The talk show host invites the Naturalist onto his stage. The Naturalist looks as all Naturalists do: he is dressed in khaki shorts, a button-up white shirt, a pith helmet, brown leather boots. The exposed bits of his arms and legs are coated in a thick layer of hair, a little too thick to be truly human. He has a strange smile and wide, bulging eyes.
In his suitcase, the Naturalist reveals he has dozens of tiny spiders taken from a country of which no one in the audience has ever heard. They are many colors and they are all stuck to the inside of the case by long pins inserted in their thoraxes. All of them are still alive, still wriggling. He unsticks them and shows them to the crowd. The crowd is awed, but the talk show host merely appears disturbed. He knows what is to come.
The Naturalist grins vacantly and draws a tiny red spider from his case. Now it becomes obvious he is no more human than the creatures he has brought to the show, for his eyes have become impossibly wide and have grown impossibly numerous. The spiders leave the case. The audience screams and tries to flee. The host remains in his seat.
“These are some of the deadliest spiders in the world,” says the Naturalist.
“What world?” wails the host.
Blue-skinned men in track suits sit around a poker table in their living room. They are played by legendary actors Vincenzo “Sputare” Diabollini and Romeo “Pelle” Angelito. Neither actor is aware that he has been dead for twenty years – they only sense a growing weariness in their bodies, a slow loss of the ability to speak, and a gentle decrease in their acting abilities.
A healthy young man comes in the door, played by the relative unknown Tony Aiello, who sits down to play cards with the dead men. He does not notice the blue arteries extending from Vincenzo and Romeo’s exposed feet, does not detect them burrowing under his pants and into his skin. He only faintly detects the fat growing in his face and body, his hair falling from his head, his teeth dropping out of his mouth, his eyes sinking into his skull and finally rolling back as the last vestiges of life are drained from him. Diabollini’s hand beats Angelito’s as it always does. Nothing remains of Aiello but a stack of burnt paper.
A pallet of something black wrapped in plastic is wheeled onto the set of the game show by a woman in a skimpy outfit and a mask, to hide the scars. Five contestants, woken from their beds in nations from around the world and dragged here at gunpoint, stand in a circle around the pallet and listen to the instructions intently, fearing for their lives. None of them have seen this show, but all know what it means.
The games begin. They are humiliating and deadly. A woman drowns in custard. A man has liquid nitrogen dropped onto his body again and again until his skin cracks and breaks away. One contestant is devoured by things in the Kaleidoscope Chamber. The fourth and fifth, the so-called Adam and Eve, are brought back onto the stage to face the pallet.
They jump at the plastic, tearing and biting at it, finding it much harder to open than seemed possible. Adam’s fingernails break away and he is left clutching the bloody stumps of his hands, crying for his mother. Eve makes it through but the wrap has chewed up her cheeks and blinded her in one eye. She has opened up the pallet and she stares into the blackness that lies beneath. The audience boos, and one of the women, doing a sexy dance, kicks her into the black. Everyone cheers. The dead cheer. Adam cheers.
I turn the television off and I get off my sofa. I can still hear audience laughter as I make my way to the kitchen window. My coffee pot is overflowing, filling the air with steam and stench, and I try to shut it off. The pot falls and shatters on the floor, splashing me from head to toe in black tar. Audience laughter rises to uproarious applause. I look out my window. The huge black eye of God winks at me.
Jake Ristic-Petrovic is a twenty-three-year-old warehouse guy from Alberta, Canada. There isn’t much to say for his biography beyond that; he writes short stories, goes to work, and smokes cigars.