Sunday, May 3, 1970

Sinister Stories, Vol. I and II (Sample Story)

From Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume I

I Feel It!

The day before Halloween, an ill wind blew across the Nevada wasteland. The hazy sky was a strange orange-yellow hue, and sooty clouds stretched across an eerie orange-yellow sun.

Martha Good had just picked up her grandsons, Gordie, from Las Vegas Elementary School, and Peter, from the pizza restaurant that his parents owned and operated. She was on her way home when Gary Baker, the meteorologist on the local radio station to which she was accustomed to listening, reminded his audience that a solar storm twenty-five times larger than the Earth was sweeping over the planet at a rate of two hundred and fifty miles per second.

“The first wave of the greatest geomagnetic, or solar, storm in decades passed over the Earth yesterday,” Gary announced. Today, wave two continues to pummel us. Never before has there been two successive storms. Scientists believe that the two storms may have merged. The first wave of the storm may have weakened the planet’s magnetic field to the extent that the second wave, currently underway, could cause problems for satellites, air traffic control, radio and television transmissions, and power grids.”1

The air smelled of smoke from massive wildfires blazing across southern California and northern Mexico. The smoky air made breathing difficult even in the air-conditioned Lincoln Continental, but there was something else in the air, too.

It felt as if something lay upon the skin of Martha’s bare arms. It was radiation, she thought, from the solar storm. She hoped that the meteorologist would comment on the radiation, telling his audience whether it was dangerous to their health. She wished her daughters Pam and Emily had kept their children home today. Then, neither the grandchildren nor she would be out in this strange solar storm. The increased ultraviolet radiation was doing God-only-knew-what terrible things to the mitochondria, DNA, protoplasm, and other microscopic, cellular material and structures of their bodies.

The radio meteorologist continued to provide information about the amazing solar storms. “Scientists say that no one at ground level is threatened by the storms. There is some disagreement as to whether airline passengers and crews are in danger from the increased radiation that they will encounter at altitudes above 25,000 feet.”2

This news did not make Martha feel any safer. She figured that the government, who was the source of the information concerning the geomagnetic storms, wouldn’t be likely to tell citizens that they were in danger from the storms even if they were. They’d rationalize their decision to withhold such information by claiming that they didn’t want to cause panic. She frowned. She didn’t like the odd, slightly tickling sensation that permeated the flesh of her bare arms. It felt as if she were being baked alive, under a low heat. “Gordie,” she called to the nine-year-old strapped in the back seat of her automobile, “do you feel anything unusual on your arms or legs?” Her grandson was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and knee-length shorts. Sunlight streamed in upon him, through the automobile’s side windows. It was twice as likely, since both his arms and legs were exposed, that he would feel the strange sensation of the radiation on his bare flesh, she thought.

“No, Gramma.”

“How about you, Peter?” she asked her three-year-old.

The toddler replied from his car seat, “No, Gramma.”

Martha frowned. Apparently, only she felt the odd sensation. Had the meteorologist’s mention of the solar storm caused her to imagine that she felt the radiation on her bare arms? She hadn’t felt anything before he’d mentioned the phenomenon.

The driver in the car ahead of Martha and her grandsons slammed on his brakes, skidding on the pavement as its tires screeched. Martha jammed on her brakes, and her car skidded to a stop. Ahead of them, there was a line of halted traffic. Great, Martha thought, she was stuck in a traffic jam with her grandsons, in the middle of the worst solar storm ever to bombard the planet! Terrific!

“I feel it, Gramma!” her older grandson announced.

“Feel what, Gordie?”

“Something on my arms and legs.”

Martha was unsettled. “What do you feel, Gordie?”

In the rearview mirror, Martha saw her grandson frown as he sought to find the words with which to describe the unusual sensation. “It feels funny,” he said. “It feels yucky.”

“What do you mean?”

Gordie shrugged.

“Does it feel like a blanket made of air?”

Gordie considered his grandmother’s question. “Yes, Gramma.”

Oh, dear God! Martha thought.

