Saturday, September 28, 2013

Paranormal Paranoia

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PEOPLE
by Chuck Miller


Mary Black mounted the rickety steps and pounded on the front door of the little shack.

"Mister Carl!" she yelled. "You in there?"

John Jones stood at the bottom of the steps, looking around the area in front of the cabin. There was junk everywhere, parts of old washing machines and things.

"Good grief!" came a voice from inside the shack. "You don't hafta tear my door down!"

Mary stepped back. The door swung open and there stood an old man. He could have been sixty or a hundred, John thought.

"Don't you remember me?" Mary said, giving a name John had never heard before. The man chewed on it for a little while, then his eyes lit up.

"I do remember you, sure enough!" he said. "Took me a minute. You and that other little girl used to go fishing down in that old creek."

"That's right."

"I'll be dang! This is sure a surprise. Come on in and sit down."

John and Mary took seats on a couple of packing crates in Old Carl's cramped living room. The old man sat down in a well-worn armchair. They had evidently interrupted his dinner; a plate of half-eaten food sat on top of  another packing crate next to the chair.

"It's nice to see you," said Mary. "But we didn't come just to be sociable, I'm afraid. It so happens that I work for Air Force Intelligence now, and I want to know if you've seen anything up here lately that ought not to be here. For example, have you seen anything weird in the sky at night? Especially on that other hill over yonder, within the last few days."

"Yeah," Carl said, "I seen some funny lights. Red ones-- big and quiet, not like airplanes. Five or six nights ago, I guess. Looked like something big mighta landed, in fact. I couldn't see whatever the lights was attached to, though."

On September 12, 1952-- barely a week ago-- three young boys had seen a "ball of fire" cross the sky and alight somewhere near the top of a hill. The boys rounded up a couple of adults and went to investigate. When they reached their destination, they were confronted with a horror from out of this world-- a hissing green monster that "looked worse than Frankenstein," according to one witness. It was ten feet tall, they said, with an enormous head and burning eyes, and it appeared to be wearing a "pleated skirt." It gave off a horrible stench. The witnesses fled and made a report.


Mary Black, a native Appalachian who had lived in Flatwoods as a child, and had been placed in charge of the investigation. She and Jones did not work for Air Force Intelligence-- this was being looked at by a more shadowy agency. The Cold War was on, and one never knew when a purported flying saucer might actually be something from behind the Iron Curtain. "We're going to a little cabin about halfway up this hill," she had informed John shortly after their arrival. "From there, a person has a fine view of the hill where those people saw their monster. A man known as Old Carl lives in that cabin, and I want to talk to him first. I bet no one else has."

So here they were. And it didn't look as though Mary's brainstorm was going to bear fruit.

"Ever seen a green monster?" John asked.

The old man eyed him curiously and said, "Can't say I have."

"I remember hearing stories about you," Mary said with a smile. "People used to say you were friendly with the skunk apes."

"I'm friendly with everything that lives in the woods," the old man said proudly.

"What's a skunk ape?" John wanted to know.

"It's a thing that supposedly lives out here," Mary explained. "There are different names for it. Some call it a 'skunk ape' because it looks like an ape and it smells terrible."

"Like rotten eggs," Carl added. "And there ain't just one of 'em-- they're a whole race of people."

"People?" John repeated, astonished. "You're saying they're human beings?"

"Naw," Carl replied. "They ain't human, they're a different kind of people. They're smart. They know how to use tools, and they have a language. That's what people say. It's just stories, something for fun. Imaginary. But you ain't here about that. What you're asking about sounds like them flying saucers. I've heard of those. Is that what I seen the other night? What are they?"

"We don't know," Mary said. "Some think they come from outer space."

"Sure enough? Somebody lives out there?"

"Some people think so."

"Huh." Carl sat back and closed his eyes. "I don't know nothing about outer space. Say, if something alive did come from out there, would they be people like us, or just animals?"

"Nobody knows," Mary said. "But if they could build vehicles to come here from there, they would have to be intelligent."

"I reckon so," the old man allowed. The idea seemed to trouble him. He looked tired and seemed like he was all talked out.

"Well," Mary said, rising from her crate, "we'll be on our way so you can finish supper."

