"...an Amazon with long red hair, wearing only a slip, stepped out on the porch."

 
 

BUG CITY
by Joe Don Williams

Chapter Three

Go into the future. Stay away from a place for ten years, and when you return it looks smaller. Everyone knows this. Everyone has gone back to their childhood home and thought: how much larger it seemed then.

Now I discovered the opposite was also true. I stood in the hot white sunlight of Kansas City, 1944, staring at the house where I would be born and grow up. It looked enormous.

At first I thought it was because the oak tree in the front yard hadn't grown over the roof yet. But it wasn't just a matter of perspective. The house was larger, due to some distortion of space-time itself.

And--because the Bugs weren't here yet, and hadn't sucked the reality out of our world--the sunlight was brighter, and the plants were a darker green, almost black.

The door opened, and an Amazon with long red hair, wearing only a slip, stepped out on the porch. As I watched, she reached into the mailbox and took out a letter.

She was my mother.

"Oh, hi," she said, noticing me. "Are you here to fix the radio?"

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

"Come on in," she said, holding the screendoor open. I followed her inside.

...and stepped into the Big Room. I had been here before, in my dreams. Sooner or later, I always found myself in this room whose ceiling was an immense distance away, whose furniture towered over my head, filling me with a strange excitement,,,

Then there was a bump, and the old front room fell into place, but filled with a dizzying amount of space, the effect of the space/time distortion. Everything was far away, but in perfect resolution: I could see dust motes drifting on the air, the nipples of my mother's breasts through her slip, smell the cheese she had been eating.

She took a pack of Camels off the table, lit one with a Zippo lighter, and blew out a cloud of lung smoke, loaded with carcinogens and vertebrate sex hormones.

My cock suddenly swelled in my pants. And I could have sworn she was staring right at it, a little smile on her lips. I was responding to the sex-charged biosphere of the world before the Bugs, and if I wasn't careful, things could get out of hand.

I bent down behind the radio and fiddled with the wires, just to look like I was doing something. Suddenly a little violet spark shot from my fingertip, and the radio came on. The tubes glowed orange and I heard an announcer say, "And now...Fibber McGee and Molly.".

"Why aren't you in the Army?" my mother asked me.

"I'm 4-F."

"You look healthy enough to me. What's your problem?"

"It doesn't show."

She laughed, and I knew I had to get out of here.

"I think it's working now," I said.

She was just taking a bottle of rye out of the cupboard. "Would you like a drink?"

The space/time disortion made my head swim. It was like looking up at a giantess. She felt bigger, seemed to fill the whole room.

And my cock felt no thicker than an asparagus spear.

"Don't you have a husband in the service, ma'am?" I asked her.

"He's stationed in Philadelphia," she said scornfully. "He's got a nice safe desk job."

I knew my father was actually a Naval Intelligence officer. He would rise in rank as he sank deeper into the labryinthine secrecy of the invisible government--until he finally became The Old Man, the nexus of all secrets. But my mother didn't know this. She thought he was a loser.

"I've got to be going, ma'am," I said. "I've got another job to do."

"Come back when you've got more time," she said, taking a drink. I could see the reddish triangle of her pubic hair through the slip, an arrow pointing to the nothingness between her legs, the origin of all things, including myself.

 

***

 

I went to the Joy Theatre, where I paid a quarter for a ticket, and sat in the darkness, watching Randolph Scott kill Japs. Like everything else in the past, the theatre was bigger on the inside than the outside.

The cartoon was an old Max Fleisher production, Insect Hotel. The characters were all flies or spiders, and every frame was full of crawling dots--Bug motion. Walt Disney had worked for Fleisher for a while. Perhaps he had even worked on this cartoon. Perhaps this was one of the fantasies that had drawn the Bugs to our universe.

More than anything I wanted to see my mother again.

See her? Who was I kidding? I wanted to have sex with her. And she wanted it with me. But surely that would create a time paradox that might unravel the future. It might lead to the end of the world, just as effectively as the Bug invasion which was yet to come.

And what was I supposed to do, once my mission was completed? Avoid everyone? Live out the rest of my life in solitude?

A short subject began. The Three Stooges. I sat back and stopped thinking. But something was wrong. The Three Stooges had been Amerian, hadn't they? These Three Stooges had British names--Bum, Bertie, and Winky. They performed the same insane slapping and nose-pulling antics, but they had Cockney accents and carried brooms--they seemed to be chimney sweeps.

The fabric of space-time was shifting around me again. I walked out into the lobby. The candy stand sold toffee. A Churchill speech was growling on the radio. When I stepped out into the night, the familiar buildings were still there. But searchlights crossed the sky, and Soldiers passed, wearing soup-plate helmets. A girl in a WREN uniform asked me, "Got a fag, mate?"

