tagSci-Fi & Fantasy180 Days in Montauk

180 Days in Montauk


I'm honored that blackrandl1958 invited me to participate in the Siren's Song collection. I appreciate her kindness. This story would be equally at home in Romance or Sci-Fi. I thought it might be slightly more appropriate here, but it's half a dozen of one, six of the other.

Siobhan is an Irish name that is pronounced Shivahn.

* * * * *

Sea lion woman, dressed in green
Wears silk stockings with golden seams
Sea lion woman

Sea lion woman, dressed in red
Make a man lose his head
Sea lion woman

Sea Lion Woman, Nina Simone


Spring, 2018

Cynthia Kallas sat in her Mercedes, scanning the sand and beach-grass ahead of her. It had been a long night and her thermos was almost empty. The horizon started to lighten when the incandescent electric blue line suddenly appeared, vibrant in the nascent dawn. It lay suspended roughly ten feet in the air and grew thicker, then split while the ends remained intact, like a neon gaping maw. She stared from almost two-hundred yards away, fascinated, but not surprised as the light grew and morphed into an irregular circle, almost fifteen feet across.

As the pulsating lines of flickering light dissipated, she saw the confused young woman who appeared in its wake. Grabbing her binoculars, Cynthia looked at the woman before scanning the water. She stood there clutching her side, panic and fear evident, nervously brushing down the folds of her green miniskirt.

Cynthia didn't remember being that beautiful. Holding the binoculars in one hand, she subconsciously ran her fingertips over her jawline, searching for scars that weren't there. She had the wealth to pay for the best surgeons possible. It was money well spent. She looked nothing like the woman she used to be.

C'mon, Finn. Where are you? She couldn't keep herself from worrying, needless as it was. Fate was a bitch with a cast-iron will. Finn would be there, just as he always was on this day, at this hour. He would have awakened ninety minutes ago, drank some water, walked down the pier to check the water readings for the oyster farms and taken his huge mutt for their morning run. Some things were immutable.

Oh, thank God. Cynthia relaxed as he came into view with that stupid, stupid mutt they both loved. She saw him pause, look closer at the young woman and jog her way. Cynthia shivered, her heart leapt as she saw him and fifty years of waiting were erased in an instant.

She pulled her cell phone from her purse. "Call George."

He picked up on the third ring, phlegmy voice annoyed. "Cynthia, the sun is barely up. What do you need, and more importantly, can I do it later?"

"Sorry, George, I need your help now. There's a dead dog in a cage by the south entrance to Camp Hero. I need you to scoop them up, the dog and the cage he's in, and put them in cold storage."

He sounded more awake as he replied. "You seriously are the strangest woman I know. Both the dog and the cage? Okay, I'll follow contamination protocols. I'll head over there now."

"Thank you, George."

Everything was proceeding as expected. She wiped away a stray tear as she glanced back at Finn, put the car in gear and slowly drove back to Route 27. As physically tired as she was, Cynthia's mind was alert and sharp. She had five decades of planning to put into action and all the minutiae was running through her mind at the same time.

* * * * *


April 7, 1968

Regardless of my other faults, I was at least self-aware. We were privileged suburban kids who played at being hippies. We believed in free love, but with reasonable constraints. We dreamed of communes and lived with our parents. We hated Nixon but kept our opinions to ourselves at the family dinner.

Childhood memories of the Book of Revelation came to mind. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. It wasn't lost on me that it took the slaying of a man of the cloth to push us from the comfortable middle.

Three days had passed since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We were a nation of us and them. Every night on the TV dour newscasters talked about the tragedy in solemn and reverent tones, and yet we all knew of people who thought Dr. King 'had it coming'. Drugstore racist gossips talking about the communist trouble-maker. Those people weren't of us. They were other, and they were despised. That gunshot was the death knell of their ilk. The corpse was still kicking, but they were dead.

Even in our sheltered bubblegum lives, we knew that revolution was on the horizon.

Annabelle heard that Nina Simone was going to be performing on Long Island in honor of Dr. King. We packed the van with friends, weed, wine and bedrolls and headed out on our sojourn from Connecticut to the Westbury Music Fair. We had hoped that the concert would be cathartic, but there was an undercurrent of anger that marginalized everything else. Ms. Simone was powerful, stirring and outraged. She debuted "Why?", her ode to Dr. King, her sad, plaintive vibrato ending the song and effectively, the evening.

