Hells a Poppin
"A to Hell and Back Story"
By John Pirillo
Weed's history is not so great. He joined the Marines in 2010. A high school grad with no desire to excel in anything, somehow he had managed to at least pass with a score high enough to bag him a gig with the Marines. But that wasn't good enough. He had to be the top rifleman in his squad, and the best man in martial arts, the only person to survive (a phone) combat scenario that no one could possibly win, but he had.
So for his efforts he had been awarded a stake in another job. Going to hell and back. Yeah. War's hell, but some wars are in hell, or with hell. And that was his best window of opportunity yet. With just a knife, wide open eyes, and a lot of luck. Luck does count! With luck he had managed to kill three demons that had over run their platoon on a mission in Afghanistan.
The natives had screamed all night about demons coming, and not one of the Americans had bought it then, so instead they bought it later.
Gunfire. Grenades. Rocket launches. Hellfire missiles. None of it worked. The demons were smarter and better armed. Invincible in their stealth mode. They could move invisibly through the ranks and decimate them.
He had seen Jenks, his Captain, a likable fellow with two kids back in Arkansas, a stake in a reasonable farm to retire to, and yet he had been the first one to buy it. He had awakened to the scream, thrown himself out the pup tent, a small hotdog shaped slip of a tube of cloth they all rigged beneath the dirt so they could remain hidden from probing eyes.
He had seen Jenks stabbing at something in the air, and blood spurting, but nothing visible. Jenks had stopped screaming when his head exploded, squashed like a watermelon by a vise like force invisible to the eyes.
Hammer had been next. He was the wise cracking machine gunner of the group. Never missed. This time his weapon was useless. Bullets spun out of the gun at over a thousand rounds a second and everyone struck. Blood spurted in a thousand directions, but in a few moments he was hanging upside down by the hot flaming tube of his gun, his guts ripped out.
Joyce had been last. She had run out in skivvies and had both legs torn off before she could even raise a grenade to toss.
He had been lucky. Luck had been with him.
He had torn through the frigid night, racing like a pig with the butcher after him, and it was. With ten sets of claws, a thousand teeth and an appetite for extreme death and violence. Though at the time he had thought it was some kind of special weapons force that had invaded their platoon. Someone sent in from the crazies running the local wars, but bought from China or Russia.
When it caught up with him, its breath was fetid and hot.
He whipped round, saw nothing and was ready to keep running when he felt two clawed hands grab him by his waist and raise him slowly. He did a stupid thing. He pepper sprayed it. It worked!
It coughed and threw him down. Sounded like a mountain lion going to the bathroom with multiple hemorrhoids. But it was there.
He kicked up a footfall of sand with his boots and for a brief second he saw something that almost stopped his heart, which would have been a blessing at the time, because it was racing so hard it was likely to stop on its own accord anyway.
It was straight from hell. Literally. It stood over ten feet tall. It had teeth by the dozens protruding from its lower jaw over its lips and eyes that were slanted like an Orientals. In fact it was orange all over with a green fur that bristled with shades of red and orange. Its whole being exuded some kind of darkness that etched a line around it. A kind of outline of evil.
He had reacted, not from instinct, but from sheer disgust.
He had thrown his knife. The one his father had given him. The silver one. For Christmas
The knife struck the demon in its chest as it was fading from view and it roared horribly. So hard and furiously that he was blasted from his feet. He rolled over and came up to his feet, scrambling for his second blade. If one could do that.
He threw it.
It was also silver. The second one his father had given him for his birthday. He'd said. "You growing like a weed, son. One day you might have need of a week trimmer. Picker. Something to stop wild things."
Weed had never asked what his father meant, even though he had given him this strange look, as if he were seeing something not there. His family was like that. Some called t hem voodoos, people struck by local magic and cursed. Others called them occultists or psychics. He just called them family.
The demon, for he could tell that now. As it died its form became more and more visible and more and more disgusting to look at. Its blood shot forth from where the two knives had struck over its heart and showered the ground. It spun around and two more demons were marked and visible by the blood.
They had been rushing Weed without him realizing it.
He was dead for sure.
But when the first demon's blood struck them, a funny thing happened. Not ha-ha, but creepy strange. Like Twilight Zone, Lovecraft and Outer Limits Stephen King kind of strange.
