Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble!     

( with apologies to the witches of ‘the Scottish play’ )

 

by

 

Linda Delaney

 

 

 

Slowly in the rising fog, the figure approached the door.

 

Walking was hard, very hard. He couldn’t help but drag his right leg. It hurt… or at least it seemed to hurt. In the cacophony that was this night of all nights, he had to find his place. There were candles and carved icons all over, spiders, spider webs and glowing objects of all description. He approached the door… slowly raising his hand to the large knocker, carved in the face of a gargoyle, he wrapped his claw around it and raised, then dropped it. The knocker hit the door with a loud clang, and the sound reverberated in the hall behind the door.

 

With aching slowness, the door swung open, creaking loudly, and revealing swirling smoke, a bubbling cauldron, and mice, rats and other unrecognizable creatures scurrying around. Slowly from behind the door, a hag appeared, dragging a broom. Her long grey hair was frazzled and wild, her nose hooking down to the middle of her lips. On her shoulder rested a large grey rat, the tail mixing in the layers of her flowing garb. She gestured him in , and he entered, followed by his minions, as they scooted around him, plunging into the dark recesses of the large house. The hag was about to close the door, as three other creatures came to the door, begging entrance. She merely nodded, and closed the door with a clang, as the three entered. She turned her head to the noise in the large room, as the first of the visitors, dragging his leg, moved toward the sounds.

 

Eerie shrieks filled the room accompanied by loud groans and cries. There was a huge cauldron bubbling smoke and steam, and around it stood all kinds of denizens of the dark. Demons, cats, vampires, witches and the like all waited in anxious anticipation for the ceremony to begin. In the background, stood even more larger and fearsome creatures... A werewolf, a mad scientist, the hag and her helper, two misshapen creatures, neither human or non-human, a mummy, a large oozing squid and several rather fearsome corpses. The newest member of the group moved closer, watching the smaller members at the cauldron. The more it bubbled, the more they chittered. Slowly, from the center of the pot, a mass began to emerge. As it got larger and larger, it became clear that it was a hand, grasping something… the smaller creatures got closer and closer, fascinated by the hand as it got larger and larger, its green color and malformed shape adding to the terror of the unknown thing in its hand. It continued to rise until it was fully extended out of the green-black ooze. With unbearable slowness, the hand opened, and revealed a key. The creature who had last arrived grabbed at the key, catching it in his claw.

 

He laughed, a loud fearsome laugh, and holding the key high above his head, shuffled to the large door with the huge padlock. As his claw tried to fit the key into the slot, he fought to hold the lock steady. Finally, he took the key into his more human like hand, and managed to fit it into the slot. He turned it slowly, waiting for the click. Gesturing to the smallest of the creatures that had followed him, he indicated that it should hold the lock steady. Finishing the turn, the lock clicked, and opened. The small creature lifted the lock from the hook in the door, and let it fall with a thud to the floor. The large creature pushed the door open with his clawed hand. Squeaking in protest, the doors opened, and revealed the contents within.

 

A banquet table was spread long, covered with candles, silver, and piles and dishes of food. The fireplace at the far end blazed, adding its light to the candlelight. With a shout, the small horde plunged into the room, finding places at the table, the larger creatures interspersed among them. AT the head of the table was the scientist, next to him the Hag. AT the far end, the creature that had lastly entered sat. Next to him, the hag’s assistant, and midway down the long table sat the others, the Mummy, the Squid and the corpses in the middle of all the smaller fiends. The Werewolf was nowhere to be seen.

 

Finally, the noise quieted, and the scientist waved for attention, his wild hair, and crazed expression bringing fear into the hearts of even these denizens. The words he spoke were simple enough… but those attending also knew that it meant their time on this plane was ending and soon another plane of existence would begin.  He cleared his voice, and spoke in a voice gravelly and gruff, “Happy Halloween!!! Dinner is served, but please try not to eat your neighbor!”

