Diabolical Plots #61, March 2020

Diabolical Plots #61, March 2020

The Eat Me Drink Me Challenge” by Chris Kuriata

The Old Ones, Great and Small” by Rajiv Moté

Reviewed by Tara Grímravn

This month in Diabolical Plots, there is a pair of interesting stories on offer, both providing a fresh twist on a couple of old favorites. We rarely think about Alice or her Wonderland friends, after all, and the name Cthulhu still slips slivers of icy dread into many a reader’s veins. In these tales, you’ll meet such familiar faces—just don’t expect the same results.

“The Eat Me Drink Me Challenge” by Chris Kuriata

Many years ago, the Mad Hatter was forced to leave Wonderland or be executed by the Queen of Hearts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after his arrival in our world that he fell in with a bad crowd—a group of anarchists called the Gonzo Flamingos. When the FBI infiltrated the group in the 1980s, Hatter cut a deal with them, providing the U.S. military a sample of the Eat Me Drink Me potion, but it wasn’t long before the Queen sent a shipment of the stuff to America’s Cold War enemies, the Russians. By the late 1990s, the drug had been turned into a recreational past time and sexual aid. In more recent times, it’s started trending as the internet’s newest answer to the Tide Pod Challenge.

The Mad Hatter has long been my favorite character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Kuriata’s story, while most certainly written in an understated manner, did a fantastic job at maintaining the sense of playfulness one might associate with the character despite the not-so-lighthearted subject matter. Of course, the narrative isn’t centered on the Hatter—his activities are referenced but they are not the focus. Instead, they serve as more of a catalyst for the tale’s actual events, which have some rather interesting consequences for the world at large.

“The Old Ones, Great and Small” by Rajiv Moté

Humans are nothing if not resilient. The newly-remodeled Miskatonic Zoo is proof of that, sure enough, now that the former Cosmic terrors have been subjugated and put on display for the enjoyment of the crowds. As he leads his grandchildren through the creatures on display, Mr. Holyoke considers the all-too-human tendency to dominate what we don’t understand and fear.

Moté’s Lovecraftian tale is honestly quite refreshing. Readers won’t find eerie or terrifying monsters here or even any proselytizing of humanity’s ultimate doom at the hands of the Great Old Ones. No, in Moté’s world, even the great Cthulhu himself has been demoted to existing as a mere sideshow, retaining barely a glimmer of his former glory, while Shoggoths serve as little more than pony rides for children’s amusement. Still, despite the “family fun” setting, this isn’t a lighthearted piece. The overall tone of the story is solemn and introspective. I honestly quite enjoyed it.