Report 26: In the Temple of the Snake

Sir,

Alexandra Melmoth has surfaced again, and this time I came close to stopping her. But I suppose close doesn’t count. Bottom line: she’s escaped, and disappeared without a trace. I suspect– Well, what I suspect can wait. First, I should make the report.

The whole thing started with a call from Josie’s. Josie’s is the local gentleman’s club. A strip joint, in other words. Josie used to be a dancer at the Fat Beaver. Stepped into the void left when Gladys got religion and changed the Fat Beaver’s business model. Josie stopped dancing ages ago, kind of let herself go. Now she tends bar and keeps the peace in her place. Her, and Mathilda. That’s Josie’s wife and bouncer, a six-foot-two Amazon with a buzz cut and shoulders broader than mine. Both of them are what Sheriff Patton has termed “great old broads.” Friendly, genuine, magnanimous, and tough as nails.

That’s why they were so surprised when the two of them together couldn’t stop Alexandra from barging in, mounting the stage, and putting on a show. But I should let them tell the story:

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…]

MATHILDA: I almost didn’t let her in the door. Wasn’t sure she was legal.

X-23: Did you know who she was?

JOSIE: Of course she knew who she was! Bitch was the damn prom queen! Nobody in town who wouldn’t have recognized her.

PATTON: She’s right on that one, Matthews. Alexandra’s a pretty well-known face around here. Makes me wonder how she’s hiding at all. Now, Matilda, last report we’ve got on this girl, she was covered in blood. I assume she’d cleaned up before she showed up here?

MATHILDA: Yeah. Yeah, she looked fresh as a daisy. Wasn’t wearing much, but you know… Kids these days… “Ass hangin’ out” might just be the new look.

JOSIE: You never were much on fashion, honey.

MATHILDA: *grunts* You got enough of that for the both of us. Anyway, Sheriff… She didn’t have ID on her – don’t know where she’d have put it – but she wanted in, so I tried to remember when she was prom queen, did some mental math, and figured she was probably at least 21. So…

PATTON: On a different night, I’d give you a hard time on that. But considering… Go on.

MATHILDA: Well… I let her in, and she went over to the bar.

JOSIE: And that’s where I took her up. “Ass hangin’ out” doesn’t begin to cover it. That girl was prancin’ around here in nothing but a tube top and some Daisy Dukes cut up so high they might as well have been a thong. Trashy, even for this joint.

MATHILDA: Looked good on her, though.

JOSIE: No denyin’ that. Might be why I didn’t kick her out right away. I knew she was gonna be trouble, but something made me want to talk to her.

MATHILDA: That ass.

JOSIE: You be quiet. It was her eyes, actually. Something in her eyes… Anyway. She asked for a cum shot, and–

X-23: Excuse me?

JOSIE (rolls eyes): Vodka and a raw oyster. One of our regulars came up with it. Said it helped him get it up. Old Joe McIntyre, you remember him, Sheriff? Joe wasn’t the classiest guy, but the other barflies worshiped at his altar. Got so we had to put it on the menu. Kind of an institution now.

Anyway. Like I was saying. The girl ordered a cum shot, and I made it for her. Made some kinda joke about how she was slumming it tonight. She just kinda smiled and said she was looking for a man. Figured this place would prime the pump for her. Then she started eyeballin’ Duke Reynolds.

PATTON (to X-23): That’s Possum’s brother.

JOSIE: Yeah. Possum’s a sweetheart compared to Duke, though. Duke likes it rough. The girls– I run a clean establishment here, of course, but the girls do sometimes work out arrangements on the side.

PATTON: Josie…

JOSIE: What? I’ve got no control over what they do outside working hours. Anyway. Girls who’ve made the mistake of accepting Duke Reynolds’ company for the evening tell me that it’s not a mistake they’ll make again. Sometimes they can’t dance for a few days afterward. He’s a belligerent drunk, too. Mathilda’s had to strong-arm him out of here a few times.

MATHILDA: *grunts* Think he liked it, too.

JOSIE: That tent he had in his pants says he did. Anyway, the girl was eyeballin’ Duke, and I tried to warn her off. She just said he sounded perfect, and took her shot over to his table. Watched her knock it back, wipe a little off the corner of her mouth, and proceed to plant herself in the man’s lap.

