Kern's Holler Journal Biology
Under the Microscope, by Ivan Stang

I Have Watched Many Die

Sometimes, life as a single-celled creature is short and brutal. Maybe it's always that way. It's hard to tell, since with many of these creatures the babies are identical in every way to the great- grandpappies.

I now have four separate cultures if animalcules: the Jar of Life, the Petri Dish of Horror, the Tub from the Bucket of Slime, and the Tub from the Rancid Pond. I have been gradually mixing and matching populations, and sometimes I witness mass extinctions. In some cases I see the mass extinctions happen before my very eyes. Often a fresh drop of water on a clean slide will be swarming with creatures tiny and large at first, but after 20 minutes under the microscope light, the swarms will thin out and the floor of the slide will be carpeted with tiny dead bodies. The larger animalcules like rotifers and nematodes are hardier, and apparently nothing can kill a Coleps. Either that or they reproduce faster than anything.

Life is always springing anew from the killing fields, of course. In the Petri Dish of Horror, there's now a herd of Cyclops copepods, with plenty of pregnant mamas ready to keep up the population. They have been joined by twitching water-flea-spider-tick monsters that I call The Micro-NHGHs. These actually are aquatic mites called Acarina. Another type of larger creature walks atop the water, a tiny white caterpillar-looking thing just barely big enough to see without a 'scope, but small enough that the surface tension of the water is to him like a sheet of glass. The first time I spotted one I thought the poor thing was a land animal that was stranded. But I have seen more of them. I guess when they are hungry or thirsty they bite off a chunk of the germ-infested water.

The Bucket of Slime seems to have produced the greatest variety of
monsters. Lately the sample from that has become crowded with parameciums. Oddly enough they have not appeared in any of the other samples, even though they are supposed to be very common. I was thrilled to be able to add them to my concentration camps. Here's a pretty movie of one, in slow-motion:
Here's how they more often look to me:
except mine seem to be more frantic.


I also started seeing mobile transparent teardrops, and another tiny squirming thing that looks like a blobby glass trilobite -- possibly a Didinium? Or is it a Didn'tinium? There have also appeared more and more types of REALLY tiny things, so small that in swarms they look like clouds.

One of the most amazing sights I saw was some kind of amoeba that seemed to be floating on the top of the water, just drifting -- until it was SNATCHED AWAY by a large bell-shaped predator, an invader from the Birdbath of Eternity.

I have found that a good way to hunt these creatures is to make sure there's a fair amount of bottom-crud - dirt, algae, or other grahdoo - so that little "streets" between "buildings" form. This way you can find bottlenecks between clumps of matter, where the animalcules have mini-traffic-jams and slow down enough to be seen more clearly as they "wait in line." You get all manner of confrontations between different species this way. Usually they ignore each other. The Colepses on the other hand seem to be looking for large live things to attack. Those things are ubiquitous.

My favorites lately are the big fat squirming rotifers. These look like mobile, detached, groping, eating penises with minds of their own and literal motor-mouths. The head end is just a big mouth ringed with wheely-looking cilia. They SUCK. And when they suck they contract to swallow. They also contract to crawl along the bottom like inchworms, yet they can also swim very swiftly. Formidable little buggers! And you can see their WIGGLING INNARDS. You can see the things they swallow STRUGGLING!

Even larger, grosser, and similarly dick-like are a type of wormish monster called a Chaetogaster. These are see-through giants in which every gloppy organ is clearly visible, along with anybody recently swallowed. These are much uglier than nematodes! Nematodes are ballet dancers by comparison.

Very soon I will have to pack up my little microscope and take it to Stang County, where I intend to examine the monsters that live at the edges of cow tanks. That should be GOOOOD. But I will be leaving my tubs of samples on their own, with no babysitter. It will be very interesting to see which sample jars have population explosions and which ones are lifeless fields of death when I return.

This morning I had to deal with a much larger animal and deal it a grisly death.

For Roy Batty returned.

I awoke this morning to see a bat flying around and around in circles in the bedroom, passing about two feet above my face every 3 seconds. Wei was in the shower and blissfully unaware that we'd been invaded AGAIN. This is the third bat in the house I've had to deal with.

The last time this happened, various alt.slack.fux gave me advice on how to deal with loose bats in the belfry. Artemia said to put pantyhose on the end of a ShopVac and vacuum the bugger into the panty- hose-trap. That way it could be freed alive. Somebody else said to
throw a sheet over it.

Both of these suggestions were very obviously impractical in this situation with this hyper bat.

I grabbed a short-handled broom, some garden gloves, and a paper sack. Wei was still showering. The bat was flying in circles in the upstairs hallway. I hit the poor little bastard with the broom on my second try. He fell onto the stairs, stunned. I tried to sweep him into the sack but he started trying to get up and fly again so I gave him another whack. That "gave him pause" and I swept him into the sack. (Wei heard all this from in the shower but didn't know what it was.) Then I put the sack outside in the snow where he surely froze to death while still unconscious, if he wasn't already dead, poor thing. Oh well. That's what he gets for not being a toolmaker with opposable thumbs and all those extras, and climbing into my house. I just wish I knew where they get in. I am guessing there's an errant eave with a hole that lets them get into the walls, then maybe there's a hole in my storage room somewhere whence they enter the house per se.

Here's the nasty part: I knew that bat was in the house last night. It started flying around the bedroom as soon as we got in bed and turned the TV off. Wei hid under the covers while I went to get the bat- whacking gear, but when I returned he was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. And believe me, I searched the whole place. We had to go to sleep knowing there was a bat in the house, possibly watching us from hiding, waiting for us to fall asleep so it could creep out and, as Deputy Barney Fife put it, "lay eggs in our hair." AND YET WE FELL ASLEEP ANYWAY.