The old man seemed startled and aimed a funny look at his plate. He did not speak again as Mary and John took their leave.


*

The next morning, they interviewed the witnesses who had seen the "green monster." They still seemed shell-shocked, and the agents got nothing from them that hadn't already been in the newspapers. They were just played out.

"I'd like to have a look at where it happened before it gets dark," Mary said after the fruitless interview was over. They changed into rough clothing and hiked up to where the monster had appeared. They found nothing of interest, and soon went tromping off in the general direction of Old Carl's hill.

At a point halfway between the two hills, John nearly tripped over an incongruous object in a clearing . It was part of  a wrought iron fence that had collapsed. Crooked stones stood here and there in the immediate vicinity. A few of them bore barely-legible inscriptions.

"This is the old cemetery!" Mary exclaimed. "I forgot all about this! It goes waaaaay back. The last interments here took place before the turn of the century."

"Then what is that?"

John pointed to what appeared to be a fresh, unmarked grave. They walked over and took a close look. The earth appeared to have been turned very recently.

"I'd like to see what's under there," Mary said.

"Why?" John asked. "This can't have anything to do with why we're here."

"Maybe, but it's going to bother me until I make sure. I have intuition, and it's nagging me."

John sighed. "Okay," he said. "What do we do?"

"We come back. Tonight, after dark. We don't want to be seen by... whomever."

*

The walk seemed twice as long as it had during the day. It was dark and it was quiet. John Jones found himself stealing swift, apprehensive glances into the trees. He wasn't nervous, exactly, but he was hyper-aware. The sensation was familiar -- he had experienced it many times when he was in the OSS during the war.

They were still a quarter mile away from the old graveyard when Mary called his attention to something.

"Look there," she said softly, pointing toward the sky. "What's that?"

It was a red light, a pinpoint in the dark sky.

"It's below the clouds, whatever it is," John said. "Wonder what the ceiling is tonight."

As John watched, the red dot swelled. It was large and it was moving. He closed his eyes and listened and heard nothing.

When he opened his eyes again, he almost jumped back, the thing was so much larger-- so much closer. And then, all of a sudden, it was right on top of them. In an instant, it had passed over their heads.

"My God," he said. "It's heading for the cemetery!"

*

"That doesn't look like a green monster," Mary whispered. "It looks like a deer."

"The head does," John said. "But the body is human-like. Two arms, hands with thumbs."

They had thrown down their shovels and raced to the old cemetery to find a remarkable scene. A large, saucer-shaped object stood on three squat landing legs. A hatch in the side stood open, and in front of that...

A large metallic cylinder hovered above the over the spot where the mound of earth had been. It was vertical, perhaps six or seven feet tall, and had several vertical grooves running from top to bottom, giving it an appearance not unlike a "pleated skirt." The upper part was open, and from it protruded what appeared to be the upper body of a most extraordinary creature. The torso and arms were human-shaped, but the head was elongated. It reminded John of  the Egyptian god Anubis. The cylinder-- obviously a vehicle or tool of some kind-- glowed green, and the creature's skin reflected the glow.

This was no Russian.

The grave had been excavated. The creature pointed a device that looked vaguely like a submachine gun down into the rectangular hole. It emitted a soft blue beam, in the glow of which a dark shape rose into the air. This appeared to be another creature of the same kind, but the body was incomplete. Both legs were missing, as was the left arm. The mutilated corpse floated toward the saucer and passed through the open hatch.

Mary and John looked at each other. Before they could think of anything to say, a movement off to the left caught their attention. Something had just emerged from the woods. Looking that way, the agents saw that this night of wonders had yet another surprise.

The figure was bipedal, and something about it suggested a human being-- albeit a large, shaggy, misshapen one. It had a huge head and enormous red eyes. It stood there for a couple of seconds, then set out at a loping run across the clearing, making a beeline for the creature from the saucer. As the newcomer passed in front of them, the agents caught a nauseating odor-- a stench like rotten eggs.

In very short order, the foul-smelling thing grabbed the creature round the neck and yanked it out of the cylinder. The alien-- if that's what it was-- was human-shaped from the waist down, too. The monster twisted the alien's head around until its neck snapped, then  threw it onto the ground. Emitting a shrill noise, it jumped up and down on the body. After half a minute of this, it reached down and lifted the limp corpse by the throat.

