The Case of the Mismatched Man
Charles C Cole
What follows is a previously unpublished account, based on the oral history of a survivor, of a heretofore little-known supernatural disaster, an explosion in an illegal mine being quietly carved out of the base of a sacred mountain by prison labor.
Many men died, their fragile bodies fragmented by an intense percussive wave. Human pieces, those still identifiable, were collected and saved in a large refrigerated warehouse with the respectable intent of later collating the remains into piles which best represented former individuals.
Though few realized it at the time, the explosion had been due to a pressurized pocket of trapped “proto-creation vapor,” PCV, being pierced by a pick. Except for this incident, PCV has been only dreamt of, an extreme theoretical notion of prehistorical forces in place when the newly formed earth evolved from rock and gas to millions of lifeforms.
A few of the limbs from the nearest miners were saturated by exposure to a potent mixture not seen on the earth’s surface in hundreds of thousands of years. The limbs were thus imbued with raw life-energy and purpose in such a fashion that they simply refused to die, could not be stilled.
Instinctively, a leg found another leg which found an arm and another arm and a torso, all from different men. One hand was milky white with the long soft fingers of a visiting administrator, while another hand was bruised and rough, having been attached to one of the laborers. One leg was thick and short while its companion was long and lean.
While the freshly unbottled magic coursed through them, these once mortal segments were able to reassemble themselves and fuse into a single body, mismatched and awkward by societal standards. Since no head could be found nearby, a lantern was appropriated.
“I was the first one down there, after the accident,” said Caleb Landry, not his real name. “We immediately started loading limbs like cord wood into these wagons we towed with golf carts. It was hard to keep our eyes open. Squint and grab and toss. Everything smelled like copper. It’s true they were inmates, but they were also human beings, once.
“The foreman took back a load – he was close to losing his lunch – and left me to look around. I could see the hole in the wall where something had burst into the tunnel. I shined my light inside. The walls of this little room were smooth and glittery. I got dizzy and backed away, thinking maybe it was some kind of gas pocket.
“That’s when I heard movement around a bend and saw light approaching. I called out. As misshapen as the thing was, it was pretty obvious this was not a victim in the ordinary sense. The lantern head might have been funny as a gag at a party, but I was alone with the thing, and it scared me. For a moment, I considered praying, you know? I think it kept approaching, in retrospect, because it wanted to get out of there as badly as I did. It had no idea it was a freak of nature.
“Not having a head or eyes or ears, it must have found me through the vibrations along the rock wall, from my yelling. I honestly don’t really know. But I was as still and quiet as a rabbit that knows the eagle is right above. It worked! It went wandering by me. I bent and grabbed some debris and tossed it further, giving the thing some incentive to keep going.
“About then, the foreman came flying back in his golf cart, towing an empty wagon for another load. He had a fresh shirt on, so I figured he’d probably thrown up on the first one, but I don’t know for sure. He saw the thing and let out a scream I can still hear today. So, it headed right for him! He jumped out of the cart and double-timed back the way he’d come, probably looking for a fresh pair of pants this time.
“I couldn’t let it get to the surface. This was a sacred mountain, remember? People see this headless zombie wandering about, they’re gonna say the place is cursed. A lot of people would lose their livelihood, including me, such as it was. I had bills to pay and a family to feed. I honked the cute little horn of the golf cart, and company came calling.
“I figured the best thing to do, as cruel as it sounds, was to draw it into the pocket and then close the wall around it. It was that or torch the thing to cinders, which I didn’t have the stomach for. ‘This way! This way!’ I called. ‘Follow me.’ I clapped my hands. I whistled. It got the point.
“I had a two-way radio. I turned it on with the volume up full. It crackled to life. I tossed it into the hole. The thing walked right to the edge – and hesitated. Did it know it was a trap? Or was it just in awe of the gas that had manufactured it?
“God help me, with all the muscle I could muster, I shoved it in. It fell over. The lantern head crashed off its shoulders. While it was disoriented, I jumped in the golf cart and rammed the already weakened wall. I made a mess, but it did the trick.
“The foreman came back with reinforcements. ‘Where is it?’ he asked. ‘Where it can’t bother anyone,’ I said. ‘Guess where gonna be a few parts short,’ he said. ‘Guess we are,’ I said.
“Over the following weeks, the replacement people heard rustling behind the wall. I told them it was bats. Some people will believe anything,” he said with a sad smile.
That was me, a believer. Tell it to me from the heart, and it has to be true, even if it’s farfetched and beyond credulity.