Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Warm Day at the National Zoo

Dr. Devi Rajatala was at the National Zoo, watching the tigress interact with her three growing cubs, who kept trying to sneak up and pounce on her. Dr. Rajatala laughed until she cried, homesick for India. She sat down on a nearby bench to fetch a kleenex for her wet face and soak up some unusually warm November sunshine. She loved the National Arboretum, but there just weren't enough animals there--every now and then, she had to come here to see something bigger than a squirrel. She reflected on her earlier visits to the Bird House and the Amazonia Exhibit, hoping to find a pink warbler--which Angela de la Paz had insisted she had seen at the Arboretum. It can't exist! There's no such thing! She couldn't find it on the internet, but Angela was so sure. Could it be a freak mutation, right in the Arboretum? Angela was either completely wrong, or Dr. Rajatala really needed to be bringing in some experts to hunt for that bird.

Sebastian L'Arche walked past her to get a closer look at the tiger cubs. One of them kept leaping onto mom's back, only to get promptly dumped and shoved aside. Another kept sneaking up the rear to take wild grabs at mom's teats, but mom would have none of that either. A third watched from the distance, apparently resigned to mom's cruelty and coldness. Mom walked off again, only to be stalked one more time. This time the pounces resulted in extended mock battle with gentle pawing and wrestling pins. Mom was teaching her kids to be tough: tigresses invented tough love. L'Arche didn't even have that much training when he was called up in the Army Reserves to go to Iraq. People were animals in Iraq. That's why he was a pet courier now--all he knew how to do was move miserable animal prisoners around. Sometimes they snarled, sometimes they sulked, and sometimes they snapped, but he eventually won over all of their hearts. His secret was that he knew exactly how they felt--he had been both prisoner and jailer, and sometimes still wondered if he was man or beast. He knew exactly how caged animals felt...except he couldn't figure out why they all hated being driven over the Potomac River.

Golden Fawn knew all about Ardua of the Potomac--she just didn't know how much was real and how much was crazy dream stuff stemming from the memory of her grandmother's stories. Golden Fawn stood next to L'Arche, leaning on the fence, mesmerized by the family dynamics. Her mother had been nothing like this tigress....Still, Golden Fawn was afraid to tell her mother about the dreams she kept having about Ardua, or the pink warblers.

Far away, in the dark abandoned path next to the hiding (tourist-unfriendly) wallaby, a man pushing a baby stroller slowly approached another man pushing a baby stroller. The first man whispered something about the recent assasinations in London and Beirut. The second man whispered something about Dick Cheney's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, then handed the first man a sippy cup full of mini cassettes. A nearby catbird was mocking the wallaby, then cocked its head at the spies and began mocking a car alarm. The babies had nothing to look at except the catbird, and it made them cry, so the spies split up to return to their wives. Deep in its hiding place, the wallaby warily watched them recede, a pink warbler nestled in its pouch.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

War Casualties

Dubious McGinty watched the news in disgust as Dubyah Bush finally set foot in Vietnam, 35 years later than Dubious did. "What?!" he hollered out from his perch in the abandoned office of the Potomac River drawbridge. Dubyah was being filmed standing next to a statue of Ho Chi Minh. "What the hell??!! Why was my buds dying over there to keep that bastard out of Saigon?! You just gonna go kiss his ass now, so you can start making more money, 'cause you haven't made enough goddam money yet in every other pisspoor country in the Third World??!!" He couldn't take the rage and frustration anymore. Nothing made sense in this damned world. He jumped off the bridge into the dark, cold river. His buddies died in Vietnam for nothing, but his death was gonna count! He was going to die taking out Ardua.

Cruising nearby, Coast Guard officer Marcos Sanchez saw Dubious jump into the river. "Damn it!" His partner shut off the motor, and Marcos dove into the murky water after the faint trail of carbon dioxide bubbles. Marcos could barely see a thing, but he finally made out Dubious flailing around...as if he were punching something. Marcos tried to grab hold of Dubious, but it was impossible. Marcos finally punched Dubious in the head to knock him unconscious, cinched their rescue line, and gave the signal for his partner to reel them in. Marcos panted heavily as his partner pulled Dubious into the boat for first aid. The still unconscious Dubious was coughing up water as Marcos finally regained his breath and reached up to hoist himself into the boat. For a split second, he thought he felt something slither around his feet, but he kicked at it and leapt into the boat.

