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 ....

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Shackled

The Shackled rested on a quiet Georgetown pier, not another soul in sight on the coldest night of 2007. The Shackled had been living there for a long time, and didn't notice the cold, even though they had grown up in a much warmer place. The Shackled were discussing Ardua of the Potomac, who had killed some of them 300 years ago right on the auction block, and some others in a slaver before it had even docked. The Shackled had never done anything about Ardua, but that was about to change. The Heaviness was getting to be too much, even for them. They were starting to understand that they would never be able to leave this place until Ardua was gone....The Heavniness of the souls piling up, not moving on, trapped: they had to do something about it. They were finally starting to see that everything was wrong, and needed to change. It was time for the Shackled to go into Washington and start undoing what Ardua had done, and so they rose up and left their home on the river.

A few miles north, Judge Melvin Slight shivered at an unexpected draft in his cozy bedroom on 38th Street. He had paid good money to replace all the windows in his $4 million Georgetown rowhouse, and he glared suspiciously at his chintz curtains. He was in a bad mood because he was always in a bad mood whenever a high-profile trial was underway in Washington. Why couldn't he ever get a trial like the Scooter Libby trial? Damn! What Judge Slight didn't understand was that he would have had plenty of interesting trials if he wasn't always throwing poor people with inexperienced lawyers out of his courtroom. He couldn't stand bad lawyering, and he never seemed to notice it in the lawyers that played golf with him or the lawyers that saw him at black tie galas, and certainly never in the lawyers from his alma mater, or his fraternity brothers, or the lawyers from his wife's law firm. No: he only noticed little technicalities when lawyers had on cheap suits. He loved banging the gavel and saying "CASE DISMISSED!". Less paperwork. Less boring whining about some poor tenant who got mistreated by his landlord. Judge Melvin Slight fell asleep. In the next room, one of the Shackled was confronting the house ghost about what she had been doing to Judge Slight, and she didn't like it one bit. This ghost had lived in this house since dying in childbirth 262 years ago, on a filthy pile of hay in the basement, giving birth to a son fathered by a rapist poisoned by Ardua. This ghost's anger had never died.

Over on Observatory Circle, Vice President Cheney was liquored up and passed out after a week that was a little less pleasant than most. Lynn Cheney was at the computer, posting mocking comments on liberal blogs, and praising the State of the Union address on conservative blogs. Lynn did not like thinking about the Libby Scooter trial, and she wasn't posting any comments on it. One of the Shackled passed by her to take a closer look at the Vice President, causing goose bumps to rise on Lynn's neck, but she attributed them to menopause and kept posting. The Shackled one then headed up to the attic to find the house ghosts hovering up there. These ghosts had lived and died here long before any Vice President had set foot in this place. These ghosts had died from the river rats that had bitten and infected them in the cellar. These ghosts would still not go near that cellar, but they went everywhere else in the house. These ghosts were not interested in what the Shackled one had come to say to them.

Over at the White House, a Shackled one hovered for several minutes in the empty Presidential bedroom, then went down to the servants' quarters to confront the house ghosts there. He found them in the twins' bedroom, where they usually hung out when the President was out of town. A couple of them were talking to Reggie, and a few others were talking to Fergie. All the talking stopped when the Shackled one came in. Reggie and Fergie turned to look at him, surprised because they had never seen him here before. He was not expecting this. Things were going to be complicated here.

One-by-one, the other Shackled began seeking out the ghosts of slavery haunting the old houses of Washington, D.C. This was something Ardua had not expected, and she didn't like it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Onion

Bridge was chewing on some wild green onions he had pulled up from the edge of the White House back lawn. When he had taken over as White House gardener, the whole place had been like a chemical waste plant, with all the fertilizers and pesticides running the show. Disgusting. The transition to organic was tough, especially since he was doing it surreptitiously, but the garden was on its way. If he could only figure out why there were so many catbirds and starlings here? It was unbalanced, to be sure. He had asked about hanging some bird feeders to attract more songbirds, but the White House landscaper had vetoed that as "unkempt". Maybe he could rig something deep in the bushes that the Landscaper wouldn't see?

