RETURN

A short story

Based on the movie from Jolly Green Giant Productions

And Stickboy Productions

Original film written by Josh Stark, Nick Varnau, and Jeff Dalstrom

Story adapted by Nick Varnau

©2001

 

“Are you paying attention, Norman?” asked the stern Captain Stark. The first officer Norman turned away from his post.

“Of course, sir,” said Norman, equally stern.

“Our mission here is to examine any odd underwater occurrences here in our substation. Understood?” The captain’s right eye glared at Norman while his left glared at the control station (he had a lazy eye).

“Understood, sir,” said Norman.

Boris, the engineer, overheard this and looked up from his monitor. “Sir,” he said, “We have an anomaly off in sector S572Z.” The captain perked up.

“Send out Ensign Robbins and Ensign Perry to investigate.”

“Yes sir,” said Boris, and quickly contacted the two young officers.

“Captain,” said Norman, once again turning away from his post. “Are we sure this is wise?”

“Hey, hey,” said Captain Stark, “when I want to think, I’ll ask you to. Now get back to your station.”

“Yes sir,” said Norman as he turned around.

* * * *

Ensign Robbins breathed the moist air supplied in his scuba suit. He walked the ocean floor with ease, taking slow, measured steps. Perry was not too far away. Robbins was a hopeful officer, ready and willing to do anything for the captain and his crew. Perry, who was two years older than Robbins, was different. He just wanted the money, as well as something to do.

Perry joined this expedition to get out of the house. Originally, he had wanted to design board games, but when all his ideas were bought by major companies, he was left with nothing. So he joined the Navy, and now he was here.

“What do you see?” asked Robbins, whose home life was like the American dream. He had carried his football team to state and married his high school sweetheart. Then he too joined the Navy.

“I see changing lights,” said Perry.

“Changing?”

“Yeah,” the elder of the two replied. “The colors are shifting. It may be nothing.”

“Let’s pull a few more readings,” said Robbins.

* * * *

It was two hours later when the men had their report. It had been the reflection of the captain’s lava lamp that he had mistakenly left on. Norman laughed at this and puffed on his cigar as he debriefed the two.

“Well done,” he said.

“Sir,” said Robbins, “Is there any chance we’ll be getting some leave time soon?”

“Looking for a little ‘va-va-voom?’ A little ‘toasting the mustard,’ if you know what I mean?” Norman eyed Robbins, who didn’t reply, just stood confused. Finally Norman turned away. “We’ve been instructed to stay down here until further notice. That is all we know. Dismissed.”

The two young men left and went back to their quarters.

Geez this sucks,” said Perry. “No action, no women, no fun!”

“Just wait, Perry,” said Robbins. “Something is bound to happen.”

* * * *

Captain Stark stood on the command deck chewing a cinnamon flavored toothpick and thinking about home when a flashing red light came on Norman’s control panel. Stark moved the toothpick to the side of his mouth with his tongue and said, “Norman, report.”

Norman pressed a few buttons, then turned around to face his captain. “Sir, we have a jammed pipe in the torpedo bay.”

Captain Stark nodded as he contemplated the situation. “Send Ensign Sean to investigate. I want a full report.”

“Aye, sir,” said Norman.

It was early the next day and for the past twelve hours, the sea had been quiet. Not a blip on the sonar. Ensign Sean, previously assigned to clean the command deck, dropped his broom and began to walk out.

“Probably just another fish,” he said to Boris.

The torpedo bay was under the command deck. When Ensign Sean had finished climbing down the ladder he turned to see a surprisingly empty torpedo bay.

“Hello?” he said. For a moment, he thought he heard a gurgling sound from tube three. He yelled again, “Hello?” No one answered. He went over to the tube and turned the hatch, opening it. Suddenly, without a sound, Ensign Sean was sucked in. The poor young man never knew what hit him. The hatch closed, and the room was quiet again.

* * * *

Robbins lay on his bunk reading a magazine he had bought on land three months ago. The bunk he was in was just a bed with an attached end table and a light. That was it. The rooms were very small, considering there were quite an amount of officers. There was a knock on the door.

“Yes?” said Robbins. The door opened. It was Ensign Perry. “Hey,” Robbins said to his friend.

