OTHER BOOKS BY JASON SCOTT NEBEL
Atom Town Book 1: It Came From 1958!
Atom Town Book 2: The Hands of the Swamp!
Atom Town Book 3: Shrewantulas!
It Came From 1958!
By Jason Scott Nebel
ATOM TOWN BOOKS
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Atom Town text and illustrations copyright c. 2015 Atom Town Books.
Book Design, Chapter Headings and Cover Design by Jason Scott Nebel.
Published in 2015 by Atom Town Books.
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher.
Atom Town Books
For my little atomic aberrations:
James, Caden, Ryder & Quaid
Table of Contents
OTHER BOOKS BY JASON SCOTT NEBEL 1
Atom Town Book 1: It Came From 1958! 1
Atom Town Book 2: The Hands of the Swamp! 1
Atom Town Book 3: Shrewantulas! 1
Book 1 2
It Came From 1958! 2
By Jason Scott Nebel 2
ATOM TOWN BOOKS 2
Omaha, Nebraska 3
Table of Contents 6
Atomsite is 20/20 10
Desert Topping 14
Eve of Destruction 17
Rising Plot 28
Going Boom 35
Cab Fair 40
Laboratory of Love 45
Java Man 54
Fast Rites 68
Grim Forecast 78
Heel to Tow 84
Broom With a View 89
Elms on Nightmare Street 95
“D” Filed 105
Driven to Madness 114
Eve of the Walking Dead 123
Web of Lies 129
Dead Ends 136
Fresh Out of the Shadow 141
Matter, Particles & Adams 151
Beyond the Shadow of a Dolt 156
Things That Go Bloom 167
Out of the Fire & Into the Frying Hand 177
But Anomaly Don’t 182
DON’T MISS THE NEXT PREPOSTEROUS ADVENTURE IN THE 194
ATOM TOWN 194
Book 2 194
The Hands of the Swamp! 194
The Hands of the Swamp! 195
Atomsite is 20/20
HELLO MY NAME IS: EVE ADAMS, SUPER DOUBLE-SECRET MEGASPY! read the sticker on her black turtleneck. Worst kept secret ever, as it was prominently on display for the entire world to see.
Of course, her entire world was just sand. An endless desert stretching to the horizon, covered with debris. Debris from an old military base that had exploded years ago, and hadn’t had the decency to pick up after itself.
A chunk of concrete sprouted from the sand next to her. It stood like a giant headstone, marking the grave of a road that existed long before the base had thrown its tantrum.
A strange piece of white porous rock caught her eye. Eve picked it up to inspect it, but a black glove stopped her hand. Another glove reached in, and with a light poke, the rock crumbled apart. It seemed to sigh away its last breath in a fleeting wisp of dust.
“Atomsite,” said a towering twig of a man. He stood shading himself from the blazing sun with a black umbrella and sipping coffee from a “Secret Agent of the Year” mug. This was Agent D, the owner of the black glove, and the man in charge of the entire “Hello, My Name is…” department.
“It’s atomic glass,” he continued. “A looking glass, if you will, reflecting the horrific events that took place here decades ago.”
Eve rapidly dusted the powdery substance from her hands, her eyes shifting from boredom to concern.
“Atomic,” she lingered on the word. “Is this place-?”
“Radioactive?” he laughed. “Of course not. I assure you it’s perfectly safe!”
A man in a full, oversized radiation suit stepped forward, stretching arms towards the desert as if afraid to get too close. In his hands was a tablet, scanning the desert with a Geiger counter app that was crackling off the scale.
“Simmons?” muttered Agent D.
“Yes, sir?” murmured a muffled British accent from the radiation mask.
“Lose the suit,” instructed D.
“Yes, sir,” agreed Simmons.
“And this is all that’s left?” asked Eve, looking to the horizon for some end of the devastation.
“Afraid so,” said D. “Wiped from existence back in 1958.”
“It’s time sir,” said Simmons, stepping forward wearing nothing but a pair of sunglasses and his birthday suit.
Agent D shrugged at his naked assistant who was clearly more concerned with his tablet readings than the location of his pants.
“Right,” said D, turning away from Simmons. He then checked his footing and looked back at the horizon, ready.
“What exactly are we looking for?” asked Eve.
“That,” pointed D. At that moment the horizon exploded with blinding light as an atomic blast tore through the desert!
Eve’s retinas could barely focus on the giant mushroom cloud rolling into the sky.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” shouted D. “Never imagined something wrought with such wonder could cause me such pain.”
Eve couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem more concerned.
“Really, because all I see is a cloud of death and destruction rushing straight towards us!” she yelled over the rumbling.
D moved over to her vantage point.
“Let me see,” he said, cocking his head to one side. “Hm. You’re right. Death and Destruction. I see it now!”
Simmons cocked his head to the side as well.
“I see a poodle,” said Simmons.
D cocked his head to the other side.
“Actually, I can see that, too.”
As the two nodded in agreement, Eve’s eyes focused intensely on the wake of rushing rancor pounding the desert, like some monstrous herd stampeding towards them!
She took a step back, “Shouldn’t we-”
D cut her off.
“What? Duck and cover?!” He chuckled. “I wish this were merely an atomic explosion. No Eve, this is something far worse. This… This is Atom Town!”
Agent D stood still, calmly checking his watch and waiting as the wall of dirt, sand, and fallout rushed angrily towards them.
Eve crossed her arms tightly, trying to pretend panic wasn’t eating away at her mind.
“You sure we’re safe?” she asked.
“Would I lie to you?” D Smiled.
“Aren’t we spies?” asked Eve. “Lying’s our business.”
“Ooh, I like that!” Smiled D. “Lying’s our business. Simmons, let’s put that on the new business cards!”
“Usual order, sir?” asked Simmons, pulling up an ordering screen on his tablet.
Eve’s arms grew tighter as the wall got nearer. She looked for some place of refuge among the rubble and demolished base.
Agent D must have sensed her flight response. He quickly grabbed her arm, his black glove pressing on some nerve that nearly paralyzed her to the shoulder. She considered fending off his grasp, but it was too late.
Eve closed her eyes as the wall devoured them!
No. The wall had stopped, blocked by some unseen barrier.
Wind, and dust screamed and clawed at the unseen wall, as if all of Hell was trapped inside a snow globe, shaken up, and not too pleased about it.
“There,” smiled D. “Told you there was nothing to worry about.”
“Inches from a wall of nuclear fallout. Who’s worried?” Eve retorted sarcastically.
“That’s the spirit. Do you remember what I told you when we first met, Eve?” he asked.
“I’m trying to forget it,” said Eve.
“Then I’ll remember for you,” said Agent D, suddenly staring off into the distance, motionless.
“What? What are you doing?” Eve asked, waving her hand in front of his sun glasses.
“I’m flashing back to our first meeting,” Said D without moving. “Simmons, join me!”
“Yes sir,” said Simmons, and he struck the same pensive pose.
“Fine,” Eve resigned. “Of course I remember…”
Eve of Destruction
An atomic EXPLOSION! Fallout from a white hot mushroom cloud chewed up the desert, swallowing everything in view. The devastation stopped, then suddenly reversed back to where it had come from, apparently not liking the grainy feel of sand in its mouth.
As the explosion collapsed in on itself, a wall of fire rushed from the epicenter, filling the desert with an ebbing sea of flame!
A pair of beautiful brown eyes popped open, her mouth gasping for air as she arched her back on a gurney, awakening from the nightmare. This was the earliest Eve could remember.
A ceiling mounted monitor clicked on above her. Agent D lit up the screen in a small office space, sipping his coffee and addressing the camera.
“Hello, I’m Agent D, mission command, fear inspiring authoritarian, and your new pal. You are…”
“Agent fifty-eight” inserted a disjointed and poorly dubbed British accent. D continued in his own voice.
“We’ve lost an agent in the field, and your mission is to find them, or what’s left of them.”
A head leaned in from the right, blocking her view of the screen. But it wasn’t the head that drew her focus, it was the massive syringe in his hand, hovering inches from her face.
“Oh. Welcome back!” he said in droll British tone that seemed to indicate he hadn’t expected her to survive whatever ordeal had come before.
Not one to linger on where she’d been but more concerned with the pointy metal needle presently aimed at her head, Agent Fifty-Eight instinctively ripped the syringe out of his hand.
She studied the needle for a moment, then decided to find it a new home, and the doctor’s head seemed the best fit. Regrettably the doctor was already gone.
The D on the screen continued.
“Now you’re probably wondering how you got here and why you’re strapped down to a gurney, well I assure you there’s nothing to worry about.”
Another doctor identical to the first popped up on the opposite side of the gurney, holding another syringe.
“Did you see that?” he said in a thicker cockney accent to the doctor on the right. But there was no doctor on her right. Where had the first doctor gone?
Looking back to her left, the second doctor was gone as well.
The first doctor returned on her right again. Were they twins?
“Well of course I saw it,” said the first Brit. “I’m right here, aren’t I?”
He stepped back to her left to answer his own question. No twins and no second doctor. He was apparently arguing with himself all along.
“Didn’t you strap ‘er down? Didn’t I say ‘Make sure to strap ‘er down’? You know, like on the telly?” said the first personality, pointing to the screen.
“Are you daft?!” shouted the second personality. “You said ‘Made sure I strapped her down’! You were clearly declarative, not imperative!” he said, convinced his grammatical response would win the argument.
“What’s clear is she’s not strapped down, now is she?” screamed the first doctor. His face went pale. “You… you got ‘er other hand, I hope?”
She’d had enough of this one-man play and grabbed him by the throat with her other hand, which incidentally, clearly indicated neither had in fact been strapped down.
“Oh, right. That’s a no, isn’t it? Well at least admit I was right, yes?” continued the first doctor.
She stabbed him in the temple with the syringe and he staggered back a step, then smacked his lips.
“Blimey, do you taste orange meringue?” he asked the second.
“I say, that’s clearly strawberry mouse with a vulgar hint of pimento!” said the second doctor. “Oh waiter?” he started, raising one hand, then fell face first onto the floor.
She wasn’t sure if it was due to the contents of the syringe, the sharp needle in the brain, or if was merely the final surrender of a broken mind that dropped him onto the concrete, but Eve wasn’t sticking around to find out.
As she rolled off of the gurney, a man in a black suit and sunglasses motioned towards her.
“Miss-” he said in another British accent.
Instinctively she grabbed a nearby metal tray and flung it at his forehead, knocking him backwards with a loud CLANG!
Another man in a black suit and sunglasses rushed from the same point of entry.
“There’s no cause for…” he began, but Eve clearly felt there was cause for whatever he was expecting her to do.
She quickly yanked the tube from her arm and tugged hard, tipping the I.V. stand, and sending it toppling towards him.
Spinning to the left, he’d managed to dodge the stand. He stopped, put his hands on his hips and nodded to himself, rather impressed that his spinning maneuver had actually worked.
She utilized that pause to execute her own maneuver, and slid behind him. She wrapped the I.V. line around his neck and pulled it tight.
In a panic he motioned to the first agent, who was still shaking off the tray to the head.
“Davis!” he gasped.
“Got it!” promised Davis, taking a textbook fighting stance.
“You sure about this?” asked Eve.
“I’d hate to hit a woman,” he apologized, “But…” continued Davis as he spun around in a clumsy roundhouse kick. He showed the prowess of one who’d seen it once on television while only exercising their hand into a bag of chips.
Eve smiled, then released her prisoner right at the apex of the kick, causing Davis’s foot to connect with the other agent’s face.
“Clever…” said the man in black as he swooned and collapsed.
Davis looked at his coworker in a heap on the floor, then back up at Eve.
“Well, you did say you would’ve hated to hit me,” Eve grinned. She then executed a perfect roundhouse, sending Davis in a backwards somersault, and landing on the floor face first.
“Lucky I don’t have the same reservations,” she smiled, quite satisfied with her handiwork. She glanced back up at the television screen. D was still going on about a generic mission.
“Success is well within your grasp. Or should I say ‘grip’?” continued D smiling at his own bad pun. He pulled a small black suitcase from behind his desk. “Invisible to the casual observer,” he continued, then opened up a hidden compartment on the bottom edge and slid out a handgun.
“This is your primary method of persuasion. But if that doesn’t convince them…” D pulled out an AK-47 Machine gun. “Or…” he continued, snapping a sniper rifle together from pieces hidden in the lining of the case.
Eve turned her attention to five pairs of sunglasses filing into the room.
“And if they’re considerably stubborn, you can use Betsy, here…” continued D, having somehow assembled a full bazooka from the inside of the small suitcase.
A piece of IV stand impaled the middle of the screen, dropping a small shower of sparks as D’s presentation went black.
“Sorry boys, now you have my undivided attention,” apologized Eve.
“We won’t hurt you, Miss,” said the first agent.
“Oh, I know,” smiled Eve, taking two remaining pieces of metal I.V. stand and spinning them back under her arms. “Pity I can’t promise you boys the same.” She eyed the men head to toe. “You know, the sunglasses in a darkened room may not be helping.”
They looked at each other’s identical suits and sunglasses
“Strict dress code, Miss,” said a second man in black.
“Except Fridays,” corrected a third. “We do khakis and polos.”
“Well not this Friday, Diggery,” reminded the fourth.
“Well of course not this Friday, Dent,” admitted Diggery. “Not on Hawaiian Shirt Day”
“Are we going to chit-chat all day, gentlemen?” Eve asked, gripping the poles tighter.
“I’d prefer that,” smiled Diggery.
“Oh, and a spot of tea, if we’re taking requests,” added Dent.
“Yes, yes,” they all nodded in agreement.
“Great, you enjoy your tea, and I’ll just be going,” said Eve, sliding towards the door cautiously.
Diggery stepped in her way.
“I really didn’t want to do this,” said Diggery. “But…”
As Diggery slid a pistol from inside his jacket, Eve caught his arm with one pole, locked it behind his back, then spun him in a forward flip onto the floor.
“And I really didn’t want to do that,” said Diggery, the wind nearly knocked out of him. “We’re on, boys!”
Three more men rushed forward, but Eve made quick work of them, spinning the I.V. pole sections into several femurs, knocking loose dental work, giving out free concussions until sending them to sleep on the cold tile below.
Diggery scrambled to his feet and headed towards the exit. A black glove stopped him, then handed him his gun from the floor, and spun him around back at Eve.
“Right,” said Diggery, aiming his pistol once again at Eve. But the pistol was gone. As he raised his hand, he found an IV Pole had been shoved through the meat of his palm. And then the hard core agent executed a new plan… he feinted and collapsed.
Eve looked to the fifth man, standing in silent fear. He held up a finger, slowly lowered himself to the floor, then posed in an uncomfortable position and played dead.
The black glove joined another and began to clap.
Eve stood for a moment glancing at the bodies on the floor (unconscious and non), listening to the peculiar applause.
The black gloved hands stepped from the shadows through long plastic drapes, wearing the same standard issue sun glasses and Black suit. He hobbled forward a step, using an umbrella as a cane. It was Agent D.
“Not bad,” he started in his boring American accent. “Seven of my men. New record.”
“Six,” corrected Eve. “And the last one shouldn’t really count”
“Doctor counts as two, one for each personality,” explained D. “Last one’s a bit of a Mulligan, but fair game.”
“And are you to be number eight?” she asked.
“I’m not here to fight you. I’m here to put you to work,” said D, motioning her to an exit through the plastic drapes.
“I don’t know if you noticed, but I just knocked out all, well, most of your men.”
“And?” said D, puzzled.
“And you don’t care?” asked Eve.
D thought for a moment. “No. No wait… yeah, it’s a no. Don’t care.”
“Who are you? And where am I?” she demanded.
“Agent D. Head of Special Initiative Atom Town. My Badge…” He flipped out a badge that simply said “Agent D” with “Professional Spy Type Guy” around the shield.
“That real?” she asked.
“Came with the wallet,” smiled D.
“Not an answer,” said Eve.
Agent D thought about it a moment. “Sure it is, even had words”
“Not a good answer, then,” she clarified.
“Debatable,” D chagrinned.
“Have we met?”
“Of course! I recruited you, was in charge of your ‘reprogramming’. You were to be the perfect killing machine. Eh, we all make mistakes,” shrugged D. “Of course, I’ve made fifty-eight of them, now.”
“Why is it everyone else has British accents?”
“Immediate credibility. You give a moron a British accent, he becomes a genius!”
“Must be why you don’t have one,” Eve smirked.
“Pumpernickel,” counter-smirked D.
“What?” asked Eve. She was trying to figure out if they were in the same conversation.
“Pumpernickel… now that’s a not an answer,” D explained. “Or maybe it is, to a different question. Yes, perhaps the answer is right, it’s the question that’s wrong”
The adrenaline subsided. Eve’s eyes darted back and forth searching for internal files that weren’t there.
“Who… Why can’t I… What’s my name?” asked Eve, her mind suddenly flooding with questions she should know, but didn’t have the answers to.
“And there it is,” smiled D. “Simmons? Sticker.”
“Right,” said a wiry little Brit in thick coke bottle glasses walking up behind them. Simmons pulled out the “Hello, My Name is:” sticker and stepped towards her.
“Why, you are, my dear.” He had barely managed to drop the sticker on her neckline when she suddenly twisted his hand behind his back and locked his elbow. An indeterminate part of Simmons cracked loudly.
“Well that burns right to the bone doesn’t it?” announced Simmons, choking back tears. “Permission to cry a bit, sir?”
“Not now. Simmons. Bottle it up for later,” commanded D.
“Done,” swallowed Simmons.
“Time is of the essence, do follow, won’t you, Eve?” Said D as he stepped through the plastic drapes.
Eve released Simmons who immediately straightened his collar, then held aside the drapes for her.
Eve looked back over the pile of bodies, and trickle of sparks still dripping from the ceiling mounted screen. Whatever was outside of these drapes had to be better than what was within.
She followed D and Simmons through the darkened curtains.
Eve followed her deranged boss and his lackey past shadowy equipment covered in plastic drop cloths and lit by a lone flickering florescent bulb above them.
Eve’s shoes crunched on broken bits of glass littering the stained linoleum as they moved towards a door in the distance.
“Ah, and here we are.” The doors slid open to reveal a dimly lit elevator inside.
“Your office is an elevator?” asked Eve.
“I prefer ‘Mobile workspace’. Yes, this baby can take me anywhere I want to go!”
Eve looked at the single button on the wall outside the elevator.
“It only goes up,” she said.
“Which is exactly where I want to go!” Smiled D.
“Clever, sir,” brown-nosed Simmons.
“I thought so. Push the button, won’t you Eve?”
Stepping inside, Eve looked at the buttons to see one at the bottom marked: “Secret Lab” and at the top of dozens of darkened, broken, missing buttons. Another was illuminated reading “Super-Secret Base Hidden Entrance”
“Really?” Mocked Eve.
“Don’t want any of our agents getting lost now, do we?”
Eve shook her head then pushed the Hidden Entrance button.
“Wait…” D folded a chair out of the wall, then a desk, quickly arranging office supplies including a small goldfish bowl.
“Hello, Petey,” he smiled at the goldfish who was clearly dead. “Ok, go.”
“I hate to tell you this, but Petey is dead” she muttered softly.
D frowned and shook the bowl. Petey circled around and began to swim. Apparently he still had a little life left in him after all.
“There he is! Who’s a good fish? Who? That’s right, Petey is!” D smiled at Petey, then snapped his gaze back to Eve.
Eve rolled her eyes.
D poured himself some coffee into a “Spymaster Invitational Champion” mug.
“Care to tell me where we’re going?” Asked Eve.
“When,” said D between sips.
“Now,” insisted Eve.
“No-no, I mean ‘when’ you’re going,” explained Agent D
“And when is that?” she asked.
“Atom Town!” Announced D.
Eve was even more confused. “So is that a when or a where?”
“Exactly! Let me show you…”
D Stopped the elevator, folded up his office again, and hit a button, dimming the lights and the buttons of the Elevator.
“Simmons?” he ordered.
“On it, sir,” said Simmons, tapping his touchscreen and projecting old footage of a film countdown on the opposite Elevator wall.
“I give you Atom Town!” Smiled D as a mushroom cloud projected onto the wall.
“What’s happening?” Eve whispered to Simmons.
“Shh. He’ll explain”
“Roll the newsreel footage, Simmons.”
Nineteen fifties small town life danced on the elevator wall.
“Is it all in Black and White?” Eve asked.
D stared at the wall, the footage reflecting in his sunglasses.
“Nothing more pure than the contrast of the shadows, the simplicity of the message, the un-convoluted visuals, the deviation of whites, blacks, evil, good, and all the greys in between.” waxed D with a satisfied grin.
“And we’re the good guys, right?” Clarified Eve.
