by Ron Capshaw
dogs who hatefully
chased me through the Texas woods skidded to a stop before the mansion. They
strained so hard to get away that they
broke their leashes and fled into the woods.
The soldiers threw their weapons down and followed. Their officers didn’t
order them back on pain
of execution, but crossed themselves and ran.
have heard the stories about the mansion all the way back to Berlin.
laughed that for all their Master Race posturing they were as superstitious as
a common peasant.
man-made; created by
think that for long.
those things in the
mansion didn’t want your money but something more fatal.
Dallas Morning News, February 10, 1934
Mansion in Texas
Sooter has built a three story mansion in his hometown of Mullin, Texas.
Asked why he is leaving Hollywood
after the success of his Great War film, Sky Raiders, which took 4 years and
billions of dollars to complete, as well as the LA air races, he said, “I’m
tired of the phonies in Hollywood. And
air races no longer interest me. I need
to reconnect with my roots.”
But Sooter, known even in Hollywood
for his reclusiveness, has not left his mansion as of yet, even though he
brought several of his planes on the landing deck he installed on the roof of
Still, some locals
are not happy.
In reference to his private police
guarding the Sooter mansion, rancher Amos Howard said, “Mr. Hollywood is not a
law unto himself. The rest of us
ordinary folks have to abide by the laws of our town.”
John Lance, the mayor of the town,
kinder words to say. “I'm glad that Mr.
Sooter wants no publicity and keeps to himself. It’s his property, and he has
every right to protect it.”
But rumors of wild parties and seances
and witchcraft abound. This prompted Sheriff Tom Le Fernau to visit the
Le Fernau said that Sooter’s
Hamilton Moore, and the technical advisor on his trench warfare film, assured
the sheriff that the rumors were untrue.
Farneu has told citizens to calm down.
“Like it or not, Sooter spent
on his mansion and is here to stay. He
merely wants his privacy and is not bothering anyone. People need to mind their
own business and
get on with their day.”
Nazis turned tail into
the woods, I reconnoitered the mansion and tried to find Mom.
was the electricity out
in the Sooter mansion but it was a literal maze. The hallways on the first floor
either led to
a dead-end or went on forever, never bringing you back to the place you started
Sooter had flashlights
and weapons and bags of chocolate chip cookies everywhere. As if he might need
to shoot someone any
moment while enjoying a light snack.
know that the parachutes
would drop from the sky before we “premature anti-fascists” did?
had a decayed smell,
like nothing had lived there for a very long time. The rooms and hallways on
the first floor were dusty and cob-webbed, which meant Sooter might have
conquered his germaphobia and fired the spraying staff.
Or he was
holed up somewhere
more sanitary in the mansion.
layout I may never
I may never find
But I had
to know. Because if she wasn’t here that meant she was
intercepted and then stood up against the wall as a trouble maker.
the Nazis did their
homework, executed her as the mother of one.
hope she was in one of
the secret rooms I accidentally found when a foul odor in one of the hallways
caused me to grow dizzy and I fell against one of the walls.
into a room, where the
smell was even stronger.
dizzy again and fell down
had an oxygen tent with
no one in it, packages of chocolate chip cookies, and weapons. Copies of horror
pulps littered the
floor. Vines of some kind of herb were
taped to every inch of the walls.
one of the
weapons. It was a shotgun. I filled
my pockets with as many shells as I
to the wall opposite to
the one I fell through and it opened.
shotgun propped against
my right shoulder and my flashlight in my left hand I happily left.
At the end
of it was the Soldier.
darted into the darkness, I saw that he was dressed in a World War I uniform,
right down to the Tommy helmet and Sam Browne belt.
thinking I ran after the soldier, turning a corner into THEM.
was the only one of them not crouched. I
saw now that he wore a gas mask.
crouched in front of him wore the tattered uniforms of Sooter Security.
launch themselves at me until he grunted.
There was no
way to shoot at all of them.
galloped after me across the floor, the sides of the walls and the ceiling.
As I ran, I
now hoped that Mom hadn’t made it to the mansion.
something told me she did.
I had to
learn on the job about what worked, what didn’t.
worked were the vines in the secret room.
When some of
them followed me into it before I could close the door they exploded.
blood and tissue out of my eyes, I sniffed the vines.
I took as
much as I could carry, preferring the dizziness to being those things’ lunch.
I went into
the hallway I entered the secret room from.
pieces of the vines to serve as breadcrumbs so I could navigate the mansion and
make my way back to the front door and the Nazis if things got too bad.
I found another secret room.
This one had
no vines, no oxygen tent. It wasn’t a
room to hole up in.
It was to
send for help.
It was hard
to see how long he had been dead.
still seated in front of the short wave radio, his headphones still on, his
hand still clutching the microphone, he had been drained dry after they ripped
his throat out.
my bile, I peered closer
dressed in the uniform of Sooter Security but an expensive double-breasted
Sooter’s pencil thin mustache, but Sooter had a full head of hair and this poor
bastard had a toupee that still hung off his head.
smashed the radio in uncontrolled fury.