Everyone was peaceful as they flowed from the exits, but there was a sense of foreboding. This wasn't as much an ending as a beginning birthed in the death of our most beloved leader. An unspoken gestalt was spreading. Placing flowers in barrels of a rifle was yesterday; Bobby Seale and Huey Newton were tomorrow. The bullet shattered the very heart of the Summer of Love.

The end of the concert was anti-climactic. There were no organizers signing people up, no impromptu speeches. We sat in the van, smoked some pot and chatted with some suburban white kids from Hofstra University who claimed to be allied with the Black Panthers. Thankfully, no one was high enough to fall for their bullshit. Annabelle had Billy drive a couple of miles north to Jericho Turnpike and we stopped at an IHOP.

We pulled out the little brochures that were in the metal stand with the menus and read them as we ate. Fishing excursions out of Captree Park, ferry tours out of Oyster Bay, the Montauk Lighthouse at the very eastern tip of Long Island. Billy and Annabelle wanted to wait until morning and protest outside of Grumman. The war profiteers were less than five miles from where we were eating. Others wanted to head back home.

I wanted to go to Montauk. Out east on Long Island they promoted the town as 'The End'. I wanted endings today. I wanted culminations, something firm and strong that I could grab onto, a fitting final stop on our sojourn.

I won them over by volunteering to pay for both gas and their IHOP bill. Daddy had given me money before we left, and I took it without any grasp of the irony of a hippie wannabe taking money from her conservative father to listen to Nina Simone mourn Dr. King. Off we went. We made good time until we hit the end of the Southern State Parkway and had to take the more rural Sunrise Highway the rest of the way. There were more farms than we would have thought possible so close to New York City.

We finally arrived a little after four in the morning. The others slept on the beach while I wandered, still enjoying the afterglow of the grass. I had been walking for over a mile when I came across a fence that stretched as far as I could see, both east and west. Following it, I found an opening a fallen tree had created and stepped through.

Always staying within the trees, I felt their protection as I spied sporadic concrete buildings and olive, drab structures. Like a dryad, I slipped from tree to tree as I moved forward into this strange land. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that my mystical traipsing would be a lot more mundane if I weren't so high.

After twenty minutes of meandering, I heard a pitiful whining and headed towards the sound. A good-sized dog was in a cage that sat on a twenty by twenty cement square. The dog was terrified, and the whining grew louder when the poor thing spotted me. His tail started thumping and the cage shook. Still high and partially drunk, I immediately fell in love with that dog. I ran towards it and reached down to open the cage when the loudspeakers crackled, and the voice started yelling.

The static and echo-laden voice blared from the speakers. "Get out of there! Run! You need to—"

The voice dissolved into continuous static and my hair rose, fell and rose again, finally standing on end. I felt the ionization of the air as an electrical blue nimbus, fifteen feet in diameter, rose from the ground, surrounding me and the dog. There was a sharp, wrenching feeling in my stomach as everything gained a blue tint and began to have a strobing effect. On, on, on, off. On, on, on, off.

As I looked towards the dog, it seemed to be shaking its head back and forth in slow motion. The dog disappeared for a fraction of a second and reappeared, slightly different. The fur changed color. Again, the dog seemed to phase out of existence before my eyes. Then it reappeared, but as a different breed this time, larger, barely fitting inside the cage.

Looking down at myself, I saw my clothes remained the same. Still the green miniskirt, still the black leggings with gold accent, still the tie-dye sweatshirt. I stared at my hands as I seemed to step in and out of phases. They were my hands, then they were a crone's, they returned to how they were, and then shifted again to where I was missing an index finger and the hand was scarred.

For the briefest of moments, I could see all of eternity. Every reality lay bare to me. I concentrated on the two constants, myself and the dog. We shifted through every possibility of who and what we could be.

Although the dog and I stood there alone, I could sense... others. A malevolence with an implacable hunger. Unintelligible whispers forced their way into my mind, pushing and marginalizing the essence of me, filling the dark corners of who I was. The whispers emanated from these creatures like sound from a radio.

