The Mouth at the Mound
by C. G. Aaron

…continued from last month’s issue.

“We have had a bit of luck,” said the Pale-Faced-Man matter-of-factly. “Ground crew sigma believes they have a lead.”

The ground crews had been having trouble with their latest task: finding the mouth of the great Kanawha Valley tarrasque. They knew it was set to wake from its centennial slumber sometime in the coming months, but had no idea where to start the process of sedating the damned thing before its eyes opened. M.O.T.H. ground crews had staked out most of downtown Charleston for months, blocking traffic with bright cones and scaffolding and spending countless days under the city’s streets searching for signs of the tarrasque from one man-hole to the next. Last I’d heard, all they’d figured out is the location of one huge clawed foot. Which foot was anyone’s guess.

The problem is tarrasques are these great big spikey dragon-dinosaur bastards that kind of hibernate underground. They get damned ornery when they wake up, and somebody has got to get down there and sedate the thing or else your whole mountain chain could be in trouble. A single tarrasque could run the length of Lewisburg to Beckley, with all of Sandstone Mountain covering just one of its two great big horns. In order to sedate a tarrasque you have to be at it’s head. That’s where all of the good sedatin’ orifices are located. So, finding a single foot doesn’t really do you much good considering the overall size of the monster and the very specific location your after. If we’d found its asshole, at least we’d know which direction to start hiking.
“Sigma?” I asked. “They haven’t been downtown in weeks.”

“The mouth is not downtown,” said the Pale-Faced-Man. “It is actually much closer to home.”

“You going to let the rest of us in on the joke?” I asked, a sense of anxiety creeping down my legs.

“The tarrasque’s mouth is at the mound,” answered the Pale-Faced-Man, with a subtle smirk.

“Lord have mercy,” I responded, my voice barely above a whisper. I knew exactly where the Pale-Faced-Man meant when he said ‘the mound.’ Matter-of-fact, anybody who’d ever spent any time at all in Charleston likely knew exactly what the Pale-Faced-Man referred to.

In the town of South Charleston is a great big mound of dirt. Archaeologists and historians tell us that it is an ancient burial and ceremonial mound of the indigenous folks who lived in West Virginia a long time ago. In modern times, the mound is a cut-rate tourist attraction with steps circling up to its peak. Folks can walk up there to take pictures, but mostly they just ignore it on their way to buy Chinese food.

An idea struck me with the force of a cartoon light-bulb glowing bright above my head. “Seems a mighty big waste of time and money to zap me just across the street. Might as well just let me walk on over to the mound to take care of this.”

“Not a chance,” said the Pale-Faced-Man. “You will stay here with us so that we can monitor your work.”

“And my whereabouts,” I replied.

“Precisely,” said the Pale-Faced-Man.

It took a few minutes for the scientists to adhere all of the various electrodes to all of my soft spots, and then it was off to the tub of petroleum jelly. I gritted my teeth and awaited the zap. When it hit me, I went numb and started to dream. I dreamed of the river. The lazy flow of the dark water was calming. A single barge floated along with the current. A mound of coal came to a sharp peak at its top.

It was only a dream and in a flash I stood naked and cold in the basement of a South Charleston laboratory operated by the West Virginia DHWB. I scrambled to find clothes and managed to outfit myself with a fresh-from-the-plastic lab coat and an old pair of sweat pants from a nearby locker.

“You will find what you need in the freezer on the west wall,” the voice of the Pale-Faced-Man stated into my ear. A microscopic two-way communicator was 3D-printed along with my actual flesh and blood. I kept asking for some sort of bad-ass laser gun hand, but it didn’t seem to be in the cards.

Check back next month for the continuing story!!