D didn’t answer, he just motioned to Simmons.
The footage changed to a study angled on an oversized wooden desk. A lab coated doctor with slicked back hair walked in and had a seat on the edge of the desk top. He addresses the audience with hard squinted eyes, an even harder chin, and an incorrigible side grin.
“Hello, I’m Doctor Adam Townsend, and we here at Atom Labs need to set the record straight. To dispel a few atomic myths like ‘Atomic Radiation’. ‘Aberrations of Nature’. ‘Human mutation’. All Nonsense!” Yelled Adam, pounding his fist on his desk.
A six-fingered hand in protective gear reached in with an isotope and a syringe.
“Oh, thanks, Steve,” said Adam, gently drawing some of the isotope into the syringe.
“All this fuss over an innocent little isotope. Why it’s safe enough for our children, isn’t that right, Jimmy?”
Adam reached over and rustled the hair of a freckle-faced boy in overalls who stepped in petting a puppy.
“Gosh yes, Doctor Adam,” said Jimmy. “It sure doesn’t seem dangerous.”
Adam injected the puppy in the keister, then handed everything back to Steve, who took the isotope and pup off camera.
“Of course not Jimmy. This little baby is as safe as sunshine.”
An explosion rattled the camera. Bits of Steve flew by and a six-fingered glove smacked Adam in the face with no reaction.
“Golly! What was that?” asked Jimmy.
“A summer breeze, Jimmy. A summer breeze,” Adam smiled.
The puppy dropped from the air into Jimmy’s lap.
Adam turned back towards the audience.
“I’m Doctor Adam Townsend, and you’re welcome!”
The screen went black and the glow of the elevator buttons lit back up.
The silhouetted frames of Eve, D, and Simmons shifted as the Elevator began to rise again.
“Eve,” said D taking a more serious tone. “This case requires tact, precision, keen resourcefulness in the field. We need the best!”
“So you called me?”
“Of course not. We called Agent Deakins,” smiled D.
“Right. And how did that work out?” she asked, already knowing it must have gone poorly enough to warrant calling her in.
D handed her a file folder. The tab had been torn and all that remained was the “De” of what she presumed was the name “Deakins”.
Opening the folder, Eve realized that part of his name was not all that Deakins had lost. Inside was an aged black and white picture of a skeleton in a Deputy’s uniform.
“I take it, he’s looked better?” Smirked Eve.
“Not really, bit of an unfortunate face,” D and Simmons nodded in agreement.
“So I’m the next best thing?” presumed Eve.
D snatched the folder from her hands and shoved it in a drawer that slid out from the side of the elevator. He replaced it with another file.
“No-no. Here’s a list of the next best things. Fifty Six Agents.”
“Fifty-Seven with Deakins, sir,” added Simmons.
“Excellent math, Simmons!” congratulated D.
“Been practicing my times tables as well, sir” smiled Simmons.
“Really? I never got past the sevens in grammar school,” marveled D.
“So what happened?” Eve interrupted their back and forth. She was growing impatient trying to figure out her place in all of this.
“I’d scribble illegibly and then ask the teacher ‘what number do you think it is?’,” Explained D
“No, what happened to the other agents?” asked Eve.
“Well, that’s what you’re going to find out,” said D in a tone that indicated he’d thought that was rhetorical.
The elevator stopped with a jolt.
“Ah, we’re here!” announced D.
Blinding midday sun burned through the slit of opening between the sliding doors. Simmons pried the doors the rest of the way open, flooding the mobile office with white light.
Eve and Agent D stood inches from the wall of suspended atomic destruction in awkward silence.
“So, I’m supposed to go in there?” asked Eve, not liking the answer she knew was coming
“Yup,” said D.
“And what? I pick up where Deakins left off almost sixty years ago?”
“Deakins went in three days ago,” said D.
“You said he went in back in nineteen fifty-eight,” Eve reminded him.
“Yup,” D confirmed.
“Wait, you mean they think it’s still 1958?” Eve was not following.
“As far as we can tell, it really is 1958,” said D.
“And how exactly do I time travel to nineteen fifty-eight?!” Eve frustration was growing.
“We hailed you a cab,” said D, unflinchingly.
From inside the swirling dust and debris peeked a couple of glowing orbs. A car door slammed and a shadow approached. As it grew, Eve could make out an elderly gentleman in dirty gray coveralls. He wore a black-billed cap that had long since lost its sheen and a sewn on nametag that read “Pete” in cursive lettering.
He tipped his hat back and scratched the back of his neck, eyeing her head to toe.
“Miss Adams, we been waiting for you,” said Pete with a toothy grin that would frighten any dentist, and apparently had done so successfully for decades.
“Give her a hand with her bag, won’t you, Simmons?” commanded D.
Simmons rushed forward with the same black case from the videos Eve had awoken to.
“Yessir, here you go-” but Simmons words were cut short, and as his eyes grew wide, he realized that was not all that had been trimmed. Simmons’s arm had overshot while reaching inside the atomic barrier with the suit case. Staggering backwards, his arm was gone, having been completely disintegrated by the wall!
“Oh, dear…” mildly exclaimed Simmons.
“Bit too literal with the giving her a hand order, said D, shaking his head. “You realize we have a zero tolerance policy for bad puns, don’t you?”
“Yes Sir,” agreed Simmons, still in shock.
“Remind me to have you killed,” said D, clearly disappointed.
“How’s Tuesday, sir?” Suggested Simmons resuming his cheerful disposition as he struggled to use his touch screen with one hand.
“No, I’ve got Racquetball,” said D.
“If we push it up, we might be able to squeeze it in now, sir.”
Agent D immediately pulled out a gun and shot Simmons.
Eve’s eyebrows arched and froze as she watched Simmons drop dead.
D scratched his head with the hot pistol.
“Pity. He’ll be hard to replace. Simmons? Clean up this mess!” he shouted over his shoulder.
“Yessir!” Said another man identical to Simmons, stepping in from nowhere. He immediately took the gun, then proceeded to haul away the body of the old Simmons.
“Oh, and Simmons?” asked D, holding out his hand and waiting. The new Simmons put a mug in D’s hand marked “Prettiest Black Ops Agent”.
“Simmons? The Mugs? Where do you get all of these?” asked Eve.
“I have them made, but they’re all true,” he insisted, taking a sip. D nodded to the wall of death.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Eve.
“How do we know-?”
“We don’t. Never do,” shrugged D.
“But what if it-”
“Melts you? Chops you into itty-bitty pieces? Evaporates you into dust, leaving you nothing but a skeleton? Ooh, that’d be neat to see!” Smiled D, looking for Simmons to agree.
“It’s okay, Miss Adams. You done been expected,” smiled Pete through the atomic gateway. From inside the wall of terror, he extended his hand to hers to welcome her inside.
Eve had every reason to hesitate, but no reasons to stay with D and his delusional agency.
She took Pete’s hand and stepped inside. The wind began spinning around her, biting at her face like a pack of invisible wolves.
She felt burning and nothing all at once, then her world began to spin and distort. Pete seemed to fold in on himself. The cab flew by like a leaf on the wind. The ground and the sky blurred into one, and dark shadows began to close down on her like the teeth of the underworld about to swallow her whole. Everything went black.
Eve, the anomaly, everything… it was all gone.
A massive mushroom cloud exploded with a fiery halo, rapidly expanding and consuming the world. Through the voracious flames bursts a merry-go-round of images; A skull, Doctor Adam Townsend, a single red eye.
She gasped awake, something she was becoming all too accustomed to.
Eve sat up in the backseat of the taxi. It was clear that she’d survived the atomic gateway. What wasn’t clear was why her clothes had been changed. A pleated skirt nearly covered her ankles and she was covered wrist to neck in a black angora sweater.
Running her fingers through the soft angora fibers tickling the back of her neck, she hit a helmet of curls and hair product.
She leaned to see herself in the rearview mirror. In her unconscious state, had someone seized the opportunity to redress her and perm her hair?
Eve scrutinized the cabbie; Had he the hairdressing expertise to complete an admittedly salon perfect style?
“Did you?” She shook off the darkest scenario. He barely looked capable of dressing himself, let alone criminal hairstyling. “What did you do with my clothes?”
The cabbie nodded to her in the rear-view mirror.
“In the handbag beside you, Miss Adams.”
“But-” she paused, running her fingertips across the hand-sewn monogram of her initials on what was once her suitcase.
With the loss of Simmons’ arm, she hadn’t noticed that the black vinyl case, housing state of the art weaponry, had become a zigzag plaid covered shell. With her clothes changed, her luggage completely different, Eve could only wonder what vintage relics had replaced her next-gen equipment inside.
“It’s different,” said Eve.
“Lot of things different than where you come from, Miss Adams. Here in Atom Town, I mean,” affirmed the cabbie.
The angora began to tickle her neck again, the baby hairs along her spine stood on end. No, it was more than the fibers, it felt as if she was being watched, and not just by the cabbie. Eve turned to look out at the road behind. Nothing but miles of boring desert.
“What you lookin’ for?” asked the cabbie.
“Nothing,” said Eve, no longer focusing on Pete’s words.
“Oh I s’pose most folks is always lookin’ for somethin’, ‘cept they don’t always know exactly what that is. What you really lookin’ for? Maybe ol’ Pete could help you find it.” Pete smiled through the rear view mirror at her.
Eve was still trying to make sense of her surroundings as she stared through the back windshield, barely listening.
“Not sure,” Eve muttered,
When was the last time Pete had washed the cab? Or his uniform? Or himself? From appearances it would seem all had an aversion to soap and water. The back window for example was almost impossible to see through. It was so clouded over with dust. No, not dust. It was thicker, more like Vaseline. That didn’t make sense.
“Hm. You sure woke up in a fit. You having some kind of nightmare?” asked Pete.
Eve looked to see if the gelatin was covering the other windows and froze. There, out the rear passenger window was a giant hovering eye!
“Looks like I still am,” said Eve in a quiet tone as she shifted her hips to one side on the seat and spun around into a defensive position.
“True, the desert can be a bit of a fright at night-” Pete’s words were interrupted by shattering glass as Eve’s foot crashed through the window towards the eye, sending glittering shards into the road!
Pete fishtailed across the two lane highway, one wheel spinning in the sand, then finally managing to escape the desert shoulder.
“What in tarnation?!” Screamed Pete, looking back at Eve and the window as she slid her foot back inside.
The cab was silent for a moment until a lone piece of glass dropped inside and shattered on the cab floor.
“It-” began Eve, but the eye and the gelatin were gone. “Something was out there.”
“It’s called Desert, Miss Adams! Cripes it’s out the other side as well if you care to kick out that window and give me a matching set!”
“Sorry about the window,” said Eve as she sat back up and tried to sweep the bits of glass together with her shoe.
Pete rubbed the back of his neck and sighed.
“No worries, Miss Adams,” he said. Why the desert seems to have life of its own. She make some folk think all sorts of crazy thoughts.”
Eve sat for a while and just listened to the wind whipping through the broken window.
As the cab drove past a sign for ‘Atom Town: Population 443’, Eve made a mental calculation on the amount of initial suspects. In front of her was suspect number one, the kindly cab driver. 442 more to go.
Laboratory of Love
Bubbling glassware hovered over Bunsen burners and tubing filled metal framework across the room. Bookshelves lined the concrete brick walls, brimming with books, jars and vials of illegibly labeled contents.
A dusty chalkboard housed a hexagonal chemical diagram, various offshoots pointing to periodic symbols, all of which floated over a long algorithm that eventually came to an end, indicating a single word solution: “Coffee”.
A lab coat wearing scientist had passed out on a desk nearby. This was the brilliant chemist, the unmatched geneticist, the world renowned atomic theorist. This was Doctor Adam Townsend.
“Whawazzat?” His head popped up from the desk, a page of equations stuck to the front of his face, glued on by copious amounts of drool.
“Dear God, I’ve gone blind!” he screamed throwing back his chair. In a panic stricken spin, he ran straight into the cement brick wall of the lab, knocking him to the floor below. A dark haired bombshell on his calendar rocked back and forth as he stood back up, page of equations now gone, having retreated to some unseen hiding place on the floor.
“Curious,” he muttered, blinking his eyes as his vision restored.
He grabbed a pen and wrote desperately in a notebook, speaking out loud as he wrote.
“Seven thirteen. Blunt force cures blindness.” He dotted the ‘i’ then turned to face the chalk board. “Now…”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a black rock, a darker version of the atomsite Eve had found in the desert.
“Where were we?” He asked the rock.
It didn’t respond.
“Still not talking, eh? What vast secrets are you keeping from me? Speak!” He ordered the rock.
A distant woman’s voice responded,
His eyes grew wide and he leaned closer.
Outside the front door of Adam’s ranch style home in the middle of the desert stood a beautiful blonde. Her hair was held in a tight bun by an oversized bow, and her hands held tight to a bag of groceries as she straightened her skirt and blouse then knocked again.
“Adam? It’s me, Helen,” said the woman.
Back in the lab, Adam leered at the rock.
“You win this round,” he surrendered, dropping the rock into his pocket and starting for the stairs.
He backed up to a mirror and studied his reflection with concern, noticing some form of abnormality.
“My, God!” He shouted with concern. “I’m even more handsome than I was yesterday!”
He patted the underside of his chin and smiled at the Adam in the mirror.
“Adam!” screamed Helen.
“Sorry, got to go,” Adam said apologetically. “But first…” Adam reached for a nearby mug, but it was empty.
He grabbed a coffee pot hanging over a Bunsen flame, but it was empty as well.
“Not good. Kitchen!”
He darted up a flight of stairs.
Centered in Adam’s kitchen was a white pillbox of a refrigerator. A cellar door next to the fridge was cracked only slightly, and distant footsteps were approaching. The steps were growing louder, but were taking a ridiculous amount of time to alight.
Just as the footsteps seemed about to burst out of the doorway, they stopped. Several locks began sliding, and gears started turning.
The refrigerator door swung open, and Adam stepped out of his elaborate entrance to his lab.
Sliding a “World’s Handsomest Doctor” fridge magnet back into place, shelves of perishables began to slide forward, once again concealing the secret stairway as he closed the fridge door.
The doorbell repeated itself.
“Adam!” Called Helen.
“Coming!” he answered. But he wasn’t coming. No, he’d stopped suddenly, relishing in the sight of a coffee mug on the counter.
He scooped it up and headed towards the next room tipping the coffee mug back into his mouth. He stopped again, as no glorious black life had flowed into his waiting gullet.
Adam rushed back to the coffee maker to grab the pot, but there was no pot. His hand had smacked down on the heated burner.
“No pot, and hot!” He pulled his hand away in pain and blew on it. Scanning the kitchen he found no trace of his coffee pot.
Adam turned to find the pot shattered on the floor, with only a ring of broken glass attached to the handle and spout. He picked it up and tried to pour something, anything from the piece of spout into his mug, but alas, nothing came out.
“Adam!” screamed Helen again.
“No!” Adam screamed as he let the spout slip, crashing back onto the floor below. He dashed to the cupboard for a coffee can.
“Saved!” he grinned as he popped open the lid, but his salvation was naught, for the can was also empty.
Tossing the can back in the cabinet, he headed to the breadbox. Empty coffee can. Under the sink. Empty coffee can.
His spirits began to sink until he eyed the area rug on the floor.
He whipped the rug back and stepped on a black tile, teetering up a white tile next to it. He reached into this secret hiding place and pulled forth yet another sacred can of coffee, its silver skin shimmering in the soft kitchen lighting.
He popped the lid, snickering to himself, but these celebratory chortles quickly turned to whimpering woe. This can, like its predecessors, was completely devoid of coffee.
He let the can fall from his fingers, clanging onto the cold tile below. Beaten, he fell to his knees.
“I’m out of coffee!” He cried. Adam reached into his pocket and slid out a pistol.
“What do you think we should do, Muriel?” He asked the pistol, but it didn’t answer.
The doorbell called out again.
“Adam, it’s Helen,” she paused, pulling a can from the bag. “I have coff-”
Adam swung open the door.
“-ee” finished Helen.
“Ooh!” Exclaimed Adam as he snatched the coffee can and exchanged Muriel for his prize. In a blink, Helen was left outside, gun in one hand, groceries in another, staring at the closed door once again.
She paused for a minute, looking at the gun and imagining putting it to use on her unwilling host.
Helen opened the door and slid open a nearby drawer, shoving the gun inside on top of a dozen guns.
Helen pushed thru the door and snatched the coffee back from Adam, dropping the can back into the bag.
“Am I nothing more than ‘Helen, bringer of coffee’?” Asked Helen, putting a hand on her hip.
“Of course not, Helen” said Adam, taking her by both shoulders and looking her square in the eyes.
“You provide me with so much more”
Helen started to smile.
“Like sweet, non-dairy creamer!” Smiled Adam, grabbing a little carton of creamer from the bag.
Helen glared at him and gritted her teeth, wishing she had used that gun.
She snatched the creamer and stomped off to the kitchen.
As she entered the kitchen and unpacked the coffee, a strange presence approached behind her. The presence morphed into what seemed like a wall of a quivering gelatin.
Helen turned, sensing something shifting behind her, but nothing was there.
She turned back around, and the new coffee can was gone!
She whipped back around and gasped! Something clouded in smoke was moving towards her!
“Not now! Not when I’m this close!” She grumbled in frustration, throwing the empty coffee pot at the ethereal monster.
But the glass missed its intended target, shattering on the floor! Smoke encompassed her and she screamed!
Adam was leaning against the counter of the breakfast nook to the kitchen and began to worry.
“How’s the coffee? Helen? Do you smell something?” Adam took a whiff. “It’s like spring and… is that burnt hair?”
A sizzling skeleton dressed as Helen suddenly crashed through the serving window onto the counter next to Adam!
“You smell it, too?” He asked the skeleton.
The skeleton didn’t respond.
“Wait. Helen? My coffee?!” Adam exclaimed. He started towards the kitchen then stopped, calmly motioning to Helen. “Wait here.”
Adam burst through the kitchen door and dropped to his knees. Amidst the broken glass of the pot and spilled creamer was a pile of white coffee crystals, devoid of any ground bean. He cradled the white powder as it sifted through his fingers.
“What kind of madman? It’s just poor, defenseless coffee!” cried Adam in disbelief.
“Come Helen, we’re taking this to the Sheriff. I won’t rest until this entire pot is avenged! Let’s go!”
Adam raced out of the kitchen. He stopped, then leaned back in, looking at the skeletonized Helen.
“Sorry,” started Adam, somewhat embarrassed, “but you wouldn’t happen to know where I put my keys, would you?”
Helen’s corpse slid onto the floor.
“Right. I’ll take that as a no.”
As Pete pulled into the town square, Eve watched each quaint little shop they passed. The dime store soda fountain, the television and appliance shop, the movie theater, and aat the center of the courtyard a municipal clock tower building.
This was every bit the picture perfect 1950s town she’d read about and seen in movies. Or at least she presumed she’d seen. Although she had no memory of life before the agency, she still sensed the familiarity, like she still had all the books, but couldn’t see the library.
“Jimmy,” Eve whispered, noticing a paper boy riding on his Schwinn from the dime store, already loaded up with the evening edition.
“You know him?” Asked Pete. He curiously watched his passenger squirm in the rear view mirror as she tried to think of how she might know the local paper boy when she was clearly new to Atom Town.
“He’s one of my new students, isn’t he?” she hoped.
“That’s right,” nodded Pete, not giving it further thought.
“We’re here,” he said, parking the taxi in front of a corner building. A large picture window at the front had beautifully hand painted on letters reading “Robert Laughton, County Sheriff”.
Pete walked over to open her door, but Eve was already stepping out and grabbing her own bag.
“I’ll take it from here,” insisted Eve. “If I ever need a ride back-”
“Back, Miss Adams? I ferried many a soul in, but I ain’t never seen nobody leave. Well not in one piece anyhow.”
“Well, I assure you, I’ll be leaving with all my pieces intact,” said Eve.
“And what pretty little pieces they are, Miss Adams,” he smiled. “I do hope you’re right. I really do.”
As Eve walked up to the door, she saw a faded sign between the velvet half-curtain and the glass. It was a grooved sign leaning off kilter with slide letters reading “Now Hiring. Deputy Needed”. An obvious one had been used for an “i” and upside down “u” for an “n”. It bothered her that the spacing was off, and from the bug carcasses on the edges of the ridges, it looked like no one had cared to update the sign in quite some time.
The door dinged a small hanging bell as Eve entered the Sheriff’s office. She was met by a waist-high wooden fence that separated the Sheriff from the entryway, something she figured drew a line between the law and order within, and the chaos of the world outside. At least, she hoped so.
