The Monster from Nowhere... : LUSENET : FRL friends : One Thread

** The Monster Arrives **

His mother went into labor while she was gathering dry towels from the clothesline. She gave birth on the rough steps of the cabin she shared with her father, literally dropping him into the wash basket with the clean laundry. She sat up weakly and got a good look at what she had brought into the world. She fainted.

Her father found them a short time later. He looked into the wash basket at the little horror, and believing it was dead, rushed his daughter to her bed. He spent the next hour frantically reviving her.

The abandoned wash basket was the subject of a great deal of interest. Several chickens, the dog, the cat, and an old doe goat gazed intently into the basket and were badly startled when the lump of humanity within gave a sudden high-pitched squeak. Two squeaks later the cat joined him, humming and purring, and the child began to warm. The addition of a broody hen on his other side warmed the child enough to open his eyes. One tiny misshapen foot with splayed misshapen toes came to rest on the furry nose of the doe. Perfect little fingers clutched the cat's bottom lip. Other perfect little fingers were buried in the hen's feathers. His strange eyes held theirs, each in turn.

The moment was interrupted by his grandfather. Believing the animals were mauling a dead body, the old man burst out of the cabin and beat the animals away with a stick of stove wood. The child protested with another high-pitched squeak. The old man dropped the wood and slowly turned to the basket. Steeling himself, he looked inside. The monster was alive. The monster was looking at him. AT him! The old man brought his hand up, and the monster shifted its gaze to follow the movement. Then the monster returned his attention to the old man.

The old man had the wild urge to run away, to pretend this birth had not happened, but the beauty of the monster's eyes calmed him. He began to relax, and he noticed the child was a boy. He was looking at a baby boy, his grandson, and suddenly he wished very much to gather the baby in his arms. He smiled into the beautiful eyes. The baby blessed him with a tiny hiccup. The old man carefully picked up the baby and took him to see his mother.

-- helen (, October 12, 2001


This looks GOOD!!!

(to new answers page)


-- Lon Frank (, October 12, 2001.

** **

"Look, Darling, this is how you spell your name." His mother took his lovely hand and carefully guided his pencil over the paper. "And this name…remember this name. He's your father." Again she helped him trace the name.

"He's so quick to learn," she said to her father over her shoulder. "He learns almost everything the first time I show him." She caressed the wild mass of his hair. "Let's write my name, and then Grandpa's name." The boy quietly complied.

The boy was always compliant, his grandfather pondered from his chair by the stove. The boy's form was only humanoid at best, aside from his perfect hands. Love and familiarity had worn away the shock of his appearance. His brilliance and his compliance worried his grandfather more than his face. What passed for his mouth would never render human speech, but the angelic tones of his crooning were made with purpose. He sang what he could not say. He drew pictures that conveyed movement. His large, strange eyes missed nothing. He never forgot anything.

"Let's draw a triangle," his mother continued.

"No," said his grandfather. "I want him to help me outside."

With a tone of pure delight, the boy slid from his chair, hugged his mother, and got his coat. He endured time inside the cabin for their sakes, but the outside world held his passionate interest.

The old man took the boy's hand and set out for the barn. Together they fed the animals. When the boy was present, the animals were unusually gentle. He had often been nuzzled, but he had never been bumped. Never once, his grandfather thought, had he even been moved off balance. This was another fact more unsettling than his appearance.

The old doe breathed gently on the boy's neck, producing a fit of giggling that sounded like the peal of glass bells in the distance. The old man loved to hear the boy laugh.

When the animals finished their feed and wandered away, the old man put a loving hand on the boy's mane. "Now we'll go learn something," he said.

They went into the tack room at the far end of the barn and lit a lantern. Hundreds of stones covered a heavy old workbench. The old man dragged a geology textbook from a shelf and found where they had left off the day before.

"Pick a rock and we'll find it in the book," he instructed. "Then we'll go find another one out there," he pointed back outside. The boy eagerly complied. He had learned the names of hundreds of stones already.

His grandfather had used this method to teach the boy about constellations, plants, animals, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. He had no explanation for not mentioning the lessons to the boy's mother. He supposed that years of hiding his own identity had something to do with it.

-- helen (, October 12, 2001.

His own identity? Who was he? Huh??? Huh??????

-- Gayla (, October 12, 2001.

Now, now, Gayla,

We mustn't rush helen. She's an artist. She lives on a farm. She has a busy life. She needs time. Great works don't come overnight, you know. Just back off and try to be patient, like me. I'm sure helen will continue when the time is right, and she's ready.


right, helen?









-- Lon Frankenstien (evil@the.bayou), October 12, 2001.

His mother left him without a word in the night.

His grandfather sat for long time beside a stove grown cold, her letter on his knee. He did not offer the letter to the boy.

His mother's absence and his grandfather's paralysis puzzled the boy. When he had missed both breakfast and lunch, he realized that his mother was not coming back to cook supper. She was never coming back. His keening began softly and rose to a dirge. There were no bells in his voice now. His grief-stricken wails drove the animals outside mad.

At last his grandfather noticed him. He gathered the poor tyke into his arms and whispered that he would never leave. Then he washed the boy's face and fixed his supper. He never mentioned the boy's mother again.

They fell into a new pattern. They spent little time indoors, and that time was spent mostly reading. The old man filled the boy's mind with Kipling, Twain, Franklin, and Locke. He read aloud from books on history, philosophy, and economics. He had hidden himself for half his lifetime, and in the freedom of their new arrangement he poured everything he had been into the boy.