 

With squeals of delight, the children of the Nelson Institute Senior Staff, along with their friends, plunged into the delights of the Halloween feast. The Scientist, Chip Morton, and the Hag, his wife Matty, smiled at the youngsters. The half-human, half-fly at the other end of the table, extended a claw to the Hag’s assistant, and Karen Davis Nelson laughed at her husband, Harriman, in the costume of André Delambré.

 

She shook her head, "The things that we do for these children!"

 

Nelson laughed, his warm resonant voice filling the room, "And, my dear, the things that we do for ourselves!  For some odd reason, I do believe I'm enjoying this."

 

Karen shook her head, and watched as one of the corpses got up from the table and approached. "Yes, Lee?"

 

"My pager just went of. I’m going to use the phone in the library.He looked over at Nelson, "Just wanted you to know, it's from Tommy."

 

A page from Lt. Thomas Chin, the Institute’s Security Chief, was enough to raise the awareness level of any of those present. Lee Crane chose to quietly check on the call before sending all of the officers present scurrying to the boat.  He quietly left the room, only to return five minutes later. 

 

Bending close to Nelson, to be heard over the din in the room, he said, “Sir, there’s an alarm going off on the boat. Tommy doesn’t want to go aboard without one of us present. If you and Karen can see to Robert, I’m on my way.” He turned and left, walking quickly out the door, leaving Nelson speechless beneath the mask he wore.

 

He stood and then bent toward Karen, “Take care of the boys, I’m going with Lee.” And just as quickly, he turned and left.

 

Not far away, Chip Morton watched his friends leave, and then he too said a few words to Matty before he hustled out of the room to catch them. They were climbing into an Institute car as the Mummy came running out of the house and gently pushed Crane away from the Driver’s side of the car, with “Excuse me, sir. but I’m doin’ the driving.”
 

Lee acquiesced, sliding into the back seat next to Nelson, while Morton took ‘Shotgun’, next to the ‘Mummy’. Sharkey floored the motor and, leaning his head backward, asked, “The boat?”

 

Yes!” Crane and Nelson chorused. Both men were peeling at the makeup on their faces, acutely aware of how truly bizarre they all looked. Both said a silent prayer of thanks that at least they were on their ‘own ground’ as the car rapidly approached the dock of the Seaview. Sharkey screeched to a halt at the head of the gangway and the Senior officers of the boat made for the sail…

 

Standing on the deck, with Lt. Tommy Chin, was Tony Renault, the head of the Institute’s Development Department. Tony was leaning against the sail as he watched the car stop, and the most unlikely group emerged.

 

He slowly came to his full height, with his hands buried deep in his jeans pockets, and whistled long and slow… “Holy Shit!!!!”

 

The three Monsters, Mad Scientist, the Fly and the Corpse, saluted the colors as they came down the gangway, to greet the waiting men.

 

Rennalt gazed in wonder and amusement at the men in front of him, then simply shook his head.  “Damn, Harry, I thought I’d seen it all until tonight!!!! I gotta say, you three take the friggin’ cake. I don’t know what you all look like, althought death warmed over might just cover it!!”

 

Nelson managed a rueful but dignified smile. “I’m just glad there's no photographers around. The press, especially one particularly friendly reporter, would have a field day with this.”

 

Tony shared his lazy grin with the men, “Yep...and no doubt the sonofabitch'd really enjoy it, too.  Anything to embarrass you and everybody here.”

 

Edgy with the talk between the two men, but also aware of the fact they needed to talk, Lee Crane approached Chin and talked quietly with him.  Chip stood several steps behind, quietly listening to the two men as the discussed the situation.  Finally, Crane turned to Nelson. “Admiral, Tommy says that the smoke alarm has been going off in Officer’s Country. It’s been checked out for malfunctions by the emergency work crew, but no one can find what’s causing it to go off. And it seems to be centered in your cabin.”