The Sheriff was fastidiously typing up a report, hunt-and-peck style with his two forefingers. Apparently the door’s jingling chime and Eve’s footsteps had not been heard over the irregular whirring of the dented metal fan beside him or the hammering of his typewriter.
Beads of sweat rolled off of the Sheriff’s white wreath of hair encircling his balding head as he fumbled with a pair of tangled typewriter mallets.
Eve cleared her throat, hoping to get some reaction.
The Sheriff didn’t bother to look up
“Yeah, I knows you’re there.”
“I’m Eve. Eve Adams. You must be Sheriff Laughton?”
The Sheriff looked up over his reading glasses and studied her for a moment.
“I suppose I must. Ain’t met a man yet that could fill this uniform.”
Eve eyed the Sheriff’s stout belly. “Might take two or three”.
He paused and looked up at Eve. “Might at that. I eat my feelin’s, and I got pretty big feelin’s.”
“You smoke your feelings too?” said Eve, noticing a cigar butt still simmering on an ash tray. She may not have remembered hating cigars, but she hated the smell nonetheless.
Eve took the cigar, snuffed it against the underside of the Sheriff’s desk and dropped it into his waste basket.
He stared a little too long at his waste basket, searching for words.
“Pretty bold of ya’. Snuffin’, my cigar, insultin’ the man who’s puttin’ you up for the night. Can’t decide to hate ya’ or offer you some coffee.”
Eve realized she probably wasn’t winning favor with her host, but figured coffee was the preferred option, even if she wasn’t a fan.
“I suppose I could go for a cup,” she said.
“Problem is, I ain’t got none to offer you.”
Eve hesitated. Was it truly that he had none, or just none he was willing to give to her?
“This is one place I’d think would never run out,” said Eve.
“Oh it run out, all right. Only we don’t know whereabouts it all run off to!”
“You’re saying someone stole your coffee?” asked Eve.
“Well I ain’t sayin’ it run off by itself. Mine, the grocery store, the whole town’s out!” said the Sheriff.
Dozens of missing persons, at least one confirmed homicide, but a coffee thief was top priority?
“What kind of person steals coffee?” she asked.
“Can’t imagine some fool plumb out of his wits enough to do so.”
He stopped, staring out the window.
“Then again, maybe I can,” said the Sheriff.
Doctor Adam Townsend burst through the door carrying the skeletonized Helen.
“She’s dead, Sheriff,” said the Doctor, pausing for effect. “My last chance at love, far more chances than any man deserves, and I’ve squandered it. Let it slip away. Shoot me, Sheriff. Shoot me right in the heart. I won’t be needing it anymore.”
Sheriff Laughton eyed the corpse with a mighty exhale.
“Alright, I’ll get my gun,” he said, obligingly reaching for his rifle off the wall.
Adam stopped in his tracks, suddenly noticing Eve.
“Hel-lo!” He said, tossing the skeletal remains on top of the Sheriff and knocking the old man to the ground.
"We haven't been properly introduced," said Adam, sliding in next to Eve. "I'm -"
“Doctor Adam Townsend?” Interrupted Eve.
His face, that chin, this was definitely the man from the film. He had a quality that just made you want to punch him in the face in passing, not angrily, just some form of inexplicable fist magnet inside that squared jaw of his. Despite his towering six three height dwarfing her five and a half foot frame, Eve held her wrist on the off chance she might launch a fist in his direction.
“Miss Adams, the Doc. Doc, Miss Adams. She’s the new School Teacher,” said the Sheriff as he hung the skeleton on the hook off the coat rack.
“So you’ve heard of me? Well who hasn’t? I’m kinda’ famous around these parts. In fact it’s a rare privilege just to meet me,” he smiled, pausing a moment for Eve to bask in his own magnificence. “Yeah, you’re welcome.”
Eve was finding it more and more difficult to keep from punching that jaw. She looked to the Sheriff for some clue if this was normal behavior for the Doctor, but the Sheriff just rolled his eyes.
“Who’s your friend?” Asked Eve, nodding to the corpse on the coat rack.
“What friend?” Said Adam, lost in Eve’s eyes.
At that moment, the skeleton snapped of the coat rack hook and dropped to the floor. Sheriff Laughton scrambled to catch it but wound up with only the skull in his arms.
“Oh, that,” said Adam, suddenly remembering why he was here. “It’s pain, Eve. Pain. But I’ve moved on.”
“That was fast,” said Eve.
“I’m a quick healer,” said Adam.
“Well I guess my day just got a little fuller,” said the Sheriff, dropping the skull in his inbox. “Helen?”
“Yup,” said Adam, clearly no longer impacted.
“Who’s Helen?” Asked Eve.
“Grammar, well former grammar school teacher, said the Sheriff, correcting himself mid-sentence. “Looks like you’re here just in time.”
“And you’ve quite the shoes to fill,” added Adam.
As she looked at the knotted pile of skeleton and clothing, one foot popped off and thumped onto the floor.
“I see that,” said Eve, wondering why they were taking the loss of a teacher so nonchalantly.
“So how’d it happen, Townsend?” asked the Sheriff, grabbing a yellow form.
“She made me a cup of coffee. She died,” said Adam matter-of-factly.
The Sheriff nodded, dotted an “i” then set it in the inbox next to the skull, finished with his report.
“Wait, that’s it?” asked Eve, affronted that this was the extent of a possible murder investigation.
“What’s it?” asked Adam.
“You don’t just die making a cup of coffee!” insisted Eve.
“Helen did,” reminded Adam.
“Man’s got a point,” added the Sheriff, not planning on giving it another thought.
Eve eyed the pile of Helen. “Shouldn’t there be more discussion or investigation?”
“Look,” said Adam, taking her by the shoulders. “I’ve suffered an unspeakable loss. Part of me died this day. My soul… tainted. Empty. Right here,” Adam pointed to his chest, staring into the middle distance.
“That’s terrible”, said Eve, now finally getting acknowledgement of the emotional side of the loss.
“I know. Life without coffee, my precious life fulfilling coffee,” Adam fought back tears.
Eve took a deep breath, disappointed with herself for believing he was talking about Helen.
“Why did I ask?” Eve asked the Sheriff.
“You’ll know better next time,” said the law man with a side glance.
“Speaking of which, mind if I help myself to a cup, Sheriff?” said Adam.
“Afraid I’m fresh out,” he answered, the corners of his eyes tightening, prepping for the windfall of Adam’s coming reaction.
The Doctor leaned his head back and laughed.
Suddenly Adam snapped serious, grabbing the Sheriff and pulling him uncomfortably close.
“No, seriously. Java man needs his coffee!”
The Sheriff eyed Adam’s mitts and looked back at him angrily. “You mind?!”
Adam released him.
“Sorry, Sheriff. Haven’t had a cup all morning. A bit on edge. Besides, I’m sure Eve, here would appreciate a fresh cup of coffee.”
Eve shook her head. “I don’t drink coffee.”
“Then, mind if I have yours?” asked Adam.
“Like I said,” interrupted the Sheriff, “There ain’t no coffee. Whole town’s out.”
“A percolator’s apocalypse,” gasped Adam in an eerie tone, as if the coming of such an event had been foretold in ancient Mayan hieroglyphs.
“Had to lock up the last can from the grocery store until we sort out this mess.” The Sheriff pulled some unseen lever under his desk and the drawer facade popped open to reveal a safe hidden within. “She’s safe.”
Adam smiled at the safe, “Don’t worry, daddy’s here.”
“Not happenin’ Townsend,” said the Sheriff, closing the door and concealing the safe once again. “Nothing comes outta’ that safe until this blows over.”
Adam glared at the Sheriff. “Fine, so I solve this clever caffeinated conundrum, I get the coffee?”
"I got it under -"
“It’s simple,” interrupted Adam. “If I were coffee, where would I hide?”
Adam paused dramatically, then rushed to a coffee cart in the corner and smelled the empty coffee percolator.
“Is he always like this?” Eve asked the Sheriff.
“Nah,” he said shaking his head. “He’s usually worse.”
Adam returned, holding the inner workings of the brewing machine in one hand, a spoon in the other.
“Tell me Sheriff, have you noticed anything unusual?” he asked, shoving a bite of used coffee grounds into his mouth.
They stared at Adam for a moment, equally in disgust and bemusement of the seemingly rhetorical request.
“What?” he asked, swallowing the last of the grounds.
Eve nodded to the spoon.
“Sorry,” said Adam, “I should have offered.”
Adam dropped the percolator filter and spoon back on the coffee cart, sending a small spider scurrying across the table towards them.
The scream that followed immediately caused Eve to think a three year old girl had secretly entered the room. But no, it was Adam.
“That was manly,” she scoffed.
Adam scraped together his ego and grabbed his medical bag.
“Right. I’ve got this,” he smiled, pulling out a handgun.
“That’s hardly medical equipment, Doctor, said Eve.
“Shh,” hushed Adam. “Daddy’s going to operate.”
Although Eve’s last doctor visit left a pile of bodies on the floor, including the attending physician, she was fairly certain firearms weren’t standard operating equipment.
“You really think that’s appropriate?” Eve asked.
“You’re right,” said Adam, dropping the gun back in his bag and motioning to the Sheriff. “Bob, hand me your rifle.”
Eve stopped the Sheriff with a finger.
Adam was starting to get frustrated.
“What now?!” He asked.
“Well, fer starters, you’d put a hole clean through my floor!” added the old man, returning the rifle to its rack.
“Fine. Bob, hand me your shoe.”
“I guess I’ll be the grown up,” said Eve, scooping up the spider in two hands.
Both grown men recoiled as she walked it towards them.
Eve shook her head. “It’s a spider, not a monster. It has needs, fears, probably even has a family.”
“Where?!” begged Adam as he hopped behind the Sheriff who’s was tightly clutching a shoe. Both men scanned the floor for more spiders.
Eve just sighed and headed for the door.
“Man, that corpse is getting ripe,” muttered Adam. He sniffed the air then grabbed and smelled the shoe. “Whoa! Is the room spinning? “
“Give me that!” Said the Sheriff taking back his shoe and returning it to his foot.
Eve opened the door to release the spider and bumped into Pete.
“Miss Adams,” greeted the cabbie.
“Hi, Pete. Just showing these little girls how to deal with a monster,” smiled Eve as she turned back inside.
“You showed them,” said Pete. He waited for her to turn, them crushed the spider with the toe of his boot.
“Pete. Almost ready,” began the Sheriff, grabbing a stack of papers off of his desk. As he swung around towards a large metal filing cabinet, a file flopped out of the pile and onto the floor. A picture slid out of the folder which Eve recognized immediately.
Eve picked up the file reading “Deakins”.
“What’s this?” Eve asked, already knowing it was the skeletonized agent in a police uniform that D had shown her.
The sheriff ripped the folder away from her, tearing part of the tab off. She looked at the “eakins” in her fingers curiously.
“And in you go with the others,” said the Sheriff, sticking the file in among others in the top drawer of the filing cabinet.
“That there’s today’s guest of honor,” explained the Sheriff.
“For what?” Asked Eve.
“What else? The funeral. Heck, you might as well tag along,” said the Sheriff, sliding the file drawer closed.
Eve stared at the cabinet. “Others” he said. She may be able to solve more than the Deakins disappearance if she could get into that cabinet.
“If it’s all the same, I can wait here,” suggested Eve.
“Wait, if she doesn’t go, I don’t see why I have to,” added Adam.
“You’re all goin’! Now skedaddle!” Advised the Sheriff, putting on his cowboy hat and holding the door for Adam to ensure he was attending.
As the Sheriff headed out, Eve caught Pete eyeballing the corpse everyone was leaving on the floor.
“Her name was Helen,” explained Eve
“Oh I knowed who she was,” said Pete. “Miss Dexter. Taxied her into town a few weeks back.”
Eve stared back at the pile of bones with a new sense of wonder. Could Helen have been an agent as well? Two dead agents.
“Hope your teachin’ career lasts a little longer,” said Pete, scratching the back of his neck.
Eve looked again at the pile she hoped wouldn’t become her future.
“That makes two of us,” she said.
Villagos Cemetery snaked around a long dirt road, lined with aging plots of tombstones until reaching a clearing with more modern markers.
As Eve and Pete arrived, they filed in around the Sheriff and Adam by the open plot. Pete stationed himself near a pile of loose earth alongside a shovel. Judging from the fresh dirt on his coveralls, it would seem he was moonlighting as the grave digger, taxi and tow service.
Eve stared transfixed at the hole, nearly stepping in herself. The casket had already been closed and lowered in, but she’d seen the photo. Deakins was long gone. She only hoped she wouldn’t be soon to follow.
A very elderly gentleman in long black robes raised his arms and began.
“Friends, we are-” The Sheriff stopped him. He was facing no one, his back to the grave.
“Here you go, padre,” said the Sheriff, turning the old man to face his podium and the small crowd.
“Thank you, little girl,” graciously smiled the preacher, patting the Sheriff on the hand.
“You’re welcome,” said the Sheriff, ignoring the senile comment.
“We are gathered today in remembrance of,” began the preacher. He paused looking for words. “To… to remember.” He put his arms down. “Goodness, anyone remember his name?”
No one answered.
“Anyone?” He asked again.
“Anyone care?” Asked Adam.
“Adam,” scolded Eve, appalled at the sacrilege. Still, no one raised a hand or a voice.
“See,” said Adam, “Same number of votes.
“Still,” added the Sheriff, “he was my deputy, and he deserves a smidge of respect.”
“Right. I’ll handle this,” said Adam, stepping in front of the preacher.
“Why am I worried?” Eve whispered to the Sheriff.
“Wait for it,” he whispered back, folding his hands together and waiting patiently.
“Friends,” began the doctor, “we are gathered here today to discuss a man. A great man. A man of science. A man whose atomic expertise is renown around the world, a man I think we all wish we could be.”
“Wait,” said Eve. “You’re eulogizing about yourself, aren’t you?”
“How about that? It’s a wish come true!”
“You’re not dead,” said Eve. “Yet.”
“And Amen to that! Can you imagine a world without Doctor Adam Townsend?” Adam shook off an assortment of heebies and jeebies. “Scary!”
“Down,” she instructed Adam away from the podium and escorted the Minister back into position.
“Deakins, father,” said Eve as she slipped back into her spot near the Sheriff.
“Deakins?” said the Sheriff, looking at her curiously.
“It was on the file in your office,” explained Eve, hoping he wouldn’t push further.
“What’s Deakins?” asked the preacher.
“The Deputy,” advised the Sheriff.
“Deakins is the new Deputy?” Asked the preacher.
“I believe the operative word would be ‘Was’ the new Deputy,” corrected Adam.
“Oh, dear, has something happened to him?”
“He’s dead, father,” the Sheriff reminded him.
“We should arrange some services, then,” nodded the preacher.
The Sheriff was losing patience and just looked from the casket to the preacher and nodded the direction of Deakins’s final resting place.
“Oh, yes. My memory. Was it over?”
“Yes!” Affirmed Adam.
“No,” countered Eve.
“Buzzkill,” muttered Adam. “That’s you. Smotherer of joy.”
“Doctor,” said Eve, clearly building up a long breath to lay into him.
“Sh,” hushed Adam, holding a finger to her lips. “Prayer time.”
“Right,” said the preacher. “Let us bow our heads and pray. Lord?”
He paused. The pause lingered until finally collapsing into a dead stop.
“Amen!” shouted Adam.
“Amen,” confirmed the preacher.
“And that’ll do her. Have at it, Pete,” instructed the Sheriff. He took the preacher’s arm. “Back to the church with you, padre.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Perkins,” he said, patting the Sheriff on the hand again.
The two headed towards a chapel tucked away in the trees.
“Well, see you all same time next week,” said Adam, heading off towards the trees.
Eve was ready to vent her indignation to Pete, but she turned to find him raiding the coffin. He pulled out the deputy badge. Is this really how they mark the passing of a fellow human being?
“Oh I know what you’re thinkin’,” said Pete without looking up, “but Sheriff likes to recycle, and I likes to make sure it ain’t empty.”
“That’s happened?” asked Eve
Pete thought about it. “Once, but good enough reason to check,” he explained, starting to fill the hole with dirt.
Eve scanned the graveyard. The Sheriff was pulling away, but Adam’s convertible was still parked.
“Where did Adam rush off to?”
Pete tossed a big spade of dirt on the casket. “Likely payin’ respects to mommy,” he said nodding to an old family plot on a hill just above the tree line. “Does it every week.”
Eve could make out a darkened mausoleum but no Adam.
“What about his father?”
“He’s there too, only Adam don’t pay no respects to him. Just momma’” said Pete, returning to his shoveling.
Eve started to piece together bits of conversation. “You said every week?”
“Mostly,” Pete estimated.
“You bury a deputy every week?!”
“Deputies, transients, common folk from outta’ town that keep to themselves. All with more than their fair share of questions, only don’t suppose they found what they was looking for.”
“Or maybe that’s the problem, Pete. Maybe they did find it,” suggested Eve. “How long has this been going on?”
“Jes’ look around ya’,” said Pete, stomping the shovel deeper into the fill dirt.
“Look at what?” asked Eve, looking back down at the dirt covered coffin.
Pete stopped to wipe his brow and neck with his handkerchief, then motioned to the perfectly aligned plots in front of them.
“This whole section, the new land here, why I suppose I’ve got about fifty, no, fifty-five plots here. And come tomorrow I’ll be digging another.”
Another? Eve wasn’t sure how to take that news. “For..?”
“Don’t tell me you already forgot Helen? The school teacher? We’ll hold services within the week. S’pose she ain’t gonna’ spoil in that condition.”
“If you don’t mind Miss Adams, I’ll just finish up here and meet you at the truck in a few minutes.”
Eve nodded, then walked the long way to the tow truck, studying each marker. Many of the tombstones had law man stars, more deputies, no doubt. She counted them for herself, but Pete definitely could add. Fifty-six including Helen. Likely every agent now accounted for except one. Fifty-six times agents were sent in, and fifty-six times it ended badly. But who or what was killing these agents? And more importantly, how would she avoid becoming the fifty-seventh casualty of Atom Town?
Eve headed towards the tow truck. Pete was still busying himself with filling in the hole so she sat on the bumper trying to think about a graveyard full of peers, her suspects so far, and what that hallucination was when she first awoke in the cab.
Fifty-eight. D said she was the fifty eighth, and only fifty-six had been accounted for.
“There must be one more,” she whispered to herself.
The hair on the back of her neck began to stand on end again. It was that feeling she was being watched again.
She could hear the wind slowly rustling through the leaves in the row of trees and shrubs across the road from her. If she was being watched it was from these bushes.
Eve parted the bushes and pushed herself into a shadowy clearing that was carpeted with matted leaves, mud and rock. Bugs, wind, everything fell silent.
Amidst the shadows cast by the leafy canopy was a single black rock jutting from the ground. No, not a rock. Another tombstone. The last agent?
Cicadas and the rustling leaves resumed as Eve approached the darkened marker. The closer she got to the tombstone, the more the rocks seemed to pave her path.
She looked at both sides of the marker, but no name. It was as if it had been dipped in dark obsidian, much like an ice cream cone gets dipped in chocolate.
But this wasn’t obsidian. It was like the atomsite she’d seen in the desert, just darker. And seemingly solid, not brittle like the piece that disintegrated in her hand earlier that day.
Perhaps she could wipe away the covering, she thought. She had to know if this was agent fifty-seven.
As her hand drew near, she could feel the warmth of the evening sun resonating from the rock. She paused as a rusty chain began to cry. Eve looked up to see more rock at the base of a tree, supporting a vacant porch swing, slowly shifting in the mild breeze.
Her fingers reached towards the tombstone.
Pete’s hand reached in and grabbed her wrist.
“I wouldn’t, Miss Adams,” said Pete, studying the marker intently.
“Could this be another deputy or transient?” she asked.
“This isn’t one I’ve seen before, Miss Adams” Pete’s voice was shaking. He looked at the marker for what seemed like hours.
“Whose do you suppose it is?” Eve asked.
“Not the foggiest,” murmured Pete, but Eve was fairly certain he knew exactly whose grave this was.
Pete looked around, as if he felt they were being watched, too.
“We best be getting you back to town. Wait for me in the truck. Already got it warming up. I just need to grab my shovel and gear.”
Eve wasn’t sure if she should trust this hillbilly but she resigned to his answer.
“Fine. I’ll be in the truck. You sure that couldn’t have been the one. The empty one I mean? “
“Oh no,” chuckled Pete. “Pretty well familiar with that marker. It’s over yonder, before we started this new section. Heckuva’ feller, that one.”
Pete slowly backed away from the black marker and scratched at the back of his neck.