The butler's twins ran up to him, laughing. Bridge was the only person in the world who could understand their secret twin language. They handed him some pictures they had finger-painted, and he handed them some wild green onions to chew on. They all thought it was a fair exchange. Reggie told Bridge that she was concerned about the President's State of the Union address, but Fergie said it would be fine. Bridge frowned as the pre-schoolers romped around to get a spate of fresh air before their supper. He knew that those twins were special, but sometimes he really worried about them. Reggie seemed so good, but Fergie...well....The fact of the matter was that the speech was going to be a disaster. Bridge knew this the same way he knew a lot of things at the White House, but he couldn't do anything about them. The words of the speech had been reverberating in his mind all day long. He didn't want to hear these things--he just did. Words of importance and weight--said then repeated, revised then repeated, denounced then edited, repeated, repeated--crowded his thoughts all day long. It wasn't so bad when he had worked at the museum. He heard too much here. That's why he needed more songbirds. "Regina! Ferguson!" The twins heard their mother's call, gave Bridge a quick hug, then vanished back into the servants' quarters. Bridge shivered in the cold and turned to head back inside.

Upstairs, President Bush watched through a window as the twins and Bridge left the rear garden. He was praying for God to guide him in leading this great nation, but he kept getting distracted and losing his train of thought. He could have sworn those twins looked straight up at him, and it had been very unsettling. A catbird sat outside his window, softly imitating the sound of a police siren.

Next door, Laura Bush was lying down before dinner, dreading the State of the Union address. She had seen the morning draft of the speech, and she didn't like it, but she couldn't tell anybody that. Why didn't any of his staff care about boys the way she did? Her big initiative to fix the country by helping boys was simply not taken seriously enough. Why, the boys at Abu Gharib probably wouldn't have done those nasty things if they weren't so messed up in this culture that was not preparing boys to be gentlemen! She was tired of being the sweet-faced librarian promoting literacy. That's what Barbara had done! Laura wanted to be different. She rolled over and stared at the dogs lying in George's spot in the bed. They were sound asleep but twitching. Laura was twitching but wide awake. She wondered why the dogs had onion breath.

Over at the State Department, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was doing last-minute tweaks to the foreign policy portion of the speech. For the past five days, all he had heard was "shorter!" "shorter!" "shorter!" Now Condaleeza Rice was complaining that the section lacked theme, coherence, and conclusion. He shoved more onion rings in his mouth, wiped his greasy hands on a napkin, then typed in some more tweaks. He just didn't care anymore: all he wanted to do was write something his girlfriend Eva Brown would be impressed by, something with bold vision and poetic beauty. "What is this? A commercial for the Peace Corps?" Rice's latest email was pretty bad. He'd better get this right before she showed up in his office in person. She would be sipping a smoothie, and lambast him for eating onion rings.

A few miles southeast, Coast Guard officer Marcos Vasquez was frying up yellow onions for his rice and beans, thankful he was not on river patrol duty tonight. Damned cold! He really missed Puerto Rico this week. He inhaled the onion smell deeply, closed his eyes, and pictured his mami's kitchen. Why had she called him the night after he saw that thing in the Potomac? It was like she had known, and kept asking him if he was OK. He was not OK. He knew the only thing to do was go for another deep dive to get over this ridiculous hallucination he had seen, but it was too darned cold, and he just didn't want to go back in that river.

Over at the Washington Post, Perry Winkle was polishing off his burger in the "Metro" department. Hmmm! He loved those Bermuda onions. According to his boss, most of the cops would be stationed between the White House and the Capitol tonight, and burglaries and carjackings would accelerate all over the residential neighborhoods. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction--something like that, he thought. The President was going to focus on domestic policy tonight, and this would coincide with an immediate jump in the D.C. domestic misery rate.

Several miles north, Angela de la Paz retrieved another sweater for her grandmother, shivering in their drafty apartment. She sliced white onions until she was crying, then handed them to abuela. They didn't know that President Bush was planning to talk about them in the State of the Union address, or maybe they would have planned to watch it.

Over at the Potomac, Dubious McGinty chomped on his Vidalia onion like an apple. He already had his TV tuned in and ready, hours early. He always watched the State of the Union address, though--like most of his life since Vietnam--he could not remember any of them. He was really hoping the President would talk about Ardua tonight, since Dubious had sent him several anonymous letters to alert him to her growing power and wickedness. Down beneath the bridgeman's quarters, Ardua chafed at McGinty's presence, but she was focusing her energies on all the possibilities of the night--the speech itself, the political anxiety and ambition choking hundreds (thousands?) of Washingtonians, the criminal suggestibility of hundreds (thousands?) of others--so much vulnerability, so much misused police power, so much hatred and greed and stubbornness and fear and anger for her to feed on tonight!

Back at the White House, the Secret Service was placing a phone call to Marcos Vasqez to come in and replace somebody out sick. They really needed the river covered tonight--who knew what this anonymous crackpot was planning with this "evil Ardua of the Potomac" crap? The Secret Service men tossed the remains of their pizza into the trash and geared up for Operation State of the Onion.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cold Enough Now?

Devi Rajatala took one last walk through the Friendship Garden at the National Arboretum to look over the work done by the students on their day off from school yesterday. Turning her face away from the cold wind whipping winter back to Washington, Dr. Raj figured she might not see the students again for months. The mulch was spread, the daffodils would finally go dormant again, and the Friendship Garden would quiet down. Few volunteers or visitors would be here again until March. Winter was when she really had time to be an arborist. Tomorrow she would start with a reinspection of the problem areas in the Asian collection, where a flock of starlings was crowding out the native birds that should be thriving there. If this kept up, it would alter the insect population, and that would alter the undergrowth, and then the entire forest would evolve into something else. Yesterday she had asked Angela de la Paz if it were the shimmery, multi-colored starlings on her mind when she said she was seeing pink warblers, but she had said no, those starlings were evil--her pink warblers were gentle, sang sweetly, and gleamed like pink roses. Dr. Raj didn't even know what to say to that. She was a little relieved to get a break from those troubled kids, but she would miss Angela.

The National Arboretum Gift Shop manager had just started her car engine when Dr. Raj walked past her in the parking lot. Jai Alai had taken over the Gift Shop in November and was enjoying the slow-down after the holidays. Jai Alai had a lot on her mind. She hated Dr. Raj, even though she had only met her once, and she didn't know why she hated Dr. Raj. Maybe it was because Dr. Raj loved trees, and Alai hated trees. She didn't know why she hated trees. She glared at Dr. Raj, wishing her dead. A catbird perched on a branch above Alai's car was imitating hawk cries, and Alai looked up, fascinated. Alai didn't want to go home and get beaten again. Maybe it would be a good night. She would pick up the kids from the sitter and get some pizza. Pizza and hot chocolate on a cold night. Alai watched Dr. Raj pull out, then pulled out behind her and followed her for miles before finally turning off to head home.

Over at Prince and Prowling, the post-holiday litigation season was swinging into full gear, and it would be hours before attorneys Laura Moreno or Chloe Cleavage could head home from their dead-end, bottom-of-the-barrel jobs. Laura pulled out a peanut butter sandwich to munch on while starting in on the next pile of papers, and Chloe stood up from the chair beside Laura and abruptly began spraying Lysol all over the table. "What the hell are you doing?" shouted Laura, as she jumped up and away from the Lysol fog. "I don't like the smell of peanut butter," answered Chloe calmly. Laura looked over to associate Bridezilla to see if she would intervene, but Bridezilla pretended not to notice. Bridezilla was a law review goddess engaged to a law clerk god, and she could barely tolerate even being put in the same room as these dregs of humanity too stupid to get better jobs. Laura moved to another table and resumed reviewing documents as Bridezilla continued text messaging her fiance Wince.

Over at the Justice Department, Wince's law school roommate was reading another text message from his boss. His boss always wrote in weird codes so that if the text messages were ever retrieved forensically under subpoena, nobody would ever be able to prove what they said. Law school star Atticus Hawk puzzled over the message, which said that Hillary Clinton was asking for something for the Armed Services Committee--either (he cocked his head to the left) information or (he cocked his head back to the right) insulation. Hmmm. Insulation, immunity, inspection, interrogation, investigation? He text-messaged back, "Huh?" This was a good thing to do because then if he ever had to testify under oath, he could demonstrate how he had not understood any of it. This was also a good thing because it would force his boss to call him.

