Devourer, Myth and Nightmare

Welcome to my weekly series “Designing from Bones”, using archaeology and the artifacts of human history to find and design stories. Join me today as we visit a lethal servant of the Egyptian God Anubis and two vile creatures woven from myth and nightmare.

Follow me now my friend, yes, yes, down this alley and through a nondescript door into a warehouse macabre. If revenge or chaos are what you seek then I have three villainous beasts for you that are sure to fit the bill. Freshly gathered from the far reaches of the world and ready to unleash on the unsuspecting populace of your local Starbucks.

Bone Eater

Will the hero pass judgment or be devoured?

Our first denizen served the God of the Dead, Anubis. Behold the Devourer, Ammit. With the head of a crocodile, torso of a lioness and hind of a hippopotamus this master of death can pulverize bone, rend flesh and crush the fallen with ease.

When life has ended and the dead are judged to determine if they are worthy to exist once again, the judge Osiris places the deceased on one side of a scale and a feather from the headband of the goddess of truth on the other. Every trespass and evil that the person judged made in life adds to their weight and should they weigh more than the feather of truth then they are deemed unworthy of rebirth and fed to the Devourer, the Bone Eater, the mighty Ammit.

Imagine, if you will, this judgment transcribed into a drama. The hero dies or is dead. Placed upon the scales, the record of their life begins to play, becoming a  frame to write within. To the side of them stands another, the antagonist of our story that died in the act of killing our hero, or shortly thereafter when the police gunned him down. Throughout the story we weave foreshadowing of the Ammit and the realm of the dead. The story, at least for our villain ends in the jaws of Ammit while our worthy hero is granted rebirth.

Justice beyond the grave not what you were looking for? How about something more direct, yes, something to wreak havoc on those yet breathing.

Death Worm

No, its not a band name, although it would make a good one. Here, however, I speak of the Mongolian Death Worm. Appearing as a 2-5 foot long blood-filled intestine that can hide beneath the sand or dirt and spring up without notice, this little beauty will spread mindless terror that will haunt the dreams of those who survive for decades.

Not for casual fishing.

The existence of the Death Worm has lived in myth among the Mongolian people for centuries, unseen and unproven. Except for the occasional disfigured corpse, that is. The worm is capable of spitting sulfuric acid up to 30 feet, corroding metal, melting flesh from bone and turning all it touches a distinct shade of yellow. Oh, and don’t try to grab this bloated bladder of acid and blood for it can also discharge an electrical shock capable of taking down a bull elephant.

The worms from Tremors (the first one, when the story was a story and the Bacon still fresh) may well have been based on this very worm. Imagine, not one, but dozens appearing in a small town. Terrifying, sure, but let’s up the stakes shall we. How about a swarm, coming up through the drain pipes in peoples homes, and not in a small town, but say, New York City or Los Angeles or Butte, Montana. Any city full of unsuspecting civilians will work.

Our swarm begins slowly, one victim, then three, next striking at a school or hospital, and for the climax you ask? Three worms for every resident seem like too much? I think not. Rather it will be a challenge relished by our hero, the Helminthologist, you know, the worm doctor.

We could also place our worms deep in a mine and add intellect, or as a bizarre food given to our fish-out-of-water hero lost in a remote corner of the world. The Death Worm is happy to please all your imaginations needs.

Still not enough to give your audience night sweats. Well then, my friend, I have one more fun denizen of dark dreams to show you. Guaranteed to frighten the wits out of even the strongest mind.

The Witch-Goat

Honey, I think the dog is upset.

Place this mask on and stay to the shadows or the Huay-Chivo may steal your visage and life. Rising from the nightmares of the Mayans this creature is a doppelganger without rival. At times it appears as a man, at others as a goat, dog or deer, taking the form of its prey in order to hunt with ease. At still other times this sorcerer can shift to become a jaguar or puma, an even deadlier opponent when fueled by human intelligence.

The magical art of the Huay-Chivo is known as Nagual and it is a sorcerer that may take any animal form, with eyes that always glow red. The Nagual may be good or evil, predisposed to one path or another based on the date of their birth. They may be known or hidden, accepted or demonized. The Huay-Chivo may be anything our imaginations desire them to be so long as the power they possess remains the same.

Will the Huay-Chivo be the seducer of our heroine? Or perhaps the only one able to cure her from a curse? Then again, our heroine could find herself in the middle of a struggle between evil and good Huay-Chivo, unaware she is central to an ancient prophecy?

Imagine one of these creatures wandering into a steam-powered Western gold rush town in the 1800’s. A steampunk paranormal comes rapidly to mind, but then I know you already see the possibilities.

Come now friend, let us step away from these wretched beasts. More shipments come in from time to time and I’ll be sure to show you each one as they are torn from the nightmares of our ancestors and returned to life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting three of the deadly myths of history. Which catches your imagination, Bone Eater, Death Worm or the shape-shifting Witch-Goat? Heard of any strange beasts you’d like to share? I love reading your comments, let me know what nightmares you’ve found in the deep shadows of history.

Looking for more great ideas and information on writing? Check out my previous “Designing from Bones” entries.

Peaceful Journeys!

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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31 Responses to Devourer, Myth and Nightmare

  1. Fresh Bacon! What great choices from mythology. Not the usual creatures, very informative as usual Gene.

  2. Catie Rhodes says:

    All three interested me. I love this series.

    In my fiction, I’d probably use the witch-goat. He shifts into a human, so he could hide himself from the hero. Or he might be the hero. I’d never heard of any of these three, so you did well with your research. 😀

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Mary Jo: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Catie: You said: “You did well with your research”. Wow! That is a great compliment because I know what a master researcher you are Catie 🙂 The Witch-Goat is highly versatile. It can be good or evil, friend or foe or both. Definitely the most humanly nightmarish of the group.