MATHILDA: Duke wasn’t havin’ any of it, though. Shoved her off. Said he knew what she did to his brother, and wondered if maybe he hadn’t oughtta teach her a lesson right here. Bad scene. Loud. That’s when I got involved. I ran over and got Duke in an arm bar, then the girl rared back and punched him right in the mouth. Broke his damn jaw. Duke went limp, so I dropped him. Then the girl laughed and went to hop up on the stage. I grabbed her, and she turned on me.

JOSIE: Bitch broke Mattie’s arm, Sheriff! Hundred pounds soakin’ wet, and she broke that tree trunk like it was nothin’!

MATHILDA: S’okay, baby. Chicks dig casts.

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION ENDS.]

That’s when Josie called the police. In the meantime, Alexandra mounted the stage and started to dance. Which is where I found her when we arrived fifteen minutes later. I asked Sheriff Patton to let me go in alone. Not knowing how far things had gone inside, I didn’t want to expose him and his men to something they don’t have the training for. He gave me five minutes. So in I went. I hit the door expecting chaos. I found anything but.

The room was silent, the air thick. Humid and hot, but somehow electrified. Like a brothel. Or a church. The crowd hadn’t scattered, in spite of the violence. Quite the opposite, in fact. I found them rooted to their chairs, motionless, their faces masks of lust, their eyes locked on Alexandra. She was on the stage, clothes long since peeled off, her skin shimmering under the spotlight, fluid seeping steadily, prodigiously, from between her legs. The stage was slick with it, and so was she, sliding sinuous and slow as she danced, weaving her spell over the crowd. The stench was overwhelming, a deep tidal flow of musk and sweat. The smell of sex.

But it wasn’t the smell. Or at least, not the smell alone. There was something more. She was something more. Engorged. Larger than life. Too big for the stage, the room, her own body. There were depths within her, space, an endless wet pulsating void, at once alluring and utterly terrifying. I could sense it, feel it, pushing against the walls, her flesh, my flesh, the pressure building as it tried to uncoil itself, her every step, every motion, part of an equation, a formula, a key. Or not a key. A rod. A bar. A lever. Something to insert into the void, pry it open, widen the gap, let it out. But it had nowhere to go. The walls were sweating along with her, along with the crowd, along with me, and their sweat stank of smoke and beer and semen. They rippled in time with the dance, the formula, the bar, in time with my pulse and hers, my blood flowing like the wet between her legs and the long slow orgasmic trickle staining the jeans of every redneck and over-sexed frat boy in the place, locked in a single desperate spasm, straining against stillness, slaves to their sex, slaves to her, slaves to the thing within her.

But it was me she wanted, me, I could see it in her lips, her tongue, her black black eyes. I could see it in the angle of her hips as she went into slow gyrations, sticky and slick, the void gaping wider and wider with each new rotation, open, inviting, swirling, drawing me in with a pull as inexorable, as inescapable, as gravity itself. The pressure redoubled, inside and out, the pulse coming strong now, in my chest, my groin, my head.

My head. Something pulsed and spasmed in my head. There was a sharpness, a pinch, and then it was over. I found myself standing almost at the stage, over the still-unconscious form of Duke Reynolds, lying where he had fallen, not a finger raised to help him. Mathilda was there too, kneeling, cradling her broken arm and staring intently at Alexandra.

Alexandra. She’d stopped dancing now, and was staring a hole in me. “Here,” she said. “Now.” Her voice was strained, her every muscle tensed. I didn’t move. I couldn’t. I felt weak, drained. Barely able to keep myself upright.

“HERE,” she said again. “NOW.” I shook my head, not quite daring to do much else.

“HERE! NOW!” Screaming this time.

“No,” I said, my own voice a croak. “Why don’t you come down here instead? Down where I can see you? I have something for you. A gift.”

She screamed again, an ear-splitting howl that shook the walls. The men in the crowd behind me started to convulse. I nearly collapsed myself, but grit my teeth and held on. With effort, I reached into my jacket to pull forth the Wanageeska hot dog.

But she never saw it, because that was when the shot rang out. Sheriff Patton. That scream had been the last straw. He kicked the door open and took his shot, putting a bullet cleanly through Alexandra’s chest. She recoiled, hissed, her mouth a sudden ring of fangs, blood staining her breast. Then she retreated, legs elongating with each stride, scales sprouting down her naked spine as she went.