I looked at
the back of it.
that came at me didn’t have the rationality to do that.
slithering sounds outside the secret door.
pressing the opposite wall when I got my answer as to who took out the battery.
There was a
circular glass lens on the ground.
that were on gas masks.
legend, they didn’t sleep during the day.
Or maybe they did and came at me in shifts to wear me down.
impossible even in a garlic-filled secret room because they howled and threw
themselves at the door all day and night.
each other in the dining room, with long tables and a fireplace.
They kept a
healthy distance away because of the garlic.
I had left
the windows covered in velvet curtains so a Nazi sniper couldn’t get me.
at that mass of fangs and claws and red veins and sickly green skin on the
other side of the dining room I didn’t think a Nazi bullet would be such a bad
tearing down the curtains as I walked toward them.
shafts of sunlight coming closer, and fled, killing some of their own in the
sunlight, I grinned, the first genuine one since Dad and I were on the hilltop,
giving, for one brief moment, the town its balls back.
I should feel
guilty. Because I brought the war home
chased by the SS out
of England, a Nazi bullet through my lung and because of it, a determination to
make amends with Dad, I went to the last place I thought the Nazis would
care about my
college-bred Marxism that sent Mom to her rosary beads, praying fervently I
would renounce Stalin and embrace God.
believed in God since
that first shelling in the trenches in a world war we were now calling the
him was that I was
going to fight alongside the British; the same people who treated us Irish like
trash in the old country.
lot of Americans, he
thought the war in Europe was none of our business, and that we should keep our
powder dry in case Hitler invaded America; and even then the Nazis had to be on
I didn't think that
Hitler was deluded enough to invade Texas.
Jews here, no Jehovah’s
Witnesses or Gypsies, or, with the exception of me, no communists. Texas did
have oil fields and was situated
near the Gulf of Mexico, but I’m sure his generals warned him that my fellow
Texans would take to the mountains and hills and forests and cause the Nazis to
waste manpower policing the state rather than rolling North.
usual Hitler ignored
I were sitting on his
front porch, drinking and not speaking to each other when we saw the parachutes
dropping from the sky. Then explosions,
and three miles away from the town, we smelled it already burning.
We looked at each other and nodded.
He tossed me a hunting rifle, a bag of ammo,
grabbed his old carbine, and we went to see what was left of Mullin.
to stay behind. Her Irish was up, and
there was no talking her out of coming.
And truth be
told, I didn’t want to try.
to see what they were like.
I had no loyalty
to this town that I left at the first opportunity.
from the hilltop what the Nazis had done and were doing to it, I was angrier
than I was when I saw the SS patrolling London after Churchill had been
My town. My fellow citizens.
cowboy hats smashed by
twitching on the ground,
which the Nazis posed beside for the newsreel cameras.
saw the Nazis urinating
on corpses I aimed my rifle at them.
pushed my barrel
time, boy. We need to link up with the resistance that
if I know my fellow residents they are already forming.”
couple of deep breaths I
in the act of leaving
the hilltop when we saw the Barbed Wire Man.
tell who the corpse
was entangled in the barbed wire in the center of town because the Nazis were
recreationally using it for target practice.
“Molly. Don’t go home. Go to the Sooter
mansion. If he is alive he’ll take you in.
There may even be some of his private police
woman! I’ll not have you raped and
killed by this trash.”
lying to her.
There was no
walking away from what we planned to do.
with the bombers flying overhead.
left, Dad sighted the Germans.
Then he did
something that filled my heart with joy and is the way I always like to
of one mind,
picking the targets in the order of who angered us the most. We shot the soldiers
who pissed on the
Then those who fired into
Barb Wire Man
Then those who shot the
who cheered us.
Then we became more strategic,
killing every officer we could find.
As expected, without leadership,
the soldiers panicked.
They fired in all directions,
killing not just the townies who hadn’t gotten to cover but a few of their own.
Then we shot the swastika
hoisted in the town square off the pole.
Then the tank spotted us.
came to several feet away from the now disintegrated tree I had used as
cover. Other trees were on fire.
All I could hear was that familiar humming
sound in my ears and everything was in slow motion.
took an inventory of my body and found no injuries.
same could not be said of Dad.
found him several yards away. No left
arm and his legs were gone below the knees.
died grinning fiercely, his middle finger extended on his remaining hand.
welled up in my eyes.
Dad. Defiant to the end.
kicked up by my feet, and I turned and saw the soldiers coming up the hill
fast, looking as enraged as their guard dogs.
There was no living with
them. I couldn’t find Mom until I got
rid of them.
the creatures slumbering somewhere dark and dank. I canvassed the wine cellar
and the basement.
But they weren’t there.
Which meant they were on
It’s what Dad and
or my former
comrades in England would have done.
things running from
the sunlight didn’t think much less think like a soldier.
But there was one among
The Gas Mask Man.
since the hallway incident weeks—was it weeks?—ago. But recalling
that moment when the creatures
would let me, I sensed something controlled about him.