“But it’s kind of tingly, too.”

Martha was horrified.

“Gramma?” It was Martha’s other grandson.

“Yes, Peter?”

“I feel it, too.”

The radio meteorologist was interrupted by a reporter. “This is Jim North, KKLV’s traffic director. Please be advised that there has been a traffic accident at Rainbow and Sahara. A tractor-trailer has overturned, spilling its cargo across all lanes, and traffic is backed up for half a mile. Avoid this trouble spot, if at all possible, as Las Vegas’ finest predict that it will take at least an hour, and probably longer, to clean up this mess and reopen the road to traffic. Now, back to our weather report.”

Thanks for the information, Martha thought, irritated. It seemed that traffic reports always managed to advise listeners of traffic problems after they’d occurred and it was too late to avoid them.

“I feel it,” Gordie declared.

“Me, too, Gramma,” Peter reported.

Gary Baker, the meteorologist, continued the report that his colleague had interrupted: “Yesterday’s storm was ranked X17. ‘X‘ indicates ‘major,’ and seventeen ranks the strength of the storm. The X17 eruption ranks among the four most powerful on record. Today’s storm is an X10, ranking among the twenty most powerful ever recorded.”

Ahead of them, traffic remained at a standstill.

“According to John Kohl, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the likelihood of one huge geomagnetic storm following another of similar magnitude is ‘so low that it is a statistical anomaly.”4

Perfect, Martha thought, just perfect. She and her grandsons were stuck in a traffic jam, being bombarded by one of the biggest geomagnetic storms ever recorded, and they were likely to continue to be buffeted by the storm for an hour or more.

“I feel it, Gramma,” Peter announced.

“In the United States, the most intense bursts of yesterday’s storm occurred before dawn and late afternoon, while the storm’s magnetic field was opposite to that of the Earth, permitting a greater penetration of the planet’s defensive magnetosphere. Severe meteorological conditions will persist at least through tomorrow. Yesterday, observers enjoyed the spectacle of skies ablaze with vibrant lights as they watched the fantastic fireworks that the massive solar storm provided. High-speed particles, accelerated by the storm’s magnetism, speed down the planet’s magnetic field lines, toward the north and south poles. These particles excite the atmospheric molecules with which they collide, causing the molecules to emit light. Collisions with oxygen molecules generate red and green lights, while collisions with nitrogen generates blue lights. These lights sometimes combine to form the fireworks-like displays seen--a”6

Martha turned off the radio.

“I feel it, Gramma,” Gordie declared, echoing his younger brother. 

Martha peered at her grandson’s reflection in the rearview mirror. 
The boy’s earnest face looked frightened. Her own, she noticed, was pale, and her lower lip quivered. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she reassured him. He smiled.

Ahead of them, an impatient motorist honked his horn. A series of other beeps sounded. The traffic remained stationary.

“I feel it, Gramma,” Gordie declared, echoing his younger brother. 

Martha peered at her grandson’s reflection in the rearview mirror. The boy’s earnest face looked frightened. Her own, she noticed, was pale, and her lower lip quivered. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she reassured him. He smiled.

The boys’ declarations made Martha conscious of the eerie crawling sensation on her exposed arms. She looked at them. The light hair was standing on end, all along her forearms. She shivered at the sight. “Everything’s going to be fine,” Martha promised. She hoped that her promise was one that she could keep.

An hour and a half later, Martha was finally home, after dropping Gordie off at Pam’s house and Peter off at Emily’s house. Her two daughters both worked indoors, Pam as a kindergarten teacher and Emily as a casino dealer. However, during their lunch breaks, they’d gone outdoors. Like their mother and their respective sons, they’d also felt the eerie effects of the solar storm’s elevated radiation levels. “It felt like invisible spiders crawling all over me,” Pam said. “It felt yucky,” Emily agreed.

