LIVE AND LET MARS


The notices had been appearing on bulletin boards throughout north Baltimore for several weeks. “Baladi the Magician,” they announced, “Master of Wizardry and Illusion”.

Being that I am known as DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Conjurer Extraordinaire, Supernatural Detective, and all of that, and am the Master Magician of the Baltimore/Washington, DC area (as well as elsewhere), it most certainly needs no other. Therefore, I perceived that it behoved me to investigate this “Baladi” character forthwith.

Through my contacts in the “occult” underground network, I soon managed to put together quite a dossier on this individual. His full name was Marc Baladi, and his interest in the magical arts extended beyond stage illusions into the realms of the blackest of sorceries. He at one time had been a member of Ron Mershon’s Order of the Shaitans and Paul H. Gilmour’s Church of the Satanic Elite. Both of those hideous organisations are now defunct, their leaders long dead, but Baladi had continued his devotion to Satanism secretly, using his show-business magic act as a front. He had rented a dilapidated old building in the Medfield neighbourhood that had once been the home of St. Martha’s Church and, after performing several acts of ungodly desecration in order to de-consecrate it, had begun using it as a theatre, which he named “The Illumatorium”. It was in this location that Baladi now presented his monthly “Family Magic Nights”, presenting rather hackneyed old tricks to an audience made up primarily of locals.

One of these nights had included a performance of Baladi’s version of a venerable, classic magic routine known as The Miser’s Dream. This trick, which consists of the performer appearing to pull showers of coins out of thin air, was perverted by this execrable miscreant into an excuse to fondle an innocent young girl whom he had chosen from the audience to “assist” him. This was facilitated by his pretending to conjure forth the coins from her various bodily orifices.

Indeed, the revolting sexual depravity of Marc Baladi seemed to know absolutely no bounds, and my sources started to indicate that he was gathering his lustful energies in order to use them on the upcoming Halloween in order to call forth and make an infernal deal with some “satanical beast“.

It was obviously that this repugnant, unholy, and undeniably wicked excuse for a human being had to be stopped!

Accordingly, my beautiful wife Katrina and I decided to attend the infamous Baladi’s All Hallows’ Eve show and do whatever was necessary to bring to a proper end his unspeakably horrid activities. We arrived at the theatre shortly before show-time, using a spell of psychic glamour in order to slightly disguise our identities -- so that Baladi, who was undoubtedly familiar with our fame in the areas of both prestidigitation and “paranormal research“, would not immediately recognise us.

We took our seats quietly and waited for the performance to begin. With little fanfare, Baladi, a grey-haired man of medium build, but with a strong, diabolically assured manner, took the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he declared, “I am Baladi the Magnificent Magician, and tonight I will bring you the wonder of the age! Tonight, my friends, I will call forth the Master of Desire, the Devil of Lust… Our Lord ASMODEUS!”

Well, Hell! I had seriously hoped that we had heard the last of that alien fiend hight Asmodeus, the Destroyer Demon. My previous battles with him and his evil worshippers had been indeed fraught with danger beyond any sane imagining.

Baladi had already ignited six black candles upon the stage, and had commenced the evocation of the hideous demoniacal being that he intended to summon. I whispered to my wife to do what she could to get the audience, consisting mostly of little children, away from the theatre as quickly as possible. As soon as she began to do this, I bounded up onto the stage and made myself known to the appalling and deplorable Baladi.

“I am RUMANOS THE CONJURER,” proclaimed I, “and you, Baladi, are an embarrassment and a disgrace to our profession!”

“You are too late, Rumanos!” countered the terribly criminal occultist. “Behold! The mighty Asmodeus comes forth and shall bring lustful chaos upon this world -- and I, Marc Baladi, shall rule with him as his new High Priest and Supreme Magus!!”

Indeed, behind this sickening individual the shadowy form of the demon was beginning to manifest -- it was as a phantasmal pool of deepest blackness gruesomely highlighted by the baleful crimson glow of six hideous eyes!

However, I had a rather holy trick up my sleeve -- an entreaty to a wondrous being feared by all devils, a sacred being, one amongst those who are known as the Aeturnusinas or “Angels”.

“Holy Michael the Archangel,” I invoked, “defend us in battle against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May the Almighty rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of the Almighty, cast into Hell Asmodeus, and all the evil spirits that roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls! Amen!!!”

After I had completed the “exorcism prayer“, I heard the demonic entity howl in disdain, and -- horror of horrors -- I saw it reach forth one hideous black claw and grasp its would be “high priest”, its demented worshipper, Baladi, who screamed in complete and total abject terror as the demon dragged him with it to the darkest depths of that which humans term PERDITION!!

After the horror had vanished and I had said additional incantations to seal the area, I left the theatre -- now once again sanctified to be used as a place of worship of the True GOD -- and searched in order to find out what place of safety to whence Katrina had taken the erstwhile audience. I found them at a nearby ice cream parlour, enjoying some sweet treats Kat had purchase for them all, whilst entertaining each other by trading stories they had heard of our past exploits.

As my wonderful wife happily hugged me and I assured her that all was well, the children raised their voices and declared joyously to both of us:

“Hooray! Hooray for RUMANOS!” …

*****

My name is indeed RUMANOS -- DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Although I have the physical appearance of an human being -- a tall, strongly-built gentleman with dark hair and strikingly-handsome Anglo-Semitic features -- I am in reality far more than this. For I do carry within my blood the superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL; this extraterrestrial heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear “magic” or “supernatural” to the people of planet Earth.

The vast majority of Algolites, Masters of all Space and Time, tend to live in isolation from the rest of the Universe. However, there does exist hidden deeply within the government of our people a secret service agency known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department. The purpose of the Kosmikos is to covertly intercede in cases that threaten the security of existence anywhere throughout the incalculable reaches of Creation. Plausible Deniability and all that. I am an operative of this organisation, stationed upon Earth from whence I work undercover in many varied amazing and incredible adventures upon Earth and indeed throughout all the unknowable vastness of the Universe!!

My skirmish with the execrable “magician” named Marc Baladi was but a minor affair compared to an experience in which I was soon after involved, a bizarre adventure in which I encountered an invasion before breakfast -- forsooth, an invasion from MARS! …

When I woke up that morning, I could have sworn it was judgment day. The sky was all purple, and there were people running everywhere. Then I realised that I was having a vision.

The Kosmikos had directly transmitted this mental picture into my brain. It was a vision of what could happen if I did not halt the invasion -- an invasion that actually took place in the year 1938. It was to that year that I was immediately transported by the Algolitish powers of Time Travel.

I found myself, of all places, in the middle of a cornfield close by what I later ascertained to be the small town of Orsonville, Illinois. It was early morning on a decidedly overcast day, and I was clad in my usual dark silk suit, jungle-boots, leathern overcoat, and safari hat. 

Running towards me across the field was a slightly-built human figure. As the figure approached I perceived it was a very young, attractive girl clad in a simple pink dress. She was slender and of medium height, with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes.

“Help me, please!” she shouted. “Don’t let those awful things get me!”

“My name is Doctor Rumanos,“ said I, easily intercepting the young maiden, who was quite out of breath from her fleeing. “I am here to help.”

“I’m Susan Wells,” the girl replied in haste, tears running profusely down her pretty face. “Those things! They came out of the hole in the ground made by that ‘shooting star’ we saw last night from the house. They killed my father! They killed Daddy! They just shot a weird light at him and he fell down dead!”

I took her hand gently in order to reassure her.

“It will be all right,” I announced hopefully. “I know it is difficult for you, but please, I need to know what these ‘things’ are. Tell me all you can.”

“They are huge!” Susan cried. “Like machines, I guess. They shoot those lights, those deadly lights! They aren‘t from this world, are they? Oh no! Oh my goodness!!”

“They will be stopped, Miss Wells. I promise you that. I know this may be difficult for you to believe, but I have actually had quite a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Now, please tell me -- where are these machine things now?”

“They…” she stammered. “Oh my, they’re right behind me!”

She pointed towards the horizon in the direction from whence she had fled. I raised my eyes and looked and beheld the horror from which the poor lass had run screaming in mortal terror; the horror that had murdered her father. For approaching at that very moment were five machines, each nearly thirty feet in height. Their tops were like oval discs, and they moved with a bizarre motion of the six long mechanical legs that sprouted from the bottom of each. There movement was accompanied by a grotesque clicking and buzzing sound that increased in volume as the machines approached.

I recognised what they were. They were Martian Death Walkers, battle machines of the most fiercely warlike species in the Solar System, those hideous insectoid beings of the Red Planet.

Suddenly, the buzzing sound coalesced into speech; automatically transmitted from the alien language of the invaders into English. The speech seemed to ooze across the landscape like an obscene emission as it announced its ultimatum:

“Inhabitants of this planet, you will not resist. We have come to rule your world and all its creatures. You shall be our slaves. Any attempt at opposition will bring about the end of your existence. Your choice is this: Die if you try to withstand us or live and LET MARS RULE!!!”

Now, I knew that the ancient insect races of Mars, their ruling class being the military elite, had been expanding to other worlds for quite some time. There own planet was dying, and the Martian way of thinking saw forced colonisation of other races as a birthright of their species.

Earth, though their own neighbouring planet, had been so far largely ignored. It appears the Martians just did not consider humankind to be useful -- even as a slave-race. However, the particular technological advances that the Martians observed Earthlings beginning to achieve during the early Twentieth Century changed this. Human developments leading towards the atomic bomb, computer technology, and like matters were seen as possible future threats. This is why the invasion force had been sent, there in that year 1938.

“All inhabitants of Earth,” continued the voice issuing forth from the hideous alien war machine, “will be connected to our network. You cannot and will not resist. This is the day of Mars. The history of your planet is finished. You exist now only to serve us.” 

Indeed, the Martian “network” is a computerised system of technologically interconnected thought that serves as an expansion of their own insectoid hive-mind. I perceived that what they were planning to set up was a type of planet-wide “web” that would assure no defiance, connecting humanity itself on their “line“ of thought. Any of the very few humans whose minds would be able to resist the network’s thought-control would be simply exterminated.

The Martians had, as I had seen in the past, used such technology in many applications, even beyond military conquest. One particularly horrid instance is its use as an expansion of their own pheromones, making the revolting insects of Mars appear sexually attractive to beings that otherwise would find the thought of intimate relations with a monstrous, six-legged, segmented creature a thing of absolute abject horror. Incredibly, in some parts of the Galaxy, Martian prostitutes were due to this sought after as the ultimate sexual experience!

Then a sudden horrifying thought occurred to me.

“Miss Wells,” I said to the poor girl, “how far are we from Chicago?”

“It’s only about five miles north of here,” she answered between her continued sobs of fear as she stood clutching my right arm for protection.

So, the Martian invasion force was indeed marching directly towards a major city -- a centre of human population from whence they could begin their horrid enslavement of the entire human race! I realised that I only had a short time to prevent them.

“Representatives of the ruling class of Mars,” I said whilst staring coldly at the closest of the five hideous war machines. “I am Rumanos of Algol, and this world is under my protection. There shall be no invasion. You will leave this planet in peace and return to your own immediately.” 

With this, the war machine sprang to life, suddenly unleashing a blast of its eldritch purple death-ray directed at Susan Wells and myself. I quickly generated a brief protective shield of my own orange and blue-black Algolitish power, but even so barely managed to deflect the deadly Martian blast safely away from us.

The other four machines had by now moved around and surrounded us. The girl and I were hemmed in on all sides. I heard Susan scream in absolute mortal terror as a porthole opened on the side of the leader of the five gigantic machines directly in front of us. Creeping forth from this doorway was a copper-coloured insectoid Martian (similar in form to the dermaptera type), the size of a very tall man, long and thinly segmented, the motion of its six legs grotesque beyond imagining.

Whilst making its horrid buzzing sound, the creature crawled around the exterior of the machine and then hopped to the earth before us. It turned the two largest of its four insect eyes (the two in the front of its head) directly towards us as its disgusting antennae swept around in constant hideous motion.

Susan Wells screamed again and then swooned into a merciful faint as I stood face-to-face with the repulsive Martian!!

It was then that a most curiously bizarre incident occurred. The hideous Martian insect just suddenly collapsed in front of me and split open, an horridly revolting discharge of repugnant yellow-green mucous bursting forth from it. The terrible thing twitched convulsively several times, and was then motionless in its final decease.

“What!” I cried in astonishment as the five war machines then fell crashing to the ground, with the creatures controlling them all now dead. The Martian machinery now lay in large ruined heaps across the field.

The poor wee lass had by now recovered somewhat from her swoon, and I then carefully helped her to her feet.

“It is all right, Miss Wells,” I assured her. “They are all dead! The invaders from Mars are dead! The invasion is over!”

“But… what happened?” she enquired.

“I am not certain what killed them, but I think… of course! Tell me please, Miss Wells, have you felt sick at all recently?”

“Well, yes, I have had a little cold. It’s just the thing that was going around town. Just a head-cold. Daddy had it too, before he…” her voice then suddenly trailing off in sadness at the memory of the fate of her unfortunate father.

“That is it then!” I stated.

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

The common cold! It is unknown on Mars, and so the Martians had no resistance to it at all! Simple rhinovirus that humans can get over in a matter of days! They must have detected it when your father approached their landing site and thought it was a form of biological warfare! I am so sorry Miss Wells -- Susan -- but at least you can now know that you and he are responsible for saving Earth from the threat of Martian tyranny!!”

Before leaving 1938 Illinois, I made certain Susan Wells would be taken care of. She was an orphan (her mother having died in childbirth) and had no siblings. However, her aunt resided in near by Chicago, and was married to the publisher of some highly successful “scientific fiction” pulp magazine. Susan went to live with her aunt and uncle. (After returning to my own time, I looked up what had happened to her and found that she had lived a long and happy life, herself marrying a college professor and eventually becoming a mother and grandmother.)

Local rumours of the alien invasion (caused for the most part by individuals who had spotted the war machines from the small town of Orsonville, less than a mile distant) were covered up by government claims, duly backed up by the news media,  that it was only hysteria caused by the misunderstanding of some dramatic radio broadcast.

That parts of the machinery may have been salvaged by someone upon Earth is hinted at by the uncanny similarity of later “internet” technology to the Martian insect hive-mind. Reverse engineering, perhaps.  Not the most comforting of thoughts that, is it?

As for myself, Dr. Daniel Rumanos, the Kosmikos returned me to the exact time and place from which I had started, and I found myself again undressed and in my own bed. It was early morning, and I could tell from the pleasant aroma that my wonderful wife, Katrina, was already up and busy preparing that always-excellent Full Scottish Breakfast she had promised me the night before.

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN