The helicopter crew chief gives us the signal that we’re one minute out. As the chopper lowers to the ground and kicks up dust, an element of tier one specops guys hop out and establish a perimeter. I’ve been asked by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Extracurricular Matters (the government agency in charge of investigating and handling paranormal situations) to be part of an expeditionary assessment team, and because the latest anomaly is occurring at my best bud’s house, I’ve naturally been tapped to fill the role of subject matter advisor. I’m not kitted up like the rest of these hard chargers, but I’ve asked for and received a nine mil pistol. When we land, I rack the slide back to ensure that a round is in the pipe.
Four of the guys surround me in a diamond while the other twelve form into three “trains” and make the approach toward my friend’s house. Our reconnaissance magicians back at HQ picked up some strange goings-ons, but aside from a powerful flare of demonic energy, they were unable to detect anything specific. Could be the entity Rak’Tu-ar Nykelroth (the one you know as Taylor Swift), or the rise of a new species of interdimensional invader. We need to be ready for anything.
Four doorkickers stack up by the main entrance while the rest point their weapons outboard and provide security. Lead guy tests the knob (it’s unlocked), makes entry, and the rest shuffle in. Me and my personal security detail are last.
I’m immediately hit by the smell. Good Christ, it’s like somebody slow-baked Gary Busey’s week-old socks and seasoned them with three quarts of man-ass.
The dark foyer is filled with detritus. Within its center, there are three foot-high spheres that look organic in nature. I look closer at them and see that they’re pulsing with ominous light.
We’re all wearing night vision goggles. In the sickly green glow of my eyepiece, I lock eyes with the team leader who’s currently part of my security detail, and point toward the spheroids. He nods and throws out a quick series of hand signals. Four guys position themselves in a semicircle around the spheroids, their carbine rifles shouldered and ready. The rest continue searching the house, carefully maintaining their spacing while making sure they don’t trip over the scatter of old pizza boxes and mountain dew bottles that litter the floor.
We tread into the living room, and my brain struggles to process what I’m seeing: a flotilla of junk food wrappers and soda cans formed into a dense layer that’s maybe three feet high. Think trash compactor scene from the first Star Wars movie.
There’s a rustle of movement from the section of trash in front of the widescreen TV.
In real life, when people bring their weapons up, there’s no audible “chik-chak.” Nevertheless, I can feel a single-minded tension freeze the air around me as the commandos by my sides bring their rifles to bear.
A dirty, bearded face pokes out from the garbage. My best friend Duncan.
He locks woozy eyes onto me. “Kent?” he slurs. “Whhaas going on?”
I make an “easy” gesture to the commandos and slowly approach him. “Duncan? What happened here? I’ve been sent to check on you—to make sure you’re all right.”
He sits up, trash tumbling off his shoulders and torso, and puts his palm on his forehead. His eyes retain that dazed, confused look. “I don’t know,” he mumbles. “I ate a cheeba chew that I got from some cloaked dude in the Mission District who said his name was Damian Strangeport…last thing I remember was watching ‘Chilling with Bob Ross.’ ”
I lock eyes with the team’s second-in-command. “Strangeport is an agent of Yog-Sothoth. We need to get out of here NOW.” I hustle over to Duncan and help him up. “Come on; let’s move.”
As he gets to his feet he says, “What are you talking about? Who’s Yog-Soth—“
We start moving out of the house. “That was no ordinary cheeba chew, Duncan. You’ve been unwittingly sucked into dark magicks that—”
A panicked yell rings through the house. “The foyer,” I whisper. Deafeningly loud automatic weapons fire rends the air. It’s replaced by agonized screams and wet crunching noises.
One of the commandos yells, “MOVE!”
We start hustling, and as we get to the foyer we see the corpses of four soldiers, splayed out and opened up like frogs in a biology class. Hunched over them are three dark, eight-legged creatures, bent over their stomachs. I see the outline of heads moving within the commandos’ exposed guts, and hear moist smacks as the monsters loudly feed on innards.
The commandos by my sides start unloading. Between erratic, night-vision tinged glimpses, I see the creatures that have apparently hatched from the spheroids bounding across walls and skittering across the ceiling. One of them leaps onto the chandelier that dangles above us, then launches itself onto a commando, rending the soldier apart in a frenzy of taloned legs. In the midst of the gore, I see that the spider-creature is sporting an afro, one that’s mounted above psychopathically kind eyes.
Bob Motherfucking Ross.
Our team is getting torn apart. The Bob-spiders rip into brave men with violent aplomb, saying stuff straight from ‘Chilling With Bob Ross’; calmly spoken phrases that reference his paintings: “Mmmm….yeah. Just a little bit of green…mix in some brown….look at that. Aren’t those trees gorgeous.” All in that creepy, low-voiced tone.
I yank Duncan along, sprinting for the main entrance. Suddenly, I feel his arm stiffen with resistance. The door is halfway open, my hand on its knob, and I look back and see that one of the Bob-spiders has caught hold of Duncan’s lower pants’ leg, and is giving me a disturbingly kind, afro’d grin.
Duncan’s eyes are desperate and pleading as he grips my arm with both hands. “Kent…HELP ME!!!!”
A thought occurs to me. Maybe, just maybe…
I open my eReader to Echo. Magic flash.
United States Colonial Marines from ‘Aliens’ teleport in, and begin laying glorious waste to the Bob-spiders. Between the hellish, fiery plumes of their M240 Incinerator Units and the unending stutter of their M41A Pulse Rifles, I see more Bob-Spiders emerging from the walls, sounding out their deadly, soft-toned remarks. The Marines seem to invite it; screams of “GET SOME, BITCH! GET SOME!” erupt through the air, briefly rising above the hiss of flamethrowers and rifle fire.
A severed Bob-Spider head rolls to a stop in front of my feet. It smiles pleasantly at me and says, “Now isn’t this great? Oh what a wonderful day.”
Then it snarls and tries to bite me. I scream and kick it like a soccer ball out through the door, and it briefly eclipses the moon as it sails through the San Francisco night. Duncan—now released from the grips of the Bob-spider due to a well placed grouping of rounds—and I rush out into his front yard, thanking the powers that be for letting us escape with our lives.
Have you eaten too strong a Cheeba Chew and are now being chased by kind-eyed, demonically predatory versions of Bob Ross? Not a problem! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle