Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scene 61

Myron and Blinky rumble on through to Nerk, where—across from a Burger chain and a high-speed oil change place—they stumble onto a fairground with a gigantic circular trough in it. The trough, which is pretty wide and maybe 6 feet deep, runs up on the far side to a height of approximately 12 to 14 feet above ground level. That is, from nadir to zenith we’re talking 20 feet of dirt wall. The trough inscribes a perfect circle maybe half a mile across. The place is highlighted on the map, which prods Myron to turn in. But only later will Myron recognize that this enormous circular ditch is one of the last surviving elements of the Octagon Earthworks complex. As things stand, they’re practically on top of their ultimate destination, an elaborate set of prehistoric embankments, what Little Turtle identified as an ancient portal to the world beyond.

They park the truck in the lot by a small cinder block building with a darkened glass door. Signs suggest it may contain a display of Indian mound culture stuff. A diorama. Myron steps down from the cab to have a look, but discovers that the place is closed. A sign made with a Sharpie announces that the museum-lette is only open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. “Crap,” says Myron.

He’s peering through the window to get a look at the diorama. Blinky gets out and hobbles over to join him. Blinky’s wondering if and how the museum people expect to show Mishiekonga’s ancestors with JC Penney mannequins.

The reflection is so bad on the glass door that they can’t really make out the dark scene beyond it. Eyes wide, they strain to focus on the far side of the pane, to peer into the exhilarating murk of native prehistory. But no dice. Mostly they see the dumbass commercial landscape reflected behind them. Blinky gives up and wanders back toward the truck just as Myron, pupils gaping, sees a Hummer drive up behind them in the reflection. It parks next to the salt truck.

Before Myron has begun to absorb what he is seeing, six guys get out of the Hummer and begin to move on Blinky. Creep-out of all creep-outs, ever, each of the six guys has an Octo-head. They are not even bothering to conceal them, like the vile Alan, or the people fighting over the radio. Myron spins around in horror.

The Octos operate as a group. Two of them swing wide, two walk straight, and two flank the middle guys. Blinky is backing up, moving toward the side of the truck. He looks dazed and scared. The Octos are bearing down on him.

“Myron—“ he says thinly.

Myron’s beginning to hyperventilate. But he does not freeze. Looking around, he spies a few tools left by the maintenance shed next to the diorama thing.

“Okay, Blink,” says Myron, trying to think ahead. He picks up a shovel, clenches his jaw, and skips like a bowler, winding up into a diagonal uppercut. As the Octos close, Myron brings the shovel across as hard as he can, bent side down, smashing it into one of the middle guys—reasoning in a vestigial, tribal sort of way that the middle squid is probably the leader. But the shovel doesn’t really smash or crack anything, it just makes a wet sound and slides off.

“Myron!” Blinky screams. They are touching him now. Their tentacles are sliding over his skin.

Myron grabs a heavy rake from the tool pile and whips it around over his head straight down on top of a second guy. The tines on the rake go ploooosh into the guy’s funky gelatinous head, and puncture it. Gooey stuff comes out, and he buckles then goes down. Myron jerks the rake out of his head and yanks it back to wind up again, as two of them on him. He gets an incomplete swing in before one of them reaches a tentacle up to block the rake, but he’s got enough force behind it to make a glancing strike on the guy’s face. He takes out a googly eye and pops through the skin or rubber or whatever that crap is, and number 2 goes down, damaged but not dead.

Blinky, screaming, has scrambled free. Winding up again, Myron spins like a ninja to a position behind the truck. He is bellowing at the Octos to come at him. One stays in pursuit of Blinky, but Myron picks up a rock in the parking lot and fires it hard, thwocking and planting in Octo #4’s nasty bulbous head. This angers him, and he, too, turns toward Myron. Unaccustomed to situations of this kind, Myron relies on memories from his youth. He swings the rake provocatively. “Come on squids! You squid pussies!” The Octos raise tentacles, sort of like multiple cobras. “That’s right,” says Myron, “I called you a pussy!”

Blinky, gasping, scrambles up on the steps of the ODOT vehicle.

All the Octos are advancing on Myron now. He watches them come toward him against the backdrop of the salt truck, and suddenly an idea comes to him. “Blinky!” he shouts.


Myron digs in his pocket. Success!

“Heads up!” he calls, jingling the truck keys.

Myron takes a step back and throws the keys over outstretched tentacles to Blinky. “Blink,” barks Myron, “I think a squid is kind of like a slug. You know what I mean? Like a slug!”

Blinky does a double-take.

“I think,” says Myron, drawing on universal boyhood knowledge, the pitch of his voice rising as sucker-covered appendages begin to envelop him, “a slug treatment would be a really good idea!”

Blinky shouts like a cowboy, jams the key in the ignition and flips a switch. Then wonnnnnng--there’s the sound of hydraulics groaning, the bed goes up, the load shifts, the gate flaps open, and about a ton and a half of salt spills out on the ground and all over Myron and the Octos. Bam, just as Myron gets his first terrifying glimpse of a beaky Octo-mouth ready to snap his facial bones, his adversaries are screaming and writhing as the salt reacts on their gloopy, viscous funky skin, and they melt into gray marshmallows. Like salt on a slug.

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