Trans-Dimensional Monsters and Suburban Gods
Bellona picked up incoming telepathic screams and pleas from light years away. With a nova-burst of energy she heralded her emergence into the distant star system. Her kilometers-long form, encased in star armor and wearing the Helm of All-Seeing, radiated scintillating golds and silvers, filigreed with symbols of power and defensive wards. Weapons at the ready, she plunged toward the planet besieged by legions of soul-hungry ghouls.
The beings under attack were gentle cilia-covered single-celled sentients Their complex, beautiful, horizontal crystal cities floated upon a shallow, globe-spanning liquid nitrogen ocean, the thin, fragile structures riding the gentle ocean swells. They had no concept of aggression or warfare, no means of defense.
The trans-dimensional monsters that had shattered the barrier between realities and descended upon them were ravening creatures from the darkest null zones. She had fought these repugnant invaders before. When the stars aligned in certain eldritch patterns and the cosmic balance wobbled, they could burst through. It was for just such creatures as these that she trawled the alien thoughts radiating out across the etheric multiverse. Nothing and no one could stand before their onslaught.
Except Bellona. Goddess-princess of battle and defender of innocents (no matter how strange their corporeal forms), she plunged into the fray, unleashing terrible retribution.
The invading monsters leapt at her, with a maelstrom of tentacles, claws, pincers, fangs, stingers, spikes, and tongues, and poisonous mental attacks Bellona’s armor was battered and bitten. She was barraged with brain-numbing virulent hatred and hopelessness.
The nightmare legion coalesced into a squirming moon-sized hybrid entity and hurtled toward the warrior goddess.
But in the post-transference reality of physical existence, even nightmare hordes become subject to the laws of quantum physics. And in that reality Bellona could obliterate intergalactic battle stations, massive asteroids, and assorted cosmic vermin.
Guided by telemetry generated by her Helm of All-Seeing, Bellona’s antimatter cannons pummeled the invaders. Unnatural flesh and gigantic body parts fell toward the system’s star to be incinerated into oblivion. She fired gravity-warp missiles into the anomalous rupture, zipping up the dimensional tear in space-time and restoring the balance of the universe. For good measure, she shoved a score of space-time stitchers through to the other side, just in case.
The cilia creatures in their trillions sang praises of thanksgiving and adoration to Bellona. She basked in the glory and began to telepathically broadcast a victory speech, careful to choose the correct words and phrases, because this day would be forever remembered by the grateful civilization of . . .
The warrior goddess cringed.
Savior of the cilia creatures, Bellona Gorgone felt herself phasing out of the alien space-time continuum, her atoms stretched and flattened by the force of the collapsing portal. Then, she was gone, leaving only a mental echo in the minds of those who would worship her for eons.
Such was the power of a mother’s summons.
Well-worn carpet in a hallway bulged outward, forming a quivering bubble that unfurled like the petals of a flower onto the receiving end of an interstitial cosmic corridor.
Framed photos of family get-togethers rattled on the walls. Doors along the hallway slammed open and shut, and the temperature dropped. Out of a tunnel made from the guts of a wormhole came the howling of celestial wind and the glow of whirling constellations, and Bella Gorgone, galactic warrior goddess, scourge of evil and heroine of the cosmos, stepped from the portal and yelled, “Mom… I’m home!”
The knobby-kneed girl flipped up the visor on the wired shoebox that comprised her Helm of All-Seeing. Instead of beholding the awesome vista of star spirals and light-year spanning cosmic clouds, the nine-year-old squinted down the taupe-painted hall at frames swinging and doors flapping in the frosty cold.
“Oh, crap!” she said, and repeated the ritual words that closed the portal to the freezing Infinite with a pop and hiss.
On her army-surplus web belt hung a battery pack from an old camera flash, attached to a wooden broom handle, wrapped in aluminum foil, topped with a telescopic BB gun sight. A fizzle of blue light and tingle of ozone wafted from the tip of the broom handle. Bella flipped a switch on her belt to “safety”. She’d been lectured about energized particle accelerators in the house.
