Intuition is often our best guide
George T. Philibin
Dr. Krable lived down the street. She was a shrink, you know,
the kind that talks to people who cry a lot or try to kill themselves,
and she was married to Professor Krable, an entomologist. We all knew
about her. I would run past her big house when going that way. She was
pretty, because Bryan, my older brother, and all his friends would
stare at her. My dad looked too when mom wasn't around. My older sister
didn't like her because she said Dr. Krable looked like a gypsy with
all that jewelry dangling off her. In fact, my older sister didn't like
any other girls except her close friends.
One day we walked past her house on the opposite side of the
street. When together with my friends, I didn't run. You don't want to
be called chicken, you know, but we all looked over every inch of that
house and yard as we passed. We kept our heads straight but turned our
eyes as far left as we could. We didn't want Dr. Krable to see us
looking. No, we didn't want to meet her eyes.
We were just about past her house when Jamie stopped. He
turned his head and looked toward the house, and we all stopped with
him and tried to see what he was looking at.
"What you looking at?" I asked.
A moment later Roy Collins said, "Yeah, what are you looking
Eric Samuels also added, "I don't see anything."
Tony said, "What is it–some naked girl dancing!"
Jamie came out of his stupor then said, "I never see any birds
there. Birds don't even fly over that place -- just look."
When we looked at Dr. Krable's house, a light breeze passed
over us, chilling me a little even as the sun's rays struck my back. We
looked around at the other homes and trees, and, yes -- Jamie was
right. Crows congregated on some trees but not near Dr. Krable's.
Robins were looking for worms in front yards two doors down, and a Blue
Jay or two were singing. We watched sparrows fly, yet when they reached
Dr. Krable's air space above her house, they made a detour around it. A
lone crow did the same thing. Birds don't fly over Dr. Krable's house.
Jamie's eyes looked very deep that day. He kept looking at the
Krable's like it were a castle you see in National Geographic or on the
History Channel. Finally, he said, "I bet that's were all the missing
dogs and cats go."
Dogs and cats have disappeared in our neighborhood, and the
police said dog napping was the cause. Mom and dad didn't believe the
police and neither did Eric's mom and dad. I sure as heck didn't.
We started walking again, but Jamie kept focused on the house,
and I'm sure he tuned his ears toward the house like radar when seeking
an enemy target.
I knew Jamie since kindergarten and said, "Don't go sneaking
around that place -- I know what you're thinking!" Jamie said nothing
That day remained vivid in my mind all these years, for after
we finished our baseball game, we all walked home together. Jamie acted
weird. He didn't join in the laughter about how John ran as hard as he
could to catch a ball, missed, and shot into the thickets at the edge
of the field and scared a groundhog half to death. He didn't see the
amazement when Billy ran and tripped over his two feet -- and caught
the ball as he was falling!
Jamie finally said, "Things are so weird around here lately,
and I'm going to find out what they're up to." We said nothing back to
him, but we did look at each other, frown a little then continue on our
way. We didn't talk much after Jamie said that.
One at a time we peeled off from our group as we walked home.
Some of us lived on Maple and some on the back streets. Jamie turned
onto Smithton St. but he didn't say "See ya" or "Catch you later" or
even "Ciao" as he sometimes does. I said, "Coming over later? I got a
new video game, Invaders From Out of Time." Jamie
just turned and looked but quickly turned his head again. His walk
reminded me of a zombie as he made his way home.
My mind still echoes the ringing of our doorbell that evening.
At about eight two detectives came.
Mom left them in, and a chilly draft found me a second later.
Mom called me after talking with the detectives for a few minutes.
"When was the last time you saw Jamie Carlson?" Detective
Johnson said. "Brown hair, dark eyes, thin build and high cheek bones,
you know him, don't you?"
I told the detectives everything I knew. My mom after learning
that Jamie was missing ran to the phone and called Jamie's mom. The
police were still there, and my older brother and dad were with me as
the two detectives continued to ask all types of questions.
They asked so many questions in different ways, that I
actually started to remember things. Like the man that was standing on
a corner, the lady that was walking her dog, and the two older kids,
one boy and a girl, who were laughing together as they jogged down
Maple Street. Even old Mr. Kover who just sits on his porch and stares
at nothing all day, I mentioned all of this.
