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Copyright © 2011 by Dennis James Browne

Dante Wilson and The Well of Souls by Dennis James Browne, © 2011. All rights reserved. Published by Saint Michael Press, LLC * Cambridge Fine Arts Associates, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher and author. For information contact Saint Michael Press * Cambridge Fine Arts Associates, 1001 Fischer Blvd., Suite 150, Toms River, NJ 08753

Cover design by Donna Casey @ digitaldonna.com.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN 978-0-9816874-4-5

Visit dennisjamesbrowne.com


 

The Falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
--William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

"We don't know one millionth of one per cent about anything."
---Thomas Edison

"There's so much bullflop in the world, I'm amazed we're all not wearing goulashes."
--Professor Earl Edison Wilson

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
--Hamlet, William Shakespeare

"99% of paranormal miracles are phony--but it's the 1% that will change the world."
--Celestial Rose Moon

"It's all right if you don't believe in Hell because Hell believes in you."
--Marianna the kraakseer, a.k.a Countess Elizabeth Bathory

"Life is full of surprises--but death is a lot worse!"
--The Trickster

"Sometimes it's best to see the world through the eyes of the Devil."
--From the final sermon of the Right Reverend Boson Higgs,
before his arrest, trial and execution.


 

This story is dedicated to the memory of my daughter, Tara.

 


CONTENTS
 
CHAPTER
1The Ghost of General William James Wright1
2The Glimmering8
3The Well of Souls26
4Bad News
5Good News
6The Pleasure Chamber
7No Picnic
8Confessions
9Lord Bartleby
10Breakfast at the Wilsons
11The Garden of Good and Evil
12The Master Planners
13Poppers
14The Mighty Golgotha Whisperer
15Dark Anomalies
16The Snake and the Cock
17The Boy Who Lost His Shadow
18Save the Earth!
19The Lightstone
20The Battle of the Blue Quarry Woods
21Requiem for an Angel
   




CHAPTER 1

The Ghost of General William James Wright

 

Uncle Earl Wilson had a secret--and a problem. His secret was that he had seen a ghost. His problem was that he was a scientist, and it's a well known fact that ghosts are a scientific impossibility.

The ghost he saw was that of General William James Wright, a Union Civil War hero who was killed during the Battle of Antietam.

Uncle Earl knew that the ghost was that of General Wright because several weeks after the incident, he traced the ownership of the Wilson farm back to Civil War days and discovered that it was the home of William James Wright, the son of a farmer.

Strangely, however, he could find no other information about Mr. Wright until he stumbled across a single ancient volume in the archives of the county library. The book was published in 1867 and was titled, Iowa's Great Civil War Heroes. The author was a local historian by the name of Cynthia Rackles, and she described in great detail the biography and heroics of William James Wright, who graduated from West Point and went on to distinguish himself as a fearless leader who was promoted to general right before the Battle of Antietam...

The book also contained several photographs of General Wright in uniform--and they were identical to the ghost that appeared before Uncle Earl's very eyes!

Even more strangely, however, there was no trace at all of General Wright anywhere else, as though some dark hand had wiped his name clean from the pages of history, except for this small, solitary chronicle, tucked away in the archives of a local library.

Uncle Earl first saw General Wright in the upstairs library of the Wilson home, which had remained locked since the death of Dante Wilson's father over a decade ago.

When he unlocked the library door and opened it to see a Union general in full uniform sitting in a rocking chair, reading a Bible and then glancing out the window toward the Blue Quarry Woods, Uncle Earl fainted.

When he awoke and still saw the General, he was so frightened that he quietly picked himself up off the floor, closed the library door and locked it.

Once he recovered from the shock of witnessing such a scientific impossibility, Uncle Earl decided to make sure he wasn't imagining the phenomenon by taking a camcorder and video recording it.

The very next day, after his nephew Dante had left for school and his sister Emma had gone shopping, Uncle Earl crept up the stairs, and with trembling fingers again unlocked the door to the library...

The General was still sitting in his rocking chair, exactly as he was the day before--and he didn't even seem to mind being video recorded!

However, when Uncle Earl returned to his laboratory, he witnessed a second scientific impossibility. He had hoped that he would record some kind of vague, transparent apparition of General Wright, but when he played the video back, the ghost of General William James Wright appeared in vivid color, sitting in his rocking chair, reading his Bible and occasionally looking out the window toward the Blue Quarry Woods...

In fact, the General appeared on the camera screen in such vivid color that he looked exactly like a living human being!

At that point, Professor Earl Wilson knew that he was sitting on a scientific time bomb. Only the day before he was so excited that he couldn't sleep at night. He knew that if he could prove the existence of just a single ghost, it would confirm the multidimensional nature of the universe, as well as the permanence of human consciousness--

The world--and especially modern science-- would never be the same!

It would be the greatest scientific discovery of all time!

But then, when General Wright actually appeared on his camcorder--looking exactly as he did over a hundred years before--Uncle Earl realized that he had a very big problem on his hands...

The video of the General could be faked in too many ways to even think about.

And even if the ghost of General Wright had the courtesy to remain in his rocking chair and keep on reading his Bible when the media and other skeptics descended on the place like vultures, the outrage within the scientific community would be so great that within days the Wilson house would probably be burned to the ground—and along with it the career of the once famous physicist and inventor, Dr. Earl Edison Wilson!

In short, Uncle Earl did what any highly respected, sensible scientist would do...

He erased the camcorder disk, dismissed the entire incident, and made sure the library door stayed locked forever.

 






CHAPTER 2

The Glimmering


Dante Wilson was born on a farm without animals. His great grandfather raised cattle, but that was long ago and since then about the closest thing to a farm animal on the Wilson farm was his Uncle Earl.

Most people in town considered Earl a crazy scientist, but because of him the Wilsons had food on the table and a roof over their heads. Earl was as smart as he was crazy and his hero was Nikola Tesla, the rogue genius who was smarter than Edison. Every few years or so, he'd file a patent for a new gadget related to electricity or electromagnetism and the royalty checks just kept flowing in. No one knew exactly how rich Uncle Earl was, but it was a lot.

Uncle Earl lived like a pig in a small room at the back of the house. But his laboratory was neat as a pin, and the only time he came into the house or even talked to anyone was when he wanted to eat, curse out his sister—who was also Dante's mother—or talk to Dante. (And of course he would never even think of talking about his encounter with the ghost of General William James Wright!)

Over the years Uncle Earl had built several tall Tesla Towers across the farm and sometimes in the middle of the night eerie blue flashes of electricity could be seen filling the sky for miles. Luckily, however, the Blue Quarry Woods blocked these eerie flashes from their distant neighbors, so no one complained--or even knew about Uncle Earl's strange way of providing electricity for the entire farm and his laboratory.

Right after Dante was born, his father was killed when he was struck by a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky. No one had ever seen anything like it.

Uncle Earl had a favorite saying:

"There's so much bullflop in the world, I'm amazed we're all not wearing goulashes!"

He felt that most people were wrong about practically everything, and for this and other unknown reasons, he was convinced that the end of mankind was right around the corner. To commemorate this inevitability, he set up a clock in his laboratory with big black hands and white Mickey Mouse gloves. The clock didn't work, but each time an important event or disaster took place, Uncle Earl moved the hands of the clock a bit closer to each other...

