Aphelion Issue 283, Volume 27
May 2023
 
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Jamie's Revenge:
Intuition is often our best guide

by 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 at?"

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 back.

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 Community Hour.

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 terrarium skylight.

"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 remembered Jamie's.

"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 word."

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?" Terry said.

"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 every day."

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 brow.

"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 pale.

"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 street stood.

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 I thought.

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 month."

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 from inside.

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 clear?"

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 spider's.

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 out!"

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 tunnel openings.

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 anymore.

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 captivity.

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 second."

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 . . . ."


THE END


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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