Jamie disappeared that day when I was eleven-years old, and it
was the summertime, warm, no school, no homework, just fun all day
long, until we lost one of our friends. Since that day every time I
walk past Dr. Krable's house, a cool breeze tries to impale my
forehead, it cascades around my eyes and ears, slithers though my hair,
and chills me almost like it were wintertime. However, the older I got,
the less I ran past that house. Now, I casually walk past, but I still
eye every inch of it.
* * *
"When did your friend vanish?" Kyra Johnston said. She flicked
back her long-brown hair then added, "You don't mind my asking. I've
heard so much about Jamie from Judy and Rickie, but -- well, you don't
mind my asking, do you?" Kyra had moved into the neighborhood five
years after Jamie vanished.
"No, I don't . . . I should've told you before. This summer
it's seven years. Seems like yesterday," I said.
"Did they ever find any evidence that might suggest what
happened to him?" Kyra said.
"No, nothing. As far as I know the detectives still have no
leads. Nothing. That's the last place I saw him." I pointed over to
Smithton St. "We were all together over there at the corner. Jamie left
us right there -- but never got home."
Kyra and I walked down Maple every day together after we
finished our shifts volunteering at the food pantry. I took her to the
senior prom, and since then we've been going together. I could talk to
her about anything. We liked each other more as time passed, and lucky
for me, we'll be going to the same community college together for the
first two years.
I kissed Kyra at her front door. She said to call her later
and I said I would.
I ate supper and settled down with my laptop, just looking up
antique cars and motorcycles. Before I got into it, my phone buzzed. I
read a message from Eric. "Get over here . . . I got a picture of Jamie
. . . I took it ten minutes ago!"
Eric was always into all types of electronic gadgets,
computers, on the hardware side and the software side, old cellphones,
radios, and televisions. He was also a ham radio operator. When a hiker
went missing, he sometimes helped to find them, and for his help, he
received the "Civil Air Patrol Emergency Responder Award." We watched
him get the award on our local TV station during the show Our
At Eric's, he quickly rushed me up to his room above the
garage where he had his workshop. "I got this video over Dr. Krable's
house from my drone!"
"You better watch out were you fly the thing," I said.
"They're coming down hard on them."
"Look!" Eric said. "That roofing glass is
the top of a large terrarium. Just look! See the face? See it? That's
Jamie's face. . . just look at it!"
Sweat beads formed on my brow and a chill settled over me when
I saw Dr. Krable's house from the air with Jamie's face in the
"There!" Eric screamed.
The face was turned looking upward. It did resemble Jamie.
"See it!" Eric was all excited. "That's Jamie!"
The face appeared puffy but the expression the same as I
"Where's the rest of him!" I said.
"Down in the plants, his head's sticking up above them. They
kidnapped him and are keeping him prisoner in there!"
"What's that moving under him?" I said.
We both couldn't see it clearly, but whatever it was, we both
agreed that it must be a shadow.
Again and again we watched the video, and again and again I
couldn't believe it. No, it can't be Jamie, yet the face and the
expression I know. At one point the face's mouth formed a word, but we
couldn't read the lips.
"The drone could only hover briefly over Dr. Krable's because
it has such a short battery life," Eric said.
"Are you going to fly it over their place again?" I asked.
"You bet I am! Only this time I'll have new-fully-charged
batteries. That's Jamie in there -- I know it," Eric said.
I went home. My mind couldn't concentrate on anything except
that face and Jamie. I had to ask mom about something. She was working
on her menu for the church supper, but I could tell she wouldn't care
if I bothered her.
"Did they search anybody's house for Jamie?" I said.
Mom thought for a sec then said, "No, I don't think so, but
they did look in some garages. They searched every inch of the park,
and-- I believe they looked in some car trunks, but I don't think they
searched any homes. Why do you asked?"
"Oh, just -- Kyra asked me about it today, and I just got to
thinking. That's the first time she's asked about Jamie. I'm sure she
wanted to before but didn't," I said.
"Kyra is such a nice girl, Kevin," Mom said. "I wish you would
bring her over more often."
