It’s Halloween, and you know what that means—it’s time to eat a meal of Halloween candy while you read some spooky but arousing fan fiction about former U.S. president and swamp monster John Tyler! (If you were not aware that President Tyler was an ancient swamp monster, then you have not read our book and you are dead to us.) Enjoy!
Chapter 1: A Romantic Swamp Encounter
Your first thought is that you must have the wrong address.
You are standing at the edge of what appears to be a vacant lot, overrun with weeds and half-submerged in murky water. You look down at your clipboard, and it’s printed there clearly, at the top of the page—33 Peat Bog Lane. Then you look back up at the spot where the number “33” has been violently gouged into the trunk of a dead mangrove tree. You give a small shrug. This must be it!
You start out through the waist-high reeds, tucking your clipboard under one arm and using the other to clear a path through the thick vegetation. As the water gets deeper, you start to question again whether you’re in the right place. You are just about to give up and call your supervisor when you finally spot the house. It had blended in with the surroundings so well that you didn’t see it until you were practically on top of it.
Unlike most houses, this house is underneath a large tree stump, with thick roots trailing down its walls like tentacles. A tall patch of weeds covers the roof and slopes down the far side of the house, so that it’s hard to tell where the house ends and the swamp begins. The front wall is dominated by an oversized wooden door, weatherbeaten and covered in what appear to be claw marks.
You give a tentative knock on the door, and you’re surprised when it swings open immediately. It’s almost as if someone had been standing on the other side, waiting. But the strange thing is, no one is standing on the other side. With the door gaping open, all you can see inside is darkness.
“Hello?” you say. You speak loudly, trying to project more confidence than you feel. “I’m the city building inspector. I’m here for our 10 o’clock appointment.”
“Please come in,” says a voice. It is deep and sibilant, with a thick Southern drawl. “I’ve been expecting you.”
You hesitate, just for a second, and then step into the darkness.
You’ve barely crossed the threshold when the door slams shut behind you. The sound startles you, and you jump forward—right into someone who must have been standing just inches away from you, invisible in the darkness.
“Excuse me!” you say, taking a quick step backward. Even though you only made contact for a second, your clothes feel noticeably damp.
“The fault is all mine,” says the voice, now with a trace of amusement. “I do keep it a little dim in here.” You hear a rustling sound, and suddenly the room is illuminated by the flame of a small oil lamp.
The first thing you notice is his tentacles. They extend out from the bottom of his smoking jacket, snaking all the way down to the ground and then curling back up again. One tentacle, long and glistening, is carefully replacing the glass chimney that fits on top of the oil lamp. Your eyes move slowly upward, taking in his narrow waist, his straight shoulders, and his wavy brown hair, which is chin-length and slick with grease. Finally, you meet his eyes. They are bright, yellow, and locked on you—studying you with so much intensity that you blush and have to look away.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says smoothly. His thin lips are curled up in a half smile. “My name is President John Tyler.”
“Nice to meet you, President Tyler,” you say, forcing yourself to meet his eyes again. You hold out your hand, but he doesn’t offer you a tentacle to shake, and you feel a little disappointed. There’s something hypnotic about the way his scaly skin is shimmering in the dim light, and you have an inexplicable urge to touch it.
More pressingly, though, your hand is still outstretched, which is starting to feel a little awkward. You smoothly cover up for it by making a series of karate chop motions.
“I apologize for the mess in here,” he says, casually gesturing toward a pile of animal bones in the corner. “I’ve been busy packing, and I’ve fallen behind on my housekeeping.”
“I don’t see any mess at all,” you reassure him, still karate-chopping away. Truthfully, besides the bones, the room is very sparse. There’s just a threadbare rug on the floor and a small table where the oil lamp rests. The mud walls are bare except for dark tunnels that branch off in every direction. “You have a beautiful home,” you add, because you say this to everyone.
“Yes,” he confirms, nodding and looking around. “I’m sad to be leaving it. But you know how it is—a few of the neighbors’ cats go missing, and the next thing you know there’s an angry mob on your doorstep, waving torches and brandishing pitchforks.”
You nod sympathetically, even though you are unable to relate to this problem.
“I’m just going to be checking over a few things today,” you say, steering the conversation back to more familiar ground. It’s the same spiel you give at the beginning of every inspection, and you know it by heart. “It will take about thirty minutes. You can go back to what you were doing, or you’re welcome to follow along behind me.”
“That’s OK, I trust you,” he says, a smile playing at his lips. “When you’re finished, you can find me in my office.” And with that, he turns and disappears down one of the dark tunnels.
You pick up the oil lamp and start down a random tunnel, feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment. On the one hand, it would have been difficult to focus on your job with a former U.S. president watching you. But on the other hand, you felt inexplicably sad to see him slither away.
You move quickly through the dark web of rooms, sometimes stopping to put down the lamp so you can make a note on your clipboard. These inspections are required by the city anytime someone wants to sells their home, so you’ve done a lot of them. You know exactly what to look for, and working your way down the familiar checklist relaxes you.
You save the tunnel that President Tyler went down for last. Unlike the others, it has a steep downward grade, and as you descend you can feel your pulse quickening. You clutch your clipboard to your chest, as if to muffle the sound of your heart pounding.
It feels like you’ve been walking forever when the tunnel finally opens up into a small, round chamber. In the center of the room, President Tyler is sitting behind an enormous wooden desk. He has a feather quill pinched between two of his claws, and he is scribbling away on a piece of what you hope is just leathery parchment. Your dim lamp is the only source of light, and you wonder how he was able to see what he was writing before you arrived.
You look around the chamber, which is more impressive than the any of other rooms you’ve seen. The rock walls are inlaid with bones to form an intricate mosaic, and the ceiling is so high that you can’t see where it ends. You realize that you must be deep underground.
“Is the inspection complete?” President Tyler asks, pulling your attention back to him. He has stopped writing and is looking up at you with that same half-smile on his lips.
“Yes,” you say, feeling flustered, and you glance down at your clipboard to gather your thoughts. “I just found a few things that I need to go over with you.”
“Please go ahead,” he says, giving you a broad smile. You can’t help but notice that he has a lot of fangs.
“First, I noticed that all of your smoke detectors are turtle shells with the words ‘smoke detector’ written on them.”
“Ah yes, you caught me,” he says, still smiling and not seeming at all chagrined.
“Well, you’ll need to replace those with actual smoke detectors.”
“Noted,” he says, leaning back in his chair and looking amused.
“You’ll also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in all of the sleeping areas.”
“But I have a canary stationed in every bedroom for that purpose,” he says, sitting up straight again with a look of mild indignance.
“I did see that. I also noticed that all of the canaries are dead.”
“Oh, are they?” he asks, sounding surprised. “Then I should probably eat them.”
“Well…as long as you install carbon monoxide detectors, I guess that’s up to you.” You scan over your clipboard again. “I think that’s everything.”
“That should be manageable,” he says.
“Just call my office when you’ve addressed these issues, and we’ll mail your inspection certificate within seven to ten business days.”
President Tyler stands up from his chair, as if preparing to walk you out. With a rustling of tentacles, he slithers across the top of his desk and drops gently beside you, with a soft, whispering, almost erotic “squish.” The two of you start moving back up the tunnel, toward the front door. Walking so close to him, you can feel the damp, clammy chill of his body, and goosebumps run up your spine.
“So where are you moving?” you blurt out. You feel suddenly panicky at the thought that you might never see him again.
“Just to the other side of the swamp,” he says, leading you back up the tunnel. “But I’ll return here in a hundred years or so, after these cat-loving neighbors have died of natural causes.”
“I’m over there all the time,” you lie. “Maybe we’ll run into each other.” You try to think of reasons that you might legitimately go to the other side of the swamp. Hmm…there’s a Target over there. You wonder if President Tyler shops at Target.
“That depends,” he says, turning to face you. You’ve reached the front door now, the journey back up the tunnel having gone entirely too quickly.
“Depends on what?” you ask, probably too eagerly.
“On whether or not you lock your windows at night.”
Will you have a midnight rendezvous with President Tyler after he breaks into your home? Will he actually install carbon monoxide detectors? Does he shop at Target? Find out in the next chapter of John Tyler Swamp Monster Fan Fiction! (Which I don’t actually intend to write. Sorry!)