A Very Special Episode
by Jacob Mandell
December 11, 2022
Two pairs of echoing booted footsteps on linoleum in a long concrete hallway.
MURRAY ROSENTHAL, an earnest, well-meaning American soldier in his mid-twenties. A New York accent if we have one laying around.
Hey Dobbs, you catch the fight last night? I mean, it was no Louis versus Schmelling, but that dust up in the third round? Boooooy howdy, that must’ve hurt.
LLOYD DOBBS, a gruff, jaded American soldier in his forties. A Southern accent if we have one laying around.
Damn straight it hurt. Right in my wallet. Cost me a ten spot. I was betting on Christoforidis.
Still, you gotta admit, Lesnevich was on his game. Pop-pop-pow!
I don’t gotta admit shit. You ask me, the judges were in on it. By Decision in the fifteenth? The fifteenth? The fuck does that? Them’s been bought, that’s who.
Fabric rustles, a beat up cigarette pack is opened.
Gimme a light, Rosenthal.
Dobbs, c’mon, man. You know we’re not supposed to smoke on duty. And we’re really not supposed to smoke in here.
The fuck’re you gonna do, boy? Rat me out to Halsey? He’d ship us both off to the front faster’n you could learn to tie yer damn boots right, and you know it.
Look, just let’s finish the round, right? I really don’t want to get stuck on K.P. again. Last time I smelled like shit-on-a-shingle for three days.
Fabric rustles, a beat up cigarette pack is closed and put away.
Ah, dammit. Fine! And fuck you too.
‘ey, Dobbs… you believe the stories about werewolves?
What, like full moons and wolfsbane and silver bullets and all that crap?
Nah, not like the wolfman, I mean like… You know Jankowski? He’s got a buddy over in the soup. Says the German’s’ve got commandos wearing our uniforms now, doing assassinations and sabotage’n stuff.
And you believe it?
Jankowski does, and he’s nobody’s fool.
That’s fair. Plays a mean hand of poker, too.
Anyway, got me thinking. I mean… we know they’ve got spies around, and I’ve always had a weird feeling about that civilian contractor. You know, the one that talks real proper, but all flat, like? What’s’is name…
A pair of finger snaps. In the background, a slowly rising sound of very old computer noises—tape drives spinning, clicking and clacking, a slowly rising hum of power causes a slight bass vibration.
A hand clap.
That’s the guy!
I dunno, Rosenthal, that seems (pretty unlikely. The guy…)
The bootsteps stop for a moment. A pair of heavy metal doors open, revealing a large open space full of very old computers, people walk to and fro. A thrum of electrical power is heavy in the air.
DOCTOR CYNTHIA MORGENSTERN, a tired but friendly woman in her early thirties. A Mid-Atlatnic accent if we have one laying around.
ROSENTHAL (Somewhat bashful)
G-g-good evening, Dr. Morgenstern.
Here to watch the grand event?
Tonight’s the night, boys. Tonight we ring the Bell.
Sure, the Bell. That twelve foot gadget over there, with the cylinders.
Oh yeah? And what’s it do, smart guy?
I… uh… I dunno.
That’s to be expected, Rosenthal. No one knows what it does, not really. Heck, we got the design from the other side, and we’re pretty sure they have no idea what it actually does either.
But you’re going to fire it up anyways?
DOCTOR CASTELLANOS, a kindly, whip-smart middle-aged man with a vaguely Eastern European (or Greek, if we can get it) accent.
We are indeed going to, as you say, fire it up.
Isn’t that dangerous?
Pff, it is science, my friend.
Still sounds like a good way to get dead, you ask me.
Well then it’s a good thing nobody did, Dobbs.
Gentlemen, we have been working on this for… for a very long time. And while Dr. Morganstern is correct that we will never know for certain what is going on with the… machine… until we turn it on, I can say with confidence two things. Firstly, we found a rather significant error in the Germans’ math, one which should grant us success where they met only failure, and secondly… If I am right about this, and I have no reason to doubt myself, this will be an opening up of… of the future of humanity. Now!
A hand clap.
If you would be so kind as to step back behind the yellow line there, we shall begin.
Shuffling bootsteps on concrete.
Thank you. Dr. Morganstern, would you like to do the honors?
Don’t mind if I do. Alright. Raising the charge.
Clicking as a dial is turned, a crescendo of electric humming.
Redirecting magnetic fields from units one, three, and five.
Mechanical whirring sounds, metal sliding smoothly on metal.
Completing the induction circuit.
A giant knife-switch is thrown with an authoritative thunk. Lightning arcs in the background.
Engaging drivetrain now.
Mechanical noises. Giant gears turn, and two metal cylinders begin to slide and rotate around each other—slowly at first, but picking up speed over a few seconds, soon moving so fast they're nothing but a blur.
The sounds of the portal begin quietly, but increase over the span of five or six seconds. Booted feet shuffle on concrete.
My God. It works. It works!
I never doubted, Doctor.
What… what are we looking at, here? What’s that spiral-lookin’ thing in the middle? It’s like it just chewed a hole in the air.
That is a fractal constellation. And while our eyes… our minds… cannot perceive all of its structure, what we think we see is… think of it like a… like a doorway.
A doorway? To where?
To another world, doofus. I read about these in Weird Tales.
Not quite like this, I think, but you’re not too far off either.
A phone (old phone, remember) rings once, twice. Clothing rustles, a hand takes up the receiver.
Dr. Castellanos? It’s for you.
Bootsteps shuffle on concrete, clothing rustles, the phone is handed off.
JANICE, a friendly, somewhat older woman.
JANICE (Through a phone filter)
Hello, Dr. C?
Oh, hello, Janice! Thank you again for watching little Sophia. How are things at home? And also how did you get this number?
JANICE (Through a phone filter)
Well that’s just it, Dr. C. We’re not at home. Sophia had a fright while she was playing out in the yard. Kept saying something about a car salesman watching her? She was absolutely inconsolable. We’re out at the front gate with these nice soldiers, now. She’s calmed down a little, but if you could spare a moment to come out…
CASTELLANOS (Through a phone filter)
This is… this is not a good time.
JANICE (No phone filter)
She was crying fit to beat the band, Doctor, and she’s liable to start up again if she can’t see you. You know how she gets.
CASTELLANOS (Through a phone filter)
Yes, I know how she gets.
And she is my sun and moon and all.
So yes. I will be right out. Thank you again, Janice.
Phone receiver is placed back in the cradle. Night noises can be heard in the background—insects and whippoorwills, along with a faint electric hum from floodlights.
Well, now that’s settled. Thank you again, Mister…?
CORPORAL MATTHEWS, a hard-bitten, no-nonsense soldier.
Matthews, Ma’am. Corporal Matthews. Now if you’re finished, I’m going to have to ask that you wait in the car with the girl.
Fine, fine, I’m going, I’m going. Thank you for your service, young man.
A muffled explosion can be heard in the distance. A young girl starts crying and screaming inside a parked car, some distance away.
What was that?
What was what, Ma’am?
Are you telling me you didn’t hear… I mean, wasn’t that an explosion? Is that normal around here?
I’m sure everything is fine, Ma’am.
An air-raid siren sounds.
Ma’am, I’m going to need you to get back in the car with the girl and leave.
I will do no such thing. Her father is on his way to this gate right now, and (he is)—
The thrumming, horrific noise of a breach in reality. The air raid siren winds down, the flood lights flicker and die. There is absolute silence.
Another explosion, closer and louder. Many pairs of running, booted feet, some coming closer, others running away. Rifles and fired in the distance. Muffles shouts and screams reach us from afar. Bass thumps.
Ma’am! Get in the car and get her out of (here)—
A crash as a concrete wall is blown outwards, rubble smashing down all around. A high pitched tone sounds, then fades, as though the audience has been near a concussive blast.
Clothing rustles and limbs scrape and scrabble in dust and debris.
JANICE & MATTHEWS
The Monster’s footsteps draw closer, smashing through cars and other obstacles.
Get her out of here! I’ll distract it!
Gunshots, first one, then three in rapid succession.
Come on you bastard!
A brutal, wet tearing sound.
A melon is smashed with a hammer, ushering in a moment of quiet.
Oh God. Oh my God.
Heels running on tarmac. A hand slaps against glass and streaks down.
JANICE (Barely restrained panic)
Sophia? Sophia honey, I need you to look down, alright? Look down and be very, very quiet.
The Monster roars.