Beyond Maximum Horror, part II

Beyond Maximum Horror, part II

by Pete Finkelstein

Baby Vetterlein's Purge began that night with the Nevada General Hospital. He proceeded systematically from room to room, from floor to floor, extinguishing the light of life wherever He happened upon it. The killing --- oh, the systematic killing! When the police finally arrived, the whirling Lava Lamps atop their black-and-whites painting lurid stripes of color across the grey brickwork of the hospital's exterior, they found Rich Vetterlein standing in the lobby. A brief encounter with his Son had not left him in what you would call tip-top condition: The security blanket of Reason had been stripped from the bunk bed of his life and tossed into an empty Purina dog chow box for irrecoverable delivery to the rummage sale. The corpses of many of the night staff lay strewn about him in chaotic, boneless heaps. The nurse who had been unfortunate enough to land night duty at the admittance desk that evening now hung from her bloody hair on the blade of a slowly-rotating ceiling fan. As her carcass circled lazily about, little scarlet chunks of her flaky scalp sloughing off and fluttering to the floor, the bulging, candy-glazed doll's eyes mounted in her face registered each detail (over and over and over again) of the Gehenna which had once been a clean, modern hospital waiting room. Proud papa to the last, Rich Vetterlein looked up at Officer Ted Rawlins and asked with a sheepish, lopsided grin, ``Care for a cigar?'' Baby Vetterlein had long since vacated the premises, which turned out to be fortunate for Officer Ted Rawlins... although he might as well have faced l'Enfant Terrible right then and there. Sometimes it's better to just take your medicine immediately, like a man, without all this whining and shuffling about.

I do not wish to dwell on the ruthless, remorseless, efficient, step-by-step, tear-back-the- top-to-allow-venting-and- microwave-five-minutes killing effected that night by Baby Vetterlein. I have no desire to peel back the roof over Bev and Chet MacAffey's mobile home and allow you a lascivious peep at their final moments on this earth, to show you what they saw as Baby Vetterlein crawled from the toilet in their newly- refurbished bathroom and came to claim them. I'm not interested in the cheap thrill of Baby Vetterlein's run through the local whorehouse; I'll take no Polaroid snapshot for you of the trail of death and corruption He left behind Him as politicos and holy men, caught in the act of coitus, breathed their Last through throats and lungs ripped apart with ragged efficacy. And if you think I would even so much as sniff at the fatty entree of the Boisterous Babe's blitzkrieg at the Farleysville Orphan Asylum, then you've sadly misjudged me (and you have only yourself to examine and reprove for silently craving those details). Besides, the scope of this story is much broader than the vicious, cold-blooded killing of every man, woman and child (other than His earthly progenitors) in Farleysville, Nevada; and dwelling on the misfortune of these poor, simpering hicks would be like examining your fuel line for leaks without noticing the plastique strapped to the chassis by Sonny Pedrazzi and his protection racket thugs.

Because the implications of this story are world-wide.

The first press conference was held in Washington, D.C. The killing had escalated, and now almost one-third of the population of the Commonwealth of Nevada had been either slaughtered or evacuated. Tammy Vetterlein had changed her name to Mommie Profundis, and now wore a black shroud and heavy eye makeup reminiscent of Diamanda Galas or Nina Hagen (back in her ``Born in Xixax'' days, before she turned all wimpy). She was the featured speaker at the press conference, and her simple statement proceeded as follows:

``Gentlemen and ladies of the press corp, people of the Holy Alliance, citizens of the Globe: Hear the words of Mommie Profundis, and ponder them in your hearts. The relentless scourge of Darkness which now slashes deep, cruel furrows in the trembling land like a drunken harvester's scythe may not necessarily be such a bad thing. My Son, the Interloper from Beyond the Heavens, the Interceptor and Destroyer of Hope, the Harpooner of the Whale of Mercy --- `thar she blows!' --- has stepped boldly onto the harshly-lit dinner theater stage of this tiny, desolate planet to claim it for His own. I suggest you yield your lives to Him quietly, meekly, with eyes downcast and hands dug into your pockets. Try to think about baseball or something. There is no shame in forfeiting your life to Baby Vetterlein; indeed, the true shame lies in resistance. What an embarrassment! Okay, I'll be happy to accept questions from the assembled members of the Information Gathering and Dispersal profession.''

George F. Will raised his hand and asked,

``Why did Baby Vetterlein come to this planet, of all the habitable planets in the Cosmos? What exactly did we do to deserve this?''

``Name one other habitable planet in the Cosmos. Just one. And by the way, there is no question of `deserving' this or that. No one is to blame here. There are no `bad guys' to point your finger at in silent, pursed-lipped condemnation.''

Peter Jennings raised his hand.

``Is Baby Vetterlein evil? Or is He beyond our petty morality?''

``Yes and no. He is beyond our traditional measuring sticks of good and evil. But in His own way, He is horribly evil. Not in a way directly comprehensible to the human intellect, however. Thank you for your time.''

President Ferdinand ``Ferd'' DiMarcino stood behind his padded leather armchair in the Oval Office. He had assembled his most trustworthy aides, including several members of the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He turned from the window with a weary sigh; heavy, puffy bluish-black bags sagged from beneath his eyes. Little things squirmed about in them. He paused for a moment to scrape some waxy buildup from the pendulous lobes of his jug ears; the wax streamed from the ear canals in translucent plastic glaciers of time-arrested, silent flow. Heart leaden, his soul soggy and waterlogged like the backstage pass to the Extroverted Jumping Boys concert which you accidentally left in your pants and put through the wash, the cares of a nation bearing inexorably down upon his slumping, rounded shoulders, Ferd DiMarcino asked of the trusted Fat Cats gathered about him in the chambers of power,

``Can we stop Him? Can Baby Vetterlein be stopped?''