What is this? An America that had never won its independence from Great Britain?

I realized I must be seeing the intrusion of the Bug universe into ours. Only they could create this kind of distortion. When I checked my gas detector, it read positive for harmine molecules. Bug Time.

They were close. And it was time for me to destroy them.

I heard a buzzing sound. Looking up, I saw a Navy blimp floating just over the treetops. But Kansas City was a thousand miles from the ocean. There was a hole in the belly, and as the blimp passed over me, it expanded. I looked up through it and saw the interior filled with the cold yellow light of the Bug universe.

 

***

 

I ran through the gathering fog, found the blimp grounded in the vacant lot next to my house. The lights were on in the kitchen. I crept closer.

Peering through the window, I saw my father in his Navy uniform, talking to my mother. He was younger, and wearing dress whites, but there was no mistaking him: the slicked-back auburn hair, the pencil moustache.

The Old Man himself.

Had he been on that Bug blimp?

"I'll tell you what we called it," he was saying. "Project Rainbow. That's where we were going--somewhere over the rainbow of time."

"This was some kind of Buck Rogers thing, honey?"

"We told them it was a radar countermeasure--broke down enemy radar waves with a magnetic field. It made the ship invisible to magnetic mines, too. But that was just an excuse for putting the big generators together. The real purpose was to make a magnetic lens."

"Why?"

"Huh? Why to look through it into the Half World."

"What's the Half World?"

He got a faraway look. Then he planted a kiss on her and said, "Look here, doll. Why don't you go in the bedroom, take off your clothes, and get ready for me? I'll tell you all about that later."

She licked her lips, smiled and walked into the other room.

This was my chance.

The Old Man was pretty shocked when I walked in--I was the same age as him here, and we looked almost identical. But he quickly grasped the situation.

"So, these...Bug things, these insects, they're trying to wipe out the monkeys? They're saying our day is over? It's time for us to become extinct?"

"That's about it."

"I say we fight them. Son, man is the most dangerous critter in the universe. Let's send these Bugs back to the swamp where they came from."

The space/time distortion was at work again. The Old Man's hair's hair and moustache were growing longer, turning gray; but he looked familiar somehow, like...Mark Twain. The resemblance had always been there, just under the surface, more in his attitude than anything else...I was losing control.

"I'm not arguing with you, Dad," I said. I could use your help. Let's go."

"Honey?" my mother called from the bedroom.

"Stay there," he shouted. "Go to sleep. I'll be right back. And then...I will wake you up the best way."

 

***

 

Outside, a sooty fog of blackness pressed down, but the air was cold and dry--the atmosphere of the Zone. The blimp was nowhere in sight. The Old Man was pissing into the shrubbery and whistling a little tune. "Feels good," he said. A man does it before going into battle."

I stepped up beside him and we joined streams. Like in the old days, when we started the Section. It did feel good. All my senses were alert. But where was that Bug blimp?

"Dad?" I said. "how'd you get here? By train?"

"No, I got a ride in a gas bag."

Against my will, I took a step away from him.

"Dad," I said, "I think you brought them with you."

"These Bugs?"

"What were the results of that experiment you were telling Mom about? Project Rainbow?"

He got a faraway look again.

"We looked though a magnetic lens. It turned out we could see see a long way...into the past and future. We did talk to another intelligence." He looked at me. "Where did you say these Bug critters come from?"

"Another star, I think. But no one really knows."

"This creature told us he lived in someplace called the Half World."

"Dad, in my world, you couldn't have taken a blimp from Philadelphia to Kansas City. I think you contacted the Bugs, and they brought you back here for some reason."

"What?" he screamed. "What's that?"

I turned in confusion, saw a funnel had formed, a tornado of black mercury spinning up to the Bug blimp, which was hovering just over the yard. Then I saw the figures standing at the base of the funnel, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Toto, Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Woodsman. Behind them stood the Wizard himself. Dorothy looked like Judy Garland, but her eyes were faceted, compound, black.

"They're here!" I cried.

The Old Man hit me a stunning blow that knocked me senseless to the ground. He rolled me over, took the neutron bomb out of my pocket.

"I guess I got the world into this mess, son," he said. "And it's up to me to get it out."

Then he walked toward the figures, whistling "Roger Young." I covered my head with my hands.

The neutron bomb went off with a snap and a violet flash--just like a Bug Zapper, I had time to think--and the blimp burned, blackening and twisting into ropes of ash that floated to the ground.

I crawled to the wreckage. It looked like the remains of a burned kite. The Old Man's body lay beneath it, carbonized by neutrons. His head was intact, but when I touched it, the skull crumbled into powder.

I stood up, a tear running down my face. The Old Man had done it! The Bugs were defeated.