He taught the boy carpentry. Their first project was a small sled. It was a smashing success. Success was so smashing, in fact, that they were forced to build a replacement within the first week. The boy picked up the broken pieces of the first sled and held them up, turning them over in his hands. His questioning trill was insistent.

His grandfather understood. He led the boy to his tool chest and dug out his carving tools. He feared the boy would slice his delicate hands. He was both relieved and a bit alarmed when the boy seemed to know how to use them without instruction.

Soon the tiny cabin was overflowing with tiny birds soaring on strings hung from rafters. A whole herd of wooden goats crowded a minute flock of hens and chicks. A small statue of his grandfather graced the sill of their only window.

One morning his grandfather found him deep in thought on the rough step where he had been born. The boy trilled a question the old man couldn't understand. The boy held up a small block of rough wood. Then he elaborately pointed to himself and back to the wood. He trilled again.

His grandfather had feared this moment, but it had taken so long in coming that he had pushed it out of his mind. The boy wanted to carve a likeness of himself. There were no mirrors in the cabin. He wanted to know what he looked like.

-- helen (, October 13, 2001.

Yippee! Keep it up, Helen!

-- (thesonofdust@story.time), October 13, 2001.

Wow, Helen! Don'cha know you're not supposed to hide your light under a bushel?! More! More! :: :: ::

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 13, 2001.

Man, oh man, I'm writing this on the fly, trying to get it done before the war gets too close to home.

BTW, no resemblance to anyone known by anyone is intended, and anyone who thinks s/he sees a resemblance to anyone is just being silly. In case one of these characters tells me a name.

-- helen (the@pressure.mounts), October 13, 2001.

His grandfather slowly sank to the step beside the boy.

"I'll tell you what you look like," he whispered. "You look like the dearest little grandson a man could wish for. You look like the sun rising in the morning. Your hair looks like fire in a strong wind."

The boy impatiently tapped his own face.

"I love you," his grandfather moaned. "I would give my life for yours."

The boy gently touched his grandfather's face, tracing the outline of his brow, his nose, his lips, and his jaw. Then he traced his own face.

"You don't look like me. You don't look like anyone else alive. You look like yourself, your wonderful self. I wouldn't want you to be any other way." The old man's tone was pleading. "You are beautiful. There is no one on earth as beautiful as you are. Remember this."

The boy's eyes filled with tears. He threw his block of wood to the ground and raced away, ignoring his grandfather's calls to come back.

He stayed away until dark. The incident was never mentioned again. They resumed their pattern, but the pain between them darkened their good times and led to long silences. As hurtful as words may be, silence often leads to more heartbreak.

-- helen (, October 13, 2001.

** The Monster Arrives in Nowhere **

The boy grew rapidly. His grandfather grew feeble rapidly. When the boy's mother had been gone two years, their elderly dog died. The task of digging the grave fell to the boy.

The boy picked a lovely spot on a hill overlooking the cabin. He buried the dog, and in his grief he covered the grave with hundreds of small, pretty stones. He planted flowers and a small flowering tree and tended them carefully. The boy was building a memorial for his mother, or so his grandfather thought, but the old man said nothing.

They spent their remaining days in gentle pursuits. The boy took over all of the household chores as well as caring for the animals. His grandfather grew quiet and even more loving than before. The boy fought their invisible enemy with the only weapons he had. He hovered and crooned and coddled the old man like a baby. He fed him, eased his joints, and kept him clean. He slept on the floor beside the old man's bed. It was not enough.

His grandfather died without a word in the night.

-- helen (, October 13, 2001.

Sniff! Sob! Somebody pass the kleenex!

-- Gayla (, October 13, 2001.

Sorry for the delay, hope to get more in by tomorrow.

-- helen (stuff@came.up), October 15, 2001.

(((((Helen))))) It's OK, stuff comes up around here, too. :-) We'll keep checking in to see what happens.

-- Gayla (, October 15, 2001.

He buried his grandfather next to the dog. Every variety of stone in the area was lovingly placed on the grave in a pattern that suggested the flowing of water. He placed his tiny statue of the old man at the head of the grave.

How is madness defined in a being that had never been normal? The boy grieved. He roamed the hills tirelessly day and night. He broke into long, low laments that echoed for miles through the lonely hills, giving rise miles away to tales of haunting. He continued to grow.

Finally he waited atop the graves at dawn, waited until he could see them clearly one last time, and then he walked away. He carried with him only one small satchel filled with papers and a journal that had belonged to his grandfather. He had not had the heart to read any of them.

** **

Nowhere was a tiny town in the hills that had been given life originally by a quarry and kept alive briefly by a sawmill. The rest of the world had outgrown the small talents of Nowhere, and the town had stagnated badly. No children had been born in Nowhere for the preceding ten years, and the joke among the aging population was that the last person to die there would go unburied.

The boy arrived in Nowhere after dark. He drifted with growing amazement down tidy, empty lanes meandering among houses lit by the first electric lights he had ever seen. The houses must have been all of five rooms, more or less, and to a boy raised in a tiny cabin with one window they appeared to be the mansions he had read about in his grandfather's books.

The school stood at the north end of town. All of the social functions in town were held there, because it had the town's only piano and a stage. The boy was aware of exciting new sounds and the presence of people. He stopped in the street in front of the school, transfixed with joy at the new experience.

The opening ceremonies of the monthly meeting of the Nowhere Culture Club consisted of patriotic warbling accompanied by asynchronous banging on the piano. The boy had never heard formally produced music. His awe was such that he didn't hear the truck rumbling up the street behind him.

** **

Annie was late. It was simply too much to expect of her, she thought, to finish all of her farm chores, cook supper, bathe, and get to the Culture Club meeting on time. To make matters worse, she had been pressured into promising her famous, prize-winning cherry pies for dessert. The pies on the seat beside her were slowing her down by forcing her to creep around the winding curves of Nowhere's streets.

