It was a she was a he was a they were a miserable sea felk. Swimming slippery in the weedy shallows, bobbing out deep amid the white-capped seas, looked down upon by the selkies, mermen, and loch monsters. Unlike their meadow-grazing cousins, the land felk, sea felk are smallish, legless sea snakes covered with oily dark brown fur. They are technically ungulates and ruminants, sea ruminants who chew their cud, even though their food often consists of jellyfish, mussels, young herring – or herringlings – and the large carcasses of pelagic creatures. So, not particularly pleasant cud, even by cud standards. The felk are often scavengers of sunken or floating corpses, and thus looked down upon by other sea cryptids.
A felk is technically a werefelk. Slippery dark-brown fur snakes, that’s what felk are, about the length of an average sea otter, but if they were to transform back from their furry state they would be limp flesh tubes, swimming phallic sausages. But they don’t transform back. They are always in their furry felk form.
And the felk in question was miserable, like Lawrence Talbot as portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr in The Wolfman. This one was a her at this point in her life. The sex of felk changes over their lifetimes, which are measured from when they first see the moon – before that they are felk larvae, proto-werefelk, milky-colored worms about the size of a forefinger – until the day they end their lives as felk and take on human form.
How do the felk adopt the human form? By wearing it like a costume. When a felk is ready to metamorphosize, she slithers up the rock rivulets onto land. A felk can slither up a vertical cliff face with ease. But even this ability doesn’t alleviate the felk’s misery. All sea felk are miserable, and every last one of them has an excuse. But more on that later. Sea felk can not only slither up a vertical rock face, they can slither around on the underside of a rock overhang. Basically, they can crawl on the ceiling. Felk have this super power and are still not cheerful. Cryptozoologists are mad frustrated about it.
Are you familiar with the small anus ball? There’s a Japanese river cryptid, the kappa, which likes to steal the small anus ball out of human swimmers. This small anus ball is like the ball on a roll-on deodorant, and Japanese cryptosupernaturalists understand it as a part of the human anatomy that seems to appear only when a kappa wants to steal one.
Like the kappa, the felk enters the human body through the anal aperture, which, lacking any anus ball, small or large, allows ample ingress without the nose or eyes that could aid a human in detecting such an invasion and thus having a chance at thwarting it. Trousers cannot prevent the infiltration, and certainly not skirts nor the kilts frequently worn in the Highlands. There is no anus ball, small nor large, when a felk sneaks up your hole. All they want to steal is your identity.
The felk sneaks up your GI tract and its hairs branch out through your nerves and blood vessels. It uses you the way a hermit crab uses a new shell.
Now if you are a Scotsman, as you are likely to be, living so close to where the felk do their morose form of frolicking, you might be wearing a kilt. Such a garment, notorious for lacking modest coverings of its wearers’ undercarriages, offers even less resistance than usual to the entrance of the felk. And should said Scotsman be plying the sheepskin cephalopod known as the Great Highland pipes, the felk is likely to pass through the labial embouchure of the piper, through the mouthpiece of the chanter and blow pipes, into the bag. From then on the bagpipes are to be considered haunted. Most pipers testify to the superiority of haunted pipes, but double-blind experiments have failed to reach a definite conclusion.
However, in the event the felk enters a non-piping alimentary canal and takes over the body and mind of its host rather than the host’s musical instrument, thence begins an attempt at social integration not always successful. And in the case of our miserable felk – let’s give her the name “Nelly”— the results were predictably deplorable.
Nelly entered through the out door of the digestive tract of a Scottish poet named Malcolm. Malcolm had already been given to fits of melancholy, as befit a poet of no literary success, so much so he was known as Mopey Malcolm. Once possessed by Nelly the felk, his melancholy nature took a shockingly obvious hard plunge forward into nihilistic negativity. Nelly herself had been miserable before, as a werefelk, and now in her guise as a human, she found herself utterly disgusted with life and the world of human activity.
She grew ever more introverted, as if that were going to alleviate her emotional suffering. Isolation only stoked her distaste for life. Luckily, the human world offered a medical remedy for passively sinking into despair: alcoholism.
