Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Gerard Flanders stood at the pulpit and addressed the few citizens of Spring Harbor that had chosen to gather in the chapel for shelter. Winston Ford was seated up front with Ted and Nina Farrell, and they had all joined hands in silent prayer. Behind them Gerard saw row after row of empty pews, adding yet another wrinkle to his withered forehead.
On this gray October 2013 morning, they didn’t feel the presence of God among them. The religious sculptures and the images of the stained glass seemed to be staring back at them, mocking, judging.
“As you all know, a great fog has descended upon our town. Anyone who has lived in Spring Harbor long enough has heard the legend of the green fog. Well, as we’ve discovered over the years, it’s not as much of a legend as we hoped it to be. Many locals have stockpiled weapons and formed gangs, posses. They hope to eliminate this threat that has permeated us. I bid them good luck and my God shine down upon us and protect us all from the evil that dwells within the fog. Amen.”
“Amen,” the three drones in the first pew repeated.
In the distance, Flanders heard a roar that was anything but human. He looked to the sky for guidance, finding none.
A line of trucks and cars had been parked strategically on the border of Spring Harbor and Braxton. It formed a wall of steel they hoped would contain what lurked in the mist.
Two miles up the road, the citizens of Spring Harbor gathered. Scott Riggs was cuddled up with his girlfriend, Dana Daggett. Dana’s brother, Spike, was there too, and had donned his army fatigues he hadn’t shown off since his tour of Iraq.
Chris Bowden and Nick Torrance were arguing over who would win in a fight, Superman or Wolverine.
“The man of steel versus the man of adamantium steel,” Nick boasted if he was promoting the fight of the century.
“I say Wolverine takes it,” Chris made his choice.
“No way,” Nick balked. “Superman wins by a long shot. The guy is invincible.”
“Yeah, but Wolverine has the healing factor. And if he’s invincible, how’d he die in that one issue?”
“He didn’t die,” Nick explained. “He just went into hibernation.”
“What a lame excuse,” Chris evaluated.
“Yeah, as lame as that faux-hawk you rocked in high school,” Nick quipped.
“You promised never to mention that,” Chris said, mortified.
As Torrance and Bowden bickered, two additional members of the group were having their own verbal quarrel. Sam Colt and Henry Fisher, like Spike Daggett, were decked out in camouflage. But they had no tours of Iraq under their belt. They never served in active duty. They just thought that camouflage looked bitching, as they phrased it.
“You make sure to wear a fresh Depends?” Sam Colt teased his buddy.
Henry Fisher, who was leaned up against the side of his silver pickup truck, busy polishing his shotgun, looked up and said, “Did you call your momma and tell her you won’t be coming home tonight to spoon with her?”
“You leave my momma out of this, schmuck.”
“Your complexion makes you look like Edward James Olmos,” Colt told him.
“Yeah? Well, your chest hair makes you look like a gorilla.”
“Yeah, well you smell like Head and Shoulders,” Colt said, scratching his hairy chest and secretly wondering if was really as hairy as people claimed it to be.
“That’s because I use Head and Shoulders. Gotta keep my scalp moist and fresh.”
“You mean you gotta get rid of your head lice.”
“Head and Shoulders is for dandruff and dry scalp, not head lice, dumbass.”
“Oh, I’m the dumbass? Who brought a fuckin’ bazooka with them?” Fisher asked.
“You’ll be kissing my hairy ass when it saves your life,” Colt said it with such confidence it practically sounded like a guarantee. “I’m willing to bet on it.”
Scott Riggs grabbed his girlfriend tightly and pulled her in by the waist. Then he closed his eyes and gave her a kiss he wished would last an eternity. When he finally relinquished her, he removed the keys from his pocket and put them right into her hand.
“It’s not safe for you here,” he claimed. “I want you to take my Chevy and drive to the chapel. You’ll be safe there, safer than you will be if you stay here.”
“No,” Dana was adamant about sticking by his side. “I’m not leaving you or my brother.”
Spike Daggett scratched under his chin stubble where his neck was red and bumpy from razor burn. “He’s right, Dana,” Spike chimed in. “Go to the chapel and stay there until the fog clears. That’s an order, soldier.”