He told Dante that when both Mickey Mouse hands met at midnight, the world would finally come to an end.

One such event took place when Uncle Earl read about the sudden, mysterious deaths of thousands of white doves in Italy.

Another time when the Yankees won the first three straight games of the American League playoffs, then dropped four straight to the Boston Red Sox, Uncle Earl--who was a diehard Yankee fan--was so furious that he declared the Red Sox victory a disaster of cosmic proportions. Then he stormed out to his laboratory and moved the Mickey Mouse hands even closer together... He never again watched another Yankee game.

Dante's mother was convinced that her brother Earl was an evil sorcerer with powers far more sinister than those of any Merlin, and he was somehow responsible for the death of her husband.

"Dante, what little pearls of wisdom did Uncle Earl share with us today?"

"Nothing, Mom."

Dante's mother slid some hot scrambled eggs onto his plate and looked at him with a smile.

"Dante, do we need a fork?"

To most people that would have meant a fork for his eggs, but Dante knew better. His mother had become an expert at poking a fork in various parts of his anatomy from the back of his head to his butt that would cause sharp stabs of pain without leaving a mark, often followed by the remark, "Are we done?" She often did this when Dante annoyed her, but at other times these sudden wakeup calls were completely unexpected, and took place for no apparent reason...

Dante knew his mother was crazy, but he loved her anyway.

He shoveled up some eggs with a piece of toast and took a bite, keeping a wary eye on Mom.

"Uh, no, thanks, Mom...He lit up some light bulbs with an electric wand and then showed me how energy from the earth's magnetic field can save the planet by running cars and everything else for free."

His mother nodded and walked back into the kitchen.

"Then why doesn't he give this wonderful gift to the world?"

"He said that Tesla had already invented free power years ago, and if the repticons find out about it, they'll come here and burn our house down and us along with it--the same way they burned down Tesla's lab. That's why he made me promise not to tell anyone."

"Repticons" was one of Uncle Earl's favorite words for the evil rich and powerful men--billionaires, bankers, oil barons and politicians who control our lives and are destroying the entire world with their greed.

Dante loved the way that Uncle Earl came up with such fairy tale names to describe the world, but he took it all with a grain of salt because he was pretty sure that the great Professor Earl Edison Wilson was as loony as he was smart.

Dante's mother just shook her head. "One day your uncle will destroy the world with his magic--and us along with it."

Dante chuckled to himself. "Right, Mom. What should we do about it?"

"We could kill him--with a bolt of lightning."

Dante nearly gagged on his eggs. "What!?"

"A bolt of lightning is the only thing that will kill uncle Earl."

She stuck her head out from the kitchen with another loving smile.

"You will tell me when he teaches you how to make lightning bolts, won't you, son?"

"Mom, are you feeling okay?" "I'm not crazy, Dante, so forget it! Now clean up that mess in your bedroom and get ready for school." Dante felt a sigh of relief at his mother's anger. It meant she wasn't really that far gone... He finished his breakfast and rushed upstairs to his bedroom. He was already running late for his school bus. There were only two things that Dante Wilson loved about junior high school--his fastball and Celestial Rose Moon. His first year he made the varsity baseball team, mainly because he had a fastball that was clocked at well over ninety miles an hour and had a nasty dip that drove batters nuts, especially lefties. Their third game, a major league scout from the Twins showed up and said he wanted to see some more of Dante's pitching, but they never saw him again.

The Wilson farm was in the middle of Iowa and every day Dante had to take a school bus past thirty miles of flat farmland to Lincoln Junior High School. The bus picked him up right after sunrise.

On this particular morning Dante felt terrible. The sky was overcast and a storm was coming, a big one. He could feel it in his bones as he hopped up into the bus.

The bus driver was a big man who wore a leather jacket covered with Vietnam patches. More than once on the long, boring bus ride into town, Dante was tempted to ask him about Vietnam, but he never did because he had a pretty good idea that Mr. O'Donnell wasn't all that sociable, and liked talking even less.

"Hi, Mr. O'Donnell." "Morning, Dante."

The small yellow school bus carried only five students: Dante, who always sat alone in the back seat, and four girls. The two sisters, Dolores and Mary Reichart, always sat together talking to each other or someone else on their cell phones, while Kathy Connors, a sophomore with stringy blond hair, sat up front right next to Mr. O'Donnell like a pet cocker spaniel.

The fifth girl was Rose Moon. Her full name was Celestial Rose Moon, but that was way too much for her classmates, so everyone started calling her Rose. She was always the last one to get on the bus and when she did, everyone suddenly became very quiet, like royalty was coming aboard...

The first thing she did was stare directly at Dante, sitting alone on the back seat, like she knew perfectly well that she was giving him a heart attack. Then she sat down and ignored him for the rest of the trip. In fact, she ignored him so well that after a few weeks Dante was convinced that she thought he was either a large insect with body odor, or part of the bus, like a bumper or manifold.

She was so beautiful that Dante knew if he ever tried to talk to her, he'd make a complete fool out of himself and his head would explode. So he settled for just staring at her every day and keeping his mouth shut.

He found out from a classmate that Rose Moon was a freshman who lived with her father and that she was part Iowa Indian. She had high cheekbones like an Indian, but she also had beautiful long, light brown hair and a face that reminded him of a photo he once saw of one of the most beautiful woman in the world, Adriana Lima.

On that day Rose was wearing a tartan plaid skirt with pleats and knee socks. She looked so beautiful that Dante couldn't help himself--when she looked at him, he looked back with a big, goofy smile. Like always, she completely ignored him and sat down.

Dante curled up against the window and closed his eyes, suddenly feeling like a giant, smelly cockroach...

"Excuse me."

Dante's eyes popped open. It was Rose Moon.

She had turned around in her seat and was looking straight at him...

And she was smiling!

"I'm sorry to wake you, but could you do me a favor?"

Before Dante could say anything, she was up out of her seat and walking toward him with her books in hand...

She sat down next to him with her big, beautiful smile.

"You're Dante—Dante Wilson, right?"

Dante was suddenly now sweating profusely. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out, like a stoned carp dying on a beach....

Rose Moon kept smiling.

Finally, he blurted out--

"Yes--Yes, I am!"

She grabbed his hand and started shaking it.

"I'm Rose Moon. When we get to school, I have speech class and my speech is on the paranormal—do you know anything about the paranormal?"

Dante instantly thought about Uncle Earl and some of his weird experiments...

"No, not really."

She just kept staring at him with her hypnotic, melancholy green eyes.

"Things are falling apart, Dante Wilson, and I sense that something very bad is coming our way."

Dante blinked.

"What's falling apart?"

Celestial Rose Moon wasn't smiling. She just kept staring, cryptically adding--

"Everything--everything is falling apart."

Dante's mind started spinning--she was starting to sound exactly like Uncle Earl!

Then, abruptly, Rose Moon turned her attention to her speech.

"Look, let me read my speech and tell me what you think--but be honest, okay?"

"Sure!"

She put on a pair of dark-rimmed glasses and started reading--but not loud enough for the rest of the girls to hear...

