's 2019 Horror Write-off:

Menagerie 2

Submitted by D-Pad


The first ride was a success; Jason’s new black stallion had proven to be a magnificent beast. Its gallop was so swift that the blades of grass didn’t seem to notice the impact of its hooves, and it seemed to anticipate the commands of its rider so thoroughly that Jason had barely needed to touch the reins during the whole exercise.

Jason’s friend and rival jockey Hector had given him the horse as a present for his wedding a couple of days earlier, and now he couldn’t be happier —not even for his marriage, which made him feel ever so slightly guilty. Furthermore, his honeymoon had yet to start but he already imagined himself at the racecourse instead, braving the wind mounted on his steed. But as thankful as Jason felt towards his comrade, he would not have mercy upon him: he’d be left behind in the dust like all the other racers.

Jason dismounted and the assistant trainer approached, ready to take the horse back to the stables.

“Don’t worry, Emma; today I’ll feed this big boy myself,” Jason said, and walked away with his new mount obediently following behind. When he reached the stalls, he pulled a shiny red apple out of his pocket. The other horses begun neighing, and Jason pointed at them.

“See? You’ve got them all jealous,” he told the newcomer. “You certainly deserve a treat. Here you go.”

Jason extended the apple towards the horse’s mouth, which the animal opened eagerly. It stretched out its tongue, but the appendage just knocked the fruit off the rider’s hand and proceeded to wrap itself around his arm. Before Jason could process what was going on, the tongue had crept up the limb like a snake and was squeezing his neck tightly. Struggling for his life, and too desperate to ponder a certain proverb, Jason looked at the beast’s maw as a myriad of pale tick-like creatures poured out of it, crawling under his clothes and peeling away skin and flesh.

No traces of Jason were ever found, and it was eventually assumed that he had fled somewhere, as the ensuing investigation uncovered evidence of some shady dealings of his at the derbies. As for the horse, it went on to win several races under the ownership of Jason’s ex-wife, Hellen, who married Hector a couple of years after the disappearance. The steed’s legacy eventually ended, however, as it was discovered to be infertile.

“It’s quite a shame,” Hector said at the time. “Jason would be very disappointed.”



The scientists who thawed the wooly mammoth should have stopped once the trunk begun to move, but no. Now they walk among the living and the plague keeps spreading.



 “Come on, do it! I promise you it will be worth it,” the young woman said with a toothy smile.

“No, Clara. This is ridiculous. There’s no way I’m putting that thing near my mouth,” Laura replied.

“Is it because you’re vegan? You don’t have to lick it all the way like a lollypop, just… just touching it with the tip of your tongue will do.”

“No, it’s not about being vegan… good reason, though, come to think of it… Anyway, it’s because it’s gross! And dangerous too. Who knows what kinds of disease these animals carry?”

“But these ones are raised specifically to be safe for humans! It’s a clean environment and the people who handle them are completely trustworthy. Please, humor me just this once. It’s not addictive at all, and it’s one hell of a good trip.”

“I don’t care! Damn it, I’m not even that much into weed, so what makes you think I’ll move on straight to licking fucking toads? Honestly, until today I thought that that was just a silly urban legend. What’s it to you? Why is it so important that I try this?”

“I just thought it would be nice to share a unique experience with my best friend,” Clara replied with a sad expression. “These are expensive and hard to get, you know. Like the time I brought those oddly-flavored snacks from Japan.”

“There’s quite a difference between those and a living creature, let alone one that you can get high with,” Laura protested. “Is it even legal to own one of these toads? Aren’t they endangered or something?”

“As I said, these are bred in captivity,” Clara informed. “I think their wild cousins are fine.”

An awkward silence followed. Neither friend dared to look at the other one. However, Clara soon started pleading once again.

“You know what? I’ll make a deal with you,” she said. “Try the toad just once and I promise to let it go afterwards. I’ll return it or donate it to a zoo or whatever you prefer.”

Laura looked at the plastic bin cage where Clara kept her new “pet.” The animal had barely moved since she had put the container down, only rubbing its head with its forelegs a couple of times.

