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Thread: Excerpt from Attack of the Drooling Shapeshifters

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    Default Excerpt from Attack of the Drooling Shapeshifters

    Previously: Zandor, the first U.N. ambassador from the Pleiadian star system, has announced that Pleiadian ships will be beaming up humans who wish to be saved from upcoming catastrophic Earth changes. There will be a number of collection points, including Mt. Wilson in Southern California.

    And now, here is Chapter 13 of Attack of the Drooling Shapeshifters

    Chapter 13
    Bobby Meets Lilith

    Because bars and restaurants in Topanga Canyon tend to go through new owners every few years, it’s become a venerable Canyon tradition to refer to such places by their previous names. The idea, of course, is to convey the impression that you’re not just a local, but an old-timer. Thus, when Bobby Fletcher tried to pick up the striking blonde who’d just entered the Sagebrush Cafe, he asked her why he hadn’t seen her there in the Pony Express before. She, for her part, pointedly ignored him and ordered a double raspberry-amaretto cappuccino from Cricket, the owner.
    “Haven’t we met?” pressed Bobby. “You look really familiar.”
    “Give it a break, Sleazebag,” she responded.
    This bit of witty repartee was sufficient to stun Bobby into silence long enough for the woman to get her coffee and pay for it, stuff a dollar into the tip jar beneath the “Same Day Service” sign, and leave.
    “Didn’t you recognize her?” asked Cricket excitedly.
    “Sure, I’ve seen her around,” said Bobby. “I just can’t remember where.”
    “That was that announcer from Channel 99, Brenda what’s her name.”
    “Oh yeah — Brenda Whittaker. I knew I’d seen her before. Sure was snotty. I was just trying to be friendly.”
    “Is that what you call it?”
    “What is this — Everybody Dump on Bobby Fletcher Day?”
    “Poor Bobby!” mocked Cricket. “To think that there are actually some women in the world who can resist your charms.”
    “Not many, I’ll bet,” came a female voice from by the door. It was cool and bore a hint of amused irony.
    Bobby spun around and saw a slim young woman dressed in tight black jeans and a black tee shirt. Her hair, long, black, and somewhat disheveled, appeared not to have been brushed for several days. She smiled at him lazily.
    “I’ll bet you’ve broken more hearts than most boys have touched, haven’t you?” she drawled. Her lips were a violent crimson smear against her chalky white skin.
    “Oh no,” he replied with transparent earnestness. “I’ve never led anyone on. I’d hate to break anyone’s heart.”
    She laughed in his face. “So you think it doesn’t hurt if you see it coming? You are an innocent.”
    “Huh?”
    Cricket dried coffee cups and pretended she wasn’t listening.
    The woman in black pierced Bobby with a gaze that seemed to peer into the darkest corners of his soul, and liked what it saw there. “You’ll do,” she decided. “What’s your name?”
    “Ah, Bobby. Bobby Fletcher. What’s yours?”
    “I have many names. You may call me Lilith if it pleases you.”
    “Nice to meet you Lilith.” Pause. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
    “Thank you. A cup of black Nicaraguan Matagalpa would go down nicely.”
    She took a seat at a table by the window, and Bobby scurried to the counter. Cricket was holding out the cup when he got there. “You may have finally met your match,” she told him sotto voce. “Watch your back.”
    He paid her, mumbled an uncertain “Ah, thanks,” and hurried back to Lilith’s table.
    “Here you go,” smiling brightly.
    “Ta,” with a nod of the head. She produced a half pint of cheap brandy from beneath the tabletop and poured a magnanimous slug into her cup, then offered him the bottle.
    “No thanks.
    She raised an eyebrow about a quarter of an inch. “Well, maybe just a little,” he conceded, and slid the cup toward her.