And the fog was gone. When I looked up, I saw the normal starry night sky of Kansas City, 1943. The world was safe.

But I didn't feel so good. At first, I thought I must have gotten a dose of neutrons. Then I looked at my hands and screamed

They breaking up into something like...pixels.

My father had died before he could conceive me. I had no right to exist in this world, and I was evaporating into random particles.

For a moment, I almost let go. Then a fierce survival instinct overwhelmed me. If I could reach the house and impregnate my mother...as my father had been about to do when I interrupted them...then I might be able to go on existing!

It was a long shot, but it was the only chance I had.


***


I ran for the house. But my legs were weak, and I seemed to be wading through some dense fluid. I got the screendoor opened and stepped inside.

...and I was back in the Big Room again. Lost in the space/time distortion. Vertigo forced me to drop to my hands and knees and I crawled toward the living room. My body was shrinking in volume, and I realized my shoes and clothes had fallen off.

"Honey?" I heard from the bedroom. "Is that you?"

Taking her by force was out of the question--I was too weak--but in the dark. she might think I was the Old Man.

"Coming," I said, trying to make my voice deeper

I reached the bedroom, and collapsed on the carpet. My body weighed nothing, but my head was so big and heavy--like a bowling ball. I couldn't hold it up.

"I'm ready for you, honey," she said.

But I wasn't. Sex energy alone seemed to be holding me together (maybe there was something to that Orgone Theory.) Somehow I got into the bed, but when I touched my cock, it was no bigger than a baby's.

I had to get it up. It was now or never--my very existence depended on it. I flashed through sexual fantasies, but the only ones I could summon were from my early childhood: Gracie Allen, Chiquita Banana, Minnie Mouse (who was actally a Negro--you knew it when she took off her shoes and you saw those black toes)...that might work.

"I'm waiting," she said.

With the last of my strength, I climbed on top of her. My mother spread her legs in a way I found greedy, offensive, and exciting all at once. Somehow I managed to get it in. Then I was fucking for my life, lost in the smell of my mother's hair. I concentrated on smells: of Kansas City nights, warm cotton sheets, lemon-oil furniture polish--the smells of the world I wished to preserve--and the cheese on her breath. A picture formed in my mind of Minnie dropping her knickers and kicking off those clunky shoes. That did it: an instant later, I was coming like a pornographic Mickey. "Oh, Daddy," I heard her cry, and I knew I was home free.


***


Gradually the world fell back into place again, and I was solid once more. The imperatives of space-time had been satisfied.

I had done it! I had travelled through space and time, achieved the dream of Elvis and so many other great thinkers: recreated myself on my own mother's body. I silently thanked old Uncle Walt, whose fantasies might have drawn the Bugs to our universe, but which had also saved me at the critical moment.

I felt like a god. My mother snored softly in the moonlight beside me, my seed safe in her womb. I needed a cigarette.

In the living room I found a pack of Camels, and lit up. After a while, I began to wonder had happened the first time? On that first night in 1944, when the Old Man came back from Philadelphia with the Bugs?

They must have made contact with him. And why had he never said anything to me about it?

There was only one possibility: he must have made a deal with them. He had played a dangerous double game down through the years. Then, at the very end--when we discovered time travel--he had sent me back do the right thing.

I went out in the back yard and stared at the stars. The trouble was that this left me with only one future.

No man really wants to become his father. But gradually I realized I would have to do just that.

Yes, I had to assume his identity. I had to start the Section. I had to save mankind. Because the Bugs would be back. I was sure of that.

Jupiter burned like a topaz in the east--Jupiter, where the first signals had come from. Bugs beware! I thought. For when you come again, we will be ready. I swore this on my father's spirit. Someday we vertebrates will triumph, for we are the meanest critters in the universe. Listen, Bugs, and know your time is short. The free men are coming to kill you.

Death and destruction!

But I couldn't get the nagging thought out of my head that somehow the Old Man had put something over on me.. It seemed like the Old Man had been putting it to me from the day I was born.


***

I went back in the house, for I was already hungry again, strangely hungry for more of those 1944 delights illegal in my world: cigarettes, liquor, and sexual reproduction. As I stepped into the dark living room, I caught sight of my dim reflection in the mirror over the fireplace and stopped.

I couldn't understand what I was seeing. My face was black and white, my head round. Two big round black objects were stuck to the back of my head.When I looked down at my hands, I saw they had only four stubby black fingers...

Then I began to understand that my body had been evaporating into space/time when I was having sex with my mother, losing its form, and it must have solidified at the moment of ejaculation.

I reached over and touched the light switch. The overhead bulb came on, and I saw myself clearly. Mickey stared back at me. A naked Mickey, with big black feet, a dangling black rubber cock, and a puzzled expression on his face.

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