 

Peeling off the last of the ‘fly’ makeup, Nelson shrugged. “Well, gentlemen, it's been said by someone more famous than I will ever be, ‘A good defense is to have a good offense, so...let’s get offensive!’“  He turned to Tony, “C’mon, you old landlubber you, let's just see what my cabin holds.”

 

Renault nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and followed Crane, Nelson and Morton into the hatch of the sail.  They took the gangway from the sail into the Control Room, and in a line, as if they were children playing follow the leader, moved through the silent Room to the spiral gangway that led to Officer’s country and A deck. At one point, Sharkey leaned over to Chin and whispered, “I don’t like this, Lieutenant. I don’t like it one bit at all.”

 

Chin, his eyes carefully following his CO and the rest of the Senior Staff, only grunted in acknowledgement. He didn’t want the COB to know that he roundly supported the older man’s feelings. If Tommy Chin had had his way, none of them would be on the boat now nor would they be hunting some short in the electrical system that had to be there, but wasn’t showing up on any checks that had been done so far.  Of course, the fact that the officers of the Seaview looked like they stepped out of a horror movie, didn’t help his feelings of discomfiture. He was a man firmly grounded in reality. He had never been on the boat when she had one of her fantastic adventures. He’d heard the scuttlebutt, but believed none of what he didn’t see. Oh, he’d seen some strange things when the boat returned to port, but he could easily rationalize a lot of it away.  He sighed, eyes and ears alert. As the group of men moved into the corridor of Officer’s country, fog began to pour out of the air-conditioning vents. It quickly settled down to the deck, swirling and wrapping its slender fingers of mist around the group of men.

 

Lee Crane, his face still covered with the remnants of makeup, looked at Nelson, as the fog grew denser, “Admiral? Air revitalization’s failed, sir.”
 

No, Lee, I don’t think so. No alarms, right, Tommy?”
 

Chin’s answer was remorseful in tone. “No, sir. No alarms. The only alarm was the fire alarm in your cabin. And we still don’t know what set that off six times!”

 

Six!! You didn’t tell me it was six times, Tommy!”

 

Well, sir, the first four times, Mr. Renault and I had teams here. We tore the boat apart, trying to figure out what was causing it. After the fourth one, Mr. Renault figured we better call you.”

 

Thank you, Tony! And only after four alarms!!”
 

Renault stopped and bowed slightly from the waist. “At your command, Admiral Harry, sir!!” He paused, then continued, “Seriously, Harry, there was no reason to call you until after the fourth alarm. There was absolutely no evidence of a problem. But the fourth one, well… and damn, look at this fog coming out of the vents. What the hell is going on?”

 

They arrived at the door to Nelson’s cabin and the four-star admrial turned to his friend, ”Well, looks like we are about to find out.”  The Admiral came to a halt at the cabin door, with Crane and Morton at either shoulder, and Sharkey, Renault and Chin behind them. The fog in the corridor suddenly seemed thicker and cold.  Nelson looked at his officers and with a nod, pushed at the door.

 

It wouldn’t budge so Lee put a hand on the older man’s shoulder, “Let me try.” Nelson stepped to the side, and the Captain pushed hard, while turning the knob at the same time.

 

The door still refused to budge.  One by one, each man tried to open the door and failed. Finally, Nelson took the doorknob in hand, looked at the men behind him and said, in a low voice, “If this doesn’t work, we get the explosives, and blow the damned thing off!”  He grabbed the knob, and put his shoulder into the door.  He pushed once, twice, and a third time, and finally the door opened as he fell into the cabin. The door quickly swung shut, with a loud bang, and the men outside, stunned momentarily to inaction, then began to bang on the door, to try and open it once again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson found himself on the deck of his cabin, unable to see anything because of the swirling fog that seemed to fill every inch of the space. He rolled to his side and then pushed off the deck to his knees, then his feet. As he stood, he tried to see what was going on in the cabin. There was no light on, yet there was a glow to the entire space that was something of an unworldly look. He heard the low rumble of a laugh, deep and long… and as he brushed at the swirling eddies, a figure began to materialize next to his desk. The figure was familiar, so familiar that Nelson stifled the curse that bubbled to his lips.

 

You!!!”

 

The laugh that followed the recognition was long and rolling, thoroughly enjoying Nelson’s angry shout. The figure that stepped toward him from the fog was rougish, arrogant, and posturing, and familiar, terribly familiar. With hands on hips, legs akimbo, he spoke with a rollicking, mirthful voice, “Aye, Laddie, ‘tis me, Himself, in the flesh, so to speak. I’m happy that ya came so quickly to me call.”

 

Your call!!!  What in the name of all that’s holy could you possibly want from me? And what the hell are you doing here? I thought you were tied to your ship, the wreck in the Caribbean! That you couldn’t get anywhere away from it.”

 

Aye, ‘tis true, Harry. Except fer on little bit of allowance on this night, of all nights, fer the spirits. On this night, we’re given a bit o’ range…if there’s kin afar, we ken make contact with ‘em. And you Laddie are me kin!” He laughed, "It’s too bad that yer lovely wench t'isn’t me kin…now that’s a contact I’d like ta be makin’ agin… She’s a warm an’ lovin’ woman, she is…”  His laughter became more intimate…”Aye, very warm an’ lovin’. An’ not afraid ta…”

 

Why, you sonofabitch… !” Nelson lunged at the spirit, passing thru him and landing with a grunt on the floor. He hit the deck hard, expelling air and a groan with the impact, rolling and charging to his feet, to be stopped by an invisible barrier between him and the shade. “You bastard! Leave her out of this…she has no idea what you did to her...what you had me do...none!!”

 

Seamus leered at him, “Yer defense of yer woman is an admirable thing, laddie. But a lusty wench is a lusty wench. An’ she be one.  Oh, my yes…she definitely be one!!  Ye be a lucky man, laddie, to have such a lass grace ye bed.”

 

Nelson's voice was now filled with rage and hate.  "If you weren’t dead already, I’d kill you, Seamus Nelson.”

 

Aye, I’m sure that ye would, Laddie, but yer can’t, so I’ll have me say, ‘n I’ll leave ya ta return ta the arms of the lovely Karen. An’ when yer in her arms, be givin’ her a kiss an’ a touch fer me.”

 

You goddammed son-of-a-bitch!”

 

Ahh, yer still be wishin’ ta send me ta hell, but, Laddie, I’m already there. And will be fer eternity, unless, that is, ye haven’t changed yer mind.  What about it, Laddie?  Yer not willin’ ta take me up on me offer, are ya?”

 

Never…never in a million lifetimes!!”

 

The shade slowly looked around the cabin and seeing his target moved to it. Nelson tried to no avail to get through the invisible field that was holding him away from his ancestor and at the same time, holding the rest of his party outside the cabin. He could hear the hammering on the door and the calling of his name and title, but he was helpless to do anything.

 

Seamus walked to the small credenza that held some pictures. He paused and lifted the picture of Karen and Sean, taken at the San Diego Zoo the past summer. Both were laughing merrily at some unseen happenstance. It was one of Harry’s favorite photos of his wife and son. Seamus stood staring at it, his voice softening ever so slightly. “So, the wench was a good breeder, I see.  A son, is it?  Ahh, every man wants that…a livin’ legacy. I had five…  Me Maggie, bless her soul, there were thirteen children, one fer every year I had time at home… She was a good breeder, me Maggie.  Lusty in bed, ‘til the bearin’ the wee ones began ta tire her.  Then, well after Aidan was born, I died… so the lass had to raise the brood alone.  But, I left them all well taken care of, I did.  Me brother, Michael, a man ‘o’ the cloth, was in charge…He brought‘em ta Boston and settled ‘em there.  Maggie, she passed over shortly after…”  He looked at Nelson, suddenly aware that he was sharing way too much with his descendent. His arrogant attitude returned. “Ahh, but ye’re knowin’ all that, Laddie. ‘Tis the family history. Cleaned up by me brother, of course… An’ yer wench…ahhh, what a woman, what a foine woman!!!”  There was a slight leer and a raised eyebrow.  "Equal to me Maggie, fer sure."