“Do me a favor,” added Pete hushing his words. “Don’t go and mention this to the Sheriff or the Doc. Some things,” he paused. “Some things should just stay buried.”
As Eve returned to the tow truck, the doors were wide open and the glove box hatch had been torn off and thrown on the ground along with an empty butter nut coffee tin, maps, and papers.
Eve picked up the coffee can and out spilled a handful of pure white crystals. The glove box destroyed, the coffee, could it be Adam? Was he the one stealing coffee? She’d seen how desperate he was. He’d even used coffee grounds to get his “fix”.
She shook off the idea. She didn’t want to allow the coffee case to throw her off her goal of solving the fifty-plus homicides.
From inside the truck she heard her name. It was mingled with static and then stopped. “Eve,” it said again, this time clearly from the Tow Truck radio. Eve looked for Pete, still gathering his grave digger supplies. The radio coughed awake again.
“Evening, folks. And now the weather with Skip, Masterson. Skip?”
A deep, grizzled voice came on the radio… “Skip? I never agreed to ‘Skip’”
“Sir,” whispered a voice, “we’re live!”
Eve recognized the voices. It was Simmons and Agent D.
“Right,” Continued D. “Tonight’s weather will be partly cloudy, clearing up at three AM, with a low of eight degrees.”
“This message brought to you by Pointline radios! Get the point with Pointline!” Added Simmons.
“This is radio, Simmons. Sing something,” D commanded.
What came out of the speakers next was barely discernable as human singing. Inflection and words drizzled out, but fell flat and hit the shrillest of tones once trapped in the ear canal.
Eve tried to kill the noise, reaching to the radio dial, but the radio wasn’t on.
Eve banged on the radio to make it stop. Immediately something shifted loose under the dash and slid down the inside of the console. A pistol dropped to the floor. Among the papers was a map of Atom County. Circles and “X“s littered the map without explanation, but if Eve were to guess, there were about fifty-six total markings.
“Who are you, Pete?” Eve asked herself.
“Me?” Said Pete just audible over Simmons’s quote, unquote singing. Eve hadn’t heard Pete step up to the vehicle. “I’m just a nobody,” he said, tossing the shovel and a small bag in the back of the tow truck.
Pete turned off the singing with a click of a dial. It was the CB radio. A Pointline. D was trying to get across a message. That must be how Pete knew to pick up a new agent.
“You know more than you let on,” said Eve as Pete slid into the driver’s seat. “Who are you, really?”
“Me, I’m the ferry man,” smiled Pete. “Pay the toll and I ferry you cross the Styx into Atom Town.”
“And what is that toll? What form of currency is D paying you?”
“Beggin’ your forgiveness’ Miss Adams, but if you ain’t the one paying the check, you don’t need to pay no bother to the bill.”
That wasn’t a denial. He didn’t even flinch when she referenced Agent D. He definitely knew something, and maybe, just maybe he could help her understand the chaos.
“All of this, the graves, the coffee, the murder, that ridiculous Doctor, does it begin to make sense or is it always this crazy?”
Pete sat and chewed on that for a moment. “Yes,” he finally responded.
“Which is it Pete?” Eve clarified. “Does it make sense or is it constant craziness?”
“Can’t it be both?” he asked, hoping for a loophole to the question.
“No,” insisted Eve.
“They ain’t necessarily two sides of a coin, Miss Adams,” said Pete, hoping it would suffice.
Pete sat for a moment, scratched the back of his neck, and then smiled.
“You ever read the ‘Allegory of the Cave’?” He asked.
Read it? She wouldn’t have guessed Pete could even pronounce ‘allegory’.
Pete must have seen her questionable expression.
“You’re right,” Pete smiled wider, showing gaps where teeth ought to have been. “Ol’ Pete know more than he let on.” Pete leaned back and took a deep breath.
“See, there’s this old story of a cave. Nothin’ too special about it, ’cept there’s this feller tied to a rock facing away from folks so all he can see is their shadows. Why it goes on for so long, that by the time they cut him free, he thinks the shadows is the people, and the people, well they ain’t nothin’,” explained Pete. “Y’see, we all have our caves to face, Miss Adams. You go into life one way, but you comes out another. All changed, you follow?”
“No,” said Eve. “I think I’d just board up the cave, lock the crazies inside.”
“Crazies,” laughed Pete. “If’n all you sees is crazy, why crazy, it becomes the norm. So supposin’ the whole world is crazy, but you ain’t. Well, by definition, you’d be the only odd man out. The crazy one, see?”
“So I’m crazy, now?” Eve asked, growing frustrated by Pete seemingly turning this on her.
“It’s upside-down. Ol’ Pete is just puttin’ it into perspective for ya’,” he smiled.
“I don’t need it in perspective, Pete. I need it in drive.”
“Lady gets what the lady wants!” And with that, Pete pulled out of the cemetery and headed back to town.
Eve looked back at the road as the sun was setting. The film like she’d seen in the taxi seemed to be forming on the back window of the truck as well. It must have just been exhaustion. Which was probably why Eve was getting short with Pete.
“Thank you, Pete,” Eve said, breaking the silence. “You seem to have a good head on your shoulders.”
“What, this old thing,” smiled Pete. “Ain’t even mine. Got it second hand.”
She shook her head. “How do you do it?”
“Do what?” he asked.
“Survive the madness?”
“Found my niche,” he explained. “Don’t worry, someday you’ll find yours, Miss Adams. You’ll see. One day it’ll just hitcha’.”
“Lookout!” Screamed Eve. The headlights hit a man, and with a thud, the tow truck did likewise!
Pete skidded to a stop. “What was it? What did I hit?”
Eve knew what she’d seen.
“Adam. We just killed Adam!”
Heel to Tow
There was no doubt. Doctor Adam Townsend was dead.
Eve couldn’t get over the look on his face as the tow truck ran him down.
Pete turned the ignition off and tipped his hat back.
“Well I suppose I better take a looksee,” he said, opening his door and sliding out of the truck.
Eve didn’t follow. She just watched as Pete rounded the front of the tow truck then squatted down, disappearing below the hood.
“Well this dent sure ain’t gonna’ hammer out easy,” he said, clearly not concerned about the body sprawled on the road. He stood up, then looked over at Eve.
“Care to take a look?” Asked Pete, a grin forming at the corners of his mouth. Something was amiss.
Eve hopped out of the truck and approached the front.
Nothing on the road, nothing on the bumper, nothing under the truck.
“Told you it weren’t nothing” said Pete, patting her on the back.
But she knew what she’d seen.
“The dent, clearly we hit something,” she insisted.
“It would seem, Miss Adams,” said Pete, unconvinced. “But ain’t no man, and sure as Dickens ain’t no Adam. It’s this infernal desert. I told ya’, at night, this heat, it has a way of playin’ tricks on ya’, that’s all. “
“I know what I saw, Pete. Maybe he skidded off the road, I don’t know, but Doctor Adam Townsend is dead,” she said.
A black convertible pulled up… it was Adam!
“What did I miss?” asked the Doctor, getting out of his car.
“Seems we just hit you, least that’s what Miss Adams thinks,” smiled Pete.
“Am I dead?” He asked. Eve stared at him a moment. He was genuinely concerned.
“Obviously you’re fine,” said Eve, turning away.
Adam grabbed her shoulder.
“You don’t know that! I could be bleeding, concussed, hemorrhaging internally!” He turned to the old man. “Pete! Radio for a doctor!”
“The doctor’s already here,” reminded Eve.
“Ah! And just in the nick of time!” Adam looked around. “So where is he?”
“You! As hard as it is to believe, you’re the doctor,” screamed Eve, poking him in the chest.
“Ow. I mean, right. So where’s the patient?” Asked Adam, looking around the road.
“I can’t-” Eve stopped. There was a strange powdery substance at the edge of the road. As she walked towards it, Eve could see a loafer print with a scarred heel.
“What is it?” asked Adam, following her over to the white pile.
“A single footprint,” said Eve, memorizing the pattern of the heel. “There’s a man out here after all,” she said, relieved that she wasn’t crazy.
“Shouldn’t be too hard to find,” said Adam confidently.
“How’s that?” asked Eve.
“Simple, we just look for a man with one leg.” Adam nodded to himself at a job well done. Eve ignored him and walked off the direction the footprint was pointed, staring out into the desert.
“What’s out there?” asked Eve.
“Let me see,” said Adam, pushing her aside to get a better look. “Yup. Desert.”
"I know it's desert. I mean- Just forget it!" Eve stepped to the edge of the gravel shoulder of the road. Adam's hand was suddenly on her arm, Pete's on the other. They had stopped her from stepping into the desert.
“What you don’t know, Eve,” began Adam, “is that the desert is the single greatest predator known to man. Those it does not devour are never far from death. What’s left of the few who survive welcome death’s release from the horrific torture of their miserable existence. No, to set foot in the desert is to step into the arms of death himself. Poor Deputy Deakins found that out the hard way.”
“The desert alone can’t kill a man,” said Eve.
“You’re right!” shouted Adam with a sudden epiphany. “It isn’t working alone. Why didn’t I see it?!”
Adam rushed back to his car and sped off.
Eve looked at Pete, brow furrowed, “and that’s him making sense?”
“Nah,” smiled Pete’s. “That’s pure crazy.”
Eve turned away in resignation.
“Still, you isn’t,” said Pete, looking at the desert.
“Could be Dead Rock Mine,” he continued, pointing to a pile of rock and desert flora not far from the road. “That there’s the entrance. They say mines and tunnels run all through this desert. But if someone is truly out there, Miss Adams, I can assure you, ain’t no hope for them now. Whatever lies out there is something you don’t wanna’ find”
Eve looked back at the boot print. It was aimed directly towards the mine. Distant cicadas were growing louder, she could feel the hair on her neck again. Something was stirring. Yes, no doubt about it, something was there. Something was watching them.
Broom With a View
It was a long ride in the tow truck back to town. Or at least it seemed long as Eve sat in silence trying to sift through what she knew, and what she thought she knew.
Nothing added up. Fifty-seven agents dead. A darkened tombstone. Stolen coffee. A man in the road who wasn’t there. Hallucinations. A moron for a doctor and a lunatic for an agency head.
Eve stared out the window for an answer or distraction, she’d settle for either.
“We’re here,” said Pete, stopping the tow truck. “The Laughton House.”
Eve got out of the truck and carried her bag. Whatever Pete said to her as he drove off was lost on her. She was transfixed on her temporary home.
Ivy, poison and otherwise crawled up the sides of the house, veins slowly tying themselves to the shutters, seemingly to pull them shut. Boards lined one window, a screen dangled from another.
Alongside the house ran a clothesline, snapped in half long ago, as if having lost a game of red rover with the neighborhood. It looked as if the last owners had abandoned it, but no, the mailbox still read “Laughton”.
“Bit of a fixer-upper,” she said to the Sheriff as he fiddled with a porch swing chain.
“She’s seen better days,” he agreed. “You sure you wouldn’t want to stay at the motel? Pete seemed to feel you’d be more comfortable here. Just until you get settled, that is. “
“This will be perfect,” said Eve, eager to crawl inside and find some place of solitude to just sit and absorb.
“Let me get that bag for you,” started the Sheriff, but Eve quickly gripped the handle.
“I’m a big girl. I can manage,” she smiled.
“Hope this big girl don’t scare easy,” he said, unlocking the door. “Neighbor kids make up all kinds of stories about her,” the door opened and air sucked in as if entering a tomb for the first time in a millennium.
“She just needs a little lookin’, after,” he nodded and motioned Eve inside.
The furniture inside was well preserved, covered in sheets and plastic. The sheriff grabbed at a couple of cobwebs, then fiddled with them until they came off of his hands. He patted his chest just in case the spiders he was imagining crawling on him were real.
“Kitchen’s in there, and this is the sittin’ room,” he explained.
Eve looked around at the white shrouded furniture. “Been entertaining a lot of ghosts?”
“Somethin’ like that. Lucky they don’t eat too much. Kitchen ain’t been stocked in a while. Market’s likely closed, but I could call Dave and we could-”
“I’ll be fine,” interrupted eve. “Maybe I’ll head over in the morning.”
“Want me to pick you up? I’m up with the dawn, don’t sleep much.”
“No, it’s just a block to the square, I can walk,” insisted Eve.
“Alright, mind the stairs,” said the Sheriff leading her up. He stopped as a loose board squeaked under his foot.
“There she is,” he said, squeaking the step a couple more times. “She likes to complain, hear her at all hours, but pay her no mind. She’s just old and crotchety,” he smiled.
At the top of the stairs were a series of doors. Eve noticed a lone white door at the end of the hall.
“Is that mine?” Asked Eve, eager to conclude the tour.
The Sheriff stared at the door for a moment. Clearly he hadn’t been inside for some time. Had he truly forgotten which doors led to bedrooms?
“Nah,” he finally answered. “That there’s the broom closet.”
“Looks a little big for a broom closet,” suggested Eve.
“Well, we got big brooms!” He started to yell, then caught himself. “Look, you’re welcome to everything I gots, but that door, you just don’t open it, y’hear?”
“I didn’t mean to-”
“Nah. Pay it no never mind. Now this is the bath, I’ll get you some linens. And this is the guest room. Your room.”
Eve entered and placed her suitcase on the bed, scanning the gold foil and green flecked paisley puke of the wallpaper.
“Well this ought to give me nightmares,” she muttered to herself.
“How’s that?” asked the Sheriff from the hall. He was busy getting towels and blankets.
“I like the décor,” she lied.
“Really? I kinda’ always hated it. Wallpaper looks like some kinda’ creature’s sick,” he said, carrying in half a dozen blankets and comforters.
“You could blanket Alaska with those,” said Eve. “Those all for me?”
“No, they’re for the two dozen Eskimos stayin’ next door,” he said, dropping the blankets on the bed.
“It gets mighty cold on this side of the house,” he continued. “If you need me, I’ll be back at the station.”
“You sleep at your desk?”
“Yeah, I tuck away in the top drawer real nice,” he quipped. “There’s a bunkhouse in the upstairs.”
“But there’s so much space, here,” she couldn’t understand why he would still have this big house and live at the station.
“I get so busy. Besides, I can’t. It’s just so… full.”
“Full? Of what?”
The Sheriff paused and shook his head.
“Brooms,” he said, then closed her door and squeaked the step again on his way down.
As Eve leaned back on the pillow, she could hear him close the front door, then listened as he got in his car, got back out of his car, grunted as he pulled out some weeds and then finally returned to his car and drove back towards the station.
The dark, sparkling paisleys of the horrendous wallpaper began to shimmer and blur. The ceramic animals on the dresser seemed to stare at her curiously, especially a particularly obstinate poodle.
Too much crazy for one day. The poodle became a darkened puddle of nothing. Eve immediately drifted to sleep.
Elms on Nightmare Street
A merry go round of imagery; Doctor Adam Townsend; Agent D’s stern face; the skeletal face of Deputy Deakins.
Eve tossed and turned as the nightmare continued.
Adam stepped out of the skull’s mouth then immediately got hit by a speeding tow truck!
“Nobody worry, I’m okay,” said the dream Adam, standing up and dusting himself off.
Another tow truck sped by, crushing him again.
He stood up again, gripping his arm.
“Still okay,” he said.
A third tow truck slammed into him and stopped, sending Adam flying. The driver was a skeleton in a cap and jumpsuit which looked like Pete’s. He tipped his hat then drove off, slowly crossing an Adam speed bump.
Adam staggered to his feet,
“Okay, that one stung a lit-” his words cut short as another tow truck ended it. Adam didn’t get back up.
A lone flower grew from the ground where he fell, then burst into flame and wilted. A skeletal hand reached out of the fire to grab her!
Eve popped up in a cold sweat and threw a pillow across the room.
She cringed as she heard what sounded like glass shattering. As she looked across the room for the pillow she realized what had happened. She’d killed the poodle.
She tried to piece it together, perhaps with enough glue? No. With all the tiny porcelain shards, Fido was gone.
A voice came from the hall. Eve instinctively grabbed the poodle’s head, the broken porcelain of its razor sharp back made a perfect makeshift dagger.
As Eve peeked through the crack in her door she couldn’t see anything in the hall. At the opposite end she heard more mumbling.
From under the white door of the supposed broom closet emanated a soft, pale blue glow. A voice, a man, someone was behind that door. It wasn’t the Sheriff, Eve new his gristle and twang.
Eve tightened her grip on the poodle and crept barefoot down the hall. With the cold wood on her feet, she realized she must have kicked her shoes off in her sleep.
As she reached the door, the dim light of the glow revealed some kind of lithograph. No it was hand painted, a long stemmed flower. A dark scratch covered what she presumed may have been a name.
The voice hushed and the glow shut off. Eve was alone in the hall, barefoot, and armed with nothing but a tchotchke.
Eve spun around and kicked in the door! A man’s face… Adam?! She launched the poodle into the dark room! Glass shattered! The poodle had hit its mark right between Adam’s eyes. But it wasn’t Adam, it was a life sized framed likeness.
“Just a picture. Pity,” she thought to herself imagining wiping the smug grin off of the Doctor’s face.
“With love, Adam” read the signature in the corner. Eve wondered what kind of person gives another a signed picture of themselves as a gesture of love, but clearly that seemed to fit what little she knew of the egocentric Doctor.
The full room illuminated for a second. The walls, nightstand, bed, all of it had been burned, charred black.
She turned to find that the light was coming from a television set. A short in the power was cutting it off intermittently. As the screen ignited again, the scrolling picture rolled rapidly upwards like a reverse waterfall of static and black and white imagery.
A voice came from the television.
“Eve,” started the box. Eve adjusted a dial on the top of the set and the horizontal flickering held for a moment.
“Evening news with Bret Macready!”
Although there was a significant mask of static and the picture continued to occasionally roll upwards, Eve could tell the anchor called “Bret” was indeed Agent D again.
“This just in, an urgent matter that may be life threatening, so let’s get right to the point,” began D. “Say that reminds me, let’s thank our sponsor. Pointline Radios.”
An announcer suddenly kicked in while D pretended to have a silent conversation with a cardboard cutout cohost. The cameras rolled over to Simmons modeling the C.B. radio on a podium.
“Yes, Tonight’s Channel Eight news is brought to you by Pointline Radios!” Began the distinctively British announcer. “Get right to the point with Pointline!”
Eve took a closer look. Simmons’s face was garbled in the dancing static, but he didn’t look like the Simmons she had met.
“Nothing could be clearer than a point-” the announcer suddenly cut off and the Television went black.
Eve shook her head.
“No ghosts, no killer brooms, just Adam, Agent D, and other assorted nuts,” she muttered to herself.
With the television off, the moonlight was seeping through an opening in the boards on the window, illuminating a small framed picture on the set. She picked it up for a closer look.
The portrait was of a much younger, thinner Sheriff. The Sheriff she knew could eat this man. Maybe two of him.
Next to him was a small girl with blonde hair, but her face had been covered in the same char that coated most of the room.
As Eve put the picture back down, her hand touched the charred side of the set. Heat burned through her skin and she recoiled, dropping the picture. She might have expected the set to be warm, but such heat, it was as if the set was still on fire.
A light began to glow from the center of the TV screen.
“Great,” thought Eve. “More.”
But the set wasn’t warming up for another newscast.
The light grew, then divided. Multiple little lights seemed to be growing from the set. Then she realized, it wasn’t the TV. It was a reflection!
“Not good,” Eve whispered as she slowly turned around.
The face of a giant insect was staring through the window at her! Its head was the size of a Volkswagen with eyes bigger than headlights! This was not the size of bug she was expecting. Was it two… three stories high? She wasn’t going to stick around to find out. As she backed away, she bumped the TV and the channel eight newscast came back on.
[_ "Yes and now for our top story… hundreds were killed today because they didn't -" _]
A massive hairy leg burst through the boarded window and smashed into the TV, knocking Eve across the room!
She scrambled to her feet and rushed down the hall.
Eve leaped onto her bed and frantically dumped out her suitcase.
“There better be an arsenal in here,” she said, searching for a gun, a knife, or a weapon of any kind!
“I think this is going to call for a little more than Angora and pleats,” she said, tossing sweaters across the room in frustration.
More glass shattered in the room down the hall. Eve quickly descended the stairs. She stopped at a small phone table just long enough to pop open the drawer, grab a flash light and shove the drawer closed.
She flew out the front door, leaving it swung wide open and ran into the yard. She glanced over her shoulder to look for the two story spider but couldn’t see it by the house.
Eve immediately smacked into a tree and fell backwards. Her pulse racing, she shook off the fall and leaned back against the thick elm for support. No not an elm… a Spider Leg! This one was thicker than the feeder leg that had destroyed the television. As she looked up she had to correct herself. The spider turned and raised to full height at three and a half stories high!
