Mr. Merkel’s Mug

An essay by Jeff Phillips, as provided by Jarod K. Anderson
Art by Luke Spooner

Frank Merkel was the CEO, and his coffee mug wasn’t made of ceramic or metal or plastic. I could see the sutures where the bone plates had fused. It was definitely organic. Definitely human.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of bits and pieces around the office that were made from human remains. Even my tiny cubicle sported a file rack made from a section of ribcage. But Mr. Merkel’s mug was different. It was shaped like a mug, handle and all. One solid piece, like he had found someone walking around with a coffee mug for a skull.

Our firm was in the business of headhunting, so I had seen a lot of professional-grade artistry used in the manipulation of skin and bones. I’d seen bone and sinew transformed into wingback chairs comfortable enough to fall asleep in. Our firm even perfected a working clock made from the delicate bones of the ear and hand. But in every example I could think of, you could still tell that the thing used to be human. You could identify the parts. The mug was different.

Mr. Merkel's Mug

My plan was simple and, at the time, I thought it was subtle. I’d run into Mr. Merkel as I dutifully went about my daily work. We’d strike up a polite conversation between coworkers, and I’d admire his beautifully unique mug. He, in turn, would thank me and give me a bit of background on the object of interest. Then, we’d part on congenial terms, and the mystery that had been monopolizing my thoughts would be solved.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2015 collection.

Jeff Phillips is a junior shipping clerk at the headhunting firm of Merkel, Johnson, and Doombringer. He majored in Osteo-engineering at Crooked Jaw Community College with a dual minor in operations management and flaying. He enjoys dermal origami, watching TV, and camping.

Jarod K. Anderson is a writer of speculative fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, The Colored Lens, Cast of Wonders, and elsewhere.

Jarod’s book, Inklings: 300 Starts, Plots, and Challenges to Inspire Your Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Stories (co-written with Leslie J. Anderson) is available on Amazon and his forthcoming book 100 Prompts for Science Fiction Writers (co-written with Leslie J. Anderson) will be available from Sterling Publishing this November. Visit his website at

Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

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