Atticus leaned back in his chair and polished off the end of his Coke can. He couldn't believe there were still hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo. He couldn't believe the entire first year of his legal career had been writing memos on the prisoners at Guantanamo. Sometimes when it was really, really late at night, he would think about the guys who had killed themselves there. They were the same age as he was. They were ruining his life, and he was ruining theirs. Perfect symmetry, yin and yang. The old-model DOJ desk phone rang loudly, and Atticus jumped up to get it.

Over at the Mayflower Hotel, former Senator Evermore Breadman jumped up to answer the door. It was Donald Rumsfeld, right on time. Breadman had forgotten how short Rumsfeld was, or maybe he was shrinking--he was kind of old now. Who would have thought that Cheney and the ticking time bomb in his chest would have outlasted Rumsfeld in this Administration? Breadman ushered him in and introduced him to his first set of corporate suitors--let the bidding begin! Rumsfeld had reorganized the military and prepared it for modern warfare: that was his story, and they were sticking to it! And he had Cheney's home number, of course, and that's what the bidding was really about. By the time Breadman was through with Rumsfeld, Rummy would realize how lucky he was to bail out early.

Several miles west, Coast Guard officer Marcos Vasquez was frantically bailing water out of his dinghy. "Marcos! MARCOS!" Vasquez looked up at his partner, confused. "There's like one inch of water in here, max: what is your problem?!" Vasquez stopped bailing water. He was still panting from surfacing so quickly and vaulting into the boat. "What is the matter with you?" Vasquez was afraid the dinghy would capsize, and he didn't want to go back in the water. Vasquez stared at his partner with wide eyes and continued to pant. "Just relax, OK? Let's bring the boat in. That cold water must have put you in shock or something."

It had been Vasquez's idea to stage a cold water rescue drill for the newbies. They had charted the area and brought weighted mannikins to plant in the Potomac. Vasquez had forgotten all this now: all he could remember was huge orange eyes staring at him...everywhere...hundreds of eyes that quickly began moving toward him...then tentacles snatching at his feet as he had kicked maniacally for the surface. Vasquez had finally met Ardua of the Potomac, and she didn't like him.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Funeral Pyre

Sebastian L'Arche was walking two pomeranians up to Eastern Market. Being a pet courier was far more lucrative than being a pet walker, but this was a special job for a widow on the day of her husband's funeral. Not many people in Southeast had toy dogs, and Jack & Jill were getting a lot of laughs. "What the hell are those?" was shouted out for the third time that day. L'Arche told the passer-by they were pomeranians. "Pomegranates?" Yes, that's correct. He was freezing his butt off, and turned around early to head home and brood some more about the carjacking and police chase that had left Jack & Jill with only one owner. Another urban black male thrown on the Washingon funeral pyre.

A few blocks away, Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was in the precinct trying to interview the cop put on desk duty pending the investigation of the car chase fatality. Winkle was new to D.C. and actually thought persistence would get past the "no statement at this time" he kept hearing. Something about this story didn't add up. He headed back to the scene of the car crash to knock on doors looking for witnesses. He was freezing his butt off. An old man answered at the third house he knocked at and invited Winkle in. He was lonely and only pretending that he had seen the car crash. Winkle excused himself after a few minutes, overcome by the sickening odor of the house, where the old man had left his deceased brother upstairs in bed--right where he had found him dead from a stroke five months earlier, a catbird gloating outside his window.

A few miles west, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was pronouncing another death at George Washington University Hospital--another hypothermic homeless man, the ninth one today. Nurse Consuela Arroyo made the sign of the cross when nobody was looking and began silently recitng a "Hail, Mary" as she picked up the chart to record the time of death. In the Philippines, everybody she had known was poor, but nobody lived by themselves on the streets. But there must have been people like that in the Philippines? Were they hidden away in back rooms, locked up in their madness or addictions? Why hadn't she known anybody like this in the Philippines? Dr. Mohammad was thinking the same thing about Jordan. When he went back--if he went back--would he even see patients like this, or just tend to the rich while the poor quietly lined up to die in the slums?