Mary and Dolores Reichart were both staring at them. Dante shot them an angry look and they quickly turned away, giggling.

Dante listened attentively to Rose Moon as she started reading her speech in a slow, almost sad voice...

"99% of paranormal miracles are phony--but it's the 1% that will change the world."

Dante chuckled.

"--Yeah, but what if nobody believes in the 1%?"

"Then it's over."

"What's over?"

"Everything. Everything is over--now, may I continue?"

Rose Moon's voice was polite and she was smiling, but Dante caught an angry glint in her eyes...

"Oh, yeah--sorry!"

"Many people think that paranormal powers are a joke--movies and videos made just to scare and entertain people--but today I'll prove to you that these powers are not only real, they're given to us by human spirits, and they're the only weapons we have against the great evil that's spreading across the world."

"Great evil. What great evil?"

Rose Moon slowly removed her glasses and stared at Dante as if he were a child. But when she spoke, her voice was quiet and patient.

"The men who have everything and want more. They're destroying the earth and everything else with their greed."

Dante instantly thought of Uncle Earl and his invisible repticon enemies.

"You mean the repticons--the ones who are destroying the earth!"

For the first time Rose Moon's eyes lit up. She seemed pleasantly surprised by Dante's comment.

"Yes--yes, that's it exactly! Where did you get such a wonderful name for these vipers?"

"My uncle, Earl. He's a genius scientist, and he agrees with you one hundred percent!"

Rose Moon smiled..

"I'd love to meet your Uncle Earl--he sounds like a very wise man!"

Dante politely smiled back, but inside he cringed at the thought of Rose Moon meeting Uncle Earl--two bats in a belfry!

"--That would be great!"

She put her glasses back on.

"Now--may I continue?"

"Sorry."

"Every year there are thousands of ghost sightings, and many of them are on videos we see on the internet...Now, let me ask you a question. Out of the millions and millions of ghost sightings made throughout history, how many have to be real to prove that the human soul really survives beyond death?

She turned and stared right at him--and suddenly Dante realized that the question wasn't a rhetorical one.

"--One?"

"That's right, just one real ghost would prove that life after death is a scientific fact--and I'll give you a good example...In 1979 in Chicago, Illinois, a nurse by the name of Teresita Basa was brutally murdered. There were no suspects, but a few weeks later, another nurse started talking in her sleep in the voice of her dead friend, Teresita Basa. The spirit said her murderer was Allen Showery, who had given Teresita's stolen jewelry to his girlfriend. The police found the jewelry and showed it to Showery. He confessed on the spot to Teresita Basa's murder--but later, during his trial, the defense argued that Showery couldn't be found guilty on the testimony of a ghost! The jury disagreed and Showery was sentenced to fifteen years in prison."

"That's a pretty wild story!"

"It was in all the newspapers and the two reporters who covered the story wrote a book about it."

"Maybe so, but--"

Suddenly Rose Moon shot him an angry look--

"Look, just Google it! Now--may I continue?"

She then returned to her speech. Her voice was no longer melancholy--she was picking up steam and her mesmerizing green eyes seem to light up as she spoke.

"The most famous paranormal wizard of all time was D.D. Home, who was born in 1833. For many years he put on amazing performances in broad daylight in front of hundreds of scientists, politicians and even royalty. Home could levitate, rising up off the ground and moving through the air---and make tables and other things move without being near them. He could also make musical instruments play without touching them, and even make the hands of dead people appear, which he did in 1857 in front of Napoleon III and his empress, Eugénie. The Empress reached out and touched the floating hand of a dead man that Home had conjured, which she immediately recognized as belonging to her dead father because of a deformed finger."

She paused a moment, looked over at Dante to study his reaction (there was none), and then continued reading.

"Home said he owed all his powers to human spirits that were helping him."

Dante kept his mouth shut as she turned the page of her notes, then continued reading.

"Sir William Crookes, a famous British scientist, was very skeptical about Home's powers, so he tried to expose him as a fraud. But after two years of close testing, he only proved that Home really did have supernatural powers, so he went to the president of the Royal Society and told him that for mankind's benefit, Home's powers should be investigated by scientists. Instead his boss told Crookes that if he ever mentioned the name of D.D. Home again, he would be kicked out of the Royal Society and his reputation as a scientist would be destroyed."

"Why would he do that?"

A look of sudden anger flashed across Rose Moon's face--

"Because some people thrive on darkness--they hate the light!"

Dante could barely conceal his alarm. He just kept staring at her, suddenly on full alert for sharp objects.

"I...I understand."

"Then, early in the twentieth century in Brazil, a high school dropout named Carlos Mirabelli had even more amazing paranormal powers than DD Home. It all started when he was working as a shoe clerk and objects started flying around him in the store. Doctors declared him insane and threw him into an asylum, but in his cell Mirabelli started producing living bodies of people who had been dead for years, and they were actually examined by Mirabelli's doctors before disappearing back into thin air. The doctors were so shocked that they declared Carlos sane and he was released..."

She paused to study the reaction on Dante's face. This time Dante had enough sense to feign interest. He gave her a thoughtful nod and she continued.

"Word of his powers spread throughout Brazil. Once, in front of hundreds of witnesses in broad daylight, a top medical doctor examined the physical embodiment of a dead friend--a drowned bishop--by actually touching parts of his body before he dematerialized...Other witnesses saw Mirabelli levitate an automobile to a height of six feet off the ground, and he soon became so famous that the President of Brazil actually ordered a special school set up the study his amazing paranormal powers--the Academia de Estudos Psychicos. Mirabellis was studied for years by thousands of experts and scientists who actually photographed the famous dead people he materialized...But when reports of Mirabelli's amazing powers spread around the world, European and American scientists ignored them because Mirabelli's powers violated all their scientific dogma, and Brazil's scientific status in the international community was considered to be so low."

Dante tried to keep his mouth shut, but he couldn't help himself--

"So here's another real guy who could materialize the souls of dead people, fly through the air and move things around with his mind in broad daylight!"

"Yes, that's it exactly."

"Rose, I have be honest with you. This stuff is all very hard to believe, and I—I'm afraid some of the kids in your class—and maybe even your teacher--will laugh, or even get mad you."

She stared at him without a trace of emotion, and her voice was quite patient.

"Really? Maybe they could call Brazil and ask some kind of historical society whether Carlos Mirabelli and the Academia de Estudos Psychicos really existed--but I don't think that would make any difference to some people, would it?"

Dante's face suddenly turned red and he quickly dropped his eyes. He avoided looking at the expression on her face as she angrily snapped back--

"Or maybe they could just Google it!"

Dante now realized that he had placed his foot so deep into his mouth that the girl he was crazy about now hated him--something he managed to accomplish in less than five minutes!

But to his complete surprise, Rose Moon edged even closer to him, and now her voice was a sweet whisper...

"Do you know why I'm giving this speech?"

Dante kept his mouth shut.

"Because I'm half Brazilian."

"--Really?"

"Yes. My father is an American Indian and he married a woman from Sao Paolo. We lived in Brazil when I was a child."

"Wow--that's great!"

"And there's something else..."

"What?"

"Carlos Mirabelli was my uncle."

"You're kidding! You mean you saw all the weird things he could do?"

