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by J. D. Crayne
Category: Horror/Dark Fantasy
Description: Was It Hoax or Demon? The little town of Solitaire, located on the shore of lovely Lake Mendocino, has a problem: The tourists are only there during the summer. From May through August they swarm all over the place: Fishing, swiming, eating, drinking, shopping, and--in short--spending those lovely tourist dollars. After Labor Day the place looks more like a deserted crypt in a forgotten graveyard. Local merchants are feeling the pinch and thinking of leaving for the bright lights and big bucks of the Big City. The City Council, faced with the total collapse of Solitaire's economy, comes up with a plan to bring people to the town in the off-season. What they have in mind is reviving an old Huchnom indian ceremony appeasing the legendary Lake Monster. But first, they need a monster. So they make one out of plastic foam and black plastic trash bags. But the ceremony goes horribly wrong. The real Monster of the Lake appears and suddenly three people are left dead. Some believe they have raised the old Indian demon. Others are certain Solitaire is being stalked by a clever killer. Some pray it was mass hallucination. Will the local business owners sell out? What is the truth burried in the heart of Monster Lake?
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: November 2004
13 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [147 KB]
Reading time: 88-124 min.
"We've got an eyewitness who claims he saw a man chewed in half right in front of him." The officer rubbed his nose pensively. "Plus, there's three other men missing, and one of them is a TV reporter with a damned good rating."
A younger officer, who was taking notes, cleared his throat. "Ah, not exactly missing. The TV reporter, I mean. I just got word that someone picked up his microphone over on the west shore, with his hand still wrapped around it."
"Make that missing and presumed dead then," Sergent Skulper said. "Now, you want to add anything to your statement?"
Steve shook his head wearily.
"I think you ought to know that a Bay Area businessman who was in the crowd claims that what everyone saw was a black cloud of methane gas bubbling up from underwater pollution caused by local businesses and condoned by the City Council."
"I can just guess who that was. Hubert Pigott, right?"
"He says it was a gas explosion set off by a speedboat that caused the deaths of those four people."
"What does he say about what Ernie Shah saw? Ernie saw a creature with teeth that...
Skulper waved a dismissive hand. "Hallucinations from the gas, that's all. Maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but Mr. Pigott is urging the relatives of the deceased to sue the Solitaire City Council."
"Yeah, he would," Steve said bitterly.
"Okay," the officer said, standing up. "You can go now, but don't leave the County."
Steve shambled wearily out of the restaurant and stopped abruptly by the parking lot door, blinking dazed eyes at the lights that seemed to be everywhere. A large crowd was milling around, and he counted five TV vans in the parking lot and along Main Street.
"Well, we wanted publicity and we sure as hell got it," a bitter voice said at his shoulder.
Steve turned to see Paul Berquem sitting slouched on one of the benches by the restaurant door. He shuffled over and sat down beside him.
"Damned if I know," Paul said, shaking his head. "We got over to the Bilgewater Creek outlet just as the guys were paddling the raft out into the lake. I told George to call you on the walkie-talkie, but he couldn't seem to raise you. I figured maybe the batteries were dead."
"I had to keep it turned off. That damned TV reporter was right there, trying to make me look like an idiot."
Paul nodded. "Sounds typical. Well, we dropped the monster into the water, and I started up the remote. It worked fine! No guidance problems or anything. I headed it out into the lake, aiming for the raft." He stared at his hands, which were hanging limply between his knees.
"And it was okay. Everything was okay! I used the remote to start up the music, and it worked just like it was supposed to work." Paul spread his hands helplessly.
"Then everything sort of went to hell," another voice said.
They looked up to see a shadowy form leaning against the wall next to them.
"Hullo, Carlton," Steve said glumly. "You were watching?"
"Yeah. Couldn't see much though. Just the raft turning over and then that Glastron going ass-over-teakettle and down." He laughed hollowly. "I wonder if that smarmy TV reporter got his footage in before he went overboard."
"Overcome by methane gas!" Steve muttered.
What?" Carlton asked.
"Methane gas. The cop who took my statement said that Pigott is going around saying the whole thing was caused by methane gas bubbling up from the bottom of the lake."
"That's ridiculous," Paul said. "There's never been any sign of something like that in the lake, and if they're blaming it on our plastic Tlaklot it's even more absurd. It was running on the surface. There's no way it could disturb something over a hundred feet under water."
