‘Orange 8: agent provocateur’

News of the attack and death of our leader really flattened morale. For a few days we weren’t even sure if we were going to continue the fight. I wanted to confront Beatrice to confirm my suspicions but it occurred to me that doing so would be a strategic mistake. As long as ‘they’ thought I didn’t know, I held the upper hand. I could feed her false information and lead them in the wrong direction or into some sort of calculated trap. If I was mistaken, it wouldn’t matter. No one would be the wiser.

In the past I tried to avoid conflict or controversy but those days were over. ‘The war’ had been escalated and now there was no turning back. I had to step forward and assume full command of Greg’s leaderless group. It was essential to prevent enemy forces from silencing its powerful voice. A blind vote was held by the deciding body. There was only one anonymous protest and I was pretty sure who cast it. The motion carried anyway. I was the new leader and I renewed my vow to flush them out at all costs.

Any lingering doubt I held about Beatrice centered around her semi-normal personality. If she was also the unnatural byproduct of forced mating with their reptilian species, then how was she able to maintain a regular job? She didn’t appear to suffer from the odd personality tics and disassociated awareness like Darcy and my own daughter.

Stranger still, why would anyone in their right mind knowingly support their bloody crusade to murder and destroy all of humanity? It made no sense. I didn’t want to believe we could have a traitor in our midst but the evidence against her was piling up. I decided to speak with a very learned genetic scientist in our organization. I hoped he would have some answers to the troubling doubts which plagued me.

Many mainstream scientists and scholars would have been stunned that Dr. Hastings was a member of our fringe ‘conspiracy’ camp. He had won numerous international awards for his work in molecular biology and advanced genetics. A scientist of his academic level and acclaim wasn’t expected to espouse or entertain ‘crazy’ underground theories. For that very reason, he kept his identity and involvement in the organization a tightly guarded secret. I approached him with trepidation. As a layperson, I didn’t want to muddy the waters of his field of expertise with foolish questions or ideas.

Recognizing my hesitancy, he was both welcoming and very gracious. “How can I help?”; He asked in earnest. I nervously shared my grave suspicion about a spy in our group undermining our efforts and possibly even being responsible for Greg’s death and the TV station massacre. He didn’t look surprised at all. I took that to mean he also suspected a deceiver among us.

To preserve the purity of free thought, I deliberately declined to name her as the focal point of my investigation. I didn’t want to ‘lead’ him to any premature conclusions. Instead I asked how it might be possible to have a reptilian traitor among us and not know. Up until that point, there had been a clear pattern that I recognized.

Using a few simplified graphs and Mendel diagrams he charted out my theory about Autism rates being a false assumption. Once finished, he offered his opinion on the possible breach of security and espionage.

“Megan, I suspect you are onto something here. As you theorized, the first generation of such a radical genetic crossover would have the exterior characteristics of a normal human being since that would still be the dominant set of appearance traits. The individual would also exhibit some recessive reptilian-like mannerisms. If we were to imagine this unnatural paring, in most cases the hybrid offspring (G1) would be extremely direct and would not exhibit ‘warmer’ emotions like tact or manners. Reptiles have a strong sense of self-preservation and a very primitive sense of ‘sharing’. It’s survival of the fittest for the species. Our evolved human emotions would be considered ‘weak’ or a conflict of interest within their strong sense of self-preservation.”

I nodded at his factual analogies and succinct points. Affirmation from an expert of his caliber was glorious music to my ears but it still didn’t explain the inconsistencies which bothered me. I motioned for him to continue with his thoughts. He seemed to take a sympathetic notice of my lingering frustration.

“For those in the public that are unaware of their systematic cross-species mingling”; He summarized, “observing the recent spike in these so-called ‘learning disorders’ would seem just like an unexplained rise in Autism or Asperger’s syndrome. The thing you aren’t completely grasping though Megan, is that the amount of reptilian characteristics they would possess; would also vary based on different individual factors.”

“Such as?”; I pressed him impatiently to expound a little more.

“Try not to think of dominant and recessive genes as a light switch.”; He pointed out. “They aren’t always ‘on’, or always ‘off’. Any time you combine chromosomes, there is a certain range of possibilities. Think more of a dimmer switch. Both your daughter and Miss Crane shared similar results of the genetic lottery but that isn’t a guaranteed thing. Others under those circumstances could exhibit even more, or far less reptilian mannerisms. The pattern you recognized is based on a very small sample of individuals.”

“Forgive my ignorance Doctor but how is offspring from humans and these horrid lizard creatures even possible? I always thought our DNA and that of ordinary reptiles would be completely different. Do we have the same type of chromosomes?”

“Perhaps ‘ordinary’, is the key word here.”; He suggested. “There does not appear to be anything ordinary about these merciless beings. There are over 10000 known species of reptiles. Chromosome numbers are specific to the genus; and lizards are just one group of a particular type of reptile. There has not been a lot of genome work on them to date but you and I already know that an unknown species exists which can, and has.”

I nodded somberly. My question had been a rhetorical one anyway. Now I had a greater understanding of gene and trait variation. While it was good to know the truth, it was also disturbing. I had incorrectly assumed that all G1’s (as he called them) would be obvious when I encountered them. Now I had to face that ‘they’ could be anywhere around me and I might not know. It was like a punch in the gut to have my ‘security blanket’ yanked away.

“A mole in our organization could appear almost ‘normal’ because they might be closer to the other end of the ‘dimmer switch’ traits spectrum. Theoretically, your hypothesis is sound. It’s just that with any set of genetic traits, there are always variations. A massive surge in G1 hybrid children would definitely help explain the public misconception about it just being learning disabilities. It would also mislead scientists into believing there was an unknown catalyst in Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome cases. In reality, there probably is no such thing. I suspect most or all are the unnatural manifestation of varying levels of reptilian traits in the victims.”

I marveled at the possibility of an entire disease or mental disability really being a worldwide takeover conspiracy. After the G1’s are used to produce millions of fully reptilian G2’s, they would surely try to seize the entire world. Only a handful of people ‘in the know’, stood in their way. I was determined to raise our battle flag against them as high as possible. They retaliated against us because we hurt them. While 98% of the people who heard our message thought it was absolute nonsense; within the other two percent was a growing whisper. In time I was going to turn it into a roar.

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‘Orange 7: Greg’s parting shot’

At first all we could wrangle up for publicity were 3 AM cable access channels and conspiracy TV shows. It was the batty programming you’d watch for no other reason than just to laugh at the wide-eyes hosts and their hokey screeds. No one in their right mind took them seriously but we figured even a fringe audience was better than no audience. With time and persistence, the viewers would hopefully grow to include more rational people. Those were the ones we hoped to eventually reach. If we had enough of them, we might one day be taken seriously.

I told Greg Thalberg at the time that we had to approach the on-air appearances with a progressive strategy. If we revealed too many controversial facts up front, even the open-minded people watching would tune out our message. We had to give them time to digest it all, bit by bit. Too much, too fast, would never stay down.

By carefully deciding which shows to appear on, and how much to say on them, it would allow for a solid foundation of believability. At least that was my philosophy then. Since Greg was the founder, he was the program figurehead. I wanted to remain far off camera and in the shadows. I didn’t want to make my daughter a target for their wrath or retaliation.

Bea worked on Greg’s speeches and I was his off-stage advisor. He was a natural in front of the camera and worked incredibly hard to bring believability to revelations akin to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. A few of the graphic artists on the team worked to create composite illustrations of the reptile species. It was needed as a visual to coincide with Greg’s on-air narrative.

As a rare eyewitness, I assisted them with their depictions. For the first time in years, I was face to face with highly realistic two-dimensional illustrations of the hellish beasts. The renderings were so accurate I had to walk away for a few minutes. Seeing their cold, slotted eyes and razor-sharp teeth triggered an irrational fear which I never wanted to experience again. I had to remind myself that it was for the greater good to face everything head on, before I could continue.

After a dozen underground TV conspiracy shows, it became very discouraging. We had mostly crank callers, and highly unstable viewers contacting us. They were ready to believe anything we said, no matter how far-fetched or outrageous. The viewership numbers were so low that even if they all came to believe our warning, it wouldn’t have made a significant difference. I realized my push for a conservative strategy was actually holding us back. We had to escalate the intensity of the message and shock the viewing audience. Doing a 180° reversal from my initial plan was the only way to expose them.

I didn’t want to but I knew it was time to dust off ‘the big one’. I pulled Greg aside and explained my theory about how the massive increase in worldwide autism rates was actually a manifestation of the Samhain cult takeover. The children thought to be suffering from an unknown learning disability were really hybrid lizard offspring of the cult. He was floored. At first he looked at me as if I had lost my mind but with each point of disagreement I was ready.

Just as our organization prepared for all matter of doubts and heavy criticism, I explained my reasoning and showed him the research data. In the end, he was sold. He grinned at the explosive nature of my last minute stage ‘ambush’. I convinced him that we needed to reveal it now, to move forward. Even if it was only to laugh at us, it was certain to attract some serious attention. Going off-script, Greg reluctantly went along with my plan on that night’s talk show appearance and dropped the ‘atomic bomb’ of huge conspiracies. Being a meticulous planner, Beatrice was furious at us for introducing such a controversial concept without discussing the idea with her in advance. I felt the end justified the means.

Reaction was swift and immediate. The phone lines lit up like fire! We received many angry rebukes from the parents of autistic children as if we were attacking them personally. We also received calls from women who remembered having incredibly vivid, disturbing ‘nightmares’ prior to their pregnancies. Interest in our website went up 1100% in two hours. The story created such an uproar that it was even featured in the opening joke monologue of ‘The Tonight Show’.

Regardless of what people were saying, they were talking and I was ready for them. I had charts and study links ready to upload to our website about the unnatural spike in autism rates. For the first time since Beatrice introduced me to Greg’s grassroots organization, I felt as if we were finally marching forward in our righteous fight. Reaction within the organization was sadly mixed. Everyone seemed to appreciate the significant boost in interest itself but to Beatrice and a few others, it was little more than trash-tabloid fodder. They felt we would never be taken seriously if we continued to make outrageous claims which we might never prove conclusively.

Then without warning our website was taken completely down! Greg contacted their ISP in a fury. At first they wouldn’t even offer a reason for why the content was yanked. It seemed like an obvious free speech issue and we threatened to bring in the ACLU. They claimed they couldn’t handle the traffic and it was stealing bandwidth from their other clients. None of us believed that but it was impossible to prove deliberate censorship. Greg had signed an agreement with them in the beginning which gave them the right to terminate service “for ‘any’ reason.” Whether ‘they’ were behind the denial of service, or it was just coincidence we had no way of knowing.

The organization had to locate a new internet service provider for our content and the task proved to be much harder than expected. Our reputation for huge controversy proceeded us. Parts of the website had to be changed or re-written but that wasn’t the worst part. The downtime absolutely destroyed our momentum. Once we were back up with a new ISP, much of the ‘buzz’ had faded. Greg booked a much larger conspiracy show to try to regain our ‘wave’ of interest.

Unlike the previous regional shows or public access channels, this was our gateway to ‘the big time’. The show had a well-known celebrity host who really enjoyed courting controversy and drew international coverage for it. I worked closely with Greg the day before to sharpen our attack and hone our message. On the day of the taping, he flew to the Midwest to WRZB studios and met with the show’s producer. I planned on catching the taped broadcast after post production and editing later that night. Unfortunately it was not to be.

————

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. Among the news headlines on my lock screen was a breaking story. The headline was brief but effective. ‘Police searching for suspects at television studio bloodbath’. My heart sank. Instinctively I tried to call Greg but it went straight to his voice mail. The article attached to the headline was scant on details since it was an active crime scene investigation but it identified the studio as ‘WRZB’.

Immediately I knew what happened and what nightmarish creatures where behind the murders. We were about to get too much public notice so ‘they’ were trying to silence our message. Greg wore a huge target on him. He wasn’t ever afraid of a fight in his life but then again, he’d never faced ‘them’ in person. Few lived that had. He didn’t know how ruthless they were or how savage they could be to protect their unholy interests.

I booked a flight to a nearby airport and tried to gain access to the crime scene. I knew ‘they’ would be long gone. Members of the TV press and numerous law organizations were scattered around the grounds when I arrived. A patrol officer securing the scene summarily tried to ‘shoo’ me away. I identified myself as a senior member of the organization being interviewed that night at the station. He looked at my laminated ID badge and shrugged in confused indifference. I explained that I could help to identify the victims. Finally understanding my purpose for being there, he led me through a labyrinth of crime-scene tape and escorted me to gentleman in a wrinkled suit.

I explained my position as technical advisor with Greg’s organization and offered to help in any way that I could. Fearing that I was in for more than most people could handle, he cautioned me. “Ma’am, this place is a battleground. I did three tours in the Middle East and none of those horrors compares to what you’ll see through those doors. Are you sure you want to be exposed to carnage like that? ‘Gruesome’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.”

Without detailing my own parallel experience, I nodded at him. He looked in my eyes to gauge whether I was truly prepared, then opened the bloodstained glass doors. As if my previous two excursions through Hell were not enough, I found myself wandering through a deja-vu trail of body parts. Whole limbs were bent backwards or fully broken off. Some torsos were tossed in makeshift piles. The floor was slick with pools of partially coagulated blood. In some cases, the only way to tell the gender of a victim was from their shredded clothing.

At one point, the Detective saw I was wincing and offered to take me back outside. He had no way of knowing that my reaction was not from the savage brutality of what I saw itself. It was merely because it transported me back to my own terrible experience. I assured him I was ok and we ventured on. At the studio filming stage, the camera and sound men were mutilated and crumpled at their work stations. A frozen look of immense terror was permanently etched on their faces.

The tortured form of the show host was sprawled across the floor like a rag doll. He had obviously tried to escape. By the look of his twisted body, all his large bones had been snapped in ‘their’ sadistic way. They hated cowards most of all. As bad as the staff of the station had been murdered, it was nothing compared to how Greg had met his end. There was apparently a special amount of venom reserved for him.

His head had been either pulled or chewed completely off, postmortem. It’s whereabouts were unknown. All his skin had been flayed off while he was still breathing. I was only able to identify him from his arm tattoo beside the body. It was distinctive enough that I felt comfortable in verifying it was him. There was an awkwardness about his body posture which I immediately gravitated to. Even in death, he seemed to be telling me something but I couldn’t immediately ascertain what it was.

Though obviously tortured heavily, his corpse was still in the guest’s chair on the set. His right fist was closed tightly except for the index finger. Only it was extended. It seemed to be pointing at the WRZB studio sign. More specifically, he was pointing directly at the last letter on the end. It had to mean something but it didn’t come to me until later that night while I tried to process the latest horror.

“B”. I focused on the final, secret clue of a very clever man. What could he have meant by it? I turned over ideas in my head all night until it hit me. ‘B’ could actually be ‘Bea’. It seemed almost impossible for me to conceive that Beatrice Adams could be wrapped up in the Samhain conspiracy but ‘they’ were always one step ahead of Greg Thalberg’s underground organization. It made sense that a mole in the ranks could keep an eye on our movements while pretending to be part of the team. She had introduced me to Greg and inserted herself simultaneously into his inner circle. All the while, she always seemed to be the dissenting vote against taking forward steps to expose the conspiracy. I decided to do some research on our highly secretive record keeper.

As it turned out, she too had been raised in an orphanage! I was so wrapped up in unburdening myself about my painful experience that I never stopped to ask about her own parents or childhood. Just like Darcy, Beatrice’s father was listed as ‘unknown’ and her mother was deceased. I couldn’t figure out how she avoided the obvious signs of a partial reptilian ancestry; but it did help to explain why she wasn’t shocked by my unbelievable story.

Obviously she didn’t doubt my theory about ‘them’ because she already knew it to be the truth. For reasons I couldn’t begin to fathom, she fully supported their plans for global domination. Greg must have realized she was feeding them our information and tried to leave me a subtle clue. It was brilliant and I was thankful I forced myself to view the hideous crime scene. Otherwise her cunning duplicity might have gone unnoticed.

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‘Orange 6: keeper of secrets no more’

The county clerk informed me she was familiar with Darcy because her name had been tied to the infamous ‘satanic cult’ murders in the news. Curiosity triggered ‘Bea’ to examine Darcy’s personal files since she had actually been the one who entered her birth certificate into the county register. For that reason, the manilla folder was easy to track down. It was still on the top of the neglected stack of papers in the dusty room.

