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Guest Writer

Part Four: Vamos A El Embarcadero
by Jess Gulbranson

In Part 1, Mel lost his motel in a poker game; he met a man who claimed to be an alien in Part 2; and last month in Part 3, Mel found himself in otherworldy surroundings ...

Part Four: Vamos A El Embarcadero
Mel did not feel like following the greasy robot aliens, so the only option left after he took his fill of the panoramic cosmic view was to go the opposite direction in the corridor. It went down for about 30 yards with no breaks and terminated at a large door that had no appearance of handles or entry mechanisms. Mel took a long look and waved his hands in front of it like he would a supermarket door. Surprisingly, it worked. It opened like an iris, which was odd, considering it had a rectangular shape. Too weird, thought Mel.

Beyond the door was a huge chamber like the inside of a hollow sphere. It was encrusted on all sides with recesses and depressions, some of which were quite deep. Platforms and staircases of all kinds filled the inside space, and they in turn were decorated with the most incredible variety of creatures. Some were not even remotely human. A great majority were humanoid, however. Bipeds were the most common, and ghost-like, the voice of some long-ago teacher rose into Mel's brain:
"The conditions that favor the rise of planetary life as we know it also favor the humanoid evolutionary scheme."

Mel hadn't understood the words back then, but he got a sense of them now. He also got the feeling that this place was a large version of the "Star Wars" cantina. It just had that feel.

He wondered how he would go about asking for a drink. He certainly needed one. For some reason, he didn't quite feel the shock he probably should have felt -- what with aliens on one side and even stranger aliens on the other. He was oddly ambivalent about the whole thing, even curious.

Looking about for some place to start, Mel was surprised to hear a group of aliens with dog heads speaking in pidgin Spanish. Mel made his way across a long catwalk through the center of the room and had to climb a long set of stairs to reach the alcove where the dogmen were. They were rowdy and boisterous, all wearing light tunics of some rough material. They were drinking and sloshing around some amber fluid, intermittently shouting "Brasilia!" and laughing.

Mel, taking a chance, walked up to the dogmen and meekly interjected, "Cerveza?"

The dogmen stopped their frolic and looked at him seriously with their canine eyes. One of them solemnly filled a mug from their pitcher and handed it to Mel.

"Dos Equis, muñeco?"

"Gracias, gracias," Mel said, and downed the drink. Sure enough, it was the Mexican beer.

"It's all we have, diblillo," said the dogman in a slobbery South American accent.

"You speak English?"

"Yeah, me and some of the other tunantes. We used to live in Brazil, working for a despot named Manual Labor."

At that all the dogmen burst into laughter, followed by much panting and beer drinking. Mel felt the contagious laughter himself, especially after downing the last of his beer. The dogman poured himself some, then refreshed Mel's mug. Mel heard the dogmen grow quiet as one gestured and said what had to be the punchline to a joke: "Tanto por urbanismo!"

They fell again into paralyzing laughter, and Mel asked his new friend, "What the hell did he say?"

"It's a joke." Mel waited for an explanation, but the dogman said, "You wouldn't get it."

Mel shrugged and figured that he probably wouldn't. He was relaxing considerably in the company of the jolly aliens, and allowed himself that. Too much bad shit had happened lately, and he deserved a rest.

Another dogman, one who looked like the runt of the group, tapped Mel on the shoulder with a paw that was much like a hand.

"Conosces Raquel Welch?"

Mel hesitated for a moment, wondering if the dogman was joking or just horribly out of touch. By the ardent look on his snout, Mel judged he was serious.

"No, amigo, no. Not personally." Mel gave the little fellow a look that he hoped was sympathetic.

Mel counted twelve dogmen; if he stuck around he would make thirteen, which was his lucky number. "Mind if I stick around?"

"Nope," said the first dogman, who then asked his cronies, "Le molestamos el diblillo?" They fell into laughter again. In between hoarse pants and strange dog chuckles they said "no."

"Is this some kind of space station?" asked Mel.

"No, it's a taqueria. What space station has beer, eh?"

"You're right. But how did I end up in a taqueria?"

"Where are you from, amigo?"


"Oh yeah? That's definitely a hellhole. There's some exiled trader there, right? You meet him?"

Mel fished in the pocket of his red sweatshirt, brought out the white card and showed it to the dogman.

"De veras? But you're not him. He's muy gordo. A fat fuck." The dogman made a gesture with his paw that Mel assumed was the middle finger.

"Not me," said Mel. "He missed the boat and I ended up in his place."

"Is he pissed?" the dogman eagerly asked.

"Yeah, but he's out cold somewhere. His escort pimp-slapped him because I was holding the card. The escort nabbed me and that's how I ended up here."

The dogman nodded knowingly. "Stick around, mono. Two kinds of trouble: good and bad. Stick with us, you'll only get into good trouble. What's your name, anyway?"


"Mine is ..." and the dogman let loose a low howl. "But call me Ramon."

Mel slapped his paw and refilled their mugs.

Mel shot the shit with the dogmen for a long time. On the table was a mirror-backed disc that stood upright like a balanced coin. Its obverse surface glowed softly like a miniature sun; the color had gone from a deep red to a lunar green by the time the commotion started. From a distant section of the spherical taqueria a noise arose -- a wild ululation in a register too high for human making. This was followed by a body flying from a dark alcove and traveling the length of the spherical space before crashing into the staircase nearest Mel and his canine companions, then crumpling in death. It was a short, squat humanoid with russet skin and horns, its slanted eyes closing beneath a sheen of blood from its ruptured scalp.

Following the hurtling corpse from the alcove was a band of figures which looked human, but were strangely gaunt and seemed to be covered completely in gray spraypaint -- even their clothes.

"Merda," shouted Ramon. "El mano gris."

Mel looked confused.

"The Gray Hand," Ramon said. "A gang of fucking vampiros from your country." He gave Mel a pointed look. "Bad trouble. Oye, tunantes, vamosa el embarcadero! Got any place to be right away?"

Mel shook his head. "Nope."

"Well come with us. Get into some good trouble, no?"

Mel's imagination was rather limited as for what an alien barfight would be like, but he had enough sense to duck down low as the dogmen began to walk to another section of the hollow sphere. He also pulled out his Buck Rogers zapper. Just in case.

Find out more about Mel in our archives.

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