A trained soldier would
And he had two floors above
to do it in.
I looked at the ceiling.
I swore I could hear laughter
and then a scream.
That sounded like Mom.
second floor was even darker than the first floor.
the first floor, there were weapons and flashlights all over the second floor.
flashlight was flickering and I could always use another gun so I picked the
flashlight and gun up and then almost screamed
batteries had been taken out of the flashlight and the rifle barrel was clogged
with dirt so that whoever fired it would blow their own face off.
I was able to find the generator with my flickering flashlight.
God, please don’t let them have chewed through its wires.
was simply a matter of flipping a switch.
lights came on, revealing that there were at least 10 in front of me,
salivating and biting at the air.
explode like they did when they touched the garlic or were exposed to sunlight,
but they did throw their greenish arms over their eyes from the bright lights
Mom you need to signal me where you are because
I can’t take much more of this.
and I would join the Nazis.
with its stones and cobwebs and odor of decay was early Gothic, the second
floor was more modern, but overkilled.
Sooter was so weird that he couldn’t just carpet the floor; he carpeted
the walls and ceiling the chandeliers hung from.
hallway, dropping garlic along the way.
I tried to open a door but it was barricaded
I tried the door next to it and it opened.
It was a typical bedroom. Carpeted, with dressers and a canopy bed.
figure-shaped hole in the wall going into the barricaded room.
I looked through it and saw that some of them
did sleep during the day.
I first saw the tuxedoed men, along with one
dressed as a polo player hanging upside down by their taloned feet clutching
into the rafters of the ceiling. Their
eyes were closed, fangs protruding from a contented smile on their faces.
I couldn’t see the women hanging from the
ceiling because their flapper dresses covered their faces.
To my shame, I hoped that one of them was Mom
so I could get the fuck out of here.
I lifted their dresses up over their heads and
saw green, but somehow beautiful faces.
Gin bottles and opium pipes littered the floor
One of those things had literally crashed their
party from the next room.
He-she-it could have just complained to the
management about the noise.
I laughed in a creepy way I didn’t recognize,
not caring if I woke up the Gatsby set or not.
None of them did.
I looked at the stairs going up to the third
and final floor.
This is it Mom.
If you’re not here I’m done.
find the lab. It took up two-thirds of
the third floor. What was in the lab answered the question as to how those
creatures fed themselves. They couldn’t
subsist on the four corpses who lay on the floor, their throats ripped out,
their faces as white as their lab coats.
thirst was a huge, still-bubbling vat of blood in the center of the lab with
feeding tubes attached to it.
an endless supply.
vat was a
hospital bed and those fucking chocolate chip cookies.
photo flung to the other side of the room.
of Sooter, clad in a deep sea diver’s suit holding the helmet. I peered
closer and saw a feeding tube
attached to it. Next to him were the
late four scientists. Off to one side of
them was a lab coat and clothes suspended in the air.
to my crash course in the lore.
couldn’t be photographed.
notes, the medical charts and learned that Mr. Millionaire was convinced fatal
germs were in his blood, despite numerous tests showing his blood was normal
except for a high sugar content.
they prescribed a chicken diet, rich in Vitamin D.
wrote, “Patient will eat only one thing and it’s unhealthy. And
I wish he’d leave that fucking helmet
bubbling vat of blood.
to kill the “germs.”
impure, in with the pure.
the lab. I looked up and down the
hallway and pressed the wall for secret rooms.
breathed a sigh of relief. Because if
the Gas Mask Man and his creatures hadn’t eaten her, they would have “turned”
her into one of their own. She may have
even been one of those mutations crouched beside the Gas Mask Man my first day
know. I wanted to remember her as she
was. Before the parachutes.
Ok. I am
going to walk out of the mansion very carefully, clutching my garlic, grab all
the guns I can carry and fight some humans.
there was one place I hadn’t looked.
on the roof.
them near his precious planes so he blew them up. Bits of greenish skin and
claws and airplane
parts were all over the roof.
the other side of the roof, clad head to toe in that deep sea diver’s suit, his
hand pressed down on the TNT plunger.
him, angry at him for causing all this trouble, but admiring him for holding it
together and blowing the would-be pilot vampires to Hell.
gotten all of them.
was twisted around backwards.
the son of a bitch when I turned his body around and saw his face visible
through the diver’s helmet.
Defiant. Just like Dad.
rocked. Again and again. Whatever
was hitting it caused my roommates
to the edge
of the roof and looked down.
congregated by the first floor window facing the front court.
when I joined them and even crouched at my feet. Their focus was on the Nazis
they hissed and growled at.
appeared beside me.
cleaning up his messes, didn’t you?” I said, not looking away from the window.
looked at me for a long time.
brought lab-coated scientists and machine guns and tanks. Attached to one of
the tanks by a chain was
enough left of Mom for me to recognize.
nighttime. I could open the door and let
the vampires slaughter the Nazis.
But I wanted to get my hands dirty.
Mask Man and said, “A favor.”
I exposed my