Friday, June 6, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure #15: House of Danger

Last time out my running like the dickens skills averted disaster when encountering a horrifying slime monster and its human minions. I'd talk about the long delay since then, but it seems excuse-making is all I do lately and all the obvious nursing home jokes have been made, so let's just suffice it say that better days are ahead. We might even get a "DotTeeVee" episode before there's snow on the ground. Today's subject looks like a good choice to get back up on this. The premise is intriguing (a house...of danger?), the author is gray pony-tailed hippie and dwarf-hater R.A. Montgomery and the reviews I've read suggest that we're in for a wild ride. It's time for the sort-of prequel to The Horror of High Ridge which will hopefully feature the happier days before I was put into a permanent state of fear paralysis by ghosts.

That does kind of put a damper on the proceedings. Whatever I do, that's my written-in-stone future. See, this is why prequels don't work [place lame Star Wars joke here].

Get your paws off me you damn dirty...Union soldier with a whip???

I'm just waiting for something to happen in the "lab" in my parents basement. Man, it's like this book can somehow see directly into my life. "No, I didn't get a job today, Mom. Yes, I'm reviewing a children's book that came out in 1982," etc. Anyway, I'm a "psychic investigator," sort of like in Ghost Hunter. Now "lack of originality" can be added to that book's many, many sins. At least this time I wouldn't be forced to steal things because the rightful owner "makes bombs for terrorists!" Well, probably not.

I get a "weak voice" call that is suggestive of trouble, but cuts off before any valuable information can be obtained. Since it's 1982, there's no way to identify the caller. I look around the "lab," scoping out my sick digs, complete with books like "Murder in Fun." Don't go killing anyone for Slender Man, ok kid? The mysterious caller phones again, but this time I'm ready and somehow trace the number while a desperate voice is all "help" and "they've got me." The caller is identified as a "Henry Marsden" and the whole situation reminds me of the case of the "Spider Ghost." Why does it always have to be spiders?

My calm demeanor here really plays continuity havok on my fearful reaction to the paranormal in "High Ridge," but again, it's only a sort-of sequel. Different authors and everything.

I was reminded of this, not ghost spiders.

It turns out the Spider Ghost case is the source of the funding for my sweet equipment (and an FBI commendation!). Man, this protagonist is a lot better than the "I found a bottle!" hero from Book Nine. Lessons learned from that experience include the need for strength in numbers, and I'm thinking Lisa and Ricardo, who will share a "incurable fear coma" hospital room with me in the near future. I try to call, but no one's home. Deciding time is of the essence I forget about back-up and go right to the address, where I suspect there might be a house, possibly of the dangerous variety. 

I park my car (???) near one of those ultra-modern homes that eventually fell out of favor with the rise of nearly identical brown boxes. Seriously, the character in the illustration does not look old enough to have a license and this would have been a great chance to introduce one of those patented R.A. Montgomery wussy vehicles, maybe a "pedal car" or "sugar three wheeler" or the like. Instead "car." All right, whatever you say.

  I guess "Superbike" wasn't available.

It turns out the house, dangerous or not, is built on the site of a prison that burned down in 1887, killing everyone inside. Very interesting. Meanwhile, the new house is all done up in glass and I'm going to resist making a "Fountainhead" joke that maybe one person in ten thousand would get. I often wonder why that novel didn't become a pop-culture touchstone like "Atlas Shrugged?" It's every bit as long and bad, after all. 

Some guy bolts out of the house, all in a panic, and then goes down as if hit by an "invisible hammer." Grandmaster Montgomery is laying down some sick prose game, right here, aw yeah. It turns out his pursuers are some sort of animals, possibly of the intelligent, half-ape, half-man variety. The entire scene gets a huge, lovingly drawn illustration that belongs in some museum, man.

The re-release art is, predictably, less than inspiring.

I decide that the "chimpanzees" probably aren't all that tough (they're only, like, eight times our strength pound for pound, no big deal) and rush to help the fallen man. Brandishing my "pen knife" I charge at them and incredibly they retreat into a ruin near the house. See kids, carrying concealed blades solves problems. We're learning a lot. I get a small triangular scrap of paper from the man, who has died of fear! Man, 1982 didn't mess around. 

The dirty apes are back, now equipped with some sort of "blow gun" and I feel the wind of a dart flying past without result. Time to use that running like the dickens ability. Back at the car I debate reporting this to the police. "You see officer, there was this invisible hammer that ended some dude, then some Planet of the Apes-type confrontation went down and I'm driving a car even though I just turned 12." The pros and cons are weighed and the negative wins out.

 "I expect you to die, Mr. Chimp."

While waiting to "sneak up" on the house I examine the paper some more, and it turns out it's actually a chunk of "U.S. Currency." Holy fudge, the Federal Reserve is run by Ape Men!!! That crazy guy on short-wave radio has been completely vindicated. Again. 

I contemplate the possibility of a "counterfeiting animal trainer" but am forced to dismiss it as unlikely. Hey, you gotta consider all the angles. 

A limo pulls up and two Hard Men get out and approach the house. The ape-men confront them, but are ignored and then disappear. You guessed it, they're holograms being used by what is presumably the New World Order/Bilderbergers/The IRS/Whoever it is that inflicts shit like Justin Bieber on society to keep people away from whatever nefarious scheme is currently unfolding in the danger house. The men leave, carrying packages. Is it possible that I've somehow stumbled on the facility where our government created crack cocaine? 

I'm sure a pre-teen who is allowed to drive a car for some reason will defeat this.

Then I decide it must be a "gang of counterfeiters" and not my own government run amok. Good old 1982 naivete. Everything else is a neat little package, though. The monkey-illusions and scary prison remains would keep people away, and the dead man must have stumbled on the truth. Why he'd call me and not, say, someone in authority with a better weapon than a pen knife remains obscure, but we're probably almost done so let's stop questioning everything. 

I call the police, the gang is broken up, I'm a hero and hey, can't wait for that fun vacation in High Ridge!

This was a fun one. Discarding the usual R.A. Montgomery tropes really worked wonders for the quality of his writing, but I guess the urge to deliver socialist lectures, misapply nepotism, describe wimpy modes of transit and drown in unnecessary weirdness is a powerful force. Not to say the storyline I got wasn't a total mess, but it was fun and zany and let's shut off your mind dude because thinking is bad, so all is forgiven.

Check Out My Books!

Aaron Zehner is the author of "Posts from the Underground," now available in paperback and e-book. Read a free excerpt here.

His first novel The Foolchild Invention is also available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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