Hey kids! Have you ever had a busy week at school? A week where it felt like nothing could go right? How did you feel then? Tired? Weary? Like you couldn’t do another task even if you wanted to?
If any of the above is familiar, you might have experienced “The Burnout!”
The Burnout is a legendary creature who lives in creative spaces such as “The Stream.” It is a parasite that causes feelings of intense exhaustion in its hosts, feeding on their initiative and willpower as it stresses them out with a host of trifling tasks that have yet to be completed.
The Burnout looks like a living digestive tract, colored neutral green to aid in camouflage. It begins its life just a little larger than an acorn, but can quickly develop into winding shanks of digestive tract as it feeds on a host. Nature cannot be good or evil, but folklore suggests The Burnout has malice for its hosts. For example, it’s body is semi-transparent, meaning you can watch The Burnout digest your hopes and dreams as it feeds on you.
Scientists from the Society of Peripheral Studies have photographed The Burnout for the very first time at a small island in the Stream. There, a squirm (fun fact: groupings of worms are called a ‘squirm!’) of earthworms provided a tasty meal for this psychic beast. That’s right! Even garden variety (sorry) earthworms experience stress and Burnout.
SPS researchers observed the worms for months, as they tried to live their tiny lives in affliction from psychic attacks tied to work and ecological collapse. By the time many of the worms realized what was happening, it was almost too late.
But then the scientists observed something strange…
The worms appeared to fight back against the creature's influence by overcoming feelings of Burnout and despair by holding a rave. Scientists observed the worms playing and dancing in defiance of imminent ecological disruption, which would typically feed the ravenous Burnout beast for years.
Will their gamble pay off? Researchers make new observations about this tiny ecosystem every day. Keep reading Wildbooks to find out how it all ends!
Have you experienced The Burnout in your life? How has The Burnout affected our civilization throughout history? How can you live a creative existence even if you are under the spell of The Burnout? This issue of Wildbooks will answer all these questions and more! Don’t miss the quiz at the back of the magazine!
The first mention of The Burnout, or the stress creature, occurs in the 12th century. Venerable Boht, in his book Strange Creaturs of Abroad, describes the monster thus:
“And among the creaturs of the fields, none is so feared, so deadly as Buhnutt, the Bleake Beaste of Exhaustion. This foul thing, which I classify as a vegetable/fishe hybrid (for it grows in the field as well as the stream), saps the potency and the savor of life from its victims, reducing them to insensible husks that have but the appearance of human vitality.”
The Burnout thrived during the age of feudalism, growing unchecked in the fallow turnip fields where beleaguered serfs gave two thirds of their every waking hour to support their lords. The famous grotesque painting, St. Arthur and Ye Buhnutt, by Hieronymus Bosch shows an apocalyptic scene in a village plagued with The Burnout. The painting was unfortunately lost in the 16th century when its abbey burned to the ground, but Bruegel the Elder may have referenced this painting in his work Triumph of Death. Critics of the age said the latter work is too derivative and misses the bleak subtext of Bosch’s original.
Medieval peasants lived short, miserable lives marked only by intervals of ergotism and intense burnout. Estate managers for the nobility described seeing as many as 200 peasants going about their workday with “Gray-grim ringed eyes, lacking even, it seems, the will to sleep.”
For this reason, traditional Burnout-cleanses are observed by the worker caste in every corner of the world. In India, rural farmers take part in field purges once the harvest is brought in for the season. A troupe of children armed with torches physically burn the creature from its nesting holes in the fields. In Wales, people observed an ancient caroling tradition where singers dressed in The Burnout’s signature tentacles carol about all the deeds yet to be done and all the deeds “that are yet to be done that we do not yet know.” The Burnout comes to the door of each home in the village singing, “Please. Please let me in,” but the villagers are wise to ignore the call. Instead, the caroling signifies the beginning of a six-day debauch intended to drive the monster from the town.
The Burnout takes on a distinct Appalachian Gothic flavor in West Virginia, where mine workers fought off the mind-numbing weariness of work by composing long ballads about the monster.
