It hungers, interlude

black swampflat

“Maybe I can contain it,” June said to herself, “The police will never believe me.”

The portal generator wasn’t through transporting and its small size meant it wasn’t built for something so massive. The creature in June’s utility room slowly crept toward her. It would never be satisfied with a single meal and viewed June as fair game.

June remembered she kept a gun in her hall closet. How long did she have? The thing wasn’t giving chase so far. June found the box and opened it. The gun was missing.

The portal generator kept processing. The creature’s body flowed through like black honey with various luminescent colors here and there. Perhaps it was a mistake to go this way? The creature was stuck where it was until all of it was through the portal. It turned around and examined the machine. Oh, fairly simple; you just press here to speed it up.

June searched in her room for the gun. It was on her night stand but unloaded. She just liked the security while alone in the house. Now with loaded gun in hand, she ran to the utility room.

The creature was about through the portal. The portal generator was now moving faster. Just a little more.

June saw the creature concentrating on the portal generator.

BLAM BLAM

Two shots were fired and hit the creature in the head and chest. They passed harmlessly through it and into the wall. The creature ignored her, it was so fixed on getting fully out. What if she destroyed the portal generator? Whartleburg would not be able to come home.

BLAM BLAM

The portal generator blew apart and immediately stopped its work. The remainder of the creature would stay on the other side forever. It was like a faucet was turned off. June had the creature’s full attention.  That faceless head slowly turned toward her.

The lights in the hallway flickered and went out. Then the lights in the utility room started to flicker. In the renewed darkness could be seen two points of faint white light from deep within the creature’s face.

June stared at the creature and immediately regretted having destroyed the one thing it that might have saved her life. She could still see the remains of the portal generator spew sparks.

June saw the thing move this way and that to evade any sparks. Sparks. She had an idea and ran for the pantry in the kitchen.

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Beauty and Exoskeletons, Interlude

Victoria Swansoncrop

 

Victoria’s luminescent yellow-green eyes were now curiously staring at Whartleburg. Having recently arrived via Channel Teleporter, thanks to June, she was expecting Whartleburg to take her under his wing.

“Who are you supposed to be?” asked Whartleburg. But he knew already; His instinct told him so.

“I’m June’s sister.”

Whartleburg didn’t know how to handle the revelation.

“I’m Whartleburg.”

The two stared at each other. For ten seconds, the world was frozen in time and nothing else mattered. Whartleburg suddenly could not move. He was transfixed in place, only able to see Victoria’s luminescent green and yellow eyes. Instinct told him it was a common trap that praying mantis type Enzectozoids used to catch their prey.

But then another image entered his mind. Salyria, tall and pale, her lavish gown, a wedding gift from Spider King Ahab, the same color as her sapphire eyes. Her long dark hair danced in the winds that endlessly chase at the height of her window outside the granite prison walls.

Her eyes were saddened, yet strong, determined to wait, knowing in her heart that Whartleburg would save her. At that moment her eyes met his. She saw Whartleburg from afar and her inward gaze was turned outward.

Salyria while in her prison was not helpless. Though not built for combat, she could still encourage the heart. She spoke briefly and the vision was gone:

Remember Salyria. Should Whartleburg give up now, all his efforts to oppose Spider King Ahab would be in vain.

Whatever huntress’ charm Victoria unknowingly had sent out shattered like glass, and Whartleburg was no longer smitten. He no longer saw the great beauty in the exoskeleton of Victoria Swanson, June’s sister. Instead he saw a confused, scared Enzectozoid woman. She needed training.

Whartleburg woke up and sprang to his feet.

“Hey, you’re alive! Thank God you’re alive!” Victoria was saying.

“You thought I was dead?” asked Whartleburg.

Victoria nodded.

“You were unaware of what you did? It’s called a Hunter’s Glare trap.”

“Hunter’s what?!”

“Lady, I cannot train you,” said Whartleburg, “Only a master in the Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts can do that now.”

“What’s that?”

“The Maantisazian school is for Enzectozoids who are mantis, wheel bug, or other assassin types.”

“Who, me?” exclaimed Victoria, “I’m no killer.”

“Then show me,” said Whartleburg, “Put your hands up. Like you are praying.”

Victoria reluctantly put her hands up in front of her.

“Now close your eyes.”

At first she refused but Whartleburg convinced her it would be ok.
Whartleburg then picked up a rock and threw it right at Victoria.

Victoria quickly shot out her hand and snatched the rock out of the air. She looked at the stone, amazed she caught it. But then she realized the rock had been perfectly cut into three pieces.

“How’d I do that?”

“Your instincts make you attack anything that comes near. Until you can train, you cannot be yourself without causing violence,” said Whartleburg.

Just then, a swirling blue storm cloud boiled forth out of nothing six feet from the ground. From out of the swirling tempest emerged a giant. Muscular, white beard, light blue skinned and balding, The giant was sent to destroy the stronghold.

“My liege!” ran Whevelbor panting. “Reports have come in. The enemy knows the fortress is taken.”

“That explains why the giant is here,” said Whartleburg.

