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RED WORM TIME is begin.
July 5, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Congratulation! You have a fruit! A fruit is not ready currently. You must prepare a fruit. The color of a fruit is green. The color of a fruit to taste great and put inside your body is red.

[YES! A link to SomethingAwful "dot com." BUT.]

With no particular designation or announcement that it was any different from the usual fare, SA's Zack Parsons published these pieces of a sinister, surprising, and delightful horror story over the past eight months or so. The Instruction Series' use of language and of its own internet format lead me to genuinely consider it, in its completed form, an example of the best of the web.

(Best read in chronological order, as given)
posted by Countess Elena (64 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am so confused.
posted by kbanas at 4:02 PM on July 5, 2008


With the right drugs, these texts clarify all that is meaningful in the universe.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2008


But what?
posted by Flunkie at 4:10 PM on July 5, 2008


Hello? I read the all of links in order you that presented them.

I think maybe did they do something to my smart. I feel very dumber. Head feels like fruit baby meat mush in blender with confusion in it.
posted by loquacious at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Huh?
posted by tkchrist at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2008


:gb2gbs:
posted by Mikey-San at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of THIS IS FUN TO MAKE A BLOG ON THE COMPUTER WEBSITE.
posted by The White Hat at 4:17 PM on July 5, 2008


I feel dirty now.
posted by orthogonality at 4:18 PM on July 5, 2008


Well original poster, YOU'VE read them all, so please give us the synopsis so we know what the hell this is, and what the big payoff is- a horror story? What's the gimmick, a "soylent green" type jobbie job?

See, if I spend 20 minutes reading these various links, that's 20 minutes I'm not devoting to curing cancer, or perfecting desktop bubble fusion. kthxbye.
posted by hincandenza at 4:19 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"2. A plant gives a babie" Well, at last I get the straight unvarnished truth. No more of that stork nonsense.
posted by Cranberry at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2008


Would rather dirty be than dumb! Dumb don't wash off! Help me eating hammer and wire sandwich! I look at car battery and wonder if good to eat! Fuck! Rocks!
posted by loquacious at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Reading the Words From Below linked from the final installment made things clear but not nearly as interesting. I was hoping for a cool story about subjective mental and cognitive experiences--something like "The Empire of T'ang Lang"--but alas, this was not the case.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:23 PM on July 5, 2008


Even loquacious can't follow this post, and if he can't who can?
posted by nola at 4:23 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a story of humanity becoming infected with an epidemic of a strain of Cordyceps fungus, which takes over the control centers of the brain, causing the entire infected population to be controlled in a collective by the fungus itself. That is why there are INSTRUCTIONS.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:24 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


There seems to be a final link to a Tom Clancy clone's "other side's story". I'm arsed if I'm gonna read it in detail, though, but a quick scan gives enough clues about what the heck was all that about (and ruins the surprise if you actually liked the previous "instructions"). I hate hate hate Tom Clancy.
posted by Iosephus at 4:24 PM on July 5, 2008


Something is indeed Awful.
posted by CKmtl at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2008


(Or what the Countess said. I'm always late, shesh.)
posted by Iosephus at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2008


C'mon... no one comes to MF for links to Something Sophomoric Awful.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:27 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Solution [spoilers]
posted by tracert at 4:29 PM on July 5, 2008


What a blessing from the codex
posted by boo_radley at 4:36 PM on July 5, 2008


Codyceps = freaky.

This = incoherent.
posted by Justinian at 4:37 PM on July 5, 2008


Well, I enjoyed the cryptic plot that developed over the past few months. If you guys liked mom's recipes, I don't see why you aren't down with the words from THE CENTER.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 4:38 PM on July 5, 2008


I'm reminded strongly of the packaging on Dr. Bronner's soaps.
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 4:40 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I liked it. The weird utopianism and bio-horror, combined with a sense that something was cognitively amiss came through clearly for me in the instructions pieces. The backstory/explanation thing goes on for quite too long, though.
posted by treepour at 4:40 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe this has been posted to the blue before, but in case you missed it:

Cordyceps Fungus
posted by Justinian at 4:40 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


They need to do way instain mother>
posted by stavrogin at 4:41 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, it turns out if you just jump to the last entry, you can find a link to the "other side" view, which is written in human. That link is actually really, really good and makes the weird entries have a context that makes real sense. If the OP had given some indication of that being at the end, with it linked, this would have been a better post I think. Otherwise it seems like a pointless lolcat-inspired timecube rambling.