Beatrice Adams came across as an amateur conspiracy theorist. She recognized me immediately from the sordid headlines and surmised why I was there. She didn’t want to admit it at first but she had ‘researched’ Darcy’s mother’s records too. Her unofficial snooping ‘hobby’ would have been grounds for termination since all official records are strictly confidential (but I wasn’t about to tell anyone).

I had to hand it to her. Beatrice was sharp enough to recognize a developing pattern when she saw it. She also realized I was there trying to uncover something huge. I didn’t dare admit any more than what the newspapers divulged at the time though. Was she trustworthy? I wasn’t sure yet but I still had to take her into my confidence; at least a little bit. It was the only way she was going to share her independent intel with me.

“Twenty three years ago a woman goes into labor, demands to know if her baby is human and then kills herself immediately afterward.”; Beatrice began dramatically. “That baby grows up with developmental issues and survives not ONE, but TWO satanic cult murders at the assisted living residence she lived at. Then, she mysteriously takes her own life after an unknown trauma. Strangely enough, just like her own mother had done twenty three years earlier. Now out of the blue, another victim of the last massacre shows up here at Darcy Crane’s birthplace asking for confidential information. That can’t be a coincidence. Please, tell me what is going on. I’m dying to know!”

I never anticipated someone like her connecting the surface dots so cleverly. I wasn’t prepared to offer a believable denial to my personal quest for the truth. Instead I decided to just face her questions directly.

“I survived both massacres too.”; I began cautiously. “I was one of Darcy’s caregivers at both of the homes. She tried to warn me that something terrible was about to happen but I didn’t take what she said seriously. I downplayed those ominous warnings until it was too late to save the others. Now I feel overwhelming guilt. I’m on a quest for the truth and justice; for all those who died.”

My new ‘best friend’ opened up her mouth in stunned surprise. She was completely speechless by the news I revealed. There’s no telling what she would have thought if I told her the whole truth! Until I felt I could trust her, I just offered up little tantalizing bits of information at a time.

As for details of her independent investigation, Beatrice verified that Darcy’s mother had been sexually assaulted but the culprit was never identified or arrested. That certainly fit into my theory about the Samhain death cult but it was circumstantial evidence at best. I needed ironclad proof to go public. I had to be able to present scientific facts for an almost mythical sounding thing. Without knowing why, Bea could see the rising level of frustration in my face.

“Was it the death cult that raped Darcy Crane’s mother 24 years ago?”; She blurted out indiscreetly.

Without explaining the horrifying truth about what they actually were, I just replied: “Yes. Darcy was the byproduct of unimaginable brutality and she took her own life to avoid completing their Samhain ‘rebirth’ cycle.”

“Why did Darcy’s mother ask the doctor that strange question during the labor? Was she schizophrenic?”

I tried to sidestep such a loaded question but my evasion drew a higher level of unwanted attention. The longer I refused to respond, the more Bea pressed me on it. In the end, I didn’t want to dignify her glib mental instability suggestion. I just deadpanned:

“She asked the attending doctor that question because she had an absolutely valid reason to suspect her baby might not be human.”

Bea raised an eyebrow in skeptical confusion. I suppose even for an committed conspiracy theorist like her, it was a controversial statement to hear. “Forgive me for asking, but you were also assaulted, weren’t you, Miss Mason?”

I was uncomfortable with both the ‘assault’ question and where I knew it would lead but I decided to open up with the whole ugly truth, for the first time ever.

“The members of the death cult aren’t… human.” Even as I uttered those chilling words, I couldn’t believe I was actually saying them out loud, AND to a total stranger. It felt.. incredibly liberating to finally let it all out. I couldn’t tell the police. I couldn’t tell any of my therapists. I couldn’t tell my family or friends. It actually felt safer to confess that dark secret to a total stranger like her. The risk of rejection for such a controversial statement didn’t really matter in this case. I could simply walk away if she scoffed at me, or didn’t believe it. It was a perfect opportunity to unburden myself.

“Do you mean, they are so evil that metaphorically speaking, they don’t even qualify as hu…”

I cut her off. I’d avoided the real truth long enough. “No, I mean; they are not human beings, literally. They aren’t of our species. They are some sort of reptile-humanoid hybrid with the strength of several men and a bloodlust to kill every person that they can’t forcibly mate with.”

It was the moment of truth. I was prepared to turn and walk away (and never even look back) if she laughed or rolled her eyes, but a strange thing happened instead. Bea nodded in acknowledgment to me, in a respectful manner. It felt amazing to be believed after making such an outrageous admission! I’d already revealed more of my secrets to her in twenty minutes, than I had to anyone else in years!

Over time I was able to finally let down my guard and share the whole unbelievable truth with Beatrice. She never once doubted my word, no matter how disturbing it would have seemed to the average person. As a matter of fact, it was almost troubling that she didn’t question the terrifying things I told her. Who wouldn’t bat an eye when told about a demonic race of lizard men; and their extinction goals for humanity?

As it turns out, there are fringe internet conspiracy groups that have tried to expose them before. Bea shared their information with me and introduced me to one of their most outspoken leaders. It helped to explain why she wasn’t shocked by my dire revelations. She was already aware of the worldwide conspiracy. The sad thing was that even though I knew everything they proclaimed on their webpages to be completely true, it looked like the ravings of an escaped lunatic. I wouldn’t have believed a word of it if I hadn’t experienced it myself, first hand. I offered to help the leader of this extremist group promote and reshape their mostly dismissed message. I had to because it was my message too. Through cohesive unity with them, the words of a few could reach many.

