Monday, June 20th. The year: 2012. A young paranormal investigator named Elon was in Washington D.C. on a much needed vacation. The constant adventure and adrenaline of dealing with ghosts, zombies, witches, warlocks, Frankenstein-esque beasts and, above all else, his horribly incompetent partner, made him sick of the horror genre altogether and so, naturally, he fled. The historic landmarks, dreadful traffic, politics… It was the epitome of what Elon needed—it was boring.
He hadn’t been able to completely escape, however, as the airport and hotel expenses alone were more than he could conquer on his own. So, Elon extended a reluctant invitation to his partner, Cid, and after combining the power of their wallets, here he was. They stood, sweating, in the hot weather and looked at the massive building before them. Cid passed two tickets to Elon, one being an admission ticket for the House of Representatives, and another for the Senate. Elon flipped the bronze ticket to its back and read a set of rules printed upon it.
- No packages, bundles, cameras, suitcases, calculators, aerosol/non-aerosol sprays, pointed objects, electronic instruments, food, beverages or briefcases are allowed in the Galleries.
Pretty standard so far.
- No children under the age of six.
- Standing or sitting in the doorways and aisles, smoking, applauding, reading, taking notes, taking photographs, and the wearing of hats by men, except for religious purposes, are prohibited.
He scratched his head and reread the second bulletin.
“Cid, look at this.” They read the ticket.
“No reading? No taking notes? I can understand no food or cameras or even cellphones, but note taking? Why?”
“Maybe they’re afraid of spies.”
“Yeah,” Elon said, “or fact checkers.”
Cid laughed and started in the opposite direction.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Elon.
“As far away from that as physically possible. The House of Representatives sounds lame as fuck. Not to say that fucking is lame.”
Where the hell was he going? They hadn’t purchased tickets for anything else that day and were already almost out of spending money. He turned once more to the building before him and headed inside.
Forty-five minutes later Elon was waiting in a long, mostly unmoving line. Normally this sort of crap would have him foaming at the mouth, especially since they’d already confiscated his cellphone, but not today. Today, he was standing in a mostly unmoving line because that’s what he had paid for. Today he was going to be bored and sweaty and probably buy an unsatisfying lunch from a filthy cart vendor, and he couldn’t be more excited for it. No water demons would be raining on his parade this time. No ghouls or goblins would be stealing his car keys and hiding them in the pantry. All he had to deal with was a mostly unmoving line and some unpleasant humidity.
He reached the doors leading into the upper gallery, took a seat, and noticed there were plenty more available. He took mental note of the fact, as he was sure that wasn’t against the rules, and pondered what the line’s holdup was if so many seats were open and wanting. He turned to the House floor where one representative was finishing a hardly audible presentation. None of the other representatives seemed to be listening as intently to him as Elon was, and he wasn’t, so Elon assumed he hadn’t had much training in public speaking. Either that or this was his first talk, or he’d been going on for far too long already. He soon left the podium and took a seat next to his colleagues, where he proceeded to fiddle with his iPhone.
Elon looked around the room, his mouth gaping widely. Every single representative hovered over an iPhone, BlackBerry, or iPad. Those who didn’t appear to be reenacting an eight-year-old boy’s experience at an airport gate were either asleep, sinking like grime into their almost arrogantly exquisite chairs, or excitedly chatting back-and-forth like enigmatic school girls sharing a first-time prom experience. Nobody was listening to, if they even noticed, the newest speaker attempting to present her case. Not that she deserved their attention, as she had been doing the same as they, and fell back into that routine as soon as she was finished talking at the still air around her.
Everyone was so self-absorbed in their electronics that they didn’t notice the small toddler wandering blank-facedly into the middle of the room. He was dressed in a pair of tiny red overalls with a comical butt-button patch on the rear. Behind him dragged a hopelessly thin baby-blue blanket that couldn’t keep itself warm had it caught on fire.
As the toddler stumbled into the middle aisle the representatives continued to stab at their screens with chubby, grease-covered thumbs. The toddler craned his neck and looked across the room through his beady, dull little eyes. He peered about the galleries, casted his stare briefly upon Elon, and then turned back to the inattentive representatives. Elon shuddered. Toddlers were so creepy.
