Posts Tagged ‘John W Cambell’

Part Six: The Thing

October 26th, 1990. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

Helen parked on Broad street, and remembered how she used to live close by here. She passed a tattoo shop when she got out of her car, where in a window hung a sign for that horror convention. She hoped her brother was having fun, but she wished he would’ve been here with her now. Coming into the Second Street Tavern she could feel everyone’s eyes undressing her. She imagined them sneering when the older man waved to her, she then walked past the pool table and embraced him.

“Thanks for coming hon.” The older man said as he held her tight.

“No problem dad.” Helen said as they both sat down.

A cute woman around Helen’s age with black curly hair and glasses came over to their booth. She smiled at Helen and playfully jabbed her father’s shoulder, saying “Boy Henry, do you have to know every pretty girl in the Lehigh Valley?”

Helen was both amused and slightly startled by her jest. “Only the very pretty ones.” her father laughed before explaining “This is my daughter. You can tell she gets her looks from me.”

“Oh is that right!?!” Helen shot back.

Then her father said “Honey this is Lisa, she works here.”

“Hope he doesn’t give you a hard time.” Helen teased.

“Oh he’s a sweetheart. So what can I get you?”

Helen ordered a Yuengling, her father already had a drink which he took a sip of as Lisa walked away. Helen took off her jacket while her father said  “Thanks for coming out. I appreciate it.”

“Oh it’s not a problem.” she assured him.

“Have you talked to George lately?”

“Yeah I had breakfast with him this morning.” Helen said. “He couldn’t make it. He’s at, he’s…” she didn’t have the heart to tell him why his son wasn’t here when he needed him.

“He’s at one of those horror shows isn’t he?”

“Yeah, yeah he is.” She felt disgusted, almost sick to the stomach as her mouth formed those words. “He should be here”, she thought to herself. This time of year was always rough on Henry, and especially this particular day. “I’m sorry dad.” she said as Lisa returned with Helen’s drink.

His response surprised her. “He’s got to live his own life.” Henry said, taking a drink. “not be stuck in the past like me. How did he look anyway?”

She again felt hesitant as she answered “He’s still been putting on weight. I’m really worried about him actually.”

“Yeah, maybe I should have pushed him harder at sports.” Henry confessed. “He loved football as a kid, I don’t get what happened.”

“I don’t know, I think as a teen he got a different group of friends and then he got all obsessed with his horror movies.”

“Well how come you didn’t go to the show you used to like all that stuff?”

“Yeah,” Helen laughed, “used too.”

The eight ball sank at the nearby pool table. Helen took a drink, and felt a little tense as a man in a denim jacket approached with a pool stick in hand, “Shit,” she thought. She didn’t care to shoot pool right now, especially against strange men. This guy was older too, maybe even her father’s age. Unlike her father he had a scruffy beard to match his long dark brownish hair. The man smiled at her before turning to her father. “You’re next Henry!” the man said.

“Alright!” Henry chugged down his beer before turning to his daughter. “Excuse me hon, I’m gonna knock Phil here off the table. You should put a pair of quarters up next, I’m gonna be playing for a while.”

Helen was happy to see her father’s confidence. Soon the sound of billiard balls being knocked around was accompanied by the twang of a guitar. Looking over at the small stage on the other end of the bar, she saw that trademark tannish colored hat and sunglasses. Steve Brosky, a well known local musician, started his set. While his tunes filled the bar, Helen’s mind drifted back to the days when she lived just down the road. 

October 26th, 1976. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

Mom came home drunk again. Helen could smell the alcohol as soon as her mother got through the door. She never remembered this happening when they lived in Wisconsin, but as soon as  they settled into their new home it seemed to be happening a lot. It was getting to be hard on dad too. At least this time they fought in the bedroom. Helen could still hear them yelling at each other, but at least she could sit in the living room and watch TV. She turned the volume up as The Thing From Another World was on. She figured George would like this. She’d just read the story ‘Who Goes There’ by John W. Cambell, which this movie was based on. She found she liked the book better. She was getting to that age where she started to realize books were often better than movies.

Her little brother hadn’t reached that stage yet. He was sticking with his King Kong and Mummy movies. She tried introducing him to some old scary stories she liked to read, like Yours Truly Jack the Ripper, or Something Wicked This Way Comes, but he found them boring. 

This was boring too apparently, as she saw George fumbling through his Movie Monsters book before going to his comics. She never bothered with Laser Man or Neutron Man or whatever it was he liked to read, but at least he was reading something. She noticed George’s attention did turn back to the TV when a commercial for channel 69 news came on. At 11pm, the newscaster said, they would have an update on the Son of Sam killings. Helen might not have liked comic books, but she really hated how every day George read about Son of Sam in the newspaper. He was fascinated by it, especially since New York City was only a few hours from their home. Maybe he was too young to understand how things like this really happened to people, like that thing that happened to her Aunt. No one ever talked about it, but something really bad happened to Dad’s sister, or maybe it didn’t really happen, she couldn’t tell, but her Aunt got really sick and then she died. In fact, it was a year ago today that she passed. That’s why her dad moved them across the country. It was just too sad for him to stay around Wisconsin. 

At the age of thirteen something was already happening to Helen. There was a boy, Michael, at their new school, he was always looking at her in class. She even caught him following her home one day. She was walking with her friends by the park across from Nitschmann Middle School, and she saw Michael lurking behind a row of bushes. She turned to tell her friends, but when she looked back he was gone. Last Sunday when she was watching football with her family the same thing happened. She looked out the window and she saw him across the street, just standing there, staring. She told her dad about it, but when he looked out the window no one was there. 

The Thing came back on TV, and as she resumed watching she heard a voice. “Helen, Helen.”

She looked around and realized she was now alone in the room. “George, George where are you?”

“George is gone…”  The voice whispered.

Her first instinct was that her little brother was pulling a prank on her, but that voice didn’t sound like George. It was low, almost hoarse like. Still, she shouted “George I’ll kill you if this is a joke!”

Then she saw the curtain move. “You looked really pretty in class today.” She audibly gasped, only one thought screamed in her brain. “Michael is in her house!” Her hand, now trembling, moved to reach the curtain, dreading to reveal the truth that lurked behind it.

A boy’s arms sprung out at her, she screamed as loud as she could. Falling backwards, she knocked a lamp over. There was a flash of light and a puff of smoke as the bulb busted and bits on glass embedded into the carpet. Now the room was only lit by the black white glow from the TV.

“What the hell is going on out here!” Her father shouted as he stormed into the room.

“He scared me!” She pointed at her brother while wiping her tears. George was still laughing, but he stopped that quick once she gave him a good smack.

Her father wasn’t interested in justice, her father was interested in peace and quiet. He angrily turned the TV off and barked “Both of you go to your room!”

Helen desperately pleaded, “but dad!”

“I SAID GO TO YOUR ROOM!”