WRITING'S ON THE WALL

“It isn’t what they say about you, it’s what they whisper.”
(Errol Flynn)

“PARKING FOR WICKED SISTERS ONLY,” proclaimed the sign by the side of the lot in Baltimore. Now, Wicked Sisters is merely the name of a local restaurant, so I thought little of it as I passed by early on that fateful day.

Perhaps I should have taken it as an omen…

My name is Doctor Daniel Rumanos, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in actuality far more than this. I do carry within my blood the superior genes of the mysterious Watchers of the Daemon-Star Algol, the most technologically-advanced species in the known Universe. This extraterrestrial heritage grants me numerous abilities and powers that appear as “magic” to less-developed races.

Although the Watchers officially practice complete non-intervention in the affairs of other planets, I am an agent for a secret service organisation known as the KOSMIKOS. Assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of threats. …

Utilising my power of etheric suspension, I deftly levitated up to the roof of the “pet portraits” establishment next to the restaurant -- wearing my usual silk suit, leathern greatcoat, panama hat, sunspecs, and jungle boots. It was a balmy day for autumn, the active hurricane season having pushed the tropical air northward.

I strolled to the centre of the roof and saw a shimmer in the air before me. It soon coalesced into the form of a tall, stern-faced, white-haired, elderly gentleman clad in a blue-and gold vestment robe. I recognised him immediately as an high-ranking member of the Absolute Convention of Daemonia, that august ruling body of the Watchers.

“Greetings, Master Rumanos,” he said, his voice clear and calmly cultured, his pronunciation complete perfection.

“Salutations, Master Conventioneer,” I replied. “Welcome to Earth. I must say I was not completely surprised to receive your summons to a meeting, considering certain recent events.”

“Indeed,” said the old Algolite, “and the situation is worse than could be imagined. An old enemy of yours has returned: Don Wingo.”

“That old jackanapes!” I exclaimed in astonishment. “I thought his power destroyed, his body imprisoned by the Kosmikos in an unknown location. Wait! He was the other escapee from Zatta[*], then?”

[*For details of this, see our last “WEIRD ADVENTURES” account, “Burn Out The Night”.]

“Yes,” answered the Watcher. “In fact, he led the prison-break, through a far-reaching mentalist contact with the now-deceased human woman known as Carissa Bartley. The powers of Don Wingo have greatly increased of late. He has even managed to integrate the energies of certain Algolitish relics into himself.”

“Bloody Hell! He did always have the knack of adopting various alien technologies to his own use.”

“He has utilised an antiquated, but still somewhat functional dimensional travel device to slip back in Time and alter several events to his benefit.”

“That would explain the chaos that has threatened the Time-stream of late,” I said. “What is his current plan?”

“We know that he is the force behind the human religious cult known as ‘Spectral Paranormal’, and that he will stop at nothing to achieve total domination and rule over Earth, and eventually over all the Cosmos,” said the Watcher. “The Absolute Convention hereby delegates to you, as the only Operative currently authorised in this sector, complete authority to uncover the schemes of Don Wingo and to do whatever is necessary to defeat him.”

“Understood, Master Conventioneer.”

“Also, when Wingo has been eliminated, the convention will be initiating Kothovalth.”

“Total Overthrow!” exclaimed I, translating as well as is possible the ancient Algolitish word that represents what could also be called a reboot of the Universe.

“Indeed,” calmly rejoined the old Watcher. “It has been determined to be the only course that can repair the damage that he has done to the Timelines. May the very essence of the Daemon-Star be with you, Master Rumanos. That is all.”

And with this, the Watcher simply vanished into the void on his way back to the Algol Systems.

Kothovalth, thought I. The Total Overthrow. Universal Reset. Many things will change, but the Earthlings will not even notice it. I took solace in knowing that it would, it its way, undo certain personal tragedies. Tragedies of which I cannot speak. Tragedies that I now know to be the doing of the execrable Don Wingo in his mad plots to become the First Evil, the very SATAN, the original Devil shunned by every decent species of the Cosmos.

The Watcher had given me no indication as to where I could find Wingo, but I already knew that it would be here in Baltimore. This city has been a centre, a rallying-point for the bizarre since its inception, built as it is here on a harbour of the Chesapeake Bay, an area used in prehistoric times as an outlet of Atlantis.

