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, February 25, 2007

Cut it Out

Sebastian L'Arche was watching soldiers' being interviewed on "60 Minutes". They were speaking out against the war, but a couple of them also said they were re-enlisting. "Do as I say, not as I do?" Maybe they thought re-enlisting gave them more control over their redeployment than being called up from the Reserves would. Sebastian looked down at his left hand, at the scars that had gotten him out of that mess for good. With his right hand, he traced the outline of the lion tattoo on his left hand--the lion he had taken to talking to nonstop when he was in Iraq, the lion whose eyes he had gouged out with his pocket knife one day, screaming "Stop staring at me!", the lion who had gotten him discharged as mentally unfit for duty. To this day, he had no memory of doing that. But the talking? Yeah, he had talked to that lion all the time. It didn't seem crazy at the time. Now he had a blind, disfigured lion as his mascot, and that was OK. He didn't have to talk to the lion anymore, but sometimes he would unconsciously pet it.

Several miles west, social worker Hue Nguyen had made the mistake of letting the residents of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged watch the "Dateline NBC" special on the Russian spy assassinated radioactively, and they were all claiming to be radioactive now. Hue hurriedly paged Dr. Leo Schwartz, then continued to plead with them to believe her that they were not radioactive. "Nobody wants to kill you!" She was standing in front of the drawer with the butter knives, as Cedric and Buckner both insisted that they needed to cut the isotopes out of their bodies. Melinda put her hand in the microwave and tried to turn it on, while Larry headed outside to eat grass in order to make himself vomit. Theresa was the only one still sitting in the living room; she quietly dug her nails into her head for the fourth time to try to dig it out, but her nails wouldn't penetrate her skull.

On the other side of the Potomac, Condoleezza Rice was rereading the Washington Post editorials. How dare they tell her about the British in Iraq?! SHE KNEW HISTORY. SHE WAS MAKING HISTORY. She gently put the paper down, looked out the window at the new snow, and dug her nails into the soft red leather of her recliner. The insurgents would already have been defeated if she were running those damned operations, but she couldn't do everything herself. She needed more patience for her less talented partners. She picked up her cranberry-yogurt-fennel-wheatgrass-papaya-lime smoothie and took another sip. A few drops hovered around the slight defect where her lips did not perfectly meet, then slipped down her chin until she absent-mindedly wiped them up.

A few miles north, Charles Wu was watching "The Simpsons" do an extraterrestrial satire of the Iraqi war. "YOU said we would be greeted as liberators!" "We still have their hearts and minds," was the rejoinder, complete with the sight of the extraterrestrial's holding in his hands a heart and a brain. Wu laughed out loud. They sure didn't have TV shows like that in China. Still, all in all, he preferred censorship--most people were better off if you just took away from them what was dangerous.

A few miles south, Golden Fawn was on the phone with her grandmother, telling her that the surgeon had gotten a clean margin on the breast tumor, and that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes. She clutched a pillow to her chest as she talked, still a little incredulous that sticking a knife in her body could actually have been a good idea. "Yes, I'll have to do some radiation, but after that, they're not sure yet." She looked out the window at the fresh blanket of snow, then started telling her grandmother about the latest dream she had dreamt about the pink warblers and Ardua. She shuddered, drew the curtrains against the cold panes, and reached for her shawl, eager to hear what her grandmother had to say about the dream.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Believe

Atticus Hawk knocked back another martini--what the heck, his boss was paying. The DOJ scored a major victory in the Court of Appeals today, and those losers in Guantanamo were going to stay put! Two years of Hawk legal memos had led to this wonderful day, and his boss was actually letting Hawk take some of the credit. What would come next in his career? Legal memos justifying phone taps on Nancy Pelosi, detentions of inflammatory political cartoonists, or summary executions of Mexicans at the border? He could hardly wait. "What did you say?" Hawk's boss was looking at him funny. Crap! He was so drunk he had said all of that out loud.

