Tales of the Asp: Mysteroids, by Aidan Butler

     The Asp was quite amazed that when he consumed a certain blend of vitamins, his urine became bright yellow and powerfully malodorous. After a few weeks of bold experimentation, he discovered that consuming a particular blend of minerals, anti-depressants, and raw fish caused his semen to turn faintly blue and glow in the dark. While this was not the result the Asp had intended, for his goal was breeding a form of bright white "albino feces," or "alpine crap," the Asp was nevertheless delighted, and he began thinking of ways to market this miraculous chemical concoction to the public.

     What purpose could it serve? It occurred to him that glow-in-the-dark semen could bring ejaculators hours of pleasure writing luminous love-messages all over their partners' naked bodies. But in addition to this, the Asp realized glowing semen could make a spectacular cupcake decoration. Just in the event that someone might accidentally impregnate a cupcake, creating unwanted families of mini-cakes demanding pastry school, child support, and so on, the Asp began devising a special cupcake condom patterned after the zip-lock storage bag.

     While setting his mind to these stimulating enterprises, the Asp began to develop other medicinal products. One of these was the sickness pill, which imparted genuine viral illnesses to the consumer. The Asp began mailing samples of these sickness pills to random teenagers. The teenagers quickly caught on to the fact that if they wished to stay home from school for a few days, all they needed to do was consume one of the Asp's flu pills, and, within hours, they would be stricken with fever, nausea, headaches, sore throats, and other common symptoms of flu. This was a great blessing to them.

     Naturally, the previously untested sickness pills had unforeseeable consequences. For example, many kids soon built up tolerance to the pills. The result of this was that in order to get a few days of pleasantly debilitating flu, instead of taking just one pill, they would have to take several. One girl in Minnesota built up such a tolerance that, to her horror, she never seemed to become ill at all anymore, regardless how sick her family and friends became with naturally occurring flus. The girl, desperate to get sick, used to wander around hospital wards, bringing home-made gifts to patients suffering from pneumonia, kissing them on the mouth, asking them to cough into her hand so that she could swallow their phlegm -- all to no avail. She simply could not get sick anymore. Ultimately the girl threatened to sue the Asp for depriving her of the character-building experience real illnesses had on people.

     A whole battalion in the Turkish army took the Asp's illness pills to get out of defending their country's border in an-going series of skirmishes with rebels from a neighboring country. As a result of their improbable triumph, the rebels became a serious threat to Turkey's national security.

     In his endless nocturnal experimentations, the Asp stumbled upon what he labelled the polygraph pill, which caused people to exhibit strange physiological reactions during the act of lying. The fib-symptoms varied from uncontrollable weeping, violent twitching, sudden incomprehensible yodelling, to spontaneous ejaculation. The men who experienced this latter symptom quite enjoyed the polygraph pill, and were motivated to lie even more often in intimate situations for the immediate sexual gratification their dishonesty brought them. Often their girlfriends noticed no dramatic differences in their behavior.

     Fearing that his polygraph pill constituted an unfair weapon in the hands of law enforcement, the Asp also brewed a special amnesia pill, which enabled people who wished to avoid copping to the truth to erase whole months of their lives from their memory. Predictably, the amnesia pill became a favorite of politicians.

     Experimenting with an antidote to the amnesia pill, which, regrettably, sometimes never wore off, the Asp created a rather unpredictable memory enhancer medication. Upon swallowing one of the sugarcoated tablets, the consumer would quickly remember something she had completely forgotten at some point in her life. Sometimes this proved quite useful: for example, one woman remembered where she had left her car keys several minutes earlier. One person remembered to pay his parking ticket just two days before the payment deadline.

     But unfortunately the effects of the memory-stimulant were quite unpredictable. One recovering alcoholic remembered in vivid detail how in one of his black-out drunks he had urinated on his neighbor's chained-up labrador retriever, then returned home and attempted to rape one of his daughter's stuffed animals. The sheer trauma of these recollections forced him into years of expensive, intensely emotional therapy.