She never saw the boy, never expected him to be standing in the street, and she never touched the brake. The pies had kept her speed low enough to prevent her from killing him. She would bake cherry pies for every function thereafter until she died.

The impact knocked the boy off his feet and onto his head. Lights exploded behind his eyes. Pain drowned his reason. He welcomed the darkness and fainted.

Annie was aware only that she had run into something softer than another truck. She stopped her truck and ran to the boy. He was bleeding badly. In the dim light of her headlights, Annie had the impression that his face was badly injured. His odd shape looked like every bone in his body was out of kilter. She covered him quickly with her jacket and ran, not to the school, but to the house next to it.

** ** Dr. Adam Strange had just poured his first jigger of medication and was preparing to enjoy the evening with a good book. He had little to do until the next influenza bug found Nowhere. His clinic was his spare room. Most of his practice consisted of handholding and the occasional referral to a specialist at the county hospital twenty miles away. He was not expecting the Queen this evening and had undressed accordingly.

The sudden banging on his door startled him into spilling his medication. He forgot he was undressed as he stomped to his door. He yanked the door open and barely caught Annie as she slumped to the floor.

"I've killed him!" she cried. "I've killed him and he's dead! Help him!"

-- helen (, October 15, 2001.

Wow, Helen!

Don't stop!!!

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 16, 2001.

** **

The young giant lay on a bed with a chair supporting each overhanging leg and another chair supporting each massive foot. Adam drew the sheet away, exposing the oddly shaped torso to the view of the sheriff.

"Annie didn't do this," he said. "Annie didn't hurt his face, either," he added. "All that is wrong with him is a concussion, other than the worst birth defects I've ever seen in a living human being. I don't want to transport him to County. As long as he's breathing ok, I'd like to keep him for at least a day. His pupils look good. He's just knocked out. That's my official medical opinion."

Sheriff Kit Banes locked eyes with his half-brother. "What about his hair?" he asked.

"There is only one way he could have gotten that hair," said Adam. "Only one way."

"Are we going to send an announcement to the proud papa? Maybe we could send a picture too." Kit's tone was bitter. "I just want to make sure I'm there to see the look on his face."

Adam sighed. "Not yet. Let's see what we have when he wakes up." He covered his patient again and touched a lock of his hair. "Only one way," he repeated.

"I found a briefcase or something he had with him. I think it's his, anyway. I don't have time to go over it tonight, so I'll leave it with you." Kit turned to leave and stopped. "By the way, I let Annie go home. I told her not to describe this fellow to anyone."

** **

Adam settled himself into his battered old rocker next to his patient. He opened the satchel on his lap. The papers within appeared to be letters and newspaper clippings. There was a small journal bound in scuffed leather. It all looked very old. Adam decided to organize it by date before reading it, and then he found that everything was already in order. Someone had wanted the papers read in sequence. A short note was clipped to the top of the stack. Adam began there.

"My dearest grandson,

It is my hope and prayer that you will find a way to forgive me. I have tried to answer all of your questions.

You are the finest gift I have ever received.



Adam laid the note aside and picked up the first letter in the stack.

** **

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

** **

My dearest James,

Father gave me a wonderful party last night. I wish you could have been with me. Why won't you leave your work more often? I think you love your work more than you love me. Father wishes me to break off our engagement. Is this your wish as well? You neglect me most of the time and I feel I must ask you frankly.


** **

James, darling!

Forgive me! It's just that I am too young to hang about alone like a widow. Please leave your work for a day or two and come to visit me.


** **


Father says that your work will be a failure and that you will never be able to support me. Is this true?


** **

My dearest James,

Your visit was a wonderful surprise! Father says he will pay for the costs of moving your work here. You must have made quite an impression on him! He is being mysterious about the nature of your work, but I know about the elixir you have developed. I must confess to naughty behavior while you were with us. I know you will forgive me! I peaked into your belongings and found the elixir! I found the exciting business proposal you prepared for Father! Imagine an elixir that will make us beautiful forever! I am proud of you and anxiously await your arrival.

Your loving Catherine

** **


Father doesn't know what I have done. I drank the sample of your elixir that you left with him. You need to know that the solution is quite bitter. It burned my mouth and throat. I have been quite ill, but I believe that today I am better. Please do not tell Father. I thought you would want to know before you bottle it for sale.


** **

Adam was sick with dread. He laid Catherine's last note aside and found the next item in the stack. It was a newspaper clipping dated approximately a year later. The clipping was a marriage announcement. The new bride was Catherine. The groom was not James.

The groom was the father Adam and Kit shared with each other and with one other man.

** **

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

** **

Only the journal remained. Adam continued reading with shaking hands.

The first half of the journal appeared to be chemical notations and the sequence of his experiments. The other half was quite different.

** **

Catherine continues to nag me to pay attention to her. No amount of explanation on my part will divert her. She must be worshipped at all times or she is bitterly unhappy. How did I enmesh myself in this horrid family? She is beautiful. Her father is rich. At first I counted myself lucky they took an interest in me, but they continually interfere with my work. Her father impatiently hints that his loan to me will be recalled at any moment. He refers to me as an investment and nothing more.

She looked like the sun rising. Her hair looked like fire in a strong wind. How could I know her beauty was her only positive attribute? She is spoiled, vain, and selfish. Her father knew he would have to buy a husband for her. I was all too willing to sell. I am a slave.

