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Shadow of the Skull

A Monster Hunter’s Int. Fan Fiction (sort of)
Thom Potter, 2020

Criswell sits in his car fuming. The other two have called this conference don’t like him much, and for a dozen different reasons each. So, why is he here, then, keep a seat warm?

You know, Mike looks tired, but good. It’s like he had a bad fall on the soccer pitch not been nearly blown apart just a week ago, ‘n so? The thing that seems to have him distracted is Gwen Little. I liked her too, Bro.

Jimmie is asking me about what I saw, how I know it isn’t just a dream or worst. I just kept it as simple as I could, the people, the voice. You know, I added that it wasn’t our world because it had two moons.

I know better than to discount his worry. After what Aunt Eddie got here I browsed for more information. There’s been adozen or so like what she watched. I just want to hear how he wants that report, ‘n so?

Mike’s nerves seemed to have hit a high note. What can we do?

“You know, I’ve got family to look after. I’ll help where I can, but they come first, ‘n so?”

“Can’t expect any better than that,” Jimmy says.

“Only this. Smell that?” the wind picked up again shoving more rotting egg stink up our noses. Funny that should happen on cue like that, ‘n so? “Most reports I’ve read say the same, first the stink, then the rumble, then ‘bang’!” Some of the reports flash before my odd memory. “Come to think of it, the stink comes about five or ten minutes before the rumble. It’s been five hours, here.”

Every nerve that heard that just took up macramé, ‘n so? Like I said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

You know, I’m filling the filter-pitcher for the tenth time this hour, ‘n so? I guess I ain’t been much help. Sure, pack bags. “What you doing?” “It’s going to be bad.” Fill paper bags with flour and peanut butter. “What you doing?” “It’s going to be bad.” Oo, the water’s good, ‘n so? Dump into bottle, fill pitcher, back to stuffing bags. “What you doing?”

I guess that’s why Mark got a little rough with me and shoved me into a chair.

Everyone stood council, glaring at me. What can I do? Long story? Ah, got one.

I looked at mark, “Remember Brawley? The stink, followed by the rumble, followed by new stuff to think about?”

Aunt Eddie and Mark slowly nodded. Already they understood, out of the fryer, into the frying pan. Connie’s eyes are wide with anticipation.

“I looked into it. It’s been happening all over, ‘n so? Oregon, Hespiría, a few other places. They say the same thing, stink, rumble, boom. Ten minutes top, ‘n so?”

I watch as Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Joan catch up. Mark catches Aunt Eddie from hitting a counter when she tried to sit.

What can I say? “It’s going to be bad.” You know, I just remembered something, I can stow all that stuff like I do my school bag.

I hear the crunch of a paper bag and look up. Aunt Joan is adding boxes of cereal while Uncle Ronnie refills the pitcher. You know, might not be as bad as I thought.

“Just one thing.”

We stop and look at Buckie.

“We sleep in the living room, together, in our street clothes. Like for a tornado warning.”

Good plan, kid. We’ll make a general of you yet, ‘n so?

You know, if I’m ever glad of anything I’m glad of that wind. The stink is so strong it got tough to breathe, ‘n so? And now it’s added cabbage to the rot.

Between that and the heat we aren’t just not sleeping, we’re ready to bite some heads off.

You know, that wouldn’t be so bad. Except an hour ago the cable signal scrambled and my tablet lost connections.

Except I’ve got this other thing going on and every grumpy mind in the neighborhood and beyond is letting me have it.

Mario next door is yelling at his mom for spit that ain’t important. Chrystal behind us is trying to stay dry. And Warren at the other corner has his headphones cranked and pounding.

You know, I try to focus on that, hope it drowns everything out. Only Connie is whining and Buckie’s just about had it, ‘n so?

Aunt Eddie has a plan. “Tie me kangaroo down, Fred.” She started quietly, and didn’t get much louder. The ancient ballad is simple and fun, and her voice smooth and distracting.

You know, half an hour later I could tell she was fighting her own exhaustion. So, I took up the banner. “No, no, no I won’t,” sniff, “it no more.

You know I’m going to learn the whole song. It saved my life once, might do it again, ‘n so? “No thank you please it only makes me sneeze,” and then I couldn’t hear my own thoughts any more.

Screams, yells, I guess that war I saw got a start. You know, it’s taking every ounce of will power to keep from blowing my head off, or feeding this to anyone else, ‘n so?

I just got up and poured a glass of mile and tried not to worry anyone else.

No, this isn’t going to be bad. It’s going to change the world.

Lights just died.

“That’s it!” Buckie said, “Backyard.”

You know, good idea. If the house falls or something falls on it, we won’t go with it.

Ya hay. Most anyone who’s lived in southern California more than a month becomes a connoisseur of earthquakes. I swear, we sound like Goldilocks: Too chunky, too creamy, just right, ‘n so? Some of us can even give a kind of weather report: 3.2 out of Anzá with a mild aftershock just west of Brawley. If you accept what some say that earthquakes are to the bedrock what thunder is to the sky that weather report gets accessories, ‘n so: planetary alignment, solar activity, Aunt Alice’s sore joints.

Let me tell you, this is no earthquake. No shake, no sway, and no annoying electrostatic fuzz to say how big it will be just in time to find the door frame. Oh, sure, the buzz had been there since we moved to the backyard. Not that I could do much about it, what with all the yelling and dying and a dozen or so other psychics crying for relief.

Then my skin tried to crawl off and hide in a hole.

Then the ground, um, rumbled, vibrated, ground its teeth together? Words just don’t help, ‘n so? All I could do was yell at the top of my mind, here it comes!

One more point about earthquakes, the longer they last the harder they fall.

I heard something that sounded like a particle board break. I looked up just in time to see branches materialize over Connie. The Branches are falling, turning into sawdust. But I can’t trust to our luck. I jump, roll, grab her and Buckie, jump for the concrete picnic table, and hope it’s enough.

Those branches landed, bringing a family of charcoal colored squirrels with it. They didn’t just drop. Sure, two little ones did the famous hero landing with one foot, knee, and hand on the ground and one hand ready to slug the moron who done it. The rest just caught the air and floated down. One stately gentleman glared at me for a moment, then joined his family in a round of chirping.

Yeah, entertaining as that was I had other issues to think about.

You know, Mark had another branch holding him down. He just lost wind, ‘n so? I’m helping Aunt Joan to her feet when I hear this scream. Aunt Eddie just about beat me over the back wall to see a chubby little baby swaddled in a brown cloth. From the looks of his friend both having replaced a good chunk of Chrystal’s house with a massive oak, they barely made it over.

I watch as Aunt Eddie picked the baby up—looks heavier than I thought—as I run for the house. Crystal’s going to be fine if she can get down stairs.

You know, half-an-hour later and I’m just a little worried. Every earthquake has its companion, ‘n so? The longer the wait, the harder the fall.

Until then, we’re making breakfast of stuff that might not last the blackout. And it seems we have some new guests to cook for. Hay, Buckie, how about some help dressing this wound?



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