Over at Arlington National Cemetery, social worker Hue Nguyen was wiping tears from her eyes as she scanned her charges to make sure nobody from the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged was going to have a flare-up here. Melinda stared at the casket in a trance. Cedric and Larry stared at their shoes. Theresa was crying intensely, angry about the funeral and angry that it was so cold outside. Buckner had no idea what was going on, and kept asking why there were no squirrels in this park. None of them had known that the recently departed Daniel was a Vietnam veteran. Hue guided the group past a swarm of starlings, back to the van to go home. On the way out, they passed an active-duty serviceman's burial with honors, and the gun salute sent Cedric and Buckner diving for the floor while Melinda and Theresa screamed. Larry started slapping everybody he could reach, and Hue was still trying to calm them all down as they turned onto Lee Highway.

Across the Potomac, Condaleeza Rice was sitting in her State Department office reviewing the latest draft of the President's imminent address to the nation. The man hadn't had an original idea since 1989. Rice smiled and took a sip of her tomato/sage/horseradish/buttermilk/turbinado smoothie. Bush would toss virgins into volcanoes if she told him it was necessary. She looked out at the deranged ducks swimming crookedly in the frigid January waters of the Potomac. The ducks couldn't remember what they were doing or where they were going, cold winds blasting them from above and Ardua tormenting them from below. Rice wrote down a couple of edits and smiled, a few drops of smoothie dripping from the corner of her lip. Death before dishonor. Amazing how many poor people were available to die.

A few miles east, Golden Fawn was finishing her final inspection of the new funeral practices display at the National Museum of the American Indian. She was reading a cross-cultural analysis of funeral pyres and thinking about her brother's funeral. She picked up her clipboard and headed back to her office, suddenly wanting to telephone her grandmother. Her grandmother had said that he had died from an evil spirit. Grandmother thought most deaths were from an evil spirit. Golden Fawn didn't think that was true. Golden Fawn thought that all deaths were from an evil spirit. Golden Fawn needed to talk some more to Grandmother about Ardua of the Potomac.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Revolution

Laura Moreno finished unloading the donated household goods she had scrounged up for Angela de la Paz's family, stuff that was probably much more valuable to them than the hundred hours of pro bono work she had already done on their behalf with nothing yet to show for it. Laura looked sadly at the large bed which Angela shared with her grandmother and sister. They had so little, but they loved each other and were probably happier than Laura was. When a woman on dialysis three days a week can smile at you and tell you everything is going well, you realize you need a better attitude, thought Laura. Was this family really that optimistic and joyful, or were they putting on a brave face for Laura?

Laura returned home to pound out another job application, desperately trying to get away from the purgatory of Prince and Prowling, where Laura'a underpaid position with no benefits was enabling greedy male partners to install a partners-only game room stocked with pool tables, wide-screen TV, and bourbon, while the greedy female partners ordered flowers delivered to themselves every Monday morning and got manicures every Friday afternoon. They didn't know how tired Laura was of serving their kingdom by day and taking bread crumbs to the peasants by night. Laura wanted a revolution.

Charles Wu wanted a revolution, too. At least, he did today. He was a little ambivalent about these things, and being a double-agent was not helping him decide. He sat quietly in Dupont Circle, listening to some perky high school marching band while idealistic 20-somethings milled around so cheerfully you would swear they were in a soft drink commercial if not for the 50-somethings milling around gloomily with tobacco-stained teeth and urine soaked clothes. What a strange place this country was. His contact at the State Department sat down. Wu knew the man only as C. Coe Phant. "Is Israel going to nuke Iran?" asked Wu softly, staring intently at the sports pages. "Only the blood-sucker knows for sure," C. Coe Phant replied, typing fake emails on his PDA. They turned the conversation to Asia.