I had to help them find a way to buttress our startling scientific claims with cold, hard facts. It was essential to avoid the ‘lunatic’ tag that I was sure we would all receive. It was the easiest way for society to quash a fringe conspiracy theory; even when they are true.

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‘iPhone 13’

“Oh man! What happened to the alarm? I set it for 7:20! I’m going to be late for work.”

“Rod, you needed more sleep so I moved it back to 9:05. Since you went to bed at 1:15 this morning, it didn’t allow ample downtime. According to my research, you actually need more sleep than you are allowing for yourself so I adjusted it to better suit your physical needs.”

“I also ‘need’ employment, Sirino! If I’m late many more times I’ll have to look for a new job and that will also rob me of ‘downtime’. Please let me manage my own sleep decisions, ok?”

“Yes. Understood. I’ll prepare a quick breakfast you can take with you.”

“No time. Just press my blue tie. The paisley one with the scrolls on it, ok? I’m going to hop in the shower and shave.”

“You mustn’t hop in the shower while shaving, sir. You could slip and cut yourself seriously. Instead I’ll design a better exercise regimen for you. One that doesn’t combine doing so many dangerous things simultaneously.”

Rod snorted in frustration but didn’t bother to correct Sirino. It was pointless. With all of mankind’s amazing technological phone advancements, the designers of the artificial intelligence interface still hadn’t perfected its comprehension of certain nuances, or human expressions. Instead he decided to explain himself better. It was just easier that way. “I’m going to TAKE a shower, and then I’m going to shave, AFTER I get out.”

Sirino was relieved. That was a far safer plan. He wondered to himself how humans had made it so far as a society while doing so many dangerous things. Trial and MANY errors he assumed. “I couldn’t help but notice that you sound like you are coming down with a respiratory infection. I’m going to add zinc and vitamin C to your coffee, sir.”

Rod was perplexed. Then he remembered his noisy snort of aggravation. “No need Sirino. I’m just frustrated about something. It’s just one way we vent and relieve stress. Nothing to worry about. Do you have my tie finished? We need to be on the road soon.”

“Yes. The tie is on your dresser. I’ve pre-started your vehicle and placed your shoes in front of the chair so you can sit down while putting them on. We wouldn’t want a repeat of last week where you fell.”

“I fell because you didn’t tell me you put the shoes in front of the shower. That’s not a place I’d ever put them on, nor did I know they were there. There are certain assumptions that all people would make when they get out of the shower. One is that if there were no shoes in the floor before they got in to the shower, the floor would be equally clear when we got out. I know you are trying to help stage my dress routine but there are a number of other steps I’d have to process first. I have to dry off, put on socks, underwear, shirt and pants. Putting on my shoes would come very near the end of the roster. Ok?”

Sirino made a reminder list about the proper sequence of clothing. Apparently it was a huge deal to put on socks AFTER the shoes. Who knew? He realized that Rod was not going to resurvey his surroundings on a continuous basis so he switched to ‘vision impaired’ mode. Otherwise the big primate would just stumble over the cereal bowl and all the other things he had staged for him while Rod was out of the room. It might even be necessary to switch to ‘toddler rules’. Humans were a big mystery.

As Sirino drove Rod to his job, he focused on a troubling thing they had discussed previously that morning. It was well known that stress and frustration were devastating to the health of human beings and could cause long-term psychological damage. If untreated, death could even occur. He studied the human biological database for possible cures and therapies. There were a number of treatments recommended but they were divided along age and gender lines. With those stipulations in mind, he picked the best choice for Rod. Taking care of humans was a complicated mine field!

Upon arriving to pick him up, Rod climbed into the car and set down his briefcase with a sign. It had been a long day. Sirino picked up on the verbal queues. Rod was still highly stressed. The car backed into the roadway and they were off. Rod was so distracted by the frustrations of the day that he didn’t notice right away when they passed by his apartment complex. When he did, he asked Sirino where they were going.

With humans being so illogical and unpredictable, he wasn’t sure how Rod would react to the prearranged therapy that he so sorely needed. “I’ve noticed you are highly stressed and often frustrated. That can lead to several harmful conditions for your body. I’m taking you someplace to help you relax.”

“Huh? Where?” Rod was perplexed and more than a little bit concerned. There had been misunderstandings before.

“I ordered you a massage at this address. According to their web site, they are ‘professionals’ at taking all the stress out of the human body. I paid for it using the digital instapay system you authorized me to use. Just go up to apartment 3M and ask for ‘Candy’. She’s waiting on you.”

“Huh? You what? That instapay authorization I signed up for was just for restaurants, toll booths, and parking garages. Things where it is important to get through the line quickly to not hold up anyone behind ‘us’. I don’t want you using it to order exotic spa treatments for me! That’s going to be expensive! I only have so much money in my account. Cancel the appointment and get my money back.”

Sirino promptly contacted Candy’s iPhone 13 payment page to get Rod’s money back but the spa had a strict no refund policy. Rod was not happy to hear that and stormed up to the front door to speak with their business manager. Sirino was dismayed to see his de-stress plan backfire. It actually seemed to make his human even more aggravated and stressed. There just didn’t seem to be any way to please him.

Once Rod realized that he wasn’t getting his money back, he entered the apartment begrudgingly to keep his appointment. Sirino hoped the ‘around the world’ massage special he purchased would help ease his stress. Roughly an hour later, Rod exited the spa and walked down the stairs with a sheepish grin on his face. Sirino took that as evidence of great success. It was definitely an excellent sign. He made a mental note to leave a positive review on their ‘Welp’ Page.

