This ICHF was written by Saurotitan, whose work you can find at https://thearchivistspen.wordpress.com/. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
In the year 1995, a book by the name of The Relic was published. The authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, were each incredibly skilled in their craft, and had a knack for creating sci-fi horror mysteries once they put their heads together. The protagonist of most of these horror whodunnits, FBI Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, would go on to have many more adventures involving vaguely supernatural enemies, but for his first opponent subtlety was not on the menu. Brains, however, were the special of the day.
Mbwun, the monster of the piece, had its origin in a plant found only in the jungles atop a tepui hidden in the Amazon basin. As with every lost and untouched ecosystem in this kind of book, an expedition was sent to catalogue the culture of an uncontacted tribe living nearby. Taking several artifacts back to the United States, the expedition packed the crates with samples of the aforementioned plant. A little while after the expedition returned to the US, the long-concealed ecosystem that hosted the plant was destroyed. A little quirk of this plant’s biology, a symbiotic virus that collects DNA to combine with any living thing that eats enough of it. Any human being who was dosed with this plant would transform into an ape/dinosaur hybrid, a transformation that would cease if the supply of a chemical found in the plant was cut off. If the transformation ended, however, the victim’s status as a living being would also cease, as dramatically shifting your body’s layout twice in your life is a surefire way to end up dead.
Mbwun is forced to follow the only remaining samples of the plant sustaining its existence to a museum in New York City, and probably would have been perfectly fine until the dried packing material ran out a few years down the line, but then a night guard locked up the crates to keep what he assumed were rodents from getting at the artefacts. This is where things go south for everyone working in the museum, as Mbwun had to look for an alternate source of the chemicals provided by eating the mutagenic plant. It just so happened that these chemicals could also be found in the hypothalamus of humans, and that museums are wonderfully good places to stalk the unsuspecting public in order feed your unnatural monster body. Throw in a skeptical team of law enforcement officials, host a massive social gathering there in the climax, and you’ve got a plot. ICHFs aren’t about summarizing a novel, however – it’s time to talk about the monster.
Mbwun itself is an interestingly designed beast, seemingly tailor-made to hunt humans. With the face and arms of a great ape and the lower limbs of a saurian reptile, the creature evokes a dark primordial fear of predators that terrorized our collective ancestors in prehistory. The bullet-proof skin renders one of the greatest tools and defenses of modern civilization useless, turning even the bravest of men into a frightened and woefully underequipped prey animal. On top of all that, Mbwun is a tragic monster, a man thought lost in the initial expedition returning to the place he once worked alongside those who would become his victims. Inside the rampaging predator is a human mind, capable of regretting the actions he must take to stay alive and planning the best way to kill an unsuspecting museumgoer. Mbwun draws on both the natural and the unnatural, being a creature simply seeking to survive while owing its origins to the unwilling mutation of a normal human being. It’s a monster built from unrelated animals who lived in vastly different parts of earth’s history, somehow managing to form an efficient killing machine capable of making Jurassic Park’s velociraptors look like lightweights.
Stories where the monster is a victim of circumstances, was formerly human, or attack a new museum exhibit aren’t rare, but The Relic is somewhat unique in that it seems to actually care about creating a mystery along with the creature-feature elements. I was lured in by the dinosaur-adjacent nature of the monster, but even a great monster is nothing without its story to support it – this novel, I’m glad to say, is worthy of its monstrous main attraction.
Even though it doesn’t represent the book monster as well, the movie monster is still great. Also, feel free to read my own blog if anyone happened to like what I wrote for Horrorflora. Sorry for the shameless plug
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