Charles Wu was also looking at Hawk funny. Being a bastard half-breed, Wu didn't like hearing anything that smacked of ethnosupremacy. That was one of the reasons he liked to give British secrets to the Chinese, though sometimes the Chinese could really piss him off, too. Still, there had never been a better time to be a British-Chinese double agent, and his services were in high demand. He sipped his bourbon slowly. The Chinese-Korean thing was really getting intense. Was it possible that China was getting too strong? Maybe that would not be a good thing. It was easy to be contemptuous of the British, not to mention the Americans, but a stronger China would have consequences a lot of talking heads in this historic baby of a city really did not understand.

Over in Chinatown, Lynnette Wong understood. "That will be $392," she said, as she handed over the latest batch of herbs for the homesick Chinese workers imported to build the new Chinese embassy in Washington. She watched the buyer carry the bag out, enough evil-fighting herbs to cover a hundred workers for a few more weeks. The workers had no clue what they were even part of. Sometimes Wong wasn't sure either--she had never actually been to China, and everything she knew of it had come from her father. Maybe her father had just been good at seeing evil wherever he was. Lord knows he had seen the threat of Ardua long before anybody else had. She looked over at his photo, then turned back to reading his old diary on Ardua of the Potomac.

Several miles west, John Doe was writing about Ardua in his own diary. Dr. Khalid Mohammad looked in on him and shook his head in perplexity. Though finally identified by his relatives in New York, John Doe refused to believe anything anybody told him about his life before amnesia. Unwilling to accept the stigma of committing him to a psychiatric facility, the family continued to pay for him to stay at George Washington University Hospital, where the neurosurgeons gladly continued to run tests on his injury-induced temporal lobe epilepsy. They were the ones who had encouraged John Doe to write down everything he could remember from his TLE episodes, but so far all he had written was babble about pink warblers waging war on infected ducks. It was all beautiful and magnificent, the triump of good over evil, and he was a part of it, and he was floating through it, and Ardua was doomed, except not quite yet. But he didn't know how to put it into words. It was well beyond words and flesh and things you could touch or see with your eyes, but he had to put down something, so he drew pictures of the pink warblers and the infected ducks, and wrote "Ardua's destiny is mine is yours is ours". John Doe looked up at Dr. Mohammad, who had sewn his skull back together months ago, but John Doe had never believed that either.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Only One Star

Dubious McGinty turned off the TV and walked out of the bridgeman's quarters to spit into the Potomac River. He could not believe they were saying that Iraq was a worse tactical blunder than Vietnam! Shit. The number of people maimed, mutilated, scarred, stoned, and killed in Vietnam could fill up this city. Iraq was a damned mess, but they couldn't possibly have that dim a memory of Vietnam already. He still remembered it like it was yesterday, still had dreams about his men. He spit down again, angry that Ardua was enjoying the deaths of homeless Vietnam veterans in the bitter cold February weather. Dubious looked out at the cloudy night sky, searching for a star, any star. Why was it so damned hard to see stars in this city? Shivering, he headed back into his warm cubby hole to go to sleep.

A few miles east, Golden Fawn was also searching the cloudy night sky for a star. It was difficult enough on a clear night, but this was almost hopeless. She really missed seeing the stars at night, and the lack of them was one of the things that often made Washington seem unreal. Tomorrow she was getting lymph nodes removed to see if the breast cancer had spread. This also seemed unreal--doctors cutting things out of her body to tell her if they were infected, twisted, wrong. She needed to call her grandmother. Why was this happening? Science would say it was the industrial age's toxins accumulating in her mammary glands, and the odds of it happening to the modern woman seemed to increase every year. Her grandmother would say it was Ardua of the Potomac, and that Golden Fawn needed to fight back. How could she fight anything if she had to do chemotherapy? Her grandmother would tell her not to. Maybe her grandmother would come to take care of her?

Several miles north, Angela de la Paz had finished washing the dishes and was staring out the window at the new layer of snow. She could hear her grandmother slowly groaning her way from the bathroom to the bedroom. It seemed a very long time ago that abuela used to take care of Angela, and Angela missed that. She dried her hands and went into the bedroom to help her grandmother climb into bed. Angela read a little from the Bible while her grandmother prayed the rosary softly, eyes closed, kidneys straining to keep it together until tomorrow morning's dialysis. When Angela looked up from the Bible, abuela was staring out the window. "Donde estan las estrellas?" Abuela had come to this city twenty years ago, but she never stopped asking where the stars are. Angela looked out the window and saw her pink warblers perched on the outside ledge, their feathers achingly beautiful resting above the fresh snow. She looked back at abuela, but abuela had already closed her eyes and fallen asleep.

Back at the Potomac, Charles Wu was riding the metro train across the bridge back into D.C. He looked out at the starless sky, again. He had seen no stars but the North Star since he had moved to this city. At least there was plenty of water. He looked down at the frigid river. He had not expected to miss Hong Kong so much. He looked over at the glistening Tidal Basin and stunning Jefferson Memorial. Was something crawling out of the water? He turned his head, but it was too late--the train was already heading into the tunnel.

Over at the Jefferson Memorial, the Beaver deposited the cursed Rolex watch on the marble steps, then dove back into the water with Ardua. A lost gift from Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld, the watch had a new destiny now, and it glittered like the only star shining in D.C.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The D.C. Ether

Charles Wu walked down the grassy slope of O Street Beach towards Rock Creek Park. He was looking for a stump next to a rock under which "C. Coe Phant" had left him a memento of the latest Korean nukes discussions hosted by China. Wu already had the Chinese version of events; now he would take a look at the State Department's version. The cold wind blasted his faintly graying head, and he bent over, holding his head down. He really missed the Hong Kong weather. He had been sorely misled on what the weather would be in this city! He was going to have to tell Phant enough already with the cold outdoor park drops. He located the stump, then the rock, then the CD. He pocketed the CD, turned to leave, then stopped at the sight of flesh sticking out of a bush. He walked around the bush and saw a dead woman lying in a crumpled heap. He knew she was dead by her color, but checked her pulse anyway, so that he could tell the police he did so. He pulled out his cell phone to call the police, then walked back to the stump and rock to redeposit the CD for retrieval later--he couldn't risk the possibility of their searching him. The cold wind hit him again. He would be out here for at least an hour, maybe two, with the police. It was too damned cold. He put the CD back in his pocket. He walked back to P Street, walked down to the nearest hotel, walked nonchalantly to the lobby bank of pay phones, then pulled out his untraceable phone card to phone in an anonymous tip about the body at O Street Beach. He saw a beautiful woman heading to the hotel bar and decided to follow her in. He needed to warm up. Trafficking nuclear secrets was one thing, but a simple assault and murder was too much barbarism for him to stand. He steeled himself against the weakness of his revulsion, then felt better as the tickle of liquor hit his belly.

Two hundred feet directly below Wu. the freaks living in Dupont Down Under were shoring up their barricade against the encroaching underground federal presence, even as they attacked the expanding infrastructure of the "$3 million, one-year project" to redo P Street between 22nd and Dupont Circle. Sometimes they could not believe how stupid the rest of this city was: who the heck would believe that it takes $3 million and a year of work to redo three blocks of a city street? Surely somebody would figure out that was a fake sign up there, and that was not what was going on with this construction project?! The Alpha Crew was poking holes in the newest batch of temporary federal barricade, allowing the river rats to regain access to the federal sector underground. The Beta Crew was patching up the camouflage on the freaks' own underground sector, which the feds had not yet discovered. The Council was in session, trying to come up with a new plan for catching the Beaver from the Tidal Basin--the great one, the one they knew could chew through the federal project and build a dam to protect their own turf. Maybe they needed to come up with a new plan. The Council leader noticed that Sheila was missing and asked where she was, but nobody had seen her since the day before. Sheila was lying crumpled in a bush at O Street Beach, waiting for the police to come and get her. One of the Shackled hovered at her side, pleading with Sheila's ghost to move on, but Sheila's ghost was not going to move on. Another malevolent spirit took its place in the D.C. ether.

