The Mouth at the Mound
by C. G. Aaron
The “Monsters Of The Hills” program is a secret conspiracy made up of only those who can be trusted, a select and disgusting few. M.O.T.H., as it would almost immediately come to be known, is overseen and funded by the direct descendants of Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, the couples who witnessed the first supernatural machinations in the State of West Virginia when they tracked, trapped, and tagged the famed flying Mothman of Point Pleasant. Since that time, supernatural activity in the area has increased exponentially. Much of the activity, such as random appearances of the Mothman, is completely harmless, but some of the activity must be dealt with directly. That’s where M.O.T.H. steps in. From covering up the more and more frequent monster sightings up in Braxton County to negotiating peace with the bat-people down in Hellhole Cave, M.O.T.H. stands sentinel against the things that go bump in the night. And, as it turns out, they do so on the backs of conscripted labor.
Being a M.O.T.H. man is not a fate I’d wish on anyone. You stay locked in a private prison cell buried deep beneath the old South Charleston chemical plants, ever the subject of various experiments performed by lab-coat-adorned sadists. The freedom it affords you over a regular prison sentence is not real freedom at all. Your first day on the job you’re sent down to the micro-bio-scan. It’s this old tanning bed that’s been retrofitted with state of the art gene-scanners. You lay down in the bed of the thing and they zap you over and over again for hours. It feels like each of your cells is being popped in one of those big movie theater style popcorn machines. Kind of smells like that too, only less like butter and more like burnt hair. At the end of the whole thing they have you. They copy all of you, all of your biological functions, all of your genetic instincts, all of your muscle memories into a series of ones and zeros and store it all via some sort of Goddammed, space-aged tanning-bed osmosis.
Once they got you with the micro-bio-scan, they can basically 3D print you at any number of locations hidden in hillsides and hollers from Wheeling to Welch. They press a button and out splurts this biological goo, ribbon by ribbon, until there you are. Well, there your body is at least. You see, that’s where things get really weird. They can’t figure how to record a human soul electronically. I’m pretty sure that’s what all those experiments are about, getting a photocopy of the spirit-me. Well, until they figure that out, the only way to make that 3D-printed meat-sack move is to connect up via satellite.
That shit’s for the birds too, lying face down in that bath tub of petroleum jelly with all those electrodes hooked to all your softest bits. Not a nerve is spared, if you get my meaning. When the juice first hits you and you get uploaded into space it feels like that time in junior high your buddy dared you stick a paper clip into the wall outlet. Your mind goes sort of numb for a bit and sometimes you have a little dream. Then just like that, there you are, somewhere else entirely, naked as the day you were born and off to slay the latest demon set out to terrorize whatever holler it is you got zapped to.
The arrangement obviously wasn’t ideal, but it was a living. It was a trade in the very literal sense of the word. I traded my skills and my time for a semblance of freedom. The good people of West Virginia got to continue feeling safe, and I got to see the river.
On that day, I did what I had done dozens of times before. I followed the blinking L.E.D.s until I reached the end of the line. I looked up and the Pale-Faced-Man met my stare directly. His thin mustache twitched. He wore a long lab coat that must have once been a glimmering white. It was now a dingy golden brown mottled in crimson and putrid green. He smelled like the back end of a garbage truck.
Check out next month’s issue for the continued story!!