The toddler yawned. One congressman responded with the lazy and presumptuous raise of a single eyebrow. The toddler tilted his head. Not giving any further attention to him, the man kept fervently typing away.
No children under the age of six. Elon frowned. Security managed to catch him with his cellphone in line when he hadn’t even removed it from his pocket. How is it this child’s parents managed to sneak him in unnoticed?
A deep scream rang through the gallery. He looked to the House floor and saw the toddler straddling the shoulders of the representative he’d been watching so intently. The kiddo sat upon the man’s back, his thin blue blanket wrapped around the representative’s throat. The man grasped desperately at the blanket but the toddler pulled at his ears.
Elon leapt to his feet before he could think to leap to his feet. He yelled out but to no effect. Even as the man kicked and choked and flailed as the presumably possessed child strangled the life out of him nobody rotated so much as a single eyeball toward the commotion, as all were absolutely entranced by their brightly lit screens. The man’s arms grew limp and his head drooped to one side. The representative slowly stopped kicking and dropped his ever-precious iPhone to the floor, on which it shattered.
Elon simultaneously shuddered. He didn’t know what was worse; being strangled by an infant or cracking his iPhone screen. Both, he thought, studying the scene. Both would be the worst.
The child descended the dead man’s back, struggling a little to clear the gap between the chair and the floor. He walked down the row until he came across the woman who’d been speaking earlier. She was silently lip singing away to the music pounding at her eardrums through a pair of cheap ear buds. An iPad in sleep mode rested on the desk to the right of her.
Still unnoticed, the toddler stood up on his tippy-toes, one of his butt-button flaps coming undone in the process, and reached for the inactive device. Elon watched, intrigued more than afraid or concerned, and doubted whether or not the kid would be able to reach it. Finally, the toddler succeeded. He held the iPad firmly in his small, immature hands and rocketed into the air.
Blood spurted every which way as the skin on the toddler’s legs split open and shards of cracked bone ripped through his cute little trousers. His legs nearly doubled in length, then doubled again, and before Elon could pinch himself awake he towered over the clueless woman. He grabbed her by her silky long, black hair and yanked her head back. One ear bud fell from her ear and the faint thudding of bass kicks escaped into the air.
The brat stared into the woman’s eyes and a third arm exploded from his chest like a baby alien, grabbing onto her hair with terrifying force. He lifted the iPad unnaturally high and swung it fast down upon her forehead. A loud crack sounded as the screen smashed into her head. She yelped but was assaulted again, the impact cutting her screams short and forcing her jaws down upon her tongue in a violent manner. The toddler struck her again, and again, and again, each time sending a convulsion across the poor woman’s body and another crack across that beautiful screen. Her cries of pain shrunk until they ceased altogether, along with her struggling, and she lay across the floor motionlessly.
Elon was standing now. He shook his head, cursing, and gripped the railing tightly. He made such an angry commotion the child took notice of him. It craned its neck and stared at him once more through those dull, beady eyes, but after a moment of studying him it returned its attention to the representatives before it.
He had been so close. So close to having a normal, dull Wednesday. He’d traveled over two thousand miles specifically to avoid this sort of nonsense, and yet here it was. God damn’t.
Elon reached for his cellphone and cursed when he remembered it had been confiscated. The other tourists sharing the second floor gallery with him had vanished, no doubt escaping the atrocity unfolding below. He thought of joining them, of flailing his arms and crying out in a girlish panic, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t that he felt morally obliged to help the men and women claiming to represent him below that made him stay. It was the hint of adventure, the same hint he was moments ago so ecstatic to have relinquished. He wanted to turn it down as badly as he’d hoped to avoid it, but like an old lover returning home for the holidays, it was before him now and he could not resist.
He climbed over the railing and looked at the floor under him. The child had nearly doubled in size again and was busy slamming another representative’s face against a table. Elon breathed a sigh and let go of the railing. He dropped like a sack of potatoes and landed on the first floor with a thud. He landed on his feet but immediately fell to his side in a jolt of pain. Cid had always been the jumper.
Elon had landed near where the first representative had been attacked, and he quickly searched for the man’s cracked phone. Upon finding it he discovered it still worked, and he ducked under the nearest table to call his partner.
“Hello?” Cid’s voice was accompanied by a disgustingly moist noise.
“Cid? What the fuck are you doing?”
“Eating a sandwich. What’s up?”
