THE CATALPHAN RARITY


The small but elegantly adorned rocket-ship raced through the darkness of Outer Space like a silver bullet, its velocity far beyond the demands of usual safety precautions when entering a stellar region. The craft quickly wavered in programmed evasive manoeuvres as the flashes of deadly energy bursts sped to-wards it from behind.

Several lengths behind the rocket was another ship, this one larger and of a decidedly menacing aspect. It resembled what could only be described as a massive, metallic spider’s-web, and it was from this craft that the lethal energy flashes were emanating.

One of the blasts caught the tail-end of the rocket-ship, but the ship’s computerised navigation system compensated and continued on its course, directed as it was towards a small, blue-green planet still many Space-leagues distant.

Coming from the beleaguered rocket could be heard, by those tuned to the correct frequency, an urgent request -- a plea in a youthful female voice:

“Help me, Doctor Daniel Rumanos. You’re my only hope.” …

My name is DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a tall human gentleman with striking Anglo-Semitic features, I am really no mere mortal. I am actually many thousands of years old and carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the mysterious Watchers of Algol -- this heritage granting me numerous capabilities that appear as “magic” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites are content to merely observe the goings-on of the Universe around them, I am myself a member of a secret organisation existing amongst us, known as the KOSMIKOS. Assigned to planet Earth, my mission is to defend the human race from alien invasion, mad scientists, and other threats. I am The Daemon-Star!!

It was after sunset, but the streetlamps and shop lights were bright that Saturday evening along South Broadway, close by the harbour in the Fell’s Point neighbourhood of Baltimore. The usual weekend partygoers were out in abundance, going to the area’s famed assortment of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The usual prostitutes and street-hustlers lurked about, as well as numerous homeless beggars, all hoping for a handout from the rather well-to-do crowd that patronised the local establishments.

I had just reached the corner of Thames Street (wearing my usual silk suit, jungle boots, greatcoat, and panama hat) when the glow of the molecular transportation beam alit directly in front of me. I stepped back a couple of paces, cautious of what might appear. It is, after all, best to be prepared for the possible manifestation of horrid extraterrestrial monsters.

Nevertheless, what actually stood before me, when the transport beam finished its glimmering, was an exquisitely beautiful young girl. She looked about eighteen, by the human reckoning of years, and was tall and slender, clad in a tight fitting silver-and-gold dress that left bare her arms and her long, gorgeous legs down to her small silver boots. Her hair was hot pink, and her eyes an unearthly shade of pale violet. Her skin was as the pure white of finest alabaster.

“Dr. Daniel Rumanos?” she enquired in a voice sweet and cultured despite being tinged by a tone of distress. “I am Princess Kittery of the planet Catalpha.”

“Pleased and honoured, Your Highness,” said I with a courtly bow. “I received the transmission, and these were the coordinates given for our meeting. I only wish it could have been a more inconspicuous spot.”

“Yes,” replied the Princess as she surveyed the crowded city street. We had already received a few odd stares from passers-by, though strangely-clothed partiers are not really so unusual in the area as to attract too much attention. “Unfortunately, I know little of this planet, and my computer just calculated a location close by your own. My ship is in orbit, therefore enabling the engagement of its cloaking device while the electronic technician carries out repairs. Unfortunately, my attackers will be able to trace the transport beam and may follow shortly.”

“Then we must be ready, and to be so I need to have all the information Your Highness can provide. The incident involves that which is known as The Catalphan Rarity?”

“Indeed it does,” she answered. “Thankfully, they did not succeed in their attempt to steal it.”

With this, Princess Kittery reached into a pocket of her garment and uncovered a small object that sparkled in the lights as she held it in her hand. It was covered with jewels of every colour -- red and blue and purple and golden and several hues unknown to any earthly eye.

“Fascinating,” said I in earnest. “A most priceless treasure indeed. The actual origins of it have been lost in the legends of Catalpha?”

“That is correct, Dr. Rumanos. We only know that it was worn by my most remote ancestor, countless generations ago, when the Royal Catalphan Dynasty was founded. We know not even how it was worn in those days, but it has now been converted to a lapel-pin and only taken from the treasury of the crown jewels for adornment at certain rare functions.”

“And Your Highness was wearing it at an awards ceremony at Galactic Centre when attacked?”

“To be precise, it was after the ceremony, and I was returning to my ship, accompanied by the Royal Guard. In the hangar, we were suddenly assailed by blasts from energy weapons. May guardsmen were all slain, and I don’t know how I survived. I suppose the attackers just missed their target, though I could swear I felt the burn of the firepower briefly on my skin!”

“But Your Highness obviously managed to escape.”

“Yes, I ran to my ship and immediately engaged the autopilot, setting the controls for Earth. Having heard of your exploits, Dr. Rumanos, by our own military intelligence records, I knew it was the closest place I could receive aid.”

“So the criminals that attacked Your Highness, and that pursued the royal ship, were Durmph?”

We had by now strolled a couple of blocks whilst talking, and I saw the Princess (who had safely returned to Rarity to its pocket) raise her eyes skyward with a sudden look of horror. I followed her gaze and beheld, blocking out the starlight, a large alien vessel resembling a metallic spider’s web.

“It’s them!” exclaimed Princess Kittery. “The Durmph! They have found me!”

There was a brief flash of dark light as a passageway opened in the bottom of the enemy ship and three creatures dropped to the ground directly in front of us. They were each several metres in diameter and absolutely nightmarish of aspect: Arachnids with humanoid faces and horns like those of rams, all dark brown of colour and covered with bristly hair.

I heard the Princess scream in abject horror as the three monstrosities quickly approached us!

I quickly cast a bolt of my orange and blue Algolitish energies at the three horrid arachnid Durmphs. Unfortunately, due to my not having enough time to generate a large enough blast, I only succeeded in halting the alien monsters for a few moments. It was long enough, however, for the Princess Kittery and me to temporarily escape into a nearby alley or alcove space between two buildings along the waterside Thames Street shops.

“These Durmph,” said I to Her Highness as we hid in the shadows. “I know they are from a star cluster known as  ‘The Durmphian Web’, and have a background in gangsterism and piracy, but they have since become known as legitimate businessmen, even owning several of the resort hotels and casinos in Galactic Centre. Why would they attempt to steal the Catalphan Rarity? Certainly its uniqueness would make it a difficult item to sell, even if they could find a buyer both wealthy enough and willing to take the chance of detection in being part of such a crime.”

“It appears,” answered the Princess, “that the Durmph have recently added political ambitions to their business transactions. They have been making connections along these lines throughout their sector, and politics in that part of the Galaxy is not exactly known for its honesty.”

“That, Your Highness, is an unfortunate truth in many quarters. So, they feel ownership of the Catalphan Rarity, however they may obtain it, would increase and expand their political status, therefore furthering their ambitions in that regard?”

“Exactly. It seems likely that they had planned to cover up murdering me at Galactic Centre, and somehow claim that my government had passed the Rarity to them, perhaps for safekeeping after the ceremony, before my ship was lost in deep Space. My father, King Catalpha, is a very old man with no other heirs. The Durmph could just possibly make use of the Catalphan Rarity in order to claim supreme power on our planet and on all allied worlds.”

“Tricky!” said I with aghast bemusement. “Bloody tricky old spiders.”

It was then, as if on cue, that we heard a voice. It was a grotesquely raspy but none the less authoritative voice, a voice that seemed to be fabricated from myriads of infernal clickings mixed with a background of concerted squeals and moanings that somehow grouped themselves, however hideously, into vociferous and commanding syllables.

It was indeed the horrifying voice of the largest of the three sickening Durmphs, the one who was their commander.

“Princess Kittery of Catalpha,” it said, “We are the Durmph, and shall be rulers of the Catalphan Sector and of all the Galaxy. You will surrender yourself and the bauble known as The Catalphan Rarity to us immediately. As long as you show no further resistance, neither you nor anyone else will be harmed. You will be then taken into custody and brought to and housed on our home-world of Durmphia, where you will remain until we have finished negotiations with your father.”

“They now seek to hold me for ransom,” whispered the Princess in indignant horror. “The price being my father’s Kingdom!”

“Stay here, Your Highness,” I counselled. “We do not negotiate with monsters.”