“We’re not in the military,” Dana rebuked. “You can’t order me around.”
“Not, but as your brother I’m going to do what I can to protect you. I can’t force you, but I love you. And so does Scott here. So please go. I’ll beg if I have to.”
Dana sighed as Spike picked at his rough, unsmooth skin. “Ok,” she conceded. “I’ll go for the both of you. Promise me you’ll be careful?” She gave Scott one more kiss and gave her brother a big, prolonged hug before she departed in Scott’s Chevy Blazer. In the end, neither man promised they’d be careful or return safe. They knew that a guarantee of that magnitude was unmarketable.
The annual fog had commenced at noon, slowly creeping its way in from the bay. It was moments after the appearance of the fog that citizens of Spring Harbor began to congregate and set up roadblocks in the face of their impending arrival.
These monsters had been given a name by the now deceased Herman Coach. He called them The Desecrators. Retched monstrosities that cross over into our world from their world, which Coach dubbed Planet X. As brilliant a man as he was, he wasn’t very imaginative.
He surmised that the rift in the fourth dimension was a direct result of time travel experiments conducted in the 1960’s. Spring Harbor was such a town used in these clandestine operations. The same rift they use to escape their world and come into ours. In truth, they don’t accompany the fog. The fog accompanies them. Wherever they come from, that’s where this strange mist is manufactured.
With Herman Coach dead, the people of Spring Harbor were left to piece the rest together themselves. The only standout in the crowd who seemed to understand more than he let on was Oscar Fletcher, an eye patch wearing drifter with a penchant for pulled pork sandwiches and cheap menthol cigarettes.
That was the only way Chris Bowden was able to pick him out of the crowd. Oscar was becoming a regular at Hap’s Diner where Bowden worked the counter. Oscar stopped in everyday for his pulled pork sandwich with a side of barbeque sauce and a pack of smokes. Like a snake, he slithered his way through the crowd towards Oscar until they were shoulder to shoulder.
“What’s your deal?” Bowden inquired.
“My deal?” Fletcher repeated in a quizzical fashion.
“Yeah, you’re the only non-local in a crowd of Spring Harbor residents. So why are you choosing to stand and fight with us? Furthermore, why do you even believe any of this? You’re not a local so you haven’t experienced the legend firsthand.”
“No, but I’m aware of the legend. And I’m aware it’s more than just a legend. Local or stranger, I’m here to help. If my helps not wanted, you’re down one man.”
A terrible roar resonated in the distance, brief and alarming.
“Better make your choice,” Fletcher added.
“If you’re on our side then you’re cool with me,” Bowden shrugged.
A few moments later, another horrible shriek echoed in the distance. This one was louder, closer.
“You think we’re going to make it?” Riggs asked Daggett.
“Don’t know,” Spike shrugged. “I survived Iraq. This should be a cakewalk.”
“In Iraq, you knew what you were facing. We don’t even know what these things look like. We only know of the destruction they bring.”
It was now two o’clock and the thick green fog had enveloped everything in its path. They all stood now, armed to the teeth and waiting for the horrors that went unseen. Chris Bowden waved his hand in front of his face to try and cut through the mist and clear his line of sight, but the fog was dense and impermeable. Bowden squinted through the fog and could see no more than two or three feet in front of him.
Spiny tentacles coated in slime crawled their way through the mist. One tentacle coiled tightly around Bowden’s ankle and snatched him off his feet, dragging him into the unknown.
His screams grew cold in seconds and a chilling silence ensued.
A heavy object soared through the mist and struck Nick Torrance in the chest. It was white and round and it took Torrance a few seconds to make out what it was through the green mist. It was Bowden’s skull, devoid of its flesh and grey matter.
The shooting commenced as everyone stood side by side and opened fire into the mist. Muzzle flashes illuminated the otherwise drab, darkened scenery. The fog parted slightly and the crowd caught their first awe-inspiring glimpse of the monstrosities they were up against.
The leader of the pack sported the hooded head of a cobra, the prodigious claws of wolverine, and the body of a mythical dragon, complete with tail and wings. Its forked tongue slithered from a gaping mouth of protruding fangs, ready to devour.