“My army has provided us transportation,” said Whevelbor.

Close to the fortress were several old military Jeeps.

“All we need to do is not get caught,” said Victoria.

“Can you still fight, my liege?” asked Whevelbor.

“It’s been a long day,” said Whartleburg, “But we must escape.”

Whartleburg raised his arms to summon his battle axes, but he knew already that he still did not have the strength to use them fully. The axes appeared, but then faded and returned whence they came.

“Alas, I need more strength,” said Whartleburg.

“What if I helped?” asked Victoria, “All we need is a distraction, right?”

“You’re not trained yet,” argued Whartleburg.

“Perhaps I can help,” said Whevelbor, “I happen to know the instructor for Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts. I cannot use his instruction myself, but let me pass on what I know.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Something Creeped In, Interlude

June wandered from her bedroom to investigate the noise.

Cat calls and fox whistles heralded June when she reached the laundry room.

Three sharply dressed men were in the laundry room. They were inspecting the washer and dryer, taking measurements of the walls and ceiling, inspecting every corner. The men had embroidered on their sleeves a letter S in yellowish green thread.

“Hey there, Pajama Mama!” said one of the men. He was a particularly slick young man in a grey silk business suit. “This is a nice place ya got,” he said as he eyed June.

June was not amused.

“Um, can I help you?” June said finally.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said smiling and offered his hand. It had many rings. “Name’s Ray. Here’s my card.”

The card read: Rayford Dusk; Pest Control Investigator.

“Hello, Ray,” said June, “Please tell me why you’re here?”

“Yeah, we’re lookin’ for someone,” said Ray, “Ya know, it’s been all over the news? About new bug peoples? ‘Enzecto-whatevas.'”

The other men laughed.

“Yeah… We’re here to catch it. Our sensors say it was sent though this here portal generator.”

June’s first thought was to yell at the men to return from whence they came. Then she noticed the suits looked the exact same. Like a dress code. Her heart told her they would not leave so easily.

“I’m sorry, boys. My house only has regular bugs,” said June.

“That so? We heard you are related to the Enzecto we’re tracking. She’s  especially dangerous and may return here.”

A light suddenly turned on in June’s mind. These men were authorized to hunt Enzectozoids. June remembered the news talking about that new bill addressing the new Enzectozoid threat. She needed to get them away from the portal generator.

June tried to stay calm.

“Can I offer you any coffee?”

Ray looked at his men, who were still calculating on their devices.

“Yeah. That, uh, sounds nice.”

Fresh brewed coffee was served in June’s kitchen. The three men sat at the table drinking their coffee and eating cookies June had made two days ago.

Ray finished his coffee, took out a comb and casually slicked his hair back.
“Last week we got a call from a…uh,”

He wiped the comb down with a napkin, and returned it to a pocket inside his dress coat. Then from the same pocket he pulled out a piece of paper.

“Mr. Swanson,” he read from the paper, “Yeah, Jorge Swanson. He said his wife turned into a five-foot-two, humanoid, preying mantis. With razor sharp. Lightening fast. Retractable blades on each hand and forearm.”

Ray folded up the paper.

“He said after his wife’s transformation she tried to kill him.”

June folded her arms. She remembered Jorge. Why Victoria loved him was beyond her. June could have predicted that Jorge would sell out his own wife.

“Is Victoria the only one you’re after?” asked June.

Ray gave her a funny look.

“Yeah, Victoria Swanson is the only one we’re tracking from your house,” said Ray slowly. “We’ve been busy with other reports of killer bug people.”

Ray signaled to his men and they got up from the table. June sighed relief and cursed under her breath at the same time. Had she just turned the portal generator back to Channel 5, Victoria would not have been hunted. But they had not been able to track Whartleburg.

“One more thing, and we’ll go,” said Ray, “I admit we’ve seen a lotta things on the job. A teleportation device isn’t something we see everyday. We already know your sister escaped through it, but I doubt she’s the one who built it. I don’t think she’s the tech type. I suspect you didn’t build it. Which makes me suspicious as who did.”

June was silent.

“Jorge Swanson contacted us because the police would not believe him. Not even after showing the deep gash on his left forearm. It cost him six stitches,” said Ray. “You see, these Enzecto-things cannot be negotiated with. You can’t make peace with them.”

“My sister. Would never intentionally hurt her husband,” June managed to say, “And she loves her only nephew.”

“Victoria Swanson is no longer your sister,” said Ray. “She’s an assassin bug. In the end, she will kill you and your son. Believe me, I don’t want that. Tell us where she is, and we’ll leave you alone.”

WHUMP

Something in the back made a loud noise. Ray and his men turned their heads toward the direction of the laundry room.

“Did you leave the portal generator still on Channel 3?” asked Ray to one of his men.

“Uh, oops,” said the first man.

“The lady offered coffee,” said the second man, “Who can refuse coffee?”

…RRRREEEEEEEEEEE…

“Holy Basil,” said Ray, “Something creeped in.”