The following is a first-half spoilery recap of the beginning of the readable part of this collection.

------------- start more spoiler-y section -------------

Basically, this whole thing is like a cross between "I Am Legend"/"28 Days Later" and "The Happening". Plant virus infects all living things, makes them violent and seek only to propagate the virus. It hits America first, the president suspends the Constitution, people are huddled in bunkers, the military crassly exterminates bunkers simply to scavenge for supplies as thousands suffocated or killed.

Eventually, the only human survivors are in a few bunkers while topside the humans left are no longer violent and have become almost a new become some new species, completely at peace with the world. To wit:

But it was worse than even that. These new men, these impostors that stood in our place, were blessed. Fish leapt into their nets. Dogs and cats followed behind them. When a fire erupted whole communities would rush together and methodically extinguish the flames.

Images streamed down to our bunkers from our last glittering gems of technology, each image more surreal than the last. Men swam with sharks off the California coast. Children played with lions at a park in Brooklyn. Fear and violence seemed banished along with us.

What existed on the surface in our absence was not the decomposing remains of our artifice, but rather a new Eden, populated by fearless creatures at peace with one another. New things began to grow, new animals began to appear. Birds and mammals and insects all changed by the verdant growth and the strange influence of the spores.
All well and good, except the government of the humans below ground aren't content with letting people know the truth, since they'd probably throw open the bunker doors and rejoin in an Eden.

------------- end more spoiler-y section -------------
posted by hincandenza at 4:50 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Interesting idea, executed poorly. There was no need to make the instructions (from the central intelligence) difficult to understand or to use a confusing voice. Come to think of it, making the central intelligence communicate confusingly actually hurts the central plot conceit; what do you do if you've got the spore but you don't understand the instructions? Hell, I don't have the spore and I don't understand the instructions.

And then the flip side of the story was just apocalyptic tripe. And unnecessary apocalyptic tripe; if you need 30 pages of explanation to make ten pages of text understood, you've failed.

And was I the only one who smelled a whiff of War Against the Chtorr?
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:55 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this something I would need a full body zombie tattoo to understand?
posted by miss lynnster at 4:58 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this Countess Elena. Really neat, and I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:03 PM on July 5, 2008


And was I the only one who smelled a whiff of War Against the Chtorr?

David Gerrold claims he's still hard at work on A METHOD FOR MADNESS and it'll be ready real soon now. Real soon. Really.

I expect to be dead before that happens.
posted by Justinian at 5:03 PM on July 5, 2008


Iosephus: There seems to be a final link to a Tom Clancy clone's "other side's story". I'm arsed if I'm gonna read it in detail, though, but a quick scan gives enough clues about what the heck was all that about (and ruins the surprise if you actually liked the previous "instructions"). I hate hate hate Tom Clancy.
It's a shame you didn't read it in more detail, because outside of the use of military jargon, it's decidedly un-Clancy like. If anything it's a good sci-fi short-story in itself, and offers a metaphor for some more real-world concerns.

I think in general it's a reflection of the power of memes; a pondering of the same human motivation that made us so irrationally fearful of communism (the big red worm) and led to the kind of extremist thinking parodied in "Dr. Strangelove"; and even a metaphor for religious beliefs. After all, the world the remaining humans so crassly destroy in the interests of their own political power, etc, is truly an Eden- and as the story noted, in one of the details you glossed over, the "big red worms" were us- they were mutated humans coordinating the Eden. The fungus was coordinated into positive action by these big red worms which are really just another form of human being, genetically.

Everyone is at peace, everything is joyous, and everything is balanced- death and pain only occur when necessary for life's survival, and in the most peaceable way possible. The sick and wounded animals give themselves up freely so others live, the groups organize in perfect harmony, and it's almost a perfect representation of the notion in Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Basically, it's an Edenic paradise, yet a significant number of humans don't want paradise- they reject it in favor of greed, fear, and desire. The generals in their bunkers drool over cutting up the new world into an American empire, nuking cities of undesirable countries to "eradicate" the fungus, etc.
posted by hincandenza at 5:13 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Basically, it's an Edenic paradise, yet a significant number of humans don't want paradise- they reject it in favor of greed, fear, and desire.

You probably thought that CHILDHOOD'S END had a happy ending, too, didn't you? Personally, I'll skip being made part of the cosmic space goo, thanks.