Nevertheless, I surreptitiously peered out from our hiding-place and beheld a horror. The Durmph villains had collected a group of a dozen or so young people, boys and girls mostly still in their teens, from among the varied partygoers in the Fell’s Point neighbourhood. They had corralled the group together in the centre of the large meridian of South Broadway, with the three extraterrestrial spiders guarding them vigilantly on all sides. The Durmph were holding deadly energy weapons, a sort of ray-gun, in the claws of the first of their eight horrid limbs.

Any escape for the youngsters seemed impossible, and I saw them trembling in terror, some sobbing loudly in total abject mortal fear -- fear both of death and of the absolutely horrendous appearance of those unspeakable alien horrors whose very existence in any world of sanity was completely beyond their human understanding. 

“You will surrender yourself and the Catalphan Rarity to us immediately, Princess,” continued the voice of the leader of the Durmph. “You will surrender now or these hostages will die!!”

Do you comprehend the unspeakable extraterrestrial horror of this situation, my dear readers? There upon the meridian of the southernmost block of Broadway in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, stood the hideously horned alien spiders known as the Durmph -- pirates, racketeers, big-time businessmen, and now political aspirants having resorted to shocking criminality in an attempt to achieve their heinous goals -- now holding as hostage a group of helpless young people who had only gone out that evening for rest and recreation!

“I will repeat this once and once only, Kittery of Catalpha,” stated the leader of the Durmph. “You will comply with our demands, surrendering yourself and the Catalphan Rarity to us immediately, or these hostages will be executed!!”

As we stood in the shadows of our defensible alleyway observing this horrendous scene, I heard Princess Kittery shudder with a slight sob.

“Dr. Rumanos,” she said, “I must… I must go and surrender. We cannot allow the Durmph to murder those innocents. Not even the Kingdom of Catalpha is worth that!”

I stood amazed at the heroism and compassion, the incredible and true courage of this beautiful young noblewoman, who was, sooth to say, herself no older than the very hostages for whom she would willingly sacrifice herself. Notwithstanding this, I had to inform her of certain facts that may have, in the extreme emotions evoked by these incidents, not have occurred to her.

“Your Highness,” I addressed her, “I cannot advise such action. The Durmph cannot, under any circumstances, be trusted. They have no honour, and continuously alter their felonious plans to fit the situation. They likely intend to kill Your Highness along with the hostages and then to escape the planet with the Rarity.”

“But what then shall we do, Dr. Rumanos of Algol?” she enquired, her beautiful eyes downcast in inner turmoil.

“Ah!” I exclaimed suddenly, raising my hand to indicate a point down the wide city street. “It appears we now have reinforcements! Look!”

At that moment, stalwartly approaching was a group of perhaps two dozen Baltimore City Police Officers in full riot gear. They were armed with flamethrowers.

Two of the Durmph moved forward in front of the hostages and raised their energy guns, firing upon the approaching police squad. Two or three of the officers were hit and fell before the remainder of them could get within range. Then all hell broke loose.

The remaining police let loose with their flamethrowers upon the two giant alien spiders. The primitive force of these weapons was undoubtedly a surprise to these space-going monsters, and they had no defence for it. They went up immediately in a conflagration of blazing horror, and soon only a blackened pile of ashen arachnid flesh remained of the pair of Durmph criminals.

By now, sirens were wailing as rescue team ambulances arrived to see to the hostages and the fallen officers. Soon enough, the local news media would also be there to cover up the entire affair as just another drunken brawl or whatever. 

In the resultant commotion, no one seems to have noticed the conspicuous absence of the other Durmph, the largest of them, indeed the leader of those horrible spidery gangsters.

I quickly turned around to face Princess Kittery and instead beheld a terror beyond imagining. The other Durmph monstrosity had silently crept up behind us in the alley as we were distracted by observing the late melee out on the street. The horrific creature now held the Princess in the grasp of its arachnid limbs. Her eyes were wide with total abject horror as the alien criminal held its gun to the side of her pretty head.

As I beheld this shocking scene, I heard the Durmph, that sickening horned spider from the darkest depths of Outer Space, laugh with wicked eldritch mirth at its own apparent victory.

I stood transfixed, not daring to move a muscle. I realised that if I made what appeared to be even the slightest attempt to stop the Durmph villain, the horrid monstrosity would pull the trigger of its alien energy gun and blow the brains of the lovely Princess Kittery all over the brick wall of the alley-alcove.

The Durmph reached one of its hideous spider limbs into the damsel’s pocket and pulled forth that object it so coveted, that ancient heirloom of the royal family of the planet Catalpha, that jewel-encrusted item it had committed such terrible crimes to obtain in its ungodly plans to further its ambitions and achieve political power.

“Let the Princess go, Durmph,” I entreated the criminal creature. “You have the Catalphan Rarity. That is all you wanted.”

“No, Earthman,” replied the arachnid, having no knowledge of my true identity. “She will remain a hostage and be my insurance that her father shall abdicate his throne! Then they shall be sent into exile, and the Alliance of the Durmphian Web will be inaugurated as the new rulers of Catalpha! From there we will build an army, a force of supreme military power that will spread our domination across the Galaxy!!”

It was then -- at that moment of unnameable horror -- that I beheld a miracle, or at least the closest thing to such that one could ever expect to experience in this Universe of Madness. For it was then that an effulgent glow began to shine from the Catalphan Rarity -- a strange, glimmering radiance that seemed to come from the very core of that archaic item.

It was then that the Durmph shrieked in pain and final horror before it then just crumbled away into nothingness as if it had never been. I glanced upwards and saw the Durmph web-ship that had been hovering motionless, far above us in the night sky, similarly vanish into non-existence.

Princess Kittery fell forward into my arms. She was still trembling with horror, but unharmed.

“It is all right  now,” I assured her. “The Durmph are destroyed, and Your Highness is safe, as is the planet Catalpha. Observe!”

The Catalphan Rarity, which had been floating in the air before us, then gave a final burst of its radiant glow, before itself disappearing as if into eternity.

“What… ?” enquired the Princess, regaining her composure. “What happened? The Catalphan Rarity, it…?”

“Its true purpose was revealed, Your Highness,” I explained. “At the core of the Rarity were the forgotten remains of an ancient weapon that the first King of Catalpha utilised to defeat his enemies and established the monarchy.  It had the power, at one time, of making those of the royal bloodline invulnerable to violent attack. Attuned to particular DNA combinations, I would presume it was, by some archaic and now-lost science. Sooth to say, the Archives of the Watchers speak of such weaponry having existed in some parts of the Galaxy in those times.

“Anyway, it was ancient and its powers had become unreliable -- believe me, I know the feeling -- but it did protect Your Highness from the Durmph assault at Galactic Centre.”

“Yes!” exclaimed the Princess in astonishment. “Remember? I said I thought the gunfire had hit me, but I was unhurt!”

“Indeed, Your Highness, and it expended the last of what remained of its ancient power here, to destroy the Durmph. Unfortunately, that effort was too much for it, shattering its material essence along with the decorative jewels that had been added to adorn it over the years.”

There was a beeping sound from the young lady’s pocket, and she took out a small, handheld communications device.

“The robotic mechanics have completed the repairs on my ship,” she said, reading the display of information from the device, “and a ship of royal guardsmen is arriving to escort me safely home.”

“Farewell, Your Highness,” I told her with a bow. “Please do assure His Royal Majesty, that even though a portion of the crown jewels has been lost, a far more precious ‘Catalphan Rarity’, the most exquisitely lovely Princess Kittery, is now safe.”

“Thank you so much, Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” said the Princess with a gorgeous smile as she leaned forward and kissed me. “I and my people owe you such a great deal. I promise that your valour and wisdom shall always be remembered on my world. Fare you well, noble Daemon-Star, always!”

And with this, the beautiful Princess Kittery, future Queen of the planet Catalpha, stepped back and, with the shimmering light of the transport beam, left the planet Earth.

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN

THE CASE OF THE SATANIC SUB-DEB


All was quiet in the dormitory of Roland Park Country School as the girl crawled into bed. Her roommates had gone to the cinema to catch the latest romantic comedy film. She had not felt like going with them.

Pink pyjamas clad the young girl’s slender figure and her auburn hair was pulled back into a ponytail away from her heart-shaped face. Her skin was the pure and translucent white of finest alabaster, and she had that particular beauty of one who is just completing the third lustrum of life. Nevertheless, her mist-grey eyes were still wet with tears.