She huffed. “And so the mighty warrior goddess is welcomed home.”
Home, where myth, ancient history, and the occult collided with science, technology, and suburbia in 2,500 square feet of ranch-style home, not counting the partially finished basement and attached two-car garage.
Neighborhoods across the nation were filled with immigrant mythical figures, thinking they were integrating seamlessly into middle-class culture. What else could supplanted gods and their multi-talented progeny do, as worship waned and believers flocked to hi-tech pantheons?
Bella had heard mother gossiping with Chang Xi, the moon mother, over the backyard fence about “the good old days,” but she knew only that their neighborhood was boring, school was boring, and she lived for the weekend when Bellona waged war against evil.
Mom’s voice thundered from the basement. Bella cringed, remembering it was laundry day, when dirty clothes took precedence over saving peaceful alien worlds.
She peered down the basement steps. Mrs. Gorgone was wearing a simple housedress,with a large turban wrapped securely over an ever-shifting mass, and super dark, oversized heart-shaped sunglasses trimmed in rhinestones.
“Get your brother, Bella. He’s in the garage, working on his junk.”
“What for? You know he’ll ask.”
“The washing machine is acting up again.”
Bella scowled at the mountain of laundry. “Why do Castor and Pollux have to bring their laundry when they visit? How do they get so dirty selling travellers and sailors insurance?”
“They don’t do the selling, they do the protecting – against krakens and such. Now, get Randy!”
Bella hung her head. “Yes, ma’am. But can I ask Randy for a new super-suit? I’m tired of being a clunky, original version of Iron Man. Randy’s nanobots can make a super-slick version.”
“After he fixes the washing machine.”
Randy Gorgone’s garage workshop overflowed with the guts and bones of obsolete consumer technology. A yard sale’s worth of home and entertainment consumer goods was crammed into the space intended for two sedans.
Aunt Leda doted on him. She had convinced Athena over a bridge game or two to grant Randy wisdom and skills in the modern religion of science. “It’s high time we had someone master the new myths, ” Aunt Leda had said.
The skinny teen, in black tee-shirt and ragged jeans, peered through thick-lensed glasses at a disassembled garage door opener.
Bella popped up at his elbow. “Hey, Randy! What-cha doing?!” She grinned as he jumped.
“Bella, I’m your armorer and weapons tech. I created the worm-hole generator and transporter for your campaign to police the galaxies. Don’t Sneak Up On Me!”
Bella hung her head. “Whacha doin’ Mr. Tech sir?
Randy rolled his eyes. “Old Mr. Asher thinks his garage door is trying to eat him. It clamped down on his lawnmower as he drove it into the garage.”
He leveled a brief stare at her. “No, interference on the remote opener device from his smart-home network.”
Bella shrugged and watched as Randy connected a tiny alligator clip from a diagnostic cable to a microchip in the remote control. The cable ran to a splitter, with wires running to a pair of Apple Classic computers that controlled a Faraday cage revolving on a Barbie portable record player. The Faraday was composed of a stainless-steel salad bowl bolted to a birdcage. It drew energy from a magnetron salvaged from a microwave oven.
Randy powered on the computers, set the turntable to 45 rpms and turned the microwave to the popcorn setting. Greenish vapor curled into the revolving metal bowl. The air filled with the smell of burning plastic insulation and a sulfurous stink indicating other side of reality origins.
The Macs buzzed, and frowny icons blinked rapidly.
“Demons,” breathed Bella.
“Definitely an infection,” Randy admitted.
“Can I do the banishing?”
“Let’s see what we’re dealing with first.”
The vapor began to condense. Viscous green liquid filled the bowl. The microwave chimed and the turntable stopped. Bella lowered the visor of her Helm-of-All-Seeing and leveled the broomstick disrupter. They peered closely at the Faraday cage.
Squirming inside was a greasy work glove shape covered in spikes, with a mouth in the palm. As they looked closer it let out fingernails-across-chalkboard shrieks.
Randy whipped out his phone and snapped a photo, downloading it to his laptop. He opened Krueger’s Field Guide to Demons, Monsters, and Trans-dimensional Horrors.
