The Cannileech [Flash Fiction]
Themes: Horror, Documentary, Mythology
Season 1, Episode #8: The Wild Life
Co-hosted by Dr. Cynthia Wessler and Dr. Dave Kydel
Cynthia: Ask a man to name a fearsome animal, and you’ll likely hear Great White Shark or Box Jellyfish, perhaps Funnel-web Spider or some variation of Bear. Admittedly, they’re all great contenders for the world’s top spot in the fearsome animal category. However, Dr. Kydel and I have travelled all the way out to the depths of the Amazon Rainforest to introduce you to a creature that’s sure to start featuring quite heavily on that list.
Dave: As you may know, habitat loss in the Amazon basin is responsible for forcing animals into conflict with humans. Once, jaguar sightings were rare, but now the predatory large cats prey daily on children from local villages. However, there is one creature that has only just begun to emerge from the depths of this south American jungle, and that creature is the Cannileech.
Cynthia: Now, previously, the Cannileech has been known only as a myth. Some viewers may recognise the names Quetzalcoatl and Kukulkan, the feathered serpents described and depicted in Aztec and Mayan mythology respectively, but we now have definitive proof that the formerly elusive Cannileech is the creature behind the legend.
Dave: We caught our first sight of an adult Cannileech several days ago, and have spent the past seventy-two hours cleaning up our footage in preparation for sending back to the studio for verification and editing. As you’ll see from our footage, the adult Cannileech is a feather-crested, serpent-like creature approximately five feet long, and is capable of limited flight—
Cynthia: More like gliding, really.
Dave: —on those feathered wings. They appear to be solitary in nature, but we have observed what we believe to be a male and female in a courtship routine. The truly remarkable thing about this creature, however, is its young.
Cynthia: If this was a creature in the bird kingdom, the closest thing we could liken it to would be a cuckoo. You see, the female Cannileech lays her remarkably hard egg out in the open, perhaps on a well-used hunting trail. You and I might think this is counterproductive to good parenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Cannileech egg seems to be imbued with some sort of… well, it seems to be a highly potent chemical, much like a pheromone. When the shell is touched by another creature, be it a jaguar, a bird, a monkey or a human, that creature experiences a powerful mothering—
Dave: Or fathering…
Dave: The desire to protect the young Cannileech—which, when it hatches, is an eye-less worm-like larvae approximately thirty centimetres long and possessed of a circular, toothless jaw—is so strong that the creature will forsake almost all other urges, including feeding, sleeping, mating and caring for its own young, in order to protect and serve the larval Cannileech.
Cynthia: In the larval stage, the Cannileech employs a form of biochemical trickery upon its ‘host’ parent. The parent doesn’t see, hear or smell a Cannileech larvae; it sees, hears and smells its own offspring. This biological mimicry is so perfect that even higher lifeforms can be fooled.
Dave: For example, two days ago we found a Cannileech egg, which yesterday hatched into what appears to be a small, newborn baby human. Of course, we know what it really is, but that doesn’t stop our senses from being fooled.
Cynthia: We can also confirm that the ‘protection’ desire has a very powerful effect on the human mind. We would like to send our most sincere condolences to the families of our cameraman and local guide. When they saw the egg we brought back, they became… distressed. They insisted we get rid of it right away, and when we refused, they threatened to smash it.
Dave: We have preserved their bodies against the local fly swarms as best we are able, and hope that they can be recovered for proper burial.
Cynthia: Because we’ve lost our cameraman, we’ve had to set the camera to auto-record. Soon, very soon, you’ll be able to see the most fascinating aspect of the Cannileech lifecycle.
Dave: I postulate that long ago, Cannileech parents made the ultimate sacrifice. Swarms of ravenous, larval Cannileech offspring would devour their doting parents. Nature, in her wonderful way, has allowed the Cannileech to evolve its complex system of pheromones to allow the ‘host’ parent to become the sacrifice instead.
Cynthia: Once the host parent has been devoured, the engorged Cannileech larvae enters its pupal state. It remains this way for several weeks as it digests its parent and grows those beautiful feathery wings which allows it to glide effortlessly in the hunt for new territory.
Dave: The other wonderful thing about the Cannileech is that when grown, it only feeds off the same species as its ‘host’ parent. Until now, that’s led to generations of the creatures feeding off jaguars, parrots, New-World monkeys, and other native fauna. However, with the current rate of deforestation, and the overlap forced between human and Cannileech ranges, we’re certain you’ll be seeing a lot more of these beautiful creatures in the very near future.
Why is it that every time I leave the interwebs for more than five minutes, WordPress completely change the layout of their GUI? I’ve barely been gone for a week this time, and they’ve moved all my menus over to the right. I swear, they do it just to confuse and perplex me.
Anyway, this weekend, Chuck Wendig said “hai guise, invent a monster!” (only, he said it more eloquently) so I hope you enjoy this little piece of cultural appropriation. If you’re not already following Chuck’s blog, you ought to be, especially this weekend—there are bound to be more awesome monster stories posted there within the next 24 hours. Go, be amazed and horrified by the creations of my fellow writers.