Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Found Treasures V: Complementary

I had completely forgotten about writing this next piece, but when I found it on one of my old floppies [1] I immediately recognized it. I've fixed a few typos [2], but for the most part this story is in its native state. It has many of the hallmarks of my writing. It also shows some of my weaknesses as a writer—poor character development, sacrificing feasibility to progress the plot, using narration instead of dialogue, etc. Even now, ten years later, I still struggle with these flaws, but I like to think that I'm improving.

The Markson family was new in town. Their father had been fired after getting caught looking at files above his classification. The papers concerned a secret operation, somewhere near here in Montana, being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

was a mere janitor, and only top executives had access to the particular room that held the files involved. But every room had to be cleaned eventually, so he was let in under supervision. However, during an unexpected power blackout, the man overseeing him left in a hurry, stumbling around in the dark. There were no windows, to prevent any detection of the actions performed in the room. Mr. Markson stumbled, fell, and turned around.

As he looked up he noticed a faint green glow disappearing down the hall. He dismissed it as the flashlight developed primarily for the Green Berets to use in combat conditions. The peculiar color must be symbolic. The man who was guarding him, a Green Beret, must be using his to see.

A strong compulsion came over him, and using his cigarette lighter to see, Mr. Ivan Markson, opened up one of the cabinet files and pulled out the folder labeled “Montana.” As he read through the military jargon and codes, searching for something significant, the power was restored. The Green Beret returned quickly and found Ivan violating his level of access.

Since he was clearly uninvolved with the blackout, gave no evidence of being involved in espionage or treason, and was well-known in the area he resided, they were unable to dispose of him other than to fire him. The FBI carefully manipulated nearby businesses and prevented Mr. Markson from obtaining a new job, and thus forcing him to leave.

Ivan decided to secretly unearth the secret project in Montana, so the family moved to a town in the east part of the state, called Growan. It was one of those small, backwater towns that no one has ever heard of, but exists just the same.

There was an empty house near city hall, which they bought, and soon the Markson family was moved in. There were two daughters and a boy, the boy being in the middle, besides Ivan and his wife Catherine.

Their neighbor from across the street warned them of a recent incident involving a maniac, and the repeated sightings of the man afterwards. He made sure to warn them to lock up and not go outdoors after dark, because the maniac always did his evil deeds in the night.

When they moved to the town, they went through a desert full of sagebrush and dead grass. But, snuggled back into a valley in the Rocky Mountains, lay Growan. The particular mountains that it lay near, abruptly jutted up out of the sand as monuments of lush foliage and small mountain streams. Giant forests of deciduous trees climbed up the sides of the valleys and threatened the bare rock cliffs that formed the peaks. Scattered copses of evergreens were seen as well. This side of the range always received enough rainfall so the forest floor was carpeted with tall, thick crabgrass and entire fields of wildflowers. Crisscrossing the mountainside were trails for hiking that were full of scenic vistas and plenty of animal sightings.

The Marksons were a very social family and quickly had many friends in town. But they were also polite, which was why they did not inquire about any of the small peculiarities about the town. Such as no indoor plumbing, the lack of brown eyes in anyone, or there being no roses or tulips anywhere. Their son, in private, did complain, and often mentioned that he felt something was not right about the town, something inappropriately different.

Growan was a very modern city, excepting the outhouses. There were paved roads, outdoor electricity, and advanced farm equipment. Bushes, trees, flower gardens, and vegetable gardens could be found in every yard. Everyone got along with each other; to the Marksons, this was the ideal town—excepting the outhouses.

In the center of the city was a small park with a large, beautiful fountain in the middle. The fountain was a jade figure spouting water from its head into a circular fountain made of green marble. Lights under the water, used as it got dark, reflected off the marble and gave off a spectacular, unearthly aquamarine glow.

The second week after they arrived, the Markson family went on a camping trip. They hiked up one of the numerous trails, filled with deer, rabbits, and squirrels, and set up camp. As their fire died, they watched the yellow sunset quickly change to an emerald smear across the sky, and finally give way to the overbearing tones of dark purple and blue.

One particular star in the sky caught their attention. It was pulsing light and dark along the spectrum of green. It seemed to be in a supernova, a giant burst of brightness. As they stared at it, a meteor streaked across their vision and collided with the mountain cliffs behind them.

A wildfire ignited and was soon blazing hot, feeding on the few dead trees it could find. With their campfire smoldering as near-gone embers, the Marksons kicked sand on it, and set out to investigate the strike. Continuing along the trail that originally led them here, they moved up the incline. The sunset faded quickly and the group of five were left in the darkness with only the light from the meteor’s fire to guide them.

Following the dirt path, that was barely visible in front of them, they came to a spreading oak with two major branches that split off from its massive trunk. The innumerable leaves were olive, and were arranged in patterns that played with the Markson’s minds. Ivan, realized he had a flashlight in his knapsack, and stopped, momentarily, to take it out. He swore angrily as it flickered and went dead again.