"Oh, no. He died in a car crash in 1951 before I was born...But I know his paranormal powers were real."

She looked at Dante a moment, then turned her attention to the front of the bus.

"Have you ever noticed how Kathy Conners always sits next to Mr. O'Donnell, just brushing her hair?"

"Yeah, I think she has a crush on him."

"Let me show you something...see that book on the seat right next to her?"

"Yeah?"

"Just give it a little nudge so it falls onto the floor."

"You mean just walk up and knock it off her seat?"

"No, no--just concentrate real hard and nudge the book onto the floor--you can do it!"

Dante just stared at her.

"Come on--you can do it!"

Dante turned and looked at Kathy Connors' book.

"Are you afraid?"

"Afraid--of what?"

"That you might actually do it!"

Dante hated being called a chicken. He sat upright in his seat and concentrated as hard as he could on Kathy Connors' book...

--Suddenly it started moving--and then fell onto the floor!

Dante gasped!

But he wasn't shocked by the fact that the book had just fallen onto the floor--

It's what happened after the book fell onto the floor that nearly gave him a heart attack!

Kathy Connors had been brushing her hair when the book started moving off her seat, and when she saw it, she suddenly forgot about her brush and made a desperate lunge to catch the book before it hit the floor...

And as she did, her brush kept on gently stroking her hair--with no one holding it!

Kathy was so preoccupied with picking up her book that after she put it back on her seat, she just took hold of her brush again and continued brushing her hair, as if nothing had happened...

Nobody else noticed. As usual, Mr. O'Donnell's eyes were focused on the road, and the Reichart sisters were still busy texting.

Dante stared at Rose Moon--and again started sweating. He had only known the girl he loved for a few minutes--but it was already very clear that she was even more crazy and spooky than Uncle Earl!

"You know...you are one scary Brazilian!"

She laughed.

"And do you know why I'm trusting you to keep my secret?"

"Why?"

"Because no one would believe you anyway--they'd think you're crazy!"

"Thanks a lot! But what if you showed your powers to the world--you'd be famous! You'd make millions!

Rose Moon stopped smiling. She turned and looked at him.

"You haven't been listening, have you? The first way to spot a phony paranormal is if they get rich with their 'special powers'. A real paranormal knows that their powers are to help others, not get rich, and if they try to do that, something bad will happen, or they'll lose their gifts...Aunt Mirabelli warned me never to use my own powers unless I have to because I'll draw attention to myself and bad things will happen. I'll be treated like a freak and scientists will want to stick pins in me 24/7--or I'll be arrested and they'll turn me into some kind of superfreak warrior of mass destruction--or worse, I'll be locked up in an insane asylum like Uncle Carlos, and--"

Suddenly Rose Moon stopped talking. She stiffened and sat bolt upright in her seat--and then her face turned white as a ghost!

"Did you feel that?"

"What?"

Suddenly she jumped up out of her seat and started racing up the aisle to the front of the bus, screaming at the top of her lungs--

"Stop the bus!! Stop the bus!!"

She stopped next to Mr. O'Donnell. Dante could see the look of sheer terror on her face.

"Mr. O'Donnell--you have to stop the bus right now, please! We're all in terrible danger!"

Unlike the other girls on the bus, Mr. O'Donnell knew Rose Moon to be a quiet, serious student, so he patiently listened to her warning...

"Settle down, Rose."

Without another word, the bus slowed down and pulled over onto a grassy roadside clearing.

The second the bus stopped, Rose Moon jumped out the front door.

Mr. O'Donnell was right behind her as she looked back and screamed at the others--.

"Dante--you and the others have to get off the bus--right now!"

Everyone else, including Dante, was too stunned to even move, but Mr. O'Donnell calmly walked over to Rose Moon's side. The Reichart sisters had jumped across the aisle to the seat closest to the window so they could see what was going on, but Mr. O'Donnell quickly took Rose away from the bus and started talking to her. No one could hear what they were saying, but it was clear from the expression on her face that Rose was terrified of something. She was gesturing and pointing back at the bus as she spoke, and once or twice Mr. O'Donnell looked back over his shoulder to see if everything was all right.

An emotional outburst like that was the last thing Dante expected from Rose Moon, but after seeing what was probably just a taste of her paranormal powers, he was dying to find out what was making her so upset...

Did she feel something hit the bus?

Or was there some other danger that only she could sense?

Dante looked over at the seemingly endless cornfield behind Mr. O'Donnell and Rose Moon, and a sudden breeze kicked up, sending an eerie ripple through the corn, like something invisible was moving through it...

Finally Rose Moon settled down. Whatever Mr. O'Donnell was saying to her was working. He walked her over to the side of the road and sat her down on a large boulder. She still looked distraught, but Mr. O'Donnell had apparently convinced her that everything was all right.

Dante noticed that Dolores Reinhart was talking on her cell phone and giggling. Her sister was gossiping about Rose Moon's bizarre behavior with the cocker spaniel, who was still brushing her hair--great sport for a usually boring morning bus ride!

Suddenly Dante had a great idea! An impish smile crossed his face, then he pushed up the window just as Mr. O'Donnell returned to fix the tire.

"I think she's right, Mr. O'Donnell--I smell gas! I think you better check it out!"

"Gas? What gas? I don't smell any gas! Does anyone else smell any gas?"

Dolores Reichart pointed toward the back of the bus.

"Just Dante!"

Everyone laughed--except Rose Moon.

"I'm serious, Mr. O'Donnell. You better check it out--Razor's Edge is right up the road!"

The Razor's Edge was a steep, downhill curve carved out of solid rock from an old quarry. On one side was a sheer rock wall and on the other side was a flimsy guardrail, separated by barely enough room for two cars. Beyond the guardrail was a hundred foot drop straight down into Razor Ravine. The Razor's Edge also had nasty curves that made oncoming cars almost impossible to see in time and it was exactly one mile long. That made it an irresistible challenge for high school daredevils trying to set a "Razor King" speed record on a drunken Saturday night. After the third fatality the state police decided to stop airlifting the mangled car wrecks out of the ravine--and it seemed to work because since then only one rusty Chevy could be seen as a gruesome warning sign, smashed to a pulp on the rocks far below.

Mr. O'Donnell shook his head, then collapsed against the spare tire. He knew it would be foolish to take a risk--any risk when it came to Razor Run.

"All right, all right! All of you get out of the bus. I'll take a look."

Everyone got out of the bus, walked over and sat down on the boulder next to Rose Moon.

Dante was enjoying himself tremendously. The sky had cleared and now it was a warm, beautiful morning with fat insects humming around the cornfield--he might even pick up a little tan in the warm morning sunlight. He tossed his backpack down onto the ground and stretched out on the grass, watching the cell phone twins notify America of the crisis while the cocker spaniel rushed over to join Mr. O'Donnell. Rose Moon got up off the boulder and walked around to the front of the bus, inspecting it for damage. Suddenly Dante felt relieved. Whatever had been bothering her was now apparently gone and she was back to her normal, detached, beautiful self...

He expelled a deep sigh of relief. He probably should have been a lot more shocked and excited over Rose Moon's amazing paranormal powers, but the truth was that he had already seen some of Uncle Earl's experiments with electromagnetic fields--including levitation--that would make most people faint on the spot!