The girl, strikingly-lovely in her adolescent perfection, pulled the bedclothes up around her. The dorm was well-heated, but this early-February evening was especially cold. It was then particularly strange when she found an odd feeling of uncomfortable warmth suddenly assailing her.

But it was not actually a physical sensation. It was more an emotional or mental impression, and was accompanied by a strange vision -- a vision of unnameable vistas of dark dread and ineffable yearning. Then, to the girl’s horror, it was also accompanied by a voice.

“Receive us, young one,” it said in tones at once dulcet and irresistibly commanding. “We are the Vogni. We are the Black Flame. We are Hellfire.” …

My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Literary Illusionist and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a tall, well-built human gentleman with striking Anglo-Semitic features, I am really not a mere mortal at all. I am in actuality many thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the mysterious Aeturnusians or “Watchers” of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- Masters of all Space and Time; this heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear “supernatural” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites are (officially) content to merely observe the goings-on of the Universe around them, their intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, I am myself a member of a secret organisation existing amongst our elite class, known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department. Plausible deniability, and all that. I thus have, for so many years now, made it my particular mission to use my extraterrestrial gifts to defend the innocent from attack, invasion, and assorted similar threats -- both upon Earth and across the vast reaches of the Universe!

On this particular evening, I had been invited to the home of Mr. David Moranis, located in the elite Tuscany-Canterbury district of north Baltimore City in the State of Maryland. Mr. Moranis, a wealthy gentleman in his late thirties, knowing of my work from some reports of it that have appeared (albeit in somewhat-distorted forms) in the news media, had contacted me about a case he felt required my particular expertise. The mystery in question involved his fiancée, a young lady residing at one of the near by private academies.

“Thank you so much for coming by, Doctor Rumanos,” said David Moranis as we sat on opposite sides of the fireplace there in the study of his elegant mansion. “I really did not know where else to turn with this dilemma.”

“I am pleased to help in any way I can, Mr. Moranis,” said I, sipping the steaming hot Earl Grey Tea his elderly Jamaican manservant had brought for us after taking my greatcoat and panama hat. I was wearing my usual blue-and-grey silk suit and jungle boots.

It was a particularly cold night, and the fire burned merrily, illuminating the room in an ever-shifting glow.

I found Mr. Moranis to be a quite good-looking gentleman, tall and thin, with dark hair and cobalt-blue eyes, his features of the highest European aristocratic type. He was dressed in finely-tailored eveningwear. 

The room in which we sat was tastefully lined with bookshelves, filled with collections of the complete works of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century British authors. Having myself only recently returned from a remarkable series of adventures throughout the vast outer reaches of Space and Time (being those particular experiences recounted in my secret archives under the titles of “Galaxy Phwoar“, “The Boner of Orbimus“, “Hearts in Lemuria”, “Shaga“, and “The Curse of Prick Point“), I found the surroundings to be a refreshingly peaceful change.

“You say the problem concerns a young lady?” I continued. “Your fiancée, I believe?”

“Yes,” he replied. “She is a student at Roland Park Country School. Her name is Karen.”

“A beautiful name, and a fine school. What then is the nature of the trouble?”

“A strange sort of depression seems to have overcome Karen of late,” the gentleman stated. “Her family, who reside in England, have somewhat resisted our relationship, due to the age difference. I believe they will come around so long as we wait for her to finish her education, but the emotional trauma has affected Karen in… odd ways. Odd ways indeed.”

Moranis trailed off and glanced towards the fireplace. I could see that the subject manner was distressing him more than his well-bred manners could easily handle.

“Go on,” I assured him. “There is no need to hold anything back. If you truly care for the young lady, it is of paramount importance that you tell all.”

“I just want to make it clear, Dr. Rumanos,” he said with a stalwart attempt to control the slight emotional tremor that had entered his voice, “that I do care for her very much, and with a pure heart. She is… innocent, and we have agreed to wait for marriage before… consummating our relationship. It is very important to both of us.”

“Capital to hear, sir,” I approved. “But please, go on with your description of this rather mysterious problem your betrothed has been experiencing.”

“She says she has occasionally felt… a presence, and has heard a voice calling to her. Oh, Dr. Rumanos, I do so hope you don’t say we should just see an ordinary psychiatrist, or perhaps one of those ridiculous television ‘ghost hunter’ types!”

“By no means,” I replied. “I would especially never recommend the latter to anyone in any situation. So, this ‘voice’ -- what does she seem to hear it say?”

“It calls itself by several different names, she says, as the presence seems to be attempting to fully enter her consciousness. It calls itself the ‘Black Flame’, the ‘Dark Enlightenment’, and… ‘Hellfire’.”

I felt a feeling of unmentionable dread within my being as I began to perceive a possibility of what the girl might be experiencing. I took another drink of tea before my next enquiry.

“Mr. Moranis,” I said. “It occurs to me that you have not yet mentioned the young lady’s surname.”

“Yes, I know,” he pronounced with wavering of voice as if revealing this information distressed him. “Her name is… Dashwood. Karen Dashwood.”

“’Dashwood’?” I repeated as a cold realisation continued to come upon me. “As in…?”

“Indeed,” he said, his eyes downcast. “She is directly descended from the family of Sir Francis Dashwood, leader of… the Hellfire Club.”

The information that David Moranis had reluctantly related only served to confirm the horrid suspicions that had already been growing within me. They were suspicions involving a decidedly old and grotesquely obscene evil that could bring unnameable horrors to Mr. Moranis and his betrothed -- and indeed to all of mankind!

Bloody Hell, to be sure! Sir Francis Dashwood, the dissolute Eighteenth Century English nobleman who had headed the notorious Hellfire Club, an organisation of elite dilettantes that had practiced secret Satanic rites in a system of caves underneath an unsuspecting London. The same Hellfire Club that had covertly influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States of America -- especially Benjamin Franklin, himself a practicing Satanist who is known to have attended some of the group’s hideous and unspeakable orgies in worship of those very forces of supernatural darkness. Indeed, it is largely this that led to the rebellious formation and chequered history of this oft-depraved and ungodly nation that has at times earned for itself, in certain circles, the appalling appellation of “The Great Satan”!

This is the unholy influence that I now had to face.

You see, Francis Dashwood had died without leaving any legitimate children, and the maiden Karen Dashwood was, as I verified from Moranis, descended from the cousins who had then assumed his title and estates. That young Miss Dashwood was herself innocent of Satanism or indeed of any other wrongdoing I had no reason to doubt. For I knew the reality of the force behind the diabolical debaucheries of the Hellfire Club -- a force of eldritch evil beyond even the imaginings of witchcraft and black magic.

As is the case with so many of what human beings refer to as gods, spirits, and demons, the force behind the evil of Sir Francis Dashwood and his corrupt cronies was actually an extraterrestrial evil from a planet many light-years from Earth. In this case it was an ancient, space-faring race known as the Vogni, which had cast aside their physical forms in ages past and had become creatures of disgusting orgasmic energy -- an energy known as the “Black Flame“ or, more vulgarly, “Hellfire”. Eventually, they had filtered down to this planet and continued their existence, empowered by the perverted activities of Dashwood and the Hellfire Club. When he had died and the group of sickening Satanists had disbanded, the Vogni had gone into a period of psychic hibernation lasting until the present time, when they had awakened and sought a new host, forsooth an host of blood relation to the one who had so empowered them generations before. Such turned out to be, shockingly, the virginal damsel Karen Dashwood, honour student at the all-girl Roland Park Country School, promising sub-debutante, and beloved fiancée of my client Mr. David Moranis of Baltimore, Maryland!

It is likely that, despite the existence of what could be called the generational curse of the Dashwoods, teenaged Karen would have been spared the devilish attentions of the Vogni had it not been for the psychological stress she had been undergoing; the stress caused by her family’s opposition to her relationship with Mr. David Moranis. Oh, the folly of humankind in their futile attempts to append the moral laws that the Almighty has given to all of us! For indeed, where in the Holy Gospel is it even hinted that there could be evil in the pure love of a distinguished gentleman for a young lady -- a love in the form that is indeed the most natural and healthy of any human desires?