Over at the White House, the butler's twins were arguing about the ghosts. Reggie said that it was wrong to talk to the ghosts on Sunday, but Fergie said it was fine. "What are you two arguing about?" their mother asked, as she entered their small bedroom. She could still not understand a word of their secret twin language, but something about their tone sounded like an argument. They smiled up sweetly at her and babbled happily, so she gave them a quick kiss on her way to taking a nap. What a long week. Everybody was cold and crabby. She coughed weakly for several minutes, then finally fell asleep.

Upstairs, President Bush was reading a newspaper account of the Gates admission that the prisoner abuses at Abu Gharib had hurt the United States. He did not appreciate the editorials' referring to Gates as "Captain Obvious" or "The 'Duh!' Guy". As Dickie had explained to him, there was a right time and a right way of handling everything. Very few people really understood these things, said Dickie. That's why it was up to President Bush to lead them. President Bush turned to an editorial about the Scooter Libby trial. Well, this didn't look good either. He folded up the newspaper halfway through the editorial: he had other people to worry about this stuff, it really wasn't his job. Football was over and there was no baseball yet, so he wasn't really sure how to spend the rest of the afternoon. The nearby ghost began whispering in his ear, so he picked up a pen and jotted down a couple of ideas.

Not too far away, fomer Senator Evermore Breadman was sitting in Prince and Prowling, jotting down a few ideas of his own. He rarely came in on Sunday, but his raging bowels had driven him back to Chinatown to buy more herbs from Lynnette Wong. He didn't know she was waging a botanical war for his soul, but she did make his bowels feel better most of the time. He had stopped by the office to pull out a few of his Korean files, knowing that he would get more calls on Monday for his advice. He loved making cash by the hour for giving advice! It was way more fun than Congress ever had been.

On the floor below him, the new batch of contract attorneys were toiling away like cotton-picking sharecroppers on the latest medical defense litigation. Some of them had lost their souls to Ardua years ago: they were hollow machines, slaves to the billable hour, no life to speak of except survival. The few who kept hope alive with job applications and interviews really irritated Ardua--not because they could withstand her forever but because their spirit was delaying the complete takeover of Prince and Prowling. P and P was the closest place she had to a complete victory, and she was growing increasingly impatient with the holdouts there. Tying them to the chairs, making it dificult for them to check their email or phone calls, inhibiting their actual contact with the outside human world, fusing them to the cold money-making spirit of their computers, yelling at them for sitting idle when it was actually the IT Department's fault--these all added up to slow bombardment, but Ardua really wanted a faster annihilation. She was going to have to take a closer look at Chloe Cleavage and Bridezilla to see if she could draw them into ramping up the evil there.

Back at O Street Beach, the police did not have much trouble finding Sheila. They shivered in the cold and moved quickly through the crime scene investigation steps, unaware that some ducks were lined up on the shore and staring at them. The ducks seemed oddly oblivious to the cold, and stared with glassy eyes for several minutes before turning to head back to the Potomac where Ardua was taking it all in.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Just a Little Horror

Laura Moreno checked her email one more time before heading to work. Desperate to leave Prince and Prowling, she was now registered with a dozen agencies that placed contract attorneys like 21st century sharecroppers in the large plantations downtown. Four projects she had hoped to jump to had already been postponed this week, and there was no good news in her in-box about any of the real job applications she had out there. She bundled up against the cold weather and began the cold walk to Federal Center SW Metro. A crackhead snuck up on her from behind, punched her in the head, snatched her lunch bag, and ran off. Reeling in pain and shock, Laura ran in the opposite direction. How did this happen? Why did this happen? There were people and cars all around. A taxi stopped to let her in, but the crackhead had already returned, enraged about having grabbed the lunch bag. He pulled furiously on her other bag even as she tried to climb into the taxi, scared he would punch her again. The bag strap broke against her arm, the crackhead took off, and Laura climbed into the taxi.