  3. Jillian Kent says:

    Great post Gene. I’m fascinated by both myth and archaeology. I like the idea of a band called Death Worm. That would work.:) The Witch-Goat reminds me of an upscale Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ll have to go look at your archives. Thanks for doing this. JIll

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Hi Jillian, great to meet you! The Witch-Goat, in more recent times, has become attached to the myth of the chupacabra. When tracing down the history of Nagual, the magical form used, I found that this went across to many cultures and reaches to some Europeans myths and traditions. One of the many seeds from the past to show us how a singular idea can lead to thousands of end results.

      Enjoy the archives and thanks for the excellent comment 🙂

  4. Marcia says:

    I hope all three of them remain in the realm of mythology! Creepy! But a great post and I, too, am impressed with your research. You always write about creatures and such that I’ve never heard of before.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Thanks Marcia! I have a love for the strange and unusual, especially when it comes to myth and legend. Glad to be able to share it and hopefully inspire some new thoughts.
      Oh, I’m right with you on having them all remain myths, but that is exactly why they make great story elements. Creepy good 🙂

  5. I sooo need a Mongolian Death Worm. That is freaking AWESOME! I can totally see Morgan Bailey going up against an MDW. (And Tremors rocked, by the way.)

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Hey Shea! Are you sure ONE Death Worm would be enough to challenge Morgan. I’ve read part of Kissed by Darkness and I think it would take more than one to give her a good fight. Then again, I could also see her taming one and using it as a pet, she rocks 🙂

  6. Kerry Meacham says:

    I wonder if ‘Dune’ just super-sized the Mongolian Death Worm? Great blog bro.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      That is a strong possibility. For the Dungeons & Dragons crowd there is a version called the Purple Worm that is about half the size of a worm from Dune. Thanks Kerry!

  7. Amanda Rudd says:

    Great post! Man, the witch-goat is CREEPY looking! And I love Egyptian mythology so I especially appreciate your choice of Ammit. I love the strange things you find to talk about.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Hey Amanda! Agreed on the Witch-Goat picture, there were quite a few uber creepy ones of him to choose from. What can I say, I love weird things and the best part is they are all from the human record. Just goes to show the strangeness of humans is actually normal. That’s the story I’m sticking with 🙂

  8. Jess Witkins says:

    I do not wish to ever battle one of these creatures, but I find the worm the most terrifying. I’m so NOT a bug person. Funny though, right after I read about it I thought, huh, sounds like Tremors, and then I got to the next paragraph. So my boyfriend made me sit through the entire “Attack Pack” of all 4 Tremors movies, does that Death Worm ever turn into other fun creatures like the fourth version which include ass blasters? You’ll have to let me know so I can pass it on.

  9. Absolutely terrifying! Thanks!!!

  10. My imagination is totally captured by the fresh Bacon. Hilarious! Those are some meeeean critters you’ve introduced, and really fun ideas for ways to use them.

    Awesome work, as always!

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Jess: The transformations of the Tremors worms show the versatility of the Worm when creativity is applied to it. Since the worm was so popular I’ll do another round of research and see if I can add other variants into a future post. Not sure about ass blasters though, sounds wicked but messy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing 🙂

      Sonia: Thanks, terrifying is good!

      Robin: Thanks for the compliment and glad you enjoyed the Bacon 🙂

  11. Gene – LOL! Thanks. And you’re right. She might need more than one for a REAL challenge. 😉

  12. No comments 😛

    No, ok, I’ll make a remark :D. Nightmare creatures. Great post Gene 🙂

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Irene: Thanks Irene, funny comment 🙂

      Ellie: So a CrocHippo, a Death Worm and a Witch-Goat walk into a Starbucks (grins). Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  13. EllieAnn says:

    Poor unsuspecting Starbucks!! These are truly awesome and horrible beasts. Very interesting. Great post, Gene!

  14. Gene, I am TERRIFIED now of the Anibus, Death-Worm, and Witch Goat? Are you kidding me?

  15. Lynn Kelley says:

    Oh, man! I hope I don’t have nightmares tonight! I can’t watch movies like Tremor. I’m too chicken. This post is another example of your compelling writing. If you were a teacher, this would be a great creative writing assignment for your class, for the students to pick one of these horrific monsters and write a short story. Wouldn’t it be cool to read what each of them came up with? And it would work for all different age groups! I think the Death Worm creeped me out the most. What’s amazing is that these are ancient monsters. I love how you brought them back to life. Bravo!

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Wow, thanks for the excellent compliments Lyn! This would make an excellent school assignment partly because it does involve actual history and partly because of the creative aspect, good suggestion. Perhaps I’ll consider passing this on to a few of the teachers I’m friends with. The Death Worm won the creepy award (although the Witch-Goat gave it a run for its money). Enjoy the day and always stay in well-lighted areas 🙂

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  17. Okay – A. I can’t believe you are like an encyclopedia of myth! It is awesome. B. I always get so inspired to go write something when I read these. and C. “Bacon still fresh” ROFL!

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Lisa – A. I love researching myth and legend. B. Awesome, that is one of the main reasons I share what I find (and they inspire me as well). C. 😀

      Enjoy the day!

  18. The photo of the Witch-goat is still making me shudder. Meanwhile “when the bacon was still fresh” continues to make me chuckle. But the one that appeals to my writer sensibilities is surely a creature who eats villains made fat and juicy with the weight of their many atrocities. Thanks for the gruesome fun. 🙂

    • Gene Lempp says:

      The Ammit gives a new meaning to being devoured by justice does it not? Just imagine if that was an available option at a capital trial. Okay, your guilty now into the Ammit cage with you! Thanks for the excellent comment Heidi 🙂

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