Using Kyra as an excuse to ask about Jamie had worked. How was
I going to explain the face to mom? She would think I had Post
Traumatic Stress Syndrome or something like that and demand that I see
a therapist or maybe a shrink. After Jamie vanished, we did talk with
grief counselors. They did help, but I don't want that again. Hell,
maybe she would sent me to Dr. Krable; everyone thinks so highly of her
and her bug-loving husband -- I sure as hell never did!
A few minutes later I got a call from Eric, with news that
didn't surprise me much: "Dr. Krable phoned mom and asked her to keep
me from flying my drone over her property. She saw it the other day,
asked a few questions around the neighborhood and found out it belonged
to me. Old Mr. Kover told her it was mine. Do you believe that? He
never misses a thing. Just watches things all day long. Dad took it
from me and mumbled something about the government might come snooping
around because the Air National Guard is only four miles away. I don't
know, but I can't fly it anymore. Oh, and after you left I showed the
video to Roy and Tony. Tony flipped out about the video; he screamed
'Jamie! Jamie!' so loud that mom heard him. Roy just mumbled 'It's
Jamie' over and over again."
"Let's all meet tomorrow at McDonalds," I said. "Spread the
The next day I left work early and drove down to McDonalds on
New Center St. Kyra wanted to know what I was up to. I explained that
it was just a guy thing. I don't know if she believed me or not, but
she did say, "Have a good time."
Roy, Terry, Eric, and I sat down in a booth by the window. We
could see if anybody was listening to us since McDonalds wasn't busy.
"We'll have to break into Dr.Krable's," Roy said.
"Are you nuts!" I said.
"How we going to find out what's going on? Tell the police?"
"The police will do nothing, you know that. And if they do,
the Krables will know about it and hide Jamie away long before their
house is searched. You know they have clout," Eric said.
"Yeah," Terry said.
"Anybody have any ideas?" I said.
We talked about getting into the house, but none of us came up
with a good idea. We all felt sure the Krables had a very good security
system in place so we didn't want to break in, and what other options
did we have?
We left. I picked up Kyra outside the food pantry. "Well, did
you boys have a good time?" She said. She slammed
the door harder than usual.
"Yeah," I answered. "We don't get together much s-since we
graduated. I guess that's the way it's going to be from now on. Boy,
I'm really so glad me and you are working together. I get to see you
Finally after a long pause, Kyra moved over and gave me a big
kiss, one that I wasn't prepared for but it felt good.
"Remember you said something about making some money this
summer?" Kyra said. "Well my Uncle Mark, got some painting contracts
and guess what? He needs three extra guys on one job because the house
is so big, and he said they want so much trim work done, and they want
the gutters replaced too, and they want the inside painted. The house
is big -- you know the one. It's the house where the psychiatrist and
her entomologist husband live. You know the place, don't you?"
Thank God traffic was light because I'm sure my mind went
blank after Kyra said that. In fact I couldn't think or say anything
back to her. I caught the red light at the next cross street, and just
sat there holding the steering wheel with both hands. I turned my head
halfway toward her, and caught the slight frown that washed over her
"Kevin, what's wrong," Kyra said. "You look pale. Do you fell
okay? You guys didn't smoke anything, did you?"
Finally, everything she said came together with me and I
answered: "That's a big house. My God, it'll take all summer long to
paint it. Yeah, I'll help your uncle, and I can get a couple of my
friends too. In fact, we all helped paint Roy's house last year. Just
ask Roy's father, he'll tell you what a good job we did."
"Oh, I see . . . yes it is a big house, yes it is," Kyra said.
Thank God she took my made-up response for the reason that I turned
"I'll tell Uncle Mark you'll do it. . . he likes you, you
know," Kyra said. "Maybe he'll have more work for you after this big
one is finished."
"Kyra, this is really great!" I said. I gave her a big hug,
and that night I took her to a chick flick, one that I knew she would
like: Lost Love Nest. During the movie my mind was
in another place and time.
We began work Monday morning on Mark's crew. I managed to get
Eric and Tony hired for at least the painting of the outside of
Krable's house. All together there were eight painters.
Once I got closer, I realized how large the house really was.