** **

The substance has produced no discernable ill effects on the first generation of animal subjects. They remain vigorous long past their normal life spans. The second generation appears to be healthy. I wish to study them further, but the vile old man insists that I produce "proof" of my work. I will take a sample to him, although I expect he lacks the education and interest required to listen to my proposal.

** **

The spoiled brat is a thief. It made her sick. I told the old man the substance is too bitter to be taken in liquid form. It must somehow be refined and pressed into pills. If he wants to market the substance, he will have to loan me more money for the proper equipment to produce it. I see another fight on the horizon.

** **

I do not know where to begin.

The third generation of test subjects has been born. Every specimen is grossly distorted. None lived more than an hour after birth. I was careful to make certain the substance was the only factor they all had in common. The only explanation for this disaster is the substance itself.

** **

The old man has denounced me to the world as a swindler. The full force of the law has been unleashed upon me. I am certain the old man has hired an assassin too. I had time to wreck my lab, destroying all the evidence, and escape with only the clothes on my back and one small case of papers. I have been cast upon the world with no money and by necessity no real identity.

The only peace in my life is the knowledge that I have escaped Catherine.

** **

A great deal of time has passed since I wrote those words. My attempts to rejoin normal society were thwarted time after time. Catherine's father spent more money trying to bring me to justice than he had loaned me. Vengeance does not pay.

I drifted from town to town, earning a little money and then moving on. In time I realized that Catherine's father would be unlikely to look for me in his own backyard, so to speak. My small savings bought a tiny piece of land outside of Nowhere, not quite twenty miles from the county seat and Catherine.

The tiny community of Nowhere allowed me some freedom of movement, although I spent little time there and less time socializing. The library was a source of outside news, and from an old newspaper I learned that Catherine had married. Other than noting the name of the unfortunate groom, I had no interest.

My common law wife was a quiet girl from the county orphanage. Her finest two attributes were her good nature and her lack of relatives. She died giving birth to our only child, a girl. I missed her a great deal, but our daughter was good company.

Somehow I let time go by. Suddenly my daughter was a young woman with the normal urges of all young people. Our isolation is probably the reason she fell in love with the first young man she met. He had been on a hunting trip on his break from his senior year in college. Soon after their union, he went back to school and never contacted her again. She was obviously pregnant before I realized what had happened. When I learned the name of the young man, I was horrified.

He was Catherine's son. Catherine had taken the substance. The child my daughter carried was the third generation.

** **

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

Having a round-table meeting with all of the characters, trying to convince them to cut this thing down to size. I think they're trying to unionize on me.

-- helen (too@big.too.long), October 18, 2001.

I like it Helen. As far as keeping the characters in line, why not just keep going with the flow.

-- (thesonofdust@no.unions), October 18, 2001.

** **

The young giant stirred. Adam put the journal aside and quickly examined his patient. Nothing had changed. Adam gently patted one of the perfect hands. When he was certain the giant was not going to wake, he sat down and resumed reading.

** **

The boy has multiple physical defects. I do not believe he will ever have the capacity for speech. His mind appears to have been affected in that he is able to absorb information quickly and recall it perfectly. He is brilliant. His voice is peculiarly resonant. I do not know what will become of him. His soul is too pure to expose him to the ugliness of the outside world.

** **

His mother and I fought. She wants a doctor to see the boy. I forbade it. She went to see a doctor halfway across the country anyway. I have never told her why he was born this way. She thinks a surgeon can help him. I know better. She sent a letter two days ago insisting that the boy be evaluated. I replied that he had died from a broken heart after she left him. I disowned her. It is cruel to her, I realize, but this way she may live a normal life and have normal children. This way, I will have the boy and he will have me. He is my responsibility. It has to be this way.

** **

I love you, my dearest grandson. You are beautiful. Never forget that.


** **

Adam finished the last entry and sat staring at the wall until dawn.

** **

** The Monster Arrives in Society **

Louise was President for Life of the Nowhere Culture Club. She called an emergency meeting for the first time in memory. She walked to the podium on the school stage and stood in glorious silence until the gaggle of members below fell silent.

"Girls," she began, "as you know, a stranger was run over in our town. That stranger is rumored to have suffered devastating disfigurement." She paused to let the murmur die away. "He lies in our clinic next door. I propose we welcome this stranger to the bosom of Nowhere with a singing. Of course, we'll have to sing 'a cappella'. Dr. Strange has denied us access to this stranger, but he can't keep us from singing outside his window. When Dr. Strange comes out to send us away, one of us will sneak in his back door and get a good look at this unfortunate man. Shall we vote?"

The vote was unanimous. A few minutes later the warbling outside the clinic began.

A few minutes after that, the young giant began to wake up. Music was calling to him again.

Adam was eating breakfast when he heard the noise. He was dumbfounded to find every old lady in town standing in his yard. They were singing a hymn. He tried to interrupt them and was ignored. He grabbed Beckie by the elbow with a half-formed idea of forcing her off his property when Jane grabbed him.

"Girls, let's form a circle and pray for our new guest and his doctor." The ladies quickly joined hands around Adam, penning him inside a solid wall of elderly bosoms. He was trapped.

Louise let herself in the back way and quickly padded to the room where the young giant lay. The windows were covered, leaving the light within dim. Louise crept into the room and moved to the patient's side. Her experience as a war time nurse had not prepared her for his face, but it did steady her reaction. She did not scream.

His eyes snapped open. He sat up badly startled and fell back onto the pillow. His low moan of pain sounded like it was drummed from brass plates. Louise was both impressed and touched. She took one of his perfect hands and noted its cleanliness. Louise highly approved of cleanliness, and at that moment she became his devoted advocate.

"Hello, young man," she said softly. "Welcome to Nowhere."