Martha’s husband, Kevin, hadn’t helped when he’d mentioned that the effects of the solar storm were supposed to linger, in diminishing levels, for another week. 7

“I’m worried about Gordie and Peter,” she told him. If the truth were to be told, she was also worried about herself--and her daughters, too. She needn’t worry about Kevin. He worked from home, in Las Vegas, using his computer to locate deadbeats for a judgment and recovery service located in Los Gatos, California, and seldom went outdoors. When he did, he remained outside no longer than ten minutes. It was unlikely the solar storm would harm or otherwise affect him in any way.

“The reporters say there’s nothing to worry about, leastways at ground level,” Kevin asserted.

“I know.” Nevertheless, Martha looked concerned.

“Then, what are you worried about?”

She shrugged, offering him a half-smile.

He changed the subject, as he often did, when his wife fretted. “Are we ready for Halloween?”

“Yes.”

“We have candy for the trick-or-treaters?”

“Yes.”

“What about our grandsons? Pam and Emily aren’t taking them door to door, are they?”

“They’re taking them to the mall. The stores are giving out treats.”

Kevin knew all these details, but pretending ignorance and asking for the information again was distracting his wife from her worries, as he’d hoped. “You ought to take a nap. You look tired.”

“Maybe I will,” Martha said. “I feel tired. Actually, I feel exhausted--and I have a splitting headache.”

The telephone rang. Martha answered it. Her face paled. When she replaced the receiver, her hand was shaking.

Kevin looked at her, worried. “What’s wrong?”

“That was Pam. She was supposed to take both Gordie and Peter to the mall.”

“I thought Emily was taking Peter.”

“She was, but one of the dealers called in sick, and she agreed to a substitute for him. She asked Pam to take Peter, along with Gordie.”

“What did Pam want?”

“She’s sick, too. She wanted to know if I would take Gordie and Peter to the mall to trick or treat.”

“She’s sick, too?”

Martha nodded. “She said a lot of people in her subdivision are sick. A lot of people in Las Vegas and elsewhere are sick, too. According to the news, there’s some kind of epidemic.”

“I hadn’t heard anything about an epidemic.”

“You’ve been chasing down deadbeats on the computer all day.”

“We can both take Gordie and Peter to the mall.”

Martha still looked worried.

“Something’s the matter,” Kevin told her. “What’s wrong?”

Martha hesitated. “Pam,” she confessed. “She sounded terrible. She didn’t sound anything like herself.”

“She’s sick.”

“I’ve never heard her sound like she sounded just now.”

“What do you mean?”

Martha shrugged. “She sounded like somebody else. She sounded like something else.”

Kevin frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous. She’s sick. She’s hoarse.”

Martha shook her head. “It’s more than that,” she argued. “It’s worse than that.” She reflected on her daughter’s voice as she’d heard it over the telephone line. “It’s much, much worse than that.”


An hour later, Pam dropped Gordie and Peter off at her parents’ house. She didn’t come in. She didn’t walk them to the door. She didn’t even park in their driveway. She’d paused at the curb, with her car’s engine running, while her son and nephew climbed out of the rear seat and slammed the rear doors. Instead of watching them, to make sure they made it safely into the house, she sped off into the gathering night, her tires screeching.

“What in hell has gotten into her?” Kevin wondered, as he and Martha, standing inside their doorway admitted their grandsons, watching their daughter speed away from the curb in front of their house.

Martha remembered the solar storm and the eerie feel of the radiation on the flesh of her bare arms. She remembered Gordie and Peter saying, “I feel it, Gramma; I feel it!” Gordie stepped over the threshold. Peter lingered on the stoop. Martha took him by the forearm and pulled him inside the house. “She’s sick,” she told Kevin. “That’s all. She’s just sick.”

Pam hadn’t helped Gordie or Peter into their costumes. While Martha performed this chore, Kevin turned on the television set and listened to the news concerning the epidemic that was sweeping across not only the United States but also the Western Hemisphere. “The cause of this mysterious plague is as yet unknown,” the reporter, looking grim, told his audience. “While it has swept through the North and South American continents, no one in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia has been reported ill. The symptoms of the sickness are fatigue, followed by severe headaches and nausea, preceding irrational behavior and--”

Hearing his grandson’s racing footsteps, Kevin clicked the remote control’s Off button, and the television screen went dark.