Ten minutes later, they were heading for the dock closest to Georgetown University Hospital. Dubious was still yelling how he hated (the much closer) George Washington Hospital and wouldn't go there. "It's always crawlin with those damn Secret Service jerks, and those Reagan bastards-I hate it!" Dubious had spent several years in the psych ward there, including the year Reagan had been brought in with a bleeding gunshot. Dubious liked Georgetown Hospital better because some of the nurses were nuns and very nice, and sometimes a priest would come and give out wine. Dubious was breathing regularly now, and muttering slowly.

He looked up at Marcos and said, "Why did you do it? I almost had her!"

"Had who?"

"Ardua of the Potomac!"

"Who's that?"

"She's doing it all, man! She's doing it all! Didn't you feel her there? We gotta kill her!"

"Nobody's doing any killing tonight."

"Oh, SHE is! She ALWAYS is!"

"Enough!" His partner told him to stop arguing with Dubious.

"Look," said Marcos. "Let's tell them we just saw him in the water. If they know he jumped off the bridge, they'll go check it out and find his place."

"Are you kidding me?"

"He's better off there than in the psych ward."

"Are you kidding me?"

"He never jumped before--and he won't again, right?"

Dubious looked over at the two officers dubiously. "I gotta kill her. Nobody else knows how evil she is."

"OK," said Marcos. "We'll figure out how to kill her without your jumping off the bridge--OK?"

"OK."

"Are you kidding me?" His partner rolled his eyes and steered the boat in.

On the west side of the demon-infected Potomac River, Hue Nguyen had also just seen the news footage of Bush in Vietnam. It had been three decades since Hue's mother had been raped repeatedly on the refugee boat out of Vietnam. Hue's father had already been killed, and could not protect his wife, or the three children watching helplessly, seared forever. Hue remembered that boat ride like it was yesterday. She had expected her mother to curse the communists forever, but it was the U.S. she had cursed. She only sought refuge in the U.S. for the sake of the children--otherwise, she would have held out for Australia. Hue was taken aback by the sight of Bush in Saigon, and forgot for a moment that she was on duty at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged. She snapped off the TV testily and announced it was time for meds. Larry looked up, surprised. He had seen the news report about Vietnam, and he thought he was back in Harrisonburg, the year he got drafted to Vietnam. He was nervous about going over there. Maybe the meds would help with that?

On the east side of the demon-infected Potoma River, Laura Moreno had also just seen the news footage of Bush in Vietnam, then the revelation that yet another CIA spook had written a book explaining how he had known that the WMD "intelligence" on Iraq was worthless. "And you're telling us this now because...?" But she knew the reason--to make money on his book. God forbid that somebody had actually blown the whistle three years ago and stopped the invasion of Iraq. Nobody in the government had the guts to stand up then. Nobody had the character.

She turned off the TV and closed her eyes, thinking about all the funerals she had seen at Arlington National Cemetery the day before. The one she had gone to--for an elderly widow of a deceased World War II veteran--was over in about five minutes, the bereaved hustled in and out of the waiting room and gravesite like a short-order for eggs and bacon. Actual military veterans got a service a little longer and more dignified, but still, they were on the clock. The only thing that looked like a real Arlington burial was for the soldier killed on active duty: a military band, and seven horses drawing the flag-draped casket carriage. Something out of a dramatic Hollywood movie--except they were happening daily at Arlington now.

Back on the Potomac, Marcos Sanchez and partner were taking the boat out on patrol again. Marcos had changed into dry clothes but still felt uncomfortable. He loathed this river, as he had never loathed any body of water in his life. He stared out at the wet gloom and slowly started crying for the college friend he had watched buried yesterday at Arlington. Marcos wished they had given his friend a horse parade with marching band while he was still alive. He tried to swallow his tears but couldn't, so he spit into the river and shivered in the cold wind.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stand Up

Psychologist Leo Schwartz was pleading for the last time for Theresa to stand up. After watching last night's PBS "Nova" program on the Turkish family that walked on all fours, Theresa had taken to walking the same way. When asked why she was walking that way, Theresa had given half a dozen different reasons throughout the day--ranging from "it will confuse the aliens" to "it will help drain the rattlesnakes out of my head". Dr. Schwartz really did not want to tinker with Theresa's meds again. Social worker Hue Nguyen whispered to Dr. Schwartz, "She will probably forget all about it when she wakes up in the morning." Dr. Schwartz was sick of her being right all the time about the residents of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged. Theresa curled up on the rug like a cat and examined her calloused hands for a few minutes. Seeing a catbird outside pretending to sing like a sparrow, Theresa jumped up and bear-walked outside to throw rocks at it.