To its left side stood a female creature, spiraled horns jutted from her malformed skull. Her face appeared to be frozen in a perpetual state of agony. But as the fog wafted to the right and cleared slightly, the mob realized it was a sheet of rotting flesh sewn into her own green-skinned face.
To the right was an ungodly behemoth with tentacles for fingers. The giant stood taller than any of the other creatures before them, its green exterior adorned with dry, rigid reptilian scales. A lone tentacle sprouted from its chest, the cusp of the tentacle formed into an eyeless face with sharp, needle-like teeth.
The smallest resembled a mutated porcupine. Its brownish-yellow fur was shielded by a layer of thick spikes. The spikes all contracted and expanded, as if each individual spike was a living, breathing organism.
Last, but certainly not least, as it appeared just as deadly as its counterparts, was a scorpion-like creature. Black in appearance, its body was reduced to a crawl stance, slithering on its underbelly with the use of its ten appendages. Its backside was curled up and shaped in the form of a hideous barbed stinger that was capable of penetrating flesh and bone.
The mob continued to discharge their firearms into the mist. Fisher unloaded the last shells of his shotgun and reprieved himself from battle to reload. As he dropped the final shells into the breach, the barbed stinger impaled his chest. The creature hoisted him over its black, triangular head and as the stinger retracted, his body was launched thirty feet from his pickup.
“Fisher!” Colt cried as he turned the onslaught of his AK-47 toward the scorpion creature. Its appendages guided it through the mist as it evaded every bullet that was intended for it.
The porcupine creature had moved to the back of the horde and was shielded by the living wall of nightmares. The female creature raised one hand and a beam of light flashed from her palm, incinerating those in its path and turning their weapons to dust that scattered throughout the mist.
The winged monstrosity took flight and spat a congealed blob from its throat. The viscous glob struck Nick Torrance and melted the skin down to the bone, and keep on dissolving what was left of him.
Playtime was over as the giant stomped through the mob, crushing and smashing everyone that dared put up a fight.
The crowd began to disperse in a panic. Guns were dropped and the few vehicles that were present were left abandoned as people disbanded on foot.
When all was said and done, Colt, Daggett, Riggs, and Fletcher remained. The four men had huddled together, trying to regroup and formulate a quick plan as the giant and the other creatures were distracted by the fleeting troops.
“We need to stick close together,” Spike advised. The skills he learned in combat and the leadership qualities he possessed were flaring up and telling him to take charge of the group. “We keep our distance and don’t fire unless you have a clear shot. Got it?”
“I think now would be a good time to raise the white flag,” Riggs suggested.
“I concur,” Fletcher said. “I don’t think they’re instinctively violent. I think they’re just responded to us with violence because of our approach. If we surrender, maybe we can be spared.”
“Screw this, I’m getting the bazooka,” Colt decided.
He ran to the bed of Fisher’s pickup and leaned over the side, snatching up the nasty little surprise he had hauled along with him.
Bolstering the rocket launcher across his broad shoulder, his thumb hovered over the red button that acted as a trigger mechanism, and aimed for the tentacle-wielding behemoth. He pressed the red button, and the tubular missile blasted from its porthole. The giant moved with astonishing speed. The missile lost its ended target as it sailed past the giant and instead propelled towards the scorpion-like creature, its body exploding on impact. Its ten appendages were flung through the air, its triangular head blasted from its torso, its stinger bisected. The torso itself was smeared across the asphalt of the road. Pools of green fluid collected where the torso had been decimated, fluid that Scott Riggs could only surmise was blood.
“WE GOT ONE!” Colt cheered ecstatically. Two tentacles curled around his ankles and tried to pull him from his feet. He struggled to retain his balance as the empty rocket launcher fell from his shoulder to the ground.
He managed to stand his ground, but the tentacles were taut around his ankles, restricting his mobility. The tentacle that sprouted from the giant’s chest closed in on him, the face of the tentacle moving towards his.
Spike was thinking on his feet as he grabbed ahold of Colt’s discarded AK-47, which still held half a magazine of live ammo. He blasted the face of the tentacle with a spray of bullets, severing the head from the limb.
