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Swamp Thing 2 - The Return of Swamp Thing

Peter David



  Young, beautiful Abigail had come to the swamplands hoping to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. But there, she found a whirlpool of horrors beyond her wildest dreams . . .

  First, there were strange, unearthly things lurking in the marsh, victimizing a small backwoods community, and launching a lifetime of nightmares for two frightened boys.

  Then, there was the abominable laboratory of Dr. Arcane, her brilliant but twisted stepfather, who planned to use Abigail in his next genetic experiment.

  And last but not least, there was a monster that was once a man, heroic and strong, who would sweep Abigail off her feet—and avenge the evil that threatened her life . . .


  presents a


  of a JIM WYNORSKI film




















  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with

  Lightyear Entertainment, L. P.


  Jove edition / May 1989

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 1989 by Lightyear Entertainment, L. P.

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address:

  Lightyear Entertainment, L. P., 350 Fifth Avenue (Suite 5101), New York, New York 10118.

  ISBN: 0-515-10113-3

  Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

  The name “JOVE” and the “J” logo are trademarks belonging to Jove Publications, Inc.


  Dedicated to the dazzling imaginations of the people who spawned one of the most acclaimed characters in comics

  I float . . . peacefully . . . in the womb of the . . . earth mother . . . feeling . . . nurtured . . . in the green.

  I seem to recall . . . another time . . . such as this . . . when I hovered . . . newly formed within . . . a woman’s body. But the woman was flesh . . . and blood . . . and tissue . . . throbbing and hot . . . not the peaceful cool nurturing . . . of the earth mother.

  And I was taken . . . from the womb . . . to a world of . . . flesh . . . a world I left . . . in a burning symphony of pain.

  I was hurled from that world . . . and want no part of it . . . for it wants . . . no part of . . . me.

  There is pain there . . . and hurt . . . and memories . . . that give me . . . sadness . . . not like here . . . in the green.

  Above me . . . is the peace of . . . the swamp . . . I am one . . . with it . . . with the swamp . . . I have no need for . . . earthly concerns. Why should I . . . when my concern . . . is the earth . . . itself?

  Let the flesh . . . go on about . . . its small concerns. I have no need . . . of the flesh. I have the dirt . . . and the grass . . . and the leaves. I need . . . nothing else.

  I am . . . whole.


  The doorknob came off in his hand.

  Dr. Bernstein stood there a moment, glancing left and then right in embarrassment to see if anybody had spotted him. The screen door had started to open when he’d pulled it, but when the doorknob had abruptly detached itself, the door had swung shut again with a discomfiting thwank.

  It should not have come as all that much of a surprise. When the cab had dropped him off at the front of the Wein Motel, the doctor’s first assessment was that the entire structure might come tumbling down upon being nudged by even the lightest of breezes. It had the general appearance and ambience of the Bates Motel from Psycho—desolate and unappealing, the wood of its exterior staying together more out of habit than anything else, the nails having long since rusted away.

  Indeed, perhaps the only reason it was still standing was because no wind had come along to knock it over. The Wein Motel was situated directly at the edge of Suicide Swamp, deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou. The air simply hung there, as if defying a stray zephyr to get it to move. No zephyr was willing to take up the challenge, apparently.

  Bernstein had heard the expression “oppressive heat” but had never quite grasped the full meaning before this. He had wondered why the cabbie had snickered at his Brooks Brothers suit when he’d been picked up at the airport.

  Now he understood. The humidity had reduced his fine clothes to little more than an eight-hundred-dollar damp rag. He’d removed his jacket, which had already soaked through, while his pressed slacks hung limply on him, his once crisp white shirt hugging him like a second skin. Sweat was dripping into his eyes, and he pulled at his tie, finally becoming so fed up that he yanked the tie off and tied it around his forehead. He looked like something out of a samurai film.

  So there he stood with the doorknob in his hand, feeling foolish, and making some vague attempt to jam it back into the door. His airplane carry-on bag sat next to him on the porch of the motel. Directly to his right a vacancy sign hung lopsidedly on the wall by one piece of fishline, the other piece presumably having snapped. Bernstein started to feel if he didn’t get into some air-conditioning, he was going to be the next thing that snapped.

  He heard a voice from inside ask, with what sounded like a British accent, “Knob come off again?”

  Bernstein gave up the subterfuge. “I’m afraid so,” he admitted. “I’ll pay for the damage . . .”

  “Quite all right, old boy, quite all right. In you come, then.”

  The screen door leading to the lobby was opened from the inside. Bernstein peered in, his eyes trying to adjust to the dimness of the lobby. There wasn’t all that much to see, really. A couple of rattan chairs, one with a hole in the seat, another with a hole in the back. A calendar on the wall turned to October of 1985. A painting of a creature that looked vaguely like a small white monkey, but with a distinctly sinister gaze to it. That was all.

