Torpid Slivers #6-10


by Colin Raff

The following game serves to strengthen memory, encourage carefulness, and inform its players of various natural wonders.

A child must say to her playmate, “I love you as I would a timber marmot, because your house is sturdy and filled with hallways. I love you as I would a polar razorback, because your bristly coat matches the driven snow. I love you as I would a desert skunk, because you render the precious water you carry quite undrinkable. I love you as I would a porpopine, because your quills deter even the most ferocious sharks. I love you as I would a pond lion, because you can make yourself very flat and still and hold your breath for twenty minutes. I love you as I would a flying bison, because though you are heavy and ungainly, the membranes between your flexible legs allow you to glide through the air for long distances when you gallop off a cliff. And I love you as I would a grizzly possum, because you can kill and prepare your supper without ever waking from your nap, and nap-time is very important.”

The second child must repeat the sentences in reverse order, without forgetting or confusing any of the species, either of which results in a forfeit and robust mockery. Other flora and fauna can and should be introduced, so long as you keep them grouped by class and hemisphere — inconsistency in the latter can confuse young minds and lead to half-remembered notions of erroneous hybrids.

In the former case a puncture should be made through the pasteboard with a trocar, the opening enlarged afterward with the negative pole of the galvanic battery (encased in a hollow glass stem) inserted to keep the conduit open for drainage. The worst glands should be covered with silk, the upper edges bound narrowly before they are sewn together. Stimulation via the latter has the effect of removing wasteful syrups from the larger body, and may occur in three, four, or five segments, just as you fancy.

Over the lobes and along the fissure there are marvelous changes. Columns may form, spaced like fingers. Should irritation favor the basal canal (which typically dilates to accommodate a ball of thread), it will likely vomit green festoons that just might riot between the sections in patterns that will invoke that defunct pavilion — almost precisely as memory demands.

How to Get Money out of Imperial Era Dragon-Model Pay Phones in Berlin

“While the clever Teutons at Siemens-Schuckertwerke have sired a wondrous reptile in the new Allgemeiner Telefondrache, it is not quite so hardy a lizard as its cast-iron elder sibling — the dragon-nozzled water pump that roosts on the capital’s kerbs. Indeed, the younger monster’s splendid belly does possess a certain vulnerability — not to any saintly blade, but to a well-soaped size 5 bolt depredator (ibid., Chapter 7), with which our more active readers are doubtless intimate. The sight of those iron jaws vomiting twenty times more than any legitimate coin-return should be worth the undertaking detailed below:

“Removal of the outer paunch-plate confronts us with the telephonic digestive apparatus, crisscrossed by several metallic wires that now become our focus. We must first observe that each of these wires is a compound strand: a pair of fibers twined together like one of Kriemhild’s pigtails.  Then — patience! — for only one wire ultimately concerns us, and can be discovered only from severing and re-weaving each, one at a time.

“We shall recognize our wire when, upon its disseverance, we find our ear-piece still receptive to the control-office of our Betriebemädchen, even though we no longer interest her (we can hear her servicing other connections). This means that we have disabled that part of the machine which telegraphs to the company its inactive status and want of new coin. It is thus in a perpetually active mood, and any morsel of specie flung down its gullet will remain in the penultimate chamber, never to reach the collection bin.

“We have, in effect, given our beast a case of constipation — of which we shall cure it after a day or two, when, disemboweling it once again, we simply re-attach the severed wire ends. This should prove a strong enough purgative to induce an upchuckage of shimmering Kaiser-chips into our reprobate yet industrious claws.”

(from Gentlemen Parasites Abroad in Western Europe: 44th Edition, Anon, 1906.)

It is thanks to Doctor Catechault-Bonneleck’s comprehensive work on the subject in the 1850s that Puppenoptrids are no longer perceived as squalid companions for organ-grinders* — although that is how they first appeared to us, in markets and public squares near Ellubecque’s harbor, among the sightseeing crowds by the Januspont and in similar spots extending north along the Black Sea-side. Today they are best viewed going about their own business by the forest’s edge in northwestern Haemusmont: in their element, but never tooremoved from ours, as the (now updated) description below would suggest is quite natural.

Puppenoptrids (Pupafurius hypervespa) are born headless. They seek out the heads of neglected dolls (preferring older ones) and affix them to their own bodies. A post-larval, headless Puppenoptrid, or drone, is asexual. Its head’s gender will determine its reproductive organs. The head will also provide the accrued wisdom of the doll’s own experiences — thus the primacy of an older head, irrespective of its body’s age. The recipient of an aged head will be able to move with ease in its new insect body almost immediately, while one acquiring a fresh head will usually wobble about like a newborn foal.

A drone is treated as expendable. It makes itself useful to the hive, but its strongest instinct is to complete itself, as it cannot feed and will die within three months if it does not obtain a head. Should the hive locate a trove of suitable heads (e.g. an attic full of old playthings), it will typically send out a birthing crew, made up of several mature specimens bearing newly-hatched drones.

Puppenoptrids use their thread-like tongues to feed on sawdust and similar finely granulated substances through minuscule holes drilled into their mouths. The feeding process not only provides the insect with essential minerals; it also produces a paste used in the construction of hives.

*Or even as outright frauds, e.g. the “masked imported roaches” and “aerial marionettes” of the earliest accounts.

Pinneleck‘s delayed self-replicator lost any chance to live up to its name with the demise of Dauvergno Pinneleck and the negligence that followed. An impassioned deathbed testament instructed his heirs to account for each item manufactured by the device and to keep these all in one place. But this was seemingly too large a request for any but Pinneleck’s faithful step-nephew Tumno, who by misadventure could not reach the family seat until far too late, and whose memoirs added essential detail to this tragic episode in the annals of modern engineering.

The machine would begin working immediately upon being fed a 4 ounce steel ingot (this is believed to have happened somewhat less than 1200 times). It would then never fail to produce a small, unique but incomplete mechanism with one or two moving parts that, even if never touched, would start and stop at certain intervals ad infinitum. These objects, known as Pinneleck‘s components, would (Pinneleck assured) eventually converge to form a new self-replicator far larger and more versatile than the original.

But the components, small and motile, had a tendency to drag themselves away from wherever they were placed and become lost — and many did, escaping from insecure storage crates in the family attic. Many more vanished directly after creation at numerous dinner parties and ill-advised events staged for curious dignitaries and the press. Demanding a precise inventory, Tumno Pinneleck found that only 768 components could be accounted for, despite the existence of hundreds more.

In the years following Dauvergno Pinneleck’s death, Tumno collected 203 components from divers sources. Some were discovered in bird nests, in the dung of livestock, as “performers” in puppet theaters, or as elements of numerous handmade toys and even a few bespoke erotic undergarments (for which each component, now in the role of a button, was made motionless by a new clasp imposed upon it, so that with these clasps undone, the garment would slowly unbutton itself). More were only witnessed or likely hallucinated. The infamous case of Vara Porelophin (ibid.) involved her claim that seven of Pinneleck‘s components resided in her wall, and in sentient coordination would emerge at certain times of the day and night to control her actions with invisible threads.

The remaining components can be observed by appointment with the estate of Tumno Pinneleck. The self-replicator has mysteriously stopped working.

Originally published at Queen Mob’s Teahouse.