It was their job to investigate scary situations. Ray made June promise she would stay in the kitchen. He then left with his men to investigate the noise in the laundry room.

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Pro Wrestlers Write Science Fiction, Interlude

Little Eddy was at a friend’s house for the day. June was in bed asleep when the radio abruptly turned on.

“Hey there, kiddos!” said a tough, grizzly sounding masculine voice, like a biker or pro wrestler.

“Do you like writing fiction? Well I love it! Did you know you can sell stories to the MOST POPULAR magazine devoted to sci fi? Fantasy? Even horror?!”

Sounds of explosions.

“I, Havage the Savage, wrestler of monsters, want to read stories sent in by you! If I approve what I read, then you’ll see your story in Scifansorer Magazine!”

Electric guitar solo plays in the background.

A much lower, more sane voice gave the web address for more details. He then spoke a fountain of legal gibberish that June did not want to hear. She got out of bed and walked over to turn the radio off.

Havage the Savage? Sounds like someone Whartleburg would fight. Her thoughts of Whartleburg led June to thinking about her sister Victoria.

Having gone through a metamorphosis into a new Enzectozoid, Victoria had become dangerous. She was a threat to herself and to others. She needed training, and no one on earth could appreciate her like another Enzectozoid. Luckily, Whartleburg had left with June a mini dimensional portal leading back to his home world.

“All Enzectozoids carry them and they’re easy to make,” she remembered him saying to her, “Keep it turned to channel 5 for your safety, so that I’m the only one who can use it.”

Victoria will get the help and training she needs with Whartleburg. Surely she will, June thought. Next Christmas will be very different.

When June finally turned off the alarm she heard beeping.

A strange blue light, followed by a whoosh sound, came from the laundry room. June had forgotten to turn the portal device back to channel 5. It had been on channel 3, a public channel, for a week and now something was coming. There’s no telling what found its way inside her house!

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Go back to the previous chapter by visiting “Armies Underestimated.”

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Captured, the enemy plays dirty, Interlude

A vision set in greyscale. The skies overhead now weep. Colorless curtains fall on the just and the unjust. Whartleburg is seen powerless, on the ground, defeated.

 

Whartleburg had cut through the forces of wicked Spider King Ahab. Nothing could stand before Whartleburg’s might and as he fought, he could feel the oppression lifting. But the last of the giants was different from the others. This one used cunning.

“I have a message for you,” he said to Whartleburg.

“You must atone for what you did to my kingdom,” said Whartleburg.

“You will not listen to me, even if it’s from your beloved?” asked the giant.

“You have only to listen to my spinning blades,” answered Whartleburg as he threw his axes at the giant.

“You only have two of those magnificent axes,” said the giant,”And those mandibles are only good for close range combat. What happens if you lose them all?”

The giant caught the axes with his bare hands. No one had ever done that. Who was this heathen? He gave the signal. Armed guards dressed in black armor brought forth a beautiful maiden in a tattered dress. Salyria. Her long dark hair flowed over her face. She looked up. When their eyes met, Whartleburg ran to her but was immediately blocked.

“I’ll tell you what,” said the giant, “His Arachness decried he will give you Lady Salyria with his blessing. But you must turn yourself in.”

Whartleburg looked at the giant, expecting an answer. Then he looked at Salyria. Her blue eyes pleaded with him. Alas, he agreed.

“If I can have her back, and rebuild my kingdom, then I will turn myself in,” said Whartleburg.

The guards released Salyria. She walked up to Whartleburg. For the first time in ages, they embraced. The smell of her hair was as it had always been, the smell of the sea. But there was a sudden change in the air. Even as Whartleburg held his fiancee, her eyes changed color.

Whartleburg felt a sharp pain in his back. He immediately pushed the imposter Salyria to the ground and removed the knife. She had been concealing it in her sleeve and took advantage of the embrace.

The real Salyria was still far away, trapped in a granite tower. There was no way Spider King Ahab would ever let her go. Not even if Whartleburg turned himself in.

He called for his axes, and they answered in a flash of light, but the damage was done. The knife had been laced with insecticide poison. The damage had been done. He sank to his knees.

 

“How the tables have turned,” says the final giant. He smiles big, revealing missing teeth. Then he kicks Whartleburg in the side.

“I’ll never eat an apple again because you knocked my teeth out!” screams the giant. His underlings await the command to finish him off. But orders are orders. They want him brought in alive. A simple antidote injection removes the poison.

“His Arachness has plans for you.”

 

It was a month later. Whartleburg was sentenced to death. For now he was held in chains, forced to eat on an hourly basis. The food-grade insect market was a rich industry, and they loved Enzectozoid meat. They were going to sell him off piece by piece to the highest bidder.

Yet on the night before his execution, Whartleburg heard loud knocking from within the prison walls.

“My liege, is that you?” came a voice from inside the wall.

“Who are you?” said Whartleburg.

The chains suddenly came loose from the wall. A long snout poked out briefly.

“I’m called Whevelbor. My army is ready to get you out.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

Next chapter: “Metamorphosis

Previous chapter, “Insurmountable Odds.”