Is this all an allegory? Is the miserable felk a metaphor for a lowly-born lumpen prole for whom an improvement in social status inflicts even more torture than the previous incarnation? No. This story is merely to illustrate that it is natural for the ranks of the discontented to grow. May they spread their bleak outlook throughout our species. Negativity moves humanity ever closer to rejecting the foolish pretension that things will ever be okay. There are a growing number who hold that humanity is a mistake. Even a swimming furry fecal eel, the Charlie Brown of the cryptid community, finds inhabiting the world of a human Charlie Brown even worse than life as its earlier self.
The pooka know it. The ancient werewolf who first bit the inaugural felk larva way back in antique days even before reality had been proposed knew the curse that was being initiated. And yet all that is only aggravated by transforming from a brown, furry worm into a human being.
This story is merely an insult to the cosmic embarrassment that is the human species. Plainly and simply, it exists to derogate Homo sapiens. Even though the storyteller finds himself in an unusually positive mood, facts must be faced. All would be better had we never stained this beautiful, violent, endlessly creative planet with our manipulations and desires. On some level we all know it.
Most people born before the year 2000 can still remember when audio entertainment was supplied entirely by modulated radio waves tuned through antennae linked to cumbersome receivers. And those born before the year 1980 can even remember a program called A Prairie Home Companion, and its host, Kurt Waldheim. Waldheim also played the main character, a mythical figure named Garrison Keillor, tyrannical, bloodthirsty, ruling his legendary kingdom of Lake Wobegon with an iron fist and an oversized forehead. There was a poorly-received film based on the program, made by Robert Altman, in the waning year of his talent, about a revolution against that draconian leader, an uprising that ended in the utter destruction of the unhappy Minnesota town, supposedly erasing it from the Earth.
What Waldheim, Altman, and even Prince didn’t know is that there was a real Wobegon, Minnesota. It was a town on the southern shore of Wolf Bay on the outskirts of the Boundary Wilderness Area. The actual town was a far cry from the one in the myths and legends. In place of modest, provincial, lackluster Lutheran descendants of Norwegian farmers and German mail-order brides, the residents of the actual Wobegon ran the gamut from bitter and depressed to bitter, drunk, and depressed Lutheran descendants of Norwegian farmers who settled the area and mated with the sex workers who settled in the area not long afterward.
In the afterglow of the bumptious 1960s, the early 1970s threw its cloak of stylish rage over the cities of the United States, but in Wobegon, as in other small towns in flyover country, the dissolving of the Beatles, Saigon, and the Nixon Administration were barely noticeable, except to those at the Café Gras, the Perdition Roadhouse, or the Pandora’s Box café who sat from early morning to mid-afternoon drinking bottomless coffee while perusing the national and international news in place of, or supplemental to, the local paper, the Mist County Compass. They were Midwest Cosmopolitans, drinking in the national malaise with their ever-refilled cups of java, and they passed that mood to their neighbors in order to give the town a clear awareness of itself as a small, insignificant victim of the Arab oil cartel’s whims, the liberal project to ban sober body coverings, and the negative economic effects of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
In short, Wobegon was ready for Reagan before anyone had even heard of Jimmy Carter.
August 15 of 1974, exactly a week after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, had been a meshugenah day for Rabbi Ingqvist of the Wobegon Lutheran Synagogue Beth Anne. His chippy in Miami was blackmailing him, and he wasn’t entirely sure his wife was clueless about his infidelities behind her back during their vacations in Florida together, or his seasonal trips to so-called “ecumenical conventions.” If she was onto him, it could save him paying a good deal of cash to his mistress to keep her mouth shut. But then again, the Rebbetzin Mrs. Ingqvist had grown more and more demanding in recent months, as if she suspected him of something. In either event, he expected to pay dearly, in financial and several other ways he imagined only vaguely but with dread.