** **

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

Helen, your story is great! And if your character's union insist on making it longer, well, all the better. And there's nothing that says you can't write the Great American Novel on line....

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 18, 2001.

** **

Annie swatted his hand away from the hot pie on his plate. "Not one bite until I get the ice cream on it." She ignored his mournful groan and carefully scooped a giant heap of fluffy home made ice cream onto his pie.

They were seated in Annie's bright kitchen. Tiny wooden birds soared on strings over her sink. He had fixed the wobbly leg on her table and repainted her cabinets. Annie insisted on paying him hourly wages for his work. She served him pie because he was her friend.

** **

He had friends all over town. Louise had made a full report to the Nowhere Culture Club. They voted unanimously to adopt the misshapen stranger. They attacked his lonely, friendless status with zeal normally reserved for war. In short, he became a local celebrity. He had standing invitations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at every house in town. They stuffed him with desserts and sent seconds home with him.

He stopped growing taller and began to fill out. The constant social stimulation steadied him and gave him confidence. His voice deepened to a clear tenor the Nowhere Culture Club so desperately needed in their choir. He hummed along. This activity was the one he enjoyed the most.

The elderly men in the community resolved to rescue him from the Nowhere Culture Club before they ruined him completely. They took him fishing, taught him how to play horseshoes, and introduced him to alcohol and tobacco. They tried to teach him to spit without success. He was so despondent over this failure that they had to teach him baseball to cheer him up.

All the attention the old people would have given to young people had lain dormant waiting for an outlet. He was patient with faltering slowness. Lacking speech, he listened. They loved to hear him laugh. He was a combination of infantile openness and thoughtful genius. Gradually the citizens of Nowhere forgot that he was different. Love and familiarity had softened the shock of his appearance.

** **

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

(They've hijacked my story! I don't know where we're going!)

-- helen (, October 18, 2001.

What an incredible imagination you have, Helen! It's an awesome story! Very touching, too. Write on! :-)

-- Gayla (, October 19, 2001.

Not to worry Helen. I seldom (never, actually :-) know where the story is going until close to the end! As Gayla said, right on, er, write on!

-- (thesonofdust@going.on), October 19, 2001.

** **

Kit lounged in Adam's only good chair. "When are you planning to tell him he's our only kin and heir?"

Adam frowned over the jiggers of medicine he was pouring for them. "I wanted to give him some time to heal first. Then I tried to interest him in reading the stuff in his bag, and he refused. Maybe it doesn't matter. It's not like he needs a home. He's got homes all over the place."

"I went over to County and looked at some old records," Kit said casually. "Without her name, there's no way to trace his mother. The old man never registered her birth. Just like our old man never acknowledged us." Kit's tone was light, but the look in his eye was cold.

"Our old man sent us to college." Adam was more forgiving. Adam's mother had been able to marry a man willing to raise her son. Kit's mother had not.

Kit ignored the feeble defense. "I saw our dear brother while I was there. He pretended not to see me. He's still his mother's boy. I could have told him he sowed wild oats like our father too. He's the worst cross of both of them. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut."

"If you want to ruin what's left of that boy, you just open your mouth," Adam warned. "No one told us about our father until we were grown. It was bad enough then. At least it's still a secret. At least we don't live with everyone in town whispering about it."

He handed the medicine to his brother. "To secrets and lies!" he toasted.

Kit echoed the toast and added his own. "To family dishonor!"

** **

A dilapidated truck creaked to a stop in a clearing just outside of Nowhere. Willard climbed out and stretched his aching back. Life as a traveling gadget salesman had turned out to be more work than Willard had planned on. His sales were too low to support himself. He blamed fickle customers. It would have been a surprise to him to learn that his poor hygiene and foul breath were an impediment. In his experience, people normally stank.

He dusted his gadget case and started the walk into town. He had learned not to let customers identify his truck. He counted on being able to outrun his elderly clients, and he often did. The beastly man slouched into Nowhere unannounced.

** **

Kit got a frantic call from Louise to come to the school, but she hung up before he could ask her any questions. For the first time outside of the Veteran's Day parade, Kit used the sirens at full blast as he roared into Nowhere.

The pandemonium in front of the school was unbelievable. Nearly every elder in the community was tangled in a heap on the ground. Adam crouched over the prone body of their nephew. Louise and Annie were screaming epithets at someone in the heap.

Kit decided the elders had their end under control and ran to his nephew instead. "What happened?" he cried.

Adam was furious. "An outsider came in here and hit him in the head with a chisel. That's all I know." He held his handkerchief firmly over a wound on their nephew's forehead. "Let the women finish killing him before you break it up, will you?"

Kit gave the Nowhere Culture Club five more minutes with the accused before interrupting them. Later he would wish he had listened to his brother.

** **

"We asked him to leave our meeting, and he ignored us. He said we were going to buy his wares like it or not." Louise was sobbing. Annie patted her shoulder. "He said we could just hand over our purses and he would count our change back himself. That's when our dear boy walked around the curtain on the stage."

"All he did was sing out like he always does," Annie took up the tale. "And that man screamed something about a monster. Then he hit him in the face with a screwdriver."

Annie had murder in her eyes. Her face was flushed, and Kit suddenly realized how pretty she was when she was on the warpath. He promised the ladies that he would take care of the prisoner. He vowed silently that he would make a personal report to Annie over dinner.

** **

"Ouch!" shouted the prisoner. "You don't have to hit me!"

Kit prodded Willard hard with his revolver and forced him to stumble down the lane faster. "I need to make it look good for the locals," he growled, "and you agreed to it. If you want a real arrest, just say the word."

Willard did not want a real arrest. He shut up.

