Colin P Davies

Pestworld

Extract from Pests and Pestilence: First Edition: History and Traditions:

 

Pestworld: (also known as Benedict Benoletti's World) has no indigenous flora or fauna. Its terraforming and seeding are models of sophistication and execution; nectar for the academic bees of the ancient worlds. History begins with the landfall of humans.  The first cave painting was with an aerosol and the only fossil record is Country and Western.

 

Plateau, the political and administrative capital of Pestworld, possesses a disingenuous aura of antiquity.  Things look older than they are.  People look wiser than they are.  Buildings, walls and roads are constructed of the same dark stone, hacked from Hell's Hole, the vast quarry at the center of the high plateau.  If the young structures appear somewhat weather-beaten, the blame lies more with the occasional screaming storms that crash in from the Southern Ocean and scour across the city than with the passage of time.

 

Only four other major centers of population cling to the surface of Pestworld: San Benedict, home to the Smithsonian Extrasolar Institute of Life Sciences; New Rome, an agricultural center nestled between the twin hills of Romulus and Remus; New Venice, a not entirely successful attempt to populate the Angels' Archipelago, and Easytown, site of various philanthropic adventures, including Benoletti's Home for the Bemused and Befuddled.

 

Outside these centers, Pestworld remains a morass of speed-terraformed marsh, forest, mountain and desert.  Many brave souls have ventured out, and some have established small hamlets, fortresses and farmsteads, but few have returned.  Unverifiable stories have also returned; tales of impossible creatures and horrifying encounters.  Widely discounted as the pathetic justifications of losers, the tales have nevertheless entered the popular imagination and inspired many a bold adventurer to bid goodbye to both civilization and life.



Map of Plateau and Environs



Pestworld Links


PESTWORLD

The story version of Pestworld is still available online at Bewildering Stories:

THE MONSTER ON MANDRAKE STREET

The full-show podcasts including all the episodes of The Monster on Mandrake Street are now online at Beam Me Up.

Or listen to the individual episodes:


 


The story version was published in Bewildering Stories in November 2009.

RED ROBOT

The full-show podcasts including all the episodes of RED ROBOT are now online at Beam Me Up.


Hear the Pestworld Theme, composed and performed by Chris Davies, in full:


Pestworld Theme



Pests and Pestilence: Extracts

Extracts from Pests and Pestilence: First Edition: Definitions:

                                                

Pest: generic term for any of two thousand plus life-constructs melded in the laboratories of Benoletti's University of Plateau or the Smithsonian Extrasolar Institute of Life Sciences. In spite of the one hundred kilometer separation of the two educational centers, the rivalry that grew between them swelled beyond a healthy competitive drive to create new self-replicating life variants into a one-upmanship battle between the students in creating their own eponymous pests to compete in the annual contest. The greater the novelty, the greater the kudos. However, with the inevitability of a leak in a gene pool, the creatures escaped and reproduced and the Infestation had begun.

 

Early attempts to draw a distinction between those life forms purposely engineered for the fledgling economy of the planet and those whose purpose defies both comprehension and common sense were poorly supported by the populace.  In a matter of a decade, the term "pest" became synonymous with every walking, flying, swimming or slithering creature, and even a few humans who chose to live out their lives on the periphery of acceptable social morality.  The only unambiguous clue to the genesis of a life form is where the name of the creator remains in the nomenclature - which, luckily, is by far the majority.


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Brinkman bodyguard: a fortuitous attempt to meld a primate with a security consultant.


Brunell toe-taster:
perhaps not as disgusting as its name would indicate, the fist-sized, furry toe-taster has nevertheless been adopted by a number of backstreet brothels to cater for those clients with a taste for tickling titillation.

Calconi spitting cat:  the saying that you should not "let the calconi spitting cat out of the bag" has arisen out of necessity.  Although often kept as pets due their ferocious loyalty to their feeder, the cat is frequently restrained in a bag or other container in order to restrict its ability to spit obnoxious, and painful, wet fur-balls at passers by.  In recent years the sport of fur-balling has become popular with corporate directors both for its team building ethos and relatively low accident rate.  Two teams, each member armed with a fully-molting calconi spitting cat, hunt each other through the forest.  Whether the cats - or, in fact, the combatants - enjoy this game is not known or generally considered.
 