"Tell that to the Marines," Carlton said idly. "Face it, guys. They're out to nail our hides to the wall, and they're probably going to do it."
They were silent for a moment, listening to the murmur of the seething crowd and watching the shifting and blinking lights.
"Have you seen George and Janey?" Paul asked.
"They're over at the liquor store with Marlow, getting plastered together," Carlton said.
"I think I'll do the same," Steve said, getting to his feet. "With a little luck this will all turn out to be a bad dream."
Paul shook his head. "You're luck's out, pal."
Steve walked slowly along the back alleys, to avoid the crowds and anyone who might recognize him. He wondered how Ernie was doing. He'd seen his friend into the hands of Uncle Hank and he had an odd, "probably misplaced?faith in the elder man's ability to take care of almost anything. He also wondered how Sancy was. She'd been shivering with shock, but the town's one and only nurse-practitioner, a motherly soul, had taken her in charge and assured Steve that Sancy would d be just fine with a little rest. As for himself, he just felt numb.
He was mildly surprised to see lights on in the bookstore, but he walked along the side of the house and in through the back door as usual, and then went to the front of the house, with the vague feeling that he ought to know what was going on.
A female figure, enveloped in an oversized red shirt and dark slacks that he recognized as belonging to himself, arose from behind the front counter and peered at him furtively from under knotted brows, claw-like hands scrabbling at a collection of rune stones strewn on the glass top.
"Mom?" Steve asked.
The figure smirked and crooned, "I am here to show you pathways to opening the doorway of the mind. The gates of Thelema and the sacred Child beckon you."
"Who the devil do you think you are?" Steve asked wearily.
"The Beast--six, six, six!" the figure said, and cackled.
"Aleister?" Steve sighed. "Dammit, Aleister, I thought I made it clear that I did not want to see or hear from you ever again."
He flicked a finger against the nearest of the rune stones, causing the whole collection to skitter across the top of the counter.
"Bad, bad!" the entity said. "See, you have changed the voice of fate. You have recombined the nodes of predictability."
"Just what is that supposed to mean?" Steve asked, sinking down onto the padded bench in the window seat.
"It means you have created a new future probability."
"I can change the future by changing the pattern of these rocks that are supposed to predict it?"
The figure nodded. "That's right! It's sympathetic magic, lore well known to every magus of the past."
"So, which of these runes are the really good ones?" Steve asked, staring at the scattered stones.
"Those three, and that one," the entity said, pointing a crooked finger.
Steve picked up the rest of the stones and tossed them into the metal trash can by the counter, where they clattered to the bottom.
"Now I've changed the future and my luck?"
"You've done it!" the spirit said, and cackled again, happily.
"I've done it all right. Aleister, you're full of crap. Beat it!" Steve snapped his fingers.
His mother's figure hunched an offended shoulder, and then collapsed backward into the office chair. A moment later she was blinking and looking reproachfully at him.
"That was really unkind of you, Steven. I do hope that poor dear Mr. Crowley wasn't terribly upset."
"Poor dear Mr. Crowley? What do you want me to do? Come home some evening and find him sacrificing a goat in the living room?"
Bedelia Cullinan looked distressed. "I sure that was just a phase he was going through. Why, I believe that he was a perfect gentleman, and quite a favorite with small children at birthday parties, in the last years before he Passed On."
"As far as I'm concerned, he has definitely passed on and ought to keep moving," Steve said, running his fingers through his hair. "Why don't you ever conjure up someone I can have a sensible chat with? How about Shakespeare or Thomas Jefferson? Hell, even Roosevelt or Truman would be an improvement."
She looked doubtful. "I don't think Mr. Roosevelt or Mr. Truman were astral minded, dear. I might be able to get Harry Houdini to come for a little chat. Perhaps if we sat down with the Ouija Board we could get through to him."
"I'm sorry I suggested it. Look, Mom, it's been a shitty day, okay? I'm not in the mood for any of your fun and games."
"Why don't you..."
"No, Mom," he said, holding up his hand. "I don't want to hear about ley lines, or meditation, or crystal therapy, or anything else. I want to go to bed and try to forget that four people are dead and my ass is trash. And you know something else? If I get out of this with a whole skin, which is very doubtful at the moment, I am leaving this town, you, and the whole damned mess. You can be anyone you want. I don't want anything more to do with it. Good night."