Tag Archives: encyclopaedia insolitae

Gladis Root

arum-drakontia

The Gladis root (Geminus clavapoda) is the only living member of the valliscidae family of rhizomal plants. Its only known habitat is a dry valley in the  northern part of Namibia. A German pharmaceutical company brought it to western attention in 1896, when a specimen of dried root was brought back to the country in a material-finding expedition. The root was named, rudimentary tests performed, and promptly left in a drawer in the company’s archives.

Rediscovered in 1963, subsequent tests showed the rhizome contained an anticonvulsant agent and led to another expedition to its homeland. The anticonvulsant was present in greater proportions within the fresh plant, so several cuttings were taken and propagated in Germany. By 1977 the pharmaceutical company had developed Glaxis, an antiepileptic, from the root.  

Unlike its notorious cousin Thalidomide, Glaxis passed the placental-barrier test with flying colors. But it was during the long-term clinical trials that Glaxis’s most defining feature came into the fore. After six months of testing, all of the patients taking the drug began to develop teratomas. The varying ages and genetic backgrounds seemed to have little effect on tumor growth or development: the two largest growths were harvested from a young woman(26) and an older man (72). These weighed in at a whopping six pounds and showed unusual tissue variety, the male patient’s growth alone showed traces of bone, neuron, and adipose tissue. After the trial met an unceremonious end, the pharmaceutical company quashed further mention of the drug and discontinued research, escaping the bad publicity Chemie Grünenthal had faced.

The Gladis root grows in the historic domain of the Twombi people, who referred to it as the “punishment root.” The root was reserved for only the most grievous offenders: those who committed acts of rape, incest, or murder. The offender would be made to ingest the root until they had developed their own “bad twin” who would then mete out punishment. These sparse details were collected by an anthropologist in 1957. The Twombi tribe has since disseminated into the larger Bantu culture, making correlation of such details now impossible.

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Langdon’s Neuroparasite

Wordwurm or Langdon’s Neuroparasite is a syndrome usually exclusive to patients already suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Because of this it commonly goes undiagnosed. The worm often drew comparisons to the more well-known “affliction” Morgellon’s disease, as a product of the patient’s disorder. It wasn’t until the 1978 observation of two patients in adjacent (but isolated) rooms did the worm gain credence, as Dr. Alfred Langdon witnessed the worm “jump” from one patient to another. Until 1985 the sole proponent of the disease was Langdon, who first dubbed the event he witnessed as Neurosynchronicity, mistaking it for some kind of pseudo-telepathic event. He was the first to link the patient’s repetition with the symptoms of early Wordwurm.

Those who contract Wordwurm will begin with a single infected word, which they feel compelled to repeat until it loses meaning, often shoehorning it into sentences that do not require it. The patient is unaware of this quirk and will express disbelief when this is pointed out to them. This spreads steadily to other, often-used words in their repertoire, taking anywhere from three days to three weeks. By the time the patient becomes aware of it their vocabulary has deteriorated greatly, and they are often forced to cobble together still-existing words to form lost complex phrases. (e.g. “water tower” becomes “tall wet on metal stick”)This is the most likely period to transmit an infection, though infection is a possibility at any other point as proved by Langdon. Past this phase, the patient will begin visualizing the malady as an actual, physical worm. Curiously, descriptions vary little between sufferers, this is often utilized in the detection of patients faking the disease.

Further study of the disease was curtailed when its discoverer, Alfred Langdon, tragically contracted the illness. Much like the Curies, Dr. Langdon was canonized as a victim of his own research and the disease was named after him. Oddly enough, he was the only person on record to be afflicted solely by the worm, without a pre-existing disorder. This is supported by the fact that he fought the infection for a number of years, far exceeding the incubation time of his patients. More cases of so-called “healthy” infections have been recorded since. Some researchers suggest that Langdon’s infection was the catalyst the worm required to adapt to minds not predisposed towards compulsion.

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The Fate of the Heche

Little is known about the indigenous Heche people of Northeastern Mexico. They were sedentary, built earth homes and lived simply in their harsh desert climate. They would be almost unremarkable from a historical standpoint if not for their close association with another “tribe.”

The Pueblo ant is not really a separate species unto itself, though some “splitter” etymologists have given them their own subcategory, it is really a member of Aphaenogaster bidentatus. As a species it operates typically of social insects in desert climes. They build thick-walled earth mounds that protect their nurseries and food storages from the desert heat. They are mostly nocturnal foragers, though some colonies have been observed collecting pre-dawn dew. One intriguing aspect of the Pueblo ant is its habit of building its home in other species’ preexisting den.  Their original common name came from a Solano word meaning “usurper.”

