Glitch Mitchell and the Deadly Follicle

Two weeks ago I posted 10 Questions With Philip Harris.  He had a two part giveaway.  The first part was a signed copy of his newest book Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet.  In order to win Harris said, “Glitch ends up in a lot of dire situations during his trip to the Unseen Planet including being attacked by vicious rock monsters, captured by aliens and of course being stranded on an alien planet with no way to get home. What “cliffhanger” situation would you put Glitch into?”  After the deadline was over Harris picked a winner and he would “write Glitch out of whatever situation that winner has put him in and post it on the Leighgendarium.”

The day has come and Philip Harris has written a new short Glitch adventure with the situation the winner put him in.

So without further ado, Philip Harris:

*****

Thanks to everyone who entered the Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet giveaway. I must admit, I was relieved that kaderystalmane’s evil scenario didn’t win – I’ve got no idea how I would have got Glitch out of that one without cheating.

Reesekgreese2010’s suggestion that Glitch be trapped in Donald Trump’s hair was a lot of fun to write. It instantly brought to mind the old Fantastic Voyage and Inner Space movies and they fit the tone of Glitch’s adventures perfectly. In the end, I had to curb my imagination a bit to avoid writing a full on novella, and even then the piece turned out longer than I’d planned. In the end, I decided to keep the story relatively straight faced. I think it works but I’ll let you decide for yourselves as you read Glitch Mitchell and the Deadly Follicle…

***

Dwayne “Glitch” Mitchell, Air Force Captain, Scarlett Anderson and Doctor Zheng are flying over New York in a prototype of a new eco-plane when a strange portal opens up just above a Manhattan tower block. As the government rushes to find the source of the bizarre television transmission that is generating the portal, Anderson is ordered to investigate. As they approach the portal, a powerful force grips the eco-plane and they’re drawn into the vortex.

Sirens wailed and lights flashed. Anderson fought to regain control of the aircraft as it shook and bounced towards the portal. Something cracked and popped inside the control panel above Glitch’s head and a cloud of thick black smoke that smelled faintly of burning plastic filled the cabin. Zheng unclipped her seatbelt and started toward the panel. The eco-plane bucked sideways, flinging her across the cockpit. Glitch lunged at the doctor, grabbing her arm and just managing to stop her slamming into the wall. Zheng nodded to him as she clambered back into her chair and refastened her seatbelt.

The eco-plane’s engines whined as Anderson’s hands flew over the controls.

“I’m losing power,” she shouted.

The portal filled the cockpit window—a swirling mass of yellows and greens and whites. Multicolored clouds billowed from its center—lightning crackled across their surface. Tendrils of energy reached out toward the eco-plane, wrapping themselves around it.

“It’s pulling us in,” shouted Zheng, her crisp, British voice filled with a mix of fear and curiosity.

Anderson pushed the aircraft’s throttle forward and the engine’s screams became almost unbearable. Glitch squeezed his eyes shut as a bright light filled the cockpit. Metal creaked and groaned. Glitch felt the floor beneath his feet twist. He clutched the arms of his chair, waiting for the inevitable decompression to drag him screaming out into the void.

And then the light was gone. The rattling and creaking died away. The engines spluttered and died, leaving behind an eerie silence.

Glitch opened his eyes again.

The portal was gone. In its place lay a broad expanse of pale yellow trees. Glitch eased up his grip on the seat for a moment, and then the nose of the eco-plane tipped forward, rushing toward the forest.

“We’re out of fuel,” shouted Anderson. “Brace for impact.”

As she spoke, the eco-plane hit the top of the trees. There was a crunch and the plane tore through the canopy and into the sea of yellow. The belt around Glitch’s waist threatened to cut him in half as the impact threw him forward. The aircraft crashed through the trees and hit the ground. It bounced twice, then slid to halt beside a thin, gray-flecked tree.

Anderson was out of her seat and checking the aircraft’s readouts the moment it stopped moving. Glitch unclipped his seatbelt, flinching as he rubbed at his waist.

Doctor Zheng was already up and at the door. Before Anderson could stop her, Zheng released the door’s lock and pushed it open. Without hesitating, she sat on the edge of the doorway and then dropped out of sight.

“I guess we’re going outside,” said Glitch.

Anderson gave him a wry smile and the two of them followed Zheng outside. She was examining the trunk of a nearby tree. Now they weren’t hurtling through it, the forest seemed a lot less substantial. There was plenty of room to move around.

Glitch picked his way through the forest, circling the aircraft. The trees were tall but thin, more like saplings. Most were yellow, but a few were white or gray. The ground beneath his feet was pale and soft, almost fleshy. The air was thick with a heavy, sweet tang.

“What’s that smell?” asked Glitch.

“It smells like… perfume or aftershave or something,” said Anderson.

Glitch peered upward, searching for the portal. When he found it, his heart sank. “Captain? Is it my imagination or is that thing getting smaller?”

Anderson joined Glitch. She stared at the portal for a while before nodding. “You’re right, it’s closing.”

“And we’re out of fuel?”

“I’m afraid so, yes.”

“So… we’re trapped. Again.”

Anderson nodded.

Glitch let out a deep breath. He should never have agreed to come on this trip.

“Doctor?” said Anderson. “We don’t have a lot of time, any idea where we are?”

Ignoring the question, the doctor brushed her fingertips along the trunk, then sniffed them. “What does your eco-plane use for fuel, Captain?”

“Organic protein bio-fuel. There’s an on-board processor, why?”

Doctor Zheng looked at Anderson and smiled. “I think there’s a way we can refuel. Captain, get us access to that fuel processor. Dwayne, get something we can use to cut down these trees.”

“What? Why?” said Glitch.

Zheng glared at him. “Go, now!”

“There’s a toolbox in the emergency compartment at the back of the plane,” said Anderson, “there’ll be something in there.”

Glitch ran back to the aircraft and clambered inside. When he found the toolbox, it was bigger and heavier than he’d expected. He opened it, dug around and found a hacksaw and a pair of bolt cutters that looked big enough to handle the trees. As he climbed out of the aircraft, he clipped his head on the doorway and barely caught himself before he fell through it.

Rubbing his head, Glitch ran back to Zheng. She took the cutters and clamped them around the nearest tree trunk. There was a soft crack as they broke through the tree and it tipped over.

“Get it to Captain Anderson,” said Zheng. “Put it in the fuel processor.”

Glitch grabbed the tree. It was light and easy to move, but the long trunk was slick with grease. He dragged it to where Anderson stood beside the eco-plane and the two of them slid the tree into an opening in the side of the aircraft.

“Any idea if this is going to work?” asked Glitch.

“Nope,” said Anderson. She glanced up at the rapidly closing portal. “But I hope it does.”

“Come on!” shouted Zheng. She’d cut down three more trees and was waving at Glitch to come and get them. As Glitch ran back to collect the fallen trees, the ground beneath his feet shifted. He’d felt earthquakes before, almost died in them in fact, but this was different. It was like the whole planet was rolling sideways.

Glitch ran back and forth, dragging three or four trees at a time and helping Anderson load them into the fuel processor. He was starting to get tired and on the fourth trip he had to lean against the eco-plane to catch his breath.

“How many more?” he asked.

Anderson checked a digital readout on the side of the aircraft. “One more batch should do it.”

Glitch looked up at the portal. It was still there, but the lightning was growing dim. There was a crack as Zheng cut down another tree. There were four of them lying on the ground near her.

“That’s enough,” shouted Anderson.

Glitch pushed off of the aircraft and ran across the newly formed clearing to help Zheng. He was halfway there when his foot caught in a hole in the ground. His ankle twisted and he fell, letting out a cry. Glitch pulled his foot free, praying he hadn’t broken anything. He sat on the ground, rubbing his injured ankle, testing it for serious damage until Anderson shouted “Glitch! Look out.”

A pale yellow shoot had appeared from the hole he’d caught his foot in and was snaking towards Glitch. He pulled his foot away but then he felt something wrap around his wrist. Another shoot, this one thicker and darker, had sprouted from the ground near his hand and grabbed hold of him. He clawed at the rubbery tendril, trying to free himself, but its slick coating made it hard to grip. Another tendril wrapped around his throat, cutting off his air. He kicked and twisted, trying to get free, but the shoots simply tightened their grip. Stars burst across his vision as he began to black out.

There was a crack and the tendril’s grip around his throat loosened. Glitch dragged in a breath, the sudden influx of oxygen making the world spin. More cracking sounds and the pressure around his wrist and ankle vanished. Someone, Doctor Zheng, hauled him to his feet.

“Come on, Dwayne.”

Glitch coughed. “I… prefer Glitch,” he said, his voice raw.

Anderson was already in the eco-plane by the time the doctor and Glitch got there. Together, Zheng and Anderson helped him on board. The ground shifted again and the aircraft tilted sideways. As Zheng climbed on board and pulled the door closed, Anderson ran to the cockpit. A few seconds later, the engines sputtered into life. Glitch stumbled to the front of the plane and sat down. Zheng joined him as the whine of the engines increased.

Yellow tendrils slapped against the glass of the cockpit as shoots wrapped themselves around the nose of the craft. Anderson pushed the throttle forward and the aircraft lurched upward. Metal screeched and some of the tendrils were torn away but more appeared to take their place. The eco-plane bucked and rolled. Anderson rammed the throttle forward. The nose of the aircraft lifted up, but the yellow tendrils still held it in place. The plane dipped again and for a moment Glitch thought they would be dragged back to the ground. Then there was a loud tearing sound and the eco-plane shot forward, ripping itself free of the grasping vines.

Captain Anderson pulled on the aircraft’s yoke, angling them towards the portal. It was barely visible now, just a small patch of flickering brightness in a pitch-black sky. The aircraft shuddered as the engines propelled it away from the forest.

“For god’s sake!” shouted Anderson, “Strap yourselves down! Quick!”

There was a sharp snap and a crack appeared in the window near Glitch. He peered through the glass at the rapidly retreating trees.

Glitch frowned. “That’s no forest…” he muttered.

The trees moved, tilting back. Glitch’s eyes widened and he felt his chest tighten in terror. Then the cabin was filled with light and Glitch blacked out.

When he woke again, Captain Anderson was sitting beside him.

“Are you okay?”

Glitch nodded, wincing as the movement triggered a wave of pain in his skull. He looked past Anderson. They were still in the eco-plane, but it was back above New York. Glitch watched the skyscrapers passing by for a while, then closed his eyes and tried to rid his mind of what he’d seen on the other side of the portal—the blue eye staring at him from below great waves of yellow hair.

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7 thoughts on “Glitch Mitchell and the Deadly Follicle

  1. Jason, you’ve done it again. I felt this one deep in my heart. My husband died of cancer at a young age and missed participating in so many family celebrations, joys, surprises. This man chooses to leave! I sure can’t wait to see how he redeems himself!

    Liked by 1 person

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