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, August 12, 2012

Game Changers

Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson looked out smugly on the faces of the Heurich Society.  "As you all know," she said, without bothering to open the meeting formally, "we succeeded in persuading Mitt Romney to select Paul Ryan as his running mate."  (Samuelson, the real estate agent, had rented an apartment to Ryan when he was first elected to Congress, and they had been friendly ever since.)  "I know there have been a lot of concerns here about Mitt's nomination, and I think we can all agree things are moving in a better direction now."  (The truth was, only one person in the Heurich Society had followed through on the directive to push Ryan to the top--the others had just pretended to go along with it.)  "Of course, our next step is shaping the acceptance speech--shaping what this campaign is really going to be about."  (This was getting over her head in some respects, unaccustomed as she was to dealing with more than local politicians, but her instincts were getting stronger every day.)  "Aren't you hungry?" she asked, looking in amazement at the still-full platter of bran muffins and sprouted-wheat scones.  (As if on cue, the butler re-entered the upper meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle with a tray of freshly cut strawberries and melons from the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market, and these were met with a little more enthusiasm.)  "Alright:  next on the agenda, a report on the Middle East."

A few miles to the north, Angela de la Paz was boarding a Heurich Society charter flight back to the Middle East.  She felt a hard poke in the back of her neck and wheeled around, but there was nobody there.  She sat down gingerly in the middle row and put her bag on the floor.  The phantom pokings had been going on for two weeks now, and her spine was starting to bother her--as if something were always pushing it out of alignment.  As soon as her neck would get poked, the pain would move down to the spot in-between her shoulder blades; then she would feel a poke in-between her shoulder blades, and the pain would move down to her sacrum; then she would feel a poke in her sacrum, and the pain would return to her neck.  After battling Ardua of the Potomac, Eeteebsse, and their evil flunkies, there was not much that scared her, but she was starting to think a ghost was haunting her, and it really gave her the creeps.  She leaned back into the seat with determination:  nothing can poke me through the seat cushions.  Nonetheless, the ghost of Henry Samuelson was not deterred by things like seat cushions, so he poked her again.  She jumped out of her seat and turned around to see what was there, but nothing was there.

"Miss Ella?"

Angela jumped again, but it was only the flight attendant.

"The pilot's ready if you are.  Are you OK?"

"Yes," said Angela, sitting down and buckling her seatbelt.  "We can go."

Ghost Henry got off the plane in disgust.  He was getting stronger in his poltergeist skills, but still nobody could see him.  He had already taken two CIA flights to the Middle East, and he hadn't been able to get a single soul to hear a word he had said.  He watched in frustration as the plane took off for its futile mission--something he had been unable to warn Angela or his daughter about.  He took off to return to Langley and make another attempt at writing a report for limited electronic distribution.

A few miles to the east, military attaché Roddy Bruce was trying to stifle a yawn during the Middle East security briefing at the Australian Embassy.  They warned me this would happen.  He pretended to take notes, but the words were going in one ear and out the other.  If you succeed on the United Nations peacekeeper mission in East Timor, they're going to put you on anti-terrorism duty in Indonesia; if you do too good a job there, you'll be sucked into Afghanistan or the Middle East.  He reached for his coffee cup, but it was empty.  You just had to do your job, Roddy, but, nooooo, you had to go all commando and get hailed as a hero.  He got up to refill his coffee cup, even though he knew this was his third trip to the sidebar and it was not going to go unnoticed.  You'll be lucky to get even three months of paper-pushing and a trip to see New York City before you're sent on some secret agent mission to the bloody Middle East.  He returned to his seat and made another futile attempt at focusing on what was being said.  ("Son, you know how Gallipoli turned out for the Aussies," his father had warned him.  "Stay in the Pacific.")  He suddenly heard something that might need to go in his notes:  "she whose gaze must be avoided".  Who the hell is that?

A few blocks away, Becky Hartley was looking pretty good in a magenta sundress and white cowboy boots as she entered Homestead Park with Sebastian L'Arche.  "Who's that chick?" thought more than a few guys who were supposed to be focusing on their girlfriends or children, though Hartley was all business as she conducted a large number of dogs around to distract the people from L'Arche and the rat terrier Gipper's quest to scare up some rodents.  A half-hour later, they were across P Street, and the Gipper was sniffing his way into the Scientology Center.  "We have never had a rodent problem here," stated the gentleman leading them down into the basement.  "The Open House tour does not include the basement, but we don't want to take any chances.  Mice do not fit into our image whatsoever."

"Really?" said Hartley, and L'Arche kicked her gently in the ankle.

"A lot of people get rats after a full day of rain," said L'Arche.  "We're booked all day."

"I didn't say rats," the gentleman protested.  "It's mice."

L'Arche was fairly certain that mice could not be coexisting peacefully on the same street as all the rats that the Gipper had been gobbling up, but he saw no need to comment to that effect, and gave Becky a preemptive (but gentle) kick in the ankle to keep her mouth shut, as well.

Becky, however, was now distracted by a wall poster--which the gentleman hung back to explain to her as L'Arche and the Gipper headed into the room suspected of harboring rodents.  "Do y'all really believe that?  That the entire Bush clan was replaced by the Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the 1970s?"

"No, no!  That's just a joke!" the scientologist protested.

"My daddy used to say that all the time--he almost left Dallas when Bush became governor of Texas!" said Hartley.

"Actually, the body snatchers are a metaphor for omnipresent replacement of individual character with the groupthink of the prevailing paradigm," he replied.  "My name is Werner," he added.

"Warner, what about this one?" asked Hartley, moving to a wall poster in the next hallway with lyrics attributed to Steve Winwood:  When there's no one left to leave you, even you don't quite believe you, that's when nothing can deceive you.  "He wasn't a scientologist?! My mama used to sing that all the time!" 

"We think that was inspired by a scientologist who played drummer with him on a couple of sessions," said Werner.

An hour later, L'Arche found Hartley upstairs, signing up for the next stage in her introduction to scientology.  "Gipper ate six rats," L'Arche said.

"You mean mice?" asked Werner.

"No, I mean rats," said L'Arche.  "About 10 inches long.  Gipper won't be hungry again until tomorrow.  We'll have to bag the rest of them today."

Werner frowned and wrote out a check for L'Arche.  (He was frowning about the rats, not the money--Becky's check to the Church of Scientology was larger than their check to L'Arche.)

L'Arche yanked Hartley forcefully out into the sunshine.  "You need to cancel that check!  Don't let them brainwash you!"

"Why, Sebastian, I'm shocked!" protested Hartley.  "Do you really think I'm somebody that can be brainwashed?!"  She laughed, shook her head, and turned towards the truck.

Well, somebody brainwashed you into wearing leather boots when it's 85 degrees and humid outside, so, yeah, I do! he fumed, hurrying after her.  L'Arche had seen all kinds of "conversions" amongst the other soldiers in Iraq--Christian, Moslem, Satanist, Buddhist, Wiccan--but nobody had ever turned Scientologist.  It was whispered that just visiting a Scientology website could get a sargent demoted to private.  A Scientologist would never take orders from anybody except a fellow Scientologist--at least, that was the common reason assumed for the ostracism.

"I'm just curious," said Hartley, climbing behind the steering wheel.  "It's interesting stuff!  And I would think that you, of all people, would be more open-minded!"  L'Arche said nothing--just fastened his seatbelt and looked back at the bloated rat terrier in the bed of the truck.  "Ya think he's gonna barf?" asked Hartley, and L'Arche was relieved that her thoughts were still focused on the physical and the mundane.  He shook his head no, and they drove to their next appointment.  (No, thought L'Arche, I'm not open-minded:  evil exists in many forms, and I don't like any of them.)


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