No one could answer. The nation's police force appeared helpless before the Babe's onslaught: All of their firepower, all of their technology, all of their training had gone for naught. The Armed Fighting Men Battalion, likewise, had proved of little service in thwarting the Li'l Decimator. The Holy Alliance was rapidly degenerating into a nation of paranoids, sheep-like people shivering in their homes and peeping timidly out from behind the blinds. At length, Carl Cheavers of the Treasury Department broke the silence.

``Look, He's just a kid. He's just a tot. Don't you people remember what your own children looked like at that age? How helpless they were? Why, it's laughably easy to kill a little baby! It's an act as trivial as popping open a can of soda!''

President DiMarcino streaked across the room in a lightning blur and pounced mercilessly on the pudgy, shrinking Cheavers. He picked Cheavers up and slammed him against the wall, then screamed into his face,

``YOU STILL DON'T GET IT, DO YOU? Baby Vetterlein isn't a cute little tyke you'd see in a Pampers commercial, crawling about happily with a pacifier dangling from its cherubic lips. Baby Vetterlein is a ruthless killing machine, a monstrosity from beyond time and space. And He is going to keep killing, one person at a time, without remorse, without pity, without delusions of morality, until He has wiped out the entire human race. That's all He does: Kill. He doesn't laugh, He doesn't love, He doesn't make wee-wee in a jar, He doesn't build majestic palaces with porticos and gables out of wooden blocks with the alphabet cunningly carved into them. He just kills. Period. Am I getting through to you? Are you starting to see the true picture now? Or would you like me to take you to some of the small towns that don't have anyone left alive in them anymore because Baby Vetterlein has gone door-to-door?''

He backed away from Cheavers, who slumped uneasily into his chair. A trickle of some unidentifiable moisture was gradually staining the inseam of Cheavers' suit pants. The room fell quiet, and an awkward moment eventually grew into an almost unbearably tense wait-a-rama. Finally Dale Pearson from the Census Bureau spoke up in a quiet voice.

``Are we still above ZPG?''

President DiMarcino looked at him closely.

``Explain yourself.''

``Is Baby Vetterlein killing fast enough to beat the birth rate? If the planet is above zero population growth, then we're fine. In fact, we might be slightly better off (in terms of food resources, potable water, and arable land) than we were before Baby Vetterlein's arrival if He is keeping the planet at just slightly above, or even a teeny bit below, ZPG. If He's only killing at a rate which will lead to the extinction of human life on planet Earth in, say, 10 to 20 generations, then I would say we don't have much to worry about. Not in this Administration, anyway.''

Ferd DiMarcino looked at Harry Tsigourski of the White House Information Office. Harry cleared his throat nervously, then said,

``Our latest figures suggest that the carnage is currently proceeding at the rate of about two thousand innocent human lives per work day, with temporary surges up to five thousand on weekends. This is well below the current global birth rate.''

A collective sigh of relief escaped the Movers and Shakers, the mass manipulators of soldiers and peasants, and Ferd DiMarcino grinned in spite of himself. He shrugged in a playful manner, as if to say, ``What are you gonna do?''

The news of Conversion came at the press conference the next day.

Mommie Profundis stood once again before the assembled print and electronic media journalists, adorned in complete nun's habit with a scarlet cape. The words ``Whore of Babylon'' had been embroidered across the back of the cape. She curtsied demurely to the media professionals, then began her address.

``Gentleman and ladies, humans of the Global Village, peers and compatriots: Belly up to the bar and guzzle with lip-smacking gusto the revealed wisdom of Mommie Profundis. I guess everyone thought the Earth was out of the proverbial doghouse when the Puppet Masters who rule over you announced that the Babe of Desolation wasn't, uh, eliminating humans rapidly enough to wipe the planet clean in a reasonable amount of time. Don't think the Nightmare Beyond Maximum Horror wasn't aware of potential logistical problems in His crusade to cleanse this lonely spinning orb of the contamination of mortal flesh. Oh, He knew what He was doing, all right. He was simply smirking at you, playing you along like the patsies you are, just as a master yo-yo specialist performing at Glendale Elementary School's Friday afternoon assembly will tease his drooling, wide-eyed audience by casually Walking the Dog or Rocking the Cradle or Shooting the Moon. Baby Vetterlein's plan now stands as follows: A select Chosen Few whom He faces will be permitted to survive and to follow Him in the fulfillment of His purpose. The Initiate must drink deeply of Baby Vetterlein's gushing urine, then immediately begin a new life dedicated to killing former peers, friends, and family members. Questions? Comments? Feedback?''

Sam Donaldson raised both hands.

``Is Baby Vetterlein inherently evil?''

``You may recall we have already discussed that issue at length in a previous press conference. Next question.''

Chet Huntley waved urgently at Mommie Profundis.

``What if the chosen `Initiate', as you called him, refuses to accept the new role of Traitor to the Human Race?''

``Well, he'll be free to go. It's a no pressure decision, completely soft-sell.'' Mommie Profundis paused, flashed her expressive eyes back and forth a couple of times in provocative arcs of sardonic whimsy, then smiled. ``No, just kidding. Of course the heretic will be killed instantly and his body horribly mutilated. What did you expect, exactly? A cheap, pre-packaged, over-the-counter Leo Buscaglia hug? I'm sorry, but my Son's attentions are somewhat more personalized and meaningful than your culture's impotent pop psychology. Thank you all for your time.''

to be continued...