Henry hampton hobby horse: an equine biped with vocal capabilities. Obsessional by nature and lacking in essential social skills, the hobby horse is often encountered in the darker corners of bars and hotel lounges, drinking coffee and chattering in monotone to anyone who will listen.  Probably the most famous hampton was an elderly pinto nicknamed Buck, who claimed to have constructed an accurate scale model of Plateau sufficiently small to sit upon a man's hand.  However, the existence of this wonder could not be verified as Buck, through a combination of foolish curiosity and hiccups, had accidentally swallowed it.  This tale has received little credence due to two factors: Firstly, it appears unlikely that such a model could be constructed by a creature both awkward and ungulate; and secondly, common sense and even a limited knowledge of digestive systems both suggest that the loss would have been only temporary.

Hindenberg hover-grazer: to all intents and purposes a party balloon in a variety of primary colors, the hover-grazer is in fact a herbivore with a taste for morning dew on freshly cut grass.  Much of the creature's life is spent in copulation - a necessity due to the high number of popped partners which result from the enthusiastic love-making.  At times, a field of cavorting hover-grazers will sound like a New Year's fireworks display.

Kanazawa turtletooth: a large, amphibious, vicious, mean-spirited and generally nasty shelled creature, capable of achieving high speeds on waterways by means of high-pressure ejection of digestive gases from the rear. Dubbed the "Picnickers' Peril" by the tabloid press, the turtletooth has been responsible for numerous mutilations, deaths, and loss of picnic food. Of late, an illegal sport has arisen whereby spiced-up teenagers throw hooked reins on the creatures and surf to the throbbing beat of arcane rock music. The turtletooth has long been the official emblem of the Association of Amputees.

Lazenby literary rat: erudite, educated and ever so slightly snooty, the Ell-Ell Rat is highly popular with children for its love of dolls' houses.  A well-furnished house with a comfortable bed and a shelf of academic tomes will keep the creature content for years.  Questions relating to the rat's ability to comprehend the text on the page are discouraged by toy manufacturers.


Marconi fermenting gargoyle:  this nasty pest with a propensity for scaring lone walkers at night has been blamed for more than a few heart attacks and nervous breakdowns.  However, it is at its most dangerous when dead.  Within fifteen minutes of the creature's demise, the build up of digestive gases and a little understood catalyst lead the body to inflate to the size of a fat child - twice its original size.  At this stage, just a single spark is sufficient to cause an explosion large enough to leave a discernable crater in the bedrock.

 

Merriweather rat: a paper-thin somewhat pointless creature, it is widely believed that the rat resulted from Mr. Merriweather's ambition to produce the flattest possible pest.  Present knowledge suggests that he succeeded.

Mckenzie pugilist:
although gregarious and approachable during daylight hours, the arrival of evening and the proximity of alchoholic fumes turns the bald pugilist into an aggressive argumentative idiot.  Whether with policeman, pedestrian or lamp post, the creature is always ready to pick a fight.  Its bulbous forepaws and lightness of feet make the pugilist particularly skilful in a bust up, but its style is repetitive and predictable.  Knowledgeable opponents, such as pestmeisters and barmaids, are able to handle the pugilist with little difficulty.

Parma puppeteer: with a history shrouded in mystery, the puppeteer is more a ghost than a pest.  This shape-shifter - a nightmarish marriage between B movie fright-fests and modeling clay - is rarely seen, or, more likely, rarely recognized.  Widely held to blame for the paranoid panic that led to the self-inflicted slaughter at Ice Station Igloo, the creature is hounded and hunted whenever spotted - which, understandably, is not often.


Pest-Songs: The tradition of Pest-songs started in the earliest days of the Infestation and progressed from nursery rhymes designed to terrify children to sophisticated operatic arias designed to terrify adults.  The most celebrated hits and successful money earners were the songs from the musicals: "Flying With Wings" from Pests, "I Have a Scream" from Seven Pests for Seven Parishes, and "Lorry with a Fridge on Top" from Pest Ride Story, amongst others.


