“ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION: September, 1930” declared the stencilled lettering on the side of the crate. Mike Hooper had found the box hidden amongst the usual items in a far corner of the Mil-Mart department store stock room.
Mike, a young man with sandy-brown hair and spectacles, had accepted employment as a stock-boy at the local branch of the great American retail chain in order to earn enough money to keep attending college. An intelligent, inquisitive boy from a somewhat impoverished family, he had endured the jabs and jokes of both his college peers, who thought it humorous that someone would have to work a labour job in order to achieve an higher education, and the blue-collar types of his neighbourhood, who naturally hated any thought of learning.
Clad in his Mil-Mart overalls, young Hooper had entered the cavernous stockroom at the back of the shop that morning, when the floor manager had ordered him to fetch some items to replenish the knickers display in the ladies’ department. Out of the corner of his eye, Mike Hooper had noticed a crate that did not seem to look as if it belonged with the others. Perhaps it had been delivered here by mistake. The store was, after all, just down the street from a scientific research centre, and they had gotten strange things accidentally left here before, including a shipment of test-tubes that had baffled most of the employees as to their possible use.
Nevertheless, this was something stranger still.
Fascinated, Mike opened the top of the crate. The inside had a musty odour, and the young man wondered if it had actually not been opened in all those decades. Inside, he beheld an object, something about the size and general shape of a soccer ball, packed amongst rotting excelsior.
Mike Hooper reached in his hand and removed the object, hoping to examine it in the large floodlight that shone from the high stockroom ceiling. The thing was a mottled green in colour, its surface rough and somewhat of the texture of a leaf.
“It almost looks like… ” said Hooper to himself, “a large seedpod!””
It was then that Mike moved the object closer to his face in an attempt to ascertain of what exactly it was made. This was a mistake on his part, forsooth, a mistake indeed, and one that was going to lead to incidents of extreme eldritch madness and egregious horror beyond all sane imaginings. For it was at that moment that the contact of Mike Hooper’s exhaled breath upon the object caused a portion of it to crack open.
Before he could further react, young Mike Hooper found himself attacked by something -- something green and growing, something like a creeping vine that shot forth with numerous tendrils from the interior of the object and immediately attached itself to his face, breaking his eyeglasses. The tendrils then plunged into his mouth and nostrils, stifling any scream that such an attack wouldst normally cause.
It was then that Mike Hooper, Mil-Mart department store employee and struggling college student, sank to the floor of the stockroom, overcome by the powers of an unknown alien horror that was entering his body! …
My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.
Whilst most Algolites tend to keep to themselves, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.
Currently assigned to Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.
I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …
It was only a few days after our encounter with that horrid renegade Algolite, known to eternal damnation as the Nemesister, when Millie Drake and I decided to go shopping. A young lady of my own race, the Watchers of Algol, Millie had nevertheless spent much of her earlier life upon Earth and thus has the typical girlish love of browsing retail shops.
It was thus that we arrived that sunny day at the huge Mil-Mart department store -- located in the Timonium area of northern Baltimore County, Maryland -- in my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, affectionately known as “Lizzie”. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat.
Millie is a ravishingly-beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious pink lips. She was clad in a short, tight, cherry-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, wondrously-adolescent figure.
With us was Kit-10, our friend and personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small metallic cat.
“It really is such a nice day today, Daniel,” said Millie whilst we walked across the parking lot, hand-in-hand, “and it is so sweet of you to bring me here.”
“It is my pleasure, Mills,” I replied. “Hopefully we can spend some quality time away from our usual work, hmmm?”
Nevertheless, little did we realise, as we entered the large Mil-Mart department store that day, that we were about to face one of the strangest and most bizarre alien threats ever to be known.