Somehow, I was distanced from the paralyzing fear a part of me was experiencing. I was compartmentalized, segmented. Observing and noting but frozen in mind numbing terror.

The bricks and mortar of my being, my sense of self that makes me who I am, lay strewn about me. I was convinced there were some things I was not meant to see. Somehow, I knew that if I turned my attention elsewhere, I would lose my mind. Unlike Dorothy peeking behind the curtain, I wouldn't survive seeing the Face of God.

The blue nimbus contracted, and the edges slowly started rolling in towards me, like a cloud falling in on itself. The pain in my stomach grew, and I doubled over, clenching my eyes closed. When I was able to open my eyes and straighten, the cement under my feet was gone, the cage was on its side and the dog appeared to be dead, its muzzle covered in blood.

I stood there, heart thudding in my chest, but too stunned to be frightened yet. The sun was much higher than it had been a few minutes earlier and the area around me was idyllic, with a small roadway ahead and trees everywhere. Turning, I saw a small building with the words Camp Hero State Park stenciled on its walls. There was no sign of the fence.

The air still smelled of the ocean and the only noise was the cawing of the gulls.

The pain was receding, but I still clutched my side. Turning a full circle, taking in the landscape's physical changes, I saw a young man jogging in my direction. He wore an odd, almost plastic-like shirt that matched his shorts and strange tennis-shoes. His large, panting dog by his side, he slowed to a walk as he looked me over.

His voice was light and the tone friendly. "Miss, are you all right?"

I looked at his unkempt, sandy blond hair, hazel green eyes and gentle lopsided smile. He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. I was about to reply when I vomited pancakes, wine and blood. Falling to my knees, I looked up at him, hand outstretched, and slipped into darkness.

* * * * *


I tried sitting in my home office but got up to pace after a few minutes. Back to the chair, I checked my cell again. No missed calls. Of course, there were no missed calls. I'd been checking it every two minutes. Why hadn't he called?

The Persian rug was pulled from the wall and tossed to the side. Behind it lay the calendar, bold, huge, painted in red and black. One-hundred and eighty days. April eighth to October fifth. Taking a thick black Sharpie, I put an X through the first day. The entire image was a paean to the vanity of an old woman. I could trust that nothing was ever as secure as you'd like it to be and I didn't want anyone knowing my business but having a graphic representation of the transience of time would help me focus.

Whatever the female equivalent of avuncular was, I spent two decades making sure that was my relationship with Finn. I was friends with his parents before he was born. His Little League teams and Cub Scout troops were sponsored by my companies. The amount of Girl Scout cookies I bought from his sister could feed a small nation. My influence got Siobhan her carry permit. I became a silent partner when he bought his first clamming boat. Everything deliberate, always a motive, but done with love and joy.

Finn and I had some difficulties after the incident with that Steading girl. I had played that all wrong, but we were good again. It took a lot of planning and effort to make damn sure that I would be the person that he would call in an emergency. Not that I didn't enjoy every minute of it. I just had to be patient.

I had just stood to start pacing again when the phone rang. I grabbed it and had to force myself to wait until the second ring to answer.

"Good morning, Finn. Is everything alright?"

"Yeah, I mean, no, not really. Aunt Cynthia, I need some help. There was a woman, in the park. Dink and I found her when we were running." He was nervous, speaking quickly. Pausing, he took a deep breath. "She sort of puked up blood and collapsed. I didn't have my car, no-one was here. We're in an Uber now. When does the clinic open?"

"Finn, calm down. Everything will be fine. I'll call Doctor Khalil and she'll meet you at the clinic. I'll be there as soon as I can."

I heard him talking to the driver for a moment.

"Okay, we're heading there now. Thanks, I just didn't... Oh, crap. It's not even six. Did I wake you?"

"No, I've been up for a while. I'm glad you called, honey. You take care of this girl and I'll be there as soon as I can."

* * * * *


Shifting. Faster and faster. Scene to scene. I was old. Young. Mutilated. Whole. Brilliant. Stunted. Back to the me I knew.

The dog. That poor dog. In and out of realities. Large. Small. One breed. Another. Injured. Healed. But always the eyes. The eyes were always the same.