Nuke the fungus from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.
posted by Justinian at 5:18 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


The (real life) protozoa Toxoplasma godnii has two stages to its life cycle:

In one stage, it reproduces sexually with other members of its species. This is done while it is a parasite inside of a cat.

When the cat excretes, some of these little buggers also come out. From there, they can infect other large creatures, such as birds and rodents.

The other stage is in those non-cat creatures, where it reproduces asexually. If such an infected creature gets eaten by a cat, it's back to sexual reproduction.

The cool / horrifying portion is this:

It's been shown that (at least) rats and mice who are infected by this thing become less wary of cats. In fact, some of them actively seek out cats (searching for the smell of cat urine).

Incidentally, it's estimated that something like one or two out of every three humans is infected as well, and there is some indication that it might affect the behavior of humans as well.
posted by Flunkie at 5:40 PM on July 5, 2008


I CAN'T BRAIN TODAY I HAVE THE DUMB
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:45 PM on July 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


Instruction for a FPP

Congratulation! You have a FPP!

A FPP is not ready currently. You must prepare a FPP. The color of a FPP is grey. The color of a FPP to taste great and put inside your body is blue.

A FPP when grey is furious.

You propose that? Not a good idea!

A grey FPP become a post is bad. A FPP at grey carries vengeful riposte.
posted by public at 6:14 PM on July 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


I miss eggagog.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:19 PM on July 5, 2008


Well I liked it, so there.
posted by revgeorge at 6:33 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems like the idea of a graphic novel fused with the conceptual end purposes of an Ace Double, gifted with limited telepresence. Or metapresence. Or what ever -presence is obtained from being located primarily on/via the interwebbentubens.

I think.


The mans from below will come in the many and bring their machines. The fast metal, the fire, the buzzing machines.


Shut up, Virgo. I think I'm in love.

Be a friend to a fruit and it will not find a time to hurt you is my new life motto from here on out.
posted by Minus215Cee at 7:01 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also reminds me of the Dionaea House.
posted by The White Hat at 7:05 PM on July 5, 2008


I've loved this ever since it started. I love stories taking place inside abnormal minds, be they mad, rotting, or infected.

SomethingAwful gets a bad rap. It's a hit-or-miss site, but when it hits, it's a smash.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:09 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sad to be forgot instruction for a peace.
posted by carsonb at 7:20 PM on July 5, 2008


I thought this was great. I haven't read "The View From Below" yet, but I will in a few minutes.

Thanks very much for this post. Like folks before me have mentioned, I wouldn't have ever been made aware of it otherwise, either.
posted by perilous at 7:39 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brilliant.
posted by vkxmai at 8:02 PM on July 5, 2008


"mind and flower, node and worm,
in compound small, planet yearns.
growth dream soon unlock we prison,
human beware, planet risen!
"like you poem we, earthlal? new human skill learn we."

"Pretty dreadful, Voice. What is this 'growth dream?' You keep alluding to it."

"growth dream soon is. epochal blooming we. mind and flower, dreaming we
of great why. earthhumans, thoughts many, make they growth dream sooner.
plant we many many many. great pruning we of animal we. also animal you.
beginning again of cycle."

"You mean this is going to wipe out most animal life on the planet?
Including all the humans?"

"not certain we. never before this clearly think we. from humans
learn we much, especially earthlal. earthlal friend we. will
often remember we earthlal in next cycle."
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:06 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Basically, it's an Edenic paradise, yet a significant number of humans don't want paradise- they reject it in favor of greed, fear, and desire.

Yeah, this sounds like the kind of thing Captain Kirk liked to passionately rail against, because MY ANGER, MY GREED, MY DESTRUCTIVENESS... they are part of what... makes... me human.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:22 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Great story, really well done - thanks -
posted by facetious at 8:41 PM on July 5, 2008


I thought this was fantastic. I remember being confused by the gradual drift of the 'instruction for a x' series from cute and funny to something a lot more sinister. I love the effort that was put into this, and I liked the accompanying story that made sense out of all of it. I say Bravo!

I wonder what happens to London?
posted by oxford blue at 9:00 PM on July 5, 2008


Also, tangentially, the CDC reports that red tides create aerosolized clouds of brevetoxin which increase diagnoses of respiratory illness by 54%.
posted by The White Hat at 9:14 PM on July 5, 2008


I is made of meat. But RED WORM is not my friend.

