by Starsky Hutch 76, Drivtaan and Doc Quantum
Cal Kent was roused from his slumber by the sound of a baby crying. He slipped out of bed and walked down the hall. He passed the doorway to his adoptive parents’ room and saw Lois Lane Kent starting to rise out of bed. “Don’t worry, Ma,” he said. “I’ve got it.”
She muttered something unintelligible, followed by, “Thanks, hon,” then slumped back into the pillow, drifting back to sleep.
When he got into his baby sister’s room, she was standing up in her crib, holding herself up with the rungs and sobbing. Tears streamed down her face.
Cal lifted the child and held her to him, tousling the thick mop of black curls on her head soothingly. “Shh… shhh… It’s OK. I’ve got you. What is it?”
“Bad man,” she sniffed. “Bad man!”
“There’s no one here,” he said. As soon as he spoke, twin red eyes formed in the darkness of the room. He could see the outline of a humanoid form, but despite his super-senses, he could make out nothing more.
An unnatural fear suddenly took over, penetrating him to his very core. Twin arcs of heat-vision shot forward, penetrating the darkness. The humanoid shape vanished. In its place were two flaming, grapefruit-sized holes in the wall.
He then heard the sound of a cow groaning, followed by a loud thud. He sat the now-quiet Mary back in her crib and ran to peer through the holes. Looking through them, he let out a groan himself. He knew they would be eating a lot of steak and hamburgers in the future. He also knew he was in a lot of trouble.
John Garrick looked around at everyone who had crowded into his dad’s campaign headquarters. Most of the faces were familiar to him. He saw several of his dad’s Justice Society of America teammates, as well as a few members of Infinity Inc. There were also a few faces he recognized but could not put names to — they were probably people who had worked on the campaign, he decided. All eyes were glued to the television set, waiting for the results.
Several states had already posted their results, and things were looking good. Of course, some of the more important states had yet to announce whom they had chosen, so it could still go either way.
Everyone suddenly became quiet. John crossed his fingers as another state posted their results. “We won California!” someone called out, and the room went crazy.
“Man,” John muttered to himself, “this is nerve-wracking.”
“Isn’t it, though?” someone replied.
John turned to see a man step from the shadows. The face was unknown to John — it was probably one of the many campaigners he had not yet met. Something about the man made John nervous, but he had no idea what that was. “Even if Dad doesn’t become president, thanks for all the hard work you put in.” The stranger nodded and turned his attention back to the television.
“Look,” another voice spoke up. “We won both Florida and New Hampshire.”
Presidential candidate Jay Garrick stood up, a look of disbelief on his face. “That means…”
“That means you’re the new president,” someone said.
The place went wild.
“Oh, wow,” John said to himself. “Oh, wow,” he repeated, a little louder this time. “My dad’s the president!”
Everyone began to crowd around Jay to congratulate him. Between the hugs and the handshakes, he made it a point to find his son.
“What do you think of your old man now?” he asked as he swept John off his feet and gave him a bear-hug.
“This is fabulous,” John laughed as he wrapped his arms around his dad.
Jay set his son down. “There are a lot of people here that I have to thank,” he said.
As his dad started walking away, John felt a cold chill run down his spine. Looking around, he saw nothing. When he looked back for his dad, he saw the gentleman who had spoken to him earlier approach Jay, who turned and extended his hand to the man.
John’s eyes went wide with fear as the man pulled a gun from beneath his coat and pulled the trigger. As Jay fell to the ground, the man turned and looked straight at John with eyes the color of crimson.
All John could do was scream.
A blinding light suddenly appeared, causing John to blink and cover his face.
“What’s the matter?” a voice asked.
“Who were you expecting — Wildcat?” Jay Garrick replied.
John leaped from the bed, almost knocking his dad down in the process. “Dad, you’re alive!”
Jay could barely breathe as his son held him tight. “Man,” he gasped, “that must have been some dream.”