They caught on fire.
All three demons exploded in a geyser of blood and fire, which shot straight up towards the cloudless sky, a Vesuvius of grossness and evil that showered back down and struck the desert floor, spearing it with body parts and ichor.
He just stood there, wiping the crap off his face, grinning. Laughing.
He had lived through the worst nightmare of his life.
He walked through the smoking remains and retrieved his two knives.
He kissed them both, ignoring the ichor on them, then wiped them clean on the back of his combat fatigues and sat down. He thrust the small black box hinged to his belt in front of him, keyed in a code, then activated it. A gentle beeping came from it.
Satellites overhead spun and turned, snaking slowly around to sip the binary data flowing into their hungry throats.
Ten days later he was back at Nellis, with the rest of the survivors of that night. Not from his platoon, but the others, who had also been on similar missions. He never learned their names. A very tough older man stood up from the midst of them; walked to the front of the room they were seated in silently and turned to eye them.
"Life is tough."
"Yo." They all answered.
"And then you die."
Everyone was silent. They knew what he meant, but were not going to agree with it.
"Last night you saw something, didn't you?"
Everyone was silent. Where was this going?
"Something that just should not have been."
Everyone nodded, but still remained silent.
"Something that shouldn't be on our planet."
Weed got tired of it. He stood up, scratched his ten day old beard. No one had a chance to shower or shave yet, and it was starting to get to him. "Sir, I don't mean to rattle your cage or anything, but these men are bone tired. Shit-faced with death and ready to drop. Will you just say it?"
The tall man turned to face Weed, his face stern as a block of ice. "Your name, Marine."
"Your real name."
Everyone broke into laughter.
The tall man listened a moment, then raised a hand for silence. Everyone got a frightened look on their faces as he scowled at Weed.
Weed didn't care. He'd seen all his friends murdered in front of his eyes, limbs torn off, guts ripped out, and necks broken. What more could anyone do to him now?
Everyone rose to leave.
The tall man pointed at Weed. "You. Here!"
Weed waited until the others had left, all looking back at him, fearful for what might happen. Though none knew each other, there was a deep bond between them.
"Sir." Weed saluted.
The tall man broke into a grin. "I'm no sir. Sarge will do."
"Sarge, sir!" Weed said with a returning grin.
"Sit here." The Tall Man pointed to a chair near him.
Weed nodded and slumped into the chair, feeling his fatigue rolling over him like a wave again. His eyes fought to stay open as the Tall Man spoke.
"I need you."
"Everyone needs someone, sir."
"Not for what I need you."
Weed's eyes continued to close.
"I'm going to hell and I need you to go with me."
Weed woke up and barked with laughter. "Hell, Sarge, I've just come back from there."
The Tall Man's smile vanished. "No. You haven't."
Then he told Weed what he knew.
Weed's eyes no longer threatened to sew themselves shut. He felt adrenaline rushing through his system, his hair standing up on the back of his neck, and his mouth drier than the Iraqi desert. "Damn!"
"And then some."
Weed shook his head, then stood up and offered his hand. "If it will save more souls from going through what I saw ten nights ago....?"
The Tall Man rose and took his hand. It was warm and firm. Like the grip of a long lost friend.
"Then I'm in. Sarge."
Sarge smiled. "Now go get cleaned up, then chow down. We've got a lot of work to do before we go to hell."
"Yes, Sarge. I'm sure we do." Weed laughed. "I'm sure we do."
Weed walked out of the meeting room, an ominous and foreboding feeling gripping his heart. He had the feeling that he had just chosen to step into the biggest stack of doo doo any Marine could ever step into.
The Gift of the Gods
"A Samuel Light Story"
By John Pirillo
Samuel tucked his stomach in, not that he was fat, but it was a tight squeeze. Jimbo was having an even tougher time. He actually had a bit of stomach fat. "You said this would be good exercise." He complained between grunts and screeches of pain as he followed Samuel.
Samuel eyed the distant end of the tunnel, which was actually getting closer, though no less easy to crawl to. "Just a bit more and we'll be there."
"You always say that."
"That's because it's always true."
"Doesn't help my poor body any."
"Stop complaining. If you didn't eat so much..."
"I'll eat whatever I want, thank you. I'll still behind you, aren't I?"
"If I'm a pork butt or not."
Bad mistake. He smashed his head into the rocks above him.
Jimbo's turn to laugh.
Jimbo laughed even harder.
Finally, Samuel reached the end of the tunnel and slipped out of the narrow tunnel or rock and dirt they had taken to get to their destination, and Jimbo followed him a few moments later, still laughing.
Samuel spun around. "How can you laugh and still get through that tunnel?"
Samuel put a finger up to his mouth.
Jimbo was about to speak anyway, but Samuel shook his head.
Jimbo then realized they weren't alone.
He turned slowly and essayed the walls. There were strange scrolls of images up and down them, depicting strange humans with heads shaped like turnips wearing ceremonial garb and other humans bowing at their feet. Just to his right stood some kind of silvery thing, shaped like a gigantic bell, except it had windows in it.
On his left stood rows of cylinders stacked to the ceiling of the room they stood within. The room was hoary with age. Spider webs hung everywhere, and motes of dust danced in the air, lit by recessed lighting that had no apparent electrical connection.
Jimbo bent next to one and touched it.
"Damn!" He screeched, jerking his finger back when an arc of blue energies smashed into it and burned its tip.
"Careful." Samuel warned in a whisper.
"Now you tell me." Jimbo growled, ready to smack Samuel over the head for the oversight.
Samuel again put a finger to his lips.
"What now? An alien werewolf?"
The huge bell shaped object began to shake, as if someone were inside of it, rocking it back and forth violently.
"Or maybe just an alien." Jimbo suggested.
Samuel ignored him and continued to survey the wall to his right, his finger tracing a line of lettering from the top to the floor, then continuing to the right, until he stopped at a juncture where a new set of symbols and scrolling text unfolded. He turned to Jimbo, who had grown antsy and quiet, since the huge bell shape continued to vibrate with some kind of motion from inside.
"Make it go away, Sammie." He pleaded.
Samuel shook his head, again touching his lip.
Jimbo sighed, but said no more. He was getting used to his friend's habits by now, but that didn't mean he agreed with everything the man did or said. He was a free thinker with a mind of his own. Born in Texas, raised in Texas. He had a big heart and a sharp mind. He didn't always understand all the weird boogey boo stuff Samuel did or saw, but he had seen enough by now to trust him in the down and dirty times.
Samuel suddenly shoved at Jimbo to drop.
He dropped. Hitting his stomach hard. He grunted. Samuel threw himself over his friend as the bell shaped object exploded, shooting out metal shrapnel and pieces of some kind of gooey substance that slapped into the walls and began to ooze down it, like thick globs of blood.
Samuel got off Jimbo and helped his friend to his feet.
"How did you know that was going to...?"
Samuel touched his forehead.
"Right. That old third eye biz again."
Jimbo turned around to hide a look of disgust. "Most people can't see with two, and you can see with one in the center of your head. What's this damned world coming to, anyway?"
"Armageddon." Samuel replied.
"Oh yeah, right. This hideous demon is going to rise up and stomp us all to hell!"
Samuel grinned. "No, but his henchmen might."
Jimbo turned on Samuel. "You're kidding, right?"
"Not about the henchmen."
"Who might they be, pray tell?"
"The ones who are in power and misusing it."
"Well, that pretty much shoves the whole bunch into the same picnic basket."
"And that's why Armageddon is coming."
"What! You said you were kidding!"
"Only about the demon devil part of it. If we can't stop these nuts from killing our air, water and food supply, then it won't matter if there are demons and devils, there won't be any of us left for them to haunt and torture anyway."
Jimbo shook his head.
"I don't buy into that end of the world scenario. Someone's going to come up with the solutions."
"And someone else is going to buy them out, force them into poverty and obscurity or..."
Jimbo blanched. "Murder them?"
"And that's why we're here now."
Jimbo turned to look at the smoking remains of the bell like object. "What was in that thing anyway?"
"Well, according to the Paiutes, this was deposited here back in prehistoric times by the Builders."
"An ancient race that flew from the stars to nurture mankind from its bestial ways."
"Yeah. That sure happened, didn't it?"
