B.G. Hilton – Author

Pulp Tales #2: Wrong Turn at Manhattan

Upside down battleship from 'Wonder Stories'
From https://archive.org/details/pulpmagazinearchive

My body aches and my mouth tasted like a baloney sandwich left in the sun for a day. My eyes opened, and with the light came pain. “Oh, God,” I said. “Never again!”

Never again what? Never what? My pounding head struggled to answer. Little bits of the night before came back… A bar in Fiji. A tattoo parlour. Another bar. Fighting with some Italian sailors in what we thought was a brothel but which turned out to be a carpet warehouse. Another bar, in… Gstaad? That didn’t sound right.

“Oh, that’s right, the captain’s bachelor party,” I said, struggling to my feet.

“I don’t remember seeing the captain anywhere,” young Ensign O’Mara groaned. He was wearing his dress pants and feather boa. Someone had stamped the word ‘Most Secret’ across his face with red ink.

“Captain’s a teetotaler,” I said. “And his fiancé is a… a Quaker or something?”

“I remember,” Lieutenant Gibson said. “You kept saying that we all had to drink his share, too.”

“Don’t remind me,” I said. “Hey why are you lying across a light fitting?”

“I was wondering that myself,” Gibson said. “Where the gosh darned heck are we?”

“You’re the navigator, you tell me.”

“Well, that looks like the deck of the bridge,” he said, pointing upwards. “By dead reckoning, I should say that we’re on the ceiling.”

“Sirs?” Ensign O’Mara said. He was younger than either of us, and had already recovered enough to risk looking out the window, even though the sun was out there.

“Looks liked New York,” Gibson said, following his lead and looking out over the skyscrapers.

“Should it be… Should it be below us like that?” O’Mara said.

They others looked at me. Technically, I was the ranking officer—for all the good that was going to do anyone.

“At least no one has seen us,” I said.

“Except all those folks on the observation deck of the Empire State Building,” O’Mara said.

I said a few sailorly words. “Okay, spilt milk,” I said. “How did we get up here, anyway?”

Gibson laughed bitterly. “Don’t you remember? We saw that airplane doing a loop-the-loop, and you bet O’Mara here that he couldn’t do it in the ship. I told you both it wasn’t possible and I was right —but I’m honestly surprised he managed to get us halfway round.”

There was something about that that didn’t sound quite right, but I was in no state to figure out what it was.

“How are we going to get down?” O’Mara wailed.

“Well, we got up here,” I began. “So if we just keep going…”

“No, no,” Gibson said. “We were able to get up speed to get up here only because the ship’s screws were in the water, see? They can’t possibly generate enough force pushing against air. That’s just simple physics.”

I took off my cap to scratch my head, only to realise it was Mickey Mouse ears instead of my regulation navy cap. “Doggone it!” I said, flinging the ears to the ground. I mean deck. I mean ceiling! “This just takes the biscuit. We need to get back down safely, and back to Fiji before the captain notices.”

“It’s his wedding day, so I’d say he’s a little distracted right now,” Gibson said with a knowing leer.

“Oh, why’s that?” O’Mara squeaked.

“No reason!” Gibson said, hurridly.

“Got it!” I said. “We’ve been took hung up on finishing the loop-the-loop, right?”

Gibson and O’Mara nodded.

“So here’s the plan: instead of that, we do an Immelmann turn.”

“Uh, I don’t thing we covered that in helmsman class,” O’Mara said.

“We apply full rudder and flip over sideways,” I said. “Losing altitude and returning to our correct orientation.”

Gibson snapped his fingers. “That just might work!”

“Sirs, I don’t see how this is any less a violation of physical…”

“Just take the wheel, kid,” I snapped, grabbing the intercom. “Engine room? Wake up engine room! We full power immediately. Three… Two… One… Helm a starboard!”

“Oh, God, I’m going to be sick,” O’Mara screamed, as the battleship began its flip.


Captain Knudson walked across the dockyard to the ship. He was in a particularly good mood, but I could see him willing himself into his usual scowling demeanor. It was growing easier for him to be grumpy, the closer he came to the ship.

“What’s this scratch in the paintwork?” he demanded, before he even reached the gangplank. “Unbelievable! I’m gone on three days shore leave, and I come back to this. And why is there a New York taxicab tangled up in the anchor chain? And is that… Is that a hot-dog cart in the main turret? And why is the Yankee stadium sign caught up in the rudder?”

“There are perfectly good answers to all these questions,” I said.

Knudson jumped as the little finger from the Statue of Liberty’s right hand fell from the superstructure and landed right next to him.

“It was O’Mara’s fault!” shouted Gibson.

“And how!” I added, as we both ran away, as fast as we could.

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B.G. Hilton - Author