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John Carpenter's


 

A Thing of the Past

by James T. Guthrie

     As I sit here writing this sipping on cheap bourbon in this gloomy bar on the coast of Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, I can't help but reflect on my meeting with the man named Macready.  It's been over a week now, but time seems to glide by like the gulls that skim the waves of the beach outside the door.  The smell of the man's frying fish at the bar makes me want to retch...but not as much as the memory I have of that....that man.  If you can call him a man.  My meeting with him makes me question the very existence of our humanity.  What makes us human?  What makes us animal?  I cannot begin to explain what I saw with these very eyes......but I guess the best way is to go back to the beginning.

     I first remember meeting him in the port city of Puerto Santa Cruz.  I was a cop with the Argentina  Repulica Policia Federal and my officers who I was in charge of were as troubled by his mere presence as I was.  That sixth sense you get about someone or something.  Something strange.  Haunting about this man.  I got a call from Sgt. Hidalgo that a man had washed ashore on a life raft.  He was barely alive when we found him.  Suffering from severe frostbite (an unusual thing in this hot area of the globe) and suffering from alcoholic delirium.  I just thought him to be mad....mad I tell you.  He looked like something from the past.  A caveman of sorts if you will.  When I laid eyes on him laying in the hospital bed, it was pure horror.  The doctors could not save his gangrenous leg....and his nose and an ear was also lost.  His face was skull like....but the eyes...oh those eyes.  They had obviously seen something terrible.  My suspicions ran true as I began my interview.

     He insisted that he be given some alcohol before the interrogation.  The doctors and nurses protested, but something about this pathetic site made me feel sorry for what was left of him and I snuck him in a bottle of cheap scotch.  He seemed pleased and began to trust my questioning....but trust was something I new this man did not really know.  He asked if he should go back to the very beginning.  I replied to him that he could go back as far as he wanted.  He spoke of his time in Vietnam as a chopper pilot and of the stress that it induced upon him.  He didn't want to have anything to do with the “world” anymore and decided to freelance as a chopper pilot before being hired on in the winter of '82 for a stint down at outpost 31 in Antarctica.  He spoke of a bunch of crack scientists and small personnel team.  It was a chance, he said, to just “get away from it all”, and flying to him was second nature.  I suddenly began to feel a kinship and camaraderie with this man who was as foreign to me as the insects crawling on the floor of this shitty cantina.

     When he started to speak of the horror that befell the residents of that outpost....I thought I might be hallucinating.  Strange accounts of an “infected” dog that befell the outpost like some fate from God above.  Bringing with it death, and terror.  An alien from outer space.  The hound came upon the camp while being chased and shot at by a Norwegian helicopter.  The dog was taken in....the Norwegians fate was not so lucky.

     I could not believe my ears.  At first I thought he surely must be crazy.....but his account made more sense as he went on.  This “alien” he claimed was a shape shifter that could take on any organism or form.  It could totally imitate its victim.  One by one, he spoke of the team members either being infected or  taken over from paranoia that nobody knew who was who or what was what anymore.  The head scientist, Dr. Blair, eventually was said to have broken down so mentally that he had to be sedated and locked away.  One by one the team was taken over.  He mentioned the slightest bit of tissue could hold the “virus”, even so much as a drop of blood.  Macready then spoke of a test he came up with to detect the alien's presence.  After watching the head of one of the members try to scuttle away from the rest of the body....Macready concluded that each part of the organism was a separate entity.  He devised a blood test that used heat to conclude if the member was infected.  His account of the final tests of the remaining crew was pure terror to my ears.

     The alien ship he reported they found made me want to walk away immediately.  He said that the geologist concluded it must have been buried in the ice for hundreds of thousands of years.  It crashed and this “Thing” crawled out and froze to death.  I asked him why....oh dear why....had they not tried to contact some outsiders.  The radio man, he said, could not get through to anyone.  They all had to just wait the winter out in order for the rescue team to find them.  By the time the crew was whittled down to four men, they had no choice but to blow up the camp to hell.  He and a man named “Childs” were the last two left....and, I could hear a slight tremble in his voice when he spoke of this, when he “turned”, he had no choice but to incinerate him with a flamethrower.  By the time the last of the camp burned out, he thought he would surely die from the exposure....but luck came to him.  As he was just about to put a bullet in his head, he heard the distant rumbling sound of an airplane engine.  A team from New Zealand had intercepted their SOS call and came in to camp.  By that time...the exposure to the frost and his horrible experience had already succumbed him.  The New Zealand team thought him to be crazy and by the time he got back to the main island....he was mad with insanity.

     By the time he started to get accused by the authorities he broke up the hospital room and even beat up two guards to escape.  He stole a life raft and hit the coast.  He didn't know even if he, himself, was infected at this point.....but his will to survive overcame his feeling of paranoia.  That is when he washed up to the shores of Argentina and soon our fateful meeting came.

     I turned my back on the American for a minute to gain my breath and posture....when I started to hear a rumbling and gurgling from behind.  As I turned, I couldn't believe my eyes!  The American was literally EXPLODING in front of my eyes.  I screamed in terror as my two guards ran in.  Backing up against the wall, I fumbled for my pistol.  I yelled for the officers to open fire, but the bullets seemed to have no effect on it.  A tentacle wrapped around officer Perez and engulfed him in a scream.  I quickly thought of the incinerating that was done to the alien and quickly grabbed a bottle of alcohol of the table in the room.  I doused the monster and threw a pack of lit matches I happened to have on the creature, while at the same time, unloading my pistol into it till the gun clicked empty and the barrel smoked.  I can't remember a worse sound in my life....like a child screaming death.....the smell of burning organism.  It will haunt me till the day I die.

     By the time my backup had arrived I had to give my superiors a detailed report of what I had seen and heard.  But I did leave one thing behind.

     The booze had started to take effect on me and I walked away from the bar, half drunk...with the memory still in my mind.  For humanity's sake I didn't know what to think.  Mr. Macready had told me that EVERY part of this organism was as a whole......what then had happened to his amputated parts??  I could only imagine and try to sleep without nightmare.  I saw a fish jump out of the water and resigned myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do.  I felt guilt...and a sorrow I had not felt since my family left me years ago.  All I could do was put the past behind me and this “Thing” that I had experienced.  I watched the sun go down.  Look toward the future and leave the past behind.  Hopefully, everything would turn out all right.

 

THE END?







 

 

 


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