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Garjana Grass

Some lessons, like the absence of a correlation between the size and the scale of a threat, are writ even larger when dealing with something that should not exist at all.


On its surface, Garjana Grass is rather unremarkable (barely a curio when compared to the majority of the things that concern the study of the paranormal and of the preternatural). An opportunistically parasitical plant that grows in sparse and sporadic patches - now seen only in Nepal but historically found across much of India and surrounding countries - it releases tiny barbed seeds that affix themselves to the unflowered buds of neighbouring flora and grow full and fat upon the nectars and pollens within.

If this method of propagation was once fruitful, it seems that some change in circumstance - perhaps a mutation of the Garjana Grass itself - has rendered it flawed almost to the point of unsustainability. Such dead ends are far from unnatural, evolution operates without the oversight of a guiding hand after all, but most examples lead inexorably and quietly towards extinction. Not so in this case, however, as the Garjana Grass has become nigh-on vicious in the violent death throes of trying to remain vital and viable.

The rate of successful implantations does not seem to have improved, indeed the spread of Garjana Grass has been reported to have continued to shrink, but those same seeds have become a potential threat to human life instead. Dangerous to inhale, but small enough that they might not draw attention as anything other than a non-specific irritant, these attacks are no more successful, thankfully. In fact, we can extrapolate that the unclear alignment of unusual chemical and biological coincidences has lessened the chances of a seed taking root.

Nonetheless - and despite such mercies - when such unlikely misfortunes do come to pass, they are catastrophic. It begins with a proliferation of rapidly ossifying malformations on the skull; an irregular low-slung crown of thick bony thorns that jut outwards and dig inwards. The rate at which they form is too fast for skin to stretch or grow to accommodate, instead splitting like overripe fruit, flesh never fully healing and causing constant and considerable discomfort. Even so, the pain and the permanently gory visage are far less significant than the internal changes.

Untempered fevers burning away reason, even without the weeping injuries of the walking wounded; the same brutal barbs that can be seen outside burrow inside to pierce and rend the brain, neurological damage exacerbating the descent into an insensible, ravening madness. Over a relatively short period of time, and with no promise or hope to stop or even stall the change, an affected person’s physical, mental and moral wellbeing are all stripped away as they become less and less recognisable as human.

In constant and chronic pain, between an original physical transformation (which condition rapidly deteriorates along a number of different and dehumanising paths as they become increasingly incapable of caring for themselves) and psychological devolution to an insensate rage, affected persons’ behaviour grows violent. Lashing out, at first an incidental effect, seems to offer them a temporary relief from their suffering; a release of endorphins and other naturally occurring hormones having been suggested as a possible explanation for brief periods of passivity following aggressive outbursts.

The staying of suffering though, even fleetingly, can be a problem if it comes at a cost equivalent to or greater than what necessitates it. Violence rewarded with a respite from agonies becomes addictive, habit-forming, on the back of the promise of a numbness that must feel like ecstasy in the face of what it replaces. Whatever reluctance might be there in the beginning is quickly quieted, a pragmatic cruelty and the utilitarian draw of sadism growing more reliably than the seeds of the Garjana Grass ever did.

Nastiness and neglect run together in creating something new from the fertile clay of a wrecked and rended human form - flesh and spirit corrupted in parallel - eschewing even the labels of monstrousness through the fall into something more essentially and irredeemably evil. The terminology changes even within dialects, informed more by the prevalent religious and cultural trends than the actual lingua franca, but the Garjana Grass is typically said to create - or provide the conditions for the manifestation of - demons.

Whether or not ones’ specific experience and ontology allow for literal hellspawn, the appearance and actions of those so deeply damned as to fall victim to Garjana Grass might give reason for pause, for reconsideration. Horrific enough even in the early stages of the affliction, the degeneration is continual (albeit at a less dramatic pace) but never fatal in and of itself. Even as it robs its victims of apparent vitality, it makes them far hardier than they were beforehand: They fall to ruin, but never entirely apart, unless they are deliberately destroyed.

Beyond a strength belied by their forms and born, in part, of a complete disregard for exceeding the limits of their musculoskeletal integrity, the Garjana Grass imbues the affected with other unnatural talents. They are possessed - a word used without acceding to any particular view of what turns people into unsophisticated beasts in these cases - of a capacity not only to withstand a much more significant amount of physical damage but to heal far faster than would have been possible previously despite other processes - metabolism and ageing - slowing markedly.

The allure of this potential path to immortality, once divorced from the insurmountable costs of losing one’s identity, is enough to drive an underground market not only in Garjana Grass itself (cuttings, seeds and even desiccated samples all have their price with specific collectors) but in those who have been transformed by it. Those taken and sold under such conditions are considered a cleaner resource - they are already lost - even where their eventual fate might, charitably, be a necropsy and not a vivisection.

Alongside the natural decline of the Garjana Grass’ spread, a determined effort has been made to restrict knowledge of its existence and redact identifying information from such sources that might allow lay-people to locate and exploit it. If it were more frequently dangerous it might have been deliberately culled, or given rise to a specific name for its victims at least. Instead - by whatever considerations such decisions are made - it has been spared for further study, and in the hope of commercialisation, until such time as this greed triggers a crisis that could have been avoided.


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