by Doc Quantum
“You should’a seen ‘im, Uncle Jeff! He was huge! And his skin was all green and slimy an’ stuff. Darryl almost wet his pants when he posed for the camera. Too bad there wasn’t any film in it, though.”
“Omar!” said his mother sternly. “How many times have I told you not to make up stories?”
“It’s all right, Rashaundra,” said Jeff. “I’m interested in this kinda stuff.” He smiled at his sister, who returned his smile with a disapproving glare, which he typically ignored. “Go on, Omie. I’d like to hear more of this… Swamp Man.”
“Jefferson Bolt!” Rashaundra said sternly. “Could I see you in the living room for one second?”
“Rash, we’re in the middle of supper here…”
Jefferson Bolt winked at Omar and caught a knowing smile from his brother-in-law, Jamar, as he left the table. They both knew better than to cross that hot-tempered sister of his in her own home.
As soon as he went into the living room, his sister tore into him. “Jeff, how many times have I told you to stop fillin’ that boy’s head with all this monster nonsense? Do you think I want him to turn into you when he grows up? I don’t know why I even let you come by for dinner all the times I do, for all the thanks I get! If you’re gonna eat supper with my family under my roof, you’d better stick with my rules! Honestly, Jeff, if Mom were here, she’d–”
“She’d probably say just the right thing to calm us all down,” Jeff said, laughing.
“Do you think this is funny? If you think this is funny, mister, you can tow your–”
“No, Rash, of course not. Sorry once again. I’m just doing my part to broaden the boy’s horizons, is all.”
“Well, save it for after supper! And speaking of supper, it’s getting cold, so you’d better get back in there and finish it. But no more of this monster nonsense!”
“As you say, sister,” said Jeff, kissing her on her forehead, despite her fiery temper. She shook her head and went back into the kitchen and the dinner table.
So the Swamp Thing was alive, after all. And he was back in Louisiana, at least for now. Well, when he got back to work on Monday, the first thing Jefferson Bolt would do was reopen the file on his old friend. He had a feeling his employer would be very interested in this piece of information.
In a remote glade in Florida, there was an old farm that had been converted into a commune back in the early 1970s. At this commune had congregated a ragged handful of hippies left over from the 1960s who had wanted to drop out of the society that had tried to co-opt and change them. This hippie community had remained a small one, with a few unconventional families and a small farming operation to support them. That was, until just over two years ago, when the Emissary arrived.
Ever since their Emissary had been brought to them from the cold, northern city of Gotham, the community had grown quickly, doubling and tripling in only a few short months as the word spread. A New Age-type cult began to be formed as the Emissary had been sown in the rich chernozem soil and began slowly growing, first to the size it had originally been and then to almost twice that size. Many of the new converts had come from Gotham City as well, since the faddish cult nicknamed the Swampies — worshippers of the Swamp Thing — had begun to decline in the swamp creature’s absence.
Each and every night the Grundies, as they unofficially called themselves, would hold a ceremony of fertility before the large pod that grew in the sacred plot in the farm. This huge pod in which the Emissary had grown to its present size was similar in appearance to a cabbage, except the stalk was much paler in color, and the leaves completely encasing the Emissary were of a rich, dark green color.
The Grundies had conducted mating rituals before the Emissary, producing several children in the process. These children were considered sacred by the cult, and they intended to raise these babies as priests and priestesses of this new religion as they grew older.
Something was different in the air of late, however. Everyone could feel that something would soon happen. Thus, the fertility ceremonies had been stepped up to run almost twenty-four hours each and every day for the last few weeks. It was hoped that the Emissary would soon burst from his pod reborn, and grace them with his wisdom.
The Grundies chanted the sacred verse over and over as they prayed for this day of reckoning to come:
Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday:
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.”
But of course they knew the secret of the Emissary, that he had no end and would rise ever more.
Elsewhere, in a dark, murky wood, a shadow passed between ancient trees gnarled by age toward its destination. In this wood, no birds could be seen or heard, nor could squirrels, raccoons, or deer be spotted anywhere within its boundaries. For this was an enchanted forest, one filled with trees corrupted by age and ever-present darkness due to the thick canopy above. This wood had a reputation for miles around as one in which several people had gotten lost over the years and were never seen again.
It had recently taken up a new occupant, however, one which was as old as the eldest trees in the wood. It was toward this newcomer that this dark spirit passed as a messenger.
“My Lord,” it said in a voice that was not unlike the hissing of water passing through a pipe as it approached its master in an appropriately subservient manner. “The erl-king has taken to wandering once more. And he is alone.”
The dark lord before him turned with a scowl. “Call him not king, slave.”
“I am sorry, My Lord,” the shadow squealed in fright. “For you are truly the rightful one king of the wood.”
The dark lord of the wood was no longer listening to the sniveling little messenger, but instead his heart was turned upon his plan of domination. It was true that he had gained much ground in the erl-king’s absence, but the best-laid plans of men and gods often went awry. The Swamp Thing would bear watching if Blackbriar Thorn were to regain all that he had lost in his long absence from this world.