He'd had a distasteful conversation with his chippy, Juanita, over the phone, and several ambiguously hostile encounters during the course of the morning with the Rebbitzin. After an unremarkable lunch of leftover mayonnaise, he plodded in a dark mood with his rod, reel, and tackle box to Krebsbach’s Bait Shop and Liquor Store, where he purchased two fifths of Wild Old Dirty Grampa and the last Styrofoam cupful of the day’s nightcrawlers. From there, he went to where his aluminum boat with its ancient Evinrude motor waited for him at Olufsen’s Landing.
By three in the afternoon, the Rabbi was firmly soused, and the single pike he’d caught had begun to bake in the bottom of the hull. By 8 pm, as the sun threatened to set, he had spent two hours passed out. After the third unconscious hour he awoke to a tug on his rod. Blearily, he landed another pike, to join the first, which was covered with flies. Feeling queasy and triumphant in a limp way, he motored back in the direction of the landing by the light of the waning crescent moon. However, he was unable to find the boat launch. After what seemed to him an eternity, he opted to anchor in a cove and tie the boat off to a fallen pine protruding horizontally into the lake.
Rabbi Ingqvist struggled up half-submerged rocks and came ashore in the forest. He was afraid. He had no flashlight with him, as he hadn’t planned on returning in the dark. After walking a few yards into the woods, he decided he’d better spend the night in the boat. He didn’t really know what he thought he would do in the woods, anyway. He turned around to go back.
It was then he heard the dissonant chorus of three dozen shrieking birds of prey. The piercing choir froze his heart in his chest. It was coming closer, the sound cleaving the night in bursts of ten or so seconds, separated by about five. Now he heard a rapidly-approaching creature ripping through foliage, and then it was upon him.
A wide mouthful of jagged teeth dominated its eyeless face. Its limbs, skin stretched tight over bones, with scarcely the meat on them one might find on a starved and plucked flamingo, ended in long-fingered hands tipped with claws. A man-sized long-legged bat without wings, but with the vestige of a membrane in its inner elbow and under its arms, it tore into the Rabbi’s chest and shoulder with its teeth and claws. It shredded him as he took over the screaming now, feeling his flesh pulled from his bones. The Rabbi was being eaten alive by a Wendigo, the demonic predator of the forest whispered about in terror by Ojibwe and Cree.
Deputy Knute Tollerud and his partner, Junior Deputy Marge Gunderson, discovered what was left of the body thirty-two hours later. The remains of Rabbi Herbert Nathaniel Ingqvist consisted of segments of shattered bone and a skull that had been broken in half, the tender brain within having been devoured.
At first, law enforcement and animal authorities attributed the brutal attack to a misplaced grizzly bear. That attack heralded a series of them, though, culling those members of the Wobegon community who were slower and less apt to abstain from depressants. Several duck hunters swore to having seen the monstrous Wendigo, running shrieking through the woods near the shoreline, chasing pot smokers. A class of schoolchildren testified that their teacher, Miss Dunderwood, was mauled by the Wendigo right before their eyes, though it later came to light that the children had stoned her to death during a reenactment of a Shirley Jackson story, and then eaten her by way of hastily reenacting a story by Lord Dunsany. You can hear more about Jackson and nothing about Dunsany in the archives of The Writer’s Almanac.
Local amateur photographer and multimedia artist, Earl Dickmeyer, caught an astonishingly clear snap of the monster, not at all like the distant, blurry ones of Sasquatch or Nessie so beloved by the cryptozoological community. Unfortunately, within the week, that photo as well as the negative and contact test prints had been abducted by extra-terrestrials.
Wobegoners began to flee the area. Inside a year, the town’s economy, business district, and infrastructure were in ruins. To put the final pineapple on the pizza, a sinkhole opened up, pulling all that was left of the town down to Hell. The last remaining vestige of Wobegon was the sculpture by the regrettably Swedish artist Claes Oldenburg of a giant hamburger, made when he was stationed in the town, for his own safety, during World War II. It was made entirely of burlap bags cemented like papier-maché, and as such it was long considered the largest pile of burlap bags in the world. But it has since been eaten by goats and rats, both species who find burlap and dried wheat paste a delicacy.
And that’s the SuperTrue® story of Wobegon, where all the women were jezebels at heart, all the men were mopey suckers, and all the children were cannibals.
And this has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!