 

Leave her out of it, Seamus!” Harriman Nelson was surprised at the turn that the conversation with his ancestor had taken. There was, at least for a fleeting moment, a bit of gentleness in the old reprobate’s spirit. Then it seemed as if he remembered himself, and all the arrogance and swagger returned. “Yes, Karen gave me a son, and he’s a fine child, and you will stay as far from him as you can. When he’s old enough, he'll be told about you, about your offer, and to say ‘no’ to it. He will know the truth of the family as soon as he can understand it.”

 

Ah, truth is it ye’ll be tellin’ him?  Then ye better make sure he knows all the truth of yer life, Harry… all of it…fer I know about the Island, what took place there and what the penalty fer yer interference will be. There are no secrets on this side…So make sure ya tell him all the truth… all of it. It may change the way that the lad sees his father… and his Ma.”  He sighed, looked once again at the picture and set it down.  “Me time here is near finished, Harry. Me ship is callin’ me… Ah, won't ya reconsider me offer? It still stands, ya know…”
 

Never!! Go back to your blasted ship and stay there for eternity.  Just leave me and mine alone!!!!!”

 

Nay. Ye or ye lad will be hearin’ from me when the time is again right. I do want ta be with me Maggie in eternity an’ I need a family member ta free me an’ send me home ta her. So ye and yers are the only ones I can call on…  Nay, hearin’ from me again ye will be…”

 

“Stay away from my family, Seamus!!!!”

 

He began to laugh, a robust, knowing, laugh. “Not at all, Laddie…Not at all…”  He tipped two fingers to his forehead, “‘Til we meet again, Harriman Nelson…”  And with that, the fog swirled around him, his form dissolving into the mist and the mist slowly dissipated.

 

Once the fog was gone, the barrier that had kept Nelson from the desk disappeared, along with the one keeping the others out of the cabin. They stormed in, led by Crane, demanding to know what had happened.

 

Admiral, are you all right?!”

 

Sir, what happened?”

 

Admiral, what’s going on?!”

 

Harry, what in hell is happening here?”

 

EnoughI'm fine.” Nelson shouted above the cacophony of voices. “Lee, let’s get back to the house. Tommy, you and Tony get your crews in here and check out this boat and her systems from stem to stern. Chip, Chief, come with us and let’s get cleaned up and back here asap! I want a thorough diagnostic of every system, every alarm… Everything!!! We’ll get back here in less than an hour and I want to see her crawling with men checking her out. Call the crew back, call the diagnostic teams in…You all know what I want. Do it!!”

 

Chin left the cabin, Tony followed, and turned in the doorway, “Harry?  You really okay?”

 

Suddenly weary, “Later, Tony...I’ll fill you in later.”
 

Mmm, just be sure you do! You know how I hate mysteries!” he shrugged, and strolled out of the room.

 

Crane turned to him, asking softly “Admiral, what happened in here?”

 

Nelson shook his head, he wasn't ready to tell what had really happened. Let's just say it was a Halloween prank… of a supernatural nature. I’ll tell you all about it on the way back to the house. We all have to get cleaned up and back here. I want to oversee the diagnostics myself.”

 

But…”

 

Later, Lee. I’ll tell you all about it later…”

 

He clapped the Captain on the shoulder and the four men left the cabin for the car and explanations that Nelson would reluctantly provide. As they left the boat, Harriman Nelson was sure that he heard laughter, sinister rolling laughter, follow him up the gangway.

 

 

 

 

 

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