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Unfiled March 3, 2003
 
The Schopenhauer Award: Meet Our Second Nominee!
 
 

As we explained in our last issue, the eXile has created this new feature, the Schopenhauer Award, to serve the spiritual needs of our readers. Concerned that some of you might be backsliding from pure Nihilism, we've come up with a dramatic way to remind you what the world is really like. Each week we'll introduce you to one of your fellow denizens of Slaveship Earth -- the kind of critters you might try not to think about, left to your own devices. We feel sure that after meeting the hideous chunks of venomous, parasitic protoplasm sharing this world with you, you'll be ready to agree with our Patron Saint, Arthur Schopenhauer, that, "unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, then our existence must have no object whatever." Here to remind you of that bedrock truth is our second Schopenhauer Award nominee...

Flecker's Box Jellyfish

Right now, billions of these perfect killing machines are floating through the tropical oceans. Like all box jellyfish, this one is virtually invisible in the water: its "bell" is nothing but a squat mound of transparent protoplasm with four simple eyes, one on each side. You can see right through the creature's head, so you can see at a glance it has nothing even resembling a brain. It doesn't need a brain. It has something better: a set of sixty tentacles two meters long. These tentacles are longer and more lethal than those of any other box jelly. They're normally light blue, which means that when the animal is floating in the current they're almost impossible to see. Besides, the Flecker's box jelly prefers muddy water, giving it even better camouflage. It's particularly fond of shorelines, and most of its victims are little children who are playing or wading.

When a child stumbles into the creature's tentacles, they do what they were designed to do. Each animal has five billion stinging cells, and as soon as those cells come into contact with another animal -- say, the ankle of a wading child -- they fire.

This creature's venom is 200 times more powerful than that of any other box jelly. And this venom is almost miraculous in its effect. For starters, it attacks the skin where the tentacle brushed the victim's body. So the first thing a child who's been stung will notice is agonizing pain, as if a red-hot wire had been drawn across the skin. If the victim survives, there will be severe permanent scarring wherever the tentacle touched. But usually the victim won't survive, because after eating away the skin, the venom goes after the blood vessels. Travelling down the veins and arteries, it sizzles them until the victim's innards are nothing but a mass of bloody, disorganized flesh. But that's only the warm-up. The venom, after spreading throughout the victim's body, triggers muscle spasms so violent that the heart -- and remember, kids, the heart's just a muscle! -- finally seizes up and stops, like an overheated Plymouth.

By this point the victim, who is usually a village kid just looking for some fish to feed his family, is probably glad to die. The whole process can happen in a few minutes, so that many victims, especially children, die before any aid arrives. There you have it: a perfect picture of life on dear old Earth: a child dying in agony on a warm beach simply because it happened to brush the tentacle of a mindless lump of shrimp-hunting nightmare.

The Flecker's box jelly is known to have killed at least 70 people in Australia. No one knows how many have died in other areas of its range, especially New Guinea. Those people don't get much publicity when they die. And tourists who like to dream about being chomped by a crocodile or a shark somehow don't like even thinking about Flecker's box jelly, even though it's a lot more likely to kill them. It's just not very romantic.

So if any of you believers run into Jesus, ask him why his dad made the Flecker's box jelly. And if any of you secular humanists run into...oh, say Voltaire, or Gandhi...well, you just ask them the same thing. And if you happen to run into Tolstoy -- wait, come to think of it, don't ask him anything. Just tie him to a rope and drag him behind a boat along the shoreline of Northern Queensland during Monsoon season, when the Flecker's box jellies flock to the beaches. He'll have an epiphany you can hear for miles.

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