Doctor Mid-Nite: 1972: The Return of Walking Sun, Chapter 1: The Indian Ghost

by HarveyKent

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“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for coming today,” the distinguished-looking man said from the speaker’s platform. Not one iron-gray hair on his head moved in the autumn breeze, so carefully preserved was his coiffure. He was resplendent in an Italian suit, and more than one reporter in the audience wondered how much of their tax dollars had gone to clothe their governor in such haute couture. “This is an important day in our state, for it marks the opening of the largest reservoir built to date within our borders.”

Seated behind the governor on the speaker’s platform were two men, one a man of about forty, dressed in a much-less-expensive suit, and another man somewhat older, garbed in a red and black costume with a flowing green cape.

“He does enjoy hamming it up for the press, doesn’t he?” the suited man whispered to Doctor Mid-Nite.

“I haven’t yet met a politician that didn’t,” Mid-Nite whispered back. “Not even FDR.”

“Thanks again for coming today, Doc,” the young man whispered. “It means a lot to me, this being my first big project, and all.”

“It was the least I could do, Anthony,” Mid-Nite replied. “You’ve worked hard to get where you are. I’m proud to be here today. And your father is proud of you, too… somewhere.”

“I couldn’t have gotten where I am without you, though, Doc,” Anthony went on. “Making sure I got a good education after Dad died.”

“Your father died saving my life,” Mid-Nite reminded. “I owed him that.”

“And now,” the governor went on, “let me introduce you to the engineer who designed our new dam, and gave us this magnificent reservoir: Anthony Scarlotti, Jr.!”

Amid thunderous applause, Anthony rose to his feet, shook hands with the governor, and walked to the front of the platform. “I’m not very good at making speeches,” he said to the reporters assembled before him. “I just want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunities I had that let me build this dam. The people of this state, for selecting me to do the job; my professors at college, for finding the spark within me and nurturing it; and my father, for giving everything he had so his son would have a chance at a better life than he had.

“Mostly, I’d like to thank a man who has been a source of personal inspiration in my life. The man who taught me that hard work and study bring their own rewards, and that having all the gold in the world would be useless if you couldn’t look at yourself in the mirror. He’s here today to officially dedicate this reservoir. I give you a bastion of the legendary Justice Society of America: Doctor Mid-Nite!”

If the applause Anthony received was thunderous, Doctor Mid-Nite’s was deafening. He only let it go on briefly, however, before holding up a gloved hand for silence. “Thank you, my friends, but save your applause for the true hero of the hour. Sure, as a masked adventurer and a JSAer, I save people from occasional outlandish menaces. But every time someone in this state turns on their faucet and gets clean, pure water to drink, they’ll have Anthony Scarlotti, Jr. to thank for it. I’m only here to cut the ribbon.” Mid-Nite’s humble statement was greeted with even more applause. After this died off, he continued. “And so, let’s get on with it and get this reservoir open!”

The reporters applauded as Doctor Mid-Nite, Anthony, and the governor walked down the wooden steps of the platform. They stood on the high bank of the reservoir, and a giant lake of clean blue water sparkled in the afternoon sunshine beneath them. A wire-mesh fence surrounded the lake, and the one gate was open. A bright yellow silk ribbon had been strung across the gate. Mid-Nite and the others led the reporters to this, where a pair of scissors the size of a guitar waited for them. Mid-Nite picked up the scissors and held them in front of the ribbon.

“I declare this reservoir officially open!” he said loudly, and camera flashbulbs popped like a chorus as he cut the ribbon in two.

“Intruders, beware the wrath of Walking Sun!” boomed a hollow voice. All talking ceased, and heads bobbed this way and that, seeking the source of the words. It sounded like nothing so much as God speaking into a drinking glass.

Then the air above the lake shimmered with light, and an image came into view. Reporters who had covered battles in Korea and Vietnam screamed with horror as they saw. It was the figure of a Native American medicine man in ceremonial garb, complete with buffalo-horned hat. The figure was at least eighty feet tall, and stood straddling the lake, one foot on either shore. The giant figure was also encased in a glowing nimbus of fire.