    * * *

    The morning passed in a warm, golden glow that developed into a warm, golden blur after a short trip to the Canyon Market for another bottle of brandy.
    It was still not yet noon by the time they’d removed to the creek, to a secluded bend guarded by a spreading sycamore tree where they lolled drunkenly among the boulders. Bobby lolled up against Lilith, slipping an arm around her waist. She pushed him away. He stared at her dumbly for a moment, then sagged back against a rock and closed his eyes.
    He snored softly.
    Lilith watched his chest gently rise and fall for several minutes, then cautiously slipped his wallet from his hip pocket.
    Three ones, two tens, and a twenty.
    She took a ten and, after a brief hesitation, one of the ones as well, then replaced the lightened wallet slowly and carefully. She stuffed the bills she’d taken into her own pocket, and once they were securely tucked away she lay down and curled up, her head on Bobby’s lap.
    They slept.
    Three kids, laughing and splashing their way along the creek, woke them up. Lilith opened one eye, then closed it, then opened it. After a moment she opened the other one too. Bobby opened both of his at the same time and groaned.
    A lizard that had been doing push-ups near them darted out of view, startled by the children. The youngsters pushed past them, kicking water and giggling, one of them casting a lewd remark behind before turning the bend and vanishing like the lizard. And then it was quiet again.
    The sun had moved higher. Warm and soothing earlier, dappled and filtered by sycamore leaves, it now beat down on them fiercely. Rivulets of sweat ran along Bobby’s neck, and his shirt stuck to his back. He was stiff, his back hurt, and his head felt stuffed full of cotton wool. Lilith felt even worse, her rotten tooth aching with a stabbing, gut-wrenching intensity.
    “Oh Man,” grunted Bobby. “I feel like death warmed over.”
    “Death served up cold feels better than this,” observed Lilith. “Trust me.”
    “I need something solid in my stomach.”
    “I need a hair of the dog.” She held the almost empty pint bottle to the light and tilted it. A little triangle of amber fluid collected in the lower corner. She drained most of it, and asked Bobby if he wanted the last drop. He shook his head. She upended the bottle into her mouth and extracted the last drop with her tongue.
    Bobby got up and helped Lilith to her feet. “Can I get you a bite?” he offered.
    “A bite?” repeated Lilith suggestively, displaying startlingly elongated, pointy incisors.
    “Oh,” replied Bobby. A brief pause followed. “Pretty wild. Who’s your dentist?”
    “Leonard Wascomb, in West Hollywood. He does good work, don’t you think?”
    “Very, ah, realistic.”
    They walked back the way they’d come in silence, until the creek brought them back out to the side of the road where Bobby’s motorcycle was parked.
    “Can I give you a ride anywhere?” he asked.
    “I don’t suppose you’d care to take a run over to Mt. Wilson, by any chance... ?”
    “That’s not a bad idea,” he answered. “I’ve been thinking about checking it out myself. A bunch of my friends have been up there since yesterday.”
    “Could we stop by my place for a minute on the way?”
    “Sure. Where do you live?”
    “Up Entrada.”
    “No problem. I’ll need to stop by my place for a couple of things, too.”
    “I guess.” For mock exasperation it sounded remarkably genuine.
    “Up Entrada” proved to be almost to the end of the road and then several miles further along a dirt trail which would have been impassible by car.
    “How do you get here when you’re not on a dirt bike?” he asked once they’d arrived at her ramshackle cabin.
    “I stay home, or I turn into a bat and fly,” Lilith answered. The rusty hinges groaned as she pushed open the weathered door. “Welcome to Heathenesse. Be it ever so humble... .”
    They entered a gloomy, eerie room, furnished with what appeared to be genuine 18th century antiques, covered with dust and cobwebs, alongside dilapidated thrift store rejects, upside down milk crates, cardboard boxes, and several crude pieces of utilitarian furniture made from pieces of plywood. Lilith lit a candle in a massive silver candlestick. A cascade of hardened wax drippings descended from the candle down the length of the holder and onto what appeared to Bobby’s untrained eye to be an impossibly expensive antique dinner table, maybe even an original Chippendale, further marred by scratches and cigarette burns.
    “Quite a place you’ve got here,” observed Bobby politely. “These antiques are outrageous.”
    “Yeah, the stuff’s ancient,” replied Lilith. “Inherited it. My mom used to make a big deal about it.”
    She lit another candle from the first one and carried it into the next room. “The bedroom’s in here,” she called over her shoulder.
    Bobby trotted in behind her. As bizarre as the rest of the house was, he was not prepared for what awaited him there. Beneath a rotted, once splendid canopy of burgundy velvet, atop a bed of musty earth, lay an ornate white coffin, its brass handles gleaming. It appeared to be the only object in the house to have received any loving attention.
    Lilith rummaged in a cardboard box next to the wall until she found a resealable plastic bag which showed the residue of a white powder clinging to its sides. She opened the bag, stuck her face into it, and snuffled loudly; after several more snorts she licked the plastic, then turned the bag inside out and wiped it dry on her pants leg.
    “Native soil,” she explained, dumping a handful of earth into the bag and sealing it.
    “Transylvania?” asked Bobby. “Upstate New York.”
    She stuffed the bag of earth into her pocket.
    “Now then,” she said, abruptly businesslike, “do you have a sleeping bag big enough for two and a tent?”
    “Ah, sure.”
    “Mind some company up on Mt. Wilson tonight?”
    “Ah... .” Bobby hesitated. Lilith didn’t look bad, but even by his relaxed standards she was definitely weird. Apprehension and lust vied for the upper hand, and, as usual, lust won. “Sounds good to me.”
    “You don’t sound very sure.”
    “Not at all. I just had to stop for a second and try to remember if I had anything planned for tonight.”
    “And... ?”
    “And I’m all yours,” he smiled, opening his arms and reaching for her.
    “Good,” she said, pushing past him. Just give me a second to throw a few things into a bag.
    An hour and forty-three minutes later Lilith had packed a zippered canvas bag to the bursting point, and Bobby still could have done with something solid in his stomach. A little earlier he’d asked her if there were anything to eat in the house, and she’d told him there was a beaker of rat’s blood in the ice chest. He’d looked for himself, and found a bottle of what appeared to be tomato juice sitting in a pool of what had presumably once been ice. The chest smelled foul. He’d decided to pass, and now his stomach felt as though it were digesting itself.
    Finally they left. They rode back along the dirt trail to Entrada, turned onto the paved road, and headed down the hill toward Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Lurking below them by a bend in the road just above the stop sign at the bottom of Entrada, ears erect, body tense, crouched Adolf, a Rottweiler who delighted in taking down anything that moved.
    Having previously encountered Adolf more than once, Bobby knew that only three options were open to him. The first was to slow down going into the curve, continue decelerating as he approached the stop sign, come to a complete stop, and very likely get his throat ripped out. The second and third choices both involved taking the curve as quickly as possible and gunning the the engine down the straightaway, the difference being in what came next: Plan B was to shoot through the stop sign without slowing down, hoping that no cars were coming and no police waiting, while Plan C was to jam on the brakes, hoping that the bike wouldn’t flip and that Adolf wouldn’t catch up with them, and then to immediately take off again like the proverbial bat escaping the Stygian depths, once again without flipping the bike.
    It was late afternoon. Traffic on Topanga Canyon Boulevard was heavy in both directions, and it was better than 50-50 odds that a Highway Patrol car was lying in wait nearby, as was its wont at that time of day. There was nothing to do but go with Plan C.
    With Lilith’s added weight the bike remained stable as they skidded to a stop, but when they took off again it was with an inadvertent wheelie that almost spilled them as Adolf lunged, slavering and snapping at the rear tire.
    They shot across the northbound lane of the road, scarcely avoiding disaster as a battered Chevy pickup just missed them, and pulled into the southbound lane inches in front of a bright red Porsche driven by a high-powered talent agent given to foul language and rude gestures.
    At Fernwood-Pacific they turned up the hill and climbed for about a mile to an imposing Mediterranean-style villa. In back was the guest house Bobby called home.
    True to his word he was only a few minutes. He grabbed his tent and bedroll and a rucksack, adding only a small wad of currency and some food and water to the camping gear and extra clothing already in the pack. He ate an apple as he packed. By the time Lilith had began to complain they were out the door and rolling back down the hill, headed to Mt. Wilson. A fey excitement gripped both of them.
    Two pit stops later — one for gasoline and one for burritos — they were climbing Angeles Crest Highway towards the Mt. Wilson turnoff. Traffic was backed up through Glendale and very possibly all the way into Tijuana, for all they could tell. Even by L.A. standards it was an impressive snarl. Bobby carefully guided his bike between the lanes of stalled traffic, and made decent time. They reached Mt. Wilson Road and saw that the Highway Patrol was waving traffic past it. The road itself and both its shoulders were impassible, in any event, choked with parked cars jammed together end to end. It would have been impossible for another car to enter, let alone make any forward progress.
    Along Angeles Crest, cars were illegally parked on the shoulders for a few miles in both directions. Pilgrims wended their way along the edges of the highway, walking to the clogged Mt. Wilson turnoff. The Highway Patrol paid them scant attention, concentrating its focus on the automotive traffic and keeping it moving. Walking the bike, Bobby and Lilith merged into a band of intrepid, foot-weary travelers, and were able to nonchalantly stroll past the police and onto Mt. Wilson Road.
    Once they were past the fuzz the couple remounted and resumed its ride, squeezing between the parked cars. The going was slower and more tortuous than earlier because of the abandon with which some of the drivers had ditched their cars. Several times they had to dismount, back up, and find another way through. Lilith whined about the delays, the awkwardness and weight of her canvas bag, the heat of the sun, the need for something to drink, her aching tooth, and anything else that came to mind. Bobby stoically pushed on, answering her complaints with vague, noncommittal grunts of one syllable or fewer.
