Issue #75

Summer 2020


by Dennis Mombauer

1. The entrance to whyrwol has nothing to do with keys and gates. There is no system of pulleys and no room full of ropes.

Caves and caverns slope downward into the limestone hills around Oornampur town, and they are filled with calcium carbonate. Dripping is a central phenomenon inside the caves and accompanies cavers everywhere. It is about a soundscape but also hidden melodies and growing speleothems. Everything (and everyone) standing still inside the caves gets slowly covered in mineral deposits that form the teeth of whyrwol. If they grow big enough, they clench down and people vanish.


2. Haunted houses, graveyards, sanitoriums etc. are tired clichés and emptied out of horror. But whyrwol creates a haunted town or city. It infests everything. In the case of Oornampur town, roadside stone heaps spiral into spore-symbols; street names change to the language of whyrwol mucus. Basements open into arid wellshafts. The town Wikipedia entry refers to 1697 as "the year the children left," but the town was founded a hundred and twenty years later. Missing persons posters pop up but no one recognizes their names and faces. The river washes streaks of whyrwol ashore. At night, Oornampur town drifts through the inner landscape of whyrwol.

Fungal infections quadruple, bitemarks appear on street dogs and livestock. In the phone book, all numbers refer to the coordinates of whyrwol lairs, and the whyrwol hunter uses that to his advantage. The birth registry lists grandfathers as unborn; phones can access new Wi-Fi networks at certain hours. Doors connect to garbage chutes, windows to winding tunnels. The park becomes a jungle of gilled canopies and pale undergrowth that stretches for hours. Pillars overgrown with fungi stand neglected on street corners or temple square at night.


3. Instead of a mammalian lifecycle, whyrwol undergoes a holometabolous transformation. They are born a swarm of eyeless, legless, dark-shelled pups. They feast and hide in dry folds and pores. They have mouths with hooks that shovel live flesh into them. They lack a digestive system and therefore excrete an acid-like substance. One litter can comprise thousands and thousands of pups. Whyrwol pups can be killed by lime, salt, or vinegar. They leave an oily taste and a slight radish smell. Their Bolwig organs detect brightness, their thorax is studded with teeth. Their long tails are actually tubes that allow them to breathe while submerged in the bloodstream. They grow to the size of peanuts before they exit a host.

Some scientists claim that whyrwol pups actually improve the host's immune system and allow them to heal wounds faster than normal or necessary (debridement effect). This is what causes Chandra's restlessness before the first train ride and why Mr. Srijan doesn't allow him to enter the farm.


4. The white of whyrwol is the white of old plaster and gypsum dust. Milky mushrooms from West Bengal colonize its fur and plug their mycelium directly into its nervous system. They have a mild spore print and can explode outwards in powder clouds. Whyrwol is prone to yeast infections and mildew.


5. The story needs to be darker. Whyrwol is not an abstract threat, it has to be scary, terrifying, bone-chillingly frightening. This is a horror that swallows the entirety of Oornampur town between its jaws. It blocks all escape and morphs everyone inside.

Compare images of Chernobyl and of radiation, of Russian mining towns within the arctic circle, of Indian villages cut off by flood. Monarch butterflies and faces of rare earth. Whyrwol is everywhere. The characters turn and see whyrwol behind them. Whyrwol follows their every step and pounces as soon as they are alone. Characters cannot flee and their hideouts turn into cave maws and grinding stalactite fangs.


6. The whole beginning with Chandra will be reworked. The encounter with the cow vigilantes happens much later in Oornampur town and the farmer's council will be merged with Mr. Srijan's accusations. Everything happens at once, wordcount will be reduced by at least one third. Tempo is important for the story, the reader should always hear a ticking clock in their head.

Basically, the troubles start with Chandra's arrival, but Govind and Mina are blamed for bringing whyrwol into Oornampur town. When they vanish between the reykars and into whyrwol palace, everyone assumes their guilt. This makes more sense in the context of the story and solves a lot of the previous issues.


7. Whyrwol is a solitary unleader. If whyrwol arrives in a location already infested by whyrwol, they unpack. This means that the lifecycle starts over and a new swarm of whyrwol pups latches onto a host. The old whyrwol palace slowly decays into the ground and lingers through local dreamscapes for a few decades.


8. Inside whyrwol is a palace, not a well. The bricked shafts are still there, but they are connected to shrines, hallways, and meditation caves. Copper has been poured into the foundations to protect against the tremors and slight earthquakes of whyrwol motion.

There are three main projections or souls to the palace: blood, mucus, and spine. The blood rushes through a system of trenches, pipes, catchments, and deep reservoirs. The mucus projection is connected to the mushroom mycelium and receives the most outside pollutants. The spine is commonly called "the peak" and mainly composed of metamorphic rock and Chinese shells.

A landscape haunted by whyrwol grows into the earth with new wells, holes, and ancient underground causeways that didn't exist the day before. It attracts spelunkers and cave explorers like Govind and Mina. They are en route before they know what's going on, but only after Chandra has arrived and whyrwol transforms.

Whyrwol spores form a language, they are hieroglyphs of a logographic system. When Govind and Mina try to scale the walls of the abandoned textile factory, its two chimneys turn into pillars otherwise known as reykars. They are part of the spine and protrude into whyrwol. Maybe this is what the hotel manager tells them during the night of the monsoon storm.


9. The color of whyrwol is not white. It looks white because its colors retreat before the receptors in the human retina can process them. Whyrwol adjusts its chromatophore cells to achieve crypsis and reflect all wavelengths equally, leaving the imprint of a pallid form that can persist for several hours. Compare wendigo blindness and shadow elimination.


10. Major changes for the last act. Whyrwol can't be destroyed because too many people are trapped and/or infested. Three possible scenarios:

During the night, the surviving townspeople hole up in the temple and bar the gates. No one is sure what whyrwol looks like, everyone suspects everyone. The back corridors and courtyards of the temple start to connect to the palace as whyrwol comes closer. Bats fall from the sky, the water in the ponds turns brackish red. Chandra, Govind, Mina, and the hunter try to keep whyrwol out but in the end the town is gone and they are trapped in the dripping halls of the palace. This is the blood ending.

The whyrwol hunter succeeds in finding whyrwol with his porcelain programming and local blackbuck as bait. Inside the palace, he stumbles upon Govind and Mina who are trying to find their way out. The mucus projection descends on them and transforms the ornamental hallways lining whyrwol's circulatory system. They barely escape, but when they rest in a hotel outside Oornampur town, the ceiling starts to drip and encase them in calcite. This is the mucus ending.

Govind and Mina scale "the peak," the spine projection of whyrwol, which is basically a spiral staircase that allows them to see down. Chandra is beaten by the vigilantes just as the hunter leaves town. Low fog drifts over the fields and whyrwol slithers between scattered trees. The hunter rescues Chandra and they return to the town. Chandra catches up to Govind and Mina while the whyrwol hunter starves next to the river. This is the spine ending.

Author Bio


Dennis Mombauer currently lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he works on topics related to climate change and as a writer of speculative fiction, textual experiments, and poetry. He is co-publisher of a German magazine for experimental fiction, "Die Novelle ??? Magazine for Experimentalism," and has published fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and anthologies. His first English novel, The Fertile Clay, will be published by Nightscape Press in 2020.. His story, "A Thousand Twinkling Eyes," appeared in Issue #61 of The Cafe Irreal.