Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Guest Art by Creeps!

2022 is the first year out of nine years now that I've found myself too busy to begin the Nightmare Menagerie feature myself, so our first entry in what is normally a November-December feature comes with only 11 days left in December at all. Fortunately, another guest artist has come to the rescue and illustrated three excellent choices from years past, and I might still be able to squeeze in another round myself this year!

Evil Inge

Posted by Weezerteezer:

"A strange nightmare I had lately, and curiously the first one to ever wake me up startled, was a dream about a game. There was this strange game that I had found for my computer, though I couldn't say what it was called, that, upon installation, required me to install it to my phone as well and connect the two. I didn't think much about it and began playing. It had PS1 style graphics and was a very simple premise: Open each of four cages scattered around the dusty, arid, deserted landscape to free these strange little men that were a bit like Freddy Freaker, but green. Dumb, I know. After freeing them, I had to have three hearts remaining in order to complete the game as there were two more cages with red ones inside that consumed a heart each upon opening. Throughout this, I was being chased by a character my subconscious apparently named Evil Inge.

She was this shifting blue mass of amorphous shapes, topped with a large smiley face with crossed out eyes and a stitched smile. She would tirelessly hunt me throughout the game as I gathered these keys and take a heart with each hit. I managed to gather three keys on the computer before dying, which resulted in my computer bricking on the spot. The screen on my phone lit up and I picked up where I left off there, collecting two more keys, opening those cages and approaching the last cage with the last key, two hearts remaining. She followed close behind and took one of my hearts, leaving me with only one, staring at me disquietingly, expectantly, and informed me that after this I had only one "life" to go, before I touched the cage, then died once more in the game, resulting in the phone being bricked. I stood silently as I saw my room had gone dark and I waited for a few moments before getting "got" by Inge and waking with a start in real life, my heart beating a thousand miles an hour and my mind racing as I panicked, thinking she was still after my last extra life. I calmed down after a bit, but I keep thinking about that one. "

Digital entities are always a lot of fun, with their weird glitching physiologies and gaming-based behavioral patterns. The description of a stitchy smiley face on top of shifting blue shapes is a very cool one, bringing to mind all sorts of design interpretations, with Creeps going for a "sludge heap" look I really like here, personally, though I'm sure Inge's "body" can probably take on all sorts of messed-up configurations. I love the name, too, it has that special dreamy quality that feels like a distorted half-reference, like parts of the dreaming mind coming up with whatever details they can while other crucial aspects of the brain are still asleep.

The Mint Candy

Posted by The Six Verses:

The monster was a black quadroped, with a head that was simply a "cartoony" circular mouth with teeth, and a shaggy white mane ala the centipeedle from Steven Universe. Cant remember what the legs looked like, or anything else really. According to the dream, it was formed from a mint candy vengeful about not being eaten, and transformed people into others of it's own kind during their sleep. "

Simple and straight to the point, all we know of this monster is the simple circular mouth and white mane on some sort of black quadrupedal body, but the idea that it's the vengeful specter of an uneaten mint candy is simply wonderful. I'm inclined to imagine that seeing it in your dreams is a part of its attack; this time the dreamer woke up too soon to be assimilated, though I'm not sure if life as this snazzy-looking monster necessarily has a downside. Maybe a society of mint candy yokai would be a more peaceful one, you don't know!

Meat Boxes

Posted by Voliol:

"So, another "nightmare", or at least all the part of it that I remember:

In some kind of hospital reception room some people looked worried. The room itself was fine and completely normal, but beyond a set of double doors like those you'd expect would lead to another section of the hospital, or some kind of staff-only corridor, there was this very wierd, yet for the people in the reception room seemingly 100% normal room.

The room was of unclear size, but it was somewhat big, if it could even be called a room, as there was seemingly no space for people in it, instead it was filled with a 3d grid of flesh-cubes, each with a side of about 50 cm. These flesh cubes were clearly made of living tissue, and each of them acted as an artificial incubator for a human fetus, each having an unborn child inside of them, slowly growing. These were apparently up for adoption whenever they were to be born, and the worried people outside in the reception rooms were their future parents and doctors in care of them.

The reason they were worried was because of aliens. The aliens had had some part earlier in the dream, but were here more like some kind of force. The aliens had done something to the babies that caused them to mutate in horrible ways; the only example I can remember is the one that instead of getting its nutrition through its umbilical cord suckled on this yellow goo that seemed to be a melted part of the wall of the womb, with its lips and jaws getting elongated and formed while doing it. The other fetuses were all being mutated in equally horrifying but always unique ways, and there were some kind of monitors in the reception room so that the doctors and terrified to-be parents could see this.

The reasons the aliens did this was so that the babies could grow up to be food to "birds of prey". What exactly these birds of prey were was unclear; they seemed equally likely to be normal actual birds such as eagles, as they seemed to be alien, unimaginable concepts that could easiest be understood as "birds of prey". The mutated babies would grow up as normal humans, but whenever they encountered their "bird of prey" (the different mutations each corresponded to a specific kind of "bird") they would be strangely enthralled and drawn to them, and sooner or later wander off to be eaten and preyed upon.

The dream itself wasn't that scary, as I didn't take part in the "plot" myself, but it was still unsettling and bizarre."

This is a positively outlandish concept, start to finish, one with that unmistakable dream-logic but one that I could envision as an amazing horror manga or short film relatively unchanged. The alien incubators, mutating human fetuses into something else, are a deeply disturbing concept already. The fact that humans still have to adopt them raises some wild worldbuilding questions, and the fact that they're going to go through life "normal" until their "BIRD OF PREY" shows up is just an incredible concept. I don't know if it's more compelling to imagine them as literal Earthly predatory birds or those unknowable alien concepts; the former is more absurd, but equally terrifying for that absurdity, really begging the question of what this is all for. It's enthralling to ponder how, exactly, this could possibly make sense from the perspective of these aliens, and if their reasons are even "correct" or some terrible, TERRIBLE misunderstanding between the rules of their world and our own.

Please remember to thank Creeps for helping dream-creatures make it to bogleech.com at all this busy, busy year!