Even as I sat speaking with Moranis about his case, discussing the further details and particulars of the situation, I began to notice something odd indeed. Even thought the fire continued to blaze strongly in the hearth, the room had steadily become conspicuously darker. It had happened so gradually as the be barely perceived, and it is only when I thought to refill my teacup from the kettle that I noticed that it was so dim that I could hardly see my hand before my eyes. I said nothing at first, but glanced towards the fireplace to observe.

“Dr. Rumanos,” said David Moranis in sudden realisation, “do you notice that… it is… ?”

“The darkness,” I completed what he sought to express. “It is unnatural. We are being observed by the forces of the Vogni!”

It is then that, knowing that its phantom presence had been detected, the preternatural horror of the Black Flame waited no longer, and, bursting forth from the flames of the hearth came forth a wave of unspeakable and horrendously ebon energy, an huge surge of loathsomely black psychic conflagration that shot directly for us both!!

I immediately generated a defensive wave of my orange and blue Algolitish energies against the horrendously demoniac powers of the Vogni. The forces collided with a resounding thunderclap of phantasmal preternatural force.

None the less, the hideous Black Flame was not completely halted, but continued to flow forth with unspeakable otherworldly grotesqueness from that whilom peaceful fireside there in the north Baltimore home of Mr. David Moranis.

“By the Stars!” I swore to myself. “My powers are somewhat unreliable these days. They have just not been the same since that experience I had a while back in Los Angeles[*].”

[* For the full and shocking details of this, see the undeniably factual and irrefutably accurate Weird Adventures account entitled “Immortal Sins”.]

David Moranis stood nearby, understandably shocked and amazed by the appearance of the eldritch ebony horror.

“Mr. Moranis,” I called him to his senses. “In order for any possibility to exist of defeating this Satanic force, you must tell me something; something of the highest importance.”

“Yes…” he stammered, bravely retaining composure. “What is it, Dr. Rumanos?”

“Tell me: Do you truly love that girl? Do you truly and with all that is within your being love Miss Karen Dashwood?”

“Yes… Yes, I do love her! With all my heart I do! I love her! I swear it! I love Karen more than life itself!”

“Excellent to hear, sir!” I proclaimed in approval. “Then this is what we must do: The force of the Black Flame has created a temporary inter-dimensional gateway through your fireplace to the location of its centre of power -- which is, I believe, the current location of Miss Dashwood! If you will have your obliging butler retrieve my hat and coat, you and I shall then go on a little journey together; indeed, a brief voyage through the dark passageway in order to confront the evil at its source. It is the only way I can foresee to defeat the Vogni and save the young lady!”

And so we did. Mr David Moranis and I did boldly step through the black, swirling inter-dimensional gate and did instantly travel the distance, finding ourselves in the dorm-room of Karen Dashwood, there at Roland Park Country School!

As the portal closed behind us there in that dormitory, we beheld the seemingly supernatural power of the Vogni, that obscene extraterrestrial terror known as the Black Flame and the blasphemous Satanic “Enlightenment”, the full force of the profanely Luciferian Luminosity that is the very source of the legendary Hellfire that is the supreme horror of humankind.

Moreover, at the very centre of this swirling phantasmagorical terror stood a beautiful young girl -- a gorgeous teenage maiden with auburn hair and mist-grey eyes, slender and helpless and innocent in her pink pyjamas as the ghastly alien force of the Satanic Vogni used her as the focal point for its re-entry into the world.

When I beheld the wee lass, that helpless and pure virgin named Karen Dashwood, the lovely sub-deb cursed to this ungodly fate only by activities that had occurred several centuries before her birth, I hoped and prayed that the terror of the Vogni could be abated without harm to her. For I knew that, should the admittedly-mad plan I had in mind fail, the only hope left to save the unsuspecting planet Earth from eternal enslavement to the Vogni (beginning as it would with a Satanic reign of unhallowed horror and blasphemies unimaginable) -- the only hope, I do say, of abating this, would be to bring about the death of the stunningly-beautiful and innocent young damsel, Miss Karen Dashwood!!

Do you recognise the unmentionably obscene and utterly frenzied horror; the very unholy terror of this fearful situation, my dear readers? Indeed, for the sake of your own sanity, I most truly pray that you do not!

Whilst the ghastly energy of the Black Flame continued swirling about the slender form of the young girl, my mind could not help but to think back to the numerous female creatures of evil and iniquity that I had encountered over the many years of my career: the doomed Vampiress Stefanie Ingamells; the fatally-seductive lamia, Carmilla Karnstein; the unmentionable Szepasszony; the repulsive Waddling Witch of Hampden, Mrs. Shelley Clem; the two hideous Daughters of the Horse-Leech; the detestable Marina Kraven; that loathsome offspring of sodomy, Marceline Short; the Irish bog-bitch known to infamy as Joni O’Doyle; the hideous Naamah, mother of the terror Asmodeus; the diabolically duplicitous Devlin Xandra Price; the dark demirep named in eternal damnation as GhostsDemons; the revolting “psychic sensitive”, Klarissa Feck; and that Ukraine girl who nearly knocked me out, the unspeakable Anastasia Rizak; among others, named or nameless or unnameable, horrifically-remembered or well-nigh forgotten.

These devilish dames were beings of pure wickedness, each and every one of them having invited the very forces of darkness into their persons by acts of ungodliness and sinful vice unimaginable to any decent individual. Moreover, in the end they had only been defeated by bringing about their death or confinement in irrevocable madness.

Nevertheless, one thing I knew as I thought back over this horrid catalogue of feminine wickedness, one thing of which I was certain: Karen Dashwood was not one of these.  She was a pure, chaste virgin of wondrously noble, pure English descent. An intelligent, innocent young lady in no way responsible for the sinful depravity of a family member now dead for centuries.

I knew that the only thing that had even made her at all susceptible to the perceived “curse of the Dashwoods” was that mental anguish, the psychological trauma that she had felt due to her parents having voiced some objections to her upcoming marriage to her beloved, Mr. David Moranis. That they had done this for no other reason than a so-called “age gap” -- that grotesque artificial construct that has become a sad obsession of modern society -- was all the more liable to have attracted the dark forces of Satanic malevolence.

To convince her family to cease their objections would be easy enough. I would only have to be certain that the Dashwoods soon received a letter congratulating them on their daughter’s upcoming nuptials, a letter from another British Family who are close personal friends of mine -- forsooth a Family who dwell in a rather palatial residence located in the City of Westminster.

However, in order to safely and permanently exorcise the phantasmagorical power of the extraterrestrial Vogni from the blameless teen damsel was something else entirely, indeed something that would require action by the very gentleman who had summoned my assistance in this exceedingly bizarre and momentous case.

“Mr. Moranis,” I told him. “Go to her. It is the only way to save her. Do it now and show no fear. If you love her, go to her.”

And at this, David Moranis walked directly over to his beloved Karen Dashwood, all trepidations having been overcome by his devotion and adoring affection for the lovely young maiden. At his approach, the churning powers of the dark force of ungodliness known as the Vogni, the Black Flame, or Hellfire -- did simply and immediately vanish. It was finished, as quickly as that. I knew then that the very power of love had broken the curse that had so long plagued the Dashwoods. The Black Flame was now extinguished forever.

Whilst I discreetly made my exit from the school, I pondered over the unfathomable mysteries of “the way of a man with a maiden”, as a certain sage once expressed it.

“David!” exclaimed Karen Dashwood as her fiancé held her in his arms. “What happened? I was going to bed when I heard that voice and then I can’t remember… I can’t remember anything until I saw you just now!”

“It’s all right, darling,” I heard him reply as the girl settled her pretty head on his shoulder. “There is no reason now to be afraid. Dr. Daniel Rumanos has helped us.”

CELEBRATING 50 WEIRD ADVENTURES

Heroes never die.
(Mickey Spillane)

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN

RIZAK


The Elkridge town clock was just tolling midnight when Anastasia Rizak found the book. It was a folio volume, hidden behind some outdated almanacs and encyclopaedia sets in the backroom of the library. On its black leathern cover were two words, embossed in shining scarlet: “LIBER BABYLON”.

Anastasia Rizak hated being made to work at the Elkridge Public Library. She had been ordered to do so by the juvenile-offenders court as community service after being found guilty of a prostitution-related offence.

This for a friggin’ hand-job?” she had muttered under her breath when the judge had given her sentence.

The elderly librarian, a childless widow, had taken a liking to Anastasia. Being of a completely different social level, the lady assumed that the young girl could be trusted, and had allowed her to stay at the library after closing time to clean and re-shelve the books. The wench was only glad that this would allow her to sooner finish her allotted sentence hours, and get back to hanging around the local pubs and taverns and cheap motels where she could find dirty old men willing to part with a few dollars -- money soon utilised to purchase the crystal methamphetamine to which Anastasia was hopelessly addicted -- in exchange for brief pleasures in the back of an automobile or in an alleyway.

On this particular night, Anastasia Rizak, bored to tears, had wandered into the library storage room. It was here that she had found the odd volume amongst a forgotten stack of outdated reference books.

When she saw the title, despite having no knowledge of its meaning, Anastasia had felt an unusual sensation. It was as if something was calling to her, something very old and very powerful -- something that had been waiting for her.

Anastasia opened the book and found that its text was written in two languages. The first was Aramaic, that tongue of the biblical period. The second was an early-Medieval Latin translation. The Aramaic, of course, was completely unintelligible to the poorly-educated teenager (it being unlikely that she even recognised it was a language), but the Latin, being at least in the same letters as English, she scanned with growing interest in her dark eyes, at the same time pronouncing some of the words, letter-by-letter.

Suddenly, Anastasia Rizak found herself propelled backwards against the far wall of the room. The girl squealed with a mixture of pain and grotesque pleasure at what she was experiencing. An eldritch glow of obscenely scarlet red surrounded her slim figure, and she felt her clothing, a common t-shirt and jeans, being ripped to shreds as if by unseen hands.

It was then that Anastasia first heard the voice. It sounded as the accents of a woman, but deep toned and palpably wicked, at once replete with hoary age and with the sensual delights of youthfulness.

“Anastasia… Anastasia… Rizak… Rizak… Rizak!” moaned the voice. “We have found you at last! It is now, through you, that we shall establish our Empire of Desire upon the Earth! All of mankind shall grovel before us in beggary for our charms. For we are at once the manifestation and the offspring of the Great Whore, the Harlot of Harlots, the Scarlet Woman -- BABYLON!!” …

My name is DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Literary Illusionist and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a strikingly handsome human gentleman with aristocratic Anglo-Semitic features, I am in reality not a mere mortal at all. I am actually many thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the mysterious Aeturnusians or “Watchers” of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- Masters of all Space and Time; this heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear “supernatural” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites are (officially) content to merely observe the goings-on of the Universe around them, their intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, I am myself a member of a secret organisation existing amongst our elite class, known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department. I thus have, for so many years now, made it my particular mission to use my extraterrestrial gifts to defend the innocent from attack, invasion, and assorted similar threats -- both upon Earth and across the vast reaches of the Universe! …

It was an overcast afternoon that I arrived in the town of Elkridge, Maryland, to investigate the odd series of events there of late. I was accompanied by an Algolite boy known by the name of Robinos, himself a Kosmikos agent-in-training whom I was instructing in the finer points of intergalactic espionage. I was dressed in my usual silk suit, greatcoat, jungle boots, dark spectacles, and safari hat. Robinos had similarly attired himself, but the red and yellow colour scheme that he had chosen was perhaps less well suited to stealth work than my own darker blue and grey. However, he was a young lad, and indeed a newcomer to the people, customs, and costumes of planet Earth.

“Be wary, Robinos,” I instructed. “We know not as yet exactly what we are dealing with. Our instruments only showed the presence of an extraterrestrial influence upon the recent happenings in this area -- the unexplained and sudden rise in immorality, sexual exhibitionism, and related atrocities.”

“Holy Small Town Scandals, Eleven!” exclaimed Robinos, addressing me by my official operative number.

“Indeed, my friend,” I replied. “Though the news media have so far largely ignored it, except as an humorous side-story. You shall find it is indeed an habit of Earth-people, and especially of Americans, to pretend that crime just does not happen in small towns and rural areas.”

Robinos, himself a quite handsome young man, tall and muscular for his age, had sandy hair and intense blue eyes inherited from the noble Algolitish family of which he was a scion. Forsooth, only those of the highest blood among our people are ever recruited for the Kosmikos.

“Look at that, Master Rumanos!” the lad suddenly ejaculated. “Over there!”

Upon gazing in the direction that my companion had indicated, I beheld, across the street near the town square, a large and sickeningly-overweight man of a rather boorish working-class type. He had opened his raincoat (under which he was nude) and was exposing himself to a group of schoolgirls. They reacted with a mixture of screams and giggles before collectively running away around the nearest corner.

“Crikey!” said I, loudly enough for the flasher to hear. “That is rather inappropriate, don’t you think?”

“You gonna stop me, weirdo?” he replied, bounding across the narrow street to face us.

“Indeed we shall stop you!” announced young Robinos impulsively. “We cannot allow you to assault innocent young ladies!”

“My young friend is correct,” I added, whilst retaining composure. “However, we shall first give you a chance to explain and repent of your actions. Perhaps you are being controlled by something outside yourself?”

“I ain’t gonna tell you overdressed creeps nothin’!” the man shouted, flecks of foam forming on the thick, flabby lips of his horrendously lower-class mouth. “I’m just gonna give you this!”

Then, he again opened his coat and, from the area of an horridly-stylised inverted cross tattooed upon the centre of his chest, there suddenly streamed forth a wave of powerful, burning-red phantasmal energy directly to-wards us!!

As the ghastly wave of eldritch alien energy surged forward, I made a quick sign to my companion to do something as he had previously been instructed.

“Robinos, NOW!” I ordered.

From both young Robinos and myself came forth bolts of our bright orange and blue Algolitish energies, meeting in unison against the evil powers being wielded against us. The enemy force reversed as our energy hit it with a loud sparking sound, and the scarlet wave hit our attacker, immediately knocking the malefactor unconscious.

Robinos and I approached our foe and I closely examined the horrid tattoo upon his flabby chest.

“The Mark of the Cult of Babylon,” said I.

“’Babylon’?” enquired my companion. “Isn’t that…?”

“Yes, Babylon or Babalon, in actuality the amalgamation of a species of lust elemental from Galaxy 6685 -- one of the Scarlet Spirals. They always seek a female host, however, this having given rise to the ‘Whore of Babylon’ legends upon Earth. The presence of such horrors would explain the rise of sexual offences here in Elkridge.

“This perverse individual is a mere henchman who was given a small inkling of power in order to defend his mistress,” I continued, as I searched through the pockets of his filthy raincoat. “Nevertheless, perhaps we can find some clew.”

I pulled from the unconscious criminal’s inner pocket a small laminated card.

“Ah, here we go,” I exclaimed. “’Andrew Howard’. Typical canaille name. It is from the Elkridge Public Library.”

“A library card?” said Robinos. “He doesn’t exactly appear to be the bookish type, Eleven.”

“Exactly, my friend. He is definitely not a literary light, even by Elkridge standards. We should investigate this local library without delay!”

We left our erstwhile attacker where he lay and walked the three blocks to the address on the card, soon finding ourselves at the old, dilapidated building that housed the Elkridge Public Library.

“It appears to be deserted, Eleven,” stated Robinos as we entered. “No patrons or staff.”

“Yet the door was unlocked,” I replied, “and the stacks seem to be in order. I wonder if…”

Before I could conclude my sentence, the door to the backroom creaked open, and slinking forth from it came a young girl clad in only a thin, see-through negligee and spike-heels. She had a mass of raven black hair and similarly-dark eyes, her lips full and blood-red. Flashes of the horrid scarlet energies played about her sultry person.

“Holy Teenage Temptress, Eleven!” exclaimed Robinos.

“Steady on, my friend,” I counselled him, “I can assure you that there is nothing at all ‘holy’ about her -- well, depending upon your spelling!”

“Hello, boys,” she interrupted. “If you think I‘m hot here, you should see my selfies on Likebook! My name is Anastasia Rizak, High Priestess of Babylon.”

“’Anastasia, Princess of Darkness‘, you mean,” I countered. “Not to be Russian to Judgement or anything like that. I like your Russian Dressing. Bit of a Slav to Fashion, are you?”

“Are you two oh-so-distinguished gentlemen looking to have some fun?” the felonious female queried with a seductive wink. “Or are you just an outstandingly-handsome priest and his sexy little altar boy come to hurt me? Tire of having a gay old time at the seminary?”