I finally fell to the floor, feeling a trickle of blood oozing out my nose. I was vaguely aware of the Sheriff rushing past, in pursuit, firing more shots. Even more vaguely, I heard the screams of his men as they confronted Alexandra coming out the back of the club. We don’t think all of them are going to make it.

The Sheriff himself just got a nasty blow to the head. He saw stars for a few seconds, and when his vision cleared, Alexandra was gone. Disappeared once again into the night. We’re canvassing the area now, asking questions. But no one’s seen a seven-foot-tall snake woman. Or Alexandra Melmoth, for that matter.

One detail from a homeless man I questioned concerns me, however, even though he was inebriated, and undoubtedly a bit mad. He reported seeing a large truck nearby around the time of our confrontation. “Looked like some kinda circus wagon,” he said.

Which brings me back to my suspicions. I fear that Alexandra may have fallen into the clutches of Jackson Curry. In which case, the situation has become very dire, indeed.

– Agent X-23, signing off.

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About Mark Brett

Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at https://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at http://dorkforty.wordpress.com/. View all posts by Mark Brett

One response to “Report 26: In the Temple of the Snake

  • Mark Brett

    That’s good work stopping the girl’s ritual, Clint. Sounds like she’s trying alternatives to bloodshed in waking the Serpentine Fire. Graduating from knives to mass soul-sucking. “Spiritual crowd-sourcing,” Simmons is calling it. Might have worked, too, if you hadn’t busted the show up. She still wants you, that much is certain. You got her to stop the dance in favor of a little fun. That’s a good sign, I think. That, or whatever’s going on in that brain of yours is making her think you can light her fire in more ways than one.

    And speaking of your brain… Might as well tell you, the Somnambulists are telling on you through the Uni-Mind now. They’re concerned about a spike in your sex drive, occurring right around the time you were in Josie’s. They suggested you work it off with Agent Cordero. I tried to explain to them why that wasn’t going to happen, but I don’t think they understood. Too separated from their own biology sometimes, those guys.

    Now. I’m not very thrilled that the girl got away. Not that you could have done anything much different than you did. You resisted the summoning of an Outer Thing. Lucky your brain didn’t come spilling out your ears. Still. It’s a shame about those deputies. Any of them don’t make it, you make sure to get me a list of names. The Agency will see to it that the families at least get reimbursed for the funeral.

    Your hunch that the girl got snatched by Curry might be solid. That’s double bad news. How bad, you’ll understand better after I tell you a little more of Danforth’s story…

    *************

    If you’ll recall, my first inquiries around Curry’s World of Wonder were met with the response that I needed to speak with Doodle the Clown. Or, “Mr. Doodle,” as the carnies called him, a man who apparently acted as some sort of go-between. An ombudsman, if you will. If I’d known how much else he did, I’d have sought him out immediately. But I avoided him, assuming that I was being given the run-around. And once I’d actually gotten to Curry himself, he wished to deal with me directly. So in the years that followed, I never actually encountered the clown. But on a visit in 1935, Curry wasn’t there. “Off on business,” I was told. When asked if he could relay a message for me, the slack-jaw I was dealing with instead lead me to the wagon home of “Mr. Doodle.”

    I was not, initially, impressed. Doodle’s wagon was filthy, littered with empty liquor bottles. The man himself sat in the dark, unshaven, a half-full bottle clutched in one hand. He listened impatiently as I was introduced, and spoke to the carny with the coarse imperiousness of a drill sergeant. But his demeanor changed dramatically once the other man left. His features softened, and I could see the deep lines of worry etched into his face, his sunken, haunted eyes, ringed blue with the stains of carelessly-removed greasepaint. He put the bottle down, leaned forward, and said something I’ll never be able to forget:

    “You come to stop him, or am I finally gonna have to put a bullet in my head?”

    I was taken aback, I must admit. When I indicated to him that I wasn’t there for the former, but that I’d like to prevent the latter, he nearly broke down. Then he proceeded to tell me what Curry had been up to all those years, his part in it, and why he needed me to take action. There was a dark side, it seemed, to Curry’s benevolence toward the Hidden World. As we both know, Chief Roberts, the creatures he was dealing with are not always friendly to mankind. And Curry not only allowed those anti-social behaviours but, in his zeal to keep his charges healthy and happy, encouraged them. Indeed, he sometimes even facilitated them.