Night swimming — it was warm and refreshing for Mina Curry as she explored the waters off the coast of Southern California around the Channel Islands. She had spent a week here visiting with her older brother Arthur, who was a member of Infinity Inc. and happened to have gained a large fan following due to his good looks and princely charisma. Mina just thought they were crazy. Unfortunately for her, almost all of her friends at school were also in love with her brother. She hated it.
Still, the time she spent with her brother had been great. It was strange how distance made brothers and sisters grow closer. When they were both living at home in Atlantis, they had fought like cats and dogs on an almost daily basis, but ever since Arthur had joined Infinity Inc. as the new Aquaman on the West Coast and Mina had joined the Junior JSA as Coral on the East Coast, they had gotten along beautifully — well, most of the time.
Whenever the two spent too much time together, they once again began getting on each other’s nerves as brothers and sisters were apt to do, but luckily there were now other Infinitors to hang around with here. Some had arrived on Thursday afternoon, the rest this afternoon, and the plan was to stay for the rest of the weekend. Still, Rick Tyler, a new father, was still worried about his baby boy and had earlier spoken with his wife Beth about leaving earlier.
Mina thought Beth was pretty cool. Even though she still kept her Midnight costume, she was not a regular Infinitor any longer because of the infant she was still nursing, but Beth was still an Infinitor in her capacity as a doctor, and her friendship with the others — borne out of the Crisis on Infinite Earths — had remained strong. Mina had a chance to play with the baby for a while, too, though he could not do much more than cry, eat, and wet himself just yet. Of course, it would not be too much longer when he would be crawling around on all fours and making a nuisance of himself. If there was one thing Mina was sure about, she was not going to have a baby herself until she was really old — like around twenty-five or so.
A couple of the guys were really cute, too. Mina found excuses to spend as much time with Ray Terrill as possible while he was visiting, embarrassing him to the point where he had begun avoiding her by this Friday evening. She could not see what the problem with the age difference was, anyway. He was only a couple of years older than her, and in Atlantis girls regularly got married as young as thirteen to men twenty years their senior. Oh, well — it was his loss.
Coral swam to shore and onto the beach of Santa Catalina Island, where her brother had his beach house. The Star-Rocket Racer was parked out front.
“Is that you, Mina?” Arthur called from the back. “Why aren’t you asleep in bed?”
“Since when do you care what time I sleep?” she snapped back. Old habits died hard.
“Well, since mother and father aren’t here, and I am, it’s my responsibility to see that you don’t make yourself sick.”
“Oh, give me a break,” said Mina, rolling her eyes. “You stay up all the time!”
“I’m an adult. You’re just a teenager.”
“No way you’re an adult! You’re not even twenty-one yet!”
“According to Atlantean law I am,” he said.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re not in Atlantis anymore.”
“Whatever,” Arthur replied, tired of this juvenile banter. “Get to bed sometime soon. I don’t want you waking up late and demanding breakfast when everyone else is having lunch.”
Mina made a face at him, sticking out her tongue in reply. Brothers. What do they know? she thought. The Junior JSAer known as Coral sat on a lawn chair in the back, pouting and determined to stay out for at least another half-hour before turning in. It did not matter that she was yawning like crazy, only that she would show her brother that he could not tell her what to do. Although they had gotten along great during the beginning of the week, by the end they had begun getting on each other’s nerves again. It was time for her to go back home to Gotham City.
“Wonder where Ray is?” she said quietly, looking around to see if the cutest Infinitor (in her opinion) was hanging about. Her bathing suit was still wet, but the chill did not bother her in the least. She was Atlantean, and as such she was used to temperatures much colder than this. The Atlantean body had a remarkable ability to regulate even the most extreme temperatures and make them comfortable. It was a necessary evolutionary adaptation that their offshoot of the human race had developed in order to withstand the various temperatures in the oceans of the world.