Maybe Uncle Earl was right when he said, "There's so much bullflop in the world, I'm amazed we're all not wearing goulashes!"

Anyway, he was ecstatic over the fact that he finally met the girl of his dreams--and except for the fact that she was a completely crazy superwoman, he was even more madly in love with her than ever!

Dante chuckled. He never knew that causing such a commotion could be so much fun! If he was lucky, he might even miss his first hour history class. With his head resting on his backpack, he yawned, took one last look at Rose Moon, and clasped his hands over his chest, hoping to catch a quick catnap in the warm morning sun...

But then Dante heard Mr. O'Donnell curse--he'd snagged his thumb on something under the hood--and it suddenly occurred to him that the big, humorless Viet Nam vet might do something seriously unpleasant when he found out that there never was any gas leak.

"You have it."

Startled, Dante opened his eyes. Suddenly he found himself staring straight up at Rose Moon. She was standing right next to him, staring down at him with deeply troubled, haunting green eyes. He had no absolutely idea what she was talking about.

"What?"

"The glimmering. You have it, don't you?"

Dante propped himself up on his elbow and looked up at her. The sun was almost directly behind her head, playing tricks of light and shadow across her face. He still didn't know what she was talking about, but just having her so close to him again--actually knowing that he existed--nearly made his heart jump out of his chest. The last thing he was going to do was deny having some oddball Indian rash called "the glimmering," no matter how contagious, and have her walk back out of his life...

He faked his best wounded dachshund look and dropped his eyes.

"I...I guess."

Rose Moon just kept staring at him with her immensely sad green eyes, almost like she felt sorry for him.

"Look around you, Dante. The air isn't fit to breathe, the water isn't fit to drink-- millions of families are out in the street--and millions of animals are dying all over the world, but nobody knows why--frogs, bees--thousands of birds are falling from the sky with their heads smashed, like they flew straight into some kind of invisible wall...Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis--darkness is spreading over the waters, destroying oceans--but nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care!"

She paused and looked up at the sky with an almost frightened expression.

"A blind man can see that the Great Spirit is getting fed up, and something very, very bad is coming our way...can you feel it?"

Dante's heart was now thumping like a hammer, but he still didn't know what to say.

The only thing he knew for sure was that he definitely wasn't going to start a religious argument with the girl he loved!

"Yes--yes I can!"

Rose Moon just kept staring down at him without saying a word...

"--Hey, look at this!"

Everyone turned to see Mr. O'Donnell crawling out from under the school bus. He was smiling and holding up his hand--which was completely covered with bright red brake fluid!

"Hey, Dante--no gas leak, but you were right! If we drove over the Razor's Edge with this busted brake line, we'd all be goners..."

He reached under the bus and pulled out a long piece of sharp, odd-shaped metal.

"We ran over this--it must have hit the bus and cut the brake line. If Dante hadn't warned me, right now all of us would be at the bottom of Razor Ravine!"

Everyone stared in shock at the news, first at the oddly shaped piece of sharp metal, then at Dante...

Suddenly Rose Moon rushed over, flung her arms around him and gave him the biggest kiss in the world!

Mr. O'Donnell got to his feet and flung the piece of sharp metal far into a cornfield. Then he looked at Rose Moon kissing Dante. He laughed, then suddenly started applauding...

The Reichert sisters and the cocker spaniel were still in shock--but suddenly they all snapped out of it and also broke out into laughter and wild applause.






CHAPTER 3

The Well of Souls


The evening of that same day when Dante Wilson and Rose Moon were nearly killed on their way to school, a strange phenomenon occurred deep in the Blue Quarry

Woods that would have been of great interest to Uncle Earl...

In the midst of the woods was a small grassy area that looked very much like a golf green, but much smaller--more like a miniature golf green--and it was so well concealed among the trees that it was almost impossible to see.

Late that night under a full moon the ground beneath this small grass green began to shake. Nearby several leaves from an oak tree fell to the ground and a cluster of blue daffodils quivered in the moonlight. Then the ground suddenly stopped shaking. Now, however, in the middle of the small grassy area was a small dark hole that, coincidentally, also looked like a golf hole. However, this was no ordinary golf hole. A closer look revealed that the hole had very smooth stone sides, and looking down into this tiny well revealed a surprising world filled with swirling shadows and dazzling flecks of brightly colored gold, red and purple lights, all of which was like looking down into a long, wonderful kaleidoscope...

A moth fluttered over the grass green, apparently attracted by the flickering lights inside the well. It circled above the lights for a moment, then started descending downward in a spiral...

However, as the moth slowly moved closer to the lights in its cautious, herky-jerky spiral, it became noticeably smaller and smaller until finally it completely disappeared into the swirling lights and shadows of the mysterious well!

--But then, suddenly, as though the well itself were somehow rejecting even the smallest fluttering moth, one of the specks of light jumped out of the well onto the grass green like a bright spark of fire. The spark quickly went out, and the tiny well again became a deep, silent pool of shadows and flickering lights.

But the dead spark on the golf green wasn't dead after all. It was growing--at first no larger than a pinhead, then a grain of sand, a crumb of bread--and after only a few minutes, the shadowy, transparent outline of a living creature appeared, small at first, then larger and larger, until finally, incredibly, standing in the middle of the tiny golf green was the flickering ghost image of a large, black cat!

The cat's name was General Wormwood, and the shimmering golf green hole was actually the Well of Souls, the prototype for an interdimensional starcraft created by Professor Herman Von Neumann and his corps of dead Nazi scientists. This magical ship was made with the Professor's special carbolytic ectoplasm, and it was really a shadowy neon metropolis--an exact duplicate of Las Vegas--that could carry the souls of millions of sturmgeist warriors...

Once tested and finished, this amazing ship could change shape from the tiniest of living creatures to the size of a mighty starship that would burst through the veil barrier and land on earth with millions of demon warriors...

The Trickster had been condemned to Winterland by the Almighty Lord and Creator of the Universe, the Light Master. Although he was never quite sure why he had been banished to such a hellish place, he suspected that the Light Master was upset with him for starting World War I, and then a few years later, advising Adolph Hitler about certain dark psychic secrets that led to the successful invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II.

But the truth is that as a young, strong demigod, the Trickster thought he would live forever--and the last thing he ever believed in was another world after death!

What was the lesson learned here?

Life is full of surprises--but death is a lot worse!

But even after being condemned to the nightmarish place called Winterland, the Trickster was still a rebel, and he was convinced that he could break through the veil barrier and return to earth if he obeyed the Light Master's own rules--the universal laws of physics. And in order to do this, he had enlisted the services of Professor Herman Von Neumann, the spirit of Hitler's top weapons scientist. When alive on earth, the Professor and his team of Nazis scientists had developed the world's first fighter jet, the Messerschmitt 262, that Hitler could have used to win World War II, but didn't.

However, virtually nothing seemed to penetrate the veil barrier except the highly charged spirit ectoplasm of a few Haitian voodoo priests that the Nazis kept locked up in firecages for harvesting...

And it was from this rare voodoo priest ectoplasm that the Professor and his team of dead Nazi scientists built the prototype for the amazing Well of Souls.

At first, Professor Von Neumann and his colleagues enjoyed what seemed like limited success by hurling ectoplasmic missiles through the veil barrier to earth at near light speed, killing millions of birds, fish, and other animals, and triggering dozens of earthquakes and tsunamis. They even succeeded in blowing up an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that was still destroying the oceans.

The Trickster hated science and rarely ventured into Professor Von Neumann's laboratory. In fact, he thought that his arch enemy, the Light Master, was responsible for all this earthly havoc as punishment for mankind's relentless destruction of his once beautiful planet...

But then one of his many spies informed him that Professor Von Neumann's Nazi scientists were firing light speed missiles to earth just for the fun of watching all the horrific destruction and the deaths of millions of animals and people.

When the Trickster discovered what his "scientific" Nazi team was up to, he exploded with rage! He wanted to return to a sunny, green earth filled with plenty of strip joints, bars and wild beach resorts before mankind destroyed it--and he didn't need his own team of dead Nazi scientists wrecking the place even more!

He had all the Nazi demons rounded up and shackled up to their necks in the lava pits of the Black Fires of Despond. Overhead were the circling spirits of prehistoric terrordactyls--diving down to rip off their screaming Nazi heads if they were too slow to duck back down into the boiling lava pits....

But then the Nazis' heads would soon reappear, and the same horrible cycle would begin all over again.

Professor Von Neumann burst into tears and groveled at the Trickster's feet when he learned of his fellow scientists' fate. He said that there would be no more tomfoolery, and he swore the same loyalty to the Trickster that he had for Mein Fuhrer

Recently, the Professor informed the Trickster that he had found a weak spot in the veil barrier that separated the world of the living from Winterland--some mumbo jumbo about the intersection point of the earth's magnetic grids--and with his still incomplete prototype for the Well of Souls, he had successfully captured a snake, several moths and other small insects, and one very large brown bear in the only place on earth that he could use as his experimental playground...

A place called the Blue Quarry Woods on the Wilson farm in Iowa.

Under the Trickster's watchful eye, the Professor's first experiment was to transport a small animal through the Well of Souls to the Blue Quarry Woods, and then it would move on to its real target in Madison, Wisconsin. In this case the animal was a shadow creature by the name of General Wormwood, a black, yellow-eyed Nebelung cat. This phantom cat had a flesh and blood twin cat here on earth, whose name was simply "General. "

Before the Light Master condemned him to Winterland, the Trickster led many different lives on earth, from an ancient Norse raider to a Carthaginian prince...

But in each lifetime for thousands of years--after creating as much havoc and mayhem as possible--he was forced to move on to another country and another life as those around him grew older, withered and died, while he remained young and devilishly handsome.

And the one thing he learned throughout his wonderfully destructive run on earth was that the higher the stakes, the fewer people he could trust.

In fact, he knew he that could never trust a non-Aryan to get a bad day's work done, and he deeply regretted having to rely on any human being--dead or alive--for his latest experiment.

Perhaps the Trickster's most painful lesson in human betrayal took place in 1914 when World War I almost never took place because he had too much faith in his fellow man. On that fateful day, the Trickster was Archduke Franz Ferdinand's personal chauffeur, driving him from the train station in Sarajevo, and even though he drove the Archduke past twenty-one fully armed Serbian assassins on the way to city hall, not one of them fired a single shot! The day was saved only after the Archduke left city hall and the Trickster was back behind the wheel. He deliberately made a wrong turn in order to park the Archduke's motor car right in front of one of the assassins, who finally woke up, jumped up onto the running board and finished off the job at point blank range!

Only the Trickster's quick thinking had turned a near disaster into a howling success--the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand sparked the First World War and the deaths of millions!

Of course the Trickster had been betrayed many times before the Sarajevo incident, but after the Archduke's assassination, he tried to avoid counting on people as much as possible, even though he had not one, but many living soul mates right here on earth. In fact, when he was in a lighter mood (which was rare) he warmly called these kindred souls his "wunderkinder," which means "wonderful children," or sometimes just "mein kinder," or "my children," all of whom were blessed with the Trickster's own particularly dark brand of geistmacht, an extraordinary power of the mind and spirit that set them apart from other mortals.

Many of these wunderkinder were wealthy leaders who were destroying the earth and mankind alike with their greed. But even though they often called on the Trickster's powers to succeed with their evil deeds, they ridiculed Winterland and the Light Master alike, and believed that life after death in either Winterland or Summerland was a bad joke for weak fools.

In fact, these inflated fools were worse that atheists--they were blind, selfish metheists who only believed that they themselves, the richest, most powerful men on earth were the only true gods in the universe.

Nothing infuriated the Trickster more than a mortal who thought he was more evil than he was. He therefore considered all these self-proclaimed "Masters of the Universe" as challengers to his throne the moment they died and stepped foot in Winterland...

He always prepared a special reception for these consummately evil mortals, and visited them on their deathbeds, where he patiently waited for them to die...

And when they finally did die, he would relish their bloodcurdling shrieks of terror when they suddenly woke up again to find themselves all alone in a place of terrifying darkness!

And this was no ordinary darkness. It was the darkest realm of Winterland in the caves of Mount Golgotha, and it was teeming with black, writhing souls that lived beneath rocks and were invisible in the night--slithery creatures with ravenous teeth that did horrible things no Bible could ever begin to describe...

At first these hungry denizens relished the screams of their fresh prey, allowing him to scream and wander alone in the darkness, crying like a baby for hours--or perhaps days--and all the while they would tenderly whisper, paw and nip at him, like a cat toying with a mouse...

And then, quite suddenly, their victim's screams would paint the sky as the feeding began...

And when the feeding was finished, the soul of their most tasty Master of the Universe would rematerialize again, start screaming, and the same horrible cycle would begin all over again.

The Trickster was equally amused by the blindness of this petty race that fancied itself the pinnacle of intelligence in the universe, crowned with the unshakable belief that the billionaires, celebrities and other neon gods they worshiped were the only gods, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For decades millions of voices of dead people had been electronically recorded by ghost hunters around the world for their own foolish entertainment, along with myriad other devices that recorded more and more dead spirits each year--not to mention the increasing number of White Light and Black Hell Near Death Experiences that patients who had died on the operating table swore as gospel to their deaf healers, who had just brought them back from the dead...

Yes, the human race was destroying both itself and the earth, and it was turning further and further away from the Light Master--and as the earth's rulers continued to spread their evil faith around the world, the Trickster's powers grew as well, and he was doing everything possible to help mankind on its merry road to slavery and extinction by escaping from the bleak dump he had been condemned to--a place filled with the obnoxiously evil souls of crackheads, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, politicians and billionaires who had absolutely no sense of humor, and actually thought they were still alive!

In sharp contrast, however, the wealthy, corrupt leaders who now owned planet earth were doing such a masterful job of enslaving billions of peasants that the Trickster's greatest fear was that one of these leaders would start a nuclear war and destroy the world!

If this happened, Winterland would be overrun with so many souls of earth's supremely evil rulers and their vile peasant servants that they could easily topple the Trickster's empire!

For example, during the bellicose reign of Emperor Bush, the Trickster trembled at the thought that some jackass scientist from Southern Cal or Oxford might be studying the multiverse and accidently discover that Winterland really exists!

If this happened, it would only be a matter of time before Emperor Bush's vice president, the frighteningly evil Lucifer Cheney, would discover that Winterland has an almost endless supply of slave labor soul workers (whose only compensation was pain), a 100% toxic environment (no environmental regulations), vast coal deposits near Mount Golgotha (a Cock brothers' paradise), and even larger oil reserves in the province of El Diablo (oil was of no commercial value in Winterland, and the Trickster used it only sparingly to boil especially irritating souls).

Once this happened, Lucifer Cheney would quickly forget about the sweetheart oil deals he made for Halliburton in Iraq, and would instruct Emperor Bush to start beating the war drums for the immediate invasion of Winterland--a land that Emperor Bush would then proclaim to the American sheeple was as an Al Qaeda rat's nest, and an imminent threat to the United States!

After that, the Trickster knew it would only be a matter of time before some of America's supremely greedy owners would appropriate whatever Congressional funds were necessary to build a fleet of interdimensional warships to invade Winterland and overthrow the Al Qaeda monster, the Trickster.

In short, the Trickster had no time to waste--he had to immediately mount a preemptive strike against America!

And even though Winterland remained undiscovered during the reign of Emperor Bush, the Trickster knew that he had no time to lose--and the General Wormwood experiment was his first great hope for success.

He wasted no time in instantly transporting the flickering spirit of General Wormwood to its target, the pet housecat that lay fast asleep at the foot of his master's bed in Madison, Wisconsin. The earthly cat barely stirred as the Trickster's shadowcat arrived at its side and then, like the transparent, supernatural creature it was, moved over and settled comfortably into the ordinary cat's body. A moment later the old cat was gone and the new General Wormwood had jumped up onto the bed where Governor Snake Walker lay fast asleep.

The Trickster had chosen the Snake to become his first ubergeist, or supreme earth commander, because he knew that once his Winterland commanders--Attila, Hannibal and Genghis to name only a few--and their vast sturmgeist legions passed through the veil barrier and set foot in the Blue Quarry Woods, they would all become ordinary mortals again--and helpless as babies!

The reason for this was that the Light Master (for obvious reasons) had put a tight lid on the Trickster's powers. Lately, however, as the human race turned further and further away from the Light Master, the Trickster felt his powers escalating, and though these powers still fell far short of those of a true god, he felt confident that he could keep his demon mortals on a short leash once they returned to earth...

But that still wouldn't solve the problem that would face his sturmgeist legions once they set foot in the Blue Quarry Woods with no special powers, no food, no weapons, and above all, no weapons to march on Washington!

The Trickster's ubergeist generals were not happy when they received this news--until the stately spirit of General Benedict Arnold stood up and addressed the entire assemblage...

In his impeccable uniform and elegant British accent, General Arnold quietly explained that everyone already knew American politicians were doing a far better job of destroying America than any Al Qaeda army could ever do, and therefore it was far better to own a few dozen Congressmen than it was to own a few dozen nuclear warheads!

The moment General Arnold finished his speech, the Great Hall fell dead silent.

Then the towering spirit of Genghis Khan, still in full battle gear, slowly stood up and began applauding...

Within seconds the entire ubergeist assemblage of the most brutal mass murderers in history was on its feet, extolling General Arnold's speech with thunderous applause!

Therefore the matter was settled. The Trickster knew he couldn't trust any of his ubergeists, sturmgeists or anyone else in Winterland to get the job done, so he would have to personally oversee Professor Von Neumann, who would turn his full attention to sending the control spirit of a black Nibelung cat take over the body of Governor Snake Walker of Wisconsin..

Once this experiment was successful, Governor Snake Walker--under direct control of The Trickster--would recruit as many Republican and Democratic governors, Congressmen, and vile billionaires as possible to join him in his conquest of America and the world.

When they arrived, the Trickster's ambassadors would tell their Congressional counterparts that they come in peace and wanted only to serve man (preferably filleted and marinated), and to prove his good faith, the Trickster himself would sign a peace pact with them for a "multi-trillion dollar global development project", that would unite the world under the domination of the richest and most powerful men in America and the Trickster.

The Trickster loved American politics, especially the way Republicans and Democrats alike used their wonderful new digicrack toys--television, the internet and all sorts of other addictive media--to keep the peasant masses numb, dumb and high by snorting endless lines of lies and pure funfun!

Even the ubergeist spirits of history's most successful butchers--Attila, Hannibal and the Khan boys--were in awe of the way these foolish toys so masterfully kept the masses in line with a magical brew of fear, hatred and escapist entertainment.

.The Trickster could see the pain in Attila the Hun's eyes as he slowly realized that the sword and axe he so dearly loved were now as obsolete as a pair of old sandals.

So the Trickster had a tough decision to make. Now he could choose from an endless buffet of evil Republicans and Democrats--even though for decades he had a special place in his heart for the Republican Party, which he affectionately called, "My Party of Evil," for its relentless attacks on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unions, education, children's benefits, benefits for the poor, elderly, along with any other peasant benefit that took a dime away from the rich rulers of America.

What especially amazed the Trickster about his much beloved Republican wunderkinder was the way that the peasant masses--whose lives they were relentlessly destroying--kept on re-electing them year after year!

And their campaign tactics were devilishly simple. All a Republican had to do to be re-elected was to whip up huge digicrack tidal waves of hatred against his Democratic opponent for being a gay, pro-Muslim, pro-immigrant, anti-business, greedy, abortionist, spendthrift socialist.

In secret, these Republican candidates had been well schooled by their evil billionaire bosses like the Cock brothers, who preached their own Golden Rule--

"Never underestimate the stupidity of the American hooplehead!"

But lately, the Trickster was also starting to root for the Democrats, who under President Bubba Gump Clinton, had also taken a giant step forward in destroying America by handing over top secret hardware, software and millions of jobs to China and Mexico—not to mention eliminating the last regulations that kept the go-go Wall Street crooks in check.

Without any laws to control these masterful thieves, a financial disaster of epic proportions was of course inevitable, and a few years later, Emperor Bush--with the help of both Republican and Democratic Congressional snaketalkers (who were all duly bought and paid for)--handed over a welfare check to the crooks of Wall Street for billions of dollars, courtesy of the American peasant. They quickly cashed this check, and then handed themselves billions of dollars in bonuses from the same pot with a gleeful toast to the memory of John F. Kennedy—

"Ask not what you can do for your country--ask what your country can do for you!"

The Trickster was in awe of such men, and had a special place in Winterland reserved for all of them.

--And of course there was also President Osama Bin Obama, a Republican in sheep's clothing, who also did everything possible to help destroy America by winning the hearts of white, Latino and black peasants alike with his election cry of "Change! Change! Change!"--until the peasants all realized that he meant changing everything from bad to worse.

So even though it was a tough call, the Trickster finally selected the Republican, Governor Snake Walker of Wisconsin...

Over a century ago, one of the Trickster's most beloved wunderkinder, Jay Gould, the greatest of all Robber Barons, boasted--

"I can hire half the American workers to kill the other half!"

And the Trickster could think of no one else who could make Americans hate each other more than Governor Snake Walker.

