“And lo’, the gods of Absurdity are upon us!” –that’s exactly what he said. He was part preacher and part politician in that moment, black suit with a white tie that when he leaned back looked just like a priest’s collar, and he was leaning back with his palms to the sky right in front of the lectern, in front of the steps, in front of the White House, which was actually red and orange and grey and black from the fire and smoke, the light from which put all the screaming people running on the lawn in silhouette. And he stood there absorbing the energy of the madness until the octopus-headed beast squatted down behind the burning state house, it’s wings gently flapping creating a wind fueling the flames, then leaning over the crumbling building, lowered its tentacled mouth down over the tiny presidential figure. Gone in a single bite like shrimp cocktail.
Fun Fact: Rabies in humans is rare, with less than 1,000 cases per year, and more cases come from insect bites than animal bites.
Of course there were more beasts… what do you expect from an apocalypse? Yes, some Cth-hula-hoop monster thing did come down from the sky and gobble up the President like a sardine on a saltine cracker, but he’s not special. That tentacle faced jerk didn’t “choose” the President. He didn’t even try to make that moment dramatic. It was dramatic because it was the one that was on TV. But really, anyone who gets eaten by a giant monster on camera is going to end up famous.
Fun Fact: The symptoms of rabies are strangely similar to the effects of psilocybin mushrooms: hallucination, anxiety, dilated pupils, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
Maryann Maylind was the first. The only reason there was a video of her death was because the local news crew was attempting — God help the idiots — a live broadcast for International Rabies Day. Maryann was the director of a local wildlife rehabilitation center — Noah’s Hart. Cute, right? The boat was made in the shape of antlers. It was a better logo in 1964 when the place was established, when people still used the word “hart,” and when casual references to Christianity were not immediately assumed to be oppressive (although they were). Anyways, Miss Maylind was smiling and petting a deer. She said, “Our wild animal friends need your help. Right now millions of wild animals are needlessly slaughtered each year due to bites and scratches they inflict on humans and pets.” This is false, by the way. “Each of these animals has to have its head removed just so we can test to see if it has rabies.” That part is true. “And the answer doesn’t matter because the law requires humans receive immediate treatment and pets to be immediately euthanized.” That is also true. “The best way you can help is to get the rabies vaccine for yourself and your best friend. You’ll still need to see a doctor or vet, but no animal will need to die.”
Fun Fact: Only one to three rabies cases are reported to the CDC each year. So, what’s this about?
Another fact is that just then the human-interest host, Wally Slugger, appeared in the shot beside Maryann while being head butted by a deer who was dead-set on making Wally Slugger the next news-faux-pas viral video. Then the deer being petted by Maryann Maylind yawned, throwing what were now it’s multiple heads back, and forcing it’s fur-covered cheeks to split. Tear is a better word. The sound of wet flesh tearing is distinct, add to that the screaming from both the people and the deer and it was a noisy scene akin to using a mop bucket’s wringer as a meat grinder for cat sausage. The multi-headed deer’s long neck ripped all the way down and somehow the vertebra become teeth — teeth that in just a few awkward clumsy-staggering moves scraped the tissue from Maryann’s bones. She didn’t seem to mind though, as she chanted a strange series of words: “keresh, kraken, kanedama, karkinos…” and so on in that way until she was dead.
Fun Fact: Urine, blood, and feces do not transmit rabies.
There was a distinct split in the internet community: one half was trying to sort out what the deer beasts were and how they managed to pull their lips back and unzip their necks; the other half was trying to determine what the words the bloody Maryann was reciting meant. While the words were interesting, they aren’t important to our story today so check the links in the bio for more information. Between Maryann and the President; TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat started filling with videos and the hashtag #monstermash. There was a video of a skunk that started to inflate and when it was the size of a couch it’s tail exploded into nine scorpion-stinger tipped stinking tails. The kids filming it on the street were laughing until it got one of them on one of its hooks and sprayed a swarm of purple bees at the rest. Another video showed a woman holding her pet hermit crab. At first it did nothing, but when she lifted it up to her ruddy fat cheeks and said, “come on Darby, show them what you can do,” the crab unfolded one arm from its shell and let it drop beside its master, hitting her foot with a thud. And this is my favorite part: as she egged Darby the hermit crab to come out of his shell, and as Darby complied, more of Darby was revealed. His muscular and leathery skin, the sparse but visibly thick black hairs, an almost metallic sheened claw, and then something akin to a mermaid tail, but shrimp-like and designed by Clive Barker for Hellraiser, fell out. The woman leaned over in her muumuu to pet Darby, who by then was clearly twice her size. She got to pet him twice before the crab-thing split her up the middle, scooped out her insides, and then crawled inside her as his new shell.
Fun fact: Cujo is not a scientifically accurate depiction of the progression of rabies, as it may have an incubation period of weeks or even months. One does not simply walk into lockjaw.
Things got worse the next day when #monstermashchallenge began to show up on the social media sites. The challenge asked participants to try and trigger a transformation in their pet; a second but unmentioned element was surviving that transformation. Possibly the worst, and though not actually part of the challenge, was Dr. Vargas’ video he posted of his son. However it ended up on the internet, it did end up there, and it got tagged. What we see is Dr. Vargas, a veterinarian, sit his six year old son, Chuy, in front of various cages as he attempts to provoke a transformation. The first cage holds a Rottweiler and Chuy is not afraid. Soon Vargas starts spraying the dog with water: “Water, negative,” he said. Then he turns the lights down and a low groaning and popping starts until he raises the lights and the sounds abruptly stop: “Light reactivity confirmed; dim light speeds up the process.” Next he lowered the light and told his son, “Chuy, talk to King. Tell King you love him.” And the child does. In fact, the more the child talks to King, the Rottweiler, the more it’s skin stretches, it’s toenails scrape, it’s bones pop, and imperceptibly it grows until it’s pressing on every corner of the cage.
Fun Fact: Rabies can be killed with drying agents, sunlight, and soap and water.
Vargas quickly turns up the lights before arriving woefully too late. King has burst the seams of his cage emerging as something else. Every knobby bone has grown a spike — one off each of his four elbows. Every vertebra has elongated into a row of sword-like bones down his back. King’s toe nails were shaped like tiny little scythes on his feet. A flame replaced his bobbed tail and a large tropical python filled his mouth. Dr. Vargas wanted to save his son. No one doubts that. However, he wasn’t fast enough to save his son and himself. King lunged and might have gotten Chuy if Vargas hadn’t landed in the way with the most heroic and unnecessary #dadsave in the world. Possibly the final scene is the most gratifying: King bites down on Vargas’s back like he’s a chew toy, rips out the spine, and shakes it in pure K9 delight.
Fun fact: Rabies does cause aggression; it decreases fear and causes hallucinations. The later stages of rabies are filled with fatigue and lethargy.
So that was World Rabies Day — you know every day of the year is a holiday if you look on the internet! Today, well it’s International Podcast Day, and if I want my podcast to go international, I better finish the story. Shortly after the President was swallowed, after the giant flying reptiles in the sky had stopped scooping up footballers at Central Park, after a sturdy but useless barricade had been placed in front of the San Diego Zoo gate, each of the animal-transformations died. They didn’t return to normal, they just died. Kaiju on the burnt White House lawn; a giant whale the size of San Francisco filling San Francisco Bay; a snake literally trying to strangle Florida to death; plus every kind of little critter misshaped and piling up.
Fun fact: Untreated rabies will kill you.
So here we are: none of it makes any sense and it might never, but if we are ever going to fix this