One of my favourite aspects of RESISTANCE was the opportunity to play with PoV and voice. It was something I'd always intended to do, but the story wasn't ready for it in EMERGENCE. In Clete and the Monster, Greybeard plays with the same narrative tools to brilliant effect.
Redneck orc gets hisself some fresh chitlins.
Clete Doucet was a happy man and in a good place. Specifically that place was the bed of Louise Janvier, sister of his best bud Ben and long-time object of Clete’s affections. Or something close to that.
But then his papere Henri had always maintained the Doucets were a lucky clan. As a boy Clete asked his grandfather why folks called him Spanner, being that the old man never seemed much inclined to the use of tools - or any other form of work. Henri put the boy’s fingers into the lank blond hair behind his right ear saying “feel that”. Clete’s fingers found a mushy C-shaped indentation a whole half inch deep in the old man’s skull. “That there is a partin’ billay-doo from my first wife Sarah wut ran off with a Yankee. If that spanner’d hit edge-on I’da been dead but we Doucets’ve allus been lucky.” Privately Clete thought it might have been luckier still if his wife hadn’t tried to brain young Henri but smiled and said nothing. Old Henri, with Clete’s mamere Beulah, had raised the boy in a string of carnivals and travelling shows before settling in Lafourche parish by the Gulf, in a shack inherited from her sister. Clete took after his mamere in looks, being big, broad and heavily bearded - Beulah having joined the show on account of being a soupcon more hirsute than was considered fashionable for a young southern lady. Henri had exhibited a selection of oddities, his pride and joy being a ‘mermaid’ stitched up from the back end of a manatee and the upper parts of a shaved monkey. Clete’s mind was definitely of a piece with Henri’s though. That skinny old weasel always had an eye for a lazy dollar and they shared a powerful aversion to honest work.
Not that family history was on Clete’s mind as he lay in the well tossed bed, watching Louise making coffee and listening to WFIX excitedly reporting last night’s battle. “Operation Bayou Storm” some couyon called it. Ben being out with T-Qube’s boys and a for-real battle playing out a couple of miles away, Louise allowed Clete might stay over to her place for the night. “Doucet luck at its best” he thought, until Ben’s heavy boots came pounding up to the stoop and crashed through the front door. Ben took in his bare-ass sister and desperately-not-looking-smug friend and if his face could’ve got any darker, it surely would. Clete pasted on a glassy smile.
“Hey bra, glad you OK. I stayed over to see Louise was too, uh…?”
Louise chipped in with a “good thing someone did Boo, what you was doing over there last night?” Ben looked a touch calmer at that but no doubt there would be words later.
“Glad you here Clete.” And with a glare at his cheerful and unapologetic sister, “Kind of. Now get your sorry ass out of that bed and come with me. You not gonna believe what we been fightin’”.
“Heard some crap on the radio about monsters but that gotta be a cover up, yeah?”
“No way! They was f’sure monsters like some movie shit. They tore up a bunch o’ marines and NOPD and some of us. They had swords, bra! And claws like fuckin Wolverine. Big and tough but not bulletproof, that’s f’sure.” Ben was bouncing his heels off the floor so hard, he looked as if he was about to jump through the ceiling and Clete’s curiosity – and desire to stay in good with Ben – got the better of his natural laziness. Besides, as old Henri said, one man’s disaster was another man’s opportunity.
An hour later they’d slipped past a line of checkpoints with all the ease of local knowledge, long practice and relaxed morals. There were others out in the shadows but just more local boys looking for a dollar and not a monster in sight. Clete’s cynicism was making a solid comeback.
“Don’t see those monsters bra? Army take the bodies away to Roswell maybe?”
Ben glared back and pointed to an ugly black smear on the arm of his jacket. “That how I know they bleed my man. Don’t try tell me they don’t!”
Clete pushed Ben’s arm into a patch of sun to get a better look at the gunk, which looked more like oil than blood. As he looked, the patch started smoking with a coppery stink then burst into flames. Ben ripped off the jacket screaming “fuck fuck fuck!” at the top of his voice, then scooped muddy water out of a puddle and rubbed it on his shirt sleeve. Both men jumped back into the shade and hunkered down to inspect the arm.
“You lucky Ben, just some blisters. But that is some weird shit right there. What kind of blood burns in the sun?”
