F e b r u a r y   2 0 0 2

Guest Writer

Part 12: The solution is numinous
by Jess Gulbranson

In the grand scheme of the universe, Mel is little more than a speck. But in our universe, well, he's the only inter-dimensional hero we've got. So, although he’s a little rough around the edges, largely unpredictable, maybe even a trifle rude – after last year’s 11 out-of-this-world chapters, you just had to learn to love him. Didn’t you? Nevertheless, here’s Part 12 ...

he coffee remained unground, its depleted sack hanging over the edge of the grinder. The red-haired girl had called a coworker and begged off her shift by pleading sickness, then grabbed Mel's hand and dragged him out the door. They stopped only long enough to flip the "open" sign to "closed," and to turn the key in the lock.

Even after she stopped dragging him and their mad dash had become a stroll, the girl still held Mel's hand. They had escaped downtown and were navigating the university campus. After spending uncharted time in other dimensions, the familiar Portland-like feel was relatively reassuring. But, as the day grew lighter, they left the school grounds for parts unknown to Mel. The girl kept giving him corny theatrical winks and shushing him when he tried to speak.

Mel would have been royally pissed if it weren't for the pressure of that soft little hand in his. They came to an abrupt halt in front of a small restaurant, surprisingly open at such an early hour. A sign in the smoky window read "KALLISTI," but the smell of fried squid was the same no matter what they called it.

"Here we are," said the red-haired girl, the first words out of her since she had hustled him from the door of the coffee shop.

They entered the restaurant and Mel was momentarily startled by the chaos within. He would have guessed there was a brawl going on inside except that the bottles of ouzo were being thrown to people and the plates of spinakopita and kleftiko remained off the floor.

They took a seat in the back and largely ignored the waiters. A two-hour conversation began, which the girl started something like this:

"Okay, Mel. Tell me your story." She leaned across the table and held him with her eyes. "Only, pretend you're Johnny Cash."

Mel blinked, thought for a moment, then summoned what he could of a basso-Arkie drawl. "This next one is a song by the late, great Hank Williams. It's called "The Incredibly True Story Of How Dracula Killed My Best Friend And Fucked My Evil Twin In The Ass With A Flagpole, Thanks For Nothing God, You Can Take The Many Worlds Theory And Shove It."

Mel dropped back into his normal voice. "I suppose that would be more of a ballad." The girl covered her mouth as she laughed.

"The subject matter seems okay, but I think the title is more David Alan Coe than Man in Black."

Mel nodded.

"Listen," he said, "I realize I pulled you off of work with some pretty weird favors to ask. Here's a small one. Could you tell me your name?"

Her smile in the next moment was an enigma. After a moment she replied, "I'm Anne."

"Anne, you just can't know how much this means for someone to even give me the time of day without freaking out. If you let me bend your ear some more, I'll see if I can't make it up to you somehow."

"Mel, it's nothing. I can already tell you're a nice person. Besides, it's not every day you get to meet a spaceman from Dimension X."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, you look really familiar. More than déjà vu familiar. You knew right off that I was a physicist with a sideline interest in the paranormal. And you have that stuff." She gestured at Mel's red sweatshirt, which bulged with Vlad the Impaler's box.

"Okay," he said. "So you believe me. What do you know about the book?"

"That's the main thing that convinces me. Look inside."

Mel did. On the inside was a name written in pen: "Anne S. Matik."

"That's you?"

"Uh huh. Thing is, that book burned in a lab fire. It was very valuable. I still have the ashes." She settled into the chair and accepted a proffered coffee from a waiter. "Out of middle school I went into the physics program at U-Cal Berkeley. My job-shadow program was at JPL, where I was assistant to a man named Vic Hausmann. His project was cosmology, and how science might break through the wall of superstition. Studied a lot of folklore, alchemy, etcetera. One day he stumbled onto a breakthrough after studying the Gnostic gospels alongside this EPHEMERIS. He just kept saying 'Numinous, the solution is numinous.' Then he jury-rigged a cyclotron by tying its power coils in a Buddhist prayer knot. Let me see the zapper." Mel handed it over.

"So you're saying … what?"

She pointed to the cracked case where the wires were sticking out. Knotted wires. "That is what he kept saying was numinous. It's what they call the Hausmann Knot. It let him break through worlds. Of course, he never came back, and they closed the program. I decided that the physics game was too much and bummed around the country for a while. Now, here I am."

Mel tried to digest it all. Smith had re-rigged the zapper with this "numinous knot" thingy, and was able to work it with the EPHEMERIS, which Vlad had presumably taken concurrent with the zapper.

"Shit." She laughed again when he said this, covering her mouth. Mel decided that it was the cutest thing he had ever seen.

"You haven't touched your coffee yet, Mel."

"I don't need to be wired right now. Do you think you can operate this gizmo to send me home?"
"Sure. Sure … it might take awhile. You can stay in my apartment, meanwhile. You'll earn your keep, though."

Mel had flashes of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "American Gigolo." He grinned.

"And how is that?"

"First, you tell me everything."


"Second, you take me with you."

Find out more about Mel in our archives.

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