As I walked through the city in contemplation of all this, I passed an old news coin-box selling the Baltimore “SUNPAPER”. “Local Arts Community Outraged By Pedophile Magician’” screamed the headline. Blooming Hell. Such was the false propaganda spread about me of late. I knew now that this was yet another of Don Wingo’s doings. Fortunately, the local police knew better. I have indeed aided Baltimore’s Finest in numerous past cases, including that of the execrable Satanist and narcotics-dealer Jim Forrester[**], now thankfully deceased, and they know me as a duly-deputised agent of law and order in Baltimore City and beyond.

[**See “Rock ‘N Roll Fantasy”.]

Nevertheless, I had to admit that it had indeed been a bit of an annoyance. Humans and their bloody great obsession with sexuality. They are constantly and helplessly drawn to it yet horrified at any truly-pure expression of it.

Not to mention that ridiculously American misspelling of “paedophile”.

That the wicked Don Wingo was behind the hideous Spectral Paranormal cult was no great surprise. It sounded like his modus operandi. Still, what was its exact purpose? The cult members had continued to commit ritual suicide in grotesquely-varied ways. Recent cultic deaths had included the hillbilly Steve Brand of Westminster, Maryland, who died of alcohol poisoning, drinking himself to death over one weekend; and the bizarre Kev Artuz, editor of the New York City-based online horror fanzine, “ROT”, who immolated himself in his apartment, leaving only a ball of grease. Why?

Then, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted, there on that city street, when I found myself surrounded by four figures. They were large and shaped vaguely like men, but made of metal. Of course, I recognised what they were immediately.

“You will go with us now and will not resist, Daniel Rumanos,” said one of them in its emotionless, simulated voice. “You are now our prisoner.”

They were Leknii Replicants!

Do you recognise the utter shock of this situation, my dear readers? The Replicants of Leknii are a race of cybernetic invaders from a planet in Spiral Galaxy 8675309. Originally humanoid, they had gradually replaced their organic systems with mechanisms over the course of generations, and are now almost fully robotic. Only a small organic component remains to integrate the circuitry of these horrid metallic monsters. They now roam the Space-ways in their small, efficient ships, looking for humanoid beings that they can convert and assimilate into their own kind.

“You are now our prisoner,” repeated the Replicant. “You will be taken to Controller Wingo.”

“What!” I exclaimed. “’Controller Wingo’? Oh my… You are Replicants, but you are not actually Leknii, are you? Of course! Don Wingo must have stolen some Leknii technology the last time they attempted to invade Earth[***]! But from whence did he obtain the organic components?”

[***For a glimpse of this, read the account entitled “Beyond This Illusion”.]

“We are disciples of Controller Wingo,” answered the Replicant. “We are Spectral Paranormal.”

“Of course -- the Spectral Paranormal cultists and their sudden penchant for ritual suicide! That sick evil genius has achieved the ‘life after death’ he promised you by bringing you poor fools back as Replicants!”

I admit I blanched a bit at these thoughts. Don Wingo must have now had access to amazing levels of scientific knowledge in order to cannibalise Leknii technology. Such high levels would most likely have been obtained from the Algolitish relics with which he had come onto contact. I wondered to which of the Watchers these things could have belonged. Little did I yet know the horrendously unspeakable truth that would answer that question.

For now, I knew I could not allow myself to be captured by the “Spectral Paranormal” Replicants. Before they could react, I quickly levitated directly upwards, high into the air above the city. The Replicants followed, of course, using the small but powerful jet engines in their metallic feet. This was as I had hoped, however. I would now be able to engage the mechanical monstrosities in battle without worrying about innocent bystanders.

The Replicant closest to me raised one of his arms and shot a blast of energy from it. I barely managed to dodge the firepower, knowing that Leknii energy weapons contain a type of radiation that is harmful even to my own Algolite consistency.

I shot a bolt of my own inborn bright orange and blue energies back at the Replicant. It barely slowed the thing down. I concentrated and shot another bolt, aiming at the grating in the metal monster’s chest area. I knew this to be their weak point, it being the place through which necessary oxygen is obtained for the small but vital organic component of the cybernetic creature.

When my bolt hit, the Replicant was instantly destroyed, shattering into countless tiny shards that were then harmlessly blown away by the breeze.

