Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chapter 22: Humanity's Final Stand

This is a prequel, of sorts, to chapter 23.

The long day was stretching into late afternoon like spandex pants the day after Thanksgiving. Everywhere the creature went, destruction followed in its wake. A wide swath of splintered wood and crumbling adobe marked the spot which once had been the pleasant village of San Morteno. Then it was the depressing slum of San Morteno. Now, it was merely the radioactive wreckage of San Morteno.

As the beast slithered into the open field on the other side of the empty highway, bits of detritus could yet be seen clinging to its tentacles. One discernible piece was a portion of a sandwich board reading "THE END IS NEAR!" We could only hope that this surviving scrap was a sign from an Intelligence greater than our own that the peril imposed by the monster was coming to an end, and not that the existence of man himself was nearly finished. Still others put their hope in the oracle preserved on the other half of the sandwich board: "EAT AT ED'S."

The National Guard had long since exhausted their options along with their ammunition, and had been reduced to keeping order among the panicking crowds. Like my commanding officer used to say, “Crowds are always just one step away from becoming an enraged mob, and two steps away from becoming a psychotic polka party. It’s best to simply keep them at bay with fire hoses.” Those are generally words to live by, but with the water shortage in California, and the fact that the people who had gathered were not in danger of rushing toward the beast, the Guard simply kept a wary eye on the thing. That eye was mine.

Throughout all the madness of this day, Linda had been at my side. “Cal,” she said, “I don’t think this monstrous… monster…” she started. I loved it when she was at a loss for words. It was a rare occurrence, sure, but it let me get a word in edge-wise, and occasionally a kiss (also edge-wise), but this was not one of those moments.

“Cal, I don’t think it’s from around here! I mean, maybe it’s from a different planet, even. Do you think maybe we should call a scientist to help?”

“Darling, you took the words right out of my mouth! That was really unhygienic, but I’ll let it go this time, what with civilization being on the cusp of destruction and all. But don’t you remember, I already called Dr Hazelwood--the one scientist I know—two reels back, and he flat refused to help us!”

“That’s only because I was working on a way to stop my—er, this—creature!”

“Doc Hazelwood! Good of you to join us!” I said.

“Well, it was the least this old man could do to--” he hung his head and mumbled the rest, “to stop the trouble that I started.”

“That you started, Dr Hazelwood?” Linda was horrified and struck with disbelief. “I’m horrified! I don’t believe you!”

I, on the other hand, was completely unaffected by this news. I’d begun to suspect Hazelwood when he refused to help us, and I wasn’t really paying attention, since the monster was on the move again—toward us, this time.

“Dr Hazelwood, can you stop this thing? CAN it be stopped?” My gosh, I said that well!

“Since the octopoid’s mutations came about through high doses of, Strontium-90 and caffeine, I think we can destroy it by flooding it with a barrage of gamma radiation. Give it a high enough dose, and the mutated cells will become too unstable to hold together any longer.”

It sounded fishy, but it was the only option we had. We unloaded the professor’s ray gun and pointed it at the approaching beast. It twitched and pulled back a moment, then charged ahead.

Linda gripped my well-developed right bicep until numbness set in. “Oh Cal, it’s not working! What’ll we do?” She looked to me as if all her hopes and dreams rested on my saving the day. How could I say no to her impassioned vote of confidence? It was time to play the hero! It was time to be a man!

“Dr Hazelwood!” It was time to delegate responsibility. “Why isn’t it working?”

Hazelwood wasn’t there. He had rushed off to his car.

“Crank up the power, Boys!” I shouted. “Let’s show this thing who’s boss!” When they made a movie about this, that line would go in the trailer.

“Yes Sir!” they replied. That line probably would go in, too.

“Wait!” It was the professor. “The ray just needs to be better focused on the creature!”

He shuffled out toward the monster with a large translucent disc in his hand. He held it above his head and stepped directly under the beam of radiation. The lens was working! The beam began to pierce the thing’s tough hide!

The pain-maddened beast lashed out at Hazelwood with a thick tentacle. Creator and creation both screamed as one. I looked away and shut my eyes tightly…


Diesel said...

I was riveted throughout this story, but I tried to pay attention anyway.

OminousBrent said...

I would like to option the rights to this story for a music video. I think it would be perfect for the Polka Kings.

I'll have my people contact your people's people.

Allen said...

Diesel, ouch! So sorry to hear that! But at least Rosie was doing her job.

Ominousbrent, um, yeah...
My people are waiting.