The boys were wearing their Halloween costumes. Gordie was dressed as a vampire, while Peter was disguised as a werewolf.

“Gramma’s sick!” Gordie announced. He made a sour face. “She vomited!”

Oh, my God! Kevin thought. Fatigue. Headache. Nausea. His wife was sick! She had the plague! He scrambled down the hallway, to their bedroom. His wife was in the bathroom, splashing cold water onto her face. “We have to get you to the hospital,” he blurted.

She looked at him, her smiling face shining with water. “What on earth for?”

“You’re sick! You have the plague!’

She chuckled. “Do I look sick?”

Kevin studied his wife. He had to admit that she did not look sick. In fact, she was the picture of a healthy, beautiful, middle-aged woman. “But the fatigue--”

“I’ve had a long day,” she admitted, “and I was tired, but I feel fine now.”

“What about the headache?”

“That’s gone.”

“Gordie said you vomited.”

“Nerves. I guess I was more upset than I realized regarding Pam’s being sick. She did sound terrible, Kevin.”

“You sure you’re all right?”

“Of course. I’m fine.”

Kevin hesitated. His wife had admitted to being fatigued. She’d complained of having a splitting headache. She’d vomited. She’d displayed three of the symptoms of the plague that was spreading across the Western Hemisphere. Despite this evidence of her being contaminated, she looked fine now. Indeed, if anything, she radiated good health. “All right,” he agreed, “we’ll take Gordie and Peter to the mall, to trick or treat.”

When they returned to the living room, the televisions set was on again, showing cartoons. Gordie and Peter sat side by side on the carpet, two feet from the screen, captivated by the antics of Tom and Jerry. The kids complained as the face of a local reporter appeared on the screen, replacing the cartoon cat and mouse. “This is Jim Frazier, in the WTLV Newsroom, with breaking news.”
Gordie and Peter continued to voice their protest.

“Quiet,” Kevin ordered his grandsons. “Gramma and I want to hear this.”

The reporter described a state of pandemonium. As he spoke, the camera showed scenes vandals breaking storefront windows, forcing open the front doors of homes and businesses, setting fires, attacking men, women, and children, pulling motorists and passengers from vehicles and assaulting them, physically and sexually. “Chaos,” he said, “reigns in the streets of the city, both here in Las Vegas and across the country. Individuals as well as gangs are roaming the streets, pillaging, burning, raping, and murdering. The police advise all citizens to remain inside their homes. You should lock all windows and doors and stay tuned for further details. We take you now to Doris Martin, who is standing by at City Hall.”

A grim-faced, auburn-haired woman with dark circles under her eyes, looked into the camera. “Jim, the Mayor has assured us that all precautions are being taken for the public’s safety. All available police officers are out in force.” On the sound track, Kevin heard a siren’s wail. The high-pitched alarm drowned out the reporter’s voice for several, long seconds. “Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control are unable to say whether the recent geomagnetic storms have anything to do with the epidemic raging across the Western Hemisphere or with the violence that has erupted everywhere, from Canada to Argentina.”

The screen died.

“What the hell?” Kevin wondered. He turned from the set. Martha was holding the remote control. 

“Why did you turn off the TV?” he demanded.

“It’s time to take Gordie and Peter to the mall.”

He stared at her. “Are you crazy? Didn’t you hear what the reporters were saying, what the police are saying? It’s unsafe out there. It’s crazy out there.”

“It’s Halloween,” Martha said. Her tone was as steely as her gaze. 
“Our daughters have asked their parents to take their sons--our grandsons--trick or treating at the mall, and I am not going to renege on my promise to do so. I am not going to deny Gordie and Peter their night of fun. You stay here and cower behind locked doors if you want, but the grandchildren and I are going to enjoy Halloween.”