I looked down and noticed that we were now directly over the Baltimore Museum of Art. The other three Replicants were still following me. Two of them hurried upwards to meet me in battle. I sent back bolts at them, but was for now too busy avoiding being hit by their energy weapons to aim property at either of their oxygen gratings. Nevertheless, what concerned me the most was wondering just what the remaining Replicant was doing whilst I was thus occupied.

Below us, just outside the Museum, was a group of local junior-high school students who had been about to enter the place for their scheduled tour. They had been distracted by the activity overhead, and had looked up in wonder at the spectacle of several figures far above, seemingly generating flashing bolts and blasts of light. They then noticed one of the figures dropping down to-wards them…

From my vantage point far above, I briefly glanced down just in time to see the Replicant lift up what I could tell was the slim figure of a girl from among the school group. I heard screams of horror from her, and from the others as they realised an inkling of what was happening.

I saw the Replicant carrying the girl jetting forward and beginning to fly across the city. I immediately followed, with the other two Replicants behind me. They had ceased firing their weapons.

I minute later occurred something of absolute terror. From far, far above the streets of Baltimore City the Replicant suddenly released the helpless girl from its grasp. I beheld the poor lass plummeting downwards, her helpless form falling to-wards the ground so very far below!!

I swooped down at lightning-speed and caught the falling damsel in my arms before she could hit the unforgiving concrete of the city. I landed us both safely on the sidewalk. The Replicants had apparently left the area and were nowhere to be seen.

“Just try to remain calm, love,” I said, steadying the trembling girl on her feet. “You are safe for now. I am Doctor Daniel Rumanos.”

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

“It is all right, really,” I assured her. “Those were Replicants, a type of cyborg, but they seem to have abandoned pursuit.”

“No, I mean, YOU! You are that guy I’ve heard so much about in the news!”

“Oh, well,” I demurred, “try not to believe everything you hear, eh?”

“It’s not that,” she responded with a smile. “I think you’re cool! They just say all those bad things about you because they’re jealous!”

Definitely, the little girls understand.

The damsel was exceedingly lovely, with auburn hair and eyes like sapphires. Her blue dress was decorated with white flowers. She was slender and perfect and her skin was as the purest white of alabaster.

“It’s so great to meet you, Dr. Daniel!” she went on. “My name is Heba.”

“’Heba’?” I said.

“Yes, Heba Filia.”

“Amazing.” “

“Huh?”

“I mean: a beautiful name for an amazingly beautiful young lady.”

She blushed.

I looked around and noticed we were now just outside the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel, which is located in south Baltimore near the football stadium. The gambling house had been there for years, but the adjoining hotel had only recently been added in order to encourage more events at the establishment.

I observed the queue of marquee-styled posters advertising the various current happenings at the place. One was for an Oktoberfest party, and there were a couple for concerts, but the one on the end answered any question as to why the Replicants had so obviously lured me to this location.

It read: “Paranormal Prosperity with Master DON WINGO”.

Bloody blooming Hell. So that was it. Wingo was furthering his cult by mixing it with all that “Prosperity Gospel” nonsense. Typical. Don Wingo, the very essence of evil, would use anything the further his nefarious plans.

I had to investigate, but realised it would be unsafe to leave the girl alone. The Replicants had targeted her in order to get at me, and would certainly continue to do so now that we had made acquaintance.

I explained to Heba as simply as possible what was going on. She seemed quite interested in accompanying me but was worried about one thing.

“They won’t let me in there!“ she said, in reference to casino policies. “I’m only thirteen… I mean, SEVENTEEN!”

“Worry not, Heba,” I reassured her. “You are with me now, and you shall find that such rules no longer apply.”

Miss Heba Filia took my arm and we strolled into the Horseshoe Casino. All things on the twenty-four hour gaming floor were as usual, and we continued onto the mall-like series of shops and food establishments. Along the way we encountered another sign for Don Wingo’s upcoming presentation, announcing that it would be found in Suite 666, of course. These diabolist types are just so bloody tiresome.

We took the lift to the sixth floor and found the door to the satanic suite (There were not that many rooms in the hotel, of course, but the number had been re-appropriated from Room 66). From here, the feeling was palpable; the feeling of an obscene, ages-old, and powerfully-puissant evil.