She scanned the street for escape, refuge where the spider wouldn’t be able to reach her. She darted for an alleyway between the shops of the nearby square.
The adrenaline, the desperation, she could barely remember running, but she’d made it. Eve had tucked herself into the shadows of a doorway behind a dumpster.
“At least,” said Eve, panting slightly, “at least now I know what killed Deakins.”
She scanned the starry sky and the pillar of neighborhood showing at the end of the alley. No Spider.
She slunk to the end of the alley and peered back at the Laughton House. The door was still wide open, but no spider.
There, by the side of the house. Not a spider, but a man! He was watching her, staring at her with eyes that seemed to glow.
He turned and sunk back into the shadows, retreating to the rear of the house.
Eve followed out of sheer curiosity of how bizarre this night could become. Was it all just a nightmare? She stepped on a pebble in her bare feet, a painful reminder that this was real, and that she left her shoes behind. Her footwear was likely still inside, fast asleep.
As she crossed the street, Eve scrutinized each tree to be certain there was nothing attached to it.
She scurried through the Laughton gate and back along the side of the house. When she reached the back yard, she froze, absorbing what she was seeing.
It wasn’t the rampant weeds running amok in the yard that Eve was locked on. It was rock, black rock that covered the majority of the yard and back of the house. At first glance, the rock made the house seem burnt. But the girl’s room hadn’t been burned, it was covered in rock.
At the back of the yard was a large rock pile with a giant hole carved into it.
“Living room, bed room, gate to the netherworld,” remarked Eve, shaking her head. She fiddled with a curl as she traced the size of the cave with her eyes. Could the spider have fit through? And what about the man? Did this have anything to do with the death of the agents?
She needed to get to that filing cabinet, back to-
The man. He was in the alley now, watching her. How did he get past her?
The shadowy figure slid backwards, nearly floating. No doubt he was heading to the square.
Eve pursued, checking every elm again, just to be safe.
As she entered the street, she found no evidence of the man. She sidestepped down the sidewalk, her back against the shop windows.
Blasting sounds from a dozen TVs suddenly popped on, screaming from a storefront behind her! It was D again, concluding his newscast. The television was beautifully tuned this time so she could see every contour of his aged black and white face.
“Thanks Simmons, err, Chuck,” said newscaster D.
The weather man, or Chuck, wasn’t any Simmons she knew. In fact, it almost looked like… Pete?
The TV cut off. Eve held for a moment hoping it would pop back on to confirm her suspicions. In the reflection of the glass she saw a pair of glowing eyes and the silhouette of a man.
She spun around but he was gone.
Across the street was the Sheriff’s office. She looked around the courtyard for the man, but nothing. The square was quiet, still. She made her way across the street and pulled a bobby pin out of her hair. She couldn’t recall if she knew how to pick a lock, but she was a super-secret agent. She should know that, right?
As Eve pushed the pin into the lock, the door immediately slid back. It was opened. Was the man already inside waiting for her?
Eve took a deep breath and entered the darkness.
Eve looked deep into the shadows of the darkened office, then back at the square around her.
No spider. No man.
She slipped inside past the Sheriff’s wooden fence of justice and targeted the filing cabinet at the back.
Her shin found a chair, her elbow a desk. Eve paused for a moment to swallow the pain.
She looked down at the flashlight in her hand. Eve wasn’t sure how she’d been lucky enough to divine a flashlight from that drawer, but she sure needed it now.
Eve slid the metal switch to the side and shined the flashlight on the filing cabinet. She tugged on the top drawer but it didn’t open.
“Oh sure. This he locks,” she said throwing her free hand in the air.
She looked out through the large glass paned window at the sleepy town outside. Not so much as a breeze.
She needed to get inside that cabinet.
Eve moved to the Sheriff’s desk. Her knee bumped his chair, the wooden leg squeaking slightly as it grinded on the floor. Eve froze. A quiet buzzing had crept into her ears as she entered but she hadn’t given it a second thought. That is, until she bumped the chair and the buzzing shifted into a loud gurgle and a snort. Snoring… the Sheriff?
She looked around the office but it was still empty. The flashlight paused on a pair of doors near the back wall. One to the bunk house, the other storage or maybe a restroom.
Eve quietly slid open the top desk drawer, digging through eraser shavings and pencils sharpened nearly to the end of the wood until finally finding a pair of paper clips.
It didn’t take much to twist the basic locking mechanism around and open the cabinet drawer. Inside were files upon files. She flipped through deputies and townsfolk with gruesome photos. Crushed, maimed, burned, eaten, tied into knots, one was just a photo of a dismembered foot.
Type written descriptions answered the cause of death.
“Natural causes,” she read, not realizing she’d spoken out loud. She shook her head. Clearly there was more to these deaths than natural causes.
She flipped through the files, every one alphabetized by the last name, and every last name began with “D”. Clearly Agent D hadn’t been that creative, or wanted his brand on everyone. Then why not her?
As she flipped through the files, she realized all of the names on the tabs had been crossed out in red pen. All except for one, a file she paused and read several times over with sudden dread.
She didn’t like the company her folder was keeping. She wouldn’t wind up the same, she couldn’t. And what did the Sheriff know about her? Could he somehow have known they were all agents?
She counted the files. Hers was number fifty eight.
She opened the folder. It bore today’s date and her name. No photo, and no cause of death, but how long would that remain blank? It gave her a frightful feeling. Like goosebumps at the back of her-
Eve dropped down behind the filing cabinet, leaving the flashlight and her file resting in the drawer. She only had that feeling when she was being watched.
Sure enough, there in the doorway was the shadowy figure. Had it seen her?
It moved towards the filing cabinet, stopping for a moment to look inside. The flashlight refracted off of the manila files, casting a yellow hue on part of his face… it was Adam! He moved slower, his eyes tight and emotionless, as if he was in some kind of trance, but it was Adam.
Was this the true Adam? A homicidal maniac taking out deputies? Eve wouldn’t go down without a fight. Her muscles tightened. She readied to spring out with an elbow to the throat and a spinning roundhouse!
He moved away from the cabinet. Apparently he hadn’t seen her.
He walked slowly, almost hovering towards the Sheriff’s desk. The coffee, he must have been after the coffee!
The entranced Adam went straight for the false drawer that held the safe. Did he know the Sheriff’s secret unlocking lever?
The door flew back, splinters of wood flying across the floor. Clearly Adam didn’t need the secret, just crazed, coffee obsessed strength! Could he really have the strength of two men?
The safe door clanged loudly on the floor in front of her, the metal at the hinges bent and twisted into submission. He had the strength of five men, maybe ten. And if he could rip a safe door off its hinges, then he could easily kill trained agents, maybe even her.
Super strength or not she’d found her most likely suspect and had to confront him. She grabbed the percolator off of the coffee cart.
A clang echoed through the street as she smacked Adam in the back of the head.
As quickly as he dropped to the ground, Adam was immediately back on his feet.
She smashed the percolator on his head again, but this time he didn’t fall, only staggered.
In a frenzy she banged him in the back of the head several times, denting the percolator nearly beyond recognition.
“Bad Doctor! Why won’t you stay down?” she shouted in frustration between beatings.
Finally Adam collapsed, but instead of fighting back, he reached out for the coffee can on the floor.
Then it got weird. Out of the palm of his hands came a strange vein-like appendage.
Eve paused. She’d never seen something quite as unusual, or repulsive. As the vein wrapped around the coffee can, Eve lifted the Sheriff’s chair and slammed it down hard on Adam.
The vein had stopped. All of Adam had stopped.
“There,” said Eve with pride, tossing the broken chair legs aside.
The light flicked on. Eve turned to see who else was in the room.
Shotgun. She was face to face with a double barrel, but it wasn’t alone. The Sheriff was standing with his robe open, undershirt and boxers on parade for the world.
He lowered his gun.
“Sorry, Miss Adams. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“The gun’s not the scary part,” she said, nodding to his belly peeking out from beneath his tank top and hanging over his boxers.
The Sheriff angrily shoved the rifle under one arm and tied his robe shut.
“You mind explainin’ what you’re doing here at…” he checked his watch. “Criminy! Almost two in the morning?!”
“Yes Sheriff, I was-” as she turned to reveal the fallen Adam she found that both the doctor and the coffee were gone! Time to invent a new explanation.
“It’s not what it looks like,” she started.
“Oh really?” he scoffed. “Well it done look like you broke in and trashed the place!”
Yeah, it was exactly what it looked like.
"Look, it was -"
“Adam,” said the Sheriff.
“How did you know?” Asked Eve, curious how he had so quickly surmised the doctor’s involvement.
“No, it’s Adam,” affirmed the Sheriff, looking out in front of the office.
Adam burst through the front door in lab coat and jammies, panting.
"Where is it, Sheriff?" he begged. “I couldn't sleep without- No!"
Adam dropped to the ground. The coffee can Eve had fought the entranced Adam for was sitting on the floor, torn open with just some white powder near the mouth of the can.
“These white crystals,” began Adam. “Merely a skeleton of the wondrous concoction you once were! What monster? What fiend?! Who could have murdered you my caffeinated little friend?”
“I think you know” said Eve.
“I do?” asked Adam, returning to his feet. “I wonder why I asked, then?” Adam grabbed Eve’s hand and lowered his head.
“I’d like us all to bow out heads in a moment of silence,” he said.
Eve yanked her hand away, eyeing Adam’s hand to see if there was any sign of the vein she’d seen.
“And I’d like the men in white coats to drag you off in a straitjacket,” seethed Eve. “But unfortunately I don’t think either one is gonna’ happen.”
“Now, I’ll tell you what is gonna’ happen,” said the Sheriff. “This old man’s going back to bed!”
“But your office-”
“Ain’t nobody hurt. It’ll save until morning,” he said. “Now get on home and get back to bed. Oh and this time, stay there!”
“What’s a straitjacket?” Asked Adam
“A suit you could never pull off,” explained Eve.
“Are you kidding me? I’m gorgeous, I could pull off anything.”
Eve poked him in the chest with authority.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but-”
“I’ll tell you what’s going on, Eve. Something incredible! An aberration of science and all things holy. I want to show you something. Something whose mere existence defies the logic of man!”
Eve stared at Adam a moment.
“I think I’m looking at it right now,” she said.
“Come with me, Eve. The answers you seek lie in the shadows and moonlight. Are you game?” asked Adam, gripping her by the shoulders.
She glared at his hands.
“Touch me again and I’ll beat you with your own arm,” she promised.
“You could do that?”
“I’d be willing to give it a try,” smiled Eve authoritatively.
“Right,” said Adam, removing his hand.
He held the door for her and motioned to his car.
She stared at the aerodynamic curves of the convertible boat of a car waiting for them outside. Perhaps this would be like the atomic gateway that had brought her here. Another portal to absurdity. What level of crazy, what dimension of disturbed would this next step take her to? She had already agreed to this journey, so she’d see it through, regardless of what dark lunacy lay ahead.
Eve entered the convertible and Adam drove her into the dark night.
Driven to Madness
“I lied to you,” said Adam, letting the phrase hang in the air long enough for Eve’s mind to run wild with possibilities. What lie would he be fessing up to? Mayhem? Malfeasance? Murder?! Or was his only crime being unequivocally overconfident and equally incompetent?
“The Desert,” he continued, “It’s not just a place of death, but life! Something new, something unexplained. The wind seems to carry its voice, the creatures hear it. Obey it. Like one macro-organism, from the simple minded scavengers and coyotes to the unfathomable yet underestimated desert penguin.”
“Wait, penguins?” Asked Eve.
“Vicious little buggers,” he confirmed.
“That sounds a little…”
"Crazy? No, Eve. I may well be the sanest man on Earth -ooh! Shortcut!" Adam spun the wheel with elation, sending the car skidding into a driveway and tearing through the yard at full speed.
“Clearly,” remarked Eve as she ducked out of the way of a plastic flamingo head, flying off of his bumper.
“I want to show you something, Eve,” stated Adam as he killed two more plastic flamingos and clipped a clothesline, covering the windshield with oversized undergarments and a plaid shirt.
He turned on the windshield wipers to clear the view.
“Something I’ve never shown another living creature.”
“Fence!” Screamed Eve as they plowed through a tall wooden fence. She’d covered her head just as bits of wood flew over them.
The car stopped.
“We’re here,” smiled Adam, standing up in his seat.
Just beyond the fence was more desert. Eve looked out over a sea of sand and black glass. Atomsite was everywhere, but no life she could see. Adam studied the landscape, transfixed on nothingness.
“What are you looking at?” started Eve, but Adam quickly shushed her.
“Do you hear that?” he asked, studying the landscape.
All Eve could hear was the ebbing sounds of hidden cicadas. The way they grew louder then receded, it was almost as if the pulsating radiation of the atomsite was broadcasting a warning of the atomic death surrounding them. Still no voice, no hidden mystery as Adam had implied.
“No. Adam, the desert isn’t alive”
“Precisely what it wants you to think,” scowled Adam.
“What I’m thinking right now, I’m not going to say,” said Eve.
“Good idea,” said Adam, lowering his voice. “It might hear you.” Adam reached into his bag and fumbled for something desperately.
“You’re completely out of your mind, aren’t you?” Eve asked rhetorically.
“Here!” exclaimed Adam, pulling a toy view master out of his bag and holding it up to his eyes. As he scanned the desert he shifted to the next slide.
“See for yourself!” said Adam, thrusting the view master into her hands.
Eve slid the handle to the side as she moved through the slides. There were coyotes, rhinos, elephants, a missing slide and then penguins cooling themselves at the zoo.
“Penguins,” Eve said out loud, realizing Adam was clearly delusional.
“Told you,” smiled Adam. “Do you see that rock formation? Just off to the left along the horizon?”
“Well feast your eyes on these!” Said Adam, gleefully presenting a stack of pictures of the desert landscape. “Be warned, it’s quite shocking!”
Eve flipped through the snapshots, each one identically unremarkable.
“What do you think?” Asked Adam eagerly. “Isn’t it something?!” Adam nearly giggled.
“Oh, it’s something, alright,” said Eve, her sarcasm clearly showing she was getting tired of humoring him.
Eve tried to give the photos back.
“No need. I have plenty,” he insisted. He dove back into his bag as Eve slipped the photographs into her skirt pocket.
“There’s more!” Eve nearly jumped as Adam swung around, concealing something in his hands. “That is, if you think your wits can bear any more?”
“I really doubt it,” she said, dripping with sarcasm.
Adam opened his hands and revealed the small chunk of black atomsite he’d spoken with earlier.
“And I was right,” Eve muttered, bored with Adam’s rant.
“Isn’t it exciting?!” Adam shouted gleefully.
“Wow. So excited,” said Eve, devoid of emotion. “And what is this supposed to-”
Adam dropped the rock into her hand.
Suddenly, finger tips to forearm, Eve ignited with fire!
She screamed and threw the rock on the seat next to her!
She looked at her hand, flames gone. Her eyes popped wide and hunted for Adam. He was shaking his head at her and gently picked up the rock.
“She didn’t mean it,” Adam whispered to the rock, caressing it slightly. He glared at Eve.
“Eve, gotta’ say, throwing him on the floor like that, I’m a little hurt.”
Eve slapped him hard across the face.
“Okay, that hurt a little more,” said Adam, clutching a cheek.
Eve began to scream at him.
“I was burning! Why did you-”
“Who was burning?” Adam gave her a befuddled stare.
“I was,” confirmed Eve.
“Where?” Asked Adam, confused.
“My whole hand was… you didn’t see the flames?!” Eve was baffled. How could he have missed her hand encased in fire?
Adam didn’t respond. He was busy consoling the rock and listening for some unheard response. “No-no, it’s not you,” he whispered to the bit of atomsite.
“You’re a madman. You’re completely insane,” said Eve, gripping her face and squeezing her temples.
“Well, I’m not the one imagining she’s on fire,” Adam pointed out.
Eve couldn’t argue with that. She stared at her hand again. Could she have imagined it? Every time she was near the desert she’d seen something she couldn’t explain. Perhaps there was something to what Adam was saying.
“It’s this desert,” explained Adam, looking back out at the deserted landscape, “It has a power, something sinister about it. Perhaps even hypnotic. Why even our coming here now could be part of the desert’s insidious plan. No, you’ll not have me today!” Adam reached out his hand to Eve. “Gun.”
“Gun?” She asked, fearing what this lunatic would do with a firearm.
“In the glovebox,” he instructed.
Eve opened the glove box revealing a shiny black pistol. Adam’s hand swung in and scooped it up, eyeing the piece with a side grin and an odd reverence, “Easy, girl.”
“Wait, you’re going to shoot the desert?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” scoffed Adam. “I’m just going to put the fear of God into it a little.”
“Give me that!”
Eve grabbed the pistol out of Adam’s hand.
“Hey,” cried Adam like a child losing toy privileges.
“I don’t think so,” said Eve holding it out of his reach.
“If you needed a gun, all you had to do was ask,” said Adam, pulling two more guns out of his medical bag. “Muriel’s got lots of brothers and sisters.”
“Why would a doctor have so many guns?” asked Eve.
“Sh!” Adam interrupted. “The desert. It’s watching us.”
“The desert isn’t…” Eve felt the telltale signs on her neck. Something was watching them, alright.
They both turned around… Hello giant spider!
It was hovering over the trunk of the car.
“I’m going to need a bigger gun,” said Adam.
The spider leaned in closer.
“And a new pair of jockeys.”
The monster’s giant pincers and mouth were dripping with some kind of drool. Eve gripped tighter onto the handgun, looking for a weak point, something to distract it long enough for them to escape. The spider turned its monstrous head towards her as if it sensed what she was planning.
A massive hairy trunk swept across the car and Eve was gone. She landed several yards away, crashing onto the desert floor.
She rolled to her feet, looking for the pistol. Nearly two yards away.
Eve scrambled towards the gun. The spider only needed to move one step and it was upon her. The beast scooped her up in its pedipalps.
“Eve!” Called Adam, not daring to leave the safety of the road.
As the spider lifted her up in the air, Eve twisted around to face it. All of its eyes seemed to focus on her, trying to decide if she was friend, foe, or food.
Eve wasn’t going to wait to find out. She slid her right arm out of the spider’s crushing mandibles. As her hand broke free, she smiled. She’d managed to get that pistol after all!
She fired nearly point blank at one of the giant orbs watching her and it exploded with jelly!
The beast screamed in a strange wheezing wail then crushed her in its grip, shoving one fang deep into her back. Eve winced and dropped the pistol.
She wasn’t used to asking for help, but she wasn’t used to being the chew toy for a three-story arachnid either.
“Adam!” She cried. “Do something!”
Adam exited the car then stopped at the edge of the grass.
“Eve!” He called, clearly fearing the desert more than the spider.
Eve’s world began to spin as the venom coursed through her veins. Her vision blurred, but she could just manage to see Adam stepping toward her onto the desert floor.
Eve’s world went black.
Eve of the Walking Dead
Fire, a nuclear explosion, Adam’s face. The images blurred together as Eve’s eyes began to open.
Adam was hovering over her, listening to her pulse with a stethoscope and staring at his wrist. No watch, just a wrist, which, incidentally, rarely keeps perfect time.
“Yup,” confirmed Adam, “she’s dead.”
“Dead?” contested Eve.
“Dead?” asked the Sheriff, equally doubting the good doctor’s medical skills.
“Yeah I know. It shocked me too,” said Adam, putting away his stethoscope.
“You sure about that, doc?” Asked the Sheriff as he helped Eve to sit up.
“Please, I’m a doctor,” bragged Adam. “I think I’d know.”
“Yeah, you’d think that, wouldn’t ya’?” said the Sheriff, shaking his head.
“Clearly not dead,” muttered Eve, patting her head to test for fever.
“I stand on my answer. Give or take an hour,” said Adam, snapping the bag shut.
“What do you mean ‘Give or take’?” Asked Eve.
“On account of the spider venom coursing through your veins,” Adam explained. “With the relative size and mass of both species and prey, I give you an hour at best before your insides turn to jelly. Let me explain…”
Adam moved to an easel where he already had a large photo of a spider prepped for a demonstration. Eve stopped him.
“No need for theatrics. I get it. I’m dying.”
“But I had a whole-”
“Skip it!” interrupted Eve.
“But spiders… they’re scary. And math.”
Adam put his pointer stick down in resignation.
“How did I even get away?” Asked Eve, trying to accept her imminent demise.
“He dropped you. Maybe because I asked? I mean, I did say please.”
“That’s it? Just dropped me?” asked Eve.
“Yeah, and bad table manners,” said Adam, slipping a syringe from his pocket. “Never chew with your mouth open, word to the wise.”
Adam plunged the syringe into Eve’s arm, then pushed the plunger all the way to the end, loading her with some uncertain serum.
