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The Rack of Destruction
by Norris Raccoon

TheTroubleWithAntlers_MEDIUMIt’s no secret in this community that the greatest danger to all shifters everywhere is the possibility of humans discovering our existence. For centuries, we have protected this information, guarded our secret and kept the humans in the dark. Now, for the first time in Shifterville history, two humans will be living in our town.

Despite dire predictions and against insurmountable odds, the town is ready for the humans’ arrival next week. Indeed, even our esteemed high school principal, Steve Armadillo, managed to perform miracles this summer. The entire town, high school included, has been human-proofed.

This being the case, we should expect to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, tensions mount as one teen demonstrates again and again that he is unable to control his unruly rack. Attempts to interview Melvin Moose have failed, as he swiftly ran in the opposite direction anytime he was approached. Other residents of Shifferville have much to say, however.

“He just can’t control that ridiculous rack,” Laney Siamese, a classmate of Melvin’s, complained. “It seems every time I turn around, there’s Melvin, knocking over something or someone. I mean, how hard is it to just stay human, for heaven’s sake?”

“He’s going to be the end of us all,” Cora Jaguar, owner of Shiffer Grocery predicted.

Bets are already being placed around town, with odds of 1,000 to one in favor of Melvin’s antlers revealing our secret. Other possibilities were suggested, including the inclusion of tuna-flavored ice cream at the parlor in town (the Siamese family refused to remove it from the menu, insisting that humans eat tuna as well) and the decision to allow students to continue dressing out in fur in P.E. Of course, these suggestions came from Melvin Moose’s best friend, Paulie Porcupine, and Melvin’s father, Jacob Moose, both of whom appear to be in the minority when it comes to predicting how long our secret will be safe with Melvin’s rack on the loose.

Overall, the opinion of the town is clear: Melvin Moose’s rack will destroy the secret shifters have guarded for centuries. Buckle up, Shifterville, it’s going to be a rocky ride!

Norris Raccoon is a reporter for The Shifferville Times (formerly known as The Daily Shifter).

Amy & T-Rab - BLUE HAIR A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay. Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.

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The Yattering and Jack

Clive Barker’s “The Yattering and Jack,” from The Books of Blood–the tale of a man, a demon, and a turkey.

OK, it’s not really about the turkey. But that is one of the most memorable scenes in a story that is equal parts a horror parody and a comedy of manners. Jack’s wife has an affair, and his lack of emotion drives her to suicide. He finds himself afflicted by a demon and his daughters, witnessing the Christmas chaos for themselves, cannot understand his calm demeanor, nor can the demon whose job it is to break him. At times I was reminded of Restoration comedies I had read (and very much enjoyed) in undergrad. What does it take before that famous British stoicism begins to crack?

When Clive Barker burst onto the scene in the 80s, he rose to fame for a number of reasons, humor not generally being one of them. Barker pushed the boundaries of sex and violence in horror, and intertwined the two in new and disturbing ways. It’s what I love about him and what influenced me in my early days. He also wrote “The Yattering and Jack,” whose set-up certainly sounds like a horror story: Beelzebub, thanks to Jack’s family, has a claim on Jack’s soul. He sends a minor demon called the Yattering to torment Jack into insanity and thus take what is rightfully his. But even in Hell there are laws; should the Yattering ever leave the house or lay a hand on Jack, Beelzebub’s claim is forfeit, and the Yattering will become Jack’s slave. The Yattering takes great delight in inflicting all sorts of terrible things upon Jack, including the murder of his cat(s), yet Jack refuses to surrender his sanity.

It is not, we learn, because Jack has the stiffest upper lip of any Brit to ever live, but because he is fully aware of the Yattering’s existence and intent. By the time Christmas descends into a maelstrom of turkey attacks and spinning Christmas trees, the Yattering is so frustrated by Jack’s unflappability that it commits its greatest error, just as Jack knows it will. It not only follows Jack outside but touches him, and Jack’s soul will thus never be in Beelzebub’s possession. Neither, as it turns out, will Jack ever enter Heaven. Enslaving a demon is frowned upon. Go figure.

If there are still people out there who haven’t read Clive Barker’s earlier work because of his reputation (you’re missing out, but to each their own), at least give this one a shot. You’ll think twice about having turkey for Christmas dinner.