The ants were first noticed on an archeological expedition to the Tamaulipan mezquital, mounted in an attempt to uncover the remains of the Heche people’s village. In a territory where they had little to no natural predators, the ants had flourished to an alarming degree. One member reported mounds upwards of six feet tall, remarkable only if we fail to take into account that termite mounds can reach thirty feet in height and extend even further underground.

During “down time” the junior archeologists would hack into mounds in order to watch the ants race to rebuild their city walls. The ants showed no undue aggression, in fact the archeologists noted that the ants had no sting or bite to defend themselves; the only thing they appeared to have on their side was persistence. Alan Bradshaw, foreman of the dig, noted that late one morning another member had taken a trawl to the side of a mound. By mid-afternoon swarms of hundreds of ants had sewed the wound neatly closed. One mound, upon exhumation, was discovered to contain the skeleton of a tree.

All this was merely a diversion by frustrated and bored grad students; the dig was going nowhere. They dug dirt and sifted sand but only turned up fragments of the native’s day to day lives. It was nearly the middle of June, daytime temperature averaged at 114° and they were running low on funds. While Bradshaw and the senior members of the dig congregated to decide the project’s future, the younger archaeologists decided to visit their hexapodal neighbors one last time.

The Heche were said to have a peak population in the low hundreds, had a rich craft and farm tradition, and engaged in trade with their neighboring tribes right up until their sudden disappearance. The question of their downfall rings unanswered still, though theories have been put forth: sudden plagues, invasion by marauding tribes, even natural catastrophe. Proving them one way or another is frustrated by the native’s lack of written language, though information still survives. The neighboring Solano people tell of a Heche man arriving exhausted after many day’s travel, emaciated and weak, too tired to even say his own name. He died of dehydration the next day. This event has been estimated as taking place around the time the Heche people disappeared from the cultural map, but brings us no closer to the truth of the matter.

Whatever the cause of their eventual demise, their fate became clear when the junior archeologists cut into a Pueblo ant mound and found not only the wattle-and-daub walls of a hut, but the remains of five mummified Heche.

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Sapii pullum

From the diaries of Henri Smythe

From the diaries of Henri Smythe

Name: Tree Pig, the “Tasty” mushroom, Chef’s friend, countless others.

Latin: Sapii pullum

Habitat: prefers tropical hardwoods such as teak, mahogany and so forth.

Habits: has a nearly year-long growing season in most of its growing habitats.

Reproduction: drop spores like typical gilled mushroom, also fairly easy to propagate through mycelial division.

Edible? yes

Description: this mushroom has a wide geographical range, from mountainous climes in Malaysia to the bogs of Cambodia. It is hardy, growing from early spring to late fall, and is a healthy contributor towards decomposition of “nursery” trees in jungles across Southeast Asia. In many ways it is a typical wood-rot mushroom, and a popular addition to the dinner table for many foraging cultures.

The mushroom’s most remarkable attribute would be its taste. Its discoverer, Sir Neville Ratham, put it succinctly that “[the mushroom] replicates with perfect mien the stout rarity of human flesh.” This was confirmed by the head of a later Borneo expedition who added that it “possessed a gammy[sic] almost Cornish tang.” The bouquet has eventually been classified as originating somewhere in the Mekong delta, with a nutty aftertaste. It is popular in Haute cuisine when a substitute for “Long pork” is needed.

(see index for recipe suggestions)

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Codex Valera

The earliest mention of the Codex Valera comes from the writings of philosopher Sonticus, where he remarks that “..that book, which comes from the south, does scrabble at words like a dog with a spider.” The name Valera is actually the name lent to it by its discoverer, a roman scholar stationed somewhere in Asia minor during 5th century B.C. The common records imply that the book is much older than that, referring to it arriving from an “abyss of time.”

