An Encounter with Hemphillia candelabru​m

From the Journal of Miss Allegra Bushwallow, as provided by Janka Hobbs
Art by Katie Nyborg

The night was dark, lit only by the phosphorescent trails of giant slugs sliding like zeppelins through the jungle trees. The incessant drone of insects was punctuated by the cries of night birds and the helpless bleating of the goat that my father, Professor Ferdinand Bushwallow, had staked out on the shore to attract the slithering beasts.

I pulled my wrap tighter around my shoulders and leaned out over the boat railing. Faint reflections of the slug trails writhed like wires from a failed experiment on the river’s black water.

“Careful, Allegra, my love, I wouldn’t want you to fall in.”

I looked back over my shoulder. Chauncey’s pallid face peered at me, watery eyes squinting.

“Ah, but I would be delighted if you did,” I replied sweetly. “Although it would make Papa unhappy to lose yet another protégé, and I suppose well brought up young ladies ought not feed their suitors to the piranhas.”

“Chauncey? Chauncey!” My father’s voice bellowed up the stairs from his below decks laboratory, followed shortly by his own heavy footfalls. “Oh, there you are. Well, uh, I suppose I shouldn’t disturb you, if you are charming the young lady.”

I gathered my skirts, intending to use my father’s entrance as an excuse to return to my cabin. It would be a welcome respite from Chauncey, though the partially dissected adder on my work table was beginning to smell, and the glowing slime globs didn’t give off quite enough light that I could finish its portrait before morning.

A light flashed from the shore. Could this be what we’d been waiting for? I turned and ran for the skiff tied at the back of the riverboat. Perhaps this time, the congregation of bloated glowbugs really had attracted my father’s real quarry, Hemphillia candelabrum, the rare carnivorous jumping beacon, which sucks the juices from the slower luminescents, and uses the concentrate to fuel its refulgent communications.

An Encounter with Hemphillia candelabru​m

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2013 collection.

Miss Allegra Bushwallow, daughter of Professor Ferdinand Bushwallow, PhD., etc., etc., spent much of her youth assisting her father with his researches. In her later years, Miss Bushwallow gained some fame and notoriety touring the world with a travelling sideshow. Those who knew her remember a radiant dowager with a truly unusual taste in snacks.

Janka Hobbs lives in the Puget Sound lowlands where she studies Botany and Aikido when she’s not playing with words. Her story “Photographic Memories” appeared in the January issue of Emerald Sky Magazine.

Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at

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