    And then, just like that, they were past the logjam and in the middle of an improbable festival. Its mood was giddy, exhilarating, electric with expectancy. In the center of all the activity stood the observatory, a tangible symbol of man’s yearning for the stars. Clustered all around it merrymakers walked and danced and sang and “Om”ed enthusiastically, paradigm-shifting to beat the band.
    Rising prominently from the swirling mass was a large banner proclaiming “WELCOME SPACE BROTHERS!” It was held aloft by members of the Ætherial Foundation, a group of True Believers more than a dozen strong, the men in flowing gold robes with sun disc headbands, the women in silver robes and crescent moon tiaras. Their arms were uplifted towards the heavens in the orans position like Pentacostalists as they chanted “OOOOOOOOOOOOO” and “AHHHHHHHHHHH” and “EEEEEEEEEEEE.” Loudly.
    The site was dotted with dome tents and blankets and folding chairs, as people dug in and staked their claims. Bobby slowed down and looked for a spot to pitch his tent. Already dusk was settling in, and with it the beginning of a spectacular sunset.
    To his right an elderly woman struggled with three cat carriers and a large bag of dry cat food. A smiling girl of about ten or eleven offered to help her with her burden; the older woman gratefully accepted. A little further on, a fellow in a jester’s cap juggled oranges, and against a nearby lichen-covered rock a turbaned man in a loincloth sat crosslegged, a large quartz crystal to his forehead.
    The sunset grew more vivid. Against the backdrop of a deepening red and orange and purple sky, on a black horse with a white blaze on its forehead, rode a topless girl of about twenty wearing short cut-off jeans. Staring at her, Bobby almost ran over a crying four year old boy looking for his mother, who was looking for her new boyfriend, who was trying to sell a rock of crack cocaine to an undercover cop, who was staring at the woman on the horse.
    Having brought his bike to a stop, Bobby killed the engine. “I guess this is as good a spot as any,” he announced.
    “Took long enough.”
    The squalling child spotted his mother and ran off in her direction.
    As Bobby set up camp, Lilith dug through her kit bag until she found a quart bottle of rum and the crushed remains of some cardboard packaging which still harbored a few flattened paper cups. She retrieved one of the cups and poked it more or less back into shape.
    “Care for some cheap rum, warm, no mixer?”
    Bobby grimaced. “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.” Lilith shrugged her shoulders. “Your call.” She poured herself a slug and knocked it back with practiced ease. “Yo ho ho.” She poured herself another.
    Bobby unrolled the sleeping bag and smoothed it out, then brought in the last few things and neatly laid them along the sides of the tent. He hung a small battery-powered lantern from a loop, smoothed one final wrinkle from the bedroll, and popped his head out the entrance. Lilith was squatting on her haunches, slowly sipping a libation. She turned her head and shot him a smoldering smile.
    With the setting of the sun, a remarkable change seemed to have come over Lilith. Gone was the weird, self-centered, whiny alcoholic — in a heartbeat she’d been transformed into an embodiment of mystery and deep, hidden passions. Bobby wanted to drown in her, a sailor in the slippery embrace of the world’s most deliriously enchanting siren.
    “Aren’t you going to invite me in?” she asked.
    “Sure.” He gulped. “I was just getting everything ready for you.”
    He backed away from the opening and she slipped in with a feline grace that made him catch his breath.
    “Come here, lover boy.” She took his hand and gently bit the center of his palm. “Why, you’re trembling! How sweet.”
    He took her in his arms and they sank to the ground, writhing in heat. Lilith moaned and nuzzled her face into the crook of his arm, licking it, and then suddenly Bobby was aware of a mild stinging sensation as she plucked open one of his veins with a razor-sharp incisor. He roared in outrage and tried to push her away, but Lilith had latched on with surprising strength and was greedily sucking the blood from the pulsating wound she’d created. He leaped to his feet and had dragged her halfway out of the tent before he could wrench himself free.
    “Come back here you coward!” she screamed at him as jumped onto his bike. “You don’t know what you’re missing!”
    His engine roared as he kicked it to life and savagely twisted the throttle, and then an instant later he was gone.
    Lilith collapsed into an untidy heap, crying and swearing. After a while she crawled to the bottle of rum and took a long pull, followed by several more. By the time she’d drunk herself into a stupor, Bobby was shooting down the Ventura Freeway back towards Topanga.

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    Default Re: Excerpt from Attack of the Drooling Shapeshifters

    By the way, if anyone would like to read more of this book, it's available in Kindle format through Amazon.com, and an earlier incarnation of it called Vile Gods is available as either a pdf or a trade paperback through Lulu.com.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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