It was bigger than I thought. In the backyard, sheds and benches, a
detached garage, even servants' quarters that couldn't be seen from the
The Krables didn't employ any servants; in fact, they didn't
even have maids. That thought just struck me: A house that size with no
maids. I never seen any coming out of it or going into it. Very strange
Once we got over the size of the house, Mark said, "You guys
are going to paint the sheds, benches and help out painting the old
servant's quarters. This job might take three to four weeks. I really
don't know -- I've never had a job this big before. Rain could set us
back. Oh, after we paint the outside, we paint inside on the first
floor. They don't want the upper floors touched-- I'll keep all you
guys on for that too. I gotta get this place done by the first of next
Dr. Krable's son, Dimitrie, watched us. I never seen him
before but he did look like Dr. Krable in the face and somewhat in his
build. He would come out and look around, look up at the sky, look over
at the neighbors then look at his watch. Then he would meander around
to the front of the house for a while. I had seen him peep out of
windows sometimes, usually a window from the top floor near where the
terrarium must be.
When we finished our painting in the backyard, Mark said: "You
guys are good . . . better than I thought. Roy's dad taught you good,
talked with him at the club last night; he said all of you worked off a
ladder without spilling a bucket of paint or dropping your rages or
brushes. That's what I need. Tomorrow you're up at the big house. I
need to get this job done and you guys are good enough to handle it!"
That's what we wanted. Jamie was in the main house. We were
sure about that. We watched the video of Jamie over and over again
almost every day after work, and the more we saw it, the more sure we
were that it was Jamie. We also studied where we thought the
terrarium's location within the house had to be; we were becoming very
familiar with the house's layout, we felt very sure about the location.
The next day we were up ladders. I got a top ladder anchored
off on the first-floor-porch roof. Mark made us wear safety harnesses
which I didn't object to once up on the ladder. It was high up here,
much higher than Roy's house.
Professor Krable, unlike Dr. Krable, slipped into the house
without being seen. It was hard to notice him and his slender build,
for he made no noise. He shoes must have been hush puppies, his clothes
somehow blended in with the surroundings, and his car was a GM Volt. It
was almost completely silent, coming or going. A couple of times I
looked up and there he would be staring at me through those horn-rimmed
glasses with a grin that I sure as hell didn't trust. When I would look
again, he'd be gone!
Mark kept Eric and Tony painting the second story, while I got
the top floor. As I scraped and painted, the work moved me toward the
terrarium as best I could figure from watching the video. All the
windows were blackened from the inside, painted or covered with a
black-contact paper. Whatever compelled me to talk to the house at this
location, I'll never know.
I looked around. Mark had a radio on, Roy was singing softly
to himself, and Tony -- half-talking to himself and half-talking to Roy
about some old motorcycle that probably never existed. I felt sure that
nobody would hear me except Jamie if he were inside. The rest of Mark's
crew was painting on the other side of the house.
Softly, with drawn out words I said, "Ja-mie, Ja-mie, Ja-mie.
This is Kevin, your old friend."
I repeated it a few times. I said it again, and again; I was
near a window and figured that if Jamie were in there, he would somehow
come to the window and show himself.
I said it directly into the window but much louder this time
because of some intuitive thought that took hold over me. Again I said
it even louder, then added, "We've come to rescue you. It's me Kevin.
Come to the window if you can." I heard the sound of furniture or
something like that being moved afterward.
I listened. A grinding, then a soft-muffled-shrieking sound
followed by a couple of loud thuds that lasted for a minute blasted
After about a minute, I heard, "Back away from the window --
go to one side of it!"
I promptly did, then the voice screamed, "Are you
I answered, "Y-Yes!"
Professor Krable's body flew through the window with such
force that it cleared the porch roof and landed in the side yard next
to Mark. He was talking on his cell phone. Mark stumbled backwards,
almost fell but grabbed onto some lattice work. The glass from the
window rained down on the porch roof under me, and showered the back
and side yard.
Thank God Mark made us wear safety harnesses because Roy, only
working on the second floor but still too far from the ground, fell off
his ladder and dangled about five feet of the ground after he saw the
body of Professor Krable hit the ground!
Terry screamed, "What the . . . !"
I looked, and Jamie's head popped out the window!
"It's me, Kevin. I killed Professor Krable and I tore out
Dimitrie's throat. They were giving me a series of steroids or vitamins
or hormone shots again like they do all the freaking time when they
heard your voice -- that startled them, and I managed to break one
strap loose -- they were no match for me once I got an arm free,
believe me no match!"