Across the Potomac, Coast Guard Officer Marcos Vasquez was on the phone with his mother in Puerto Rico. She was in a horrible rheumatoid arthritis flair, but she tried never to tell him. He could hear the pain in her voice, and knew that it meant his aunt had not been helping mama with the groceries or laundry this week. Mami could barely walk.

Several miles away, a panel chief from the Food and Drug Administration was creeping his way through the Cabin John Bridge traffic jam. Below him, Ardua sensed an opportunity and reached up to cramp his muscles, pinch his nerves, and inflame his joints. He decided to approve the new rheumatoid arthritis drug, even though the trial results suggested it had a six percent chance of causing a stroke and a thirteen percent chance of causing liver damage. Neither of those events were necessarily fatal, after all, and the new drug would relieve thirty percent of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Seemed like a good trade-off for a bunch of old cripples. He forgot about having cut funding the previous year on a study of the link between environmental toxins and the rise in sudden-onset rheumatoid arthritis.

Over at George Washington Hospital, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was watching John Doe stand up for the third time today, and for the third time today, standing up immediately led to a temporal lobe epileptic seizure. This was a good day for John Doe, full of beatific visions dancing through his brain-damaged head. Dr. Mohammad did not know that. After the neurologist on call arrived and dismissed young Dr. Mohammad, Dr. Mohammad went to check on the knee replacement on the fifth floor. "Stand up," encouraged the patient's wife. The man grimaced and tried, but couldn't. They didn't know she was praying to the wrong saint: they didn't know yet the name of the saint for those afflicted by Ardua.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Feel the Heat

Dr. Khalid Mohammad had succeeded in waking brain-damaged John Doe for a half-hour, his longest conscious state since Halloween. Dr. Mohammad had already put him through a series of sight and hearing tests, and was now testing his senses. He moved a hot compress to various points on John Doe's body, asking him what he felt, invariably getting the answer "hmmm". Finally, he placed the hot compress on John Doe's inner left elbow. John Doe said, "hot," then he went into a trance. Nurse Consuela Arroyo answered the call button. "What is it?" She gazed perplexedly at John Doe. "I don't know. You need to find the attending neurologist." She stared at John Doe a few more moments. His hands were almost in a supplicative position.

Over on the White House residential balcony, President Bush held his hands in a supplicative position. He was praying for deliverance from the wickedness of heathen liberals. Lunch with Nancy Pelosi?! Why, she went to that crazy Catholic church in Georgetown! Sam and Clarence had explained to him how some Catholics were good and patriotic and others were not. Tomorrow he had to meet with Harry Reid! The man gave cowboy hats a bad name. This was all wrong! Humbling himself, saying he's open to new ideas: he didn't like the feel of it one bit. Cheney had told him it would just be like that for a little while, then the Dems would pass some insane bill, and he would get to veto it, and everything would be fine, but he didn't like this one bit. He stopped praying and took off his jacket. Damn, it was hot! He looked out at Reggie and Fergie, running around barefoot in the balmy backyard, chattering in their secret twin language. He went back inside to get some air conditioning.

Over at Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman was on his way out to the car to get some air conditioning. Gravy! It was all good for him. The new Secretary of Defense was a great friend of his. It always worked out for Breadman. Sure, P&P would probably bring some old fart Democrats into the office, but Breadman would still be in charge of his practice group. He got on his cellphone and almost ran over Dizzy as he sped away up Pennsylvania Avenue. Dizzy let out a string of expletives, jumping back for the curb at Urine Park. "Ugh!" Dizzy hated the smell of Urine Park on a warm day, and he was hoping for snow.

Over at the National Arboretum, Dr. Devi Rajatala was sitting outside her office, enjoying the unexpectedly warm November day, looking at the changing colors all around her. She looked back down at the climate change papers she had picked up at yesterday's conference. Many of her colleagues from school were in Kenya right now, working on the Kyoto Protocol, no doubt heartened by the change in Congress. But it was probably too late for India and Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Warm tears slowly trickled down her face.

Over in Virginia, Donald Rumsfeld was packing for vacation, choking back the tears, chugging Jack Daniels to warm his gut. It wasn't his fault. Damn them all to Hell! Condi would fall on her face soon enough. And Cheney?! His time would come.

Back at George Washington University Hospital, the attending neurologist diagnosed John Doe with temporal lobe epilepsy, then got in his car to drive home to Virginia. As he crossed over the Potomac, he turned up the air conditioning and did not notice Ardua below him, carefully plotting her new strategy. Warm air stirred the surface waters, but Ardua huddled in the depths where it remained cold.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

That is just cold.