"I'd pin a medal on you, myself," Kit went on, "but that kid you hit is a mascot around here. To tell you the truth, I can't stomach looking at him." He paused as though a new thought had occurred to him. "Doc thinks whatever makes him look like that is in his blood. You didn't get any of his blood on you, did you?" he asked anxiously.

Willard was frightened. "Do you think so? Can you look me over? Please?"

Kit thought about it for a long moment before agreeing. Willard's face was a battered mess, and his throat had been clawed raw. It wouldn't be hard to find a drop of blood. Kit pretended to find a spot of "funny colored" blood above Willard's left eye and feigned wiping it off. He accepted Willard's babbled thanks with appropriate decorum. He waited until Willard's truck was out of sight before he burst into malicious laughter.

Adam had demanded Willard's arrest. It had taken over an hour of persuasion on Kit's part to make him see that a real arrest would mean publicity for the boy. People would start asking questions about the boy. Outsiders would interfere with him. Adam had finally seen reason. Kit had offered a deal to the prisoner. Willard could pretend to be arrested and leave town permanently.

As he walked back into Nowhere, Kit congratulated himself on solving the problem.

He was wrong.

** **

-- helen (careening@out.of.control.faster), October 19, 2001.

Helen, I'm back now. You may continue.


-- Lon Frank (, October 21, 2001.

Oh...well then...back to the grindstone and all that...yessir...right tomorrow afternoon soon enough? I just got off a full shift at work and have to be back there early AM tomorrow...whine...sniffle...

-- helen (, October 21, 2001.

Helen, if you don't want slave-driver type behaviour from us, you shouldn't have hooked us on your writing! Back to it, now! Snap! Snap!


It's a great story, Helen. Have they told you where they're dragging you off to, yet? ;-)

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 22, 2001.

Tricia, they're driving me insane. We've got three possible endings and a host of other characters we simply don't have time for, and it looks like it'll be late tonight or tomorrow before I get them fobbed with icecream and a movie so I can write in peace...

-- helen (tired@characters.go.away), October 22, 2001.

LOL, Helen.... I didn't know you could fob characters off with movies and an icecream. Did you try that out on that Lon character?? You know, the evil twin one? I haven't seen him around a lot lately.

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 22, 2001.

Helen, just what is the extent you will go to keep from finishing a story?? First you keep us strung out; now you knock down the web; whats next? No mule kissing scene??

-- mitch hearn (, October 25, 2001.

Oh thank the Lord ...

That was a reference to a helen-mule-kissing scheme.....

Looked for a minute there that it a nude lon-kissing scene.

And THAT would be frightening.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 25, 2001.

I don't think Mike Mule would allow Lon to kiss him in the nude...'ll just start typing the ending now...

-- helen (, October 25, 2001.

What would you call a Lon-nude-mule-kissing story? Lon in a ludaKris scene?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 25, 2001.

"What would you call a Lon-nude-mule-kissing story?"

Don't know, Good Sir, but it'd probably be a best-seller fer sure!

-- (thesonofdust@best.seller), October 26, 2001.

I guess we can just forget the end of the story; I heard that Helen ran off with a bunch of chanting, shaved head, robe wearing weirdos on a campaign to Save the Dustbunnies.

-- mitch hearn (, October 27, 2001.

I'm having a REALLY hard time right now. Story is finished, all the characters have been paid, just need time to type.

-- helen (, October 27, 2001.

LOL, Helen. You mean not only do they demand cookies and icecream, but they want *money* too?!?

-- Tricia the Canuck (, October 28, 2001.

Back when the printers actually used lead type ... when the story was finished, all the characters had been laid.

Not paid.

And now she's talking as if Mike the Lude Nude Mule was "kissing" parts of some of the characters all of the time, or at least some of the characters part of the time (or parts of Lon Frankenstein most of the time ... )

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 29, 2001.

Robert...I am shocked. Simply shocked. And the mule is dismayed.

Ok, look, I have a terrible final on Wednesday night. I swear on Mike Mule's hairy behind that I will post the finished story on Thursday night. OK?

-- helen (really@this.time.noooo.really), October 29, 2001.

A Hairy behind?

Well, I guess Mike the Mule certainly has a bad final end tonight. (And ears on his front end too probably.)



(P.S. Tell Mike I hope his final end gets better.)

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 29, 2001.

I made an A. Cancel the hysteria until the next final in February. Story will be posted by tomorrow night. Love you all.

-- helen (behind@mule.behind), October 31, 2001.

** **

Kit tossed the warrant onto his desk with contempt. He kept his voice carefully bored over the hammering of his heart. "You're looking for a monster ten feet tall that growls like a bear? Have you checked the circus? They went through here about a week ago. Nobody here is a 'John Doe'. All of us know who we are."

The deputy from the county seat laughed. "It was a good enough excuse to get out of town. I brought my fishing pole in case you wanted to organize a posse. That 'salesman' was pretty beat up, but he's an ex-con who owes money all over town. He sold his story to a tabloid. You could get some tourist traffic through here, I guess."

"I'll get my ticket book ready," Kit joked. "Let me call Doc. He sees all, knows all." The deputy shrugged and sipped his coffee.

Kit dialed Adam and got him on the first ring. The whole town knew there was a cop from County in Kit's office. Kit figured the Nowhere Culture Club had a spy under his window.

"Doc, the county is looking for a monster. Have you been fooling around in the lab again?" Kit could feel sweat beading on his lip. He glanced toward the deputy to make sure he wasn't looking before wiping it off.

Adam replied softly that the boy was safely out of sight.

"Well, if you get anyone complaining about waking up uglier than usual, give me a call," Kit boomed cheerfully into the phone before hanging up.

