three: The opposite direction
One, Mel lost his motel in a poker game and wandered the streets.
In Part Two, he worked
odd jobs to make ends meet, then discovered strange coincidences
regarding a man named Dimpe.
Part Three: The opposite direction
The station would probably be busy on an early Sunday evening,
so Mel skirted it, walked around the train yard, and came onto Dimpe's
train from the east. There didn't appear to be anyone around, though
Mel did see the silhouette of watchman Stu off near the station.
Mel rounded the stationary train car and saw that no one was inside
the well-lit vestibule. He stepped in and listened for a moment,
not even hearing breathing. Mel went through the counter and opened
the concealed door, which was so well-made it uttered not a squeak.
The inside of the office was lit only by a green glass banker's
lamp on the desk.
Then Mel heard something shift from the direction of the far wall.
Then came a rasp of pages being turned. He looked closer at the
wall and saw that it was another of the concealed doors; Dimpe was
probably in there on the crapper. Mel snuck silently past the desk
and slipped the latch down over the door. It struck him as odd:
Why was there a latch on the outside of the bathroom door? Mel didn't
quite want to know. He slipped the doorstop under as well, and went
to work as quietly as possible.
Inside the filing cabinet was the greatest collection of personal
profiles and sordid details that Mel had ever seen -- and that was
quite a lot. This Dimpe had been busy. The last drawer of the filing
cabinet contained the attaché case that Mel had seen before, and
also some small sealed crates the size of cigar boxes.
Mel, feeling like a film noir spy, took the attaché case and set
it on the desk. The lock was a simple lever tumbler, and Mel jimmied
it with a knotty little piece of wire that he kept for just that
purpose. Inside was a strange collection of objects.
The first thing Mel picked up was what looked like a metal fish
skeleton with a hinged box for a head. He tossed it back in and
picked up a crystal ball. Fortune telling, no shit,
Mel thought. The ball was somewhat milky and dark on the inside,
like it had impurities or was a cat's-eye marble. Weird. The rest
of the stuff was just junk, except for what appeared to be an old
Buck Rogers ray gun.
Probably an antique toy, and broken too, Mel thought. But
in the dark, a gun-shaped object can work as well as the real thing.
Mel stuck it into the sleeve of his red sweatshirt.
Underneath the toy gun was the white card that Dimpe said was his
alien driver's license. Mel held it close to his face and looked
at the tiny dots. Just like Braille. Mel couldn't understand it,
and before he could do anything more, the door to the office opened.
In walked two extra-ugly aliens.
Their heads were squat and scaly, green, about the size of a baseball
and held only two mindless-looking goggle eyes that were as pure
blue as Sinatra's. The heads stuck up on short, thin necks which
sprouted out of bodies that looked like suits of armor. Or robot
bodies that were covered in motor oil.
Mel cursed and, without anything better in mind, pulled the ray
gun from his sleeve and yelled while pulling the trigger in hope
of startling the aliens. As he dove clumsily behind the desk, he
realized that he had done more than startle. The alien he pointed
the "toy" at now had a rather large hole punched through
its robot body. The inside of the gaping hole smoked and sparked
as the alien fell to the ground with a clank.
Mel hunkered down behind the desk as he heard what sounded like
someone's voice on an answering machine: Please accept the apologies
of the Rigelian Consortium, Faben Dimpe. All charges of smuggling
restricted artifacts have been cleared. Your period of exile is
officially terminated. Please allow this honor guard to escort you
to a transport.
Mel did not quite believe it. He raised his head above the desk
and saw the unfallen alien standing impassively, holding out a compact
black box with a red light. The same voice came out of the box,
repeating the message.
Just then Mel realized someone was pounding on the bathroom door
and shouting. Dimpe wanted out and was telling Mel so in a most
scatological way: "Hold on, numbfuck," Mel replied. "There's
someone who wants to see you."
Mel unlatched the door and Dimpe came barreling out. His fat face
was red and sweating. Dimpe moved toward the alien and held out
his palms. "I'm ready," Dimpe said, clapping his palms and opening
them wide again.
The alien took one look at Dimpe's display and its hand shot out
in what looked startlingly like a karate chop, smacking Dimpe on
the neck and knocking him to the ground -- unconscious.
Mel walked over to the alien and tried to walk past it through
the door, but it swiveled its metallic bulk to block him. Mel stepped
back and looked at the thing. It was again motionless. He had a
sudden flash of inspiration and realized that he held the alien
ID. He held it up and smiled like a credit card ad, then extended
his palms as he had seen Dimpe do.
"Beam me up, fucker," Mel said. "May the force be with you."
Then he clapped his hands and opened them, again in mimicry of
the man on the floor. With blinding speed, the alien reached out
again and, for a moment, Mel thought he was getting the chop-sockey
treatment, too. But the alien just placed a metal clip of some kind
onto Mel's red sweatshirt, then grabbed his arm with an implacable
grip. In a moment he realized the fallen alien had risen and was
holding his other arm.
"Let go of me, you alien fuckers!" cried Mel, his worst Star Trek
nightmare coming true. He felt his body buzz as the office faded
from sight, replaced by a steely gray corridor.
The twin aliens released him and began walking the down the corridor,
the other direction from where they had been facing. As Mel spun
to watch them, he noticed the window. It opened onto a great vista
of space, with stars in unfamiliar formations, the light of a strange
sun shining. Mel allowed his jaw to fall slack and stared through
what he supposed he should call a porthole.
"No shit!" said Mel.
Mel didn't feel like following the greasy robot aliens. The only
option -- after he took his fill of the panoramic cosmic view --
was to go the opposite direction.