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Guest Writer

Some giant step he had to take
by Jess Gulbranson

We’ve 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. He’s been bouncing around through several different dimensions ever since. Here’s episode 26 ...

el shielded his eyes from the brilliance, then turned away.

The VP was on his knees, his body trembling inside his ill-fitting uniform. The Master stood erect next to him with a finger to the VP's temple like the barrel of a pistol. Mel had no doubt that the elderly Master's finger was just as deadly. He had seen him knock the piss out of someone without even making physical contact, and Mel had a feeling that the man on his knees knew it as well.

"Oh, the Baraka ... its majesty falls upon us like sweet rain in spring. Can you feel it?" The VP's voice was honeyed as if he were talking about a lover, instead of a glowing doorway in this marble lobby. The Master groaned and flicked him on the temple, which caused the VP's nose to jet blood like a losing boxer after a haymaker.

"Cool it," insisted Mel, as he saw droplets of blood cover the kneeling man's uniform and badge, which showed his name: ROTZEN.

"Now listen, Mr. Rotzen, we're here to see Dean or Cheldelin, not your accounting department. Are they inside, or do you want the Master here to massage your temples again?" The Master made a snorting sort of laugh, but Rotzen didn't seem to notice.

"I don't fear death," he said. "I have bathed in the radiance from that doorway for a hundred years. My cup runneth over and floodeth the basement!" He was out of his mind with ecstasy, and the Master took a half step back out of momentary disgust. "It is the fountain of all life, and power, and magic ... my employers both entered that door when first we humans settled this place. No natives, neither Wood Demons nor Smoking Mirror People, would even come close ... they said it was like some strange valve."


"Pure, wonderful energy comes out of it, and shamans and the strong-willed may go into it, but never vice versa. It was like a volcano of power before my employers created the door and diverted the flow of energy for themselves. Do you plan to enter? It would not have opened had you not intended to."

Mel considered for a moment. Things seemed to be coming to a head. He had no intention of being consumed by some freakish energy pit, but blazing into the heart of the Ordeal seemed like the sort of crazy stunt a Messiah would be expected to do. His journeys had started him wondering about the Messiah thing. He hadn't developed any special powers, like knowing what evil lurked in the hearts of men, or peeing lightning. Maybe there was some giant step he had to take.

He stared at the portal and took a step closer. Peering inside, Mel could almost see movement, but the door's brilliance hurt his eyes. He turned away and glanced at his companions. Rotzen gave Mel a wink, setting a fresh rivulet of crimson running down his lip. The Master bore an inscrutable expression.

"Let's go."

"Nope." The Master shook his head. "There's nothing in there I want to see."

"Don't you want to get your five dollars back?"


That was is it, then. Mel took a deep breath and walked into the doorway.

He had expected a surge of energy, or perhaps the world's biggest orgasm, the way the VP had acted. Instead, he was simply … here, wherever here was.

Mel was in a nondescript room, paneled in light wood. The only furnishing was a desk, and at it sat a man who was writing. He looked strangely familiar to Mel, but perhaps it was just déjà vu.

"Well, I don't have much time. Here's your crap." The man stopped writing only long enough to throw a huge burlap sack at Mel. The bag hadn't been there a moment before. "Go on, open it."

Mel opened the sack, and inside was an ungodly collection of the things he had found and lost throughout his travels. The Ephemeris, the police baton, even a bottle of carrot juice. Mel pulled the drawstring shut and looked at the man. "What is all this?"

"Loose ends. You see, I've gotten sloppy. There are a lot of people out to get you and, unfortunately, I've kept them waiting. So it's likely you'll need all that garbage."

He finished writing and leveled an evil look at Mel. "Would you rather I erased you?" He brandished the pink rubber end of the pencil.

"You know my dreams? Who are you?"

"How about … God? All the power, the Baraka or whatever you want to call it, comes from this." He pointed the business end of the writing stick at Mel.

"So know that I've told you this, the best thing to do would be to get back and be ready for some rough times. Did you think the Messiah thingy would be quick and easy? Did you think you'd really be able to pee lightning?" The man smirked. "You're going to have to put in some work to make it happen. Which means I need to get to work as well. Do you see that?"

He pointed the pencil at a window, which also hadn't been there a moment before. Outside, a black man in a special-forces uniform was rappelling down the building opposite. He paused in his descent and waved at them, then disappeared out of sight. "It's not easy creating the universe. It's even harder to keep it from falling the hell apart. So clear out."

Mel was about to retort, when suddenly he was on his ass in front of the portal. He rose and turned to his companions. Rotzen's eyes appeared ready to bug out. "You came back! It's impossible!" His bug eyes rolled upwards and he fainted with a thump.

Suddenly Mel felt a fearsome blow. He spun, expecting an attacker, and found only the burlap sack next to him.

The Master cackled. "Looks like you got off easy."

Look for Mel's past adventures, check out an interview with our dimensionally challenged hero, and e-mail Jess at j_gulbranson@hotmail.com.

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