Even though a budget surplus had been predicted for Wisconsin, as soon as he was elected, the Snake created a deficit by slyly passing (in subzero temperatures so the hoopleheads wouldn't notice) hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for his crony corporations!

He then threw the blame for the deficit on his real targets--public unions and their "greedy" teachers and public employees.

Millions of Wisconsin peasants--who knew it was a lot more fun to hate each other than think--and took great redneck pride in the hilarious delusion that they were on the same team as the billionaire owners of America--fell for the scheme hook, line and sinker.

Governor Snake Walker then made headlines across America--headlines that inspired dozens of other Republican governors to pull off the same supremely evil scam to help reduce the American peasant to the slave status that he and his billionaire pals desperately needed to make themselves even more rich and powerful.

. In short, the Wisconsin "budget deficit" scam was such a masterful display of sheer snaketalk that the Trickster had absolutely no idea how to reward the Governor once he died and arrived in Winterland!

(Of course when the time came, he would think of something very special.)

Because Governor Walker was one of the most evil politicians in America, he was the perfect candidate to recruit some of his billionaire pals and corrupt Congressional leaders to help the Trickster conquer the world.

Once they became the Trickster's partners, these Congressional wunderkinder would then again sell out America. The President and Washington would whip up another giant tidal wave of fear and send it out across the land with the warning to the American sheeple that unless federal funding for their allies from another dimension was immediately approved, the entire economy would collapse overnight!

The Snake and his Congressional partners would explain to the peasant masses that these new interdimensional immigrants needed federal aid in order to get them back on their feet, and this in turn would provide a critically needed economic stimulus that would not only save the economy and create more jobs, but would also mean greater national security for all Americans!

Of course there were a few other minor problems. When the average sturmgeist warrior returned to earth, he would stand over seven feet tall, had the disposition of a wild boar, a pair of black horns protruding from his forehead, and preferred to eat a meal while it was still alive.

In addition, many of these warriors would still be wearing their ancient battle gear, ranging from Norse bear skin and fur boots, to the leather armor and scimitar of the Mongolian hordes, to a Roman cuirass with leg shields.

Of the more contemporary warriors, the standouts would be the resurrected spirits of dead Nazis, who still wore their dashing black SS uniforms, officer caps with silver death skulls, and swastika armbands--which the Trickster realized might provoke a certain amount of animosity in some American circles.

To counter any hostility that some Americans might have toward his sturmgeist warriors, the Trickster planned to have Governor Snake Walker and his Congressional partners issue a national security alert, pointing out that any hate crimes against illegal aliens from another dimension was a felony, punishable by death.

But of course all these precautions would become academic once the Trickster's sturmgeist legions received federal funding to buy weapons, armor and attack jets. Then the Trickster would immediately break his pact with his Congressional partners by unleashing billions of evil souls from the black depths of human history that would swarm across the Midwest, killing and eating everything in sight on their march to Washington.

In short, Professor Herman Von Neumann's experiment with General Wormwood was critical for the Trickster's successful return to earth....

But he also knew that good workers in Winterland were as hard to find as a nun in a whorehouse, so he could only shake his head and wonder what stupid blunder would pop up next...

And he wasn't disappointed.

At first the plan was very simple. General Wormwood would eat Governor Walker and take over his body. When the Trickster asked Professor Von Neumann why General Wormwood's soul couldn't simply enter the Governor's body like it did with the Governor's cat instead of eating him, the old physicist became quite upset and snapped back in his thick German accent--

"Leave the physics to me!"

The Trickster had a suspicion that having General Wormwood eat the Governor while he was sleeping wasn't really necessary at all, and that Herman came up with the idea just because he liked it. But Herman insisted, so General Wormwood went to work...

Even the Trickster was amazed when General Wormwood started nibbling on the Governor's toes. Ordinarily nibbling on someone's toes would at least wake him up, but the Governor remained fast asleep, and General Wormwood's mouth simply grew larger and longer, like a soft, tight-fitting glove, until after a few minutes General Wormwood's head and most of his neck was stretching out tightly over both the Governor's feet and most of his legs. At that point the Trickster expected the Governor to wake up screaming--but he remained fast asleep--

And then, suddenly out of nowhere, all of Winterland began rocking with one of the Trickster's favorite songs--the double-time version of Shakin' All Over by The Who!

And as soon as the song began, Governor Walker's sleeping body actually started smiling and dancing, like he was actually enjoying being swallowed and wriggling down into the body of a giant black cat!

The Trickster stared at his chief Nazi physicist. Professor Von Neumann's eyes were now lighting up with a clearly unprofessional gleam as he stared at the Governor being swallowed alive by a cat--and at that moment the Trickster suddenly realized that the Nazi scientist was not focusing on the proper goal of the experiment!

"Herman, the transfer--when is the transfer?"

The plump little physicist raised a forefinger to his lip as though the Trickster were some rude hick interrupting the work of a great artist.

"Shhhhh--we are not yet finished!"

Even the Trickster had to admit that the Governor was putting on quite a show. Somehow Herman had managed to substitute extreme pleasure for extreme pain in the Governor's sleeping mind, and as the cat's enormous, stretching mouth slowly crept upward, "Snake's" entire body was soon nearly covered with a cat that looked more like a long snake that was swallowing a very large, extremely happy rat!

The Governor's head was the last to disappear--and to the Trickster's amazement, even at this last moment the Governor didn't wake up screaming. Instead his face was now practically bursting a bright red from what must have been a mixture of the intoxicating music and a truly wonderful dream. In fact, the wriggling dancing of his body down inside the General had gotten so ridiculously out of control that the cat's equally ridiculous, overstretched body was now nearly bouncing off the bed!

The Trickster had never seen anything like it--and when the last bit of the Governor's head finally disappeared inside the General, he just sat next to Herman, scratching his stubbly chin and wondering what was coming next.

Suddenly a loud, crackling blue wave of electricity rolled the entire length of the General's body, and for a split second the cat's skin became so thin that the distinct outline of the entire Governor could be seen inside him--as though he and the cat were finally becoming one, exactly as planned!

But then the wave of blue electricity suddenly collapsed and General Wormwood again became nothing more than a very long cat with far too much to eat.

The Trickster again stared at his chief physicist. Herman was impatiently gesturing for the Trickster to join him, concentrating their combined powers on the General--and, to the Trickster's amazement, the strategy seemed to work. Once again the crackling blue wave rolled the entire length of the General's body, and once again the cat's skin became so thin that the Governor could be seen inside him--and this time the electricity lingered for some time until after a few moments, it looked like the cat would completely disappear and become one with the squirming Governor . . .

But then, in an amazing split second, there was a loud cracking sound, and the Nibelung shadow cat suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke!

The Trickster stared in disbelief. The Senator had now stopped wriggling and was once again lying peacefully asleep on his bed, exactly as he had been when the General first appeared only a few minutes ago . . .

He scowled over at Professor Von Neumann--but the little Nazi physicist had also suddenly disappeared!

The Trickster clenched his fists and let out a stupendous roar of rage that shook all of Winterland--

"HERRMANNN!"

But the spirit of Professor Herman Von Newman was nowhere to be seen. His project had been completed--though perhaps not quite as successfully as planned--and suddenly he felt a strong, melancholy urge to travel.