Over at the Watergate, Condoleezza Rice was sitting in her red leather recliner, reading intelligence dispatches from Tel Aviv, Tehran, and Islamabad. She sipped her pomegranate/tomato/cinnamon/goat milk/dill/gingko smoothie. Things in the Middle East were finally getting interesting again! She looked out the window at the dark, churning Potomac and smiled without opening her mouth, but a little red liquid dribbled out just the same. Beneath the water's surface, Ardua belched with contentment. Ardua believed this would be the year she could come out of the Potomac and start the revolution!

Back at Dupont Circle, the freaks living in Dupont Down Under were also discussing whether this was the year to start the revolution. They didn't know how much longer The Beaver would be able to keep building dams against the encroaching presence of the secret government underground. They also knew that the death of Gerald Ford fulfilled Stage 17 of the Prophecy, but they were arguing about what Stage 18 was because nobody had ever written the Prophecy down. They agreed to defer discussion of the Revolution until the high school marching band stopped playing the tubas and snare drums.

Over at the White House, butler Clio was washing up the dishes after dinner, annoyed at the loud band music being performed in the Rose Garden. It was always something with these people, she thought. She was so damned tired, she could barely imagine playing with the twins even a half-hour before bedtime. Sitting on the rug in front of the TV, Reggie and Fergie were chattering away in their secret twin language. Fergie said it was time to start the revolution, but Reggie said it was not.

Outside, catbirds on the First Lady's balcony began imitating the sounds of the band music drifting up from the Rose Garden. She unconsciously hummed along, typing up important, anonymous comments in her chat room devoted to helping American boys. If she could fix American boys, everything else would follow! The First Lady loved American boys. Something radical had to be done, and that was it! Character, leadership, integrity. Down in the Rose Garden, President Bush sat glassy-eyed while the band played on, entertaining his guest from one of those little countries he had never heard of before the Iraq war. The band was playing a song written about the American Revolution--the first one. President Bush stifled a yawn.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jumping

Condaleeza Rice sipped her blackberry/wheatgrass/fennel/liver smoothie and stared silently out the window at the dark Potomac River. She was ticked off about Nancy Pelosi, flaunting all her children and grandchildren in the House Chamber, Mrs. "I can have it all" career woman, now third in line for the Presidency. Ardua sensed Rice's agitation and sent a couple starlings up to her window to calm her down. Rice looked at the birds, then stared deeply into their black eyes. Pelosi meant nothing. Pelosi didn't even have the nuclear codes. Rice was pulling the strings of real power, Rice instilled fear, Rice forced the world's lunatic leaders to play right into her hands. John Negroponte would come over to the State Department and take over the Iraq team, freeing up Rice to go after more glamorous prizes. This was going to be a good year. She didn't need children or grandchildren--the world was her playground.

Several miles east, Sebastian L'Arche was shooting hoops at the local playground, enjoying the crazy January warmth. He had made $17,000 in the past four weeks moving Democrat pets into D.C. and Republican pets out. The east coast runs were fine, but the moves westward across the Potomac were killing him, the way those pets went berserk on the bridges. Now that business was slowing down again, he was going to have to take some trial runs further south, maybe driving all the way into southern Maryland before crossing westward into Virginia. One thing he had learned in Iraq, when dogs tell you something was bad news, they're always right. The basketball hit him in the chest. "Yo, Archie!" He had forgotten for a minute what he was doing. He must be going crazy, thinking there was something evil in the Potomac. Post-traumatic stress disorder or something.

Back at the Potomac, Dubious McGinty was watching TV in the abandoned bridgeman's quarters, twitching with PTSD while he watched the digital reenactment of the hero of the New York subway jumping in front of a speeding train to pin down the young man having seizures. Dubious had seen the reenactment five times now, and the man looked exactly like the guy who had jumped onto Dubious to save his ass back in Vietnam. But he knew it wasn't him because that guy had died saving McGinty's ass back in Vietnam. Dubious couldn't stop twitching. He kept jumping in front of Ardua, but he could never stop her. He still didn't know how. Outside, a catbird perched on the bridge was softly imitating explosion sounds that Dubious could just barely hear as he drifted into shallow, restless sleep.