Then, incredibly, the skunk ape-- what else could it be?-- clambered up onto the still-hovering cylinder and slid down into the compartment. Holding the alien in one hand, it punched at something inside the cylinder with the other. The machine wobbled, then started to move. The green glow increased and the skunk ape let out a gleeful whoop as he picked up speed and shot toward the tree line.

Yeah, John thought, it does look worse than Frankenstein.

At the same time, the hatch on the saucer snapped shut and the craft began to glow red. Then the red turned to white. John and Mary felt the heat from where they stood. The saucer warped and drooped and bubbled, and the whole structure flowed onto the ground. The agents clapped their hands over their eyes, but the light seeped into their skulls, creating an awful pressure.

Within seconds, they both lost consciousness.


*

When Mary came to, they were no longer in the cemetery. It took her a moment to realize she was on the floor of Old Carl's cabin. John, still unconscious, was stretched out next to her.

"You okay, missy?" said the old man, kneeling beside her.

"I think so," she said as she struggled into a sitting position. "What happened?"

"All manner of things. After you talked to me about them flying saucers, I got a little bit upset. My friend brought me that thing the same night I seen them lights. I didn't put the two together at first."

"What thing?" Mary asked. "What friend?"

Carl ignored her questions.

"I mean, it looked like a deer!" he went on. "That's what I thought it was. I shoulda paid more attention to the body, I guess. But it was dark and I was hungry, so I just... Well, that was before I knew it might be a kind of person, you understand."

"I don't..." Mary began.

"Hush, girl," Carl said, not unkindly. “Just listen. I got to thinking about what you said, and worried that it might have been a person from outer space, not just an animal. I felt bad, so I took what was left down to the old cemetery and give it a proper burial.

"I was hoping that was the end of it, but dang if that durn fool didn't bring me another one last night! And took another joyride in one of them contraptions. He may be smart enough to figger out how to run them things, but he ain't got a lick of common sense.

"Them old stories was right. I been friends with the skunk apes for a lot of years. Since I got too old to hunt and too broke to buy groceries, they been killing game and bringing it to me. Reckon when my friend saw that thing land, he figured it was some strange kinda deer.

"Here's the queer thing: After I ate that outer space person, I started thinking different. Seemed like I knew a lot more things than I used to, and more than I ought to. Seems like it made me smarter, and I feel different, too. Like the space people are in my head now. I know they do come from outer space, and they don't want humans to know they're coming here. I don't know why, but I hafta respect that, so I can't let you two leave here. That's just unavoidable. Maybe if I eat the new one, I'll understand better. No harm done, he's already dead. The good news is, I figgered out a way you can be useful!"

Mary started to speak, but something happened just then that made her mind blank out. The light in the room got dim. Something had come up the steps and now stood in the doorway. Her vision was blurry, but she didn't need to see the thing to know what it was. The smell of rotten eggs told the tale.

"If eating smart people makes you smarter," Carl said, "this idiot here could do with a good meal. I'm right sorry about it, but I reckon it's the thing to do."

END


THE FLATWOODS MONSTER:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The New Adventures of Diamondstone The Magician


There's a Full House...The Lights are Dimmed...The Audience is Seated..and The best seat in the house is saved for You in the Front Row for THE NEW ADVENTURES OF DIAMONDSTONE THE MAGICIAN from Pulp Obscura by Pro Se Productions in conjunction with Altus Press! Created by master Pulp author G. T. Fleming, Diamondstone the Magician was a seasoned sleight of hand artist and stage illusionist who dabbled in the investigation of crime as an amateur detective. Aided by his friend and assistant, Absalom, Diamondstone uses his skills, tricks, and wits to confound, confuse and capture criminals who believe that they can outsmart justice using smoke and mirrors! From out of the past comes New Tales of the Magician Sleuth written by Chuck Miller, Russ Anderson, Jr., Lee Houston, Jr., and Nicholas Ahlhelm! Watch as Diamondstone gives some of his finest performances ever as he steps into the spotlight to solve strange cases and exciting new mysteries in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF DIAMONDSTONE THE MAGICIAN from Pulp Obscura!

ON AMAZON:


Tuesday, September 3, 2013