And there were... others. Things. Beings. They didn't belong here. With us. They were desperate. Hungry. Without form. Immense but without size. Shadow creatures battering noiselessly at the walls of our reality. In the instant inside that electric blue light I could feel them. Sense them. Their hunger.

And worse, they could sense me.

I awoke and bolted upright in a bed, screaming as the final image of that poor dog, his sightless eyes fixed on me, tore me from sleep.

It wasn't a nightmare, I wasn't tripping, and I wasn't going crazy. My certainty was frightening, but deep in my bones I knew it was true.

My screaming called them to the room. Medical professionals. I took a ragged breath and tried to settle myself. A hospital. I was in a hospital.

The resistance I felt on my arms was due to the equipment to which I was attached. Why are they monitoring me? What is this equipment? What the hell just happened on that base? This had to be some sort of top secret military hospital. I didn't recognize any of the machinery and it all looked like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel. What was going on?

"I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."

Wearing glasses, little makeup and with her hair in a bun, a tall thin ascetic looking woman offered a smile that I got the feeling was rare. "It's quite all right, miss. I'm Dr. Khalil. And you are...?"

"Jennifer. Jennifer Cowell. How long have I been here? My friends are down by the lighthouse. Can someone let them know I'm here? I should call my parents. Is there a phone I can use?"

"Absolutely, Jennifer. We'll get in touch with your friends and you can call your parents. Can we figure out how you're doing first? You were brought here when you collapsed."

She was polite and trying to be kind, but I couldn't stay here. Mom could take me to a doctor when I got home. A real doctor, not one of these army doctors. Did they let women be doctors in the army?

My voice quavered as I spoke. "Listen, I didn't know what this place was last night. I was a little... out of it. I didn't realize this was a military camp or base or whatever. Maybe you could just let me go? I won't say anything to anybody, I'll just meet up with my friends and we will head home."

The woman lost her smile, and her eyes narrowed. She seemed puzzled. "Jennifer, where do you think you are?"

* * * * *


As much as I love the life I've led, I haven't felt this energized in decades. This was my chance to correct our life. We had one-hundred and seventy-eight days to get this right.

Dr. Khalil looked at me from across her desk. Leaning back and twiddling a pen in her fingers like a metronome, she stared at the ceiling as she spoke. "Physically, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her. There was, indeed, some blood in her, well, vomit. That cleared up quickly. No internal bleeding or blood in her sputum. She's alert, responsive and pain free."

"Alright, Doctor. Physically she seems to be fine. What about mentally or emotionally?"

Smiling across the desk, she gently corrected me. "How long have we been friends? Unless you want me calling you Ms. Kallas, my name is Barbara. Emotionally, she is nervous and scared, but fairly stable. Mentally? That's a whole other ball of wax."

"What do you mean?"

"Okay, this isn't like the movies where people who are mentally ill believe that they are Napoleon or Cleopatra. Delusions on that scale are not as common as people think, but she believes that this is 1968."

I had practiced my reaction. I sat back in my seat and paused, staring at her with eyebrows raised. "The year 1968?"

"Yes. This obviously isn't my field. As you requested, I'm bringing in some experts. I'm guessing it's some form of dissociative personality disorder, but again, not my field. It's just... odd. It's odd."

"How so?"

"She seems too good. She knows everything, not just the big things, but the little stuff as well. Things that she would have to study to know. When speaking with her, we mentioned items that happened or became popular in 1969 or 1970. She had no clue what we were talking about. Back it up a year, and she was right on the money. Johnson not running for re-election? Hugely detailed memories. Charles Manson? Nothing."

I again feigned surprise. "That is strange. Poor girl. I'd like everything billed to me. Call in whoever you have to. I'm sure she has to feel alone and without friends. Finn and I would like to bring her dinner this evening. Would that be okay?"

Barbara looked surprised. It's not often that I get involved with the patients here. I just paid the bills, get monthly reports and pop in once in a while. I do pay the bills though, and that gives me some leeway. "I'll talk to the specialists that are coming in, but I don't anticipate a problem. Heck, if she wanted to get up and leave right now, she could. She's not on a forty-eight hour hold and she doesn't seem to be a threat to herself or anyone else. We're just going to make her comfortable and not give her any reason to want to leave. What will you bring? I'll see if she has any allergies."

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