Eve angrily jumped off the desk, grabbed a letter opener in the same movement, and then shoved it up against Adam’s neck!
“What did you just put into me?!” She screamed.
“It’s perfectly safe! It’s a mix of saline and a mild steroid. It should keep you alert for now, but there might be a teensy, tiny side effect,” Adam explained, holding up two fingers a millimeter apart.
“What side effect?” She slowly pulled the letter opener away.
Adam couldn’t recall. “What was that side effect?”
Eve suddenly grew dizzy, the life from her face drained out through her chin. She began to shiver, then her insides tightened and turned.
Eve barely managed to grab the empty coffee can from the Sheriff’s desk before losing her lunch, and then breakfast, and then dinner from a week ago.
“Oh yeah. That was it,” Adam smiled at the Sheriff.
Eve shoved the sloshing coffee can into Adam’s hands, then headed to a door in back that she hoped was a restroom.
“Ain’t there somethin’ else you can do for her, Doc?” asked the Sheriff
“Not without that spider,” Adam explained. “You see monovalent antivenom for this species can’t be made without a sample of its venom. And sadly we have no way of finding this spider. So like I said. Dead.”
Adam smiled as he backed away from the Sheriff. Somehow he’d managed to slip the puke filled coffee can into the Sheriff’s hand.
The Sheriff looked at the sick in his grip, then glared at Adam’s smug grin.
A hand towel flew in and wrapped around the back of Adam’s head.
Eve stepped up behind him.
“So if we found the spider, you could cure me?” she hoped.
“Possibly,” said Adam. “Although I usually never commit to a diagnosis without first consulting coffee. My poor missing coffee.”
“Then how do we track the spider?” asked Eve.
“Why? You think he took my coffee?” Adam asked excitedly.
“For the antivenom!” Eve redirected.
“Oh, of course. Well, given his size, and the terrain, I would wager he would need some kind of burrow. Perhaps in a mountain range or quarry-”
“Or mine?” Asked Eve.
“That’d work,” Adam nodded.
“It’s connected. It must be,” said Eve to herself.
“Mind connecting it for us?” Said the Sheriff.
“There’s a hole, right in the Sheriff’s back yard,” said Eve.
The old man looked at her with surprise.
“You might want to tend to your yard a little more often, Sheriff. My guess is, this hole leads right back to Dead Rock mine,” explained Eve.
“Fine. The Sherff’s back yard it is!” Agreed Adam. He turned to the Sheriff. “Bob, you rally the troops and get as much tomato paste as you can!”
“Why tomatoes?” Asked the Sheriff.
“No idea. I’m living in the moment. Eve, we go!” said Adam, gleefully darting out the door.
The Sheriff threw one hand through the air as if to waft Adam’s nonsense out of his office.
“If I don’t come back, promise me you’ll beat him senseless for me?” begged Eve.
“Oh I’d oblige, but he ain’t got any sense left as it is,” smiled the Sheriff.
Eve gave him a hug. If this was truly the end for her, she wanted to thank the one man that seemed to make sense to her.
Eve eyed the convertible. Would this ride be as hazardous as the last? Didn’t matter. She was out of options.
Eve hopped in the convertible.
Web of Lies
Adam and Eve stood at the mouth of the dark tunnel, neither daring to step inside.
Eve suddenly smiled at something Pete had said. “We all have our caves to face,” she whispered to herself.
Adam had overheard her.
“Eve, the dark chasm before us is far more than a mere cave. Why, this is a gateway into the unknown,” waxed Adam. “The personification of man’s wonder and exploration! Menacing, yet mysterious, daring yet deadly! But deep in the shadows lies more than monstrosity. Yes, perhaps it holds the answers of who we really are. The deep dark secrets of primordial man! Or perhaps all that awaits is the impending grip of our own grisly demise”
Adam stared for a moment at the dark cave, frozen.
“Right. In you go, Eve. Let me know how it turns out,” he said, turning to leave.
“Get back here,” Eve ordered.
She looked down to find more of the white powder at the mouth of the Cave.
“Adam?” Eve indicated the residue.
“Fascinating,” said Adam, quickly investigating. “It would seem to be the same skeletal remains as in the Sheriff’s office. Whatever fiend took my coffee, they went in here. Come, Eve! But beware! For we may come face to face with a madman!”
As Adam stepped away he left a scarred heel print in the powder. Eve knew that print. It was the same one from the side of the road where she swore they hit Adam with the tow truck. Eve was now more certain than ever that she knew who the madman was.
“Something tells me I won’t have to look very far,” said Eve.
“Alright, you better keep close, Eve. I don’t mean to brag, but I was a Junior Spelunketeer, after all!” touted Adam. “Just follow my lead.”
Adam took one step forward… and immediately fell straight down, disappearing into the chasm.
Eve rushed down the opposite side incline.
“I’m okay!” Said Adam, popping up at the bottom of a ten foot drop off. Eve was more concerned with what might be in the cave.
“You sure the Spider would be down here?”
“I’d say that’s a big yes,” said Adam, nodding to their left.
Eve’s eyes were met by a gigantic chasm with a drop off that seemed to go on forever. Spanning the enormous pit was a massive spider web!
The entire cave was dimly lit. Across the divide was an opening just below the webbing which appeared to be the source of the light.
“There seems to be light coming from that opening,” pointed Eve.
“Quartz, Eve. Light refracts throughout the cave, bouncing off of the reflective qualities of the mineral deposits, giving the appearance of light. Now… How to get across?” said Adam.
Eve was already tightrope walking across the webbing, her bare feet sticking only slightly as she traversed the bridge.
Adam found a strand of an old broken web and tested it for strength. He placed his medical bag onto a hook on the inside of his lab coat then called out to Eve.
“Don’t worry, Eve. I’ll help you!”
Eve was already across. She watched Adam swing towards her, his predicted pendulum swing leading him directly into the cave wall below with a hard thud!
“Little help here?” said Adam, struggling to climb.
Eve found another strand of giant cobweb and rappelled over the cliff to help Adam.
The silken rope suddenly snapped, sending Eve and Adam tumbling backwards onto the massive web.
“If we survive this, remind me to kill you,” muttered Eve.
“I don’t think you’ll need that reminder,” said Adam looking towards the mouth of the cave.
The giant tarantula was entering the cave, screeching and growling as giant tarantulas are known to do.
The pair looked at each other, but spared the words and clambered across the remaining web to get back to the cliff.
As Eve rolled back onto solid ground, she could see the spider slowly approaching the web. She eyed each connection to the rock to figure out how to stop it from reaching them. Eve tugged on one end.
“Quick hand me something, anything!” she begged.
Adam reached into his bag and handed her a toaster. Eve looked at the toaster, dumbfounded.
“Why would you even have something like this?! Something sharp, like a scalpel!”
Adam handed her a scalpel and she began vigorously cutting a strand of the web attached to the wall near their heads. It weakened but did not give way.
“If only I had something bigger,” said Eve, growing frustrated with the inefficient scalpel.
“How about this?” asked Adam, handing her a hatchet.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had this?!” yelled Eve.
“You didn’t ask.”
He had a point. Eve snapped up the hatchet and began chopping down several webbing joists. Strand after strand dropped and dangled into the pit.
The web wobbled as the spider crossed towards them, but failed to break free.
“Still not enough,” said Eve. She had cut every strand near the rocky cliff they were standing on.
Although it nearly moved in slow-motion, with its giant legs, the spider would be on them in seconds!
Eve felt the weight of the small axe in her hands and tightened her grip. She looked at several strands just past the cliff, then sent the tool spinning through the air…
The hatchet flew through two strands seamlessly then lodged into the wall just shy of the third strand she was aiming for.
The spider continued towards them.
“Well seems like you two have plenty to discuss, so I’ll just be over here,” said Adam, ducking behind a stalagmite.
The rock wall by the hatchet suddenly gave way, the stands of webbing snapped, and the giant web collapsed under the spider’s gargantuan weight.
Rock, web and spider dropped into the deep, dark abyss.
“You were saying?” smiled Eve, triumphantly dusting off her hands.
Adam stared down into the pit and nodded.
“Of course, we’ll never get that antivenom, now,” he pointed out.
“You couldn’t just let me have that moment, could you?”
“Don’t beat yourself up. Even if we got it, sure you’d be cured, but we’d be stuck down here forever without that bridge,” said Adam.
“And another ray of sunshine,” gritted Eve.
“At least we have each other,” he smiled, grabbing her hands.
“Just keeps getting better.”
Eve pulled her hands away.
“Do me a favor,” said Eve, as she headed towards the quartz light opening. “For the next five minutes, I don’t want to hear anything out of your ridiculous mouth about peril, my demise, or death!”
Eve turned away from him and came face to face with a rotting skeleton!
Adam peeked over her shoulder and she glared at him.
“I didn’t say a word,” he smiled.
The corpse stared back at Eve, bits of flesh still clinging to its face.
“Could be worse,” said Adam.
“It is,” said Eve, stepping around the corpse into a pile of about a dozen more.
Eve looked across the dead, each one still in their decaying flesh. Fresher ones looked as if their bones had been vacuum sealed in their own skin.
“I think we found the spider’s leftovers,” said Adam. “You see, Eve, Spiders deposit venom that immediately begins digesting their prey from the inside, then they suck they’re dinner out as if through a straw.”
“Spare me the science lesson,” said Eve.
She stopped. “Wait, why am I still alive, then?”
“Maybe he wasn’t hungry,” suggested Adam.
Eve looked at the corpses again. Each was wearing shreds of dirty uniforms.
“Deputies? I thought the deputies were buried in the graveyard?” asked Eve.
“Well who in their right mind would retrieve a body out of this? And let’s face it, if someone’s down here, then there’s no hope for them anyways.”
Eve glared at him then back at the nametags.
“Dexter, Davis, Danson,” Eve read.
Adam stepped on one.
“What’s his name?”
“Does it really matter?” asked Adam.
“He was a man,” reminded Eve.
“And now he’s spider chow.”
Eve moved to the corpse. This one was different. There was a bullet hole in the skull and he was wearing coveralls. Eve ripped a nametag off of the uniform and placed it in the pocket of her skirt.
Adam ripped off the cadaver’s arm.
“What?” He asked innocently, wrapping shreds of uniform around one end of the bones.
“That was his arm!”
“I doubt he’ll mind,” said Adam. He stopped, feeling Eve’s eyes burning a hole through him. “Fine, I’ll ask. Gonna’ use your arm for a bit, do you mind?” He paused, waiting for a response.
“Does he?” asked Eve.
“He didn’t say,” said Adam, lighting the fabric.
Eve shook her head at Adam. She wasn’t sure if he was being serious, or just in serious need of deep psychiatric help.
She thought of the corpses they’d seen that day.
“Adam, Helen and Deakins, they were bleached to the bone,” said Eve
“The spider, it drains the organs. It doesn’t match up,” her eyes were running wild with possibilities.
“Because they were killed by something else. Something far worse,” said Adam in a grave tone.
“Like what?” asked Eve.
“This cave has been here longer than humans have walked the Earth. Anything could be down here,” he explained.
“And it may still be here,” said Eve. Adam looked at her quizzically.
Eve pointed to a rock turn in the cave. A light was coming from beyond the rocks, stronger luminance than mere quartz refraction. Something else was in the cave.
“Shall we?” Asked Adam, eagerly.
Eve paused. As Adam walked towards the light, Eve could see there were two tracks in the dirt, each with a scarred heel, but only one was in Adam’s path. Adam had been here before.
The two spelunkers climbed down several precarious rocky slopes as they descended towards the light.
Rounding the rocky corner they realized the light was coming from the night sky, piercing through the darkness via a hole, hundreds of feet above them.
“Looks like a meteorite crashed here, only the ground shows no signs of impact,” said Adam, looking at the floor. “Strange.”
Adam stomped on the floor.
“If we could somehow climb up this wall,” suggested Eve, trying to get a grip.
Adam stomped harder on the floor and it cracked under his toe.
“Um, Eve?” Guilt rushed across Adam’s face.
“What?!” Said Eve stepping toward him.
The ground started cracking as vigorously as popcorn.
“That,” said Adam, nodding to the floor.
“If we die, I just want you to know-”
“Yes?” Adam said with hope.
“I really hate you,” gritted Eve.
The floor gave way, swallowing Adam, Eve, and their torch.
All that remained was darkness.
Fresh Out of the Shadow
Eve pushed herself out of the dust and debris. She gripped her head and stood, woozy from a mix of the fall and toxic venom coursing through her veins. Looking up, she could barely make out the hole to the sky, further now. She figured they must have fallen at least two stories.
The hairs on her neck stood on end. She turned to see Adam, his eyes glowing in the dark. He was emotionless, just as he’d been in the Sheriff’s office earlier that evening.
He walked up to her. No, there was no doubt. He was floating!
The fall must have knocked him into his crazed alter ego. No matter. She knew how to knock him back to normal.
Eve swung her torso around and her legs were quick to follow, kicking him in the head. No reaction. She punched him, twice in the gut and once in the head. Nothing.
“You’ve gotten tougher,” she said throwing another punch. But she didn’t connect. His hands reached up and caught hers. His fingers felt like hot rock, his skin jagged and burning. Then it grew.
Eve’s arm ignited on fire and she screamed!
He threw her back against the wall, her legs upending on a boulder, knocking her hard on the ground.
She stood back up hurt, demoralized, and furious! But he was gone.
Adam stood up out of the rubble, seemingly back to his normal self and clutching a percolator.
“Look… coffee!” he exclaimed. “Want some?”
Eve knocked the percolator out of his hand.
“I’ll take that as a no,” said Adam, immediately leaning back to avoid getting Eve’s foot in his face. “Whoa! Eve, is something-”
Eve’s fist connected with his face in a hard smack!
“…wrong?” Said Adam, clutching his beloved jaw.
“It’s you, Adam. You’re the coffee stealing monster!” Eve shouted at him.
“Hmm,” thought Adam, picking up another discarded pot of coffee and swirling the contents around. “Don’t suppose you know where I hid the creamer?”
Eve smacked the pot to the ground, the glass shattering on the rocky floor below.
“No!” Cried Adam.
“I don’t know what kind of Jekyll and Hyde psychosis you’re suffering from, but you’re the madman, Adam. A mad, bipolar murderer!
Adam froze, thinking. “That doesn’t sound like me.”
“Coffee obsessed? Caffeine crazed?”
“Okay, now that sounds like me,” admitted Adam.
“You trashed the grocery store, you broke into the sheriff’s safe…”
“I did?” Adam was lost, but not disagreeing.
“And you killed the deputy, Adam. Even Helen!” Explained Eve.
“Wow, I am pretty evil!” said Adam, slowly taking it all in. “We have to stop me, Eve!”
“I don’t think you were meaning to, but you’ve hurt people, Adam.”
“But I would never hurt you, Eve,” Adam said, gently grabbing her wrists.
Eve looked at her arms. No fire. No pain.
“Clearly I need a little help, Eve.”
“You’re going to need help if you touch me again,” said Eve, pulling her arms away.
“So now what? I just go on killing until I get my coffee?” Asked Adam. “I do get coffee at the end of this, right?”
“First we need to get out if here,” said Eve. Adam’s medical bag caught her eye on the rubble.
“Your bag! Tell me you have a light somewhere in that bag of yours,” hoped Eve.
“Hang on,” said Adam, scooping up the bag and digging inside.
“Nope, nope, nope…” said Adam, handing her several flashlights and a lantern. “Ah-hah!”
Adam pulled out a full sized living room lamp.
“Now if I could just find somewhere to plug this in.”
Eve rolled her eyes.
“Here, try this,” Eve took the lamp and replaced it with the lantern.
“Good thinking!” said Adam, as he pulled out matches and lit the lantern. “Because I’ll tell you what, I am none too fond of the dark.”
The lantern lit up the cave, illuminating the mineral deposits, the cave walls, and the head of the giant spider!
“The light’s worse!” Panicked Adam. “The light’s definitely worse!”
“You think it’s dead?” suggested Eve.
“One way to find out,” said Adam, taking off his shoe.
“You really think that’s going to work?” questioned Eve.
Adam looked at the spider then his loafer.
“Right. I’m going to need a bigger shoe.”
Eve threw her hands up in the air then pointed to the bag. “Firearms, guns, bombs, tell me you have something explosive in there?!”
Adam pulled out a rifle.
“How about Ethel?” He offered.
“Fine. Perfect. Now shoot!” instructed Eve.
Adam aimed at the spider. A leg twitched. It was still alive just dormant, likely unconscious. Adam lowered the rifle.
“I can’t. You were right, Eve. It may be a monster, but it still has fears, loves, it may even have a family.”
Adam threw the rifle away. The sound stirred the spider. It was awakening!
“You choose NOW to start listening to me?!” Said Eve, pulling on her curls. “I can’t scoop this one up and throw it outside Adam!”
“Right. New plan. We run!”
He spun around and ran… straight into the cave wall behind them with a solid Thunk!
“We’re trapped!” said Eve.
He turned to look at the spider. It was slowly rising up and looking at them, getting its bearings.
Eve and Adam backed against the wall looking for an escape.
“This is it Eve!” Said Adam, reaching for her hand.
The spider’s leg plunged towards Adam and he closed his eyes.
Eve leaped away just as rock exploded!
Eve looked up. A giant spider trunk had gone through Adam into the wall behind them. No. It had missed, punching a hole through the rock wall.
“Am I dead?” Asked Adam.
“To my surprise and disappointment, no,” said Eve.
The spider pulled its leg out of the hole and stood silently. Adam grabbed Eve by the shoulders, positioning Eve between himself and the spider. Eve waited for it to strike again, but no more legs came towards them.
Not one to look a gift spider in the mouth, Eve moved to the hole.
“It’s a passageway. Maybe a way out,” said Eve.
“Good spider!” said Adam petting its leg. “There’s a good boy!”
The spider screeched again, echoing through the cavern.
“Girl?” said Adam, seeming to understand the spider’s screech. “Well that explains it. The fairer sex is always prone to mood swings.”
“Focus!” Said Eve, smacking him across the face.
“See what I mean?” Adam said to the spider.
Eve paused, realizing she had a second chance.
“The antivenom, how do we get it?” She asked.
“Easy enough, just have to milk the spider,” said Adam.
“How do you milk a spider?” She asked.
Adam pulled out a pail and a small milk stool from his bag and smiled.
“This I gotta’ see,” said Eve, expecting imminent disaster.
The spider leaned down to see what Adam was up to as well. Eve watched as Adam, the stool, and the bucket were quickly sent flying through the air, bouncing against the wall next to her.
“So how’d that go?” asked Eve.
“I’m okay!” said Adam, from the rubble.
“You get it?” Eve hoped.
“Oh, I got it,” said Adam, popping up with bucket in hand. His right sleeve was torn and his flesh was sizzling as the venom ate through like acid. The flesh on his hand was blistering and oozing.
“Adam, your hand!” Eve exclaimed in disgust.
“Yeah, I got another one over here just like it,” he smiled.
Eve grabbed his right hand, turned it and shoved it towards his face.
“Oh. Strange,” said Adam. “The venom, it burns like hydrochloric acid.”
“Maybe you should put something on that?” Suggested Eve.
“No worries,” said Adam, digging into his bag. “Band-Aid,” he said pulling out a tiny bandage that was clearly too small to cover his burned hand and forearm.
As he finished applying the Band-Aid, he stuck a syringe into the bucket and drew up a glowing liquid from what was left.
“Curious,” thought Adam. “It has the peculiar iridescence of an isotope.”
“What?” Asked Eve shying away from the needle.
“Her blood, it’s radioactive. Well, glad it’s not goin’ in me!” He laughed.
Eve twisted away. “Wait, are you sure about this?”
“Oh, right. It has to be mixed with the blood of an uninfected mammal,” remembered Adam. “How silly of me,” he said, popping
the mixture into his right arm and drawing up some blood.
He held it into the air to study it, thumped it to send the bubbles to the top, then squirted a little out of the needle to ensure the air was voided. The tiny droplets sizzled on the ground.
“You sure this isn’t going to kill me?” worried Eve as he poked her shoulder with the needle.
“Please,” said Adam as he emptied the contents into her. “We’ll find that out when you don’t die.”
Eve didn’t like the sound of that. She turned to find Adam staring at her.
“What?” said Eve.
“Good news. You’re not dead,” he concluded. “I Cured you. No need to thank me…”
“Good,” said Eve as Adam’s smile drooped into a frown. She looked at the spider, still standing watch.
“It’s creepy that she keeps watching us like that.”
“She must want us to do something,” suggested Adam.
Eve looked at the hole in the wall, then back at the spider.
“She wants us to go through there,” figured Eve.
As Eve’s bare feet touched the floor of the opening, they ignited with fire!
Eve jumped backwards and Adam caught her. One of her feet was still on the opening floor, but no fire. She held onto Adam’s arm and he put her back down. Still no fire.
“Don’t read anything into this,” she said, gripping Adam by his good hand.
The two looked at the spider, then back to the opening.
Hand in hand, they entered the cave together.
Matter, Particles & Adams
Eve’s right hand clung to Adam, while her left clutched the lantern and they walked through the tunnel formed by the spider’s leg.
Adam felt the sides of the darkened cave with his free hand, carefully studying every contour.
“This texture seems so familiar,” he said. Diving into his pocket, Adam pulled out the piece of atomsite that had burned Eve before and held it up to the wall. “That’s it! The rock that sets you on fire, that surrounds the desert, even the rock that lines this tunnel… it’s coffee!”
Adam Nodded. “Sure it lacks the legendary flavor, the heavenly aroma, the very soul of coffee itself, but it’s a coffee derivative nonetheless! A mere shadow of what it once was. Shadow Rock. I think that’s what I’m calling it from now on, what do you think, Eve?”
“You’re amazing,” she shook her head at his nonsensical tirade.
“I am. I really am,” Adam smiled.
“Why is it you always twist everything into some positive affirmation of your mythic brilliance? How is it you always remain so annoyingly positive?” Eve asked, bewildered.
“Being Doctor Adam Townsend isn’t all wine and roses, Eve,” he scolded. Adam paused. “No actually, it really is. Wow, it’s fantastic being me!”
“You’re completely gone,” Eve shook her head and scanned the darkness.
“Gone, Eve? I’m right here. And I wouldn’t leave you for anything in the world!” Adam suddenly noticed something shiny. “Whoa! Is that coffee?!”
Eve clutched Adam’s arm tightly as he tried to pull away.
“Oh, right,” he remembered, glancing at her bare feet. “Relax Eve. I wouldn’t leave you for a mere cup of coffee!” Adam turned and froze. “Uh-oh.”
“What is it?” Asked Eve. Then she saw it. A pot of coffee sitting on a rock not far from them, still half full.
Adam stood strong.
“Fear not, Eve. I will overcome the urge to drink of its warm love, to sample its vast powers. Am I nothing more than the sum of my vices? Am I a slave to its dark robust flavor?”
“Yup,” said Adam, caving to his caffeinated addiction. As he rushed over to the coffee, Eve quickly stepped onto a pair of overturned cans.
Eve looked up and Adam was gone, having disappeared into the darkness.
As she scanned the cave, the lantern light flickered. Adam was approaching on the opposite side of her. No, not Adam… the glowing eyes the stoic stare, he was entranced again!
Eve looked at her footing trying to figure out how best to defend herself.
Another Adam walked in front of the entranced doppelganger, pouring the pot of coffee into a mug he’d found.
“Look, Eve! It’s coffee!” Adam rejoiced. “Honest to God real coffee!”
He hadn’t even noticed the statuesque twin in the shadows behind him.
“Adam, lookout!” Screamed Eve.
Adam took a sip from the mug and recoiled, his face contorting and grimacing.
“Good call. It’s decaf,” said Adam dropping the pot and tossing the mug behind him.
The mug shattered on the face of the unemotional duplicate. Its fingers slowly reached up and grabbed Adam’s shoulder.
Adam spun around and stared at his twin, the face now clearer and far darker than Adam’s complexion, as if made from ground coffee.
Adam rubbed his chin. The coffee Adam mirrored him.
“Man, I’ve looked better,” said the real Adam.
Eve stared at the two Adams, realizing they’d been separate entities the whole time.
“It’s…” Eve didn’t quite have words to describe it. “That’s not your reflection, Adam.”
Adam poked the other Adam in the shoulder.
“What could be more wonderful than two Doctor Adam Townsends?!” As Adam finished his question, two more coffee Adams stepped from the shadows, one with a crack parting his forehead, each with a frozen, unemotional demeanor on their face.
Eve was trapped on her coffee can island.
This was it, the end of their journey. They survived the spider only to fall victim to a strange subculture of serendipitous Doctor Adam Townsends.
Their journey was over.
“Best day ever!” Adam smiled.
The three dark Adams pulled out shiny space-age pistols and aimed them directly at Adam!
“And, Doctor Adam Townsend,” the middle creature bellowed in an echoing voice, “it shall be your last!”
Beyond the Shadow of a Dolt
“I was wrong, Adam. That’s the monster,” said Eve, nodding to Adam’s strange shadowy doppelganger, which was aiming a gun at him.
“What, the handsome one?” Adam asked in disbelief.
“We are not a monster!” Growled the central creature. “We are Q’Tor. Visitors from beyond your stars”
“Wait, I’m from outer space?” asked Adam.
“Not you, you human savage!” said the monster Adam. “Very well, I will reveal our true form to you.”
The dark Adam began to emanate a pulsating sound.
Vein-like arms wriggled through the rocky hands, sending fingers crumbling to the ground. Pieces of face began to avalanche to the floor until the monster’s entire head gave way, revealing a giant glowing brain and large cycloptic eye that Eve immediately recognized from the desert.
Chunks of body fell next, revealing a ghostly flowing gown, hovering inches above the ground.
“Wow. I just got ugly,” said Adam, looking at the Monster’s face and gripping his own
“Now, witness what an evolved species truly looks like, you-” He stopped.
Another dark Adam passed by, sweeping the chunks of coffee costume out of the way.
The veiny arms ripped the broom away from him and tossed it across the room.
“I like to keep the cave tidy,” the sweeper tried to explain.
The vein finger pointed him back to where he’d been standing, and the tidy creature retreated.
“We are Q’Nathians from Q’Tonus Four,” he began again. “We have been exploring an anomaly known as Q’Ladium rock-”
“Do you just put the Qs in front of everything to make it sound more alien?” asked Eve precociously.
The three aliens looked at either and began to nod.
“That works for me. Can we coffee now?” suggested Adam.
Eve stopped him. “Let’s see what they want first”
“Alright, what do you Canadians want?” he asked.
“They’re not Canadians, Adam,” Eve advised.
“Oh, yeah? Then how do you explain that accent?” asked Adam, believing he had an impenetrable argument.
“That accent’s not-” Eve stopped herself. Though not Canadian, the aliens were speaking in a decidedly British accent.
“Why do you have a British accent, anyways?” asked Eve.
“We have been monitoring your pathetic planet for quite some time, now. Your evolution, your wars, right on down to your broadcasts and your languages,” began Q’Tor
“And the accent?” Repeated Eve.
“Makes us sound more intelligent,” admitted the alien.
“I’m buying it,” said Adam, his jaw pushing forward and nodding as if just hearing a really profound argument.
Eve shook her head and looked for another place to stand safe from the shadow rock, but it was everywhere.
“You were telling us why you were here,” reminded Eve.
“Ooh, let me tell the story, Q’Tor!” exclaimed the second Q’Tor with the cracked face, likely from the skirmish in the sheriff’s office.
“I will relate the tale,” the first Q’Tor insisted.
“Ready for the reenactment, sir!” saluted a third, wearing a Deputy hat.
“Deakins,” Eve whispered to herself, realizing these beings must be responsible for what happened to the fallen Agent.
“Wait where did you get the human headpiece?” Asked the first Q’Tor.
“I’m allowed a souvenir, aren’t I?” hoped the third.
“Very well,” resigned Q’Tor prime.
The two other Q’Tors high fived each other.
“We crash landed here on a Q’Ladium tracking mission,” explained the glowing brain.
Q’Tor two dangled a bit of flaming rock from a wire, whistling as it crashed towards a faux landscape he had built atop a boulder.
“We were then met by a form of human law keeper,” continued the storyteller.
“Hello, I am human and welcome you with our traditional greeting of fire. Bang! Bang! Bangity bang!”
“We have Come for your Q’Ladium, and now we thank you with our traditional Q’Tonian death ray!” Said the cracked face alien as he launched confetti at the deputized Q’Tor who then proceeded to swoon and feign death.
“Thank you!” They said, bowing with all the pageantry of an elementary school production.
Adam began to clap, but Eve stopped him.
“Q’Ladium?” Eve paused, waiting for the aliens to connect the dots.
“Q’Ladium, you primitives, is the rarest substance in the Universe, yet this town seems to have an abundance of it. Rich Q’Ladium ore, everywhere! We were hoping to harvest it, but it’s ruined! Tainted or polluted by this human’s recklessness,” said Q’Tor, clearly aiming his disgust at Adam, who simply smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Instead, we found the nearest element, this coffee you speak of. We have been shipping massive quantities to a nearby planetoid”
“Back up,” said Adam suddenly interested. “You mean a whole planet full of coffee?!”
“You are to be taken there,” he further explained.
“Right! I’m your man!” Said Adam, stepping forward.
“And dissected,” finished the alien.
“Like I said. Eve’s your man,” Adam flip-flopped, stepping behind Eve.
“Noble,” said Eve, dripping with sarcasm.
“I thought so,” smiled Adam. “When does she leave?” he asked the alien.
“Immediately,” it confirmed. “We have just accumulated enough Q’Ladium for launch.”
But Adam’s mind had already wandered. He picked up a pot of coffee off of the ground and smiled as he found his salvation swirling at the bottom.
“Why Adam?” asked Even indicating their coffee costumes.
“Certainly not by choice, I assure you,” said Q’Tor. Take this Q’Ladium, here” said Q’Tor, adjusting his gun at Adam’s pot. “We can produce anything we need, like the Q’Tachtus drive needed to run our ship,” the pot shattered apart in Adam’s hands as the ray mutated the caffeinated contents into strange alien machinery with several ports.
“Or anything we desire,” he added, zapping the same coffee machinery into a sink, a film projector, then a chair.
“Ooh! Make a pony!” begged Adam as he set down the chair and held up another pot of coffee.
“But you see the Q’Ladium all around you? Worthless! Ruined! It winds up like this!” said Q’Tor, and he zapped the projector, mutating it into a life-sized coffee bust of Adam.
“Now that’s art!” Adam grinned.
The alien continued zapping various bits of rock, each time forming another Adam, his face, his head, full statues emerging from rock.
Adam’s face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Eve, you grab the three over there!” he said, excitedly rushing to pick up all the heads.
“You see?!” Shouted Q’Tor. “Nothing but garbage! This is why we must take your Doctor. To find out how to purify the Q’Ladium!”
“Hold these,” said Adam, as he placed some busts into the arms of each alien Adam.
“Drop it!” Ordered Q’Tor prime to his cohorts.
They both hesitated, pouting a bit, then finally dropped the heads, shattering them on the cave floor.
“If you’re all one mind,” Eve began, “Then why is it you seem to be the one giving orders?”
“Yeah, why is it that you get to make all the decisions?” Asked the Q’Tor with the cracked face. “I mean we do everything you say, does that really sound like a collective conscience to you?”
“Yes, well I see your point, Q’Tor,” said Q’Tor prime, his brain pulsating with light.
“So I’ve been thinking,” continued the second. “Perhaps I could be known as Q’Tor Two, or Q’Tor subprime?”
“No!” Screamed the first, his brain throbbing faster. “We are Q’Tor! We are one mind!”
“Ooh, how about Dennis?” Q’Tor Two added.
“Oh, I like Dennis!” Suggested the third, still wearing the deputy hat.
“Not you, too?!” growled Q’Tor Prime.
“And while we’re at it, I want my own room,” added Dennis.
“Yes, yes, and I want to move in with Q’arl!” Announced Deputy Q’Tor.
Q’Tor prime’s brain was changing colors now as he processed Q’Tor three’s request.
“Q’arl?! Q’arl’s a Q’Noquian fish!” scolded Q’Tor prime.
Both aliens stared at the deputy, who simply looked at the ground, nudging a rock with his foot.
“We… we’re in love,” he declared.
Dennis patted the Deputy on the shoulder. Q’Tor prime gawked at his cosmic compatriots.
“Excuse me a moment,” he said turning to Adam and Eve. “I must consult with my collective conscience.”
“Sure. Take your time,” said Adam.
Eve could see the frustration and angry glow of the prime alien.
“This is bad, Adam,” said Eve.
“I know,” he agreed. “I can’t figure out which one is the real me.”
Q’Tor Prime adjusted the setting on his silver space pistol and immediately zapped his cohorts into a glowing mist. Dennis and Deputy Q’Tor were gone, completely disintegrated other than their strange skeletal remains and a smoking Deputy cap.
“Well that helps narrow it down,” said Adam.
“Like I said, we’re one mind about everything!” said the alien, his brain relaxing and slowing its pulsating glow.
“We? There’s only one of you,” pointed Eve.
“You have a knack for causing Q’Tor great frustration!” Even the veins in Q’Tor’s eye began to bulge. “Deep breath, Q’Tor. Can’t have another incident like Q’Tosh Seven, can we? No that’s a very good point,” he said, answering his own question. “Right I thought so. You always do have such incredible insight into me, Q’Tor. Why thank you, Q’Tor,” continued the alien to himself.
“I was wrong. The ‘We’ works for you,” Eve resigned.
“Yes, well, now Q’Tor will show you the full power of Q’Nathian science!” he said, adjusting something on his ray gun.
Eve threw a metal tray at Q’Tor and it lodged in the side of his over grown brain.
“Insolent fool!” Scolded Q’Tor. “I have tolerated you long enough!”
“No!” screamed Adam, jumping in between and holding up his arm to stop him. But it was too late. The ray struck Adam’s arm and smoke encompassed him.
Adam batted away the smoke.
“I’m okay, I’m okay!” he said.
But he wasn’t. His infected right arm was now charred and lab coat still smoking.
“You see, it takes a lot more than that to stop Doctor Adam Townsend!” the Doctor smiled.
Adam’s arm suddenly dropped to the ground with a thud, leaving nothing but a nub and torn, sizzling fabric.
“Right. That’ll do it,” Adam nodded, then teetered and collapsed to the hard ground below.
“Look what you made Q’Tor do?” growled Q’Tor.
“Adam!” Eve started to shout, but as she stepped towards him, her bare foot hit the shadow rock and immediately became engulfed in flames!
She hopped right back to her coffee can roost.
A strange grin curled at the end of Q’Tor’s mouth.
“So you have an aversion to the Q’Ladium?” The alien said, adjusting his ray gun. “Let’s make your death a little more interesting, shall we?”
He zapped the ground around Eve and the shadow rock rose around her, forming a tomb in the shape of a giant Adam bust.
The entire head burst into flames, or so it seemed, as Eve could feel the heat of the rock warming up as if inside a giant oven. The sides began to close in on her, her skin began to burn. This was it. There was no escape this time.
Things That Go Bloom
Adam sat up just in time to see that Eve had been replaced by a giant statue of his own head.
“For me? Can I keep it?!” Adam screamed with glee, apparently oblivious of his own missing arm.
“Adam,” cried Eve. “Get me out of here!”
Adam looked around but naturally didn’t see her.
“Eve?” He turned to the alien. “Q’Tor, tell me you heard that too? Or is she just in my head?”
“Yes,” Q’Tor paused. “To both.”
“Well that’s a relief,” said Adam.
“Adam,” said Eve, trying desperately to keep herself balanced without touching the sides. “I’m trapped inside a giant, well, it probably looks like a giant head. Your head.”
“You’re trapped in my head? Q’Tor?! What manner of science is this?!” he stopped short and turned to face the massive sculpture. “Oh, right. No worries!”
Adam grabbed the Q’Ladium chair with his one hand and charged at the head.
“I’ll save you, Eve!” He slammed the chair down on the head, but it smashed into pieces not even denting the bust.
He looked at the broken leg of the chair, then to the alien.
“Q’Tor, could you…?” he asked, wiggling the fragment of furniture he was holding.
“Of course,” said Q’Tor, and he zapped the piece with his ray gun, regenerating the chair.
Adam immediately smashed the chair on the Q’Ladium tomb, yielding the same effect.
Q’Tor regenerated the chair again.
“I could do this all day!” Smiled the alien. “But we really must be going,” he added, watching Adam smash another chair. The alien fired his ray at the giant bust.
Inside Adam’s head, the walls began to thicken, squeezing in on Eve. Her shoulder brushed against the burning rock, then her leg. She braced her hands against the walls, trying to swallow the pain, but the flames consumed her, riding up every inch of skin.
The fire burned deep at the base of her neck. Eve succumbed, her eyes locked shut and she screamed in agony!
The pain stopped.
Cicadas? Why was she hearing cicadas?
Eve opened her eyes. The white hot rock was all around her, blindingly bright.
But it wasn’t hot anymore. In fact, she couldn’t feel anything. All she could focus on was the repetitive ebbing of the strange cicada song. Their tune was almost like voices. No, exactly like voices. Thousands of voices whispering in the background, as if everyone in the room was talking about her but trying desperately not to let her hear.
The strongest voice seemed to be coming from a piece of shadow rock at her feet, now glowing white.
She picked up the piece cautiously, but it didn’t burn her this time. She stared at the strange reverse atomsite, trying to understand if this is what the burning had been trying to do all along, or if the pain had finally driven her completely whacko.
“Hello,” whispered the rock.
Yup. Whacko it was, as clearly rocks do not talk.
“We are not a rock,” said the rock. Had it heard her thoughts?
“Yes,” said the rock, and thousands of distant whispers echoed in agreeance.
“We need your help,” the shadow rock continued.
“With what?” Asked Eve, curious what nefarious purpose a rock might need her for.
“We cannot say,” insisted the bit of rubble.
“Well, it’s difficult to help you if you can’t even tell me what you want,” said Eve.
“We cannot say, but we can show you.”
“Show me what?” But before she finished asking, her mind flooded with images.
An atomic explosion.
The white door in the Sheriff’s hall.
The blacked out name on the white door.
The blacked out name on the tombstone.
The painting of the flower on the door.
A lone white flower in a field, burning. Gone. Darkness.
But what kind of flower? She’d seen one before, it was rather common. Lilly. It was a Lilly!
The whispering fell silent. The rock was dark and cold, no longer a hindrance.
Outside the giant face, Adam was trying to talk to Eve.
“Eve?” he called, pausing for what felt like ages. “Eve, just give me a sign that you’re okay!”
Eve’s fist punched through the massive eye, inches from Adam’s actual face.
He paused. “Anything at all. A word. Say something!” he begged clearly not piecing together the fist and Eve.
“Stand back!” said Eve through the thick walls of her head tomb.
Adam stepped back and Eve braced herself up against the back of the coffee cranium and pushed with both legs as hard as she could.
The over-sized nose and mouth exploded open!
Eve stood up out of the rubble, bits of forehead crumbling to the ground.
“Impossible!” Screamed Q’Tor.
She took a step toward Q’Tor onto the shadow rock ground. She looked at her bare foot, then up at the alien with a smile.
“Uh-oh” said the alien.
“Uh-oh is right,” said Eve, then she roundhouse kicked him in the eye.
The alien grabbed both of her arms with his vein-like hands.
“Little help here, Adam?” said Eve, as she struggled to break free.
“On it!” Said Adam, and he immediately rushed off into the darkness.
Eve used Q’Tor’s grip to her advantage and pulled tight on his arms, running up the front of his face and then flipping backwards. She twisted his rope-like arms in the process and he let go of her.
She grabbed a shard of glass from a shattered coffee pot. Using the razor edge of the broken glass, she slashed off one of the alien’s arms, sending the vein twitching and writhing angrily until finally resigning, motionless.
“No! Bad human!” scolded Q’Tor.
Eve eyed the tray sticking out of his skull. Spinning around, her foot met the tray with full force, driving it completely through a large section of his brain, slicing it clean off!
“Oh dear,” said Q’Tor, and the alien fell to the ground, dead.
Eve turned to see where her backup had been.
“Adam? What have you been-” she stopped. Adam had rebuilt the face of the giant head.
“And done!” Adam smiled with pride and dusted his hands off.
A piece of eyebrow crumbled to the ground. Adam puffed out his cheeks and blew off some frustration, then turned to see Q’Tor’s lifeless body.
“Hey, you killed Q-Tip,” said Adam with a hint of sorrow in his voice.
“He tried to kill us, Adam,” reminded Eve.
“But Canadians are people too, y’know. Just because they have inferior bacon-”
“I was wrong,” rasped Q’Tor, flickering back to life. A trickle of dark fluid was seeping from the missing hemisphere if his brain.
“Perhaps we are not ready to deal with your people,” apologized the alien. “We never really meant to hurt anyone. The woman, the lawman, the guy in the park.”
“What guy in the park?” asked Eve.