Pizza Princess: the popular name given to Andrea Anchovy, a short, rotund woman who almost single-handedly brought Plateau through the Year of the Bad Seed.  When the crops failed and the citizens starved, Andrea set herself to finding which amongst the numerous pests could be safely eaten.  Through trial and error she put together her adventurous cook-book and a delicious range of pizzas.  However, she was to enjoy little of her own fame due to the build up of stubborn toxins in her brain and she is now said to be living out her days in the Abbey of Eric Anthony, believing she is a French fry.


Snitzel moth-winged dachshund: somewhat smaller than the bowyer dachshund, this tiny, fast-moving but harmless creature is fond of squeezing into confined spaces and is often found between the pages of books and inside wallets. Frequently heading the top ten list of fluttering phobias published in Underbelly Magazine, the moth-winged dachshund has an established value as a component in high-risk entomological medicine.


Stringfinger: popular name for the dupres binding monkey. The appellation does not do justice to the ingenious fiberspinning glands and rotating fingers which permit the creature to plait, wrap and knot. The stringfinger has long been a major headache for the Mail Service due to its predisposition for parceling up smaller rodent pests and depositing them in mailboxes. Rumors of address labels, correct postage and successful deliveries have become part of the mythology of the Service.

 

Thompson fanger: a dangerous pack-pest, fond of co-ordinated ambush and bloodsucking, the fanger has nevertheless established itself as a valuable commodity in the commercial life of Pestworld. Whilst of no use for flight, the silvered bat-wings open out to three meters to maximize radio reception for communication with its pack-mates. Used widely for constabulary waistcoats since the amazing incident now popularized in the nursery rhyme "Jack's Bloody Knife And The Fanger That Wouldn't Die", the major market for the wings has moved to the remoter regions of the planet, where they have found use as superior trivee aerials.


Tindall telescopic gazelle: rarely seen due to its astonishing ability to spot a predator at ten kilometers, the gazelle is something of a mystery.  It is said to have projecting eyes and an extendable body.  In spite of denials by the scientific community, these stories persist.

 

Todmorden spring-heel camel:  more of a nuisance than a danger, the spring-heel camel is driven by curiosity to peer into windows, corners and other people's business.  Powerful muscles in its four legs permit high and repetitive bouncing sufficient to satisfy its needs.  Although named a camel due to the shape of its silhouette, it is the creature's victims who usually get the hump.  Suggestions that the camel is in fact searching for something - a lost lover or a contact lens - are impossible to substantiate due to the creature's inability to talk.

Triple-turkey: a purpose-designed, triple-breasted fowl with a labor-saving, self-plucking capability.


Westchester white-chested warbler: formal name for the common diva, a large rodent with generous lungs, but a tiny stomach. A skilled mimic, often heard at choral events, the diva is despised by performers, not for its tendency to strike up at moments of greatest drama and poignancy, but for its ability to hit perfect pitch, thereby showing up the inferior efforts of the humans. Attempts at eradication having failed, the diva is now controlled via its stomach. Always ravenous, the diva can be silenced by the judicious distribution of food at critical moments of the performance. It is therefore a truism that, unlike our modern starving artists, the diva does indeed sing for its supper.

 

Westlake balancing mallard: an inelegant, one-legged amphibian. A capable flier, though frequently injured upon landing, the balancing mallard is nevertheless an attractive sight when, shimmering green wings outstretched, it cartwheels across the concrete at Plateau spaceport. Harmless unless eaten, the balancing mallard remains invaluable for baiting the underhill armed gundog.  The balancing mallard has been mythologised in the popular nursery story of "The Ugly Limpling", which tells the tale of a baby balancer abandoned amongst, and raised by, Royal Swans.  As it grows up, the limpling finds itself bullied and excluded because of its perceived disability.  The story ends when the disadvantaged creature happens upon a troop of its own kind and is enlightened.  Versions of the tale that include a devastating revenge attack upon the nesting site of the Royal Swans by aerial bombardment with flaming cotton-tree twigs are thought to have been promulgated by the now-discredited children's trivee show, Nasty, but Nice.