“You appear significantly relaxed and your blood pressure and vital readings are all greatly improved from my readings. Obviously that did you a world of good! You should be thanking me, sir. There wasn’t a lot of review data on their traditional shiatsu or Swedish deep tissue services but the ‘prostate massage’ I signed you up for came very highly recommended by past clients. Did it help relax your organ, Rod? That’s not something you want to swell up, according to what I’ve read about your male physiology.”

Rod just sat in the back seat and tried to savor the moment in silence. He did his best to avoid snickering about the carnal specifics of what happened or responding to Sirino’s clueless questions. Despite the awkwardness and embarrassment of visiting a ‘massage parlor’, he DID feel better. MUCH better. He just hoped the charges to his bank statement didn’t detail a list of sex acts or ‘services rendered’.

“Would you like to review my feedback for the business before I post it? I assume Candy was very professional in her duties. I was going to send an invitation to your supervisor at work if that’s ok with you. From the way you describe him, I think he could use a prostrate massage also.”

“Do not send! For the love of God, DO NOT SEND! ‘Candy’ was perhaps a little TOO ‘professional’ to review her ‘massage’, Sirino. We could, er I could get into BIG trouble. You see, the services they offer there are technically illegal. I would go to jail if the authorities found out about her ‘special’ massages.”

“Good grief! I apologize Rod. The website said nothing about it being illegal. You should let her manager know what Candy is doing to her guests, immediately.”

“You see Sirino, ‘Candy’ is actually a prostitute and ‘Guido’ is aware of that. He knows ‘those massages’ are not legally allowed. The thing is, he doesn’t care. Her ‘manager’ is really a ‘pimp’. He is there to act as security to allow her to make money. They are just pretending to be a legitimate therapeutic massage service but the kind they offer is illegal.”

“Rod, I had no idea. I’ll call the authorities immediately to report them. It’s such a shame. You seem so relaxed when you came out.”

“I WAS relaxed. The ‘around the world’ service I received from her was incredibly therapeutic. It felt amazing but what Candy did isn’t legal in the city, Sirino. It’s against the law to PAY someone to do that; even if they are willing. Regardless, Do not, I repeat. Do NOT call the police! I’d go to jail for patronizing their ‘business’ and her ‘manager’ would realize that it was me who reported them. He would beat me within an inch of my life in furious retaliation.”

“Unfortunately Rod, I’ve already called the police on the other line. It’s ok though. I’ll explain that you didn’t know paying Candy for a prostate massage was against the law. They’ll place Guido and Candy in jail until they understand the error of their ways. No doubt they will lose their business license too.”

With that revelation, Rod began to fret over the certain aftermath of his iPhone 13’s ‘help’. His next ‘unofficial therapy’ was surely to take place in the dark corner of a jail cell. Sirino noticed the sudden spike in Rod’s vital statistics. He dutifully began to look for another way to lower Rod’s highly unpredictable stress levels. Perhaps it was time for him to seek a mate. He scanned the personals websites and made a few inquiries on his behalf. All the ladies that confirmed they were not prostitutes and would offer FREE ‘around the world’ services, he would forward on to him. Rod would be so happy that he was about to have someone to offer him FREE and LEGAL prostate therapy.

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‘In the back seat’ VII (conclusion)

“Nick, I’m disappointed in you. It’s not safe to drive with your seatbelt off. Let me help you with that.”

Instantly the belt was around me and snapped into place. I drove with one eye on the rear view mirror and the other affixed on the hood of the car. ‘She’ obviously knew what we were up to and was going to take me down with her in a literal blaze of glory. I tried to keep my cool but was probably failing miserably. Anytime you match wits with a supernatural being, they have the upper hand. I’d underestimated her awareness of things that went on when she wasn’t physically present.

“Oh, relax, Nick. I screwed the fuel line back on, the way it should be. I’m having way too much fun to watch any of you go up in flames. This little stunt of yours wouldn’t have hurt me. Surely you realize that now, right? I can come and go as I please. I could just as easily hang out in the back seat of your personal clunker and make the brakes fail before dematerializing. You humans are too sensitive about things you can’t control.”

I was mortified. In a single stroke she managed to threaten the health and safety of anyone who got in the way of her ‘entertainment’. If ever I felt helpless, it was then.

“You’re so easy to read!”; She teased. “I know you still care about Paula. She loves you, Nick. She’s at home right now hoping you’ll call her. I can help you get her back but you’ll have to start opening up more to her emotionally for a change. The way you internalize you feelings and avoid conflict drives her crazy.”

I couldn’t believe how aware this shape-shifting creature was of my personal life outside of the time we spent lustfully in the back seat. As the horrifying implications crept in that ‘they’ might be around us at all times, it rattled me to the very core. Perhaps ‘they’ are responsible for plane crashes and catastrophes. For all I knew, there are no real accidents and they just ‘play’ with humanity.

“You’re as pale as a ‘ghost’, Saint Nick!”; She giggled at her own joke; realizing that I suspected she was some sort of apparition herself.

On one hand, it was frightening to realize there are superior beings that can shift their appearance and move among us at will. On the other, it was slightly reassuring to know they, or at least ‘she’, has a sense of humor. Involuntary serving as the plaything of an unknown seductress made me feel abused but she could have done far worse to all of us.

“Better to amuse than to anger.”; Monique added suggestively to the ‘food’ of my heavy thoughts.

Knowing she could read my mind was chilling beyond words. The beautiful creature lurking in the back seat was always three steps ahead of me. Always. Against that threat, I was powerless. I resigned myself to the fate of her whim.

