Unknown Armies

1. Bill in Three Persons

The Prime Directive forbids us to intercede

Martin is driving through Yosemite National Park in the dead of night, looking for a camping spot. At the same time, Walter is driving a lonely highway near Butte, Montana. Each of them approaches an intersection, where a horrible auto accident has taken place. Each is flagged down by a local sheriff, who asks for assistance. Each of them steps out of their car and suddenly becomes aware of the other. Even though they should be hundreds of miles apart, they are inexplicably in the same place.

The Sheriff is injured and recruits the two to be his hands to remove the drivers of the smashed vehicles. The victims are horribly injured, and both men have mild panic reactions to making things worse with their inexperienced handling. Eventually, all three drivers are laid out side-by-side on the pavement. Looking from one to the next, Martin and Walter realize that there aren’t three drivers, but one driver three times. The sheriff shakes his head grimly and says, “I just knew it; it’s that damn Bill Toge again.” At that moment, one of the cars ignites a spreading puddle of gasoline. The violent explosion provides the energy necessary to draw Martin and Walter into some kind of swirling probabilistic event, sending them back in time to another place entirely.

They find themselves crouched in the pet food aisle of a supermarket. It is day-time, and it appears that the store is being robbed. Four men who have obviously seen Point Break too many times have donned Presidential masks and are holding the entire store at gunpoint. Just as Martin and Walter appear, there is a brief gunfight between the man with the Reagan mask and a cop. The cop is shot, and the tension level of the situation goes way up. Martin and Walter are unarmed and unwilling to put their own lives on the line to intervene. A quick look around shows them a fire door, and they start to move toward it and away from the gunmen.

The man in the Nixon mask sees them moving and shoots at them, screaming at them to get down on the ground. Walter does as the man says, but Martin makes a break for it. He gets shot for his trouble, but it’s just a minor wound to the shoulder. He makes it into cover and continues heading for the fire door.

The thieves wrap up their heist, keep the incoming police at bay with a few more shots, murder a shopper who tries to escape, and make their getaway out through the stockroom.

As he reaches the fire door, Martin looks back over his shoulder and sees a copy of himself, wearing a malevolent grin. The doppelganger gives him a mocking salute, then vanishes into the frozen foods aisle. The scene shifts again; Martin and Walter are again at the crossroads. All three drivers are still lying on the asphalt. Although they seem to have returned to the moment right before the explosion, Martin’s shoulder is still injured. The sheriff shakes his head grimly and says, “I knew it; it’s that damn Bill Toge again.” The cars explode, and the scene changes again.

It is once more 12 hours earlier and a different place entirely. Martin and Walter are standing in the hallway of an apartment building, right outside room 101. The door is ajar, and they can hear someone grunting, as though trying to shout through a gag. Walter grabs a nearby fire extinguisher from the wall and nudges the door open to see inside. The driver of the cars, Bill Toge, is there. He has another man duct-taped to a metal folding chair. There are bloody paper towels all around. Bill is holding a Bowie knife, and he has several knife wounds. His captive’s nose and mouth have been sealed with flesh, as though his face melted.

Walter steps into the room, brandishing the fire extinguisher and demanding to know what’s going on. Bill looks at him contemptuously and says, “Who the hell are you?” He takes a step forward, extending the knife toward the man in the chair. Walter tries to distract him by spraying the fire extinguisher, which really does nothing but cover everyone with a fine white powder. Bill ignores the powder and thrusts the knife into the other man’s face, cutting open a hole where his mouth should be and allowing him to breath.

Walter tries to hit Bill with the fire extinguisher, but just barely misses. Bill slashes himself across the arm, and slaps the back of Walter’s head as he goes by. Massive pain erupts in Walter’s genitals, and he goes down for the count. Bill gives himself another cut, puts his hand over the captives face, and when he withdraws it, the man has a normal nose and mouth again.

“Mr. Spending the Rest of His Short Miserable Life In Agonizing Pain” here is Don Lewis. He’s a child molester, and he has my little girl! Bill screams the last part of that sentence as he looms over Don, who is crying and, from the smell of it, has urinated on himself. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know! Yeah, I have her! I love her, and she loves me! We’re gonna be together forever!”

“Where is she, dead man!?” Bill shouts at him.

“At my house! At my house! There’s a room in the basement! I’ll show you!”

Bill cuts him free, grabs him by the scruff of the neck and shoves him out the door, where Martin’s still cowering. Martin and Walter follow Bill out to his car, a big Cadillac. Bill looks at them suspiciously. “You comin’? Fine by me. I could use some witnesses.” Martin and Walter agree, if only to see where things go.

They arrive at Don’s house, which is a real crap-hole. Literally. Three little pomeranians have left their scat everywhere in the house, and the flies are having a good old time. Don leads Bill, Martin, and Walter into the basement and rolls aside a tool rack, revealing a little room with a sink, a toilet, and a bed with manacles. Chained to the bed is a naked four-year-old girl with a gag in her mouth. The child is dead, apparently having choked on her own vomit while Don was away.

Furious, Bill stabs himself deeply in the leg, grabs Don by the face, and does something to him. Don start bleeding from his mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. He vomits up portions of his own esophagus and intestines, and collapses into a mess on the floor, melting from the inside out. It looks like an instant and horrible case of ebola. While Don is twitching in his death throes on the floor, Bill finds the key to the manacles hung from a peg outside the hidden room. He unlocks his little girl, and picks her up, cradling her gently, but he still has the knife clutched in one hand. Walter is starting to get an idea of what’s going on. He finds a sharp object and gives himself a small cut on the arm to test a hypothesis.

Bill turns toward the stairs. Martin and Walter very wisely get out of his way. Martin follows him up while Walter takes a few pictures with his cell phone. Bill starts toward the door just as someone knocks on it. He pauses for a moment, staring at it with dead eyes. Martin and Walter just watch to see what he will do. Bill answers the door; there are two cops on the porch. As soon as they see the dead child in Bill’s arms, they assume the worst and draw their guns. “Hands in the air!” Martin and Walter obey. Martin steps around a corner to get out of the line of fire.

Bill lets go of the child with one hand, the one with the knife, and stabs himself in the eye. He charges the cops, who are so stunned by his action that they fail to shoot. Bill steps forward and touches each of the cops. They simply explode in a fountain of blood and gore.

Bill walks slowly through the remains of of the cops to his car. He reverently opens the door and places the girl in the passenger seat. Martin and Walter look on. A car drives by, identical to Walter’s. The driver is, in fact Walter. Just like Martin’s look-a-like, he gives them a mocking salute and an evil smile as he drives calmly by, turns a corner, and vanishes.

The scene once again shifts, and they find themselves back at the crossroads. All three Bill Toges are still there. Martin is still wounded, and Walter still has the cut on his arm. The sheriff shakes his head grimly and says, “I just knew it; it’s that damn Bill Toge again.” The cars explode, and the scene shifts once more.

This time the pair is somewhere in the American Southwest. They are in what appears to be an abandoned trailer park. A couple dozen small mobile homes are present, but there are no power lines or other hookups. There is a low mumur of engines somewhere nearby but out of sight. Rounding the corner of the trailer they appeared next to, they see a shabby, fake UFO with a big sign that says “WELCOME!!! JESUS!!! AND THE ESSENALUMBANS!!!” Near the entrance of the trailer park is the corpse of a young black woman. It appears that she’s been shot, and there is a revolver near her hand.

Walter decides that having a gun would be a good idea, and he starts moving toward the woman. As he comes fully out from behind the trailers, though, he sees the source of the engine noise: A large number of police vehicles and news vans has blocked the only exit out of the small canyon. As soon as they see Walter, there is a big stir. The police take cover behind their vehicles and point their weapons toward him. Walter backpedals back toward the trailers. There is the crack of a rifle, and a bullet whizzes past his head. He rounds the corner, rejoining Martin in cover. The door to the trailer opens, and there is Bill Toge, wearing a big dopey smile. “Kindred! Come inside, the time is at hand!”

Martin and Walter scramble inside before the police can take any more shots at them. In the trailer are four people: Bill Toge, a crazed-looking man named Satchel, a thirty-year-old woman named Nicky, and a 15-year-old hispanic kid called Sal. There is also the corpse of a Sheriff’s deputy who has been shot and laid across a card table in the middle of the trailer. He’s been disemboweled, and there seems to be a significant portion of his innards missing.

The cultists talk a lot about Bills vision of Jesus and the people of the planet Essenalumba coming to rescue the faithful and destroy the rest of the world. Now that Walter and Martin are here, they, too, can be taken onto the spaceship and saved from the destruction of the Earth. Walter and Martin do a lot of smiling and nodding, just trying to keep from setting any of these loons off.

Eventually, the police launch their raid, starting it with tear gas. A few of the cultists are armed and put up a pathetic fight, but the police know exactly what they’re doing. Martin and Walter exit the trailer, rolling on the ground in pain from the tear gas and are quickly subdued and arrested along with the rest of the cultists. Bill takes a minor head wound during the scuffle but is largely unharmed. As soon as all of the cultists are arrested, bright lights presage the arrival of an ambulance. Emblazoned across the front, as usual, is “ECNALUBMA.” The hispanic EMT who hops out of the back with a gurney has a name tag that reads, “Jesus.” Apparently Bill’s vision of “Jesus” and the “Essanalumba” coming to rescue him was true, though garbled. The wounded cultists, and Martin, who still has his gunshot wound from the supermarket, are loaded into ambulances and taken away. The unwounded cultists and Walter are put into a paddy wagon, which follows the ambulances out.

In the ambulance, Bill Toge discovers that someone has accidentally dropped a handcuff key in his gurney. He unlocks his cuffs and asks Martin if he wants to escape, too. Martin agrees, so Bill unlocks him. Bill opens the back of the ambulance and jumps out… at 50 miles per hour. Martin, not being real bright, figures it must be a good idea, and he also jumps out. Martin lacks whatever weird luck graces Bill’s life, though, and he gets a concussion for his trouble. The paddy wagon screeches to a halt to avoid running Martin over. The police dismount to pursue Bill while one of them chucks Martin into the back of the paddy wagon with everyone else. Walter continues to not get involved, and Bill somehow manages to escape, against all odds. The scene shifts again.

The sheriff shakes his head grimly, “I just knew it; it’s that damn Bill Toge again.” This time, when the cars explode, the fireball passes over Martin, Walter, and the three Bills. When it fades, the sheriff and his cruiser are gone. From behind the flames, Martin’s and Walter’s sinister doubles emerge, driving duplicates of the two men’s cars. They peel off into the night and disappear.

A few minutes later, an ambulance—not driven by Jesus—arrives to take the Bills away.

A couple hours later, Walter and Martin pull into the first sign of civilization they run across: a 24-hour diner called The Railbird Cafe. They’re both weary, injured, and hungry, so they belly up to the counter and discuss what’s happened to them. The cook listens with a curious ear…



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