She turned, frowning at the whispered sound of her name. It was still pretty dark, the clouds having blocked the light from the full moon.
“Minaaa…” she heard again.
“Stop it, you guys,” she said. “That’s not funny!”
“I mean it!” She was getting really angry now.
On Thursday night, a couple of the Infinitors had rented several really bad horror movies for a few laughs, and Mina watched them with the others, since Ray was one of the guys who thought of it. Some of the other Infinitors, like Syl Pemberton and Roy Harper, began saying how juvenile those “dumb horror movies” were and how they couldn’t hold a candle to the classics of their day like Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Black Cat, and Dead of Night. Ray just laughed it off and called them a couple of “old farts.” So Mina watched one with them called Nightmare on Elm Street, never having seen or heard of horror movies before. It had scared the living daylights out of her, as Ma Hunkel would have said. Mina was too freaked out to watch the other one, Night of the Creeps, and they all knew how scared she had been. She’d had problems going to sleep ever since. To play upon her fears — as she figured they were trying to do right now — was just downright mean.
Mina scowled into the darkness, putting on a brave face, even though all she wanted to do right now was run back into the house. As she heard a loud hushing sound, she turned around and ran to the door.
“What the–?!” she gasped as the door would not give. They had locked her out. “Let me in, you guys! This isn’t funny anymore!” She tried the door a few more times with her Atlantean strength and then gave up. “Fine!” she said, slumping down on the doorstep.
As she sat there, listening to herself breathing, the sound of the tide on the beach being the only thing to break the dead silence, she began to hear a kind of shuffling sound. She looked around in the darkness but of course could not see anything. Then she heard it again.
“What is that?” she whispered to herself. It was a dragging sound that started and stopped, over and over. As she listened, it seemed like the sound came from under the patio.
“Hello?” Mina said cautiously. She crawled over to the side of the deck and stuck her head over the side to look underneath. There she could hear snuffling along with the dragging sound. “What are you?” she said gently.
The sound stopped for a moment, so she went over the side and crouched on her hands and knees to look under the patio. There was definitely something there. She could see it much better than a normal human could, given her Atlantean eyesight that made her used to peering through the undersea darkness, but it was still a vague shape in the darkness.
“Don’t worry, little guy, I won’t hurt you,” she said, emitting feelings of sympathy and kindness. Although her telepathic powers ostensibly worked only on marine life, she was hoping they might extend to other types of fauna as well. A whimpering sound mixed in with the snuffling was her only reply.
“Are you all alone under there?” she said in a high-pitched soothing voice as she moved a bit further under the patio. She had enough telepathic control to sense that it was nearby, and she went in its direction. Finally, she saw two little eyes staring back at her. “Aw, you’re just a baby, aren’t you? Where’s your mommy, little guy?”
Mina reached out to pick up the small creature but was startled as it hissed at her. “Don’t worry, it’s OK,” she began again, attempting to use her telepathy to send soothing signals to it. In this way she eventually managed to pick it up. It was a fox cub, from what she could tell — the Santa Catalina Island fox, most likely, which was an endangered species. She sat there, in the dark underneath the patio, petting it and making cooing sounds before she attempted to take it out. A towel that had fallen from the patio railing made a nice blanket for the cub.
After a few minutes, she crawled back out from under the patio with the fox cub wrapped in the towel and brought it up top. She gave the cub water from a water bottle left there, and it greedily took as much water as it could drink, causing her to remember when she had held Beth’s baby in a similar way. Mina smiled as she watched the little creature shivering, even with the towel she had wrapped it in.
A while later she began to nod off, already overtired and exhausted, even though the ocean swim earlier had been reenergizing. Finally she could not stay awake any longer and fell asleep with the snoozing fox cub in her arms.
She could only sleep for a certain amount of time, however, before her Atlantean need for water automatically woke her up. By this time she felt she could barely open her eyes, and the night was darker than ever as the clouds had become thicker — she could only dimly see her arms from the ambient light reflected off the clouds from the mainland. She felt wet, even though she had emerged from the water a full hour ago. She also felt very warm, and she drowsily remembered the little creature asleep in her arms.