  Bernstein turned toward the desk and took an involuntary step back upon seeing the clerk who had let him in. The clerk was tall, almost cadaverous. His hair was long and black, coming to well beneath his shoulders, and he sported an equally shaggy beard. His eyes were sunken but extremely alert, with a gleam in them that hinted toward slight dementia.

  “Aren’t you hot with all that hair?” said Bernstein, who began to sweat even more just looking at him.

  The clerk appeared to consider this. “I don’t know. I’ve never been without it, so I have nothing to compare it to. Me name’s Alan. You need a room?”

  “Actually, I’m supposed to be meeting someone here. A Doctor Lana Zurrell?”

  Alan paused a moment, looking Bernstein up and down. “Brit, like me? Black hair, sharp jaw, stare that would melt an iceberg?”

  “Yes, that’s her.”

  “Haven’t seen her.”

  Bernstein blinked in confusion. “I beg your pardon?”

  “I’m just yanking you, mate. She’s in room 3A. Told me if a Doctor Bernstein came looking for her, I should send him over.”

  “That would
be me.”

  Alan stared at him. “Pardon me for saying so, but . . . you don’t look it.”

  Bernstein gave a small smile. “My father was Jewish. My mother was Japanese. You’re looking at Wong Sing Bernstein . . . psychiatrist and acupressurist.” And, as befitting his Japanese appearance, Bernstein bowed slightly at the waist.

  Alan did not return the bow but merely stared at Bernstein with a most disquieting gaze. “Take a spot of friendly advice, Doc?”

  “If I can.”

  “I’ve run this,” and he made a vague, encompassing gesture, “establishment for quite a few years. Seen quite a bit of things, know all the stories. And I know things, see? I know that some bad things are going to be happening in the swamp very shortly.”

  “Now how would you know that?” asked Bernstein with professional patience.

  “Here and there. Listen to the birds, listen to the ’gators . . . listen to what the weeds say as they rustle. What do you hear, Doc? Right now? This minute?”

  Bernstein paused, tilting his head slightly. “Nothing.”

  “Exactly. Nothing. This time of day, flies are usually thick as . . . well, thick as flies.” He leaned against the desk, his hair brushing against his elbow. “Should be buzzing enough to drive you off your nut. But even the flies know something’s coming and are just talking quietly among themselves. That’s why there’s no noise. None of them, from the biggest reptile to the lowliest bug, wants to draw attention to itself.”

  Bernstein nodded, mentally classifying this desk clerk as someone who was in desperate need of therapy. Then again, considering the remoteness of the motel, it was a wonder he was sane at all.

  “Everything’s quiet . . . and the swamp man is listening. Don’t you get it, Doc?” said Alan, and his voice became lower and darker. “This is his place. His place of power. And you should not have come here.”

  There was a dead silence then as, somewhere nearby, the flies muttered among themselves. Then Bernstein said, with a forced smile, “I’d like to thank you for sharing that with me. Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”

  “And I’d stay away from that woman, Doc. She looks like the type, if you paid her enough, she’d swallow a mouse.”

  “Thank you again. We’ll talk more later.” Bernstein bowed again slightly and walked back out the screen door, allowing it to thwank noisily shut behind him.

  Alan watched him go and said in a low voice, “No . . . I don’t think we will.”

  Bernstein walked along the side of the motel, each step sinking his patent leather shoes into the mud, as he checked the room numbers. He found 3A and stepped up, knocking softly on the door.

  A sultry female voice called from within. “Come in. It’s open.”

  Bernstein stepped in, shutting the door behind him.

  He couldn’t see anything. He moved toward the window to pull aside the drape, and then a small light came on next to the bed.

  Illuminated by the light on the nightstand was Lana Zurrell. Bernstein’s breath caught in his chest.

  She lay stretched out on the bed, wearing the sheerest of pink nightgowns. Her head was propped on her hand, her luminous eyes watching him carefully.

  He remembered when he’d first met her three months ago at the psychiatrists’ convention in New Orleans. He’d been overwhelmed by her. Bernstein had never kidded himself that he had any sort of sex appeal . . . after all, he was in his late thirties, he wasn’t especially tall, he wasn’t especially handsome, he wasn’t especially anything . . . until Lana had completely captivated him. What had started off as a pleasant if somewhat cut-and-dried convention had turned into an erotic weekend beyond imagining.

  He would have lied, cheated, given up everything for another taste of that. So when Lana had asked him to, upon returning to his native Malibu, seek out and take on a particular young woman’s case, and suggested certain directions his consultations might take, Bernstein had been more than willing to do it. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had known he was being manipulated for some end he didn’t understand. But he didn’t care. He simply didn’t care. His days were filled with thoughts of her, his nights with sensuous dreams.

  “That was a naughty thing you did, Wong,” she said scoldingly, her finger tracing lazy circles in the pillow. “Calling from the airport and saying you were already here. I hate having guests just pop up like this.”

  “Guest?” Bernstein was having trouble concentrating, the intoxicating aroma of her perfume wafting its way across the room to him. “I’d . . . I’d like to think I’m a bit more than a guest. God, it’s good to see you, Lana. I . . .”—he took a step toward her—“I haven’t been able to think of anything besides you. I had to see you again.”

