That Man Behind the Curtain: October 2015

Hipster Beauty and the Beast

Your editors, as Hipster Beauty and the Beast.

Welcome to our latest installment of behind the scenes!

The Money Aspect

Amounts in parentheses are losses/expenses.

Hosting: ($17.06)
Stories: ($70.00)
Art: ($196.16)
Advertising: ($30.00)
Processing Fees: ($16.45)
Printing: ($44.13)
Donations: $114.00
Ad Revenue: $0.84
Book Sales: $85.62
Total: ($547.14)
QTD: ($547.14)
YTD: ($10,689.77)
All Time: ($37,558.92)

As per usual, I try to list costs for art and stories under the month that the stories run on the site rather than when I pay them. (This does not apply to special content which does not have a specific month associated with it.) Sales are for sales when they take place, not when it’s actually paid out to me. I also cover Paypal expenses when paying authors and artists as best I can. Paypal has made it more difficult, so I’m not as capable of covering international fees.

Submissions

October saw 13 submissions, all classified ads. We also accepted 12 of the classifieds, which makes the month’s acceptance rate 92.3%. All time acceptance rate is 48.84%.

Followers

Number of followers in social media as of the end of last month.

Facebook: 1,029 (+13)
Twitter: 408 (+0)
Google+: 59 (+0)
Tumblr: 116 (+4)
Mailing List: 45 (+1)
Patreon: 10 (+0)

Traffic

Our traffic was down further in October. We had a total of 781 visits. Our traffic consisted of 502 users and 1,461 page views. Our highest day of traffic was 57.

This month’s search engine term is “chicken wire ghost glow.” And quilt patterns are back.

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After Fear Becomes My Friend

An essay by Dracula, as provided by Richard Zwicker
Art by Luke Spooner


I was lying in my coffin in that blissful dead-to-the-world state allotted to me during daylight hours, when literal screams from my cell phone shattered my nothingness. After clocking my head on the closed top of my coffin, I pushed it open and groped for my phone. It was Frankenstein.

“Where have you been?” he asked.

A word about Frankenstein, who years ago gave up informing people that his proper name was “Monster of …” He may have inherited from his creator a healthy, robust body, but little can be done about his diseased brain.

“Where do you think I’ve been? Where does Dracula spend every daylight hour of his eternal existence?”

I meant this as a rhetorical question, but there was no such thing for Frankenstein. He paused, then sputtered, “How come you didn’t throw your annual Halloween party?”

“How come I didn’t … I’m supposed to throw a Halloween party before Halloween?”

“It’s November 19th.”

“What?” I staggered out of my coffin, banging my shin against the lower half. Coffins and movement don’t mix. When my DVD player confirmed Frankenstein’s words, I let out a girlish scream. “Frankenstein, you’re right! I’ve been in my coffin for over a month. It must be the padded interior I installed.” Silence settled over us as we realized the import of what had happened. This was the first Halloween we had not gotten together to discuss what was right with the world and how to make it wrong. That I had slept through it was bad enough, but even more unnerving was the fact no one else had stepped up and made the event happen.

“Why don’t we have a Thanksgiving party?” Frankenstein asked.

“Thanksgiving? What kind of monster celebrates Thanksgiving?”

“I don’t know. What kind of monsters are we?”

Every so often, Frankenstein puts me in my place with such questions. “Frankenstein,” I said finally, “you have given us a theme for our get-together. We’re going to have the mother of Thanksgiving dinners. Can you bring the mashed potatoes or stuffing?”

“I’ll dig up something.”

“No, don’t dig it up. Just cook it.”

After Fear Becomes My Friend

The weather was perfect for our Thanksgiving get-together. The sky was overcast, the grass was dead, and the wind chill hovered barely above freezing. Due to Wolfman’s limited availability, we were forced to celebrate three days after the official Thanksgiving Day. That was always a concern on Halloween as well, but with the added vibes of that holiday, we could always get by if he didn’t shave for a month. With a cheerful holiday such as Thanksgiving, we weren’t prepared to wing it, however.


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


Dracula is a “name” vampire that disputes any relation to Klaus Kinski.


Richard Zwicker is an English teacher living in Vermont with his wife and beagle. His short stories have appeared recently in Stupefying Stories, Tales of Old, and LocoThology.


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 www.carrionhouse.com.