Mil-Mart is a place that has become a staple of American society. Founded several decades previously by a Midwestern businessman by the name of Sam Milton, the chain of massive department stores is known for its reasonable prices and far-reaching assortment of goods for sale. Equally popular amongst impoverished folks and penny-pinching rich misers, it has continued to grow in popularity over the years. Even the encroaching competition of internet-based retail has done little to effectively challenge the Mil-Mart domination of the retail sales scene. The store’s offering of everything from clothing to electronics to major appliances to toys to jewellery to pharmaceuticals to groceries has made them the go-to establishment for the everyday needs of countless individuals and families across the land. Indeed, the continued success of Mil-Mart has served as an inspiration for many upcoming and hopeful would-be entrepreneurs, and shows no signs whatsoever of abating anytime soon. That it also, on a darker tone, has become a symbolic byword for capitalism gone mad is also of interest and, in truth, a subject for another time.
We strolled around the shop for a while, looking at the featured items with little Kit-10 following close behind. The other shoppers did not pay much attention to the robotic feline, except for a couple of inquisitive children who giggled at the sight of her.
“I say, look at that,” I exclaimed upon seeing a special display at the gentlemen’s accessories department. “Those are quite nice indeed, hmmm?”
It was a display of colourful silk handkerchiefs, brightly-hued and shiny, and I walked over to get a closer look at them.
“I bet they are not as good as those ones you have, Daniel,” stated Millie. “You know, the ones with built-in healing powers.”
“True, these are not quite up to that level,” I agreed, “but they are still quite nice for more common purposes, hmmm? I rather like the colours, especially these with the flower designs. Why, they look rather Hawaiian!”
“Hey, I am going to look at a few things in the girls’ department, okay?” asked Millie with a quick kiss on my cheek.
“Sure, my love,” I acquiesced. “We can meet later at the store café. Kit-10, be a good kitty-cat and go with Miss Drake, hmmm?”
“This unit is not a cat, s--,” complained the robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice, but then gliding off behind Millie. Despite her denials, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike characteristics, one of which is her dislike of openly showing respect for anyone. The closest she can come to calling me “sir” is that slight “s--” sound. Similarly, she tends to call Millie “m--”, for “ma’am”.
I continued browsing through the handkerchiefs for a few moments until I noticed one of the shop’s employees near by. It was a young man with sandy-brown hair, his overall-type uniform looking more appropriate for the stockroom than the sales floor. His nametag said “Mike”. Then I noticed something else about him. His skin was showing a strange hue, indeed, a decidedly greenish tinge.
“Pardon me, young man,” I said, “but are you feeling all right?”
He did not answer, but then took a step closer, fixing his eyes directly upon me. I noticed they were now glowering with the same green colouration, which grew more darksome and oddly menacing as he again moved in my direction.
It was then that the horror, in very sooth the supreme and ungodly otherworldly menace that my friends and I were fated to face that day suddenly became manifest, and manifest it did in a show of hideous and utterly-grotesque fear far beyond all sane imaginings. For it was then that, from the young man’s mouth, nostrils, ears, and yes, even from his eyes, a mass of quivering green tentacles shot forth and headed directly to-wards me!!
I quickly took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen) from my pocket and aimed it to-wards the ceiling of the shop, activating a certain sonic tone directly at one of the large track-lighting fixtures. It shattered, and a shower of red-hot sparks came down upon the writhing mass of aggressive greenery that had once been a department store stock-boy.
The thing quaked in pain and quickly backed away from me. I saw that it had by now overcome with its grotesque vegetation anything that had remained of Mike. The unfortunate lad’s body had just served as a host and feeding source for the extraterrestrial plant creature that had usurped it.
The monster then suddenly sprouted forth in all directions, fast building up a veritable wall of quivering greenery right down the centre of the Mil-Mart sales floor.
“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “It appears that the plant-life is revolting.”
“You got that right,” said a man’s voice behind me. “It’s downright sickening.”
It was one of the customers, a middle-aged man of the working-class sort, wearing a t-shirt and dungarees. He was rather heavy-set, with reddish-grey hair, blue-grey eyes, and a florid complexion.
“My name’s Bill,” he announced with pride. “What’s yours?”