“I’m in the House and shit just got weird.”
Elon explained to Cid that when he said weird, he meant ‘powers of darkness’ kind of weird and not the ‘doing crack off of a stripper’s ass at a rave’ sort of weird. He told Cid that his help was required and to get inside as soon as possible.
“Alright but I’m going to stop by this hot dog cart first.”
“But you’re eating a sandwich!” He’d been hung up on.
The toddler, now taller than a fully-grown man, watched Elon. Its dark eyes darted from him to the phone in his hand and it let out an awful screech as a stream of blood dripped from its eyes. It shambled awkwardly towards him, struggling to keep its balance on its broken and bloodied legs.
Elon turned to run just as Cid paced into the room while stuffing the end of a greasy hot dog down his gullet. Elon’s eyes widened and he grabbed Cid by his collar.
“About fucking time. Do you have the holy water?”
“The holy water?” Cid thought a moment.
“Yeah,” said Elon, “the holy water. You insisted on bringing it even though I said we were going on vacation. So you have it, right?”
“Dude,” Cid’s face was coated in guilt. “It’s hot outside.”
“You drank it?!”
It was then Cid took notice of the toddler-monster and he laughed aloud.
“What the fuck is that thing?”
Cid dug a phone from his pockets and held it so that the beast was in picture frame. It saw him do this and shrieked shrilly. It tried to hasten its walk and nearly toppled over. Elon, surprised he was surprised by Cid’s actions, watched this happen inquiringly.
“That’s not your phone,” said Elon.
“No, I found it in the box up front. Nobody was there.”
“Did you find mine?”
Cid fished through his pockets and pulled several cellphones from them. He sifted through them and handed Elon his. Elon stared back at him.
“What?” asked Cid. “I’ll make bank on eBay.”
The toddler was absolutely mad now. It’s head twisted and pivoted wildly atop its blood-drenched shoulders and its arms wackily flailed back and forth. Specks of blood, muscle, and bone splashed onto the remaining representatives, who wiped the gore from their screens in minor irritation. Cid waited by Elon’s side expectantly.
“Well what?” asked Elon.
Cid casually gestured toward the monster. “Well what do you propose we do?”
“Holy water. Oh, wait.”
Cid smiled and retrieved a lighter from his pocket. “I think I have an idea.”
Cid gave the lighter to Elon and told him to climb back up to the second floor. Elon used the stairs instead. Once back in the gallery, Cid instructed Elon to set off the smoke detectors. He did so by holding the lighter to them and soon enough the emergency sprinkler system was dumping millions of water droplets into the room. The representatives took fast notice of the water, and hurried out of the room for fear their electronics would malfunction in the wetness. The transformed child scrambled after the rushing representatives and swiped at them as they ran passed.
“Cid! It’s not working!”
“That’s because it’s not holy yet.” Cid was speaking to himself more than to Elon. He huddled under a table and fiddled around on a downloaded video application. The toddler monster had sniffed him out and was fast approaching. Elon shouted for him to run but he didn’t. The beast grabbed the table and flipped the whole thing over, exposing Cid to the gushing water above. Cid’s arms were outstretched, and clasped in his hands was the iPad, displaying a video of a priest blessing a vase of water.
The monster reached for Cid but stopped. Every droplet of water that touched its body scorched a hole into it, and steam drifted away from the toddler in a hot cloud. The monster twisted and roared and slowly melted into a viscous puddle at Cid’s feet. Elon returned to the floor and met Cid with a stubborn flash of his middle finger.
“So much for vacation,” Elon said as he observed the pool of bubbling demon flesh.
“Cheer up buddy. At least we got some great photos.”
A woman, dressed in a slick pantsuit, strode into the room. She was followed by two plump police officers and spoke with a stern, commanding voice.
“Excuse me,” she said, stopping. The police folded their arms and gawped at the pair. “We’ve received word of a toddler in the House.”
Elon and Cid both opened their mouths to speak, but were interrupted.
“Children under the age of six are not permitted in the building. If you see anything, let us know.”
The woman walked away and the officers followed, apparently having no further concerns. Cid smiled at Elon and took one last picture, fitting the woman’s ass in the camera’s frame perfectly. He winked with a laugh.
“Sh,” Cid said, “cellphones aren’t allowed in here.”