The door of “Suite 666” opened on its own, though it was not an electric door, and we stepped into an huge room decorated in black-and-red demoniacal opulence, its centre being a large dining table, covered with a splendid repast, and at which sat a man in a totally-black tuxedo, his long brown-grey hair pulled back neatly.

He was apparently of middle years, his face still handsome despite the marks of a life of profligate wickedness beyond imagining. He stood up with a wicked grin.

“Ah, Dr. Rumanos, we have been expecting you,“ he said, eying the young girl and me with his icy hypnotic gaze whilst stroking his thin moustache and goatee. “I would offer you some Chicken Caprese, but I see you prefer the San Quentin Quail.”

“Don Wingo,” I said. “So it was indeed you all along. I almost could not believe it. This is madness even for you.”

“Ah, flattery,” he retorted. “Anyway, you and your sexy little friend are welcome to the new headquarters of Spectral Paranormal. Well, some still call it Horseshoe Casino, but not for long. Just as some still call this planet Earth, instead of Wingo World, as it should be. The entire human race will call it that soon, as they will call me lord and master!”

“So it was you that harassed me in the dreamscape a while back[****],” said I. “That sound I heard, the sound like white noise. It was an old Algolite Time/Space transport machine; malfunctioning a bit, but you managed to work it a few time before it petered out, eh? You used it to travel through the Current and alter certain events, causing chaos you could exploit to your own purposes.”

[****See “Teenage Dream”.]

“Oh, bravo! Bravo!’ mocked the villain. “The great occult detective has it all figured out. Nevertheless, there is something you haven’t yet realised about it all. I found that device on the paranormal black market. It had been circulating around the collector’s trade for some time, but no one could get it to function properly. I got it to work.”

With this, Wingo partially rolled up his left sleeve and revealed an object like a thick bronze band upon his wrist. It was unspeakably ancient and I recognised it as a prototype of the Temporal Bracelet, one of several types of Space- and Time-travel device utilised by the Watchers of Algol. This one in particular I recognised as having been taken from my home-world of Daemonia long ago. I recognised it as having been used by perhaps the most unspeakably-wicked being in all of history. A being that even I, with my long record of dealing with cosmic horror, was hesitant to even speak of -- this despite the fact that this being had been destroyed, totally obliterated an immeasurably-long time ago.

“That transport device…” I said in horror. “It once belonged to… The Nemesister!!”

I noticed that, as I had been busy at my verbal joust with the wicked Wingo, several Replicants had entered the room. Two of them had approached Heba Filia and the poor lass had fainted away, finally overcome by the horrid events of that day.

“Heba!” I shouted. “I swear by the Triple Star, if you harm that little girl, Wingo, I shall…”

“You will do nothing, Daniel Rumanos!” announced the villain. “My power is now far beyond even yours, as you shall now know!”

He then lifted his hands and sent a wave of energy at me; a wave of power unlike any I had ever experienced before. For with this demoniacal force was an admixture of Algolitish power -- residual power Wingo had obtained and absorbed from the device that had belonged to one of the Watchers, albeit one insane and evil beyond any rational imagining. It was the power of The Nemesister.

I felt myself sinking to my knees in pain, as an irreversible blackness overcame me.

“The writing’s on the wall, Daniel!” screamed the insane Don Wingo along with peals of his mad iniquitous laughter. “This day is your end!”

Now, I had often wondered why Satan, the Devil, the First Evil, was a male archetype. Surely, the most ancient and potent manifestation of wickedness had been The Nemesister. But now that secret, like so many others, was revealed: she had used Don Wingo as her manifestation avatar. Wingo himself, through his travels throughout Time, had become the very Prince of Darkness. It was he, using the evil powers of The Nemesister, who had fostered chaos throughout history.

“I will kill you, Daniel Rumanos!” shouted Don Wingo as he continued to pummel me with his unspeakably darksome forces. “I will kill you as I have spread rumours to destroy your reputation! Oh yes, I have secretly been a part of your life for a very long time! I have altered names and shifted focuses to vex you! I have even used the Leknii technology to achieve the true Resurrection for my disciples! It has been granted to those who would willingly end their lives for my worship! Those who would not have been eliminated! A shame about that Chris Lamartine, though[*****]. He had such a nice oily arsehole…”

[*****For more on the deplorable Baltimore-area filmmaker Mr. Christopher Lamartine, and concerning Don Wingo’s particular usage of his oleaginous orifice, see the account entitled, oddly enough, “Girls On Film”.]