“Holy Innuendoes, Eleven!” exclaimed Robinos.

Suddenly, Robinos and I were assaulted from behind. It turns out that, whilst she was distracting us, two further male members of the cult headed by Anastasia Rizak, femme fatale and avatar of Babylon, had crept up unawares. They immediately threw some ropes about our persons, and quickly bound us.

“Eleven!” shouted Robinos, “I feel my powers have drained away and…”

“Indeed,” I replied. “These ropes seem to be imbued with a rare form of radiation from the home galaxy of that which is possessing our adversaries here. It is resistant and detrimental to our Algolitish energies.”

With this, my friend and I soon found ourselves securely tied to wooden chairs, and our extraterrestrial abilities curtailed. The two completely nude cultists, again disgustingly obese men of the lower order, stood behind us on guard as if mindless zombies.

“Now, I have you here in my power,” purred the wicked Anastasia amidst her mockingly whorish laughter. “The boys all want to come but they never want to leave.

“Oh, I recognised you as Watchers of Algol,” she continued, “and we have been expecting some of your kind to come here and try to meddle with our plans. ‘Non-interference’, my ass. You Algolites are habitual liars and meddlers! But now, I have you, and nothing -- not even you -- will be able to interfere with the Scarlet Essence of Babylon spreading our Empire of Lust over this entire planet!!”

As Robinos and I remained tied to the chairs, having become the victims of her prearranged trap, the bizarre teenaged harlot forever known to most unspeakable infamy as Miss Anastasia Rizak retrieved the book Liber Babylon from a near by shelf. She then proceeded to open its antique ebon cover (made as it was, I later ascertained, from the cruelly-flayed skin of an African slave) and began to intone the words of the satanic evocation -- her horridly unhallowed attempt to bring the phantasmagorical forces of eternal lustfulness and ungodly immorality fully forth upon the unsuspecting people of planet Earth!

In sooth, the nubile slut had already done so much eldritch evil in the brief fortnight since she had first found the wicked and unholy volume in its hiding-place amongst the storage room stacks. She had left her mother, Lynn, and moved from their squalid trailer at nearby Pirchway Mobile Homes in order to take up permanent residence in the now otherwise-abandoned library. It has since been ascertained that Lynn Rizak died shortly after these events from gout of the stomach.

(It should be added, for the sake of completeness in this totally and unquestionably veracious account, that Anastasia’s father, an homeless, unemployed drifter known only as “Donny”, had disappeared years before.)

Nevertheless, one is left with the important question as to why the archaic extraterrestrial powers of Babylon choose this seemingly-obscure adolescent prostitute as their representative. In this, we can only attempt to make an educated conjecture: with Anastasia Rizak being, through her mother, of Ukrainian ancestry, one is brought to mind of the clans of the horrid Yezidi “devil-worshippers” of Persia, some of whom long ago migrated to the Ukraine in order to escape the persecution being meted out to them at the hands of the righteous followers of the Prophet Mohammed. That the Rizak family was descended from these Yezidis is very probable, especially considering the girl’s own full-lipped and black-eyed features, these speaking of dusky non-European origins despite the ghostly pallidity of her complexion. Indeed, who is to say what abominably atavistic miscegenation had always lurked in bloodcurdling silence, hidden within the youthful slattern’s very being?

In any event, this Miss Rizak, prostitute and atrocious avatar of villainous ungodly evil, now stood there in the public library of Elkridge, Maryland, chanting the words of an archaic occult incantation intended to bring unholy debauchery upon the world!

“My lithe body arched for lust,” she intoned in the Aramaic that the alien forces had taught her to understand, “I do call forth the ascendancy of all things belonging to sensuality and of rapture! By the powers of the Great Whore, the Woman of Confusions, the Matriarch of Abominations and of all that is Perverse, may fornications fill the Earth, and may the secret lusts and desires of all be fulfilled!!”

Whilst the wicked wench was thus occupied, I was at work in freeing my friend and myself from our bonds. Although our Algolitish abilities had been curtailed by the radiation, I was able to apply the skills that I had learned whilst doing undercover work as a stage magician and carnival sideshow escape artist, and soon enough had our ropes untied.

“Holy Houdini, Eleven!” cried Robinos.

We speedily stood up to face the two burly and unclothed henchmen who were guarding us. It took only a couple quick displays of old-style fisticuffs from Robinos and myself to succeed in knocking them out.

It was then that we turned to face Anastasia Rizak. Horrifically, the scarlet forces of Babylon were completely surrounding the strange Slavic strumpet in answer to her calling -- and were rapidly growing in intensity and might!

Do you comprehend the extreme preternatural horror and the unnameable terror of this situation, my dear readers? Sooth to say, for the sake of your sanity and the peace of your eternal soul, I must sincerely pray that you do not!

“She is now here and I am she!” exclaimed the wretched girl in horrid and obscene ecstasy. “Babylon is rising! The power of the Scarlet Harlot is mine, and now the entire human race shall fall down in the unstoppable concupiscence and irresistible adulteries that constitute our worship! Hear me, Earthlings, and do now happily degrade yourselves in lovely filth forever in perverted reverence to LUST!!!”

And so Robinos and I advanced against the hideously debauched Anastasia Rizak, realising that she was mere moments away from unleashing the full force of Babylon -- a power that would indeed bring unstopping perversion, uncontrolled whoredom, and sexual promiscuity upon the unsuspecting human race, leading to a decadence beyond even that which was the downfall of that ancient Mesopotamian city and its empire that is the harlot’s namesake! Indeed, leading to a decadence unseen since that which devastated the home galaxy of the Babylon powers so many countless aeons past.

The surging waves of scarlet energy emanating from Anastasia caused my companion to be driven back. His youth and inexperience in such matters had prevented his Algolitish abilities from as quickly reasserting themselves as did mine.

I forced myself forwards against the horrid Babylonian energies and stood whilst generating a powerful outpouring of defence. Then, at the moment of releasing my power, I spoke the invocation of absolute purity and of peace that can only be used for such purpose at certain times and places and situations. It is a calling forth that is only properly expressed in ancient Algolitish:

KatrinaLiviuh!!!”

With this, a peal as of a thousand thunders was heard and there did open, behind the form of the Babylon-possessed slut known as Anastasia Rizak, an huge entrance to that Bottomless Pit which is known to legend and lore as “Hell” or Gehenna -- in sooth one of the inter-dimensional prisons established by the Aeturnusian Watchers for the gaoling of certain of our enemies judged too dangerous to exist in this reality.

The powers of Babylon then began to flow away from the evil girl and to disappear into the Abyss. In so doing, their true form was briefly and dimly descried -- being as an host of impish scarlet-hued elemental creatures, hideous and horned, and writhing in constant obscene sexual abandon. 

The beings began to claw and pull at the form of the decadent teenaged slut Anastasia Rizak, in order to be certain to drag her down with them into eternal Perdition.

“No! No! No!” she screamed in sudden absolute abject horror. “Please, no! Save me, Algolite! Save me from this! You can have me! I will let you do anything you want to me! Just please… Please, save me!!”

“Shut up, bitch,” said I as I sent a bolt of my alien energies to aid in propelling her into the putrid Pit. “Nobody gave you permission to speak.”

And then, as the horrid wench and the force of that ancient perverted evil vanished into the Hell of Everlasting Damnation, the portal did close behind them and all was quiet.

"A 'Red Scare', indeed," said I.

I walked over to where the delinquent strumpet had dropped Liber Babylon and retrieved the hoary book from the floor, immediately secreting it in one of the appropriately-voluminous pockets of my greatcoat, in which it would be reserved until I could bring it to a place of safekeeping. 

“Is she gone, then?” enquired Robinos as I returned to his side. “Is the evil fully exorcised?”

“Yes, my friend,” I assured him. “The Babylon horrors are vanquished, and Miss Rizak shall now find herself being brutally raped by lust elementals for all eternity.”

“Serves her right,” said the lad.

“You know what?” said I as we exited the Elkridge Public Library that momentous and fateful day. “This kind of activity always causes me to work up an appetite. I think I am in the mood for some ho fun.”

“Why, Master Rumanos,” exclaimed my companion. “What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Ho fun, young Master Robinos,” I informed him, “is a dish of rice noodles most often prepared by stir-frying with meat and vegetables. It can be found at any finer Chinese restaurant. I say, to what did you think I was referring?”