“Good Lord!” the governor cried, grasping Doctor Mid-Nite’s arm. “Wha — what is that?”

“I don’t know,” Mid-Nite answered, barely keeping the awe out of his voice. “I’ve never seen the like of it before!”

“You have desecrated the resting place of Walking Sun!” the voice boomed again. The figure of the giant medicine man showed contempt and rage on its face. “You have hidden his grave from the sun beneath cold waters! This must not be! Walking Sun will not have this!”

The crowd watched in horror as the giant, flaming medicine man bent down to touch the water of the reservoir. As the flaming fingers touched the surface of the water, clouds of steam rose up from it, and a hissing sound cut the air like a snake the size of the world. Some courageous reporters attempted to capture this on film; most of them ran back down the hill.

The medicine man rose to his full height again, and the steam stopped. “This is what will happen to the white man’s lake!” he boomed. “I give you one hour to leave this place and seek refuge in your homes! At that time, Walking Sun shall boil the offending waters away into clouds of steam!” With that declaration, the giant image shimmered in the air, and was gone.

Most of the reporters had fled; only a few were left. Anthony, the governor, and Doctor Mid-Nite stood staring at the empty air where the flaming image had been.

“I don’t believe this,” Anthony said. “My first big engineering project, and it gets wrecked by an Indian ghost!”

“Easy, Anthony, nothing’s wrecked yet,” Mid-Nite said.

“But you saw that thing,” the governor said fearfully. “It was a hundred feet tall, and covered in fire! It boiled the lake with a touch! It–”

“And just a few months ago, the entire planet was about to be crushed by a giant hand,” Mid-Nite reminded him. “I and my friends in the Justice Society stopped that threat. (*) This, too, can be stopped.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Unknown Soldier of Victory,” Justice League of America #100 (August, 1972), “The Hand that Shook the World,” Justice League of America #101 (September, 1972), and “And One of Us Must Die,” Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972).]

“Can — can you call in the JSA?” Anthony asked. “This Indian ghost sounds right up Doctor Fate’s alley…”

“I’m not convinced it’s a real ghost at all,” Mid-Nite said, brow furrowing with thought. “I never used to believe in ghosts and magic at all, until I joined the JSA. In fact, a friend of mine who joined the team around the same time I did still doesn’t believe in them.” He chuckled as he thought of the scientifically minded Ted Knight, alias Starman. “But if that is a real ghost, why does it want to destroy the reservoir?”

“You heard him!” the governor snapped, fear spicing his tone. “We desecrated his resting place! We must have built this reservoir over an Indian burial ground! I knew the geologists should have–”

“Anthony, what was in this spot before the dam went up? When the area was being selected for the reservoir?” Mid-Nite asked the young engineer, cutting off the governor’s hysterical ramblings.

“Why — Jimsonville,” Anthony answered. “A tiny town, little more than a village, really. It had once been a thriving area, but the railroad rerouted the line away from it, the new airport went up a hundred miles away, and trade went away from Jimsonville. There were only a couple of holdout residents still living here when the area was selected; they were relocated with government assistance.”

“Hmm. Did the relocated residents show any remorse? Any bitterness?”

“Not that I can recall. What, you think one of them was responsible? That they somehow summoned that giant flaming medicine man?”

“I’m not leaving out any possibilities just yet. One thing bothers me. If that truly was the spirit of an Indian medicine man, upset that the reservoir desecrated his grave, why didn’t he show up when the town of Jimsonville went up in his resting place? Why did it take the reservoir to bring him into the picture?”

“Maybe he just doesn’t like water,” the governor stammered.

“He may have something there,” Anthony said. “I read in college that some Indian tribes have legends of a pale-skinned race of beings that live beneath the water, a malevolent race that would destroy them if they could. In fact, when Europeans landed in America, many Indians thought they were from this undersea race, because their skin was so much paler, and they arrived in great houses that sailed across the sea.”

“Yes, I have an archaeologist friend who’s mentioned that legend to me,” Mid-Nite said, thinking of his close comrade Carter Hall, alias Hawkman. “But still, something about this bothers me. I can always call in the more magically minded members of the JSA later, but right now I want to have a look around.”

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