The deputy looked hopeful. "That means we have time to do some fishing?"

"Sure," said Kit. "I found a great little spot no one else knows about."

** **

The Nowhere Culture Club had another emergency meeting. Louise didn't have to call them to order. The men had applied for emergency admission to their ranks, and now every citizen of Nowhere sat tensely waiting for a plan to be formulated.

Louise was a picture of calm determination. "I would like to dispense with the usual opening ceremonies and get right to the point. NOBODY gets away with hurting OUR BOY!" Her voice broke. She recovered. "That horrid man was supposed to be in jail for attempted robbery and assault and indecency and a host of other terrible crimes."

The entire assembly turned to look at Kit, who sat at the back of the room next to his nephew. He reddened but said nothing. His nephew trilled softly and patted Kit's shoulder.

Adam stood up. "We can't have publicity. I think we ought to keep the boy out of sight until this thing blows over. We should just laugh it off to anyone who asks."

It was the only plan offered. The group voted unanimously to accept the plan.

It had been a very long time since the last citizen of Nowhere had fought a war. They had forgotten the first tenet of warfare: secure the borders. The Nowhere Culture Club had failed to post guards outside their meeting.

** **

-- helen (, November 01, 2001.

** **

Annie was chosen to house the boy until things cooled off. She lived far enough out to be able to hide him before anyone could make the long drive out there. Kit offered to check up on them twice a day for the duration. Annie expressed her gratitude. Adam poked Kit in the ribs. Kit ignored him. The meeting adjourned without the usual refreshments.

Everyone made a point of shaking hands with the boy on his or her way out. The crowd was exiting the school building with the boy in the doorway behind them when the sudden crack of a flashbulb exploded in their faces.

The good citizens of Nowhere howled their dismay and hobbled after the cameraman, who was young and fast and highly motivated to succeed in his escape. He was also marvelously adept at taking pictures on the run.

The picture that ran on the front page of the national tabloid the next week was of elderly people apparently fleeing a school building with a huge monster behind them.

The headline screamed:


** **

The woman waited in the checkout line with her few groceries. Her eyes wandered over the magazine racks. She saw a tabloid headline and recognized the name of the town. She leaned closer to get a better look at the accompanying picture.

Her gasp stopped conversations in all the checkout lines within twenty feet of her. Her cart forgotten, she rushed out of the store.

** **

"It was a dancing bear!" Adam shouted before slamming the phone down. "Are we the only two people in town with a public office?" he shouted at his brother. "Every fool in the country is calling me at all hours of the night!"

Kit nodded wearily. "I quit answering mine," he said miserably. "By tomorrow the county will send that fellow back out with a warrant with my name on it. And he won't be in the mood to fish."

Adam stared hard at his brother. "You know who we have to talk to. We can't wait another day. It has to be tonight if we have any hope at all of stopping this."

"Let's go," Kit said quietly.

** **

A quiet rapping on his window woke the man. He reached for his glasses, fumbled for the light, and then stopped. Someone knocking on his window didn't want to be seen talking to him. He had a quiet "open window" policy that had worked very well for him in the past. Still, he picked up a baseball bat he kept beside his bed before going to greet his "guest".

When he saw who it was, he dropped the bat in disbelief.

** **

The deputy from the county wore a different expression when he faced Kit this time. "I don't appreciate looking like a fool," he said, "and this time I don't intend to leave without the monster."

Kit pleaded with him, but the deputy was resolute. The deputy finally agreed to let Kit ride with the boy to the county seat as a professional courtesy, as long as Kit could convince the boy to come quietly.

The boy was compliant as usual. Annie had to be physically restrained. Kit wore her handprint on his cheek and her opinion of him on his heart. Before the deputy could make it out of town, the old school bus had been fired up and was loaded with every elderly warrior in Nowhere. Adam followed closely with Annie in her old truck. The sad procession entered the county seat with half the reporters in the area waiting for the scoop just outside the courthouse.

The gathering crowd of onlookers surged forward to get a better look at the prisoner. The ones in front quickly tried to surge backward when the young giant unfolded himself from the back seat of the car. Whispering in the crowd became a collective gasp. Mothers clutched their children closer to themselves. The young giant with his wild mass of hair and his misshapen face and his twisted body stood quietly and gazed back.

The town drunk had been combing the public trashcan for something useful. The commotion in front of the courthouse attracted his attention and made him careless. His hand closed around a jagged piece of broken glass, and he let out a surprised whoop of pain.

This noise was precisely the stimulus required to break every taut nerve. The crowd dissolved in screaming panic. Within moments the boy, his friends and the deputy stood alone. A few sheepish reporters drifted back to a safe distance away.

The Nowhere elders limped into a protective circle around their boy. Annie worked her way into the circle and clutched the boy's hand. Louise had a sudden inspiration and softly began their favorite patriotic anthem. The song was taken up one by one, until only one voice was missing.

Annie squeezed the boy's hand and smiled up at him. "Sing," she whispered.

The boy sang. His voice started in uncertainly, like the distant peal of glass bells. He relaxed a bit and his voice became the haunting note of violins. His love of music overcame his shyness and his voice soared like trumpets. His voice rang out over the town like church bells, and the people heard him. The people who had only moments before run away from his face began to edge back toward his voice in wonder.

The song ended. In the silence that followed, everyone heard the clearing of an important throat.

"Young man, your mother has appealed to my office for help in locating you. I apologize for the inappropriate delay you and your mother have experienced. If you will come with me, I will take you to your mother at once."

