Standard Deviation

Freaks were in demand in the Medieval world, especially artificial ones. Fortunately for young Nicholas, we’re much more enlightened about deviance these days.

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This story was inspired by Victor Hugo’s horror story The Man Who Laughs, about a man who’d had a smile permanently carved on his face as a child by Comprachicos. Hugo describes these villains as follows:

The comprachicos, or comprapequenos, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today…

Comprachicos, as well as comprapequenos, is a compound Spanish word that means ‘child-buyers.’ The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them.

They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry. And what did they make of these children?


Why monsters?

To laugh.

The people needs laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side-show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters…

Thankfully, we don’t turn perfectly normal children into freaks anymore. Comprachicos are a thing of the past. Of course they are. Indeed, therapists prefer to talk about dyssemia (dys = difficulty, semes = nonverbal signs and signals) rather than ‘deviance.’ Dyssemia is a psychological affliction, whereas deviance, once a philosophical stance, is the province of statisticians.