A descendent of Grendel Lurks on the moor confused and hunted by a RACC agent
| Loping as fast as he could, hounds baying behind, the monster ran for the river. His nine-foot body knifed through the water, heading for the deep part under the bridge. Gray scaled fore-legs folded close against his body, eye lids drawn protectively over golden slitted eyes, he reached the rocky silted bottom, huddling close to the bridge foundation.
Over his head shadows fell on the water. The monster knew it was men searching, poking the water with long metal poles. He tried to abate his breath, fearing the air bubbles from his breathing would give his position away. Someone fired a gun. Fool! No arrow or blade or bullet could pierce his scales. One bullet ricocheted off his hide. His body clenched in pain. They still hurt like blazes.
He had never sung a fog into being from under water but he tried now. A thrumming sounded from the back of his throat. The water seethed. He added a molecule-bursting screeching harmony and the water boiled. A haze appeared over the water's surface, and tendrils of mist drifted upward. He 'sang' until the fog formed, thickening until it darkened the sun.
He waded out of the river. One of the earth creatures lay half in the water. The monster hesitated. The earth creature was a vertebrate but beyond that the monster was uncertain, his mind going hazy when he tried to think. This might be a duck in which case the water was natural. But if this was a man, lulled asleep where he stood by the song... Better to be safe. He picked up the being by its red shirt and dragged it away from the river's edge. Then he headed for lair sweet lair.
* * *
Calpol shifted uneasily in his trenchcoat, running his finger inside the clammy collar. That was the problem with England. Tiny little micro climates everywhere and each more miserable than the next. The fog didn't make things easier. He could barely make out the trail as it wound through the moorland. But he had a good idea of where the trail would end. He tapped his wrist phone. Tina's face appeared on the tiny screen. "RACC, Relocated Aliens Community Control" she said automatically. Then as Calpol's image reached her side recognition lit her eyes. "Hey old buzzard" she said but with affection, "where are you?"
"Hey young lady. I just came from the River Selly. Seems to be the source of this fog. There are about eight farmers there, all asleep. But no casualties. I'm heading for the old hermitage now. What do we know about this one? What does his case worker say?"
Tina typed something into her computer and was looking off screen. "He's been on earth for let's see...Forty three years and nine months with no problems... His case worker is a man named Van Drock - good man, has a degree in psychiatry. Years of glowing reports - 'subject is an excellent representative of the alien community' ... let's see... last report was twelve days ago. Says here 'subject showing signs of size and species dismorphia. Also cognitive decline.'"
Calpol snorted. I hate it when they go nuts. And he wished, not for the last time, that he had called for backup. Tina was speaking "You'd better get a handle on this Cal. There is trouble on the bubble. Rumors are beginning to get around about the aliens. And this situation is Bad. It's been all we can to keep it out of the press. If news gets out about this grendelite - it wont be long before the general public finds out about the others. Think of the panic. The treaty between Grendelia and Earth will be in ashes." Grendelites had been settling on earth for centuries but because there were only a few of them and they were good at going unnoticed most people didn't know. Grendelites kept a low profile - except for that unfortunate episode in Beowolf's time. And now this.
He spoke into the wrist phone. "What's his official address?"
"Old ruins in the middle of Knollen Moor, Harthmore. I'm sending the GPS coordinates."
"I've got them already, thanks." He had been walking as they talked, carefully picking his way around the boggier patches of ground. If he got stuck in the treacherous muck there would be no one to pull him out. The wrist phone reception was breaking up - Tina's face flickered on and off the screen, then was gone, replaced by a 'no reception' message. He was on his own.
And now there was his destination, just ahead.
* * *
It had been a hermitage a century ago. An old hermit had carried stones in from a Roman ruin and built it up, stone by stone. Now it was three crumbling stone walls and a fourth side consisting of an archway standing among rubble. The wooden parts had rotted away. Someone had dragged metal scraps over salvaged beams as a make-do roof and an old blanket hung in the archway served as a door. Smoke rose out of a crumbling chimney. He's home then thought Calpol. He put his hands to the old blanket.
He didn't bother to knock.
Inside was as dim as a cave and smelled of moss and moist earth, with a hint of carrion. The monster was lounging on a stone bench. A peat fire smoldered on the hearth. The creature was reading a battered copy of 'Beowolf', trailing the lines with a gnarled claw, his lips moving as he sounded out the words. He looked up as Calpol came in. "Listen to this" he said: "Grendel that ghost was called / grisly and terrible / Who hateful wanderer / dwelt in the moorlands... grim weight unholy" - it makes my blood boil to read how they slander Grandfather." The creature wrung his cinder block sized claws and gnashed his teeth.