The governor calmly parted the crowd and took the boy's arm. "Have you ever ridden in a limousine?" he asked conversationally. He ignored the boy's disbelieving stiffness and guided his clumsy charge toward his car. Almost as an afterthought, he invited Kit and Adam to join them. Kit grabbed Annie's hand and dragged her along.

Only one reporter remembered his camera in time to get a picture of the governor in seemingly familiar conversation with the monster. This picture was buried on page five due to a waterline disruption to the state prison and the ensuing riot. The story disappeared from the national radar as quickly as it had surfaced.

** **

The young man lay in exhausted slumber on the floor near the wide fireplace in the governor's mansion. His hysterical reunion with his mother had overwhelmed his fragile recovery from his injuries, and Adam had given him half a jigger of the governor's finest medicine.

The governor gathered the adults into his study to plan for the boy's future. "First things first," he announced as he picked up the phone. They listened with amazement as he ordered the arrest of the fiend, Willard. Willard was to be incarcerated in the state hospital for the criminally insane, and his records were to be permanently lost. In short, the governor had him buried alive with one call.

"Does that suit you?" he asked Kit. "Would you like visitation with him? Screaming is so common there that no one is likely to notice a little more of it while you're with him." The governor stared hard at Kit until Kit looked away.

"You're just showing off," Kit mumbled.

"You're just jealous," retorted the governor. "And you're stupid as well if you don't marry this woman." He pointed at a furiously blushing Annie.

The governor changed subjects abruptly. "Adam, if the boy is truly afflicted by his grandfather's errors, there may be nothing that medical science can do for him. However, would you be willing to go with him and his mother to a research hospital and have him checked out?" The governor phrased his order as a question. Adam understood it and nodded his assent.

The governor tapped the file Adam and Kit had handed him the night before. "Did you include everything the boy is able to do? Did you leave something out? I didn't have time to research everything last night, but the boy appears to be extraordinary. He must have gotten it from his mother's side of the family." Kit allowed himself a small smile. The governor smiled back.

"I've arranged for all of you to spend the night. His mother and I will help him into bed later. Good night." He dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Kit left with his arm around a smiling Annie. Adam made a mock salute and drew the door shut behind him, leaving the governor alone with the boy's mother.

She sat in dazed relief on a small couch in the corner. She had said little since being reunited with her son. The governor settled on the couch beside her and took her hand.

"When you showed up out of the blue last night, I was too surprised to tell you how much I missed you. You're as lovely as you were back then. I can't believe you never told anyone the truth. You didn't have to protect me. I should have protected the two of you." He touched her cheek gently and made her look at him. "He's a fine boy. I would be proud to acknowledge him. I will be in a better position to help him, though, if I do not. Do you understand?"

She nodded slowly. "Are you sure you understand?" he asked anxiously. "Kit never understood why our father kept them a secret. Adam never seemed to care, but Kit cared a great deal. I want to do better by him than my father did by them. I promise I'll do better by him. And you too."

Confused trilling from the next room interrupted him. The governor reached his son first.

** the end **


He found himself in a familiar place. His grandfather stood before him with a delighted smile.

"You did it!" his grandfather exclaimed, as he embraced the boy. "You've overcome my wrongs!" His grandfather glowed. The boy looked again. His grandfather was actually glowing with light.

"Don't you know where you are?" his grandfather asked. "Don't you recognize this place?"

The boy realized suddenly where he was and started to answer his grandfather. His words were reduced to trilling sounds, as usual, and the boy stopped in confusion. He touched his face and was disappointed to find it was the same face he had worn all his life.

"Dearest boy, don't you remember?" his grandfather laughed. "Angels don't look like humans." He ruffled the boy's hair a final time before fading away.

** **

The boy moved restlessly and settled back into sleep while his father stroked his hair.

-- helen (done@finally.finished), November 01, 2001.

Now, THAT was worth waiting for! I always liked suprise endings, and that was a good 'un.

Thanks, helen. You can rest a few days before starting a new one.


-- Lon Frank (, November 01, 2001.


-- (thesonofdust@great.story), November 01, 2001.

The barn was quietly humming with bedtime conversation. The hens murmured their appreciation for the latest story. They always appreciated stories that did not involve chicken dinners.

The old doe said nothing, but she was troubled. The whole ending was all wrong. She thought about it for a long time before speaking. "The monster's father isn't very nice, is he?"

The mule blew his nose in derision. "Of course not! He was doing damage control. His career was finished if any of the others talked."

The hens clucked disapprovingly. They preferred happy endings, and this ending was happy enough to suit them. Dissecting it did not bode well for contented slumber.

The old rooster yawned elaborately. "The father used the boy against them all to make sure they said nothing. It was very clear, don't you think? I think trouble will brew down the road for these characters."

"Yes," agreed the mule. "It is unclear whether the boy realizes who the governor is, or for that matter, who Adam and Kit are in his family. I wonder what will happen when he finds out."

"I do hope he isn't a demented genius," commented the rooster. "Buit I'm too sleepy to care at the moment. Good night." He tucked his head under his wing.

The other animals settled down to sleep. The old doe was still troubled. "What if," she whispered to herself, "Willard escapes?"

The moon rose, full and fat, above the barn.

-- helen (oh@no.not.again), November 01, 2001.

LOL, Helen. That writing bug just refuses to go away :-)

Great story!

-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 01, 2001.

I've noticed I write when the moon is full, or at least that's when they start talking to me...(scary music swells)...

-- werehelen (halloween@is.over?), November 01, 2001.

What a cool ending, Helen! You're very talented. (Congrats on the A, too!) Seems like the animals in the barn expect a sequel. I sure hope so! :-)

-- Gayla (, November 04, 2001.

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