Web Site: The Site of Suspense and Fantasy Author Carol Kluz
Michael took the sealed manila envelope and keys from his father's lawyer, Mr. Lloyd, and shook his hand before leaving his office.
Just yesterday, he scattered Jim's ashes in the trees next to Sloan Lake back in the foothills where his father loved to fish. He tossed the envelope on the passenger seat of his car and headed out of town. The private turn-off that led back to Jim's house was some thirty miles or so up into the foothills.
On his drive, Michael reminisced about his growing up years in Montana and about his father's secret laboratory where Jim spent most of his time. Michael didn't remember much about his mother because he was three-years-old when she died in a car wreck during a sudden blinding snowstorm.
As a boy, Michael sensed his father's disappointment when he didn't take an interest in the lab. His father was in a fury when Michael told him he was moving to California to pursue a career in music. That was three years ago.
For over two years, Jim ignored Michael's calls and letters.
It was just six months ago that Michael received a letter from Jim saying that he had been diagnosed with cancer and had less than a year left. That was when Michael returned and spent almost a month with his father. It was a good time spent talking, fishing, and healing the wounds of separation. Even then, Jim tried to talk Michael into learning the ropes of his experiments so his son could continue them, but Jim finally accepted it when Michael explained that it wasn't his dream. He'd found his dream in California.
Jim gave him a hug and said: "If you're absolutely sure you will never change your mind, I'll accept it."
The turn-off leads into an old rutted lane that wends its way through tall conifers. A quarter-mile up the lane, Michael stopped the car to unlock the steel gate. He slid back in the driver's seat and moved on for another half-mile before rounding a turn into a little valley where the sprawling stone dwelling rested. Built of native rock, the house looked incongruent. It was a mansion, that in Michael's mind, would look more appropriate along the California coast instead of hidden away in the backcountry of Montana.
Michael always wondered where his father accumulated his wealth, and what he was really worth. It was a subject that was never discussed.
In his memory, Jim had never worked at a paying job, yet, they always had plenty to eat. Michael always dressed in the best clothes, had the most expensive stereo system, and even drove a brand new car when he turned sixteen. His friends were always allowed to come and stay in the many guest rooms on the weekends; however, no one was ever allowed into his dad's laboratory. It had a combination lock that only Jim knew. Once, when Michael was seventeen, Jim offered to show it to him, but Michael was in a hurry to drive to town and hang out with his friends. Jim tried again when Michael was almost nineteen. That is also when he told Michael that it was time he started learning about the experimentation.
They got into a heated argument when Michael told him he had no interest in scientific things. Music is what he intended to pursue with or without Jim's blessing.
Michael parked the car in the circular drive, grabbed the envelope, and unlocked the carved oak door that led into the foyer. There was plenty of food in the house. Michael grilled a thick t-bone. While he ate, he tried to call his agent on the cell phone and got nothing but static. He shook his head. In spite of the luxury, there were no phone lines. The house was wired, with the electricity coming from a huge generator back in the trees. Water was piped in from Sloan Lake and the sewage was deposited in several huge septic tanks on this side of the creek.
Michael checked Jim's compact discs and settled for rhythm and blues before walking into Jim's bedroom. Methodically, he rifled through all of the drawers in the bureau and through every box in the closet. His eyes misted. A few tears trickled down his face as he looked through the albums showing pictures when he and Jim were younger. They were so close and so happy back then. Pangs of regret washed through him as he remembered the subtle changes as he grew older. They grew apart and never truly recaptured the intense feelings of those early years.
He whispered, "I will take a look at your beloved laboratory, Dad."
He walked back into the kitchen, sat at the table and broke the seal on the manila envelope. He dumped the contents onto the table. Three bankbooks along with other papers spilled out. The first bankbook caused him to suck in his breath. It was a checking account at the Community Bank. The balance was three hundred seventy-four thousand dollars. The second was from the same bank. It was for a savings account of eight hundred thousand dollars. Michael felt his heartbeat pounding in his chest as he reached for the Swiss bankbook. His hands shook as he opened it. He blurted, "Dear God!" It had a balance of one hundred sixty-four million dollars.
