enough to the real thing
Weve been following our rumpled yellow-haired
hero ever since early 2001,
when he lost his motel along with everything else but the
red hooded sweatshirt on his back in a poker game. Hes
been bouncing around through several different dimensions
ever since. Heres episode 24 ...
it was raining when Mel exited Clay's house. Mel had bolted up the
stairs from the laboratory at Frank Burley's suggestion, finding
darkness except for the kitchen and parlor.
In the kitchen he succumbed to impulse and grabbed
the picture of Anne on the blanket, then he moved to the parlor.
It was uninhabited, and he realized that he only had a few moments.
He fancied that he could see a depression where little wooden Daniel
had felled the giant Ducumber, but it might have been imagination.
So many people he had met and befriended, and now he had to run
Mel snapped out of his reverie and remembered why he had come into
the parlor. On a shelf in the corner was a large vial, and it was
filled with a quivering silvery fluid that might have been alive.
He had previously had only a moment to observe it, and he didn't
even take that this time. The vial was warm and vibrated softly
as he slipped it into a pocket. Now he was on his way.
At the front door he was stopped. Hanging on the inside handle
was one of Clay's lab coats. It seemed uncharacteristic for the
alchemist to leave it out, but Mel searched it anyway. To his surprise,
there was a small leather satchel underneath, and it contained four
nondescript vials. The first, filled with a light blue liquid, was
one he recognized. When they first met, Clay had flung the contents
in his face, and it had frozen him in his tracks. The others, red,
green and black, he figured would be just as useful for a fugitive.
He took them.
If it was just carelessness, Mel was glad, but if Clay had intended
for Mel to find the vials, he hoped that the cheating didn't hurt
the kooky messiah gambit any. Better equipped than before, Mel opened
the door and ran down the stairs. The lawn was still lapping at
the house as if it were water. Weird, he thought.
Sure enough, it was raining. The glowing red sky of Clay's part
of the Ordeal was unmarked by clouds, but a warm rain fell nonetheless.
Mel stuck his tongue out, and smacked his lips as he found the drops
very salty. "Tears?" he said to no one in particular,
then looked at the street. When people picked a random direction,
it seemed, they almost always went in the direction to which they
were manually oriented. Mel was right-handed, so he decided to break
Not wanting to appear too conspicuous, he made the brisk pace of
the lunch hour power-walker, and started whistling. The rain, being
warm, wasn't so bad. But he expected that once it dried it would
leave a white salty crust on his clothes.
Mel walked a few blocks, then turned right at a warehouse-type
building that leaned at a strange angle. He walked a few blocks
more, then turned left onto a narrower street, not really knowing
where he was going or who he was supposed to be fleeing. As he continued
down the narrow avenue of darkened buildings, he heard a noise.
Ceasing his whistle, he turned toward the sound.
Shit, he thought, ninjas.
Ninjas or no, they were close enough to the real thing not to matter.
The three figures were dressed all in black and were armed with
long iron staves. Fighting the urge to put up his dukes, Mel suddenly
knew that these were part of his pursuit, and reached his hand into
They advanced slightly, staves twirling, as if waiting for him
to make the first move. He wasn't about to do that, but suddenly
things were decided for him. Two of the ninjas attacked, one leaping
acrobatically over Mel's head to land behind him.
The figure in front was the one he was worried about, and as an
iron staff arched toward him, Mel leaned in and smashed a random
vial into the ninja's covered face. Judging by the smell of mint,
he had grabbed Clay's "frigid balm."
The ninja was frozen solid.
Hearing wind rush behind him, Mel dropped to the ground just in
time. The staff's end cracked into the frozen ninja's face, releasing
a cascade of ice shards that sprinkled everywhere. The result seemed
to stun the attacker, and Mel turned from his crouch and grabbed
the ninja's legs. He pulled and the ninja fell onto the street.
It made a ghastly crunching sound, and the ninja did not stir.
Mel rose and stumbled backwards as a series of blows rained toward
him from the final opponent's staff. There was no way to fight the
chop-sockey onslaught, and he found himself wishing for help. Not
waiting around for divine intervention, Mel decided to haul ass.
Running full tilt, Mel couldn't hear the ninja's footfalls behind
him, but felt that he didn't have much of a head start. He ran down
an avenue that was full of houses and alleys beneath the red sky,
and on his next step everything changed.
Suddenly it was night; dark even. Mel was on the docks and everything
was indistinct with a thick, white fog. He could hear muffled bells
and the cries of birds and stevedores from elsewhere along the quay.
He kept running, though now it was slick boards thumping beneath
his feet instead of stone. He could hear the ninja behind him and
getting closer. Suddenly, Mel stopped short as someone appeared
before him in the fog.
It was a tall black dude with shaved head and shabby yellow robe.
He was carrying a pitchfork, of all things.
"Going as the Master for Halloween, bro?" The man's eyebrows
jumped, but he smiled.
"A friend of the exalted Master's!" He was looking over
Mel's shoulder. "Are you in trouble?"
Mel spun around and saw that the ninja chasing him had been joined
by a horde of others, stretching back into the fog. He turned back
to the monk wannabe and nodded.
"For the glory of the Master!" the man screamed, and
a mob of similarly robed people erupted from the fog behind him.
They rushed past Mel, and began chasing the ninjas back down the
docks. One of the vigilantes stopped before Mel, and with a start
Mel saw that it was the real McCoy.
The Master, his longish beard glistening with fog, seemed to be
in deep relaxation even though he had no pillar to lean against.
He winked conspiratorially toward Mel.
"I like to get them fired up sometimes. Worked out pretty
well for you."
"It did, indeed," agreed Mel. "Say Clay said
I might get some help from you."
The Master scratched an ear.
"I find the Custodians silly," he said, "so I'll
add some uncertainty to their little game. Are you the Messiah?"
The strange old man's gaze made Mel feel as if he had been ice-picked
in the forehead. Mel couldn't even stammer a reply before the Master
stood up straight. "Let's walk."
Though he seemed to be slouching along without a care, the Master
set a good pace, and Mel had to scurry briefly to catch up.
"Well," said Mel, "they say that I am."
The Master cupped a hand to his ear. "Eh, grasshopper?"
"Don't call me grasshopper. You asked me a question, you ass-clown,
and I answered it."
"Your answer sucks."
They walked in silence for a moment as Mel digested the remark.
"I don't know what else to say."
The Master stopped, facing Mel. "I'll quote you a religious
parable that will help you more than anything anyone has ever said
to you. Do you want to hear it?"
"Okay then. A serious young man found the conflicts of modern
life confusing. He went to many people seeking a way of resolving
the discords that troubled him, but he remained troubled. One night
a Zen master told him the solution. He was to go to a certain house,
sit on a pile of rubble in the corner of a particular room and remain
silent until the moon rose the following night.
"The young man did as the Zen master instructed, but his meditation
was frequently interrupted by worries. He worried whether or not
the rest of the plumbing fixtures from the second-floor bathroom
would fall to join the other trash he was sitting on. He worried
how he would know when the moon rose in the windowless room. He
worried about what the people who passed through the room were saying
"Finally, his worrying was disturbed when, almost as if a
test of faith, dung fell onto him from the second floor. Just then,
two people walked into the room. The first asked the second who
the sitting man was. The second replied, 'Some say he is a holy
man. Others say he is a shithead.' Hearing that, the man was enlightened.
"Does that help you?"
Mel thought for a moment. "Not really," he admitted.
The Master shrugged. "Alrighty then. Let's go kick some ass!"
Mel followed the Master into the fog.