Authors: Ron Miller,Darrell Funk
Return to Skull Island
Ron Miller and Darrell Funk
Only moments after a giant ape crashed onto 34th Street, filmmaker and entrepreneur Carl Denham found himself on the run, with not only insurance companies hot on his heels but Thomas Dewey, the fiery District Attorney of New York City. It's a flight, however, that throws Denham squarely into the convoluted machinations of a mysterious, bronze-haired tigress named "Patricia Wildman," machinations that take the pair from running guns to a Central American revolutionary to finding themselves in Manchuria in the midst of the Chinese struggle against the Japanese. Carl and Patricia deal as best they can with prisons and firing squads, madmen and zealots---all to say nothing of the Japanese navy, a ruthlessly ambitious officer and the fate of the civilized world. But never did either of them think that the answer to their dilemma lay in leading a Japanese invasion of fabulous Skull Island and the mind-boggling secret that waited for them there.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Based on characters in
, a novel by Delos W. Lovelace, originally published in 1932. This work is currently in the public domain.
Copyright © 2014 by Ron Miller and Darrell Funk
Cover art by: Ron Miller
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Electronic version by Baen Books
My search for the great white armadillo had justified neither my expectations nor investment, both of which were exhausted, leaving me depressed and practically penniless in Plankton, New Mexico.
Plankton, unfortunately, is a town in which neither cheer nor money are readily forthcoming. Little distinguishes it from the surrounding desert other than the existence of a dozen grey, weathered clapboard buildings and its three dozen inhabitants, no less grey and weathered. Plankton, according to my
Highways and Byways of Southwest New Mexico and Eastern Arizona, second revised edition
(1924), had been founded in the mid 1870s by Emmanuel Zozimus Plank, an eccentric utopist whose eccentricities were badly misinterpreted and certainly underestimated by his followers. I won’t detail Plank’s bizarre and highly imaginative theology, even if I understood its Byzantine convolutions, except to say that the world did
end in 1876 as he predicted, nor in 1877, nor in 1879, 1880, 1882, 1885, 1890, 1891 or 1897, the year in which Plank died in the midst of yet one more recalculation, pencil clutched spasmodically in one claw-like hand, his Bible in the other. He left behind that scant handful of followers who still resolutely believed that their leader knew what he had been talking about even when he had long since stopped making a lick of sense. A few of them even seemed to realize that Plank’s failure to predict something so personal—and small scale in the universal order of things—as the date of his own death cast considerable doubt on his ability to predict something as cataclysmic as the end of the world. There was not a little disillusionment. For nearly twenty years the Planktonites had been able to face the grim reality of existing in the New Mexican desert because of their sustaining faith that within a very short time their miserable collection of huts and shacks and shriveled gardens would become the new Eden. It had been easy for them to ignore their present condition when soon everything was going to change for the infinitely better; why worry about eating lizard jerky and cactus every day and night when milk and honey was just around the corner?
For as long as three months after Planks’s passing the hardcore Planktonites maintained the faith, but it was rapidly eroding. The realities of eking a living from a desert in which even gila monsters and tarantulas were gaunt and hollow-eyed quickly overcame the theoretical hardships predicted by the Reverend Doctor Plank—hardships that even the most devout Planktonites were beginning to discover were more imaginary than theoretical. They looked around and, like awakening sleepwalkers, for the first time seemed to realize exactly where they were; i.e., nowhere in particular. Plankton had located his utopia for reasons based upon esoteric researches, calculations and revelations; there certainly couldn’t possibly be any other reason for a town to be founded where the Reverend Doctor had placed his firmly-drawn X. There were no minerals to inspire a mining industry, no gold, silver, copper or iron; nor was there any water to speak of—there was only one well in the town, drilled inordinately deep by a speculative, optimistic and disappointed engineer, and it was hard put to supply the town even at its present reduced population with a brackish, sulphuric liquid; the railroads had universally shunned the town and none of the cattle trails came within a hundred miles. Of course there was scenery, but unlike the rest of the state the landscape surrounding Plankton was actually unpleasant to look upon, thereby denying the town even the occasional tourist. I did think, however, that it had armadillos. I was wrong, as I believe I have already implied. Plankton didn’t even have armadillos.
I had just passed the desiccated carcass of a coyote and had abandoned myself to adding yet one more shriveled mummy to the desert’s collection when I saw the ramparts of what then appeared to my shriveled eyes like a golden metropolis. I mention that simply as an illustration of how far gone my mind was with thirst and depression. I had been driving in aimlessly random loops through the desert for weeks, the back seat of my Ford filled with empty armadillo cages and emptier water containers. Not half so empty as my hopes and spirit, however. I had been counting on discovering the great white armadillo which would have made both my fame and fortune. Somehow, lost in the middle of a New Mexican desert, watching the paint on my automobile bubble and blister off the incandescent metal, as I drained the last drop of water from an algae-lined canvas bag and chewed the last remaining leathery chunk of jerky, as I watched the first premonitory signs of eruption hissing from my radiator’s overburdened safety valve, my certainty seemed to erode. I even began to look upon the great white armadillo as the silly-looking animal it probably was. I mention these things in order for my reader to understand how I was so able to misapprehend Plankton upon my first sight of it. It certainly looked a lot better than an armadillo would have no matter what color it might have been. My loyal Ford chugged to the center of Plankton’s only street—a strip of desert separating two rows of buildings—and came to a stop, sizzling and popping like a greasy frying pan, surrounded by a cloud of steam and dust. The stop was forever, as it turned out; I have not gotten the car to run again to this day. It is still planted immovably in the center of Plankton, like a war memorial; there has never been any reason to disturb it. That was in 1935.
I would have thought there would have been no one in the United States who had not by that late date seen at least a photograph of an automobile but I had not counted on stumbling onto a veritable Lost World like Plankton, whose citizens shambled from their homes to gather around the dying machine, their faces slack-jawed with a kind of superstitious awe. Perhaps I’m only a cynical city slicker, but to this day it seems to me that there are only two expressions available to Planktonites: superstitious awe and blank vacuity. It was a sight at one and the same time infinitely depressing and a little frightening.
To my infinite relief, my red-rimmed eyes discovered what they had been desperately searching for: a sign that read, however badly painted and spelled,
—likker, spirrets & Beer—
B.B. Blanchette, prop. & owner.
I shouldered my way through the curious crowd, abandoning to it my now-useless machine and all of its contents, along with whatever remained of my ambitions. The inside of the building was indistinct, a dimly-luminous fog of alkali dust fortunately shrouded what was no doubt a depressingly tawdry interior. What floors, walls and furniture I could see were of unpainted, and even unfinished, grey wood. The bar was little more than a broad plank resting atop a series of upturned packing crates. Half a dozen rows of bottles and ceramic jugs rested on shelves behind it. There were a few tables and chairs but they were empty. There were bottles and half-filled glasses sitting on the tables so I assumed (rightly) that their regular occupants were outside ogling the technological wonders of the twentieth century. At present the only inhabitants of the saloon were the bartender himself—B.B. Blanchette, I imagined—correctly as it turned out—and one other man. Since the latter was leaning against the side of the bar opposite the proprietor, I assumed he was a customer. He looked up as I walked toward the bar and I could tell immediately that he was not a native. The look of intelligence, and even of humor, in his eyes would have been clue enough. “Looks like you need a drink, my friend,” he said, making a gesture toward the barkeep, who responded by slamming a thick glass tumbler onto the stained plank. “Come on over and sluice some of that silica out of your throat. First drink is on me.”
I stumbled on over while my host poured me a glassful of whatever it was he had been drinking. With a barely mumbled word of thanks, I grasped the tumbler with both hands and downed its contents in a single swallow. Silly me. There are, I suppose, people who will exaggerate their reaction to raw tequila, but I shall refrain from being one of them. The damage to my mucus membranes was, in fact, relatively slight and today, scarcely three or four years later, I can almost speak normally. I do not object to this since some women have described the huskiness as sounding rather manly.
Taking advantage of my momentary speechlessness, the stranger welcomed me to the town and introduced himself.
“I don’t know how the hell you found yourself in a place that if God Himself hadn’t forgotten existed, He surely would have picked off this planet like an old scab. But welcome, I suppose, to Plankton, such as it is, for whatever that’s worth.”
Even in my state I could tell that the tone of the conversation suggested no happy augury for my immediate future.
“My name’s Denham. Carl Denham.”
I took his outstretched hand and replied, as well as I could, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Denham. My name’s Tom. Tom Molnar. And where the hell have I gotten myself to?”
“Depends somewhat on your expectations, I suppose.” As he paused to assess whatever he might be imagining my expectations were, I took a moment to assess him. He was a good-looking fellow of middle height, with a build and face of a successful middleweight boxer; a little tough-looking but tempered with intelligence and, as I suggested already, not a little humor. He was dressed well enough—better than anyone else I’d seen in town, though that was certainly saying little enough. His clothes were worn and patched, but clean.
“My expectations,” I said, to save him any unnecessary brainwork on such a miserably hot day, “are pretty low at the moment. It would, in fact, take very little to please me right now.”
“Well, then Plankton ought to suit you to a T.”
“And you? You don’t strike me as a native.”
“No. No, I’m not, thank God. And I can hardly tell you how much it means to me to hear that there is still a visible difference. I’ve been here six months and it already feels like I’ve spent my whole life and that of five other people.”
“Six months! Great heavens! You’ll have to forgive me, being a stranger to you and all, but how could you stay in this awful place six days, let alone six months? It’d drive anyone crazy!”
“And what makes you think it hasn’t?”
He looked at me with such an odd expression that for a frightening moment I thought that perhaps I’d hit a nail a little precisely on the head. Someone
have had to have been out of their minds to stay in such a godforsaken place any longer than absolutely necessary (the natives don’t count in this assessment, of course; they’re simply too stupid to leave). If my new friend wasn’t insane, then I could only think of one other possibility: he was on the run from the law. And what crime would be heinous enough to drive someone to hide out here? What punishment could possibly be hanging over their heads that was worse than this? Surely even the third-class accommodations at Leavenworth, Alcatraz or Sing Sing would be preferable. I looked again at my companion and, sure enough, now that I was thinking about it, his eyes
appear to be a little too closely set for him to be completely honest. It would be a fitting climax to my fruitless expedition to meet up with a bored ax murderer.
“Why are you here, anyway? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Me? I wonder myself. Not through any conscious choice, I assure you. It’s rather a long story“
“So who’s going anywhere?” Denham replied, phrasing his answer in the worst possible way, given my present state of mind. He poured me another drink. This one wasn’t half so bad, no doubt due to the numbing effect of the scar tissue. He took his own drink and went to one of the empty tables, gesturing for me to follow. I fell into one of the chairs while Denham propped his feet up on the table and crossed his ankles. “Go on,” he said, “I’m listening.”
“There’s not really as much to tell as I’d like,” and went on from there. I told him about my various careers and failures, which to date had pretty much been in a one-to-one relationship. Reporter, stringer for a wire service, advance man for a circus, deckhand, fruit picker, gold mine promoterI don’t know. It was the Great Depression and God knows I did my part to make it even more depressing. When I got to recent events, Denham, who I was certain had long since fallen asleep, became keenly interested.
“A great white armadillo?” He gave a little snorting laugh that I resented.
“Yeah, sure. People would pay money to see something like that.”
“Why not just find some ordinary regular armadillo somewhere and just paint it white?”
I was a little embarrassed. The truth was that what he had just suggested had never occurred to me.
“Someone would have noticed. Besides,” I added, inspired, “how could I have faked its pink eyes?”
“Oh,” he said, his interest visibly waning. “You were just after an albino armadillo? That shouldn’t have been too hard.”
“Difficult enough,” I replied a little defensively, if not in actual heat. “I know that an armadillo may not be big game, but they can be pretty damned hard to find, you know.”
“They’re as common as prairie dogs in Texas.”
“There are armadillos in Texas?”
He didn’t reply but instead took another drink, an action that I thought pretty supercilious, if that’s the word I want.
“What makes you such an expert on armadillos?”
“Me? I’m an expert on animals all right.”
“Oh yeah? And what have you ever hunted?”
He looked at me strangely, as though he were a teacher trying to decide whether to keep an eighteen-year-old student in the fifth grade one more year.
“You’ve never heard my name before? Carl Denham?”
“No. Should I?” His wanted poster was probably in every post office west of the Mississippi.
“You said you worked for the papers? A newsman?”
“I told you I didn’t last very long.”
“I guess I’m not surprised. Look here,” he said, suddenly serious, taking his feet from the table and leaning forward to look directly into my face. “Ever hear of the Abominable Snowman?”
“Sure.” I’m not completely ignorant.
“Well, I’m here because of the Abominable Snowman.”