     Sometimes people remembered doing things, or witnessing things, that seemed to make no sense at all. One woman remembered, totally devoid of explanatory context, seeing a three-foot boiled lobster lying on a white velvet pillow. While the strange memory was innocuous enough, the woman racked her brains trying to understand its meaning. Where had she seen this strange sight? Who owned the pillow? What was the lobster doing on it? The woman's sanity began crumbling, for clearly she had lived a bizarre life at some point which she had completely repressed, and she had no idea what disgraceful episodes this forgotten life had consisted of. Frightened at what other nightmarish images might return to her, the woman refused to take more of the Asp's memory pills. Instead, she began eating huge quantities of lobster hoping that the flavor would stimulate her memory. Lobster was really too expensive for her penny-pinching budget, and soon she plunged into inescapable debt. Finally she concluded -- quite without any rational basis -- that the lobster had been her in a previous life; that the pill had unearthed the contents of her subconsciously preserved former life. It dawned on her that in her feasting she might have been eating her cousins and, even worse, her own offspring. The woman became remorseful, accused herself of cannibalism, and was soon depressed to the point of near-catatonia.

     Frequent users of the memory pill began to observe that whenever they remembered something from earlier in their life, this caused them to forget something in their current memory. One person remembered that he had stubbed his toe on a wheelbarrow as a four-year-old, but he forgot what his name was. No matter how often he looked at his driver's license, his name refused to stick in his memory.

     Several people began to speculate that the memory pill did not, in fact, consistently cause memories to resurface, but rather that the pill sometimes stimulated their minds to create pure fiction. They compared this to the random story making of the unconscious mind during dreams. If their hypothesis was inaccurate, then at least the memories were often quite trivial, even utterly meaningless. Sometimes recalling the alleged memories actually made things more complicated, as if their forgetting mechanisms were selective and useful, and disrupting them caused more problems than it solved.

     One woman remembered that her husband, an old high-school sweetheart, had once raped her during their freshman year of high school. While she was not certain whether this was true or not, it generated a great deal of distrust in their relationship, and there was simply no way to ascertain whether her "memory" was truly on-target. Her husband's denials were categorical and highly emotional, but this vehemence made her even more doubtful.

     Some of the memory pill users became, in a way, addicted. They found that by consuming huge quantities of the memory pills, they could virtually eradicate all of their current memories and flood their heads with old or fictional memories. In doing so they could essentially become different people. Unfortunately, whatever professional skills they had acquired through years of adulthood deteriorated as well. One attorney forgot how to define legal terms, how to grasp legal arguments, and how to draft legal documents. Instead he became an expert finger-painter and a fairly proficient dodge-ball player.

     While the public's reaction to the memory pill was mixed, the Asp invented, often by accident, other pills that were universally deplored and seemed to have no beneficial effects at all. One pearly white caplet caused people to hear imaginary voices whenever they were in the presence of dandelions. While usually the flower voices chanted nonsense, or messages totally incomprehensible to the human mind, once in a while the hallucinating pill-poppers would hear very distinct instructions from the dandelions to kneel down and kiss the earth around their stems. Some of the medicated people were terrified enough to comply. Disconcerted at the bizarre unraveling of their minds, sometimes weeping, they would press their faces to the ground and worship the weeds.

     One of the Asp's favorite medications caused people's normal emotional flow to reverse, so that upon hearing bad news, they would rejoice, burst into laughter, and congratulate the grim messenger. Hearing that their spouses had gotten promoted, or that their children had been accepted to college, they would turn morose, explode with anger, or skulk off to some private place and brood. Hunger would make them more patient; orgasmic sex would frustrate and irritate them.

     The Asp's medical masterpiece was a drug that caused people's bodies to lose the ability to fully recognize their own genetic formulae. People would begin to produce blood types totally incompatible with their own; black hairs would grow from their heads after decades of sprouting red hair; people's irises would cloud over with obscure varicolored mixes. In order to remind their bodies of their own genetic formulas, people would have to consume pieces of their own bodies constantly: they would bite their nails, swallow their own hairs, and lick off their dead skin cells. In more severe cases, when living cells were required for their clearer genetic imprinting, people would have to devour shreds of their own muscle tissue, suck their blood from fresh wounds, and even bite off and swallow their smaller digits. Finally, some of the more ravenously self-cannibalistic victims of the Asp's medication ended up as little more than skeletons gnawing on their own leathery, exposed internal organs.

     When the Asp proposed to his City Council a special publicly-funded sushi bar where these genetically impaired people could have trained sushi chefs chop off bits of their own bodies and serve them on garnished cakes of rice, he was finally driven out of the pharmaceutical business under threat of legal action. He yielded, however, only after dumping several hundred pounds of untested new medications in the city's water reservoir.

Tales of the Asp
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Swagazine Special Number One
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