The taxi driver drove her 1-1/2 blocks to the police station. It was 8:30 in the morning. During the brief drive, she could see a pedestrian standing on the sidewalk where she had been just a moment before--he appeared to have stopped and dialed 911 on his cellphone. She did not even walk around with a cellphone in her hand--or anything in her hand--that a mugger would want. How could the mugger think a green lunch bag was a purse? How high (or low?) was he? There were so many people and cars: if somebody had wanted to come to her rescue, they could have, but she couldn't blame them for standing back and just calling 911.

She walked into the station to report the mugging. The police officer behind the front desk looked up at her nonchalantly and slowly picked up a pen. "He's right over there!" Laura gestured frantically, trying to arouse a sense of urgency. "It just happened over there, by the bridge!" Another police officer stepped up, equally nonchalant, and asked her again where the mugging had happened. "Right over there!" she pointed, exasperated. She was pointing to the bridge a block and a half away. "He ran down that path!" After this conversation was repeated about five times, the second police officer finally sauntered out of the building. Amazed that the first police officer seemed oblivous to her wound, Laura finally asked for an ice bag and was told to go sit down and wait. Crying, she went to the ladies' room, wiped off her face, and examined the bloody bump on her forehead. Nobody had ever punched her in the head in her entire life. He could have grabbed that bag without punching her, anyway. She suddenly thought about battered women. How could they deal with this on a daily basis, from somebody they had cared about?

She went back out to the station and sat down. After several minutes had gone by, an ambulance crew arrived to examine her. For God's sake! Is this what lawsuits have brought us to? She only wanted an ice bag. They made her sign a release that she had declined to go to the hospital. They asked if there was anybody she wanted to call, and she said no. She didn't want to make anybody else late for work.

A few minutes later, the sauntering police officer returned with both the lunch bag and the purse--minus the wallet, Metro farecard, and church envelope that had a dollar or two in it. A third police officer appeared and offered her a ride home, which she accepted. The security guard greeted her with concern, and Marcos Vasquez stopped to stare at her forehead and tears as he got off the elevator. She went back to her apartment, got an ice bag out of the freezer, and lay down on the couch. She called Prince and Prowling to tell them she wouldn't be in today because she had been mugged. They asked if there was anything they could do, and she said, "No, thank you," even though she really wanted to say, "Yes, give me a paid vacation day so that I am not out a day's wages on top of everything else." She knew that she would return to work there tomorrow and not even get a card. Her head was throbbing in pain, and she began crying again. She knew all the sociological reasons that a man would punch a woman in the head at 8:30 in the morning, a couple of blocks from the police station, but none of that mattered now--she just wanted to find him and kick him in the head.

What Laura didn't know and what the police didn't tell her was that the man had run off on a path that led a few blocks away to a shelter for homeless men--apparently they didn't want to help her actually find him. It was the indiscriminate urinator from Urine Park, the one she had walked by dozens of times, the one that Dizzy had gotten angry with for not following pissing protocol, the one that Bridezilla had occasionally thrown a couple of bucks to from her high horse. What Laura didn't know was that this guy would be dead from hypothermia within two days, after getting kicked out of the shelter for drug abuse. What Laura didn't know was that guys like this had become a dime a dozen to Ardua, who had steadily cast her gaze on larger targets to accomplish greater evil. These petty horrors making life stink for so many people in Washington were now taken for granted by Ardua, who wanted more and more and more.

Ardua could scarcely be bothered with taking the time to delight in Laura's pain and fear with so much happening in the city, all the winds of political change, all the legislative battles being pitched, all the ambition and ego on the line. A string of late-night murders were simply late-night snacks for her now. The world's air and sea themselves would choke or swell based on decisions being made in this city right now! The country's--no, the world's!--poorest, most vulnerable, would survive or not survive! It was a dizzying time, so much to do. It would take Laura years to get over that attack, but Ardua had already moved on.