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The House Wins

An account by an unnamed traveler, as provided by Rich Young
Art by Errow Collins


Riding through rolling hills, hearing the sound of distant thunder, and breaking away from the yesterdays that have created a mountain of ragged, old clothes in my sad hole of a life, I am passing through the land that composed my earliest memories. When the road curves by the edge of a field where I played ball, a break in the trees exposes the horizon, and I see the outline of the farmhouse that raised me. A tall, ruined monster that now sits empty and lonely–its history lost by the passing of all former inhabitants save one.

A rise in the road causes me to look forward, start paying closer attention, and cease the daydreaming that pulls me in on this long drive. The car is rolling over the dip at the bottom of the private dirt path that leads to my childhood home. Grasshoppers hurry to avoid the car tires rolling over the overgrown center line of grass in the path. I lower the front windows to hear the familiar evening buzz of insects and frogs. There is no buzz. The wind whispers across the grass and gently brushes leaves in willow trees that line the road.

I realize it is late in the summer, and several nights have passed when frost has replaced the dew in the morning grass. There is a point in summer where the hot sun changes to a cooler, amber glow and the freezing temperatures stop the night insects from their cacophony that exists in the thick of summer’s abundant life. I hadn’t considered it would be this late in the season here. I have not been outside in a very long time.

I feel angry. To look at this place, one would not suspect what pain has been endured within. It is in the secrets of this house that I have lived and died a thousand times. I have never been strong enough to remember everything. If I started talking, I would surely recall details that are better left forgotten.

“Not another death from you!” I yell at the house. It answers with a cold, wooden creak. This house mocks me. I could no more capture the moon with my bare hands than tear this building down. I think that I don’t know why I came here on this very day, but I presently, and suddenly, remember. This is the day the house took my father from me.

I see us through the living room window. Dim light illuminates my face as I look up to my father with respect. He is strong. I can see the muscles tighten in his jaw and the way he closed one eye when concentrating. I feel his words more than I can hear them; each word a nail hammered into my soul.

“Creature, you are not my son. My son was good, and he is gone now. You are the wrong, and you must leave.”

I could never hurt him. I plead with him to let me stay, but the house has him. My father points to the front door, and through the window I can see tears stream down my teenage cheeks. I see a light turn on in an upstairs window. The woman that gave birth to my body was awakened by the noises downstairs. She would never be my mother. Without knowing, I imagine what must have run through her head. She wanted me dead that night. I knew that she asked my father to kill me. He could not. She would never forgive him for his weakness.

The House Wins

“Creature, you are not my son. My son was good, and he is gone now. You are the wrong, and you must leave.”


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


He comes from everywhere. I don’t know his name, but I have received his tale only to desire that some things would remain unheard. He is rugged, damaged, and his soul has been tainted from a dark past. Joy and love are foreign. His eyes are a dry riverbed, but they mostly see the raging river of his past. His large hands cannot answer for the pain that they have inflicted–they know not what power they hold. You may know him as well as you know yourself.


Rich Young is a writer, guitar player, business analyst, father, and husband from Michigan. He has completed one novel, Letters From Tomorrow, and several short stories ranging from horror to science fiction. He is currently working on a series of Tales of The Scraping, and a novel that sums up all the experiences of his life in some odd fashion or another.


Errow is a comic artist and illustrator currently near Seattle. She focuses on narrative work themed around worlds not quite like our own. She spends her time working with her partner on The Kinsey House webcomic and developing her solo webcomic when she’s not playing tag with her bear of a cat. More of her work can be found at errow.carbonmade.com.

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Try to Dismember Doctor September

An essay by Minister Sinister, as provided by Daniel Coble
Art by Justine McGreevy


Helen thinks that the schoolbus thing was the first sign that Doctor September was turning “good,” but I disagree. I mean, it was a bus full of little children, for Christ’s sake. If it had been me, I probably would have saved them, too. That would have been better, actually. If I had been there, I could have telekinetically lifted the bus out of the water without anyone spotting me and ruining my reputation. But September, with his obscenely bulgy muscles and that ridiculous, horned helmet, was not exactly inconspicuous as he hauled the thing onto the river bank. But whatever. Do I wish it hadn’t happened? Yes. I’m just saying that saving a bunch of helpless moppets from drowning doesn’t mean you’re turning non-villainous.

I hate the term “altruism,” and I even hate what social scientists call it: “pro-social behavior.” But the notion is applicable here, in a negative sense. You see, if he had been at some risk, you might call it “altruism,” although “stupidity” is the more accurate term. But when he’s all hyped-up on his Formula S, September can’t be harmed by anything short of a multi-kiloton explosive, although I’ve sort of wanted to try a plasma beam at super-solar temperatures, say 10,000 Kelvin. I think that could give him a nasty burn. But a cold river and a 14 ton type-C Thomas Built schoolbus loaded with soggy third graders? No hazard at all, and so hardly an instance of self-sacrificing daring.

I’m not disputing that Doctor September did eventually lose his shit. But it happened more recently, and more gradually.

The signs were there during the Lincoln Memorial project. Doctor September was as enthusiastic as any of us about blowing up that hideous temple to the gods of hypocrisy, and in fact his Hadron Imploders were the method we eventually chose for the task. And everyone has seen how beautifully it worked. They may turn the huge crater we left there into some kind of sappy museum, but the government fools and their various childish, masked stooges know as well as we do what it really is: a monument to our genius and villainy. Mostly mine, of course, but it was a team effort. And September was a key part of the team back then. But one conversation we had worried me a bit, and perhaps should have worried me a lot:

“So, Doctor,” I said to him, “have you calculated the damage this will do, in economic terms? Have you factored in the possibility of a stock market crash triggered by the panic and psychosexual angst we will cause?” I had explained to the whole League how the lounging, hypertrophied Lincoln was an anthropomorphized phallic symbol central to the delusions of the sheep-citizens. And Doctor September understood this, but he was distracted by trivialities.

“What if there are guards or maintenance personnel still in the building?” he asked, his voice low and almost timid.

Try to Dismember Doctor September

Helen witnessed the next clear warning-event herself. September had just finished a classic solo gig–robbing the diamond exchange–with his usual panache. But then, as he strode down 47th Street, carrying his haul in two of those damned, huge, dollar-sign emblazoned sacks he always brought, several paparazzi scurried out from the alley next to Club Monaco and started snapping pictures of him.


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


Minister Sinister is a costumed professional criminal rumored to possess dangerous mental abilities. He has been characterized in the press as “pretentious,” as well as “homicidal” and “confused.” Speculation that he lives in an almost continuous dissociative state characterized by self-reinforcing delusions and free-floating, narcissistic rage must remain conjecture until he can be captured and assessed by psychiatric experts. No clear photos of Minister Sinister are known, but images that have been captured by traffic and ATM cameras show a receding hairline, an aquiline nose, and a narrow, slope-shouldered frame. He is rumored to enjoy half-caf soy lattes.


Daniel Coble lives with his wife, daughters, and sister in southern California, where he develops Web applications in the light of day and commits his literary crimes under cover of darkness. Those abetting these offenses include River Lit, Spank the Carp, Third Flatiron anthologies, Halfway Down The Stairs, Fabula Argentea, Frostfire Worlds, and the Zombies in Japan anthology from Dreamscape Press. He enjoys 1,354 other hobbies, but like some kind of sad, bespectacled prose shark, he cannot stop writing, lest he perish.


Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.

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KN12604

A letter by Peter Kopec, as provided by Alan Murdock
Art by Luke Spooner


From: Peter Kopec
To: Robert Shaw
Subject: KN12604 Testing

Hey Bobby! How’s everything on your end of paradise? Things are more of the same over here. Dinkins left. Pfizer snatched him up. Paula, as you may have heard, was let go. Too much head bashing with corporate is the word on the street. Hinman is still running the show down here, or at least trying to. We need to get out for another round at Western Hills. I worked on my short game all winter, and it seems to be paying off. How about a quick nine holes this afternoon? It’ll give us a chance to catch up and an excuse to fill you in on all the other gossip that I shouldn’t mention in an email. I know they’re keeping you busy up there, but I’m sure you can manage to slip away for a few hours.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason for me to be bothering you, although I’m sorry to do it. I know your inbox has probably been packed ever since you took that god-forsaken quality assurance position. Bet you never realized how many things go wrong with these tests, huh?

But since you are now the “problem guy,” you know why I’m writing, so I’ll get to it. We have been testing KN12604 for two months now and have had some strange results to say the least. Hinman, not to mention all of his bosses and their bosses, and, well you get the point, were extremely optimistic before starting the test trial that this drug would overtake all other antipsychotics and would easily fly through FDA approval. Shockingly enough, they were wrong, LMFAO! (Are your kids teaching you this new shorthand stuff like mine are?)