    This was the source of Doodle’s distress. When one of the attractions needed a human victim, and couldn’t be trusted to be discreet about it, Curry would set Doodle to the task of finding one. He preyed upon those who wouldn’t be missed. Hobos he could ply with promises of drink. Prostitutes paid in tooth and claw. Doodle was not a man of great conscience, but the years of such activities weighed on even him.

    “Still, it’s the other what’s got me keepin’ a bullet in the chamber,” he told me. “The things he’s doin’. The things he’s had me doin’. See, the boss don’t just wanna keep them things’ coats shiny. He wants to help ‘em.

    “‘These magnificent creatures,’ he calls ‘em. ‘These magnificent creatures have a potential far beyond mere humans. We have to help them achieve that potential, Mr. Doodle. It is our duty. Our honor! To do so. No matter how abominable their ultimate forms may be.’

    “You know how many times I heard that crazy nonsense? Too many times. A million times. Every time one’a them monsters hears a voice from beyond. I ain’t sayin’ I understand everything what I seen, Mr. Danforth. I’m glad I don’t. Hell, I don’t even remember all of it. Just pieces. Like that time the boss had me nekkid, painted purple, and dancin’ round that stone up Dunwich way. Me and them damn hairy men, hootin’ and hollerin’ and carryin’ on, wailin’ like a buncha damn banshees. The sky opened up and somethin’ came out of it, did somethin’ bad to that hoor I snatched. I can’t seem to remember what, though. Like I cain’t make sense of it. Like my brain cain’t wrap itself around it, quite.

    “And that ain’t all. I done worse. Like that time the boss give me that knife with all the carvin’ on it, and—Naw. Naw, I ain’t talkin’ about that. I don’t remember it good, and when I do, I just get all upset. And when I get upset, that’s when Billy comes out. He gets in my head, Mr. Danforth. He gets in my head and gets me all confused. I cain’t remember what’s upsettin’ me, and that makes me more upset, and then I get onto the liquor and the gun, and then even the upset goes away and I don’t feel much’a nothin’.

    “Or sometimes I get to thinkin’ that maybe I should just kill the boss. Kill ‘im, and smash that damn jar Billy’s in, and then pay a visit to the freak tent. Maybe the midway, too, just to be sure nobody else pays to see this wrong mess we got goin’ on around here. Then I’d put a bullet in my own head. And I get all peaceful when I think about that. About how the world would be better off without all of us, and how I wouldn’t have to think about it all no more. But when I pick up the gun to get to work… Billy again, and I forget what I’m thinkin’, and that gun starts lookin’ like it’s just for me, and I’d better leave them others alone. But somethin’ ain’t right about that, I know, and so it’s the liquor again, and the no feelin’, and the next mornin’ I get up feelin’ fine, and it starts all over again.

    “Hell, Mr. Danforth. If the boss didn’t have Billy with him out in the field right now, I ain’t sure I’d be able to talk to you about it at all. But they’re gone, lookin’ for somethin’ to do with that damn Spawn a Yig snake thing. They’re due back tonight, though. And I know he’s gon’ ask me to do somethin’ bad again. And I ain’t gon’ be able to say no. Billy’ll see to that.”

    His eyes grew even more haunted at that prospect, and he picked the bottle back up. In the end, I think he was more disturbed by Billy than anything else. This was the attraction billed as Billy the Psychic Fetus, of course. A malevolent entity that seemed devoted to Curry for reasons I was never entirely able to ascertain. If you haven’t dealt with him yet, I suspect that you soon will. He’s bad business, Chief Roberts. I can understand why Doodle became so obsessed with him.

    That may have been why he clung to Billy so fiercely after everything went to hell. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. And I must be so very careful to remain linear, lest I be lost myself. Can I refresh your drink again, Chief? We’re nearing the end of my tale, I think, and you may well need it.

    *************

    And that’s all I’ve got time for right now, Clint. We’re at a crucial phase down in Lab D, and Simmons really needs my touch on this thing. But I think you can see why I’m concerned about Curry getting his hands on Alexandra Melmoth. That “be all you can be” attitude is the very last thing we need right now. So keep the manhunt going, and maybe put out an alert for that wagon. Find Curry, and I’m betting you find the girl. The sooner the better.

    — Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

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