“Holy Double Entendres, Eleven!”

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN

ANOTHER WAY TO DIE


“What you want, lil’ girl?” muttered Sean Owens, not even attempting to hide the lust on his loathsomely bestial face as he leered at the astonishingly beautiful young woman standing before him just outside his home in the slums of West Baltimore. “Is you lookin’ to get some stuff?”

“Perhaps,” said the girl, who had no real idea that by “stuff” Owens was referring to the marijuana in which he dealt.

“What be you name, baby?” enquired the morbidly obese Owens as he inched closer to the gorgeous teenage blonde. He was clad in sweatpants, dirty sneakers, and a t-shirt on which was emblazoned the logo of a local basketball league. The dim light from a near by streetlamp glistened on the sweat-beads springing up on his dark skin. 

“I am Sharona,” answered the lass, raising her lovely sapphire-coloured eyes slightly towards the enormous black man. She was wearing what a short dress made of what appeared, amazingly, to be tanned animal skins, stretched tightly across her tall, slender figure.

Owens had seen very few white girls in his neighbourhood, and never one so attractive as this. He again moved closer and reached out his uncouth hand towards the young, flaxen-haired damsel. He planned to simply drag her into the house and have his way with her. Enough drugs in her system would keep her from ever coherently reporting the assault, he reasoned.

But then, just as Sean Owens began to lay his unclean fingers on the girl, he felt a sharp pain in the side of his neck. Sharona had slipped a sharp, thin thorn into his flesh, and Owens felt the poison in which the object had been dipped begin to course through his bloodstream, bringing instant paralysis.

Young Sharona stepped back and let Owens fall to the city pavement. He was completely motionless, yet alive, and his eyes stood wide open and his horrid mouth agape in shock at what had happened.

It was then that I stepped out from the shadows, wearing my usual silk suit, greatcoat, military boots, and panama hat.

“Excellent work, Miss Wallace,” said I. “Excellent work indeed.”

“Thank you, Master,” she replied.

My name is DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Literary Illusionist and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a strikingly handsome human gentleman with aristocratic Anglo-Semitic features, I am in reality not a mere mortal at all. I am actually many thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the mysterious Aeturnusians or “Watchers” of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- Masters of all Space and Time; this heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear “supernatural” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites keep to themselves, content to merely observe the goings-on of the Universe around them, their intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, I am myself a member of a secret organisation existing amongst our elite class, known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department. I thus have, for so many years now, made it my particular mission to use my extraterrestrial gifts to defend the innocent from attack, invasion, and assorted similar threats -- both upon Earth and across the vast reaches of the Universe!

The beautiful girl known as Miss Sharona Wallace was my most recent protégé and ward. Being the child of missionaries who had succumbed to drinking tainted water in the Amazon jungle, she had been protected and raised from the age of two by the kindly old medicine-man of the local native tribe. When the superannuated shaman had finally died, Sharona, now sixteen, had become my responsibility -- I had been in South America at the time investigating reports of some supposed Atlantean relics in the area -- and I had duly taught the young white savage to speak English and had begun to instruct her in the other rudiments of civilisation.

The thorn that Sharona Wallace had used to paralyse Sean Owens, notorious ghetto thug and narcotics pusher, had been treated with curare, that poison found in certain plants of the deep rainforest and used for hunting by the local tribesmen of that area.

As I stood over the prostrate form of the aforesaid Mr. Owens I took a small object from one of the voluminous pockets of my coat. It resembled a silver writing instrument about four inches in length, and was actually an incredibly scientifically-advanced device known as a sonar wrench.

I held the sonar wrench over Owens and activated its scanning programme. In a few moments, the information I wanted appeared on the tiny readout screen of the device.

“Ah,” I exclaimed. “I knew there was some alien influence to which this individual has been exposed! According to this, it can be identified as… Oh no…”

“What is it, Master?” asked Sharona concernedly. “What is wrong?”

I could not repress a feeling of decidedly abject horror as I beheld the name of the extraterrestrial force to which Owens had been exposed. It was a force that was apparently possessing one of his clients, a certain Mr. Scott Gritzen.

“The Mahdimeen,” I read the words aloud. “The Mahdimeen of Cor Leonis.” …

At that very time, approximately twenty-five miles distant, in a small and untidy rural home located in a particularly squalid section of Charles County, Maryland (indeed a mere swamp known as Red Squirrel Marsh), sat Scott Gritzen laughing in evil mirth.

“We will prevail!” he exclaimed as he suddenly jumped up in excitement, his body bizarrely sound despite being somewhat twisted by hereditary cystic fibrosis. “We will bring the Mahdimeen gift of death to the entire human race! We will bring Helter Skelter!” 

“Helter Skelter! Helter Skelter! Helter Skelter!” repeated the two hideously deformed dwarfs that were Gritzen’s children, Damien and Zelda.

“No one will stop us,” continued Scott Gritzen whilst mad foam appeared at the edges of his lips, and black flashes of otherworldly powers played about him, “not even the Daemon-Star! We will kill him! We will kill Daniel Rumanos!!”

“Kill Daniel Rumanos!” howled the disgusting Damien and Zelda Gritzen in response. “KILL DANIEL RUMANOS!” …

“But who are these…” said Sharona Wallace as we trod together through the foggy swampland of Charles County beneath the leprous light of the waning gibbous moon, amidst the buzzing song of myriad nocturnal insects and batrachians. “These things of which you speak.”

“The Mahdimeen,” I answered her. “An ancient race of beings from one of the planets orbiting the star Cor Leonis, seventy-nine light-years from Earth. Millions of years before even your earliest human ancestors came into existence, the Mahdimeen fought a great Cosmic war against my people, the Watchers of Algol. We were victorious, but only after a momentous and incredibly difficult series of battles that left certain regions of the Universe in eternal ruin.”

“When you speak of these foes,” said Sharona, a note of wonder entering her voice, “your speech reminds me of my old master when he would tell of the evil spirits that plague this world.”

“Your shaman was a wise man indeed,” I assured her. “Oh, there are no such things as ‘evil spirits’ -- ghosts, demons, that sort of thing -- but there are immensely strong and unspeakably evil beings that lurk in the darkest areas of the Cosmos. Beings bred in pure wickedness that we must resist and fight at all costs. Of such are the Mahdimeen.”

“But, Master, your people, the Watchers; you said they were the most powerful race in the heavens. Can they not easily defeat all enemies?”

“Well, Sharona, therein lies the dilemma!” I exclaimed. “To even get so much involved in such things is seen by the Algolites as possibly leading to corruption. We must, of course, forever guard against becoming like unto our very foes! The Absolute Convention -- the ruling body of Algol -- only officially authorises intervention in cases of extreme necessity, such as the war with the Mahdimeen.”

“But why were these ‘Mahdimeen’ so difficult for you to overcome?” enquired the girl.

 I hesitated to respond. The very thought of the implications of the answer to this question brought back memories of unimaginable pain and suffering.

“Sharona,” I finally said, “it was… horrible! The Mahdimeen had, for generations, actually ingested a substance known as Evaerlium -- a certain rare radioactive element that is detrimental, indeed sometimes physically fatal, to Algolites.”

“You mean this had become a part of them?”

“Yes, the Evaerlium augmented and fine-tuned their own innate powers to be absolute fighting machines against the Watchers themselves!”

“But were these Mahdimeen not finally destroyed, as you have said?”

“Indeed they were, at least so far as their bodily forms, civilisation, and culture are concerned.” I explained. “Nevertheless, whenever beings have achieved such profound mentalist powers, there is always the chance that some element of them will survive -- some residual essence. Such seems to be the case here.”

“So this man we are looking for now. He is… possessed?”

“Forsooth,” said I. “The Earthling known as Scott Gritzen is indeed possessed -- possessed and controlled by the very powers of the dreaded Mahdimeen of Cor Leonis!”

This indeed I had learned from my scan of the now-deceased Sean Owens. This Owens, whilst himself gaining none of the powers of the horrid Mahdimeen, had shown evidence of having been in the presence of one who was under their complete influence. As it turns out, Owens had simply been a dealer in illegal drugs doing business with Scott Gritzen, who had especially sought out large amounts of narcotic hemp and opioid painkillers against his own chronic pancreatitis.

