by Jon C. Picciuolo
It was hard to get rid of it

     Marvin Kurlock studied his company’s financial report and chuckled. Toxic waste disposal was making him rich! Just funnel the awful stuff into a NASA surplus anti-matter accelerator, pull the switch, and…Ka-WHOOSH! Gone forever without the slightest lingering whiff. Who cares where it went? The Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t find it, and that was all that mattered.

     “Excuse me, sir, you have a visitor,” said his secretary over the intercom. “Mister Hodkins from the EPA.”

     Sure—why not? He could use another laugh. “Send him in, honey.”

     The little man edged crablike through the door.

     “Welcome!” Kurlock said with a broad grin. “Did your weekly inspection go all right?”

     The government official leafed through some forms on his clipboard. “The fire sprinkler system hasn’t been tested in six months. But I won’t issue a citation if—“

     “Say no more! I’ll test it tomorrow. What about toxic residue?” Kurlock winked and giggled.

     “Residue? No. Can’t find a trace.”

     Kurlock guffawed. “Not even the teensiest little bit?”

     Hodkins flipped to the last page on his clipboard. “I can’t find any. But we’ve had one complaint. A rather, um, unique one.”

     Probably some old lady mad at the paint scheme on his trucks, thought Kurlock. “Give me the details, man! I’ll check into it.”

     “I’m afraid that, um, is impossible.”

     “Then tell me who is complaining.”

     “Ah, that’s part of the problem. We don’t know.”

     Kurlock turned red and jumped out of his chair. “Then how the heck do you expect me to--?!”

     “Now, calm yourself, sir!” Hodkins said, motioning the plant owner back down. “You’ll be told everything when our inspection’s complete.”

     Kurlock’s jaw dropped open. “Investigation?”

     “We’re still gathering evidence, but there’s a language barrier and—“

     “What are you talking about, man?” yelled Kurlock.

     “Oh, my! I’ve said too much already. National security, you see. I must be going. Good day, Mr. Kurlock.”

     “Wait….come back here, damn it!”

     But the little man had scuttled away.

     It was a joke, he told himself. It had to be. The guys at the EPA office were having their fun.  Well, he’d have the last laugh. He smoothed away the creases on the financial report and smiled.

     His office lights dimmed, then flickered out.

     “Cindy!” he yelled through the office door. “Is your power off, too?”

     “Yes, sir! I think the whole plant’s blacked out.”

     “Call the electricians. We can’t have truckloads of that crap piling up all morn—“ His shouted instructions were drowned out by a sharp CRACK! that shook the building. Buzzing pulses jolted his brain, then faded away. The sharp smell of ozone tinged the air.

     “What the hell was THAT, Honey?”

     There was no reply. Suddenly it had gotten very dark. He rolled his chair to the window and peered out. The sun was a sickly greenish disk. And the moon was out. And a second moon, much smaller than the other one, shone dimly nearby. He swallowed, then called out, “Cindy? Honey? What’s going on?”

     She craned her pale face around the door jamb. “Uh, you have another visitor, Mr. Kurlock.”

     “Well, who is it this time?”

     “I don’t know, sir. But it’s mad. And it wants to talk about illegal dumping on its front lawn.”