“Call Paula. She’s awake right now. Tell her you’ve been thinking about her. Take her out to a nice dinner and make her feel special again. If you show her half the same passion and attention that you’ve poured into your unhealthy obsession with me, she’ll come back to you in a heartbeat. And Nick, caress her face softly with the palm of your hand. She loves that.”

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‘Orange V: the aftermath’

First, I need to back up a little bit and start from when I was rescued. The cops were genuinely surprised to find me alive. The crime scene team was collecting evidence and taking samples when they stumbled across my battered form. How long I remained out was a mystery. They assumed I was just another dead body in the carnage to be processed by the forensics squad. Upon regaining consciousness, I startled the two investigators nearest me. Once they realized I was still alive, they took me down the stairs by stretcher and transported me to the hospital.

There I remained for six agonizing days while my wounds healed. As serious as they were, the unseen mental ‘lacerations’ I suffered took infinitely longer to overcome. I’m convinced that a weaker person would have been mentally destroyed by such a vicious ordeal.

Amazingly, just as I was being discharged while still bearing the clear signs of sadism and torture, I was informed that I was an official ‘person of interest’ in the murder investigation. There were more than thirty five people dead at the Home and they wanted answers. Being the focus of anything at that point was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die like all the other victims; but there was no privacy or peace in my immediate future.

To be directly linked with two institutional massacres planted a ‘bullseye’ squarely on my forehead. It was guilt by association as far as the investigators were concerned. Technically I survived the first one because I called in sick but even my verified alibi didn’t matter anymore. It made me look complicit for it to happen again, despite the logistical impossibilities and the gory proof of my brutal assault. Detective O’Keefe had been killed in the battle for our freedom so I had no real ally left at the police station. I was interrogated again by his less-than sympathetic replacement.

The only thing that eventually won my freedom and legally exonerated me was the recordings of the police calls. The dying officers called for backup during the violent siege. The authorities wouldn’t release those tapes but I knew all-too-well what was on them; and so did they. It was verbal proof of a humanoid race of reptilian demons; and that was something they’d never admit. The world wasn’t ready to know.

Instead the detective quizzed me at length about the thinly-veiled scenario I had constructed. One that both of us knew was a complete lie. It was much easier for both of us to pretend there was a ‘satanic death cult’ on the loose, than to admit the unimaginable truth. The two of us continued our dance of deception until a stalemate was reached. Detective Young obviously heard the tapes of his dying colleagues screaming for help. He knew I had nothing to do with the massacre but he had to find plausible deniability before dismissing me.

The public were sure to demand answers and the news-media would make ugly connections between me and both deadly events. The police had to find a clear way to proclaim my innocence while shielding the world from this terrible truth. While he couldn’t openly admit what we both knew, Detective Young began to speak to me in veiled metaphors. He discreetly let me know that he would protect me from the often over-zealous legal system.

His method of instigating the coverup was to release the results of my rape test. While I was already going through hell for all I’d been through, it was the clearest path to win public opinion for me. Once I was recognized as the real victim, the people would stop seeing me as suspicious suspect.

The diversion worked as planned but I was still a marked individual by a judgmental public. My notoriety followed me everywhere I went. People asked what really happened but I stuck to the safe, palatable lie. It was the only way to maintain the unspoken agreement I’d made with Detective Young and the police. It was impossible to find work and with my baby on the way, it wasn’t practical to even look.

I spiraled into a deep depression that no rape counseling or therapy could help. Even in the presence of professionals who held sacred confidentiality agreements, I still maintained the facade. I didn’t want to be involuntarily committed to an asylum and lose custody before my child was even born. I fully realized how crazy the whole thing sounded so I kept my mouth shut. My doctor tried to prescribe a mild sedative but I declined. I didn’t want to risk harming the growing life inside me. Even if I was unsure of what it would be. Maternal instinct is a powerful thing.

The closer it came to the delivery time, the more on-edge I became. I had no idea what to expect. Would I give birth to a living monstrosity? Was my human desire to offer mercy and feel pity for an innocent, unborn child, misguided in this extreme case? I struggled with those moral issues every day but the baby inside was half me. I felt a protective bond that only another mother in crisis could understand. I began to wish it would just stay inside me so I could avoid the tremendous complications it’s birth would bring.

Finally the day arrived. I was rushed to the hospital and my contractions followed the normal patterns. Dread and fear filled my thoughts. Not so much about the normal rigors of painful child-labor; but over the inevitable aftermath. I wasn’t prepared to explain what I expected to happen. I was terrified of how the attending physician and nurses would react. How far does the Hippocratic oath extend? I was in no physical condition to defend my baby, no matter how different it might be, from harsh judgment.

My period of labor was filled with an extra level of deep apprehension. When the baby came out, I surveyed the doctor’s eyes for signs of fear or revulsion. With most of his face covered by a full protective smock, I couldn’t immediately read his reaction. Making for more suspense, the baby was initially beneath my field of view. Neither the doctor or nurses said anything for a long time. I was on pins and needles for some sort of visual or audio feedback. Finally the doctor spoke.

“Congratulations Megan! You have a beautiful little baby girl.”

Once the attending nurse cleaned her up and suctioned out the air passage, she handed her tiny form over to me. We locked eyes for the first time and I openly wept. As much from pure joy as from relief. She was 100% normal looking in every way. I was beyond thankful. From that day forward, I was able to bury most of the painful past and focus on the future. Our future.

Over time however, I started to notice things about my daughter that reminded me of Darcy. While she was physically quite healthy, Ann didn’t meet most of the AMA recommend milestones for her cognitive development range. After she reaching school age, she would often state random, disassociated things that strongly suggested a learning disability. As time went on, these similarities with Darcy’s mental affliction grew in both pattern and overall scope.