“Rumanos,” I told him. “Dr. Daniel Rumanos.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, insisting upon shaking my hand. “Where did you get your doctor degree?”
“A place called Daemonia.”
“Can’t say as I’ve heard of it,” he wondered. “Is it in Canada or something?”
“Quite likely so,” I lied.
“So you got any idea what’s going on here, Doctor?” enquired Bill.
“Yes, it appears that one of the employees has been taken over by a species of alien vegetable life. I believe it is of the type known as a Kloryphoid.”
“So he’s some plant monster from Outer Space, is he?” asked the man. “One of them UFO alien things?”
“More or less,” I agreed. “The Kloryphoid is a floral species totally opposed to all animal life. On planets where they become established, they overgrow everything, destroying all fauna-type life forms.”
“Sounds like something them damned democrats would like,” he said. “It’s all just un-American if you ask me.”
I looked at the wall of foliage that had grown up in the middle of the sales floor, effectively blocking off the remainder of the shop
“My friend is in there, and I need to get to her,” I stated.
“Your friend?” asked Bill. “A man or a woman?”
“A young girl,“ I said. “Her name is Millie. No relation to Mil-Mart.”
“A little girl? By God, we gotta save her even if she is a Canadian! Well, I know something that will help,” announced Bill. “Wait, I’ll go get it!”
Then, without another word, Bill disappeared around a corner of one of the displays. …
Millie and Kit-10 were in the cosmetics department when the grotesque wall of greenery had suddenly appeared. Of course, the girl then immediately enquired of Kit-10 as to what was occurring.
“Accessing database,” replied the robot. “Sensors seem to match with records of a type of alien plant life known as the Kloryphoid. Invades planets via seedpods ejected through Space. They grow by digesting animal life as fertilizer.”
“Fertilizer?” shuddered the lass.
“Affirmative,” answered the mechanical cat. “The Kloryphoid will eventually overgrow completely any planet on which they can become established.”
“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the girl. “Is there any way to stop it?”
“Insufficient data,” returned the robot.
“Is there a way to get through it and find Daniel?” pleaded Millie.
“Sorry, m--,” replied Kit-10. “No information available.”
It was then that a truly unspeakable horror occurred. For at that moment the horrid alien plant-life that had grown up around the girl and the little robot suddenly became quite animated, reaching out countless tendrils in its search for more unmentionable sustenance -- for something on which to feed its ongoing and unholy growth.
Millie Drake screamed as the wall of grotesque greenery closed in upon them!! …
I programmed a certain sequence into the transonic turnscrew, activating it to send a signal, a type of radio transmission or broadcast. I then returned the device to my jacket pocket.
The remainder of the shop’s employees and customers had already fled the building, and I remained seemingly-alone on this side of the wall of green until the man who had introduced himself by the name of Bill reappeared from around the corner. He was carrying a very large-calibre gun of the type used in hunting big game.
“Lucky they had one of these left in sporting goods,” he said.
“An elephant gun?” I exclaimed with astonishment. “They actually sell them at Mil-Mart?”
“Of course, Doctor!” announced Bill. “It’s my right as an American to carry any kind of firearm! You got something against the Second Amendment?”
“Nothing in particular,” I rejoined.
“Good!” he proclaimed. “Because I want to help you save that kid you say is over there on the other side of that thing, but I wouldn’t want to think I was helping some damned commie!” …
Back in the makeup aisle, Millie Drake was screaming in extreme unmitigated fear as the dreadful grasping tendrils of the horrible Kloryphoid closed in upon her and Kit-10.
Do you see the unhallowed fear in this, readers? The horrid eldritch terror of the Kloryphoid was now threatening the safety and wellbeing -- forsooth, the very life -- of that beautiful young girl! Its horrid tendrils could use her in order to feed upon in its continued growth as it went on to spread over and conquer the planet!
Then, the mechanical cat suddenly went into action. She quickly pivoted around and shot a beam of highly-focused light from her metal nose. The laser hit the surface of the green Kloryphoid wall and caused the eldritch alien horror to shake and wobble. Kit-10 then hit the thing with several more blasts of her inbuilt weapon on different parts of its hideous surface.
The disgusting tendrils then retreated. The Kloryphoid was not seriously harmed, but it had suffered pain from the beams of Kit-10’s nose-laser and had, at least for the moment, halted its intention to devour young Millie Drake.
The lass was about to offer her gratitude to the robotic feline when she noticed that Kit-10 was emitting a sound, a noise like the interference sometimes heard when one radio broadcast crosses and interferes with another.
“What is happening, Kit-10?” asked the girl.
“Receiving a transmission,” announced Kit-10.
“Is it from Daniel?” queried Millie Drake expectantly.
“What does he say?”
“Encoded message to be rebroadcast to pre-programmed recipients.”
“Do you mean he is sending a radio signal to someone for assistance?”
“Insufficient information, m--,” answered the metallic puss. …
Bill raised the elephant gun to-wards the wall of creeping foliage that was part of the body of the Kloryphoid -- that terrifying plant-creature that so horribly and grotesquely threatened to overwhelm and destroy the human race and, in full and unmitigated truth, all animal life upon the planet!
“Go to hell, you Goddamn liberal plant monster!” the man shouted as he pulled the trigger.
With an humongous bang the gun discharged its shell, putting a gaping hole in the horrid alien greenery. The Kloryphoid shuddered with such intensity that it shook the department store building, but then, with amazing rapidity, there suddenly shot forth myriad tendrils that surrounded Bill, taking its unmentionable revenge by choking the life from him within mere seconds. I saw him fall to the floor when the bizarre vines parted.
Nonetheless, I realised that his sacrifice had not been in vain, for the hole he had made would be just large enough for me to get through to Millie and Kit-10. I ran to it at top speed, regardless of all other danger in this effort to save my friends.
As I hurried through, I beheld the strangled corpse of Bill, lifeless and mangled upon the floor.
“Poor fellow,” said I. “Oh well -- at least he died a good American.”
I managed to get through the gap and soon found Millie Drake and the robotic feline.
“Oh, Daniel!” cheered the girl, running into my arms. “I am so glad to see you! I knew you would come!”
“Of course, my love,” said I. “Here, we have no time to lose!”
I then picked up the beautiful young Millie Drake and held her close as I ran back to-wards the gap.
“Come along, Kit-10!” I encouraged our robotic friend who was gliding along just behind us.
“Danger, s--!” warned the metal cat.
Kit-10 had noticed that the hole was closing, and that it would quickly become too small for us to fit through. In response, she deftly fired off her laser in a circle, burning the edges all around the gap and thus causing the Kloryphoid to again shudder.
“Good shooting, Kit-10!” I praised. “You deserve some catnip for that!”
“This unit is not a cat, s--,” complained the robot.
The hole had now stopped lessening, and we all managed to slip through it unharmed.
“Millie, that thing is a creature called the Kloryphoid,” I explained as we continued along, “and it…”
“I know,” she interrupted. “Kit-10 told me.”
I carried Millie out of the store, holding the lass close in order to shield her from the horrible writhing tendrils of the hideous Kloryphoid. Kit-10 followed close behind, utilising her nose-laser as necessary in order to aid in holding off the green monstrosity.
None the less, a greater horror was still to occur, indeed a terror of proportions beyond all that we had thus far encountered on that bizarre day of totally unmitigated and indeed dreadfully ungodly fear.
It was just as we got outside that it happened. The monstrous Kloryphoid, that deadly plant creature that threatened to destroy all life upon Earth, burst through the top of the building, the grotesque thing towering far above the parking lot as its form continued to grow larger and larger!
Do you comprehend the supreme and ungodly horror, in truth the most extreme and deadly terror of this situation, my dear readers? The Kloryphoid, that alien monster, that insane and obscene thing that should not exist in any sane world, the same horrible extraterrestrial plant-being that threatened to overgrow the entire planet Earth, in such wiping out all other life upon this unsuspecting world, had for now grown to a size bigger than the Mil-Mart department store, and was now beginning to reach its horrid grasping tendrils out across the parking lot!
We ran to Lizzie and I helped Millie into her seat in the trusty old roadster. Then with Kit-10 sitting beside us, I jumped in the driver’s seat and activated the car’s engine, gunning the petrol pedal to escape the hideous Kloryphoid tendrils that were even then reaching out for us.
“We need to get away, Mills,” I told her, “but the Kloryphoid must be stopped. It will continue to grow until it overwhelms the entire planet, feeding upon all animal life until nothing remains. Then, when it is fully established, it will eject numerous seedpods into Space. Most will drift harmlessly forever in the void, but there is a chance than some of them will invade other fertile worlds, continuing the cycle of hideous and unholy vegetation that is the way of the Kloryphoid!”
“So what can be done to stop that thing, Daniel?” returned the girl.
“I have hopefully set up something that could do the job if all goes well,” I answered.
It was then that I heard the most welcome sound of jet engines far above us and indeed quite fast approaching.
“Yes!” I cheered. “Help is on the way! Look!”
As we drove away from the parking lot, a squadron of sleek fighter planes suddenly came into view, quickly advancing to just above the horrible Kloryphoid and letting loose with a barrage of advanced weaponry sure to firebomb the alien horror into total oblivion.
“Daniel, is that… ?” enquired Millie.
“Yes, my love,” I replied. “That is the United States Air Force!”
“Wait… I think I understand now!” cheered the girl. “That was the message Kit-10 received! You sent it to her to relay to the Air Force!”
“Quite right, Mills,” I affirmed. “I sent an encoded message to the USAF, utilising the encryption given me by my old friend General Alexander Gorton-Steward, head of the elite United Sates Military Special Forces Unit that is secretly charged with fighting all extraterrestrial and otherwise-unusual threats to the peace and safety of this great nation -- and, indeed, if his mandate means anything at all, to the entire world!”
I heard the sound of massive explosions from behind us, and looked into the rear-view mirror to view the incredible conflagration as the Air Force jets razed Mil-Mart -- along with the horrid alien terror of the Kloryphoid -- to the ground, burning out the evil, the extreme unhallowed horror, of that extraterrestrial invader!
“That will take care of it, Mills,” I assured the lovely lass. “The planet Earth is saved, and the horror of the Kloryphoid is no more.” …
Later that day, Millie and I relaxed over a meal of takeaway Chinese food at our headquarters, located as it is in the golden trapezoidal roof of a downtown Baltimore skyscraper. Kit-10, as catlike as ever, had already powered down and put her systems in hibernation mode for the evening.
“So, Daniel, I was wondering,” said the girl. “Is it kind of weird that we just happened to be at Mil-Mart when the Kloryphoid appeared?”
“Oh, I really do not think it was a coincidence, love,” I admitted between sips of my tea.
“The Kosmikos again?” she questioned.
“Possibly, my dear, quite possibly. Although I must say that it is indeed not at all unusual to run into strangeness in the Baltimore area, hmmm? The entire region was built over what was once an outpost of Atlantis, and vestiges of the advanced technology of that lost civilisation tend to be an attraction for otherworldly phenomena.”
“Sounds like we are going to have a lot of work to do then -- and in a lot of places!”
“Indeed we shall, my love.” I agreed. “Indeed we shall.”
As for that Mil-Mart location, it was rebuilt and reopened within a few months. Of course, no mention of man-eating extraterrestrial plant-life was ever made in any legally-circulated report. The official story was that it had all just been closed due to a particularly virulent outbreak of some “coronavirus” amongst its employees. In order to cover this, the governments of the world fabricated the story of a pandemic of the same disease that lasted for some time and -- as almost-inconceivably strange as this is to relate -- was barely questioned by the public at large. Just another example of the total nonsense that people are so unbelievably willing to immediately accept as fact.
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE HORROR AT MONTAUK”