Null was a guinea pig; part of a research study. Null turned over in bed. Somewhere, out beyond the water, were the Chupa. Up the hill, the command center was a lazy, prefab concrete dinosauroid, stretching over the flat expanse of volcanic landscape.
Steps led upward to the glass door mouth. Right now, he was bait for the Chupas. Captain Centrifugo (Spin-Dry?) was somewhere wandering the concrete and linoleum hallways up there, his pock-marked complexion eerily yellow in the perpetual glare of the fluorescent lights.
1. Latin American UFO Abductions
“Señor, what is it you are seeking here?”
He supposed he could have answered, like Roy Neary, and said, “An answer. Is that so crazy.” Instead, all he was seeking right now was sleep. He rolled over in bed, surprised at the cool cleanliness of the sheets, the air-conditioned room. The subtropical temperatures couldn’t touch him here, and he wouldn’t sweat in bed. Outside, he could gaze through the window, imagine the milling throngs of ghosts left over from the mysterious natural disaster that had devastated this island chain nearly ten years ago.
He had seen a video earlier of a tour by an American heavy metal band.
Blastica, or something along those lines. They were huge, enormous, and they had set a gig on the remote island to show they could play ANYWHERE and attract 160,000 fans.
And do you know what?
Their bass player, Mipps Frenzy, who had died in a skiing tragedy in Aspen, was there, wearing an old-fashioned leather coat with a fringe hanging from the sleeves. Or maybe it was just a look-alike. The camera panned across the stage to the place, somewhere in back and to the left, the supporting act (an ancient hard rock ensemble who had eschewed their customary makeup and theatrics and decided to go with their actual faces in front of the audience–which left many wishing for the old days of the makeup again) rehearsed, drunkenly, badly. They knew they were playing second fiddle to a band that had come along long after they had, but, alas! That’s rock n’ roll, right?
The singer/guitarist, Big Jim Wetmore, came to the mic, and was joined by a member of yet another band, a band that dressed in styrofoam costumes and makeup to make themselves look like comic book monsters.
Their shtick was shooting stage blood, as well as other substances, at their audience.
This particular band member looked a little like a Roman centurion. He came to the mic, mouthed something that rumbled across the landscape, looked out over the almost unbelievable sea of faces assembled at the edge of the stage, stepped back, and slowly began to burst into flames from within. The self-immolation gimmick was great for the crowd; how he managed to accomplish it is anyone’s guess.
Big Jim sprouted a curious look on his bearded face as the Heavy Metal Centurion collapsed to the stage, a pile of reeking, blackened bones.
“Was that f—— supposed to happen?” he rumbled over the PA, quite unintentionally. The PA was the loudest that had ever been in use since the harnessing of electrical power over a century ago.
A mighty quivering went out about the land. The seas foamed and shook, the ground began to crack open, a massive tidal wave loomed overhead…the screams of hundreds of thousands blotted out the soundcheck.
Gunnar Gustafson, the drummer for Blastika, murmured, “Oh sh-t. I guess this means no deli tray.”
Thousands were buried under the shifting tons of wet water and sand, arms grasping upward in terror and horror as the maelstrom swept overhead. Big Jim looked up at heaven with a beatific smile.
“Lord, I know I don’t deserve it, but…”
Suddenly, the chop-chop of a chopper came chopping skyward, the band’s manager Lupe Garu, hanging out the side with a rope ladder in one hand and a fistful of dollars in the other. “It’s okay boys, I got paid just before the big one hit. Come on up!” Lupe said this through a megaphone, which he was juggling around with the stack of bills, and the edge of the ladder.
“Oh, thank you Jesus,” murmured Big Jim. He ran up to the rope ladder, thinking, mysteriously, about how much Lupe looked like Bob Hoskins in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” movie, and grabbed it in two powerful, guitar-picking hands.
Hanging there, he was not surprised when Gunnar raced up and grabbed his ankles–it wasn’t the first time that had happened.
Beneath Gunnar, Dave Davey was hanging on to Miggles Martinez, all of Blastika were airborne, and pulled slowly inside the rescue helicopter by hydraulic crane.
Below them, 160,000 fans were swept away into oblivion.
“Easiest gas money I ever made,” said Big Jim.
2. The Chupa are Everywhere
Null rolled around in his bunk. Outside, he fancied the stars were growing bright hot, orange. Had he been dreaming? It was something about the disaster that had struck these islands years ago, rendering a huge section of the population ghosts.
it was all fading now. Outside, the bright orange spots (there were no crime lights in this country) seemed to loom larger and larger; he suddenly realized he was bait, bait for the Chupa, bait for the flying, box-like vampires that sucked the blood of native and ate the eyes, testicles, and other soft organs of farm animals, drained them dry, but left most of their meat and fat mysteriously to rot.
He felt the first few tendrils of fear lick his scalp. It made him feel dizzy. My, but those were bright, bright lights. They floated over yonder hill (really a small mountain) casting their glow upon the dense jungle below.
“Could be anything,” he said to himself. “Could be I’m still asleep and dreaming.”
He got up from bed on wobbly legs, backed away from the window, went out into the short corridor. Here, he was alone. Up the stone steps (which were flanked, on either side, by beautiful flower beds, giving the prefab headquarters above the feel of a sacred temple to those ascending), he pattered, going through the headquarters doors, and looking around for signs of life.
Just as he suspected, it was curiously lax here, as far as security. One soldier sat at a computer terminal, playing solitaire. He hardly acknowledged Null as he came in, a comic little figure still dressed in his pajamas, bare feet slipping on the linoleum.
“What you want?”
Null was silent for a moment, In truth, he wasn’t sure.
“Captain Centrifugo. I want to see Captain Centrifugo.”
The soldier leaned back, stretched, yawned.
He considered Null, who looked like a midget or child without shoes. Like a village boy.
“Okay. I’ll page him. He likes to work late, as you know. Way past your bedtime, amigo.”
It was moments later they were standing on the steps, looking out over the low sleeping-quarters nestled, like a laboratory womb, at the bottom of the hill.
“This place in a dip. So is easy to see over the next ridge, senor.” Captain Spin-Dry (Centrifugo, whatever) stood on the steps, looking expectantly at the mountain beyond. The orange, flare-like lights still hovered there, menacingly, bobbing slightly, as if suspended by wires. Silent, they brooded over the edge of the compound.
“There is a chemical plant out there. Could be the lights from the plant.” Captain Spin-Dry had a heavy accent, a heavy black moustache, a complexion a little like Manuel Noriega, who he faintly resembled.
“I-I am not convinced. Yet.” he sounded intrigued, though. Null didn’t ant to go back to his bedroom; he felt like a dead duck there.
The soft, warm breeze rustled through the palms.
“There is a chemical plant out there…”