This is no fantasy. Nothing that you are about to read comes from the realms of science fiction, comic books, or anything else — the following stories, all taken from 2019, are real. They happened, and in some cases they are still happening. Do not be afraid! Any worry that you may be feeling is proof that you are, in fact, still sane.
Every now and then, the news team here at SYFY WIRE will get an assignment that sounds so ridiculous and so insane that we feel it has to be a hoax. That, or someone is playing a prank on us. It happens all the time, but 2019 was a real banner year for that kind of occurrence. At almost every turn, there was some kind of real-life danger coming for us, and it was always more bizarre than anything genre fiction could dream up. Real life often is. Whether these moments came from rising technology, the world of nature, or sometimes even genre stories starting to become real themselves ... this was a year of danger and weirdness at every turn.
We are not afraid, however — and you shouldn't be, either. Despite the fear-mongering afoot in all of these real-life events, we are still here. Our walls still stand. Scare us all you want, real world! We are NOT afraid. Take your best and completely weird shot.
Into a Black Mirror, darkly
As the world around us continually tries to turn itself into an episode of Black Mirror, we remain unafraid. It's trying really, really hard, though.
Who could forget the horror of the episode called "Metalhead" of the aforementioned show? It's a hard one to forget, because it is terrifying. Scientists have apparently learned nothing, because this past year, MIT developed a "Mini cheetah robot" that definitely has more than a little in common with the death-delivering dog drone. Not content to just give robotic animal creations some kind of sentience, another group of scientists went ahead and took us one step closer to The Terminator when they created a cyborg hand that was able to solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle using A.I. Thanks so much for that, everyone. Kindly stand down.
As if robots weren't enough, terror came from above in the form of "unexplained, hypersonic, highly maneuverable UFOs" that were filmed by Navy pilots. If the thought of an alien invasion (without Will Smith) has you ready to hold your loved ones close, then guess what? Some enterprising folk have you covered in case a loved one (or you yourself) is not around. We're full circle back to Black Mirror here, because it is now possible to buy a robot that looks like either you or a loved one.
No, thank you! If we ever bought such a robot, we'd likely push it off a cliff like Hayley Atwell does in that particular episode of that continually haunting show. For some reason it's the robot hand that scares us the most here, but we will not give in to fear.
The wonderful world of nature ... with a dose of meth
The natural world and its inhabitants had plenty of drama to spread around this past year, as the animal kingdom refused to be left out of the party. The overall message? Humans should not mess around with nature, because nature will fight back, and life will, uh, find a way.
Case in point: Police in Alabama had to warn the public about flushing their drugs because of — and we can't believe we're writing this — the danger of creating "meth-gators." A three-eyed python gave the three-eyed raven from Game of Thrones a run for its money, though we don't know if this python contains the whole of human history with in it. Two words you certainly don't want to see put together are "cannibal" and "ants," but unfortunately that word combo just happened: This past year, "cannibal ants" built a thriving society within a nuclear bunker in Poland, and then they escaped.
Nuclear cannibal ants vs. meth-gators: Who wins? Trick question — the answer is that we all lose. Though, even if we did get attacked by ants or meth-ridden gators, we might not have it as bad as the person who had an actual "monster" living in their brain for 15 years. Hopefully that person did not live in Alabama, because that state didn't only host the meth-gators, they also had an invasion of killer wasps.
Not weird enough for you? All right, did you ever hear the true story of the spider that was found eating a fully grown bat outside someone's home in Texas? What else can that spider eat, we're wondering? Hopefully not a zombie deer, which was deemed a "misnomer" by the CDC (great, thanks), before the truth of the zombie deer turned out to be far worse than the fiction.
Life certainly found a way ... a way to be much, much stranger than genre fiction.
Cute, disturbing, knows it, owns it
News from the world of nature wasn't all bad, though. Some of it was adorable, but our defenses are still in place. We will not be fooled.
We won't be fooled by "Narwhal", the 10-week-old puppy who has a tail growing between his eyes. A tail isn't the same as a Narwhal horn, but we're sure that puppy can get up to trouble with it, especially if he meets the three-eyed python we already mentioned.
Might the puppy and the python care to have a night out on the town? If they did, then how would they get there? There's only one suitable way that we can think of, something so right and yet so wrong at the same time: For animals on the go, the best travel option would obviously be a tiny car driven by rats. Life has officially turned into something out of a very dark Muppet movie.
Leaping off the screen. Literally, run now
Something that everyone enjoys about genre movies is the ability to escape — but also the ability to reflect real life, especially when those parallels are so bizarre they're almost straight out of a sci-fi or horror film.
Do you want a phone skin that is ticklish, responds to touch, and looks like something from a David Cronenberg movie? If so, you're sick ... but you're also in luck. Ever take comfort that The Blob was fictional? Meet Le Blob, a "brainless slime with 720 sexes" that was toured by a French zoo. Oh, we almost forgot — Le Blob has le healing powers.
One woman got Stephen King's approval when she burned a Pennywise doll after it appeared in her front lawn (we approve as well), but we don't know what he said to the frightened first responders who turned up to help a girl dressed as Carrie after she had been in a real accident. We don't know what happened when someone found a giant Freddy Krueger glove in the back of their truck — we hope that they burned it as well, but you never know.
At least we can take comfort that Sauron, the dark lieutenant of Morgoth, greatest scourge of the Second and Third Ages of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth and one of the most evil entities ever devised, is in no way real. About that — guess again: A Texas man was diagnosed with a rare disorder that caused his eyes to glow.
Batman v. Blood Flood: Dawn of WTF
It's almost too much. We're not going to lie, we have never read all of these stories in one go before, and our defenses are weakening. They weaken even more when something hits our screen that puts everything else here to shame. What would that story be, you ask? Allow us to welcome you to the Iowa basement that got soaked with a 5-inch flood ... of blood. You never expect to write the words "blood flood" in the course of writing news, but here we are. Is there any hope?
Wouldn't you know it? There is! So many villains and monsters have seemingly come to life, but there was proof that one of humanity's greatest heroes might actually be real. He's the monster that the monsters run from, the one who makes the criminals cry in fear and pain, and with one look from him, even the most severe blood flood would dissipate like snow in the desert.
Batman is real.
On a White House economic report this year, a "super intern" was listed, and the name was none other than Bruce Wayne. Don't tell anyone that Wayne is actually Batman's secret identity, because we need him. Young Master Wayne likely has his hands full doing ... whatever he's doing at the White House, but we'll sleep a little easier just knowing that somewhere, the bat is beginning.
Is that all you have, 2019? Sure, you threw terrors both natural and man-made at us (and even Sauron, that was a low blow), but we've got the bat. We also have an undaunted spirit, and — despite our best efforts — hope! Our hope for the future remains undaunted, so come and do your worst, 2020. Come and get as strange as you want. We can take it, and we are not afraid.