Whilst Don Wingo boasted, I thought rapidly of how to extricate myself from this position and save the world -- indeed all of Time and Space itself -- from his evil. I knew of only one possible solution, and it was one itself fraught with dangers unimaginable. I therefore said a word inaudibly. It was a word of only six letters, scarce two syllables. It was a word of horror and hatred. It was a name.

At my whispering of this name, Don Wingo’s powers ceased and he suddenly screamed in pain and buckled forward upon the lush hotel carpeting.

“What!” he screeched, a look of terror entering his cold blue-grey eyes. “Rumanos! What have you done?”

‘Well, Wingo, It is like this;” said, I standing up and brushing off my suit. “You remember when you were young and reading all those old occult books? Even before you started robbing graves and practicing Satanism and contacting eldritch extraterrestrial horrors.  Long before you achieved the power of the Cacodemons of Andromeda by the unholy use your own daughter, poor little Anastasia, in that horrid ceremony that is still shuddered about in York, Pennsylvania. You remember how those books taught that to know the true name of an evil spirit is to have power over it? Well, the reason they say that is a memory; a distorted memory of the ancient wars of the Watchers against the forces of The Nemesister. It was a weakness of hers caused by a genetic manipulation covertly achieved by the Kosmikos. You see, my sis… The Nemesister lost her powers when her true, personal name was spoken. It is a name that only I remember. It is a name I shall now speak now aloud for the first time in countless aeons.”

“No, Daniel, no!” pleaded Wingo. “Please, no! I will share the Universe with you! We can rule side-by-side, as old friends should! We can have wealth, fame, power! We can have all the little girls and boys! We can…”

“I speak now the true name of The Nemesister,” I said, ignoring his desperate attempt at diabolical temptation. “I speak her name and so end her powers. I speak her name and so bring your destruction. I speak her name: Cheryl.”

At this, Don Wingo screamed in pain for one final time as the ancient powers of evil were ripped from him, desiccating his body and all that touched it. After a brief cacophony of unearthly sound, all was silent.

I walked over to where Don Wingo had so recently stood. All that remained was a burn-mark upon the floor. How fitting.

The Replicants had been destroyed with him, they having been pre-programmed to shatter into infinitesimal pieces at the moment of losing contact with their Controller. I revived Heba Filia from her swoon and assured her that all was well. With the recuperative abilities of the very young, she was soon fine again.

Evening had fallen as the girl and I left the hotel suite that fateful day. Only one thing was disturbing me. Just playing a bit in the back of my mind. It was a sound I thought I had heard amongst the myriad noises the instant that Don Wingo disappeared. I hoped and prayed that it was a mere fancy, only a fevered thought caused by the horrors of that day. Certainly, I reasoned, it was just my imagination that it sounded like white noise.

I made a quick telephone call to my friend Detective Borman of the Baltimore Police Department, letting him know that the young girl who had disappeared from the school-tour at the B.M.A. was safe and in good hands.

“No problems now, Heba,” I assured her. “They will not be expecting you back before morning.”

“Cool!” replied the girl.

Heba and I found the Oktoberfest party being held at the casino/hotel. A band wearing lederhosen was playing traditional German music. Best of all, there was cold-cut buffet (or perhaps I should say smorgasbord), and the young lady and I sat down to a much-needed repast. 

Horror and Heba Filia, I mused to myself. Well, I had certainly had enough of horror for tonight…

I knew that soon the Kothovalth would begin, the Universal Reset, as the Absolute Convention of Algol briefly turned the stars off and on again in order to undo damage caused by Don Wingo and the unmentionable powers of The Nemesister. Some things would be different; others, as always, would be the same. Forsooth, what would be an appropriate metaphor for this?

“Awww! Looks like the party’s over,” said Heba, her pleasant voice breaking into my thoughts.

I looked around. The band had stopped playing and were packing up their instruments. A cleaning crew had come in to tidy up the ballroom.

“Worry not, love,” said I, taking the girl’s little hand in mine. “There will always be another party.”

And at this, a delightful smile spread across her lovely face. Party on.

[An all-new series begins soon: “THE DANIEL RUMANOS FILES”!!!]