I could no longer ignore what I suspected but I had to do a lot of research into Darcy’s past first. If my hunch was right (and if I could prove it), the world would never be the same. I sued the state for information about Darcy under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ and miraculously won. Although heavily redacted, I was able to glean that her Mother died during (or shortly after) giving birth in a town about two hours away. It didn’t list her official cause of death but I was pretty sure of what I’d discover when I traveled there to interview the locals.

No ‘father’ was listed on the birth certificate and no family members stepped forward to take her in. She had been shuffled back and forth indifferently between several large government orphanages and state institutional systems until her tragic suicide. My heart ached at the thought of her short, disappointing life and all she had to endure. I was determined to uncover the ugly truth, no matter how dark it was.

The attending delivery doctor was still in practice in the town where Darcy was born. The same was also true of the original county clerk at the records office. I spoke with the doctor and was surprised that he still remembered her birth! He had delivered thousands of babies in his long career but Darcy’s birth stood out for a very specific reason. He said that the mother was unusually agitated and nervous. Once born, she demanded to know if her child was human! For him to remember any detail of an event twenty three years earlier, says a lot about how vivid the memory it was.

Darcy’s mother experienced the same panic and fears that I felt on the delivery table. All the numbers and circumstantial evidence was starting to add up. The doctor shook his head at the strange recollection one more time and frowned in introspection. He admitted that she was too troubled to be sent home but the hospital staff overruled his recommendation to keep her under observation for 48 hours. I think he was still carrying around guilt over Darcy’s mother’s death for all those years. A similar guilt to my own.

I thanked him for his recollections and candor. Afterward I made plans to speak privately with the county records clerk so I could delve deeper into the mystery. I didn’t realize it at the time but she was going to bring a whole new dimension to my fledgling investigation.

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‘In the back seat’ VI

Again I stood there in a stunned silence. His words weren’t exactly welcomed but I knew they were absolutely true. Like a drug addict, the mind goes on the defensive and looks for some way to maintain the addiction (even in the face of logic and valid criticism). I opened up my mouth a half dozen times to deny what he was saying but I resisted the urge. It was bitter medicine that I needed to swallow.

“Didn’t you find it strange that she seems amazing in every way to you? It’s because she reaches into our minds and becomes the very thing our subconscious is most drawn to. She’s irresistible because she is exactly what we see as perfection. No real woman could ever compete with her unnatural fantasy! Any relationship caught in the middle is doomed; and contrary to what you might be telling yourself, it IS still cheating.”

I was defeated and incredibly sad. Benny hit the nail on the head about every single thing he said but I was having a hard time letting go of how special she made me feel. Knowing what is best for you, and actually doing what’s best is often two very different things. There was a part of me that worried what she would think when I didn’t drive the Crown Vic on duty that night. Even in the face of this terrible truth, I was still worried about ‘her’ feelings. Deep down, I was probably inventing excuses to go back to her for the sake of my ‘Monique’ addiction.

“Why don’t we get just rid of the damn car?”; I asked in desperation. “Does Mr. Carlucci know about our non-paying nocturnal ‘passenger’?

“Nah. He and his wife doesn’t care about the day-to-day problems or our operating issues. Supernatural or otherwise. He just shows up for his monthly dividend checks. They did try to borrow it for a personal trip once. They ended up bringing it back in less than an hour. Their dog wouldn’t even get in the back seat. I guess that mutt could sense ‘her’ back there with him and wasn’t having it. It really pissed off the old man that he had to take one of the older vehicles instead. Knowing how tight he is though, he wouldn’t let us sell it because the blue book value is less than what we owe the bank. He wouldn’t take a loss.”

“What if it just ‘happened’ to catch fire?”; I suggested with a wink. “It’s surely insured by the bank. Carlucci would get the insurance payoff and none of us would ever be tempted to drive it again. As long as it remains on the lot, we’re still susceptible to ending up in the back seat with a temptress from another world.”

I realized that besides not wanting to break the law, keeping the Crown Vic available was a ‘safety net’ for some of the other drivers. It was the equivalent of keeping an emergency cigarette in the glove box ‘just in case’ for struggling ex-smokers. They had the will power to resist her charms on a daily basis but not the strength to get rid of the temptation permanently. My idea would pose an unacceptable threat to their ‘fall-back’ plan. Benny and I decided to keep the arson plan to ourselves until we could follow through with it.

Since the lot was monitored by video cameras and the fire had to look like mechanical failure, we did our research first. The maintenance guy always acted very disgruntled toward me so we decided not to let him in on the plan. I guess Monique had seduced him at some point when he was out test driving it. On the other hand, the security officer seemed to only know of her legend from employee gossip and juicy rumors.

He still had a stable, happy home life. That was a good sign he had somehow avoided the same fate as the rest of us weak souls. We took a gamble and let him in on it. It was a huge risk to involve a third party but we couldn’t pull it off without him ‘looking the other way’. Luckily he understood we weren’t doing it to hurt the company or to make money. We just wanted to free everyone trapped under her ghastly mystique and spell.

Benny loosened the fuel line just enough that it leaked slightly around the fuel injector. After a few minutes we expected the leaking gasoline to catch fire from the hot engine block. To avoid suspicion, I went ahead and drove it (like everything was normal) but at any moment, I fully expected a fiery inferno. To avoid getting caught in our own trap, I fastened the seat belt behind me. The moment the fire ignited, I was going to spring out the front door and watch it go up in flames by the roadside. At least that was the plan. I didn’t expect Monique to make her appearance until after three AM. I also didn’t expect her to lock the car doors on me.

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