  “Well,” said Lana with a smile, “you didn’t give me much choice. I hope arranging to meet in this motel didn’t inconvenience you.”

  He looked around, still not able to make out much of the room’s contents and somehow pleased he couldn’t. “To be honest, it’s not terribly romantic,” he said. “And I wish it were air-conditioned.”

  “Don’t worry, Wong. There won’t be any need for air conditioning, because we’ll be heating things up in here.”

  He felt a tremor of excitement go through him. He dropped his carry-on bag and took a step toward her but halted in his tracks as she put up a hand. “First,” she said, “tell me why you came all the way down here to Louisiana from California. What was so urgent that you couldn’t simply telephone me, or drop me a line? Is it about—?”

  “Abigail, yes.” He nodded excitedly. “It’s taken me a month of meeting with her almost every day, but I’ve convinced her she will never be able to put her own turmoil behind her unless she reconciles with her stepfather.”

  Lana sat up slowly, allowing one shoulder strap of her nightgown to drop alluringly down her arm. “You’re quite certain she’s going to act on this?”

  “Absolutely. She trusts me implicitly. And it’s good advice, really,” he added, as much to convince himself as her. “My belief is before the month is out, Abigail Arcane will be coming down here to meet with your employer and put old demons to rest.”

  Lana said something under her breath Bernstein could have sworn was “Or create new ones.”

  “What did you say?” he asked.

  “Nothing, my love,” said Lana, leaning back and stretching her arms out to him. “You’ve done wonderfully. My employer will be thrilled.”

  “It’s . . . not your employer I was most concerned about,” said Bernstein, becoming aware of his own pulse pounding against his temple as he walked toward her. “I was hoping . . . you might be grateful. That’s why I came down. That’s why—”

  “And you were right, my love,” said Lana. “So very right. Let me show you just how grateful I am.”

  He was across the remainder of the room in a flash, leaping onto the bed on top of her supine body, the mattress creaking noisily under him. He moaned as he felt her hands undoing the top of his slacks and sliding them down. “Oh, God, Lana,” he moaned.

  And the moment his buttocks were exposed she said softly, “Now.”

  “Now?” he gasped.

  “Not you,” she replied, and there was something in her eyes . . . as if she had just swallowed a helpless mouse.

  Just at the edge of his peripheral vision something had separated from the shadows in the room and then, before his mind could fully register that something was wrong, terribly wrong, he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his right buttock.

  He shrieked and rolled off her, hitting the floor with a resounding thud, and he flopped around like a just-hooked fish. He tried to pull his trousers back up, but his arms refused to move. They simply lay there, two mutinous sacks of flesh and bone.

  He looked up and someone was stepping back from him, an innocuous-appearing man with a high forehead, thinning hair, and a mustache. In his right hand he was holding a hypodermic . . . the hypo, Bernstein realized, that had moments before been injecting somethi
ng into him.

  Lana was standing next to him now, pulling on a robe over her nightgown. “How long will he be unconscious, Rochelle?”

  The man she had called Rochelle said briskly, “At least an hour. More than enough time to get back to the compound.” He leaned forward, waving a finger past Bernstein’s eyes. “He’s still awake. A strong specimen. We can use him.”

  “L-L-Lana . . .” Bernstein managed to get out.

  Lana smiled down at him. “Yes, my love?”

  “P-please . . . let me go . . .” He could barely hear his own voice, but clearly Lana had made out what he said.

  She smiled and stroked his cheek, but there was no love to it now, only a clinical coldness. “Let you go? Wong, if you hadn’t come down here, you wouldn’t have put yourself in this position. Especially now when we needed subjects. Still . . . perhaps after Dr. Rochelle here is through with you, perhaps we will let you go. For old times’ sake.”

  “I . . .” He licked his lips desperately, becoming aware of a fly, perched on the edge of the lamp. It wasn’t flying, merely watching him. Anticipating. Waiting. “I won’t tell anyone . . .”

  “Of course you won’t,” said Lana. “When Dr. Rochelle is through with his experimenting, you certainly won’t be in any condition to tell anyone anything.”

  “You . . . you bloodsucking bitch . . .”

  Lana’s hand lashed out and slapped him across the face. He took a dim measure of comfort in that he didn’t feel it.

  She stared at him with cold satisfaction and said, “Tell me, Dr. Rochelle . . . what was your next subject for the gene-splicing plan?”

  “Well,” said Rochelle, thoughtfully stroking his mustache, “I had been considering the Hirudo medicinalis.”

  “And that would be . . . ?”

  “The leech.”

  “Ah! How splendid. Dear, dear Wong Sing . . .”—she smiled down at him mirthfully—“you’re going to find out about bloodsuckers firsthand.”

  What she was saying . . . this talk of gene splicing, of leeches, of—it wasn’t possible. It was an insane, waking nightmare. She wouldn’t. They couldn’t—