chelicerae are in fact modified fins, which the fish uses to drag insects into his mouth/anus, as well as to hermetically seal the opening to prevent moisture-loss.
Despite its many adaptive features, the sandfish has only a very short period of activity. Only at dusk and at dawn will this furtive creature spring into action, hunting the small insects that are its prey. During the day, the heat combined with the lack of oxygen forces it to rest in the shade. And during the night, the cold makes it sluggish, and it needs to maximize oxygen absorption in preparation for the day.
Nevertheless, its hard skeleton and adaptive camouflage mean it has very few natural enemies. Combined with its slow metabolism, which requires it to eat only one cricket every other day, the sandfish wages a war of attrition.
Due to the fact that Native Americans have a purely oral culture, no written records of the sandfish exist prior to European colonization. However, it is commonly accepted that the "Chief-stone" (so-named by early explorers because it was present in the chief's hut)of the Cahuilla-tribe is, in fact, a sandfish. The animal is believed to be revered by the Cahuilla-tribe as a symbol of fortitude and endurance, as well as patience. An ancient proverb of the tribe is seen by many as a clear reference to the animal:

            "If you wait long enough, even in the desert will you catch a fish."

                                                            Cahuilla tribesman

mardi 1 juillet 2014


Coming home, letting the backpack slip to the ground near the desk. Sliding open the window, letting out the smell of stale ashes. Propping the laptop open, and putting on some music. Opening a beer, lighting a smoke, and leaning back into a chair as the savory smell of barbecue meat wafts up from the park. It's Summer.
The sun shines long into the evening, keeping everything warm and full of light. Children’s' shrieks can be heard late into the night, accompanied by the adults' low voices. Mosquitos are drawn to turned-on lamps like moths to the flame, sniffing out the telltale CO2 that betrays our presence. Bees and butterflies criss-cross through the fragrant air, and grass turns yellow under the relentless heat. Pools dry up, and streams are reduced to a trickle as the moisture gets sucked up into the air. The hot, dry air that hurts your eyes and cracks your lips. It's Summer.
The girls walk down the street scarcely dressed, while men find ever new ways to show the muscles they have been working on all winter. Hormones are in the air, and skin is to be seen everywhere. Love and lust mix and mingle, make your senses tingle as you drink and dance. In search of romance.
Dawn breaks as you open the front door, the air cool and soothing for your throbbing head. The streetlamps go off as you walk to the station, form nowhere to nowhere,. Killing the time until Autumn comes again. It is Summer.