The Burnout sleeping in the coal today
Sees your hand, bites away
Now your thoughts are of dreadful lore
Crooked foreman, Company store
Gone are thoughts of songs and love
Gone are thoughts of heaven above
Now The Burnout has your imagination spent
Thoughts of age, Thoughts of rent
The Coal Strike of 1902 may have been an organized attempt to purge The Burnout from the anthracite minefields of Western Pennsylvania. Miners were advised not to talk about The Burnout to visiting reporters from the coasts. Organizers felt a monster story, however valid, would make the workers look too provincial and thus undermine their position with the moderates in Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. Oral histories, however, show that The Burnout was foremost in the minds of some of the strikers. From mine worker Dale Sexton, recorded in 1942:
“Cheer went up when they read the news from DC. Boss gave us 9 hours instead’a ten, and a fifteen percent raise. I could feel the monster in my brain, just as I had every day since ma packed my first lunchpail and dad put a pick in my hand. The Burnout screamed, but in a good way. I felt clear. Like when you come outta the mine and take that first breath of outside air. We killed the beast.”
The Burnout is still out there, though, and modern hyper-skepticism refuses to acknowledge such things as psychic monsters. This is a problem, exacerbated by social pressures derived from puritanical expectations of work and thrift. We cannot acknowledge The Burnout’s existence in polite company. We are expected to tamp down feelings of exhaustion, artistic dry spells, frustration with our insurance companies, hustle culture, yellow bills reading FINAL NOTICE, and the parasitic clinging of student loans that only grow larger as the years roll on.
Suspiciously, these conditions all favor The Burnout. And we’re not supposed to talk about it.
Folklore, however, is a constant human endeavor and the beast has found a new home in the realm of conspiracy theory. With every facet of society, it seems, creating conditions that favor The Burnout, one must ask: is The Burnout behind it all? Is The Burnout worshiped in dark board rooms in every country and climate? Do our leaders pay fell homage to this disgusting beast of psychic burden, this dutch elm disease of the soul?
Conspiracists say you already know the answer.
The Burnout may be psychically feeding on worms AS WE SPEAK! Try not to panic. Instead, answer this quiz to learn if you are at risk.
I woke up this morning and thought..
I mostly feel…
If I had a million dollars I would…
When my cell phone rings, I…
Did you turn off the stove before you left the house today?
Are you sure?
Maybe you better check?
A productive morning, for me, begins with…
Are you still taking this quiz?
I experience a draining sensation when I think about tasks.
My stressors hang in the air before my eyes, seemingly tangible.
I have seen one of these stressors dangling from the tip of an ichorous, filthy stalk connected to a mass of digestive tracts.
My friends and family say I look…
Have you been hearing the chime of Slack notifications, even when your devices are not in the room with you? Do you experience “phantom cell vibrations?”
“My stressors mutate into new, but interconnected forms. My aversion to the dentist has transmuted into concerns over the suspicious crack in my ceiling and what that may imply about my home’s foundation.”
Did I attend the Burnout Eternal music festival last week?
Short answer Section: Based on the above, have you experienced The Burnout? How has The Burnout changed your life?
I’m not sure when the Burnout came to the Mounds. I was first aware of it when my friends were organizing a party. I used to love outdoor raves. The music. Friends. A campfire. I find myself unable to move from this desk. There’s a wildfire out there, and it seems so typical, the arc of the universe bending towards “why bother?” If I could just get up from this desk, maybe I could remember how to dance. If I could only…
It’s here. I see a thousand siren stressors before me dangling on putrescent, slimy stalks and I know The Burnout is in the room. That plane ticket isn’t going to book itself. Don’t forget about that time they broke my heart. How can I dance with 937 unread emails? Did I remember to think about thinking about marriage? Did I set that meeting to discuss what our meetings should be? Those Ersana tasks aren’t gonna Ersana themselves. When am I going to find a good grad school for my future baby worms? Those student loans aren’t going to forgive themselves. Don’t forget about that time I broke my own heart. The Burnout is probably eating my juicy memories of making trash art and dancing at parties as we speak, digesting them in long, iridescent ribbons. If I could just leave the desk, I would feel better. If I could complete even one task, maybe the stressors suspended just outside of my scope of vision would vanish. It is so hard to move. I am too tired to even feel appropriately gloomy.
Maybe I have just a little more left in me. Maybe if I could crawl away from this desk and put on a mask and some party clothes… Maybe if I could. Maybe if I could…