Moving along the trail once more, they tripped over many concealed rocks, fallen branches, and tree roots that stuck out grotesquely. The family began to get cold and their objective changed from satisfying their curiosity to getting warm again, which the fire would do.

They also began to get sleepy, and this, combined with the numbing cold of the Montana evenings, caused a haze to come over their minds which impaired judgement and coordination. Catherine, the mother, lost all sense of direction, and stumbled drunkenly into a small maple, knocking herself out. The noise of her fall was minuscule and went unnoticed by the delirious others.

The youngest daughter, Lizzy, was always light-headed, and with this extra effect, her brain overloaded and shut itself down. She passed out on the side of the trail, and being last in line, she too, was not missed.

At a portion of the trail, which cut into a steep part of the slope, Ivan Markson, who was in the lead, tripped over a gnarled pine root, and slid down into the dark shadows cast by the trees in front of the scorching fire.

They were getting nearer to the blaze, close enough to feel slight waves of warmth that radiated from it. Robert, the boy, and his older sister, Adeline, saw their father disappear, but they did not fully comprehend what had happened and were unable to respond. As Robert stepped into the clearing containing the fire, he glanced back to find that Adeline was no longer following him, also lost to the gloom.

His eyes began to blur and a thick cloud of mental stupor came over him. His willpower to stay awake was crumbling, when a mysterious pretention took hold of his mind and lead him forward to the cliff, where he encountered the mouth of a deep tunnel.

After a moment of warming up by the flames, Robert entered the cave, his curiosity constantly needing fulfillment. Soon the sight of the fire was lost to him and he was once again stumbling through the cold and dark, only this time downhill. Robert came to a large, well-lighted chamber and was surprised to find that many of his neighbors from Growan were there as well.

“Did you guys come to see the meteor and the fire, too?” he asked cautiously.

The neighbor who had warned them of the maniac spoke up, “Yes. We did, but didn’t I warn you not to come outside at night?”

“Not even to go camping?” Robert inquired.

“Camping? You were up here camping?” the man’s voice became shrill and took on a strange rippling effect, as though he stuttered on each vowel he pronounced.

Just then, more of his neighbors arrived carrying the rest of his family. They reported to the man who Robert had spoken with, and then dumped them all in a corner near the back.

Taking advantage of this momentary distraction, Robert dashed back up the entrance tunnel. As he looked back, the townspeople began to make chase and their skin peeled off to reveal ugly, reptilian creatures. They were the color of slime, but very muscular. They rapidly began catching up, though Robert had a long head start.

His mind was still in a haze and as he turned his head back in the direction he was running, Robert’s foot struck a stone and he fell. He was wrenched back into reality as pain flooded over him, but his mind was suddenly clear now. The wound on his knee was oozing, and as Robert stared at it, he instantly realized what was wrong with the town, what made him uneasy.

There was too much green. Many of the cars, fences, houses, and other things were painted green. Everyone had green or blue-green eyes. The sunset was always yellow that reverted to green. All the foliage, the fountain, even the star they had noticed that night, was over-abundantly green.

Robert recalled something he learned in art class once and decided to try it. Pushing and pulling with his hands, Robert dragged himself all over the rugged floor and tore open both of his legs. He raised himself into a crouch and cupped his hands underneath both knees. As they filled with blood, the creatures arrived, and Robert threw the liquid on them.

He watched in satisfaction as they dissolved into heaps of gray ash. Covering himself in blood he walked back down the tunnel. Every monster he encountered was smeared with the blood from his hands and soon a thin layer of dust carpeted the cavern floor.

Robert freed his family and they walked back down the mountain. They noticed that instead of a meteor laying among the ashes left by the wildfire, there was the black framework of what was an airship or space vehicle. When they reached the town, they quickly packed their belongings in a Ryder truck one of their neighbors used to own, and left the city of Growan.

On their way to finding a new life, Robert explained what he did. In art he was taught about complementary colors which: are yellow with purple, blue with orange, and red with green. When you mix two complementary colors together they neutralize each other and you are left with gray.

He also noticed that there were no roses or tulips, which are predominantly red, and that the sunset never got warmer in the rainbow than yellow. Nothing in the entire town was red, but there was an overload in the department of green. So they must have some reason to fear anything red, and all he had was blood, which released him from the hypnotic trance of the FBI-protected aliens, known under code name as the Green Beret.


Notes:

[1] For other writings I've discovered on old floppy disks see here, here, here, and here.

[2] For example, the original title of this story was Complimentary but it really should be Complementary.

Image attributions:

Green Italian Hill is by Carlo_it, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlo-arioli/3500199393/.

Green Curly Cue is by Mike_tn, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/beginasyouare/204437398/.

Strange Green Landscape is by Sandihal, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/susie-sprite/1512995227/.

Green Dragonfly is by C. Frank Starmer, available at http://frank.itlab.us/photo_essays/wrapper.php?may 19 2011 mecynagea lemniscata.html.

Green Forest is by Matthew Fang, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewfch/788566153/.

Green Sky is by chaostm, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaosinchaos/3556502101/.

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