Laura Moreno inspected the frost damage in the condo garden. The hosta plants were giving it up, but there were still some carnations blooming. The hibiscus still looked pretty robust, incongruously right next to the maple tree's reddening boughs. The clematis that had burst forth in Indian summer was still clinging to the fence, but the petunias were definitely taking their last gasps of life. The weather forecast was already predicting 70 by the end of the week, so who knew what was going to happen next. She headed over to the Garden District to look for pansies and periwinkle vinca.

Reggie and Fergie knew what was going to happen next, but since they only spoke in their secret twin language, nobody else knew what they were saying. They were talking about the upcoming election, and what the birds had been saying about it. Their mother, the White House butler, was listening to their chatter in puzzlement. Two years had gone by since their birth, and she was still not sure she had ever had a conversation with them. Clio was lying on the worn sofa, her right arm resting on her over-heated head. Reggie came over and said, "Don't worry, Mama," but Clio could not understand her daughter's words. She gave Reggie a kiss as Fergie handed his mother his blankie. Fergie said, "Yes, worry!", but Clio did not understand those words either. Reggie started arguing with Fergie. They were arguing about the birds. Clio told them she would make them some hot chocolate in a minute, then she fell asleep.

Upstairs, President Bush was looking out the window at the dying chrysanthemums. Why was that damn gardener so slow in taking care of things? He looked back down at the Military Times newspaper and tried to remember what Dickie had said about it. This was all getting very confusing. Why hadn't Condi called him yet? Maybe she was waiting for him to call her. Is that what he was supposed to do?

Across the river, Donald Rumsfeld was sleeping off the Jack Daniels he had downed the night before after learning that the Military Times editorial board had announced they would officially call for his resignation as Secretary of Defense. He had felt plenty warm and fuzzy when he passed out, and didn't know about the frost warning. He woke up shivering, no heat on, not enough blankets, and felt like an old man.

Meanwhile, former Senator Evermore Breadman had never felt more vigorous. He was raking in the dough, consulting right and left on the upcoming elections. This was so much better than being the candidate! Not that he had a lot of guarantees to dole out, but enough election machinery was under control to make at least a few of his clients happy. After all, he was only one man. They couldn't expect him to do everything. A colitis cramp suddenly gripped him, and he called for his wife to bring him an ice bag. He grimaced as he lay the cold gel bag across his lower abdomen. Anything to avoid getting cut.

Down in the Potomac, Ardua shivered with pleasure at the dropping temperatures. She loved feeling the misery of it all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All Souls' Day

Dr. Khalid Mohammad sat on the windowsill and took another look through the chart of the ICU patient he had first seen in the George Washington University Hospital emergency room late Halloween night. The patient was still listed as John Doe. Beaten senseless with baseball bats at a Southwest metro station, he had only emerged from the coma a day and a half later. "John Doe" still had total amnesia, and nobody had yet identified him. Dr. Mohammad looked up again at the patient, who was sleeping deeply and having an out-of-body experience. Outside in the hallway, nurse Consuela Arroyo felt the disturbed spirit pass over her, provoking goose bumps on her neck. She made the sign of the cross and looked around. It was a gentle spirit, like the ones she used to feel when she was in nursing school back in the Philippines. She felt so many bad spirits in this city that it was a relief to feel a gentle spirit nearby. Still, she knew it was wrong--a soul that was not where it should be.

Downtown at the Cathedral, Coast Guard officer Marcos Vasquez was attending the All Souls' Day mass, knowing his mother would call him at 8 p.m. and ask him if he did. He even went early and lit a candle for his deceased father, and the officer he had seen killed four years earlier in Florida. He usually didn't believe this stuff, but he was hypnotized by the glow of the candles and felt for a minute that his father's soul was near him. According to his mother, Marcos's father was surely in purgatory, and they would have to pray for a long time to get him out.

Over in Georgetown, Dubious McGinty was attending All Souls' Day mass at Holy Trinity. He didn't like going to mass very often, but this was the most important one of the year because he had so many dead people to pray for, and most of those souls were probably not where they should be. He climbed slowly up to the balcony where he would feel less claustrophobic, like when he was in his abandoned watchman's quarters in the drawbridge. He had brought a trash bag full of empty plastic bottles to fill with holy water on the way out. He knew it wouldn't be enough to kill Ardua, but he needed to purify his home every now and then. The Georgetown undergrad behind him wrinkled her nose and moved to another pew, wishing he wasn't here.