“Vampires maybe?” Ben said shakily. “But they didn’t look like no Draculas last night.” Both men stiffened as a piece of collapsed roof shifted behind them and pulled their 9 mils from under their shirts. Something moved in the heaviest shadow at the back, under a steel beam. They moved in closer, guns first. Clete held his sideways until he caught a disgusted look from Ben and straightened it up. The thing under the rubble looked like one of old Henri’s monstrosities – a huge hairless baboon-man wearing a leather shirt with metal rings and with white skin that looked like it had scabies, herpes and boils at the same time.
“That is a no-shit monster” said Clete in pure awe. Then it rolled and opened dead-black eyes just like you saw every damn day in Shark Week. Both of them took a backward jump and sprawled in the rubble. Ben was up and scrabbling to shoot but Clete hadn’t lost sight of the Thing – or an opportunity.
“DON’T SHOOT man! It’s stuck there and the side of its head’s got a dint the size of your fist. We can use this Thing!” Clete’s brain spun with images of Henri’s spanner wound and the tidy living the old boy had made from his oddities. “You know what a live one of these would be worth?”
Ben glared back. “You crazy. This is one of the Wolverine claw fuckers. You let it live, it’s gonna pull your head off and suck on your neck like a straw” but at least he didn’t shoot and the thing did look pretty helpless, even to him. “Who you sell it to anyways? These things ate up a whole lot o’ people last night. The guvmint is gonna want them dead or chained up somewhere and they pay you nothin for handin’ it in.”
Ben had a damn good point but Clete was disinclined to cave in yet. “That a he, not a it I reckon. Lookit the junk on that thing! People pay to see that f’sure.”
“Shee-it! That is big and nasty.” Ben looked slightly sick. The Thing’s genitals were larger than anything he’d seen on a human but in no better shape than the rest of its skin. “That’s gotta hurt.”
Clete thought hard. There were places up the river where people still paid for live Raree shows, even if they could get Discovery Channel. And those same people weren’t too fond of any sort of authority either. Old Henri would know the right people to talk to, but they’d have to keep the Thing under control – and alive for that to work out.
“Hey you! Ugly! You hear me?” Clete squatted out of reach of the long claw-tipped arms and poked its chest with a piece of rebar. “You speak American?” It grunted and rolled the squinted up black eyes toward him but showed no signs of understanding. At least it didn’t seem to want to pull his head off for now. Clete tapped his chest and said “Clete! Me Clete!” He pointed at the Thing and said “Who you?” in a loud slow voice like Brits did in movies. The Thing put one paw or claw or hand or whatever it had to the dint in its head. The face wasn’t that much like a human but if he’d had to guess, Clete thought it looked confused. He did the tap and point routine a few more times but it didn’t seem to work like the movies until the Thing actually spoke. “Fugra” or something like it. Ben laughed a little shakily. “He got you there Clete. I reckon he called you Fucker.” But after a second it repeated it, this time tapping its own chest and speaking a little clearer. “Fangra!” It pointed at Clete with a dirty claw he strongly suspected was caked with someone’s blood. “Keet!”
Even Ben, who always found Clete’s schemes as addled as if he’d taken that spanner to the head, was fairly impressed, but as usual he was the practical one.
Ben looked outside and frowned. “if you gonna make nice with that, better you take him somewhere else. NOPD is gonna be all over here any time now.”
Clete knew he was right but if they just hauled it out, chances were it’d catch fire like the blood on Ben’s sleeve – if it didn’t just kill them both first. They looked around until Ben saw the corner of a heavy tarp. He dragged it out and unfolded it. “OK, we roll it in this and we put it in my trunk and we get the hell out of this parish, you hear?” The Thing didn’t fight and didn’t help when they rolled it up and it wasn’t too heavy for two big men to shift. Between them and with a lot more time and trouble than getting in, they slipped back through the lines. The posts were closer by now and the NOPD had been joined by some National Guard boys and a few more professional looking soldiers. As they strained to roll it into the Jacuzzi-sized trunk of Ben’s old Plymouth, they could see other local entrepreneurs dragging souvenirs toward their vans and pickups. “Bet none o’ them got a live monster Bennie-boy”. “Yeah. No one else that stupid “Cletey-boy””.