Two hairy arms grabbed each side of the window and pulled his
body out. The chest looked scaly with thorns or thick hair sticking out
about six inches. His torso also scaly with very short hair or thorns.
Patches of red skin covered some of his torso. His legs hairy, and his
feet were like pads with hair or bristles on the bottom of them. As I
watch, another pair of legs behind the first appeared, pushing Jamie as
the first pair of legs secured its feet on the siding, almost like a
He managed to exit the window quickly, turn his entire body to
me and say, "Look what they did to me! See!"
Terry took pictures with his phone camera. Mark screamed,
"What the hell is it!"
Dr. Krable ran into the side yard screaming "Get out -- you're
fired! All of you off my property now -- get out, out! Hear me! Get
Jamie heard Dr. Krable's screaming. A smile formed on his
face, a smile hideous and not unlike a spider's look before pouncing on
a prey. The hairs that covered his body stood up like pins, and his
face beamed a joyfulness that I wish to God I never witnessed. His
piercing, penetrating laugh, so frightful, so potent, so unhuman,
echoed so loudly that a car stopped suddenly, and the driver and the
passenger got out to see what was going on.
Jamie's descent down the side of the house, rivaled the speed
of a squirrel descending down a tree trunk. Once on the ground, he
sprang over to Dr. Krable. She screamed helplessly, for Jamie clutched
her around the neck with his large-deformed-scaly hand that appeared
more like a pincher than a human hand.
All of us were on the ground now. I heard the guy standing
next to his stopped car on Maple shout, "I'm calling the police!"
Eric kept screaming "That can't be Jamie! What is it?" over
and over again. The rest of the Mark's crew from the other side of the
house appeared. Their jaws dropped so far that their mouths looked like
Jamie held Dr. Krable up but not off her feet, then said, "All
through my metamorphosis as your husband liked to
call it, or the awakening as your son liked to call
it, you kept hour sessions with me weekly and asked questions like, 'How's
your dreams now? Vivid? Do you dream of ants? That nightmare you had
the other night, was some Orkin man was chasing you? We've let you
watch TV, and I know you've seen him on it. Do you still love your
mother? Love your father? Like your schoolmates now? Like girls? What
do you think about me and Professor Krable? Do you think of us as your
new parents? Brothers? Sisters? Pets? Friends? Mentors? And what about
Santa Claus? Did you still believe in him? Well, do you? I'm interested
in what you feel, Jamie. You don't mind me calling you Jamie yet, do
you? Did you mother call you Jamie, or did she have a pet name for you?
And your dad?'"
Jamie stopped for a second then went on,
"Your laptop must have been a good one because as you asked questions,
your fingers danced all over the keys like some ballerina preforming in
Carnegie Hall and they never stopped. I could kill you but that's too
good for you. Maybe I can't make you suffer like I suffered for years,
but I can make you suffer for a few minutes so badly that you'll scream
out for me to kill you over and over again! Any more question you want
to ask me, Doctor? Well? How about ones like -- are you happy today?
Why yes I am, Doctor! Just like when I hit a home run! And I really
like being with my old friends again, Doctor! Oh, is that's all the
questions you have? Okay then -- session over!!"
With the same swiftness that Jamie showed
before, he grabbed Dr. Krable around the waist and carried her up the
side of the house and into that top window.
She looked at us and screamed, "Help me!
Help me! Help me!" Our eyes met, and as Jamie carried her up. I stood
there silent, just looking, just waiting, just watching as Jamie
slammed her into the window. I'm not sure, but I think I heard one of
her legs crack as it bounced off the window seal.
She kept screaming for help, and we could
hear her screams crescendo. They rivaled the sounds of the cicadas
leading the chorus. Her piercing pleas for help finally waned, becoming
thinner with a dying agony until her screams became silent, but the
cicadas continued to carry her pleas.
Within a matter of minutes, a white-light
radiated from that top window.
The light got much brighter and whiter very
quickly. Finally the roof exploded in flames. The sides of the third
floor began to smoke, yet the light as far as we could see, continued
to grow brighter.
