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