Anyway, at this rate, the drug may never even see FDA eyes. I fear the drug is having a paradoxical effect on our subjects, and its happened to such a degree that this email was prompted. In a double blind study, it’s blatantly obvious who is on the real deal and who has been getting paid to down sugar pills. At this point, let me tell you there are fifty subjects tested, with half getting the drug, the other half the placebo. As per protocol, all were interviewed individually. Within the first few days, half of the participants began stating that they could actually catch glimpses of the future. I know you worked in our department long before I ever arrived and you know this, but it needs to be reiterated: none of the subjects at any time had contact with each other nor even know of the other participants’ existence. When asked to elaborate, they all used the same term to describe the feeling. They said it felt very similar to that of déjà vu.

So what could we do? We humored them, and ourselves for that matter. Each was quizzed in various ways that would showcase any precognitive abilities. They were seated in our testing rooms and asked various questions. What card would be the next one drawn, what number was written on a face down paper in front of them, what would be the outcome of the Sox-Yanks game that night. Our statisticians compiled the results and informed us our subjects scored 58.17% collectively. According to the number guys, the tests showed nothing peculiar except that the subjects are slightly better at guessing than the rest of the population.

These results, of course, were far from anything that would halt or even slow this multi-million dollar study. So we continued, and even though I received no credit for keeping things on schedule, you were here long enough to know that it would have been my ass on the line had there been even the smallest delay. The tests for psychic ability not only flattened any notions of possibility on the part of the staff, but also seemed to quiet the twenty-five subjects and quell any fear they had felt. However (and would there be an email without that word?), approximately a week after the tests, some of the subjects came forward reporting the feeling had not only not disappeared, but intensified. Over the next several days, some of the subjects living in denial longer than others apparently, the remaining subjects eventually stated the same. Hinman ordered the psychic tests be re-administered, hoping to again repress any questions the subjects were having. This time after testing, the statisticians placed the percentage of correct answers at an astounding 85.73%, putting them in an indefinable category outside of all potential guessing. The subjects were all individually questioned to describe the feeling they had. We were all still under the impression that there must be some logical reason for the results. Again, they used the term déjà vu. They stated they were able to guess the correct card because they felt as though they had already seen the card. They were able to know the number written on the paper because they had already seen it. I know what you’re thinking. They are having those feelings because they have in fact taken the tests before. But different proctors were used, the cards had long since been shuffled, and this time the Red Sox were playing Tampa Bay.

KN12604

Their psyche has deteriorated quickly, and all twenty-five subjects are now having nearly constant feelings of déjà vu. This might not be a big deal. We’ve allowed crazier subjects to wander the street, opting not to quarantine. In this city, twenty-five random people rambling about twenty-five different things is far from exceptional. But they are all raving about the same thing!


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


Peter Kopec was a single father of two teenaged girls. Born and raised in Haven Falls, Connecticut, he graduated from Uconn with a degree in microbiology and a 2.2 GPA. From there he continued his lackluster tenacity, working his way up to a middle management position where he was happily lost in the shuffle of a giant corporation. He never did get a chance to squeeze in that round of golf.


Alan Murdock is a writer of horror, sci-fi, and other weird fiction. He lives with his wife and daughter in New England, but is a frequent visitor to the fictional town of Haven Falls, Connecticut. When not reading or writing, he enjoys spending time with his family, watching the Red Sox, and drinking beer—usually all at once. For information on his upcoming projects, follow him on Twitter at Alan Murdock @AlanMurdock13.


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 www.carrionhouse.com.

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That Man Behind the Curtain: September 2015

This is what we live with at our apartment.

This is what we live with at our apartment complex.

Sorry for the delay in posting this. We wanted to finish the slush for classifieds before posting this, since some of the submission period was in September. Here are some numbers.

The Money Aspect

Amounts in parentheses are losses/expenses.

Hosting: ($17.06)
Stories: ($105.00)
Art: ($395.98)
Advertising: ($20.00)
Processing Fees: ($28.88)
Printing: ($1,236.43)
Shipping: ($358.54)
Donations: $94.20
Ad Revenue: $0.48
Book Sales: $115.78
Total: ($4,113.32)
QTD: ($4,949.89)
YTD: ($10,142.63)
All Time: ($37,011.46)

As per usual, I try to list costs for art and stories under the month that the stories run on the site rather than when I pay them. (This does not apply to special content which does not have a specific month associated with it.) Sales are for sales when they take place, not when it’s actually paid out to me. I also cover Paypal expenses when paying authors and artists as best I can. Paypal has made it more difficult, so I’m not as capable of covering international fees.

With the launch of Selfies, sales have increased. On the other hand, printing and shipping out all of the books to backers meant a spike in expenses for the month. The cost is mostly covered by Kickstarter income, but international shipping costs were higher than we budgeted for. Lesson learned for next time.

Submissions

September saw 34 submissions, of which 4 were classified ads. Of the regular submissions, we accepted 16 (53%). We also accepted all of the classifieds, which makes the overall acceptance percentage 58.8%. All time acceptance rate is 48.20%.

Followers

Number of followers in social media as of the end of last month. I’m still planning on doing a giveaway to celebrate crossing a thousand Facebook followers, but haven’t had time to set it up.

Facebook: 1,016 (+15)
Twitter: 408 (+12)
Google+: 59 (+0)
Tumblr: 112 (+2)
Mailing List: 44 (+3)
Patreon: 10 (+1)

Traffic

Our traffic was back down in September. We had a total of 1,057 visits. Our traffic consisted of 744 users and 2,506 page views. Our highest day of traffic was 89. I should start calling this trafficmancy, because I don’t know what to make of our traffic sometimes.

This month’s search engine term is “mississippi crossroads at midnight.” And quilt patterns are back. Yay!

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Ask a Mad Scientist for Advice

We are once again looking for people to provide questions for our “Ask a Mad Scientist” column that appears in our quarterly. If your question is used in a column, you receive a free copy of that quarterly, and will be credited as the author of your question.

If you have questions you’d like to submit, please email them to madscientistjournal@gmail.com by Monday, November 9th.

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Child M

An essay by Stuart Metcalfe, as provided by Steve Toase
Art by Leigh Legler


Monitoring group: Centre for the Care and Re-integration of Feral Children

Location: St Hubert’s Clinic

Case ref no: 2014/142

Patient: Child M

Lead Consultant: Dr B Sinderford

Assessment report

Background:

Child M is an eleven year old girl. She was found in a large area of deciduous woodland on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. Although difficult to ascertain how long Child M had been living outside, due to her lack of any recognisable speech, we believe that she was abandoned prior to the acquisition of language. Our best estimate is between 12-18 months old.

Child M was found by a local dog walker who alerted local emergency services. Although Child M was not able to be secured immediately, canine units tracked her to the deeper undergrowth. During attempts to rescue Child M, several of the officers suffered severe attacks by various insects, notably ants, and also several species of beetles that are normally believed to not be aggressive.

We were alerted by local social services and carried out our initial assessment within 48 hours of Child M’s removal from the woodland.

Physical condition:

Although underweight, Child M did not display signs of malnutrition common to most feral children.

Child M’s hair was clean, though several clumps of hair showed evidence of chewing and removal (see below).

Her skin was also clean. Over her whole body, the examination revealed a series of parallel scratches consistent with the movement of insect feet. However, no bites were found at all, in contrast to other cases of children exposed to large populations of ants at a young, vulnerable age (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-30474700).

Child M

Child M displayed a series of strange physical symptoms. At first, the team believed that these were ante-natal, and may have led to her abandonment in the woodland. However, upon examination, these were found to have developed during Child M’s time living feral.


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


Stuart Metcalfe has been a staff nurse at St Hubert’s Clinic for five years, following a successful career in the NHS. He changed employment after catching a fleeting glance of a hirsute humanoid figure in a local woodland. This chance encounter, which may or may not have been real, led to Stuart researching feral children, and finding the jobs vacancy website for St Hubert’s. In his free time he collects Cab Calloway 78s and likes bouldering.


Steve lives in North Yorkshire, England, and occasionally Munich, Germany. His stories tend towards the unsettling and unreal, dealing with revenge, loss, faery, chess playing bears, and ancient gods.

His work has appeared in Cabinet de Fees’ Scheherezade’s Bequest, Pantheon Magazine, Innsmouth Magazine, Jabberwocky Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Cafe Irreal, amongst others. In 2014, his story “Call Out” was published in The Best Horror Of The Year Anthology 6.

Steve is currently working with Becky Cherriman and Imove on a commissioned project called Haunt.
http://www.imovearts.co.uk/current-projects/haunt/


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.

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Apophenia or Apotheosis

An essay by Dr. Erick Loadston, as provided by Adam Wykes
Art by America Jones


To you, dear readers, the significance of these findings cannot be overstated. Their implication(s) relate to the whole of human experience after humans first spoke. But perhaps this begins incorrectly: the story will and must build itself up, bootstrap excitement in you as it originally did for everyone it has affected–for all human information processing is inevitably correlated within a narrative framework, an indication of the sort of mind this species has. In this way and no other may it be understood, and to be understood in this way it must be told in the form and attitude of an adventure, beginning with the sharks.

Really, the event wasn’t so dramatic. It was the ancient sharks themselves, smooth and feline and so absolutely powerful in their mental impressions–especially up close–that lent the first moment its gravity. The crew that you must join for the course of this moment, the whole crew and yourself (had you been there), was rapt at the sight of these animals behaving as they did that day in the clear waters off the coast of the most remote location in the world.

The Matador del Mar was a leased 22-meter Chilean coast guard patrol vessel refitted for the purposes of marine biology, sturdily constructed and holding up–considering its fifteen years of military service–quite well. Not everyone was on the boat that day, unfortunately–just his captain, Gregori Zhitomir, his first mate and wife Olga Zhitomir, the author, and Iris Poole, a grad student from the University of Florida. And you, now, if you may be so persuaded. The rest were not on the boat then and make no indication of joining its crew now. Such, perhaps, is the importance of a proper introduction.

What the Matador was doing was at the suggestion of Gregori. He wasn’t a part of the expedition–rather a hired hand–but he had expressed sympathy for the group’s bad luck and offered his own personal advice based on his experiences at sea. Gregori claimed that if sharks were to be attracted, they might be brought by trolling rather than dropping, his reason being that the motion might be a more effective bait than the chum and blood already tried earlier in the week. Gregori was composed of that Russian captain’s stock reminiscent of Sean Connery atop the Red October‘s conning tower, squinting into the salt-sprayed wind with a tolerant wisdom born from Siberian patience wedded to a long and colorful naval tradition. This demeanor, really, was the reason he was taken on his word, and is offered here as a prime example of how unscientific some of the most fortunate decisions can be, even (especially?) on scientific expeditions.

In any case, he assured everyone that the boat was fast enough for the job and soon, for lack of any better ideas, the Matador was kicking up quite a wake as we rounded the northern peak of Rapa Nui. Several of the great heads for which this island is famous were in view. Those constructed in the inscrutable attitude of staring out over the waters with their lidless, dispassionate eyes were witness yet as Olga and Iris ran out the tuna bait on a trolling line and began dropping in chum and blood on the way.

Soon they had several prospective clients, probably Gray Reef Sharks but possibly Makos, chasing the bait, dorsal fins now and again high out of the water. Gregori adjusted his speed so as not to outpace the animals too quickly while making them work to get the bait, regaling everyone in his broken English with some tale about sharks that favored eating a harder catch. As preparations were being made for the cameras and tag guns, the Matador del Mar passed over a darker patch of seabed–and the pursuing sharks were gone. Disappointed but encouraged by the show, the crew tried the gambit again–and again the same results: the sharks would break off pursuit over the darker patch of seabed.

“What is that down there?” Iris asked Gregori, as you may well ask yourself. The answer eluded the captain and his crew then, but was answered some days thereafter, courtesy of a timely e-mail by a friendly geologist back at the university, who correctly determined it to be an igneous flow of magnetic rock from the island’s now dormant volcano. He reasoned that because sharks possess a finely tuned sense organ dedicated to the detection of electromagnetic fields that all living things give off, they might be spooked by the presence of the rock’s undoubtedly strong magnetic field. As long as future ventures avoided the magnetic flows, he advised, there would be no trouble. Paige Decker, the team’s most informed individual on that particular organ, supported this hypothesis.

And so things might have resumed normally had it not been for a particularly serendipitous rainfall later that week, as the expedition was grounded on Rapa Nui due to the rough seas a thunderstorm was working up around the island. You must put yourself in the position of the author, who was caught on the docks as the storm came in. Imagine:

The sky, angry and black as coal, is simply dumping water on you in a driving rain, and the waves are threatening to wash you off the dock. You quickly get as much of the equipment you were unloading as you can and dash off, a wave taking what you’ve left behind over the side only moments later. Rushing into the nearest building–one of the sheds used by the island’s archeologists–you’re thinking you’re too old for this. The team’s shelters are more than a kilometer distant, and there’s no way you’re hauling this camera and line all that distance on this muddy ground. Nor are you staying here in this drafty metal shed, your clothes dripping wet. You’ll leave the gear here in the shed and come back for it later when things have cleared up.

You’re not even halfway back when the rain, coming in nearly sideways in enormous gobbets, forces you to seek shelter behind one of those enormous stone heads, called Moai by the natives. It’s the only thing around for hundreds of meters, and the only thing worth looking at other than the sky, which you check frequently. You’re wondering how often these old statues are hit by lightning, but gradually you become more fascinated by the appearance of the rock when wet, which you realize you’ve never seen before. And yet it seems familiar, because you could swear it looks exactly like that patch of rock the sharks wouldn’t swim over.

That, probably, was the essential moment of connection–to be poetic about it, the point of critical mass, the moment at which a ball of interstellar gas becomes a bright shining star. What is to come is not yet clear, but the light, where before there was none, cannot be ignored.

Apophenia or Apotheosis

Back in the United States with the rock samples, however, the research begins. The fragments were found to be far newer than the stones quarried for the Moai, and showed a markedly stronger magnetic field, meaning that this field probably dissipated with time in the Moai figures sometime before their magnetic readings were taken.


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


Dr. Erick Loadston is a former marine biologist recently turned systems theorist and cognitive scientist, formerly specializing in the behavioral dynamics of shark groups. His expertise in this field has been noted in several peer-reviewed scientific journals prior to this publication, which is intended for the general public. His book, “Applied Electromagnetic Imaging and Duplication of Nervous Systems,” coauthored with JohnJoe McFadden and Susan Blackmore, is due out later this year.


Adam Wykes is a technical writer at Forte Automation Systems, and fascinated with science in fiction and reality–especially complexity, cosmology, cognition, evolution, or ants. He lives in Rockford, IL, with his wife Emily, his new son Joseph, a dog, and the target host for toxoplasma gondii. In his spare time, Adam games, builds computers, learns Linux, reads, and tries to write a novel. His work also appears in the Von Neumann/Darwin-inspired game Boss Constructor, due for release on Steam soon, and the self-published (and free!) “Witness to the Dawn” on Lulu.


AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.


“Apophenia or Apotheosis” is © 2015 Adam Wykes
Art accompanying story is  © 2015 America Jones 

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Mad Scientist Cabaret!

Mad Scientist Cabaret

Dawn and I recently discovered that there is a MAD SCIENTIST CABARET that will be starting close to Halloween. We won’t be able to go, but we encourage anyone who is near Seattle to check it out! We’ve seen at least some of the performers in other shows, and we can only assume it will be great. And it’s a MAD SCIENTIST CABARET. It’s our moral obligation to promote this.

Here’s the description from the show:

A devised work conceived by Evelyn DeHais and Zane Exactly
Directed by Evelyn DeHais with Associate Director Tootsie Spangles

Friday 10/30 @11pm
Saturday 10/31 @11pm (Halloween)
Saturday 11/7 @11pm
Monday 11/9 @7:30pm (Industry Night – PWYC)
Tuesday 11/10 @7:30pm (Industry Night – PWYC)
Friday 11/13 @11pm

Annex Theatre. 1100 E Pike St. Seattle, WA 98122

Tickets: http://tinyurl.com/qa6q2md

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1626583090963859/

Seven nightmarish creatures escape from a laboratory and embark on a madcap adventure into the weird and wonderful world of Mad Science! Bound by their own bizarreness, they toil through titillating torments, physical feats, and extended experiments on each other as they seek to discover the truth to their own monstrosity… and humanity.

Through a special blend of comic mayhem and visual spectacle they take the audience on a jam-packed journey into insanity that walks the line of horror and humor. Clowning, dance, puppetry, and more come together in this playfully audacious piece.

Created by the Ensemble:
Kirsten Deane
Alyza Delpan-Monley
Zane Exactly
Marcus Gorman
Jackie Miedema
Jordan Moeller
Jessica Stepka

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