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Story 1

Lou Antonelli

Lou Antonelli is an amazingly prolific and talented Texas science fiction writer.

Lou got a late start in his fiction writing career; his first story was published when he was 46 years old in June 2003. His first professional sale was "A Rocket for the Republic", published in Asimov's Science Fiction in September 2005.

His Texas-themed reprint collection “Fantastic Texas” was published in 2009 and another collection, “Texas & Other Planets”, was published by the Merry Blacksmith Press in 2010. Yard Dog Press in 2011 published his chapbook collection of four collaboration stories with Portland, Oregon-based author Ed Morris, “Music for Four Hands”.

Lou is currently the managing editor of the Mount Pleasant, TX Daily Tribune.

Lou is a frequent contributor to 4StarStories, a trend that shows no sign of abating. This issue features another Texas-themed story. When you have an Encounter in Camelot you should beware of what goes on by the lake -- and under it!





by Lou Antonelli


"Sure, you can sit down. I guess we're both drinking alone. Never seen you here before. Just passing through, huh? What? Oh, I have to nurse my beer along. Can't afford too many.

"What? Bless your heart! That's mighty kind of you. Listen, I'm mighty appreciative. Tell you what, to thank you, I'm gonna tell you a story.

"It's a good one. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't reckon I've ever told anyone. But I'm getting old. I guess I can spill the frijoles, if you know what I mean. It happened to me 20 years ago, in Camelot.

"It was a little town between Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill, south of Dallas. I say was because it's covered up by a lake now. I'll tell you about the night I was out collecting scrap and I kilt a witch goddess in the woods. Shot her dead.


Sorry, I didn't say. George Edward Heyward. I've been called "Heavy" Heyward since I was little 'cuz I was so large. Guess quitting school in the 5th grade was a mistake, but nobody cared back then, and I helped my paw collect metal we needed to fight the Japs. I never took to book learning, anyhows. I helped my paw collect scrap metal for 40 years, until he died, and then I took over the scrap yard myself.

The year after my paw died, the government said they would build a lake between Cedar Hill and Grand Prairie, and cover up Camelot with a lake.

Seems with all the people moving into Dallas, the feds wanted to build another reservoir. Camelot was the last empty place around.

You know how Camelot got its name, don't you? It has nothing to do with Limeys running around in tin pants.

It goes back to right after the Civil War, when the Army Quartermaster General brought some camels over from Turkey. They figgered they could be used on our desert. The camels were corralled in pens behind a dipping station that was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail south of Fort Worth.

The plans to use the camels didn't work, though. Something didn't agree with them, I reckon. When the railroad came through, the dipping station was abandoned, and the buildings were torn down. But they didn't bother to tear up the old livestock pens.

For years, people would go past on the way between Cedar Hill and Grand Prairie, and they'd say, "there's the old camel lot". The name stuck.

Well, Camelot weren’t nothing but a few farms and houses, and the Army Corps of Engineers bought everyone out when they built the lake. They dug and bulldozed the hollows for ten years. They closed the dam in the spring of 1985, and the lake began to fill up.

Now, when they tore down the buildings and barns, they hauled off a lot, but there was still a lot of scrap lying around the old farms, if you knew where to look.

I guess they reckoned there was no use cleaning it all up--it was going to be under 100 feet of water. During the months the lake was rising, I'd sneak around and haul away all the scrap I could find.

Now one night there was a bright, full moon, so I thought I could make a good haul, despite it being nighttime. I tossed my bolt cutters, sledge hammer and crowbar into the back of the truck, and skedaddled.

Officer Buddy from Cedar Hill was on the service road when I got there. He looked like he was heading back to town. The police knew I had been cleaning up around the lake, and they didn't mind me going on the land none. I asked him what was up.

"We had reports of strange lights and noise down in the hollow," he said. "If I were you, I wouldn’t go collecting tonight."

I told him I'd keep an eye out. He told me he thought it was a bad idea, but I didn’t heed him none.

"Well, then, you be careful," he said with a strange smile. He left in his patrol car.

Now, when you're out alone in the woods like I was, you'd be a fool not to carry some shooting irons. I had a pair of pistols in the glove box, but I also had a surplus M-16, rigged to run full-automatic, under the seat.

I pulled into a clearing where I knew there was some old farm equipment lying around. After I got out, I saw a reddish glow through the trees. I thought there was a fire, so I went to investigate, after grabbing my machine gun.

Well, I was right about the fire, in a way. I snuck through the trees and after a few hundred yards, I saw there was a fire. And witches were dancing in a circle around it.

They were in a piece of land that had been cleared, but on three sides the timber had been left standing to hide the fish once the lake was full. The fourth side faced the open water.

My curiosity got the better of me, and I snuck closer. It were the first time I saw witches for real.

Now, of course you know there's witches in Texas. Some folks who settled here brought the ancient ways from the old country. Sure, they go to Baptist or Methodist meetings--but at night, when the moon is full, they cover up, head out, and ride with The Hombre. I never gave it any real thought. Like my paw said, 'Never truck with the people of the old ways, unless'n you join them. Otherwise, keep your distance.'

Which I should have done that night. But like I said before, curiosity got the better of me.

These women weren't wearing no black hats or black robes or anything like that. They were all buck naked. And don't believe that crap that witches are all old women. Most looked to be younger than me.

I could hear they were chanting. I couldn't make out what they were saying. I snuck a little closer and realized they weren't speaking English. It was the old tongue.

They danced real slow and chanted real low. The only other person there was a blond-headed boy tending the fire. After a while, the witches turned and faced the lake, and they got louder.

Then a damn snake--I guess they were being driven out of the hollow by the rising water--slid right across my calf as I kneeled there. I jumped up and cussed without thinking.

All the witches turned in my direction. The boy dropped his firewood.

"Shee-yit," I thought. "I'm headin' for the stew pot now!"

I turned to run, and smacked right into Officer Buddy.

"Heavy, you really need to mind your own business," he said as he grabbed me by my collar and dragged me to the circle.

Two witches grabbed me on each arm, and the boss woman began to mutter at me in that old language. She took a big-ass silver dagger out from between her tits

Just as she raised the dagger, there was a hissing sound. Out on the lake, there was water all bubbling and churning.

Officer Buddy and the other witches let loose of me and fell to their knees.

Now, I had the M-16 slung over my shoulder underneath the heavy green pea jacket I was wearing. I'm sure Officer Buddy felt it, but he grabbed me so fast and so strong I never had a chance to go for it.

As the witches were moaning and bowing, nobody was paying attention to me, so I took off the jacket and swung the assault rifle around.

The head witch was bowing and scraping, and as she did--I swear this is what I saw--a lady in long white robes rose out of the water and came at us like a sub rising in the ocean. They had summoned her.

The Lady of the Lake came straight for shore. My bad luck was that she was facing me--everybody else was facing her--and she saw I had the machine gun.

Her eyes glowed bright red as she stared at me and she began to raise a hand

She looked to come right up to us. I panicked, and I unloaded. I cut right through the head witch and then the rounds plowed into the Lady.

She fell back and into the water with a loud shriek. There was a big explosion of steam, and in a second a cloud rushed over all of us.

I fell to the ground, coughing and choking. I don't think I passed out, but I sure couldn't see for a while.

When the cloud lifted, I saw everyone was gone, except for the boy who had been tending the fire. I guess the Lady, demon, witch, whatever she was, went to Hell and took her own.

The boy's eyes were as wide as plates and he didn't say a thing. When we saw the red and blue lights of the lake patrol begin across the lake towards us, I gestured for him to follow me, and he did.

We ran back to my truck as the biggest damn thunderstorm you ever saw broke out. We barely made it back to the main road before everything turned to mud.

The storm went on until noon the next day, and the lake filled up completely. The clearing where we were has been under water ever since.


The next day I got to wondering how my rounds could take down a super-nacheral creature. But then I remembered something. A week or two before, I hauled off some scrap from the *Cedar Hill Chronicle* newspaper. It was a big stack of those aluminum plates they used on the printing press.

The editor there--I never could remember his name, it was a funny name, we all called him Mr. Lou--asked me if I would also take away and dump a bottle of chemicals.

I had set the old glass bottle in the cab of my truck, and it tipped over and spilled all over my box of ammo. I couldn't see it had done any harm, except that after I dried off the rounds they were all stained black.

I remembered that, and it got me to thinking. I went back to the *Chronicle* and asked Mr. Lou what had been in the bottle.

He said it was a chemical they used to develop pictures. Silver night-right, I think he called it. It definitely had silver in it, he said.

I figgered it out. Those rounds had been stained with the liquid silver. That's why they tarnished, and that's why they done in the Lady of the Lake.

Well, that's the story. Officer Buddy was never seen again. I have no idea who the women were. No one's ever bothered me about that night--though I swear over the years, when I'm in the supermarket, I'll get some strange looks on the sly from some fancy women. Maybe they're scared of me. I shot up one of their goddesses, I reckon.

I'm too old to haul scrap any more. I still make a little money, though--enough to keep me in bacon and tobacco--with my pickup truck, pulling stumps for home builders. The young fellow I rescued that night at the lake--he's stayed with me all these years, and now he's my helper.

In fact, that's him honking for me right now. Thanks for the beers, mister. That's right kind of you. We've got to go pull out a few stumps.

My helper--Artie--he's real good at that. He can pull anything out of the ground.

(The End)


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