Seriously, this was awesome. Bordering on brilliant. Thanks for pointing it out, I never would have seen it otherwise.
posted by Caduceus at 9:33 PM on July 5, 2008


Is your pineal gland compatible with our needs?

That was a long read, but worthwhile. Use of the different documents reminded me of Watchmen. Note there's at least one more instruction than linked to in the fpp.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:57 PM on July 5, 2008


This was great. Thanks for the spoilers, I wouldn't have read it through otherwise.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:59 PM on July 5, 2008


Here it come, shething.

*adds to fucking phrasebook*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:28 PM on July 5, 2008


I thought it was great. Thanks a lot!

Actually it reminded me mostly of World War Z.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:20 AM on July 6, 2008


I read SA daily, and I almost always enjoy whatever Zack Parsons writes. The "Instruction for a..." series was an exception to that rule, but now that I know there's a companion article with spoilers, I might give it another chance.

One of my favourite Zack Parsons stories: Four Days in Winter - part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4.
posted by threetoed at 12:51 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


also their youtube vid.

i thought it was pretty good. the view from below was a little cliche but i didn't think the fungus stuff was too confusing.. but then i had just been watching a zombie movie so what was going on was a lot more immediate.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:12 AM on July 6, 2008


Incidentally, it's estimated that something like one or two out of every three humans is infected as well, and there is some indication that it might affect the behavior of humans as well.

The cat hoarder is a portly beast whose environment typically consists of gingham decor, Precious Moments Figurines and Mary Higgins Clark novels.

It subsists primarily on frozen Lean Cuisine dinners and Snackwells in such quantity as to negate the intended purpose of such sustenance.

The nocturnal activities of the hoarder include attending parties for MLM schemes such as Partylite or Pampered Chef.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:28 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


On reflection, I'm not sure how much of an Eden it is when you only glean that aspect from the humans' account. Aside from the (title of) "instruction for peace" I had no idea anything was idyllic from the instructions.

But then, it must say something positive for the piece if I'm still thinking about this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2008


So, was the Londoner at the end also infected? That's how I read it, which I thought made for a great ending. I enjoyed the ending either way, actually.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:31 AM on July 6, 2008


BlackLeotardFront beat me to it, I liked this better when it was World War Z.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2008


Okay, this it pretty awesome. I have to read through the view from below now, but overall I love the style of the other bits and the need to try and distill information from what you're reading to put together a cohesive view of what's going on. As things start slowly falling a bit more into place it gets even cooler.

Not sure if reading the alternate view can be as good (I think mostly because the lack of a coherent picture is what made the storytelling of the first part so neat) but I suppose it will be a nice companion to the first part and will fill in specific details. Thanks very much for this post, it definitely proved me with a good way to burn time on a lazy sunday.
posted by Stunt at 2:30 PM on July 6, 2008


I found the "Instruction for a What?!?" to be particularly illuminating so I will reproduce it here in its entirety:

Instruction for a What?!?

Friday, June 27, 2008 Update by Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons

The "Instruction for..." series is nearing its end. Next Friday will be the final installment of the series and I've got some fun things planned. Some questions will be answered, some won't, but after the urging from readers on the forums I will be publishing some supplementary information.

This info will be presented as a condensed companion to the "Instruction for..." series. I feel I might have given the impression that this stuff is going to be dry notes. To the contrary, it is a ton of material written and unused throughout the series from the perspective of the "Mans From Below", and I hope it will be as entertaining as the main articles have been. I've resisted the urge to fill things in from a more conventional perspective and I intend to stick that one out through the main series.

HOWEVER!

If you are enjoying the way the story has been presented and you don't want things spoiled by more details I suggest you stay away from my Daily Dirt next Friday. This parallel storyline will tell the tale of the subterranean faction and provide insight that you mind find more accessible, but it could also ruin some of the mystery. What I really came up with will probably never be as cool as what you imagined.

If you don't want to see it, I don't want you seeing the zipper on the monster suit.

- Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons


Something Awful certainly has its own unique flavor, of which I am quite fond, but could suffer some aggressive editing -- which they have left as the responsibility of the reader. I only read two of the instructions and less than half of the back story and loved it. And would'nt have seen it 'cept for the Countess.
posted by headless at 4:22 PM on July 6, 2008


Awesome.
posted by juv3nal at 10:11 AM on July 7, 2008


i like it!
posted by joelf at 11:26 AM on July 7, 2008


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