“Ensign Sean is dead,” said Perry. His faced looked like he was just forced to eat sweet and sour salmon eggs. Robbins’ expression was one of surprise.

“Dead?” he asked.

“Well, missing,” said Perry.

“For how long?”

“An hour, at least,” said Perry.

“How?”

“I’m not sure. All I know is that there’s a search for him.”

“Well,” said Robbins, “let’s go see if we can find out anything else.” With that, Robbins put down his magazine and the two made their way to the mess hall.

* * * *

The mess hall was a bustle of energy as Robbins and Perry entered. The room was large, but narrow and there were two rows of long tables filled with officers conversing and eating. You could tell by the looks on their faces that gossip was everywhere.

Perry looked around for a moment, then spotted Lieutenant Hapt, a friend of his.

Hapt,” said Perry. “What’s going on?”

“Everyone’s nervous,” said Hapt. “Rumors are going around that there’s some strange thing in the torpedo room that ate Ensign Sean.”

“Ate him?” asked Robbins.

“Yeah,” said Hapt. “Swallowed him whole. Not a trace left. No blood. Nothing.”

“Has anyone else been in there?” asked Perry.

“Nope. They’re afraid.”

“How do they know about this?” asked Robbins.

“There’s a strange odor coming from the torpedo bay,” said Hapt. “Smells like a dead body.”

“Anything else we should know?” asked Perry.

“Not right now,” said Hapt. “See if you can get a job on the command deck. That’s your best bet.”

“Who’s there now?” asked Robbins.

“Lucas and Farrelly, I think.”

“Let’s go relieve them,” said Perry. “Thanks for the info, Hapt.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” said Hapt. Perry and Robbins left the mess hall and headed for the command deck.

* * * *

Perry and Robbins climbed up the ladder that led to the command deck and found the room just as restless as the mess hall. Captain Stark was shouting orders left and right. Dr. Vincent was at the engineering panel helping out Boris. And Norman’s hands were a whirr of activity as he repeated and obeyed the orders from his captain. Finally, he turned to Captain Stark.

“Sir, the only way we can truly take any real measurements on the situation is if we send someone else down there.” Norman nervously puffed his cigar. The captain thought for a moment.

“Send in a team,” he said at last, “but be careful.” Norman turned to look at his options. He saw Ensigns Lucas and Farrelly.

“Lucas! Farrelly!” he barked. The two young officers stood straight awaiting orders. “Take three more men. Perry, Robbins, you two stay here. I may have a few jobs for you.” Norman turned to the captain.

“Gentlemen,” said Captain Stark, “this situation must be handled with care or punishment may follow. I want this… thing taken care of.”

* * * *

It was one hour later. Six crewmen were dead. Everyone on the command deck had just about given up hope.

Boris wiped the sweat of his forehead and said, “We don’t even know what this abnormality is or what it looks like!”

Perry and Robbins worked nervously at the stations where Farrelly and Lucas had been working at just one hour ago. Now it was official: there was something nasty on board and it was eating each member of the crew, one by one.

“Mr. Norman,” said Captain Stark. “Contact the land. Tell them to send in Sergeant Recall.”

“But sir,” said Norman, “it’s far too risky!”

“Hey, hey,” countered the captain. “Tough times call for tough measures and I’m a tough captain, so do it!”

Motivated beyond belief by the captain’s moving speech, Norman contacted the land and called for Sergeant Recall. The command deck was nervously silent as he did this, as if one sound uttered would cause the ship to fall apart. Finally, Norman turned around to the captain.

“Now what, sir?” said Norman.

“Now we wait,” said Stark. “And watch. And pray.”

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the whole substation shook. The bridge was once again a whirr of activity. Robbins and Perry were sent flying over the guard rail and onto the floor. Boris’ console exploded in a ball of fire, sending Boris flying back in a ball of flame. Dr. Vincent rushed to put the fire out, then extinguished Boris. Captain Stark and Boris safely buckled themselves in. Norman checked his console.

“Sir,” he yelled, “the entire torpedo bay has exploded.”

“Exploded?!” exclaimed the captain.

“Yes sir. There is now some giant fish-squid thing attaching to the mess hall.”