Samuel laughed. "You can't expect so many people to leapfrog through evolution like a bunch of mad mating bunnies!"
"And what does that look like?"
Samuel started to answer and Jimbo shut him up with a scowl. "What I mean is that they came all this way to save us, so we can blow ourselves up, or contaminate ourselves to death. What a waste of gas."
"They had to try. Just like we have to try."
Jimbo surveyed the damage in the chamber. "Well, the lights still work. So there might still be something useful in here."
"Don't care about the lights." Samuel said, heading for the back of the chamber where a great seal with scrolling arrows stretched over a crude symbol of the earth was drawn with semi-precious stones.
"What's it say?"
"Inside is the secret to happiness and the way to bring peace to our planet."
Jimbo frowned. "It better be. I've left a lot of my precious behind on that tunnel ceiling back there to get here."
"And probably more on the way back." Samuel agreed.
"So why should there be anything we want in there? Looks to me like whoever was guarding this place didn't do too good a job, judging from..." He nodded towards the fleshy remains on the various walls that continued to ooze towards the floor.
"It wasn't a guard. It was something else."
"What kind of something else?" Jimbo asked warily.
Samuel looked at him. "You don't want to know, but this..." He turned back to the symbol on the wall. "This, however..." Samuel pressed his hand against the symbol and the back wall of the chamber slid upwards with groaning sounds of effort.
Jimbo pressed forward to see what was being revealed, and then he began to laugh.
Inside the exposed new chamber was barrel after barrel of grain. Grain that hadn't aged since they had been deposited there.
Samuel looked at the grain, his face stone cold frozen.
Jimbo broke into laughter, turned around and headed back for the tunnel. As he did so, the lights in the chamber began to flicker. Their power failing at last.
Samuel took a few grains and stuck them into his jeans pocket, then followed after Jimbo. They sweat and cursed their way back to the end of the tunnel, finally emerging onto the plateau the tunnel had been dug into.
Jimbo sat down on a ledge overlooking the deep valley below. He smiled. "Least the view was worth it."
Samuel sat beside him, and then took out a grain.
The ground shook behind them and the tunnel was sealed up as tons of the plateau shifted and moved, almost knocking them off their perch into the valley below. Samuel lost his grip on the grain as he held onto the edge and it dropped onto the bare earth to his left.
When the shaking stopped, Jimbo gave Samuel a look that said it all. "That was one helluva ride, Sammie boy."
"We're alive. That's all that matters."
"Sam, look!" Jimbo said, pointing to Samuel's left.
Samuel twisted to look and as he did so, he saw the grain wriggling on the ground, and then it sprouted roots that dug into the hard rock of the plateau, shattering it and probing downwards. The top of the grain sprouted green arms and stretched towards the sky, trembling like a new born happy to breathe and laugh. It grew taller and taller, sprouting more and more arms, until it became so tall and thick that Samuel and Jimbo had to back away from the edge for fear of being knocked off by the now gigantic plant.
Just when they thought it would go on forever like Jack's beanstalk, it stopped, trembling for a moment, and then stilling.
"Look at that, won'tcha!" Jimbo suggested.
Each arm of the sprout had sprouted heads of corn. The entire growth was about fifty feet tall and carried hundreds of rows of corn, all open and ready to eat, their golden kernels shining in the rays of the setting sun.
Jimbo licked his lips. "I bet that would make a monster bag of popcorn."
"Or feed a small town." Samuel suggested.
They both looked back at the collapsed tunnel.
"Maybe those Indians were onto something after all." Jimbo suggested.
Samuel nodded, feeling the remaining grains in his jeans pocket. Did he dare reveal them to the world? Was the world ready for this and if it was, how would this new form of genetically modified corn be accepted Would it lead to the feeding of the poor and removing poverty, or just end up shoved back into a closet where no one could find it, locked away so that a selfish few could continue to dominate the world for its wealth?
He didn't know what would happen. He only knew what impress he now felt. He took the remaining grains and held them out over the valley below.
Jimbo looked at the outstretched hands, saw the grains. "Sammie, if you're thinking what I'm thinking."
Samuel smiled. He wasn't. He let the grains tumble from his hand.
The Baker Street Universe Book Store