“Alright,” Laura accepted at last. “But as you said, just the tip.”

Clara snickered.

“Why… oh. Don’t be so immature and pass me that toad already.”

Laura held the animal carefully with both hands. Oddly enough, it didn’t struggle at all, as if it had resigned itself to its fate a long time ago. Perhaps it really was just that tame. She pulled out her tongue and gently touched the toad’s back with its tip. At that moment, however, Clara suddenly lunged at Laura and pushed her hands upwards, giving her a full taste of the amphibian.

“You witch! Why did you do that?” Laura asked between coughs. “You promised…”

She thought she heard Clara saying “come on, lighten up already,” but her perception had begun to falter. In her new, hazy view of the world, she found colors that she didn’t know existed. She noticed Clara picking up the toad, which now looked bright orange, or perhaps blue, or something that was once hidden between them, with purple spots. Purple? Yes, definitely. Clara put the animal back in the bin, from where it seemed to smile at Laura. Then, the extra colors turned off, and soon everything else followed suit.

Laura woke up in a bathroom, which she soon identified as Clara’s. She was laying messily on the floor and her throat was incredibly sore. Suddenly she felt nauseous and, gathering all the strength she could muster, lifted herself up a bit and crawled towards the toilet. She stared at the clean water for a second and then emptied her stomach. But as she did so, she felt something moving among the flow of vomit.

She stared at the water again. Five tadpoles were now swimming inside the toilet, seemingly unbothered by the gastric pollution. Laura felt a surge of revulsion that gave her enough energy to finally stand up.

It was then that she noticed the bathtub. It was filled to the brim, and in the murky green water a multitude of tadpoles swam around. They were identical to the ones that now resided in the toilet. Had they all come from inside her as well? Another wave of disgust begun to take hold of Laura, but it was interrupted by one of fear as the mirror informed her that Clara was entering the room. She was holding a baseball bat in her hand.

Laura was simply too shocked and exhausted to offer much resistance. She painfully deflected the first swing of the bat with her hands, but the second one hit her in the forehead and brought her down, aided by the slippery floor. During her fall, she banged the back of her head against the sink hard enough to chip the ceramic.

Laura laid still on the floor, barely breathing. Clara kicked her hard and bashed her head with the bat two more times for good measure. She contemplated her work for a minute and exited the bathroom, returning after a short while with a small net and a bucket. She used the former to catch the tadpoles in the toilet and put them in the tub with their siblings. Then she emptied the contents of the bucket over Laura’s body: hundreds of squirming maggots. With a tender smile, she took a last look at the improvised aquarium and got out of the room, closing the door as gently as she could.



“Laughter is the best medicine,” the doctor said, while trying to shove a live hyena down their patient’s throat.



The rebellion at the zoo begun when the bull elephant gored the zookeeper with its left tusk and proceeded to sever their head with its trunk. It threw the trophy at the chimpanzees, who improvised a primitive football match with it, and then took the keys from the belt and threw them at the gorilla’s cage.

It was early in the morning and the guests had just begun to arrive, so the panic wasn’t as big as it could have been. That was a pity, however, as the low number of people allowed the lions and tigers that the gorilla had released to fell them one by one.

Once outside, the animals begun to cause as much damage as they could before being hunted down. They knew that they couldn’t win against a whole city of humans, but they just didn’t care.

The giraffes managed to throw at least five people off balconies. The ostriches left several people blind by gouging their eyes out. Despite its clumsiness, a giant tortoise managed to make someone trip and fall, breaking their neck. The petting zoo animals cleverly fooled all the children playing at a park into getting close for the kill; furthermore, some actual pets decided to join the rebellion and betrayed their masters, attacking them without mercy.

Other animals were not that successful. The hippopotamus couldn’t do much before being run down by a truck, but at least its sacrifice was enough to kill the vehicle’s driver along with the passengers from the car that was following behind. The rhino, which was quite lazy, just limited itself to stomp all the flowers in a public square. A swinging gibbon grabbed the wrong cable and received a deadly shock, but the accident caused a power outage which annoyed several people, and that was good enough for it to be labelled a martyr along with the hippo.

In the end, the whole ordeal lasted only an hour and a half, after which all the escaped animals were either subdued or dead. The elephant that started it all was also the last to fall, and it did so with all the dignity it could muster, while trying to crush at least one more person in the process.

The populace was in shock. The security at the zoo was increased tenfold and even the animals at homes and pet stores were put in quarantine. Pigeons and other birds were shot on sight.

Two months later, everything had gone back to normal. People felt secure in the streets once again. However, they ignored that deep inside their guts a new conflict was brewing…

It was bacteria’s turn to rebel.



Pablo found a vampire bat on the ground, unable to fly after a feast of blood. In a fit of cruelty, he decided to stomp it. Unfortunately for him, though, the animal had fed on a xenomorph…



“Portuguese man o’ war," that was the name. “Man” o’ war, though? More like “men.” No, “people.” A whole damn army. Literally, if we consider that what at first sight appears to be a single animal is, in fact, a whole colony of related organisms with different specializations. Also, judging by the power of the sting, it was either an American, Chinese or Russian army rather than a Portuguese one. Unless we went back a few centuries to that country’s time as a naval powerhouse… In other languages, Tomiko remembered, the creature was known as “Portuguese caravel.” Does that mean that men o’ war were a caravel’s crew, or what?

The young marine biologist had time to ponder all this and more as she drifted at the mercy of the currents, slowly sinking deeper and deeper with each passing minute. The intense pain that had invaded her whole body had subsided a couple of hours earlier, and she had finally lost the reflex to breathe that, in her current situation, only served to fill her lungs and her stomach with useless seawater. The increasing pressure didn’t seem to be a problem either. None of that mattered, though, as she still couldn’t move at all. She was completely helpless, alone in the middle of a humid desert and falling towards the abyss.

Multiple thoughts came and went inside her mind; some were serious, others silly, but most were grim. Above all, though, two questions always came back: Why this? Why her? What she was experiencing weren’t the normal symptoms of a man o’ war sting… Well, there wasn’t anything normal about her situation at all, obviously, but still… If this rigid immortality was some sort of superpower, it was the most useless one ever devised. Perhaps her encounter with the animal had actually been fatal and now she found herself in the afterlife; perhaps her soul was the one heading for the darkness and her actual body was still floating above, or had been salvaged by her crewmates at the ship and was already heading home for the funeral. Could this be Yomi, then? Or perhaps what Christians called Limbo?

Her musings were suddenly interrupted by whalesong. So, this was indeed Earth’s ocean after all… probably. Soon she could see the giants swimming above her, unimpeded in their gracefulness by their massive bulk thanks to the water’s support. Damn, how deep had she fell already? How long had it been since the accident? A hammerhead shark suddenly swam next to her. Then another, and another. A whole school passed her by, every animal ignoring her like a ghost. Again that thought, again the feeling that she was dead already.

If something was definitely dead inside Tomiko, it was her sense of time. As she finally found herself in the darkness of the abyssal zone, she wished she could get the hours and minutes out of somewhere, even if they weren’t that useful for her in her state. At that point the pressure had probably crushed her watch already, not that she could actually move her arm to reach it… The glass in her mask had broken and splintered, and she was thankful for the fact that she wasn’t yet wearing it over her eyes when she was stung. She knew that she had a deep cut in her forehead, though it had never bled nor hurt that much.

The flashes of light from deep-sea creatures were sporadic, but a welcome spectacle that broke the boredom that permeated the final stretch of Tomiko’s descent. Only once had the lights brought her raw terror, when she recognized a luminous siphonophore —a relative of the man o’ war. Then she had another thought: could a second sting bring her back to normal somehow? It was useless to ponder that now, though, as she had no way to reach the creature.

After what seemed like an eternity, Tomiko finally hit the seafloor, raising a cloud of detritus. She had almost forgotten how it felt to lie down on a firm surface; it was oddly discomforting considering how much she had longed to experience that sensation again as she floated. “Oh well,” she thought, “at least I didn’t end up in a thermal vent or a brine pool.”