Two hours later they’d picked up old Henri and parked the Plymouth in a barn he knew of, abandoned since Katrina. It was solid enough and empty but for some rotted hay, a few rusted bits of farm junk and some semi-wild chickens.
“OK boys, what’s your big surprise for me? You ain’t been lootin’ again?” Henri’s sly smile at the sagging trunk didn’t seem as if he was too concerned at that prospect.
“You not believe this papere, but we got a real live monster, sans dout. Like you had in the raree shows, but he alive!”
“Shit Clete! You bring me all the way out here to the Mex station for a joke?”
Ben’s eyes narrowed and he looked more carefully around the barn. Down the back was one of the old wooden doors, far from where it had hung and for no apparent reason. He dragged it a little and saw the top of a set of rough stairs leading down to a shipping container, buried flush with the floor and covered by the dirt, hay and chicken shit.
Ben spat. “Spanner, you old son of a bitch. You been bringing wetbacks in? People who run that game are nasty man. You luck run out quick if you cross them, f’sure.”
“This ain’t the regular game Ben,” Henri whined. “Just a few come in on the boats, they stay here until their relatives get ‘em jobs with rich folk up in DC. None here and none due fer weeks.”
Clete looked at the locks on the container doors and thought Henri might just possibly be lying again, like he always did. But it might be a good spot to hold a sick monster.
“Let’s get him out of the trunk. I want to see papere’s face,” he grinned.
Henri, for once, did not disappoint. When the tarp unrolled he jumped like a Sunday School teacher goosed by the pastor but when the Thing didn’t move, he sidled up beside it. “Man, that is some ugly piece o’ work. Whoever stitched the junk onto that thing is some sick bastard. But you don’t fool me, I done good work mys..” With perfect timing, “Fangra” opened his shark eyes. Henri may have been old, lazy, and slightly addled but his backward jump looked like a ninja’s. Except you could still see him and, after a moment, smell him. “GODDAM you bastards! I done shit myself again.”
Clete and Ben laughed, though each noticed the other had hauled out his piece and drawn a bead on the creature. “He’s one of them monsters tore up the Parish last night papere. You hear all the shootin’?” “Fuck yeah” Henri snarled “and I heard they kill people and EAT THEM. What in hell you bring that out for?”
Fangra didn’t look inclined to kill anyone at the moment, sprawling where they left him, still bleeding from the dent in his head and with bone poking from a busted leg they’d not noticed earlier. As far as you could tell with a thing like that, he looked weaker than before.
Henri scooped up a chicken by the legs. “He puts me in mind of a Geek we had, useta bite the heads offa chickens. Didn’t eat ‘em though.” He tossed the scruffy bird idly towards the Thing which caught it with surprising ease and bit its head off as advertised. But this freak swallowed the head and sucked the blood from the neck with apparent satisfaction. After a bite of chicken, he spat feathers and plucked some from the carcass as well as you could with permanent Wolverine claws, then bit some more. “Well, that be handy” said Henri, snagging a couple more chickens, wringing their necks and starting to pluck. The Thing, Fangra or whatever growled unpleasantly and looked…unhappy, maybe? Henri tossed it the chickens and it sucked the necks half-heartedly and bit into the rest, but less eagerly than before.
“Damn if I don’t think he likes ‘em kickin’” said Clete. Henri shrugged and picked up another, plucked the unhappy bird while it squawked furiously. “We see”. Now whether Henri was lulled by the resemblance of Fangra to his sideshow oddities or his apparently crippled status, or it was just the old man’s addled brain in action, he stepped in too close with the naked bird. Fangra hooked his legs out from under him and pulled him up close. Everyone and everything froze. Clete and Ben too panicked to shoot, Henri shit scared and even Fangra looked confused. He opened his mouth close to Henri’s throat but didn’t close it. One clawed hand clamped to the back of Henri’s head and Fangra’s lipless and bloody mouth closed over the spanner-hole instead. The man and the monster stayed like that for a good ten minutes in the kind of perverted embrace only found in the darkest parts of the Internet or a Missouri Community College server. Henri’s eyes fluttered and he relaxed in a way that neither Clete nor Ben ever wanted to see or think about again. Clete staggered over to the barn wall and puked up what little he’d eaten that day and probably the day before as well but then Fangra’s claw loosened and Henri rolled away, eyes closed, head bleeding but still breathing.
