Fiction by Bill Bliss

Henry knew they were there. Waiting. Down there waiting.

Sometimes they shot evil rays up to the surface. They made people have bad luck and accidents. He had started to suspect all of that when he was six years old. They were living in an old house on Persimmon Street. It had an old, stinky basement.

His mother kept the potatoes down there. She started sending Henry down there for them. It was a creepy place with lots of cobwebs. One day he was counting out the right number of potatoes for supper when he heard voices.

They were weak and muffled and talking in a strange language. He squinted all around in the dim yellow light of the old light bulb. Those voices were coming up through the brick floor! He tossed some more potatoes in the pan and ran up the stairs.

Going into the basement became a nerve-wracking experience for Henry. He started hearing his name mentioned in the mumblings from below. He kept watching nervously to see if anything had started cooching any bricks up. He started to notice that there were bad things in the ground under the Nubury grade school. He realized to his horror that they seemed to be everywhere.

It was hard to ignore them. Only the ones under the basement seemed to be wise to him. Maybe they were just trying to get him rattled up so he would make a big mistake like irritating the school bully, Suggy, or running out in front of a big truck.

A year later, he discovered the library. He had been walking past the big old brick building right along. His second grade teacher, Miss Stritch, had suggested that the class at least take a look around in it. The kindly old librarian, Agatha Snap, gave him a do-it-yourself reading course that worked. He quickly worked his way through a stack of educational comix.

"You are precocious," Agatha commented.

He was poring over a thick heavy book, "The Complete Writings if Richard S. Shaver. Parts of the book were a bit beyond his vocabulary and his frames of reference, but he got the big message. Shaver discovered the same thing. There were people and creatures living in hidden caves and tunnels. The bad ones were the Deros. The good ones were the Teros. They had wars with science fiction gadgets. Shaver had written a lot about it that was in Amazing Stories and Other Worlds magazines. It had gotten a lot of criticism.

"People don't like bad news. For instance, what if a stranger came to town and told your father that your septic tank was going to explode next week?" Agatha asked. "I'd sure stay away from it!"

Retired a bit prematurely from the Tweet Bird Cage Company due to automation, Henry resided in the Ritz apartment complex. His apartment was on the fifth floor. The Deros were seldom noticeable. There was a sixth floor, but that was where strange things happened from flying saucers messing around some nights.

Then, one day in April, Henry returned to the Ritz apartments for lunch, driving his old rusty wheezy Volkswagon back from the library. He stood in shock staring at the bulletin board. There was something for him.

"Henry. You have been transferred to Apt 100X. All of your things have been moved there. Do not argue. Signed, Percival Meens, MGR."

There wasn't any way to get his important things out of there, such as his box of cigars and his collection of 78 RPM Rudy Vallee phonograph records and the cash stash in the old brown recliner, without getting clobbered by the Deros. He went and sat on the front steps to think it over. He got up when he remembered that sitting on concrete or stone was supposed to give you piles.

"Well," he muttered to himself, "there is a way."

He parked the VW in front of Jake's Junk Shop. Jake had a sideline. He made bombs in the basement. Henry didn't have any idea what illegal bombs cost, but 200 bucks didn't seem like too much.

He carried the white cardboard box back to the Ritz carefully. Jake had warned him that if he dropped it, he might get a bang out of it. He set it down by the door. The door was bullet and battering ram (and child) proof. He unlocked it and cautiously opened it a foot. There were noises in there. Also a lizard and unwashed feet and fur smell. Those Deros were waiting in there for him. Definitely. He quickly cooched the box through the door with his left foot and closed and locked it. He knew from reading Shaver's writings that Deros liked chocolate cakes.

What looked like a small candle on top of the cake was actually a fuse to the explosives in the cake. It was lighted automatically when the lid of the box was opened. He waited for the muffled boom from inside. Then he could dash in and grab his valuables and toss them out in the hall and slam the door.

Jake hadn't said how long it took the fuse to do its bit. It couldn't be over a few seconds. Suddenly, a three foot wide part of the grey vinyl tile floor turned black. It became a hole. A Dero that looked like a bad model of a gnome flipped up out of it holding the chocolate cake.

"That's been tried before," the Dero said in a bored snarly voice and handed the cake to Henry.

The Dero zipped down the hole and it winked closed. Henry looked at the cake with bulging eyeballs. The fuse was sputtering way down inside of it. He opened his mouth wide and took in a full charge of air into his lungs.


(Every horror story needs at least one big scream).