The beast wailed, letting out its first screams of recognizable pain. It released its grip from Colt’s ankles and the tentacles crawled away. As Riggs continued to fire with pistols in each hand at the female creature, he realized that Fletcher had deserted them, running off into the mist.
The female creature, riddled with bullets and oozing green puss, raised her hand a blast of light came shooting from her palm, which Riggs narrowly avoided. Empty, he dropped both guns and found Fisher’s shotgun, rounds still in the breach.
He raised the shotgun, pumped it, and fired, blasting a wide hole through her chest. She shrieked as Riggs raised the shotgun again, pumping it. He missed her face, the bullet instead shattering one of her spiraled horns.
Colt searched through the mist with his hands on the ground until he found the launcher. Returning to the pickup, he grasped a backup rocket from the bed. He loaded the tubular rocket into the porthole and hoisted the launcher to his shoulder.
He pressed the red button again, and the missile soared through the mist, obliterating the giant. As he raised his arms in victory, the winged demon perched itself on his shoulders, spearing its claws through his neck and tearing the head from its shoulders.
Daggett and Scott remained, standing side to side as they fired their respective weapons into the mist. The female creature, though severely wounded, still had life in her. And as the winged demon took flight again, Daggett was struck with a ball of corrosive acid it had spat. He screamed as he actually watched the flesh melt away from his arms and chest like butter.
Scott thought about Dana. About her departing kiss. He wasn’t going to let that kiss be their last.
He darted towards the truck and ran around to the driver side door. He got in and searched frantically for the keys, finding them stashed away in the glove compartment. He started Fisher’s silver pickup and the tires chirped as Riggs took off. The three surviving creatures were lost in a haze of green fog as he glanced in the rearview mirror.
He didn’t stop the truck until he reached the chapel.
When he stepped through the doors of the chapel and saw Dana staring up at the pulpit and listened to Gerard Flanders’ words, he breathed a sigh of relief knowing she had made it safely and was still alive. He also spotted Oscar Fletcher among many other residents that had abandoned them.
“They’re dead,” he announced to the congregation. “They’re all dead.”
Dana got up and put her arms around him, consoling him. Her lips parted slightly and they embraced. Five minutes before, it was a kiss Scott was convinced he’d never experience again. Warm and passionate.
“Are those things still out there?” a member of the crowd asked.
“Yes,” Scott confirmed their concerns.
“They’re not just out there,” Fletcher stood and spoke. “They’re in here as well.”
“What are you–” Scott cut himself short as Fletcher’s skin began to bubble and pulsate. A loud tear echoed through the chapel, like somebody shredded paper. Except the sound was actually Fletcher’s skin tearing down the middle.
Fletcher had shed his own skin the way a person would peel back their overcoat. And what stood before them was no longer Fletcher. His fingers now exposed as short claws, his feet exposed as cloven hooves, a pointed tail curled up from its backside. Its gray complexion ushered a series of gasps, as did its eyes, three of them the size of baseballs and glowing red.
It continued to speak, but its lip didn’t part. It was speaking to the entire congregation in their minds.
“The legends are true. We are real. And thanks to your government and the experiments they conducted, our planet is dying from the unstable rift created between our dimensions. Soon it will be annihilated and those that dwell in the fog will live amongst you. Your entire Earth would be shrouded in a haze of green fog.”
“You can’t,” Gerard cried from behind his pulpit. “You will destroy it all, our entire planet.”
“No, I tried explaining this before to Mr. Riggs. You must understand, we mean you no harm. Only those of you that wish to harm us. You see, we’re not so different from you humans. We respond to violence with violence, just as you tend to do.”
“How are you speaking to us?” one shocked spectator uttered.
“We have studied your language and managed to emulate it through a form of telepathy. I’m sorry for the destruction we have caused. Our hope is that we can all somehow manage to coexist and live in harmony. Just know that if you defy us, you will be destroyed.”
In the distance, a thousand horrible shrieks echoed through the sky. Moments later, the entire consecrated structure shook.
“Ah, yes,” Fletcher said, “They have arrived.”