Fangra opened his mouth. “SHEE-IT!” he growled. “IF THAT DON’T BEAT ALL.”
Hours later three men and what they now knew was a male Minion named Gynar sat around a fire in the barn, eating KFC and pit-bull respectively and all chugging Abita Amber. Clete and Ben were way beyond surprise at anything at this point and the beer had to be helping. Henri was still dazed and made very little sense but that was pretty normal for him. Gynar seemed woozy too and downright depressed into the bargain. Since he seemed disinclined to actually kill anyone, despite looking a little stronger, Ben had managed to pull his leg straight enough for the bone to slip inside and more or less butt up to the other end. Gynar stayed impossibly calm during the whole process, which was way scarier that if he’d roared or thrashed around some. With Gynar speaking passable American and Henri mumbling in something that sounded like it hurt his throat, they were coming to understand each other’s problems with some mutual sympathy.
“I AM BROKEN, IN MA HEAD AND LEG” Gynar boomed. “IF I RETURN TO THE UNDERREALMS, MY MASTER WILL KILL ME AS UNFIT AND I WILL GO TO THE BLOODPOTS F’SURE. BUT THIS HENRI IS ONE SLICK OLD SON-OF-A-BITCH AND HE HAS GIVEN ME MUCH TO CONSIDER. IT OFFENDS MY HONOUR TO CONSORT WITH TRASH LIKE YOU, BUT IT IS BETTER THAN DEATH. SOME BETTER ANYHOWS.”
Clete took the trash thing in good part, having being called worse by even his nearest and dearest and Ben was quite sympathetic about the whole cruel master thing as well.
“We had a thought to sell you to a raree show or take you on the road ourselves. Reckon we might make a fair livin’ like that. Enough to keep you in dogs and us in beer?” Clete suggested somewhat diffidently.
“No way are we sellin’ anyone Clete,” said Ben flatly. Even if he ain’t entirely a person. No offense.”
Henri roused himself and spat to the side. “I been thinking ‘bout that an’ it won’t fly boys. And Gynar. Radio says there was a straight up invasion down in the Ninth last night and there was hundreds, maybe thousands of people dead. Bobbie Jindal declared another state of emergency and they’s sending in real soldiers in the thousands. This whole state, right down to the back of the back of the last bayou is gonna be crawling with uniforms. And they’re all gonna be looking for anyone like ol’ Gynar here. We don’t have no bloodpots, but I don’t reckon Guantanamo is gonna be a whole lot better.” Oddly it never seemed to occur to Henri to simply turn Gynar in or abandon him. The two seemed to have an odd sympathy for one another since their Vulcan mind-meld or whatever it was.
Clete walked over to the hidden bunker built for the Mexican illegals and kicked some chicken shit down the stairs. He looked back at the impressive height and bulk of Gygar, even considering the splinted leg and rough head bandages that looked like a red and white hood covering the top half of his head. Gygar had taken off his armour earlier and been persuaded to wear a too-tight spare pair of Ben’s pants from the trunk. Mostly that was to cover his junk, though with his diseased looking chest and one leg splinted, he wasn’t about to win any prizes. Suddenly old Henri’s sneaky-gene kicked in and Clete experienced what he would never in a million years have called an Epiphany.
Six months later in San Cristobal de Las Casas, down near the Guatemalan border, a large and well set up RV pulled to a stop outside a local hall. The driver and passenger were two large men, both bearded and oddly alike considering one was black and the other white. Maybe that was down to the chinos and Hawaiian shirts, expensive watches and Ray-Bans. A most attractive woman swung out the side door and Clete called “How they doin’?” “They fine,” she smiled. “Henri just beat Guy at pinochle again.”
“HE CHEATS” something roared, waking a dog which suddenly looked nervous. “I WILL BITE OFF HIS FUCKIN’ HAND AND SUCK THE BLOOD FROM HIS SPURTING ARTERIES.” No one seemed much bothered by this and the two men strolled into the hall. On the walls were posters for the weekly Lucha Libre contest and on the sides of the RV were lurid posters advertising EL URUK-HAI, the biggest, ugliest and by far most successful Luchador on the southern circuit.