Mina gently brought the fox cub to her lips to kiss it, but after doing so she was surprised to find her lips wet. Weird. She wiped her mouth with her arm, but her arm now had a dark streak where she’d wiped it. It was then that the telepathic part of her brain realized that she was not receiving any kind of thought waves from the fox cub, which was strange, since — even asleep — all creatures broadcast their thoughts to a certain extent, unless they were…
Her stomach sank as her mind completed that thought. She then realized why she was wet. She started making whimpering sounds as she pushed the bundle away from her to set it on the table as quickly as possible. Something fell with a thump on the ground at her feet, though, and as she looked down, she saw in the dim light two little eyes staring at her from a disembodied head.
It was then that Mina started screaming as she ran for the door once again. Her hands like hammers began beating at the door as the decibel level of her screams became louder, and louder, and louder.
The sound of the shattering window could barely be heard in all the noise, and seconds later all the lights in the beach house flashed on.
“Mina, what the hell–?” Arthur yelled from a water tank inside.
“Who’s making all that racket?” one of the guys shouted.
Jesse Chambers was the first one to see her. “Oh, my gosh!” exclaimed the super-speedster as she saw blood all over the girl’s bathing suit. “Mina, what happened?”
“Whoa,” Ray Terrill mumbled as he saw the shattered living room window.
“What did you do, Mina?” asked Arthur. “What did you do?”
“It wa — it was… a-a… fox cub, and I-I…” Mina began, stammering due to the fright and the physical exhaustion of being out of water for more than an hour.
“Are you OK?” asked Rick Tyler. “Somebody find Beth!”
A bleary-eyed Dr. Beth Tyler emerged momentarily, throwing a blanket around her, then ushering her into the water tank she slept in. And after Mina had washed herself off and soaked in the tank for a few minutes, she was finally able to explain what had happened. She told them about the voices she heard earlier, then explained her discovery of the fox cub she had found under the patio and the condition she had found it in when she woke up. She was obviously terrified.
“There’s one thing I don’t understand, honey,” said Beth soothingly. “Didn’t you notice the fox cub bleeding earlier?”
“But it wasn’t bleeding!” said Mina. “There was nothing wrong with it before!”
“Then how–?” began Beth, frowning. After a moment she smiled sympathetically and said, “It was obviously too dark outside to tell if it was bleeding or not. You probably didn’t notice any wounds until later on.”
“But its — its head f-fell off!” Mina screamed. “There was nothing wrong with it before! I even fed it w-with a water bottle.”
“You must’ve been imagining things, Mina,” said Albert Rothstein. “After all, you were pretty tired…”
“I’m not imagining things!” the girl screamed.
“Then how do you explain it, honey?” asked Beth gently. “What happened to the fox cub?”
Mina’s face turned almost white as she thought about it, her eyes widening to their fullest extent. Finally she breathed one word: “Tekaremaris.”
Arthur rolled his eyes and laughed. “Tekaremaris? Yeah, right.”
“What’s Tekaremaris?” asked Beth.
“It’s a, uh… monster-man from Atlantean legend,” said Aquaman. “Something to scare children and little sisters. Just a fairy story.”
“It’s not just a fairy story!” screamed Mina.
“It’s nothing but a fairy story,” repeated Arthur more loudly. “Just like your Boogeyman,” he said to the others.
“Boogeyman?” said Ray.
Virtually all the Infinitors now chuckled and began heading off to bed. Someone made a joke about her watching “too many scary movies” lately.
Beth Tyler stayed by Mina’s water tank and said, “The Boogeyman is just a myth, honey. Nothing to be scared about.”
“Tell that to the fox cub!” screamed Mina. Beth sighed and kissed her on the forehead before heading off to bed herself.