Man preeeeeeetty sure neighbours are pod people

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SANTA MIRA, CALIFORNIA—Though he lacks forensic evidence to confirm his suspicions, local man Brock Donavan is fairly certain that his next-door neighbours are soulless body-snatchers.

Donovan, a product manager for an engine lubricant producer, came to believe that Todd and Martha Vanderbilt, the middle-aged couple in the bungalow next door, have become hosts to extra-terrestrial life-forms after he witnessed some extreme changes in their behaviour.

“They used to be the warmest, welcoming couple on our street, but now they’re cold and distant,” said Donovan. “I’m preeeeeeeetty sure they’re pod people.”

Brock Donovan says the Vanderbilts have been acting strange ever since they built their new backyard greenhouse a few weeks ago.

“Todd was the kind of guy who always called me over for a beer, asked about my wife and kids, offered to have my driveway resealed when he was getting his done—he even taught my daughter Swahili,” said Donovan. “These days, you ask the guy how his day went and he’ll say something like, ‘my cell regeneration is at its optimal rate’, then go back into his house and stare at you from the kitchen window.

“It’s unnerving, but I probably shouldn’t bring it up until I’m certain they’re legitimate aliens.”

Todd Vanderbilt’s troubling behaviour is compounded by his wife, Martha, who went from a gracious and good-humoured neighbour to a detached recluse seemingly on the verge of a religious epiphany.

“Martha used to bore me with small talk about her vegetable gardening and her Oma’s cooking,” recalled Donovan, with a touch of warm reminiscence. “Now she bores me with small talk about vegetable gardening and how we will be reborn into an untroubled world on the day when we all break from our vegetative state.”

Said Donovan: “Maybe she’s just become a lot more spiritual than before—I mean, to each her own—or she’s been growing otherworldly replicates of our human forms from fallen space seeds. It’s a thought.”

Further inquiry into the matter of the Vanderbilts has stalled, as Donovan is uncertain as to which channels he should pursue in investigating the strange matter.

“Seriously, I don’t want to look like the paranoid lunatic who tells police that his neighbours are parasitic life-forms from beyond the solar system,” said Donovan. “Maybe I should hire a private investigator?”

Donovan’s wife, Rebecca, has so far been quite vocal that nothing has changed with the Vanderbilts, not everyone can be friendly 24/7, and why don’t you mind your own business, Brock.

“They’re both dealing with middle-age; actually, at this point, Martha could be hitting menopause,” said Rebecca. “In any case, they’ve invited us for dinner tonight, so maybe they’re getting back to their normal selves.”

Even after discovering what looked to be several human-sized pea pods in the Vanderbilts’ greenhouse when he was allowed to borrow the hedgetrimmer, Donovan is still not convinced enough to act on his suspicions—even when his other neighbour and confidante, Jack Driscoll, confirmed the same suspicions.

“Jack came pounding on the door one night, waking up Becky and the kids,” Donovan recounted, “and he was yelling for me to listen to him ‘or else’, he said, ‘the same incredible terror that’s menacing me will strike at you!’ Someone must have called the cops—they hauled him off right quick.”

Even as the Vanderbilts looked on from their porch, exchanging affirming nods with the vacant-eyed police officers as they forced Driscoll into the squad car, who all the while was shouting “Can’t you see? They’re here already! You’re next!”, Donovan still felt he had little to present to authorities besides anecdotal evidence and hearsay.

“Besides, chances are most of the municipal workers already had their bodies snatched, so why poke the bees’ nest?”

M. Scott Caldwell is The Daily Sprat’s resident expert on the paranormal, who recently published Segmented-Fruit People: The Citrus Conspiracy the Government Doesn’t Want You To Know, to wide critical panning. He also runs a party catering business on the side (call 1-800-PRTYDWN).

Interview: Stephen King

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Daily Sprat: You’ve dabbled in all genres of writing, but I think I can make the assumption that most people know you for your horror and fantasy novels. You published 11/22/63 last November and, while it has a time-travel premise, it’s mostly historical-fiction. Was that a more difficult writing process?

STEPHEN KING: Well, the question on the surface in that book is “What would it be like if John F. Kennedy lived?” Or, really, what would happen if you changed the past. It’s a classic idea. That was my first stab at a novel like that. I mean, I’ve used history in other stuff, but it’s more from my own childhood. It is a good example. But, even in It, nearly all of characters and towns are fictional, with fictional histories. My latest book was a lot more work, a lot more research. Tricky trying to make it not boring, but still real, steeped in fact. I couldn’t go to my usual sources.

Daily Sprat: You mean your own head?

STEPHEN KING: [chuckles] Well, that’s just one of my sources, among others.

Daily Sprat: But, now it’s back to fantasy, with the latest in The Dark Tower series. You just published a limited edition of The Wind Through the Keyhole last month and the hardcover will be out in April. Is it strange to suddenly switch gears and go back into your head again, writing horror-fantasy? Or is it easy for you?

STEPHEN KING: Oh, well, it’s easy, but doesn’t necessarily just come from my head. I mean, The Wind Through the Keyhole was a little easier than writing from history, but it’s… still from another source, not really my own mind.

Daily Sprat: I think I know what you mean. The Dark Tower series has a mythology built up, so you must find yourself having to look back to get the facts right. It must feel like historical-fiction.

STEPHEN KING: Uh, well, I guess you could say that, but I have sources to go to for this sort of thing.

Daily Sprat: So, do you find you have to go back to old notes or re-read the older novels?

STEPHEN KING: No, nothing like that, really.

Daily Sprat: So, then… it’s really just all in your head, etched in stone, like a castle of Dark Tower knowledge in your mind?

STEPHEN KING: Well… look, here’s the process. I go down to my cellar, take out a bottle of Coke from the vintage Coca-Cola machine, sit in my chair, and wait for the moment to come.

Daily Sprat: [laughs] I like it. Simple pleasures. Nowadays a writer’s muse is always any number of unseemly substances. In the end, it’s a private, personal space that a writer needs

STEPHEN KING: Well, it’s not really private. The Coke machine is there.

Daily Sprat: [laughs]

STEPHEN KING: [doesn’t laugh]

Daily Sprat: Oh.. uh, so, your process…

STEPHEN KING: Yeah, so I finish my Cokethen The Man with the Leathery Face comes.

Daily Sprat: [pause] …The Man with the Leathery Face?

STEPHEN KING: Yep.

Daily Sprat: [nervous chuckle]

STEPHEN KING: When I down that last gulp of Coke, Coke that’s been in The Machine since 1956and it never runs outThe Man with the Leathery Face comes through The Machine, dripping with the congealed slime of The Slipstream.

Daily Sprat: [silence]

STEPHEN KING: The Man will lean next to me and I’ll look into his glowing, purple eyes with the piercing gaze revealing the awe of The Slipstreamthe vortex Where It All Comes Fromand he whispers in a sharp tongue in a language that sounds like blades scraped on a glass window

Daily Sprat: Y…y..you know what, I feel like I need to stop you right there

STEPHEN KING: I wake up in a small pool of my own blood, with the story I need to write-finger painted on the sanguine canvas of my cold basement floor.

Daily Sprat: By… by the Leather Man?

STEPHEN KING: No, no, of course not.

Daily Sprat: So, then

STEPHEN KING: By the Krük, the ethereal forms by which the Words of the Leather-Faced Man traverse the Corporeal World.

Daily Sprat: The… I… ah…

STEPHEN KING: I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around a vintage Coke machine being the gateway to an ultra-dimensional vortex where the infinite knowledge of the universe is amalgamated and communicated by Jungian avatars and celestial vapours—but, believe me, when you’re sitting there, and you’re at the last page of my latest New York Times bestseller, you’ll find it really doesn’t matter in the end.

Daily Sprat: So… Stephen… how long have you been writing this way? Since The Stand? Since Carrie?

STEPHEN KING: Oh, god, no. Not until 2000, when I bought the old Victorian house next to The Ol’ Murderin’ Hole. The Coca-Cola machine was already in the basement… waiting… for me.

Daily Sprat: And you’ve been laying out every novel from notations made in your own blood since then?

STEPHEN KING: Of course! Since that first bottle of Coca-Cola, I belonged to the Krükani Commonality and I can’t simply go back to the old way of writing. As the old Krük saying goes, “Extraction from the Capillary of the Continuum eventualizes the eradication of cognitive impulse.”

Daily Sprat: That… sounds terrible.

STEPHEN KING: Yep.

Daily Sprat: So, ghostly sprites embodying the words of a magical old man from a dimensional hub found in an outdated vending machine have written the premise of each of your novels since Dreamcatcher? …that sort of explains a few things.

STEPHEN KING:  Well, not 11/22/63. They wanted nothing to do with that one. Even the Krük won’t go near the whole “lone gunman” debate.

Daily Sprat: Fair enough. Well, thank you for joining us today, Stephen.

STEPHEN KING: You’re welcome. Or, as the Krük would say in the language of The Slipstream, “[unintelligible, ear-drum-splitting shriek that lead one intern to vomit up her colon]”.

Daily Sprat: H-h-h..hat. t-t-t-t-t… haaaaaaat. Hat hat hat…. Asinoppaaaaaaaaanooscapannopl

[At this point in the interview, blood is dripping from the interviewer’s nose, ears, rectum]

STEPHEN KING: My wife Tabitha said not to go out on that joke.

M. Scott Caldwell is a regular contributor to The Daily Sprat. To get an interview with Steven King, Mr. Caldwell had to perform sexual favours for the literary agent of Mr. King, though he had to admit he was very charming. He had a drawer full of Altoids.