Michael laughed and cried at the same time. "Dad, you could have bought a record company and launched my career in the blink of an eye. Why wouldn't you help me?" His eyes narrowed as he stared at the locked door. "It was that damnable lab of yours. We could have traveled all over the world. What a life we could have had. You kept me trapped in this hell-hole most of my life… for what?" He rummaged through the papers until he found the combination to the lock on the door to the lab. He harbored thoughts of smashing the lab to bits with a sledgehammer.
He flipped a switch just inside the door and walked down a narrow corridor and down a flight of steps. There, he opened another door and felt around the side for the switch. He flipped it and stared in wonder at the size. It was huge, encompassing the entire lower area of the upper house. There were several different rooms. Some contained shelves stacked with ledgers. Others contain glassed in areas lit with low-density lights. In them were foliage and insects. There were thousands of insects, some huge. They all had labels attached to the glass identifying them. They were from all parts of the world.
Another room had test tubes and several refrigerators and even a few very small incubators.
He continued through the rooms staring in wonder. He was nearing the part that was situated beneath the attached garage. It had a padlocked door.
For the next hour, he searched every drawer, nook and cranny for a key. He was about to go upstairs to look, when he decided to feel above the doorjamb. He smiled and shoved the key into the lock. It fit. There ws no switch on either side. He opened the door all the way to let the light shine in. He saw a chain-pull switch hung from a light bulb about ten-feet away and stepped into the dark room. He pulled it just as he heard the door shut behind him. He turned at the sound. A shockwave of terror ripped through him at the giant and grotesque insect-like creature blocking the door. It had a bit of a scorpion look with ugly tentacles waving about its torso. At the ends of the tentacles were hands with claws. Its huge tale had a pointed stinger on the end. Two upper fangs hung over its lower lip, but its eyes were human.
Michael was so terrified he could barely breathe. His legs quivered and he is desperately tried not to faint.
"So, I finally get to meet you after all of these years," the creature said in a familiar sounding voice.
"Who are you?" Michael whispered. "You sound like my dad."
"First things first. Since you are here, I must assume that your father is dead. Am I correct?"
Michael murmured, "Yes, he died four days ago."
The creature closed his eyes for a while and lowered his tentacles, almost as if in mourning. He opened them and gazed at Michael, studying him. "You broke his heart."
All Michael could manage was a choked, "Why?"
"You forced him into making the most difficult choice of his life. If you had followed his wishes and learned about his experiments, there would have been no need, and he would have died a happy man knowing that his sons would thrive and prosper together."
Michael spluttered, "Sons?"
"He had another son."
Wondering if he was enduring a nightmare, Michael managed to ask, "Why didn't he tell me?"
"If you had shown just a little interest in his work, I think he would have."
"Do you know who his other son is?"
The creature lifted it's head slightly. "It's me. I'm your brother."
Michael clamped his eyes shut and shook his head in an attempt to awaken. He opened them and whispered, "That's impossible!"
"No, it isn't. Our father used his sperm to fertilize one of my mother's eggs. I'm the result. You see, my mother was a scorpion. Father's work was to produce a new cross-species of insect and human. He loved insects even more than humans, except for you. He loved you very much as well. It was his dream that you would follow in his footsteps and get to know me. That way we would both benefit by one another. But, you made a different choice, forcing him to choose between us when he died." He took a long pause and shut his eyes. When he opened them, several tears slid through the crannies on his face. Then he add ed, "I didn't know, until now, which of us it would be. He chose me…or you wouldn't be trapped in this room. You see, I need someone to feed on. Your flesh will be preserved in this room for many years. Look in that corner."
Michael looked over his shoulder. Lying in the corner was the partially consumed body of Scott Archer. He was the eighteen-year-old boy who'd disappeared from the town almost twelve years earlier. His head and upper torso were perfectly in tact. Only parts of his legs were eaten away. Next to it were three skeletons. Michael turned and looked into the eyes of his brother a millisecond before the stinger penetrated his throat.
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