Perry looked at Robbins. They were both thinking the same thing. Everyone was in the mess hall. Perry made his way to his security console and checked the camera in the mess hall. Water was everywhere and officers ran and swam to get away from giant tentacles with sharp hooks sticking out of them and the giant jaws of the monster swallowing people whole. Robbins stood up and watched the monitor.

“Oh my God,” said Robbins. “They’re all dying.”

The captain turned and looked at the monitor. Thousands of his crew were being ripped to shreds, eaten, or drowned. Perry watched as Lieutenant Hapt almost made it to the door, but then a huge hook on a tentacle latched itself into his spinal cord and dragged him paralyzed into the monster’s mouth, where he was swallowed whole.

Dr. Vincent, who was treating Boris’ dead body, looked up in awe.

“Sir,” said Norman, “I am trying to open the doors to the mess hall, but they seem jammed shut!”

“Try again!” shouted the captain.

“Trying again sir!” shouted Norman. “Damn it! It’s not working. I’ll have to bypass the mainframe, hack into the central modem amplifier and modify the staiter chip.”

“I don’t care if you have to do the heebie-jeebie, just get those doors open!”

“Thousands of people are dying!” shouted Robbins. “Do something!”

“I’m trying!” shouted Norman.

“No!” said Captain Stark. “There is no try! I saw it on ‘Star Wars.’”

Then, suddenly everything went dark.

“Power failure,” said Norman.

“We’ve lost contact with the land,” said Perry. “Shall we try to go back up?”

“Let’s not worry about that now,” said Stark.

“This place will blow if we don’t stay,” said Norman.

“Then I guess we better stay,” said the stern Captain Stark.

There was a knock.

“That’s probably Recall,” said Norman.

“Good. Let him in through the screen door, then take him to the airlock. And one more thing, Norman,” Stark added. “Put out that cigar! You can’t smoke on a substation!”

Stark grabbed the cigar from Norman’s mouth and threw is against a console, where the cigar shattered.

Norman promptly left through the left door. There was a knock on the right door and it swung open. It was Sergeant Recall.

“It’s Recall,” said Dr. Vincent.

“Thank God,” said Robbins.

Recall looked around at everyone on the command deck. He stood tall with his head close to the ceiling. His Super Underwater Containment Suit, or SUCS for short, made him look even larger. He furrowed his bushy eyebrows in observation, then spoke. “What seems to be the problem here?”

“We have some… thing attached to my ship,” said Captain Stark. “I want it off.”

“Wow,” said Recall as he looked around. “This ship is smaller than the last one I visited.”

“Really?” said Stark.

“Yeah,” said Recall. “The last one had a tennis court on it.”

Stark smiled. “Tennis?”

“Oh yeah. And you could play soccer too.”

“Seriously?”

“You bet,” Recall said with a small twinkle in his eye.

The left entrance to the command deck busted open and Norman crawled into the room. His legs were horribly bloody and there was a gash in his stomach, leaving his intestines trailing behind.

“Captain,” he said. “I saw the monster.”

Recall turned to Norman and exclaimed, “Excuse me, I was talking first!” There was a pause, then he continued, “There’s also a wrestling ring.”

“A wrestling ring?” said Stark. “Awesome! Where is this ship?”

“Somewhere around here,” said Recall.

“Listen!” shouted Norman, now breathing hard. “Ten thousand people are dying or already dead, and it’s all because of you!” Then Norman’s body went limp and his head hit the damp ground with a smack. His eyes were glazed open. The room was completely silent. All eyes were on Recall.

The captain finally spoke, “I don’t know. You don’t seem like that bad of a guy to me.”

“Yeah,” said Recall. “I’m going to go find that ship. Wanna come with?”

“I would,” said Stark, “but I have a monster to kill.”

* * * *

Once Captain Stark realized it, it was too late. Or at least the thought it was. Everything started making sense to him. The monster, Norman’s death, the shattered cigar. He turned around and pointed his finger right at the person he knew was responsible and shouted, “You! You created the monster, didn’t you?!”

Captain Stark was furious. The man he was pointing at was Dr. Vincent, who looked up at his captain.

“Yes I did, sir,” he said quietly. Suddenly, a phaser-rifle was in his hand and the jumped up and stood behind Ensign Perry, pointing his weapon at the poor soul. “I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for these meddling ensigns!”

“Those ensigns,” said Stark, “are the pride and joy of this substation. They are the little people that make things happen. Without them, we cannot exist in harmony. Ensign Robbins! Give me a hug!”

Robbins and the captain briefly embraced. It was a moment that meant so much to Robbins, to know that he was respected by the captain.

Dr. Vincent looked to the floor, ashamed. He released Perry. “I have been foolish,” he said. “I let my arrogance get in the way of my job. I thought I could create something that could bring men together. Now I realize is can only tear them apart.”

“It’s okay,” said Stark. “We all make mistakes.”

Suddenly, the control panel behind Vincent exploded and hot shards of metal shoved into his back. The doctor fell to the floor in a heap of blood, sweat, and tears.

“Quickly!” said Stark to the dying doctor. “How do we defeat the monster?”

“Combine C-14 with… with…” Dr. Vincent struggled.

“With what?” asked Perry.

“Calcium,” said the doctor at last. Then he died.

“Calcium,” said Captain Stark. “That’s in milk!”

“We don’t have any milk on board, sir!” said Perry. Captain Stark turned and looked at Robbins.

“Oh yes we do!” he said. “Ensign Robbins! To the milking room! You are about to be milked!”

* * * *

Captain Stark came out of the milking room first with a pale of milk. A flustered Ensign Robbins came out after him.

“Okay,” said Captain Stark to Perry. “We have the milk. Now put it in your guns.”

The three raced to put the milk into their guns, then did a test fire. The guns worked. They left the bridge. It was time to go hunting!

Cautiously, they looked around the wet hallway with blinking red emergency lights. Captain Stark led them down, eyes wide. Perry was next, and Robbins was bringing up the rear.

They came to the door to the mess hall. They heard the roar of breathing from the monster. They heard the tentacles splashing around and feeling dead bodies and severed limbs of the crewmen.

Then, Captain Stark swung the door open and ducked as a tentacle swept by and ripped Perry’s head straight off his neck. The headless remains of Ensign Perry slumped down and then fell into the water, the milk drifting out of his gun.

Robbins fired his weapon and took off the tentacle that still held Perry’s head. Another tentacle swooped down and split Robbins in half. Robbins was still alive, but barely. His intestines hung out of his body like catsup overflowing on a burger.

Captain Stark looked up and fired his gun and took off tentacle by tentacle, dodging the monster’s attacks. There were so many! Then suddenly there was a click, click, click! He was out of ammunition.

“Captain!” shouted Robbins through a mouthful of blood. He used all his strength left in him and threw his gun to Captain Stark. His captain. The man he would take a bullet, or tentacle, for if need be. Robbins died happy, happy to have served his captain until the end.

Captain Stark readied the weapon and pulled the trigger.

Click! Click!

The ammo was out! Captain Stark didn’t have time to scream as the tentacle swept him away.

Thank God it was all over.

 


Afterward by the author

It’s been about three and a half years since the making of the “basement” film “Return.” Oddly enough, this little film was not near as memorable as our previous efforts, including “Trap of Doom” and the hilarious “Garden” series. But it had its moments and was good enough for me to turn into the short story you just read.

While much of the story, written in 2001, is an elaboration on its source film, every bit of the film is still in tact, from Recall’s banter with Captain Stark, to Norman’s cigar (which was really a pretzel stick) shattering, to the hilarious sequence in which Ensign Robbins is milked.

However, the movie itself, like so many of our movies, makes little sense, so the back story with Ensigns Perry and Robbins was created for this short story to sort of make some kind of sense of what was happening.

I really hope you found this short story as funny as we thought the movie was back when we made it. Thanks for reading.

-Nick Varnau

November, 2004

 


About the Author

Nick Varnau is a former critic and columnist for the HiLite and the Indianapolis Star. His writing credits include the “Amazon Jihad” series, the “Sincere Rebel” series, and the “Suburban Ninjas” trilogy. He has also written, produced, and starred in the short-lived television series, “Cafeteria.” He lives in Indiana. Email him at Stickboyprez@indy.rr.com.

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