Thank you for arriving at this post! Before you jump in, what you’re about to read is the first fruit of almost 3 years of work. Work which Rob & I absolutely loved doing, and which has brought us an incredible amount of joy. We hope your first thought after reading this little bit is, “I WANT TO READ MORE!” Best way to accomplish that is to follow this blog, like our FB page, keep supporting and commenting, and helping us build a following that’s going to impress the mashed potatoes out of a publisher and turn this baby into a best seller. Our goal has always been to create a story that families will want to read together, that parents will get irritated if they find out the kids are reading ahead, AND vice versa, that will create all manner of inside jokes and good memories. Along with the blockbuster movie, that’s our hope.
All right! Without further adieu…
Friday Night Monster Club
Droplets formed and fell from the mouth of a rusty pipe. Long forgotten, the pipe jutted out barely visible among the stinging nettles along the river bank.
The little green drips dropped into the dark water below. You wouldn’t have seen them if it hadn’t been darker than usual that night, but each one gave off its own light, just a faint green glow that instantly dissipated when it hit the waters surging past.
The hopeless tangle of weeds and slime and the rusty pipe all sat on the edge of a river. In the middle of the river sat an island. A long, flat and entirely forgettable island. Flat and forgettable, except for its legendary place in history.
The Native Americans who for centuries had witnessed the sun sparkling on this river had given it a cool name: the Susquehanna. The engineers who had surveyed the big, boring island for their power plant in the 1960’s had not been quite so poetic. Tourists still occasionally discovered the island on Google maps and went out of their way to take selfies in front of it. But tonight, the moon and half the stars in the sky were blotted out by the forms of three giant cooling towers rising from the core of the island. On the shadowed side, a faded sign that had lost one of its supports broadcast the island’s unimaginative name.
Three Mile Island.
About 100 feet upstream, a dead stink bug drifted by. Floating on its back, the bug’s remaining legs jutted upward, bent and twisted in every which direction. Two stowaway larva wriggled over the stink bug’s belly feasting on it’s stringy innards.
The river’s current led the dead bug and it’s pasty white passengers around rocks and through spinning eddies. It made its way past fallen branches laced with spider webs and the rusted remains of a kiddie swing set. The critter coasted to the river’s edge, where the filthy white foam gathers. There the bug’s carcass began to bump gently into the stalks of the plants whose roots lay underwater.
Plip… Plip… Pause…. The next green drip in the line delayed a moment. If you were already close enough to observe it, you would have seen that the faint green glow seemed to come from hundreds, or maybe thousands of tiny bright acid green specks. They were definitely moving inside the droplet, but what were they doing? Clinging? Waiting? And what were they?
The stink bug broke free from the foam and floated closer. If you had been there you would have sworn that at that moment, the clinging droplet divided itself into three equal parts, and let go.
Plip– a miss into the water…
Plip– another miss swept away…
Plip… bulls eye! The green drip smacked right into the dead center of the stinkbug, where it was instantly absorbed. If you had been there, you’d almost swear it crawled inside.
One of the broken legs twitched. It moved fast, so fast that there was some question whether it happened at all. Then all the legs burst into motion. Full speed. The stink bug whirred and buzzed and seemed to be growing as it spun about like a driverless speed boat. The clinging larva swelled up too like bloated sponges to twice,three times, five times their original size.
And then everything stopped again. Dead still. From under a rock a few feet below, a large catfish drew closer–its attention drawn to the sudden flash and movement on the water’s surface. Silence… but for the deep ever present hum that emanated from Three Mile Island. The fish eyed its prey. Cautious. No movement from the bug. Perhaps it was dead again. The bloated larva too were now motionless. In a flash, the catfish struck. In a single gulp the bug became dinner. And without waiting for dessert, the catfish stole back into deeper, safer, waters.
Peace returned. The crickets continued their nightly racket. The headlights of an old Ford pickup flashed past the river’s edge after a late night of unsuccessful bingo. An owl hooted far in the distance. The red lights on top of the cooling towers of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant blinked just like they had every night since 1979, when Three Mile Island had experienced the worst nuclear accident in American history.
And then… VA-VOOM!
A mighty eruption of light, water and sound tore across the middle of the river. A wave of brilliant green light radiated outward from the epicenter. The sound could only be described as underwater thunder, as if thousands of gallons of water had vaporized somewhere underneath, with the steam now rushing to get up and out. A blackened glassy concave hole opened in the river bed created by the intense heat. Some more seconds and the hole became a whirlpool as the upstream water rushed to fill the void. A whirlpool so deep and mighty that it dredged up everything around it–the rocks and fish hooks and an old Dr. Pepper bottle. But what was in fact now riding the wall of the whirlpool to the top like a reverse action toilet bowl, was a huge, dark, slimy, and thoroughly frightful shape.
When it reached the surface, the crazy whirlpool climaxed and then retreated. The river settled and regained its flow, carrying on as if nothing had happened. However, something had happened, something that wasn’t normal, in any normal sense of the word. Something that now began to get its bearings and crawl toward the river’s western shore. Something that stared at that shoreline through two large, faintly green glowing eyes.
If you had been there, your first thought would have been that you had just witnessed the unnatural union of catfish and stinkbug into a catfish-stinkbug creature. But that wouldn’t describe this, for this was no mere freaky DNA combination. This was more like someone dropping a radioactive seed or a spore into a DNA blender and hitting the blast-o-matic button. The thing now flopping around in the shallows was beyond biology, it was a spawning of something new at the nuclear level. As it took in water and mud, it grew, just like one of those giant mushrooms that appears overnight in the yard, only hundreds of times faster and bigger.
As it grew it raised itself up on two powerful legs, or perhaps they were trunks because they didn’t seem to end in feet at the bottom. A third leg extended out of its midsection, but it could have been a misplaced tail, or maybe some kind of root. Too dark to tell. But when it got its legs under it and stood up straight, it rose a full eight feet off the ground. It opened its cavernous mouth, revealing a row of serrated teeth. Coming off the mouth were a number of catfish-like barbels, but they also could have been vines. Close to where its misplaced tail leg thing met the body it also had several thinner arms that looked like muscly celery stalks. It swung its head back and forth in triumph. However, it hadn’t mastered balance yet, and it tumbled ungraciously back into the water. This clearly angered the creature. As it hunched its angry brownish green body over, a series of scales stood straight up on its back. It tried heading to land once again. But now its movement most resembled a bull gorilla trying to swim. It hunched its head low to the water, and opened its mouth once more. From somewhere inside came not a tongue, but a tube, a pointed proboscis that sucked up up another hundred gallons of silty river water and swelled its body to spectacular proportions.
The moonlight finally climbed over the smooth curves of cooling towers. Three decades ago, they failed to protect the area from a radioactive reactor meltdown at this exact spot. As the moonlight reflected off the shimmering ripples of the river, and off of the scaly body of the monster on the opposite shore, it appeared that they had failed again.
The monster crawled out of the river, water streaming off its mighty back. When it hunched completely over, it could be mistaken for a fungus covered boulder. Its whole body was covered in lumpy bulbous growths, and they seemed to be flexing, or maybe even breathing.
It also appeared that the dry ground before it actually parted to make way for its arrival. It was hard to see, but the very earth seemed to move around the feet of the beast.
Except that it wasn’t the earth. Caterpillars. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands of them wriggled and squirmed over the ground. Who knows how long they’d been there, but it was almost as if they were waiting for the creature. Creeping and crawling they began to climb upon each other. Slowly, the tiny creatures piled up, literally forming a living tower before the monster.
And then it got weird….