The Codex Valera, much like the Holy Writ of Bombay, is an irrational text, lacking end or beginning. However unlike Holy Writ, the codex was discovered to be in decipherable language, a form of middle-kingdom Sumerian, but so poorly parsed that the sentence structure is incoherent. A single passage might read

To (the) airy light-on-dark was sent the hollowness up to right center (with) much cadence

with the following sentence more or less completely unrelated.  What little has been translated appears as obtuse blocks of text describing a world rich in adverbs but lacking almost entirely in nouns. In 1959, an Oxford scholar who had the text run under radiograph found that the viewable text may not even be the original, as what appears to be a key of symbols appears near the end, bleached out by some unknown technique. The book paper(not human leather, as some less credible accounts might insist) is 70% cotton rag, 19% cellulose, and 11% unknown materials. The book itself is remarkably well-preserved, whether due to treatment methods or subject matter unknown at this time.

Due to the disjointed nature of the book, little headway has been made towards transliteration of the text. What has come out of the few attempts made has been discouraging to the scholarly world, as the book coheres to no known genre. Theories have been put forth that the book was written as an ancient commentary on the unwieldy nature of prophetic works, that its incoherency is therefore its reason for existing, but these have been dismissed as “depressing.”

The strongest and also strangest hypothesis to come out of the scholarly debate was that of Frederick Werther, who argued that the book, in its original language and syntax, was a prophecy and that translating it to its original language was key to the continued survival of the human race. This was dismissed as patently ridiculous by the academic world once it was discovered that Werther attempted to smuggle the text out in his trousers.

A translation-by-rote was attempted in the late 1970’s, but promptly abandoned once the translators discovered the book’s penchant for shifting around entries at will. Oddly enough, an uncited footnote to the compiled study remarks that as the attempt to translate went on, the book seemed to be sending the team affectionate, if garbled, messages.

Since the codex has no immediate practical use, it has been stored in the same library as other functionally useless “special interest” incannabula, such as Simon Magus’s Sneeze Book and Gṏrte’s Prophecy of Shoes.

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Lycoperdon pseudopolis

From the diaries of Henri Smythe

From the diaries of Henri Smythe

Name: “City” fungus

Latin: Lycoperdon pseudopolis

Habitat: widespread, though it prefers “waste” ground and vacant plots.

Habits: develops as mycelium underground over the course of centuries, once the sporocarp develops the fungus detaches itself from the ground, often taking large portions of the surrounding area with it.

Reproduction: unknown

Edible? chewy

Description: this literal genius loci may remain dormant underground for centuries as mycelium until triggered, whereupon a fruiting body will develop rapidly enough that a city appears “overnight.” The triggering event can be as devastating as a natural disaster or as seemingly benign as someone digging a well in the wrong spot, but once triggered growth is exponential. The largest sporocarp on record measured appr. 568  km² , but they vary widely in size from the “hamlet”(pseudopolis  pagus) to the “metropolis”(pseudopolis  urbanus) which possesses outgrowths that rival the Empire State Building. Oddly enough, while the mushroom has an uncanny resemblance to human structure no “live” presence has ever been detected on one.

The fungi will inevitably drift towards the sea as the end of its life cycle nears and it loses altitude, but there have been occasions where the biomass falls just short of its destination. Memorable occurrences include the defoliated suburb of New Brunswick and “the Minsk Incident.” No first-hand account of such a “fall” has ever been recovered.

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Morchella Senis

floating old man mushroom

Name: Floating “Old Man” Morel

Latin: Morchella Senis

Habitat: church foundations, caves, subway tunnels

Habits: floating appr. 1.5 meters off the ground, sporing when threatened, polite coughing

Reproduction: follows victims around for days, once the victims tires of pursuit and goes to rest, fungus floats above subject and sheds spores.

Edible? yes

Description: The Floating “Old Man” (or “Wise Man”) mushroom is a curious fungus with curious habits. Morchella Senis spends most of its life underground as mycelium. After approximately 90 years it fruits into a body with a rind 3 inches thick that, when cured and ground, makes fine treatment for scabies.

After a gestation period of 30 days the rind splits open to reveal the tender fruiting body, which will engage its hover mechanism to search for prey. In a method of selection unknown, it finds a human with reclusive habits and follows them. Often, these victims are homeless or transient in nature.  Once engaged in pursuit, the mushroom can go for days on end without dropping.

Once the victim inevitably drops from exhaustion, the mushroom with float above them and release spores, leading to a fatal respiratory infection. The purpose of this live “sowing” is unknown, but the result is clear: once the victim is buried (or wanders off to die) mycelium descend from the body and once again the cycle begins anew.

Once shed of its spores, the fruiting body will float aimlessly for days on end, now a dried-out husk, until captured or rained upon. Once reconstituted, it goes well with pasta and white wine and is said to be an excellent substitute for prosciutto antipasto.

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