"Get away!" Mark screamed. "That's a
chemical fire!" I knew Mark knew about fires; he had served on the fire
team aboard the USS Enterprise, and now he belonged
to the Shady Side Volunteer Fire Company which served our neighborhood.
All of us ran around to the front of the
house and crossed the street. The entire top the Krable's house was
ablaze, the white fire consumed the roof in seconds.
The police arrived first, and by the time
the firemen got there, an inferno met their eyes. The firemen watered
down homes, trees, lawns and shrubbery nearby but didn't sent one
stream of water into the Krable's house. Mark said that you never,
never put water on an unknown chemical fire.
Twenty minutes later, special firefighting
teams from the local air force base showed up, with CO2 trucks and
other chemical fighting gear. But by the time the Air Force
firefighters engaged the fire, the house was almost completely down
with the white-hot fire sending blinding rays of light everywhere. The
house resembled the filament of an incandescent light bulb burning.
I heard one of the firemen say, "He must
have tons of some type of fertilizer or powder metal in there. I never
felt such heat this far away from a house fire before!"
Two day elapsed before the fire was
officially put out, and the lot where Krable's house once stood was
roped off by the police. Dad said FBI and ATF agents and from the looks
of the cars plenty of other government agencies were there. I can
honestly tell you that so many guys wearing suits and so many women in
pants suits showed up all wearing name tags, that we had a serious
traffic jam for a week.
Terry lost his cellphone, probably burned up
in the fire. We didn't have anything to prove that Jamie was in that
house. We told the police about Jamie, we told some government people
about Jamie, we told the firemen about Jamie, we told anybody who would
listen about Jamie.
The government agents took an interest in
Mark, and to this day I don't know what Mark told them, but I'll never
forget what Mart said to us: "You guys listen to me. And listen good.
You saw a baboon. Nothing else. I don't know what it was but whatever
it was the Feds don't want nobody to know about it! Understand? It was
not some freak. It was not Jamie! It was an experimental animal, a
baboon that got loose. Nothing else and all I can say is you guys had
better believe that story when they tell it to you. Got me!
Nothing else -- just a baboon! Understand?"
We listened to Mark with blank faces. None
of us said anything, and we didn't argue with him. No, for once in my
life I decided to remain mum, and so did the others.
Eric's video vanished. Gone. According to
Eric somebody stole it. I never believed that story. I think Mark
scared him, and he hid the video someplace and will not discuss it
The next night, two government agents came
to my house. They explained what we saw; in fact they sounded like my
biology teacher in high school. They knew about primates, their habits,
their different habitats around the world and how they behave in
Remembering what Mark said, I answered with,
"I thought that was a monkey. Somebody screamed that it was Jamie. I
think somebody across the street said that. Boy, that monkey scared the
crap out of me. Are they strong?"
One of the agents assured me that the monkey
was a baboon and they are extremely strong.
I don't know if they bought my act or not,
but they did leave the house in what looked like a good mood. My
friends said the same thing more or less when the Feds interviewed
them. We practiced what we were going to tell them, each of us giving a
similar story but with slight differences, hoping they think we didn't
make up a story together. I think they bought our stories.
It became easier to tell the baboon story.
When you start to tell a made-up story, it just gets easier as time
goes on. Eric, at one point, had the baboon talking. He said Professor
Krable made an intelligent baboon, one that could also clean their
house, cut the grass, and do the laundry. This baboon could even read
Shakespeare. Of course, no one paid attention to Eric after he told
that story. I think he wanted it that way.
Toward the end of summer, Kyra and I were
coming back late at night from a concert. She said, "Kevin, pull over a
I pulled over and waited for her to say
something, and I knew what that something was.
Her blue eyes opened wide, and she asked,
"Kevin, what really happened . . . ."
© 2016 George T. Philibin
Bio: George Philibin has been
writing for about twenty years. He worked at a generating station in
Western Pennsylvania, and served in Viet-Nam. During his last two years
in the army, I played French Horn with the army band at Ft. Monmouth,
NJ. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for Mechanical
Engineering. He worked in a coal mine, a steel mill, and a dairy once.
Now, he's retired. His last Aphelion appearance, It
Came Out of the
Condenser, appeared in our May, 2016.
E-mail: George T. Philibin
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