“A level one point-four entity,” he yelled over the shrieking “Called a finger slasher. Vicious. I don’t believe we should play around with this one.”
The warrior goddess nodded glumly, hands firmly over her ears.
He donned rubberized electric linemen’s gloves and slowly removed the still-energized Faraday cage from the microwave. He lowered the bulbous hood of a repurposed beauty shop hair dryer over the cage and began the neutralization process. The finger slasher thrashed, flashed angry sparks, and shrieked louder.
The dryer mapped the creature’s harmonics and translated them to a laser pentagram projector. The power source ramped up, lights dimmed, and a portable generator started to purr.
Randy graciously handed a computer game joystick to Bella to do the honors.
She zeroed the laser over the finger slasher and depressed the thumb stud. 100 watts of coherent light stabbed down, interrupting the phase harmonics of the minor supernatural entity that had possessed a remote-control garage door opener by infiltrating the smart grid. A grid which had never been designed to protect against supernatural infestation seeping through the transmission-and-distribution system then sizzling into the wiring of buildings, appliances, and environmental systems.
With a pop like a giant bubble bursting, the demon winked out of the physical plane of existence.
“Not as dramatic as saving a helpless alien race, but good job,” said Randy.
Bella sighed. “Wish we had one like last week – first time I was allowed to use my fusion blaster in the house.”
Her brother shook his head. “I’d prefer we don’t see the Baleful Eye again. I’m not sure where we sent it, either. Things happened so fast.”
“I forgot! Mom needs you. Right now. The washing machine is on the fritz.”
“I just replaced the spin-cycle sensor.”
At that moment, sounds reached them from the basement. Sounds like a cement mixer full of cannon balls and screeching tone-deaf demons with their tails in a sausage grinder.
Bella and Randy charged down the stairs, where a pelting rain of clothing, detergent, clothes hangers, and fabric softener sheets swirled around an ancient Whirlpool washer bulging from its sheet metal sides. Their mother was spread in a one-handed death grip across the lid, the other holding her rhinestone sunglasses firmly over her eyes as something inside the washer tried to lever open the lid. Foaming laundry detergent seeped around the lid’s edges, as if it were a rabid animal. Loud bangs hammered from inside the washer as Something spun up from the depths of the churning water.
“Look, it’s got tentacles!” shouted Bella, jockeying around the maelstrom for a clear shot. Randy saw the tips of slimy, purple appendages probing the gap between washer and lid.
Castor and Pollux came rushing down the stairs, pulling up short as the washer levitated. The power cord unplugged itself and snapped like a bullwhip with a three-pronged stinger.
“There’s a whirlpool in the washer!” Mrs. Gorgone yelled.
“Charybdis?” Pollux asked hopefully.
“Yes, and it’s spouting up another monster.”
Randy yelled at his cousins. “Get Mom off the washer without letting out the monsters! Bella, fire up your weapon to Containment.”
Castor lifted his twin brother over his head — Pollux being the indestructible one this week — and heaved. Pollux shot through the air, grabbed Mrs. Gorgone, and somersaulted to a neat three-point landing.
Bella engaged her broomstick gun. A torrent of sharp blue light enveloped the washer and it sank down with a quiet, relieved whine. The laundry and its accompanying accoutrements sloshed to the floor. A large orb, pressed against the lid’s window, stared hatefully at the Gorgone family.
“It’s The Baleful Eye!” said Bella.
“Ha!” said Randy. “So this is where it went.”
Castor and Pollux turned as one to stare at him. “You sent a monster to your washer?”
“I sent it away.”
Mrs. Gorgone straightened. “To our washing machine?”
Randy spread his hands. “I didn’t know where it would end up.”
“But how did Charybdis get into the washer?”
Randy shrugged. “Maybe that replacement part I got from Messina Inc.… ” He stopped as his mother’s gaze swiveled down at him.
“Messina? Where Charybdis is from?”
“Mom, Charybdis was a myth.”
