THE TIPPITY TWITCHET – Molothrus Praecordia

Interview excerpt courtesy of Dr. Albina Starling

DR. STARLING: [pen scratching on paper] … And when Oscar talked about the house, what did he say?

MELISSA: Oh. I mean, lots of stuff, at first. The bad shape it was in. The work he’d been doing. Weird stuff he’d find. Like, I guess the guy who’d owned it before had been, like, a hoarder, or whatever. And he left a bunch of stuff behind that the cleaning people missed.

S: What kind of things?

M: Does it matter?

S: It might.

M: Like, creepy old stuff. A box full of old porn that was. Y’know. Used. A couple of old mayonnaise jars that were full of doll parts, all sorted out. Hands and feet and stuff. That sort of thing. The one he really got hooked on was the picture.

S: The picture?

M: A polaroid with a person in it. They were holding something… slimy. It was out of focus.

S: What did the person look like? Was it a man or a woman?

M: You couldn’t tell. They were wearing a mask.

S: A mask?

M: A rabbit mask. Like, a white rabbit. He told me he found it in the pages of an old Reader’s Digest.

S: And he was interested in the photograph? What did he say?

M: He got kind of freaked out, at first. I mean, I don’t blame him [laughs.] But later, he called me and he said he’d found out more. About the picture, I mean. I told him to throw it away, but…

S: When was this?

M: February, I think. I remember him telling me that the furnace was broken. I told him to get it fixed, or to call someone, because he said it’d been broken for a while now. But he just laughed. And then he kept talking about the picture.

S: Hm. [sound of pen on paper, shuffling] Was that when you stopped talking to him?

M: A month or two after that, maybe. He would call, and all he would talk about was the picture. What he’d found. Every time I tried to change the subject, he would cut me off, keep talking. When I told him I wanted to talk about something else, he’d snap at me. I stopped answering his calls after that.

S: And did he say what he found?

M: He… tried. It was never really clear.

S: Do you remember anything specific?

M: No ma’am. I tried not to.

S: I see. [pen scratching.] And what about the last time you saw Oscar? What happened then?

M: It’s all in the email.

S: I’d like to hear it from you, if I could.

M: I went back home for a week, and heard that Oscar had been sick. So I sucked it up and went out to see him. [a throat clearing.]

S: And?

M: It was bad.

S: How so?

M: He was… thin. Too thin. He smelled awful. Big circles under his eyes. And his eyes were bright, like candles. They were the only part of him that seemed alive. He told me to come in, so I did. It… it stank in there. Part of it was the bathroom. Part of it was– he’d been eating the mice from the traps in the kitchen, because he was out of food. He wouldn’t eat them all at once. Some parts he saved for later. I told him… I told him he needed help. But he was close, he said. So close. I asked him, close to what? He just kept looking at me, like he was hungry. So I left. When I came back with cops, he was gone.

S: I’ve read the police report. They said there was no sign of him?

M: No ma’am. No sign. They went through the whole house– nothing. All of his clothes, his shoes, his wallet– everything was still there. I even found the picture.

S: [clearing throat, click of a pen on the desk.] … You did?

M: I did. That’s why I emailed you. I found something. I need your help. We’ve got to find out more.

There is a bird that lives in the United States called a cowbird. It’s an unremarkable bird, all things considered— brown and black feathers, a little bigger than average. Nothing special. What makes it remarkable is this: when it wants to reproduce, it lays its egg in another bird’s nest, letting its victim raise the Cowbird’s fledgling as its own.

The Tippity Twitchet is like a cowbird, except it lays its eggs in your thoughts. It is both a creature and an urge; the strange, driving urge to bring home a faded old wedding dress, or to investigate the burned-down house at the top of the hill. Each Tippity Twitchet is different— the similarity is, they all nest in something remarkable. When someone investigates, it digs in and lays its first egg.

Whenever a character investigates a Tippity Twitchet’s nest, she must make a Resolve + Composure roll. If the roll is a failure, the character gains a living, parasitic Aspiration: “Find out more.”

This Aspiration acts as normal, with a few exceptions. First, although the victim gains a beat when the Aspiration is resolved, the Aspiration never goes away— each clue leads to another bigger, more unsettling clue. Second, each time the character resolves this Aspiration, she should come across something that causes her to test for Integrity. It is up to the Storyteller to decide what happens, of course, but each clue should always be uncanny enough to force a breaking point.

The first time the victim loses a point of Integrity, she gains the “Soulless” condition as the egg hatches. As the fledgeling feeds on its victim’s mind, the clues become stranger. Hallucinations begin to appear, first to the victim, then to the people around them, all of them pointing towards… something. Regardless, every clue the victim follows feeds the Tippity Twitchet.

If the victim fails an Integrity roll and does not wish to lose the Integrity point, however, she can instead choose to replace one of her own Aspirations with another parasite: “Protect the nest.” Likewise, each time it resolves, add a beat and force a breaking point as the victim begins to view everything with hostility. Once the victim loses all of their Integrity and Willpower to the fledgeling’s hunger, they gain the “Thrall” condition, and the parasites drive their mangled host to find a new nest. Hopefully, her friends find out what’s wrong before then.

If her companions notice the victim acting strange, there are a number of options. Some say the best way to kill a Tippity Twitchet is to burn the nest, and ignore the mystery. Others say that the mystery is the key— get to the bottom of it, and you find the monster. Another—admittedly unpopular—theory is that the Tippity Twitchet latches on to a mystery that already exists. The Hotel Buchanan Incident had a body count, after all, no matter what the investigators said. That’s not the Tippity Twitchet’s M.O.

If the investigators do manage to kill it, the victim loses her Soulless condition. With every willpower dot gained following the death of the Tippity Twitchet, the fledgelings are strangled and the parasitic Aspirations are destroyed. Shaken, the investigators close the book on this particular chapter, a little more careful now about what they investigate.