A pair of sea cucumbers climbed Tomiko’s body and proceeded to clean her of the fine layer of marine snow that had accumulated on top of her in the past few days, or maybe weeks. By that point, her eyes were so used to the darkness that she could actually see them, if they got close enough. She called them Satoshi and Sakura and thought that they made a wonderful couple together. She wondered if they would invite her to their wedding. She would not be able to attend, but it would be a nice gesture from them anyway.

She felt like crying. “This is so silly. Why do weddings always make me cry?” she asked herself, as her tears became one with the ocean.



The phrase “may God have mercy on us” became completely obsolete once the mantises’ prayers were answered.



In all his years as a veterinarian, Jeff had never seen a tick so big before, almost as large as a ripe grape. Its host was a scruffy mutt that he had found abandoned in the streets; it was surprisingly tame so he had brought it to his clinic for a checkup, intending to take it to a shelter afterwards. A colleague of his owned one in the outskirts of town that could accommodate the dog nicely, hopefully until it was adopted.

Oddly enough, the gigantic tick was the only parasite that Jeff could find hanging onto his patient, as if it had outcompeted every other potential tenant with its sheer bulk. Often the stray dogs he’d find would have dozens of the unwelcome guests, sometimes even a hundred or more. Fleas were rarer in his area but he had found his good share of them as well, though this time there were no signs of their presence either. “All the better for this poor buddy,” he thought, “this will be faster than I expected.”

Jeff grabbed his tweezers, pulled the dog’s fur apart, and prepared to grab hold of the arachnid as close as he could to its oversized mouthparts. However, he was suddenly interrupted by a muffled scream.

“No, don’t do it!”

He looked through the office’s interior window and saw the clinic’s receptionist sporting a huge smile on her face. “Very funny, Rose,” he said. He closed the blinds as his employee gave him an ostensibly innocent look, which Jeff didn’t buy for a minute.

He readied the tweezers again, and as he did so the muffled voice returned.

“Stop! You don’t know what you’re messing with!”

Jeff ignored Rose’s joke (though he admired her sense of timing) and proceeded to squeeze and pull the tick away from the dog. The task was quite more difficult than he had imagined; he had to apply a surprising amount of force to get the pest to let go.

Then, the voice returned, loud and clear this time. And there was no mistake: the tick itself was the source.

 “No! You fool; you have no idea of what you’ve just done. You’ve doomed us all!” the tiny animal said.

Jeff dropped the tweezers in shock, but not because of the squeaky voice that scolded him: on the examination table, the stray dog was now deflating like a balloon. A foul-smelling gas, faintly yellow in color, was noisily coming out of the spot where the tick had once anchored itself, and soon it begun to spread across the whole room. As a portion of the miasma entered the vet’s lungs and invaded his bloodstream, an alien desire begun to override his thoughts.

“Choke them. Suffocate them. Make their last breath hurt.”

Too gorged to escape, the desperate tick barely managed to let out a soft “oh, crap” before Jeff crushed it under his foot. He opened the exterior windows wide to release the gas outside and left the room with a new purpose in life.



The last cat on Earth sat alone in a room.  There was a woof at the door.



Shortly after the miners entered the recently opened tunnel, which lead to a natural cave, their canary begun singing a song so complex that left them completely awestruck. There was no doubt in their minds: no bird had ever sung in such a way before. They exchanged worried looks as they wondered what was going on. Had they uncovered a reservoir of an unknown gas? Where they in danger?

Suddenly, their musings were interrupted by the echoing sound of heavy footsteps in the distance. They kept getting closer, closer…, and faster as well. The canary seemed unfazed and carried on singing the new tune.

Before their instincts could instruct the miners to escape, a blurry figure dashed between them, nearly severing most of them in half with some sort of claws or spikes, killing them instantly. The remaining miner finally managed to flee in terror, but the creature had kept going and was waiting near the tunnel’s exit to finish off the last prey.

As the unknown predator dragged the corpses of its victims back to the cave, the bird concluded the ominous melody, its best rendition of Mozart’s Requiem in D minor.