“And yet here it is. Sometimes Randy, I could just turn you to stone!” She lifted her hand to her glasses.
Pollux leapt between her and Randy.
“Don’t be silly Pollux. Hasn’t Aunt Leda taught you any sense?” She turned toward the washer. “Okay, first step — banish Charybdis.
Outlined with blinking LED patio lights and glow-in-the-dark crystals, the monster in the washer was held in the center of a chalk pentagram drawn in chalk and supplemented with signs, sigils, and difficult to comprehend mathematical equations such as 2+2=6.
Bella fired up her weapon, set to unleash a withering blast of destruction.
“We’re not frying it,” Randy said, “just moving it. And — only Charybdis. Leave the washing machine!”
She shook her head, but set her weapon to ‘Create Pocket Dimension’ and sent out coruscating bolts of light that encircled the washer. But a monstrous whirlpool was not meant for pocket dimensions and the energy beam allowed it an escape route. Briny sea water tentacles shot out, circling the room, pulling everyone and everything towards the washer’s whirling depths.
And now it was that Bellona, warrior goddess, let out a battle cry heard across the transdimensions, lowered her visor, and called on her cilia allies to send one of their crystal structures, so delicate on their own plane, but of course completely indestructible on Earth. With a tinkling of wind chimes the crystal structure blinked into shining physical Earthen existence, sunk in through the washer walls, and enveloped Charybdis, cutting off its grasping water tentacles.
With a roar, weapon on Overdrive, Bellona sent bolts of plasma at the washer. Brilliant light shot out through the lid and every tiny crevice of the machine. The light and roaring grew in intensity until the room, the house, the neighborhood, shook. Then with a snap, quiet and pale basement light fell back around them.
As the waters receded, Mrs. Gorgone nodded. “Well done Bella. Now, what does Krueger’s guide say about Baleful Eyes?
Randy quoted: “’Spawn of an ancient entity that lies plotting in the dark cold depths of the Ocean, creating Baleful Eyes in its nightmares to pave the way for humanity’s destruction.’ Okay, this one really needs to be toast!”
Mrs. Gorgone shook her head. “Sorry, I have plans for this Eye. Pollux, lift the washer lid!” She began to pull off her sunglasses. “Everyone, look away!“
The lid swung open, the Baleful Eye leapt out, expanding, writhing tentacles grasping for everyone there, screeching and filling the air with a bitter odor. Mrs. Gorgone whipped her sunglasses off and stared, one eyebrow arched high. The Baleful Eye fell to the floor with a stony thud.
Mrs. Gorgone tucked one snaky lock back under her turban and replaced her sunglasses.
Everyone gathered around and stared down at the spawn of the ancient entity, its tentacles frozen mid-grasp.
She smiled. “Very decorative, don’t you think?”
“Oh, very,” said Castor.
“Now what?” asked Pollux.
“Maybe put it in the pond.” said Bella,
“Yes,” Randy nodded. “The lawn’s already got so many… ornaments. But who would have thought there’d be a monster in the Whirlpool?”
“You will find, children, that though the old gods and monsters are no longer remembered, they still live, hidden behind modern tech and flash. So in the future, watch where you send your monsters.”
And looking at Mrs. Gorgone, staring at them from behind her super-dark rhinestoned sunglasses, the children understood just what she meant, and nodded solemnly as they carried off the Baleful Eye to join its compatriots in the yard. Ending another day of vanquishing monsters in the multiverse and the neighborhood, with the satisfying knowledge they were fitting right in to suburbia. Just as migrant gods and their offspring so often do.
“Trans-Dimensional Monsters and Suburban Gods” © Steve Oden. First published here in Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, September 24, 2022
Steve Oden started writing speculative fiction of all types when he retired after a 40-year career in journalism, editing and publishing at newspapers and magazines. His work has appeared in print and online venues and in short story collections published in the U.S. and overseas. CRES published his 2021 story “Pumpkin Riders”, selected by Tangent Online for its 2021 recommended reading list
Oden writes from Wartrace, Tennessee.
illustration by Fran Eisemann; stock used from public domain