The fourth symptom of the sickness is irrational behavior, Kevin thought. Despite the appearance of good health, his wife was obviously infected. She wasn’t thinking rationally. She was insane. He stepped in front of his wife. “There’s no way I’m letting you take Gordie and Peter anywhere, not when stores are being vandalized, looted, and burned to the ground as we speak, not when men, women, and children are being brutally assaulted, not when--good God!”

What had begun as a determined denial ended with a gasp, as he saw his wife’s transformation. Martha’s skull bulged, and bloody gashes appeared in her brow and her cheeks. Her nose broadened. A bony ridge formed over her sinking, feral eyes. She opened her mouth, and he saw rows of long, needle-sharp teeth. Her fingernails had become thick, curved claws. When she spoke, her voice was bestial snarl. “Gordie, Peter, and I are going trick or treating. Get out of my way!”

“You’ll leave this house over my dead body!”

“Have it your way.” She knocked him aside with a blow of her heavy, muscular arm. He stumbled and fell, bashing his head against the corner of the coffee table. Blood flowed down his face. He tried to rise, but he was weak, as if all the strength had been wrung from his muscles. He could only lie on the carpet, with blood running down his cheeks and chin, staring at the incredible, horrible transformations that his grandsons were undergoing.

“I feel it, Gramma!” Gordie cried. His tone was exultant, as if he’d tapped into the power of the universe itself.

“Me, too, Gramma,” Peter asserted. “I feel it!” His voice was deep and powerful, humming with vitality.

Like their grandmother, their faces and their forms changed before his eyes. Their skulls bulged, splitting the seams of their masks, and their beautiful, innocent children’s faces ran with blood from the gashes opening in their flesh. Constellations of pus-filled pustules, boils, abscesses, ulcers, and blisters erupted from their once-smooth skin.

Gordie’s eyes bulged, pushed out of their sockets on long fleshly stalks that wavered in the air. His nose flattened, the cartilage and flesh melting and spreading to become one with his cheeks , leaving only the openings of his nasal passages as dark holes above a huge, gaping maw festooned with thick, curving fangs and jagged teeth. The pupils in Peter’s eyes elongated, becoming vertical slits, and his nose stretched into a trunk-like appendage equipped with sharp spikes. At the end of this startling proboscis, an orbicular orifice drooled saliva. The toddler’s chin extended into a tusk.

Martha looked at the monsters that had been her grandsons. Her mouth opened and closed as she uttered words that sounded nothing like any human tongue. The sounds were guttural, deep, and brutish, consisting mostly of savage snarls and rumbling growls.

The Gordie-thing and the Peter-thing loped after the Martha-thing whom they’d once known as “Gramma.” The hideous trio, crashing through the front door, bounded into the deep darkness of the night.



1 The information concerning the twin solar storms that buffeted the Earth on October 29 and 30, 2003, is derived from Robert Roy Britt‘s Internet article, “Earth Pounded: Second Major Solar Storm in Two Days Hits” (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solar_onslaught_031030.html). The massive wildfires in California happened before, during, and after the solar storms and were coincidental to, rather than effects of, the solar storms.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.

Ordering

To order Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume I, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GY25G6C

To order Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume II, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H14MZPN
Reviews
Reviews are appreciated. Thank you for taking a few moments to review Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny!

From Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume II 

A complete makeover may involve more than just cosmetics. What happens when an adulterous homeowner awakens to his worst nightmare? A lonely child is a dangerous child. A pound or two of flesh isn't enough to satisfy everyone's appetite. After committing murder, killers face a problem: what do do with the body? People should have respect for the dead; in fact, the dearly departed may well insist upon it. The 21 stories in this anthology explore the strange, sometimes terrifying, worlds of the fantastic, the marvelous, and the uncanny. Not recommended for readers under age 18 
 
Ordering
To order Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume I, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GY25G6C
To order Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny, Volume II, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H14MZPN
Reviews 
Reviews are appreciated. Thank you for taking a few moments to review Sinister Stories: Tales of the Fantastic, Marvelous, and Uncanny!

https://garylpullmanauthor.blogspot.com/2019/01/bit-lit-sample-essay.html


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