“Never mind that,” Q’Tor backed away awkwardly. “I must now return to Q’Tonus Four to advise of my findings on the Q’Ladium. How do I look?” Asked Q’Tor, his open wound spurting occasionally.
“For you, you look just, well, awful,” admitted Eve.
“Barely noticeable,” smiled Adam.
“Goodbye humans,” said Q’Tor. A giant orb with hexagonal panels lit up behind them, and what was left of the alien dissipated into a translucent gelatin with a floating eye.
A door opened and the eye floated towards it, then banged into the side of the doorway.
“Ow!” Q’Tor mumbled, backing up and trying again.
“Looking great!” Said Adam as the alien finally made it through, the hatch sealing him inside.
Adam leaned towards Eve.
“Can you believe an entire ship made from coffee?”
Eve looked at Adam’s right hand on her shoulder.
“Adam?” said Eve in disgust.
“Hey, it’s not me,” smiled Adam.
The fingers began to move and slide towards her neck. Adam backed away. Clearly the hand was alive!
Alive or not, Eve had made a promise.
She grabbed the hand by the wrist, ripped it off of her neck and slapped Adam hard across the face with it!
“I warned you,” smiled Eve, relishing in her punitive enforcement.
“Oh, and somehow this is my fault?” said Adam, wiping his cheek.
“Somehow I’m sure everything is your fault,” she said, flinging the arm to the ground then stomping on it. It crunched as she broke what few bones were left in it.
“Hey, be nice to Lefty,” scolded Adam, indicating the dismembered arm. “He’s had kind of a rough day.”
“You’re naming it?” Asked Eve.
“Thought it was appropriate,” smiled Adam.
“But it was your right arm,” reminded Eve.
Adam paused, looking down at Lefty, then his left arm which was clearly still intact.
“Right. I did it ironically,” he insisted.
The giant Q’Ladium orb began to pulsate and rumble.
“We’d better go,” said Adam, leading Eve towards another tunnel.
“But Adam, there’s no way out!” said Eve.
“Oh, there’s always a way out, Eve,” he smiled, patting a mine cart he’d found around the corner. “You were right, it’s all connected.”
“Dead Rock mine?” she asked, already knowing the response. Disbelief gave way to excitement as Eve realized that they weren’t going to be trapped in there forever.
The orb shifted and the cave ceiling began to crumble. Rock began to rain down on the coffee implements, the broken bits of Adam busts, even Q’Tor’s gun he had left behind.
Adam tugged on Eve’s arm and they rushed up the mineshaft, Q’Ladium crushing the path behind them.
Sealed! The boards that were supposed to be keeping people out of the deadly mine entrance were now trapping them inside!
Adam bent down to get something out of his bag.
“Don’t worry Eve, I’ve got this!”
A cloud of black smoke and debris were rapidly approaching. They didn’t have time for whatever Adam had in his bag.
Eve took one look at the boards, back at the cloud of death, then at the rear end of the doctor, still fiddling with his medical kit.
Eve shoved Adam through the boards and jumped through just as the mine filled with fallen boulders and structural supports.
They’d made it.
Out of the Fire & Into the Frying Hand
As the two rounded the dilapidated mine entrance, they found Pete already waiting for them at the edge of the road. His nose was in a book and he was leaning against Adam’s convertible hanging from the tow truck hook.
“Pete,” waved Adam.
“Doc,” Pete obliged slapping his book shut.
An Atom County patrol car pulled up and emptied its contents. The Sheriff walked towards them quickly followed by a new deputy.
“You survived,” smiled the Sheriff. “Suppose I won’t have to keep that promise after all.”
It seemed like an eternity since she’d had her conversation with the Sheriff, so it took Eve a moment to remember the bargain she had made with him if she hadn’t survived.
“Trust me sheriff,” she smiled. “He’s still in need of a good beating.”
“Miss Adams, Doc, this here is my new deputy, Deputy D-”
Adam stopped him.
“Please, let’s not name him unless he lasts the week,” said Adam.
“He’s already been given a name,” scolded Eve.
Adam outstretched his hand.
“Go on. Give it back,” Adam instructed the deputy.
“Why don’t you fill out the report on this one,” advised the Sheriff to his new employee.
The Deputy was eager to get away from this uncomfortable conversation and headed towards the mine.
As Eve watched the agent struggling with the Sheriff’s report, the old lawman was sizing Eve up, battered but clearly alive.
“You gonna’ be alright?” He asked.
“I’ll live anyhow,” said Eve. “How did you already hire a new deputy?” she asked.
“Always have an open position,” offered the Sheriff. “Just as long as they can wear a badge and they don’t get dead.”
He looked at Adam’s missing arm. “What really happened in there?”
“Two words’ Sheriff. Canadians,” explained Adam.
“Canadians?” asked the Sheriff, wrinkling his nose.
“No longer myth and fairy tale, Canadians are real!” explained Adam.
The ground suddenly began to quake!
The desert floor ripped open as the giant orb began to rise into the air and fly towards the stars.
“You see?” smiled Adam. “We’re not alone in the Universe. They’re out there. Watching our every move. Perhaps driven by the same dreams, the same desire to be part of some divine plan. In a way, we may have just come face to face with our very selves, give or take a few millennia. Goodbye brother! I’m sure one day we’ll meet again!”
The ship suddenly exploded into a fiery catastrophe!
“Or maybe not,” shrugged Adam.
Eve watched as chunks of ship flew towards the desert. Loud crunching suddenly caught her attention.
She looked to find Adam chewing on the Q’Tachtus drive made of coffee.
“I can’t believe it. You took that from Q’Tor’s ship?” she asked.
“And I can’t believe I’ve survived a whole day without coffee!” smiled Adam, taking another bite.
“But you killed-” Eve cut herself short. “Adam! Your hand!” she screamed, pointing back towards the mine.
Adam looked at his left hand. “What? Why do you keep-”
Eve turned his chin to look at the Deputy.
The dismembered hand was strangling the deputy who was staggering back and forth, gasping for air.
“Oh. Lefty, heel!” commanded Adam. But Lefty didn’t heel.
The Deputy finally managed to break free, tossing the killer hand back into the desert.
“See?” smiled Adam. “He’s okay.”
Just then, a giant chunk of Q’Tor’s ship came crashing down onto the deputy, crushing him!
“So he’s a just a little flatter,” said Adam.
The meteor burst into flames, burning any remains.
“And on fire,” Adam added.
The chunk of ship exploded into a million burning pieces!
“And he’s in pieces, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back!” said Adam, trying to remain positive.
A boot fell near Eve’s feet, the laces still on fire.
“Or bounce somewhere, anyways,” said Adam, losing his drive to spin this into a positive for the charred, bits of Deputy.
“And I’m spent,” said Adam heading towards Pete.
“Can you let her off the hook for me Pete?” he asked.
“You betcha’” responded the old grease monkey.
“You need a ride, Miss Adams?” offered the Sheriff.
“No thanks,” declined Eve. I’ll hitch a ride in a moment.
“Suit yourself,” said the Sheriff looking over the scene littered with Deputy debris. “Looks like my paperwork has already begun to stack up.”
Eve watched as the crazed Doctor and the old Sheriff headed back towards town. She stood for a moment gazing the other direction.
“There’s always a way out,” she repeated to herself.
But Anomaly Don’t
Eve nudged the boot of agent Fifty-nine, now nothing but charred chunks in the desert.
There was a piece of old newspaper inside the boot. She slid it out and unfolded it delicately, revealing an advertisement for Pointline radios. Agent D must have been trying to send instructions to the now diced Deputy.
Adam and the Sheriff were nothing more than a cloud of dust in the distance, and Pete was still fiddling with the tow line.
Eve opened the tow truck door to find a small package waiting for her on the seat.
“There’s a parcel in there for you, Miss Adams,” Pete said while working with the tow hook rigging. “It must’ve slipped under the seat of the taxi.”
Eve unwrapped the brown paper to find a small white box. Inside was a decorative compact makeup mirror. The compact opened to reveal nothing special aside from a small glass tube. She studied the decorative embossing on the back again. Amidst the flowers was a small hole, the perfect fit for the tube.
Eve slid the tube into the back of the compact and the mirror ignited with light and static!
A flickering figure began to emerge in the static. Her thumb rubbed against the hinge and the flickering stopped.
From the other side of the hinge was a collapsible antennae. As she pulled the antennae out, the picture became clearer. It was D, rotating in a large chair trying to balance a pen on his upper lip.
He dropped the pen.
“Eve? You got my package!”
“It would appear so, sir,” she responded quietly.
“So I take it you’re still alive?” D asked.
“Would we be talking if I wasn’t?”
“That would be some trick,” bemused D. “What’s the status of your mission?”
Just then Pete opened the door of the tow truck. Eve paused, eyeing the old man from head to toe. She knew his secret. He was the last Agent, the one whose grave had been missing. It no longer mattered if he heard her conversation with D. But he was hiding, even from D. Why?
“The agents… They’re dead, sir,” she announced.
“All fifty-seven?” clarified D.
She looked at Pete again. He stared back at her, his face locked, unemotional, and barely breathing.
"Yes. All fifty- seven," she confirmed.
“Yeah,” said D. “I know.”
Eve glared at the little screen in frustration.
“Wait, you knew all along?!”
“Of course,” said D, slamming a pile of files down on his desk. “Got the files right here. By the way,” he started, pulling out a new mug. “Got the new business cards, they threw this in for free!”
“Lying’s our Business” read the mug.
“So thrilled. Did you know that Deputy D-,” Eve stopped, correcting herself. “Agent fifty-nine. He’s-”
“Wait,” interrupted D, thumbing through files and tossing them behind him as he went. “Yup. Dead,” he confirmed, throwing that file behind him as well.
Eve recognized the files. The handwriting, the lines through the last names that flew by, they were identical to those in the Sheriff’s office.
“My file,” Eve whispered. She looked at Pete, a degree of terror welling at the back of her mind. “Sir… do I make it?”
“Your file,” D chuckled, bringing out a thick file full of news clippings, reports and notes. “It’s quite entertaining, actually.”
“Do I die, sir?” she asked, not certain if she wanted to know the answer.
“Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you,” said D. As he tossed the file behind him, various clippings scattered across his desk, including a torn calendar page and a pressed flower.
“Simmons? Clean this up, would you?” he ordered.
“Why send me? Why put me through all of this if you already had the answers?” demanded Eve.
“For the real mission, Eve,” he began, anger welling up in his tone. “You have to stop it!”
“Stop what?” Asked Eve.
“What do you give the odds, Simmons?”
“Fifty-fifty, sir,” said Simmons, struggling with a pile of files.
“Simmons says fifty-fifty shot. I’d say more like 70-40.”
“Sixty, sir,” corrected Simmons.
“Right. 70-60,” said D.
“Of what? What are these odds indicating?” begged Eve.
“The Atom Town anomaly, I think I’ll call it Arnold,” began D. “Either Arnold will collapse in on itself, killing all of you, or, well, I think this artist rendering says it best…” D pulled a framed painting out from under his desk.
It was nothing but a blank page.
“There’s nothing there,” said Eve.
“Exactly,” smiled D, putting the plain portrait away. “That’s all that will be left. Earth, existence, humankind. Gone.”
“So destroy Arnold, Atom Town, and save the Earth?” Eve wasn’t even sure if she understood the words leaving her lips.
D thought about it a moment. “Save the Earth? Simmons! Why didn’t we think of that?”
The transmission went black. D was gone.
“You arguing with yourself that whole time?” asked Pete, indicating the mirror in her compact.
Eve put the compact back in her pocket.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Pete,” yelled Eve.
“I assure you, I ain’t playin’, Miss Adams,” smiled Pete.
“I know who you are,” Eve scowled at him.
“Was it the nametag what give me away?” Said Pete, pointing to his embroidered name on his coveralls.
“Yes. But it isn’t yours,” she said, pulling her hand out of her pocket and tossing the name tag at him that she’d found in the cave.
He opened it up to see that it read “Pete”. His demeanor changed for a moment. He chose his words carefully.
“Seein’ things differently upon exiting the cave? You startin’ to see the shadows,” Pete said, enjoying his philosophical parallel. “Maybe old Pete is smarter than he look.”
“That doesn’t say much, Pete.”
“Don’t suppose it do,” he agreed. “Just remember, most agents don’t last a week. I been here ten years. That means she still has a use for me, yet. Let’s just hope she still has a use for you.”
“She who?” asked Eve.
“Ain’t you figured it out yet, Miss Adams? Atom Town… she’s alive!”
“Alive?” Eve repeated with disbelief.
“The rock, the desert, the Anomaly, it’s just like the Doc said. They’s connected,” insisted Pete.
“But you said it yourself, he’s crazy,” reminded Eve.
“Rightly so, but that don’t mean he ain’t right,” said Pete. “After seein’ what you’ve seen, you still doubt it?”
Eve slid a photograph Adam had given her out of her pocket. It was the seemingly unremarkable picture of the horizon, but as she lowered the photo and looked out at the desert, she realized that Adam was right. The shadowy horizon, the mountains… they’d grown nearly tenfold! But could they be alive as Pete was suggesting?
She thought back to the Shadow Rock. She decided not to tell Pete that it had talked to her. That it’d given her clues, lead her to a name. But Eve had to know one thing.
“What happened to Lilly Laughton?” she asked.
Pete froze. He looked off into the distance and wiped the back of his neck with his handkerchief.
“That name,” he whispered. “It ain’t been mentioned in over ten years, Miss Adams. Promise me you won’t mention it again?”
“Or else what?” asked Eve, curiously.
“Or else you’ll wind up like the other fifty-eight,” said Pete.
“Fifty-seven. In case you forgot, you’re not really dead,” Eve reminded him.
“Matter of opinion,” said Pete. “Y’see, that name, well this Town still grieves for her. And grief, she can be a bit of a monster.”
Monster? Eve had seen more than her fair share of monsters for one day, but the idea of each one serving some nefarious purpose for Atom Town, it just didn’t add up.
“The aliens, Q’Tor,” said Eve. “What purpose would they possibly serve?”
“I don’t rightly know Miss Adams. Frankly, that’s what worries me. Somethin’ on the wind. She’s about to change.”
Back in the cave, Q’Tor’s transmogrifying ray gun was sinking, sizzling as it absorbed into the Shadow Rock floor. A chunk of the giant Adam head was watching and smiling. Something big was definitely coming to Atom Town.
Thanks to all the friends, family and fans who have supported the rollout of this book series!
Thanks to my four boys James, Caden, Ryder and Quaid for being a sounding board for my Atom Town stories for years and their endless support of the Doctor Adam Townsend Character!
Thanks to my wife Calli for enduring years of living in Atom Town and for her love and support!
Thanks to all the supporters of and preservationists of silver screen science fiction and horror films that have inspired the creation of Atom Town! Special Thanks to Bruce Crawford and Robert Dix for making the Forbidden Planet Anniversary an amazing experience for us!
Thanks to all the late night movie feeds that keep these films alive like , , and . Through the laughter, you open up camp and classics to new audiences, exposing not just the flaws, but also the moments of genius in these films!
Special Thanks to the inventors of the ellipses and the Exclamation point… I have a feeling one did a lot of yelling waiting for the other to complete a sentence!
Until the next book launch, please enjoy the following links and topics:
Camp & Classics of Film & TV:
It Came From Outer Space – 1953
The Crawling Hand – 1963
Earth vs the Spider – 1958
Tarantula! – 1955
The Monolith Monsters – 1957
Invasion of the Saucer-Men – 1957
Forbidden Planet – 1956
The Astounding B Monster Book
[+ Out of Hollywood+] by Robert Dix (of Forbidden Planet)
The Books of Ray Bradbury
The Books of Jules Verne
The Books of H. G. Wells
Novice or Pro, young or old, writing is a continual Odyssey of learning, experiencing and evolving, so I want to be sure I share helpful tools I have utilized in the development of my own characters and stories with the writers that may happen upon my books.
Rule #1: You are a writer, not an aspiring writer. (Your dog aspires to write, but lack of thumbs holds him back. Use your thumbs!)
Rule #2: Write! Don’t wait for opportune moments, write in the margins of life!
Rule #3: Finish it! Rewrites are as much a part of the process as the initial draft (actually rewriting is more of the process) but don’t alter a letter until you finish it!
Below are sources I’ve used during the evolution of Atom Town. Each of these highlight social media, self-help, and self-publishing, and have countless FREE articles, teleconferences, webinars and advice (There’s also paid courses if you like):
Note: Any lesson on Character and Story is valuable! Remember, screenwriting advice on developing characters can help your novel, just as story structure for a novel can help your screenplay!
Check out for additional recommended resources!
DON’T MISS THE NEXT PREPOSTEROUS ADVENTURE IN THE
The Hands of the Swamp!
The Hands of the Swamp!
Project Atom Town
A square of white exploded in the darkness. Sound and images whirred and rattled as worn and deteriorating stock footage adjusted on its film sprockets. Crocodiles began gnashing at each other on screen, battling over who had the most frightening dental work this side of the swamp.
“The crocodile!” shouted an unseen narrator. “A creature that predates man by billions of years, but is this prehistoric hand-me-down a menace, a monster, or a miracle of the modern age?!”
The images shifted to crisper footage of an office space where Doctor Adam Townsend was sitting on his desk and talking inaudibly to a baby crocodile. He paused, waiting for a response, seemingly oblivious to the fact that crocodiles don’t typically speak “Human”.
“Oh, hello. I’m Doctor Adam Townsend of Atom Labs,” began Adam, presenting the baby animal for the camera. “This is Melvin, our long lost brother from a bygone age. Yes long before we crawled out of the oceans and went our separate ways, we too possessed the crocodile’s regenerative powers. Cut off their tail, it grows back, their limbs, likewise. The head…” Adam paused, reflecting on some disturbing personal experience. “Not so much. Trust me, not pretty.”
A junior lab assistant in overalls and goggles stepped in, taking the reptile back to its cage.
“Now if we could unlock this power, harness it, we could cure the common cold, eliminate cancer, and yes, even regenerate missing limbs! But how?”
Adam reached into a lead box on his desk and pulled out a glowing test tube.
“With this. An isotope!” smiled Adam holding the glowing tube up to his eyes, admiring its fluorescence.
“Gee whizz, Doctor Adam, aren’t isotopes radioactive?” asked the lad, noticing the test tube sizzling into the Doctor’s bare finger tips.
“Relax, Jimmy. That’s why I wear this lab coat!” Adam assured him.
“Now, although this little fellow is red in coloring, it is not cherry flavored,” said Adam, placing the isotope an arm’s length away From the boy. “In fact, it’s quite horrid,” he further explained, licking the inside of his mouth and grimacing. “Almost as bad as broccoli,” he said, returning the tube to its box.
A lab assistant approached Adam and faced the camera. His left hand held a tray of syringes. His right hand held nothing, as it was completely gone. The rest of his right arm and sleeve had apparently joined the hand, wherever it had run off to, as they were gone as well.
“Thanks Steve!” said the Doctor to the assistant. Adam pulled a syringe from the offered tray and immediately shoved the needle into the assistant’s arm.
“Do you know what was in that needle, Jimmy?” asked Adam.
“Gosh no, Doctor Adam,” said the boy as both looked at the syringe.
Adam’s brow furrowed, “Neither do I.”
Adam switched to a different syringe on the tray.
“But this, this is Serum CX-17! Why, by pairing Melvin’s DNA with atomic power, we may well be able to regrow an entire human arm!”
Adam, Jimmy and even Steve turned their attention to Steve’s missing limb.
Suddenly Steve’s good arm dropped from his body, sending the tray and his hand crashing to the floor below.
“Well, we still have a few bugs to work out,” sighed the Doctor.
As he gave Steve a solid, ‘better-luck-next-time’ pat on the back, Steve’s head rolled backwards and dropped to the floor with a loud THUD!
Jimmy took a step back as the head rolled his way.
Adam smiled back at the camera.
“But that’s what these experiments are for! I’m Doctor Adam Townsend, and you’re welcome!”
JASON SCOTT NEBEL is the author of the Atom Town book series. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife, four sons, and several furry, four-footed children. To learn more about the author, or Atom Town Books, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
In this first book of the Atom Town series, Eve sees monsters around every corner, but the real terror is the one monster she doesn't see! Eve Adams is sent into the past to solve a murder, but what she finds is a world immune to logic and hard science. A world of Monsters, Mayhem, Mysteries and Murder! The world of the diabolically incompetent Doctor Adam Townsend! Atom Town is a comedic tour through Atomic Age cinema's most beloved and most ridiculous monsters as seen through the eyes of a modern spy trapped in 1958. "A comedic book series for fans of cheesy B Horror Movies, Mystery Science Theater, and Svengoolie!" "A fun, fast read!" "It's like an Atomic Age X-Files"