Sharona Wallace suddenly shuddered and I heard the sound of her quickly unsheathing the hunting knife from its leathern scabbard at her side.

“Master, be wary,” stated the beautiful jungle girl. “I sense something. Something dangerous and… evil.”

In the time I had known young Sharona Wallace, I had come to respect her hunter’s instinct, along with her amazing physical prowess, these being the result of her having grown up in the savage jungles along the Amazon River.  And indeed, at this time her senses did not fail her, for issuing forth from the slime-drenched foliage of the swamp were two hideously deformed, dwarfish children -- the horrid offspring of Scott Gritzen, the obscene and perverse outcome of his having raped his little sister, Allyson, at gunpoint some years before. Allyson Gritzen had died giving birth to these inbred monstrosities at the age of thirteen, and now the grotesque Zelda and Damien Gritzen stood before us -- and I perceived that they had in sooth come prepared!

“Master,” whispered Sharona to me. “That strange dark glow about them? It is blacker than the shadows! Is it… ?”

“It is power from the force of the Mahdimeen,” I expostulated. “They have gotten it from living so long in close proximity to their father.“

The nauseating Damien and Zelda -- criminally-conceived children of the perverted sex offender known as Scott Gritzen -- then let forth with howling peels of unholy, insane laughter as they lurched towards us!!

These sickening and woefully nauseating creatures -- the very children of Scott Gritzen’s aberrant passions -- continued to glow with the ebony effulgence of Mahdimeen power. Their bodies were twisted and hideously deformed, their clothing filthy rags, and their faces things of shrieking nightmares unimaginable. 

Do you recognise the unspeakable and ungodly terror of this situation, my dear readers? For the sake of your blessed sanity, I actually pray that you do not!

Suddenly, the two monstrosities launched themselves directly at my companion, Sharona Wallace. Being in essence predatory subhuman animals like their felonious father, they recognised her as the weaker of the two of us.

Before I could intervene, the horrid freaks known as Damien and Zelda Gritzen hit the girl fully with their powers, sending her reeling uncontrollably backwards to be stopped only by a large tree several yards behind her. I heard a sadly resounding thud as she hit her head upon the unyielding wood of the tree-trunk, and beheld the young woman immediately sink into unconsciousness.

“Sharona!” I cried in shock and horror at what had occurred.

Overcome with anger at this assault upon the lass, I generated and sent an incredibly powerful wave of my own bright orange and blue Algolitish energies at the horrendous offspring of Scott Gritzen. Damien and Zelda briefly screamed in abject pain and agony before being silenced forever by death. 

In my indignation, I had somewhat overdone the amount of energy needed to slay the two deformed children, and I beheld that my onslaught had in sooth shredded and in fact quite roasted the pair of disgusting dwarfs. Grotesquely, a mixture of blood, bone marrow, and meat juices flowed forth around their nearly liquefied flesh.

“Gritzen gravy,” said I in disgust.

I then turned with the intention of immediately seeing to the condition of my young friend Sharona Wallace. Nevertheless, before I could succeed in reaching the girl, I was hit from behind by an extraordinarily powerful blast of Mahdimeen energies that sent a shooting pain through my body -- for these energies were not merely the residual powers of those who had only been in the presence of a possessed individual, but rather the direct and unnameable strength of one who was totally under the controlling influence of that ancient alien race. Sooth to say, it was painfully obvious that this power did indeed contain a dose of that radioactive substance potentially fatal to my people -- that which is known as Evaerlium!!

Forcing myself to recover enough to turn and face my attacker, I beheld for the first time that unmentionably obscene and horrendously wicked malefactor named in eternal infamy as Scott Gritzen.

He was a man of less than thirty, though with a countenance debauched beyond his years, of medium height and rather thin despite the sagging flesh that denoted a recent and sudden weight-loss (likely the result of his narcotics addiction). His decidedly unkempt hair was the colour of excrement, a scruffy beard grew upon his pallid face, and his soulless eyes held no real life in their fungus-hued green. He wore an oversized sweatshirt and ripped trousers, and his distorted, grotesquely misshapen limbs showed evidence of the crippling deformities of his lowbred hereditary condition.

Most of all, the ebon black radiance of the Mahdimeen of Cor Leonis surrounded his unholy person, causing constant sparks of darkness to play upon the thick, humidity-filled air of that squalid swampland known as Red Squirrel Marsh. Despite his grotesquely plebeian origins, the alien force had managed to enhance his brain and body for their own unholy utilisation.

I sent a blast of my Algolitish power at Gritzen, but the Evaerlium-enriched force of the horrid Mahdimeen protected him like unto a suit of extraterrestrial armour. He laughed with maddening mirth at my attempt.

“I am Scott Gritzen, chosen one of the mighty Mahdimeen,” he announced. “This is my ‘God Complex’, and I will bring Helter Skelter upon this planet! Its people shall turn against each other in acts of extreme violence and, in the end, it is I -- Scott Gritzen -- who will rise and rule this world with the glorious power of Cor Leonis!!”

Gritzen then sent another blast of Mahdimeen powers at me; a long, sustained wave that sent me to my knees.

“Fall before us now, Daniel Rumanos of Algol,” he spat contemptuously through his untidy beard. “Fall before us, icon of our ancient enemies! Fall as you feel the supreme power of the Mahdimeen! It is, for you, another way to die!!!”

The intense powers of the Mahdimeen tore through me with a searing pain of acute and abject agony. The presence of the Evaerlium was palpable, and its effects were wielded against me with incredible fervour by the alien-possessed varlet known as Scott Gritzen. Being already somewhat weakened by having expelled the force of energy I had used to destroy his hideous children, I was for the moment quite defenceless.

“You will die, Rumanos! Die! Die! Die!” taunted the despicable Gritzen amidst obscene peals of his maniacal laughter. “You will now die by the power of the Mahdimeen of Cor Leonis! Die by the power that is now mine -- the power of death that I, Scott Gritzen, shall bring to all the Earth and its people! Helter Skelter! Helter Skelter!!”

Be it known that it is perhaps just possible that my Algolitish abilities would have reasserted themselves to prevail over the horrid force of the Mahdimeen and their twisted human avatar, Scott Gritzen. Mayhap a blast of my powers would have surged forth just before his horrid black energies could have succeeded in bringing me to my final death. This, however, I shall never know for certain…

For just then, as I felt the Mahdimeen powers cause me to sink towards the darkness of unconsciousness and possible death -- they suddenly ceased. I was no longer being pummelled by the eldritch extraterrestrial force coming from the possessed Gritzen. He no longer laughed and taunted and boasted of his heinous plans of despotic conquest. In sooth, an odd silence had suddenly come upon that foggy swampland of rural Maryland.

I struggled to overcome the residual pain in my head and body, and looked up towards where Scott Gritzen had lately stood in seeming triumph. I saw him fall forward flat upon his face and briefly twitch spasmodically before becoming totally motionless in death.

Standing behind Gritzen’s now-prostrate body was Sharona Wallace. The girl’s jungle-learned strength had enabled her to recover from her bump on the head, and she had crept around behind Gritzen whilst he was preoccupied with me. I beheld the hilt of her knife protruding from his back.

I stood up, shaking off the last of the effects of my ordeal, and walked over to Scott Gritzen’s corpse. The horrid power of the Mahdimeen, the last trace of the existence of that ancient and horrid race, had safely dissipated into the ethers with his death. Ironically, the technologically advanced horrors of Cor Leonis had been brought to their final end by the blade of a savage.

“’Another way to die‘, indeed,” said I.

I pulled the hunting knife from Gritzen’s back and, after safely wiping his tainted blood from it with my pocket-handkerchief, returned it to the attractive teenager.

“Capital work, Miss Wallace,” I assured her. “I thank you much, and I -- along with this world -- am indeed forever in your debt.”

“You are welcome, Master,” she said simply whilst returning her knife to its sheath.

Dawn was then breaking and had begun to dispel the marshy mists as Sharona Wallace and I left the area of that swampland in Charles County.

“Come along now,“ I instructed the beautiful blonde jungle girl, “and we shall take a stroll to the nearest town and have some breakfast.”

“Belgian waffles with a side of turkey bacon?” she answered with a smile as her lovely blue eyes sparkled in the early morning light.

“I say, my Sharona, it does now seem you have indeed learned to appreciate the absolute best that civilisation has to offer!”

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN