The Company had set Davis up in a hovel, a house on the very edge of Kariton that had been for rent by the day, fully furnished. The town didn’t have a hotel, or even a motel–too small–but the suits weren’t willing to pay for a car and gas to get to Heysley, a half-hour away and the closest polity resembling a city.

From what Davis had been able to tell, Kariton functioned much as it had before becoming a Company test market. People came and went all day using the mass-transit teleporters just like a city bus, resorting to their personal cars only for larger loads. A few luddites refused to use them at all, and kids under 18 were forced to walk thanks to the Company’s legal department–big surprise. As an outsider, Davis found himself treated coolly. People were polite to his face but never seemed to go out of their way to be so when he wasn’t looking. Still, there were plenty who’d cross the street to avoid an encounter, and even a few who furtively followed him about.

But nothing really disconcerting happened until Tuesday morning, when a harsh knock at the door brought Davis running. No one was there, but something had been laid on the welcome mat, wrapped in paper. It was a comic book he remembered from his youth, The Adventures of the Swamp Terror about a horrifying plant-man and a ragtag group of hunters who battled him.

A message was scrawled across the cover: “You are dead, and the Swamp Terror lives.”