"You are a grendelite then." said Calpol. He pulled out a small notebook. "I'd like to ask you a few questions. What's your name?"
"Why pick on me?" the monster asked, his voice like stone dragged against stone. "I am Grendon Grendel - very respectable. I talk to very few humans. I keep myself to myself."
"Thirteen dead in thirteen days," said Calpol.
"Well... these things happen. Could be anything. Maybe illness - a plague or something."
"That tears limbs from bodies?"
"A fox then, or maybe a wild cat."
Calpol gave the creature a hard look.
"What?" said the thing. "What's so odd about that? Isn't it foxes that usually kill chickens?"
"They weren't chickens."
"Oh...chickens are those things with soft fringe on top, right?"
"That's hair, and it's on humans."
"Oh." The monster paused to digest this. Distressed, he muttered "I'll have to talk to my therapist about this."
"I wondered how a chicken knew so much about repression of the hero complex" he murmured. The creature rose to his feet. Fully nine feet tall, his hide the color of tarnished steel. He took a step forward and Calpol pulled a gun.
The grendelite backed up slightly. "Now, let's not be hasty. Could be a troll did it. There's a creature living under the bridge. Pretty sure it's a troll."
"It's and old lady. A vegan to boot."
"Oh." The creature puffed out his chest, claws on hips. "You know," eyeing the gun, "bullets cannot pierce my hide, stupid chicken. I mean man. Stupid earth man."
"I wouldn't put me to the test if I were you." Something in Calpol's voice made the creature pause. This man was soft skinned and awkward, just like all the other humans but he had more self possession in Grendel's presence than any man had a right to. Grendel suspected hidden resources to this man. He weighed his options.
"I do not with to hurt you" said Grendon. "You would snap in my grasp like a twig. There is nothing you can do to hurt me. Go home, earth man. And I even promise to not kill anymore chickens - or humans."
Calpol still held his gun on the grendelite. "No dice, Grendon, you have to come with me..." He blinked, hard, trying to overcome the sleepiness that suddenly enveloped him. He became aware of a thrumming - not a sound but a feeling that seemed to permeate the air all around. There was a haze in front of his eyes... his chin sunk toward his chest... he must stay awake...he must...
Suddenly the creature lunged.
There was a flash of red light from the gun, a blurring of the grendelite's form - and the creature was a third the height it used to be.
Calpol shook off the effects of the grendelite's sleep song. "This gun doesn't shoot bullets. It's a shrink ray."
"Now you tell me squeeked the grendelite."
"All right, Grendel, we are going to my transport." He waved his RACC badge with one hand while keeping the ray gun trained on the monster. "One false move and you get another taste of downsizing."
He marched the grendelite across the moor. The fog had cleared and he could see the sparse grass and desolation of the place. After a long while they drew near a small farm. Grendel made his move. With dazzling speed he darted among a flock of sheep. Calpol tried to get a clear shot. He couldn't risk hitting the sheep - seven inch sheep would be hard to explain to the locals.
Grendel made it to the farm yard, Calpol at his heels. They ran through a flock of chickens amid scattered feathers and squawking.
Calpol got a clear shot and took it. Whrrr - and the monster was the size of a mouse. A rooster picked up the tiny monster in his beak. "Aahhh! Bad Chicken!" squeeked Grendel. There was a brief tussle as the chickens played tug-a-war with the tiny thing and then he was gone, gulped down by a Speckled Sussex.
A weatherbeaten old farmer in a red shirt had watched the whole thing. He came out from behind the dairy shed. "Was that the thing that been doing all the killing?"
What the heck thought Calpol he's seen everything anyway. "Yes. That was the killer all right."
"Funny thing" said the farmer. "Me and some of the lads had chased it down to the river, just a little while ago. Then we all just - fell asleep. I dreamed I'd fallen in the river and the thing had pulled me out. I woke up all wet like I been in the drink and the thing was gone."
"Who knows - maybe old Grendon had pulled you out of the river. He wasn't mean. Just demented.
Too bad really. He's lived here for decades with no trouble until now. Seems the trouble was he couldn't tell the difference between humans and chickens. But you know... I think, in the end, he learned the difference."
"You're not going to hit me with a forget ray or somethin', are you?" asked the farmer.
Calpol laughed. "Who would believe you? But anyway, keep this under your hat. If word gets out about this you have no idea the panic there would be. Mobs against the grendelites - mobs for them. The world is a powder keg right now. No need to be the one to touch it off."
The farmer watched him go, then looked uncertainly at his cell phone, finger hovering over the 'send' button.