F e b r u a r y   2 0 0 4

Guest Writer

Come and get it!
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 33:

hell-shocked as he was from the quick transition, Mel caught it right away: Anne had called him "Smith." That said a lot, because her old professor had been named Heimlich or something. Which meant that Mel's arch-nemesis had been here, and that probably explained the prof's eventual weirdness and bugging out.

Not quite sure how to deal with her yet, Mel cleared his throat and rubbed his hands together. Okay, he thought. Go nuts. He leaned over and turned on a gas jet for a second, then sniffed reflectively. "Hmm," he muttered. "Let's not go to the accelerator."

In reply, she pounced as she did so well. "Not yet." She kissed him and grabbed his wrist, thrusting his hand down her pants. "So, what's your decision? Promise to take me with you and we can keep playing."

She winked devilishly and Mel understood. Smith had stranded himself in space and time just the same, and had worked out a deal with Anne to get out. Only, as it stood now, it was Mel acting for Smith pretending to be Hausmann.

As things turned out, Mel had indeed traveled dimensions to get a piece of ass. Only, Smith was the one who had gotten to enjoy it. Unless ... but no, it would be cheating that way. Besides, Anne had been so eager when he first met her because Smith had left her in the lurch. Mel's priority, unfortunate as it was, was to scram – and quick.

He pulled his hand out of her trousers and shook his head. "First, I need to take care of something. Wait here. I'll be back ... I promise."

He jumped up before she could reply, almost bowling her over. Then he made a beeline for the doorway and as he left the room he stopped. In a cheezy stage whisper, he muttered, "It's numinous ... the solution is numinous."

That should do it, he thought. At least if he recalled Anne's story correctly. Outside the room, he found himself in a gloomy fluorescent-lit hallway. For once he was lucky. There was a sign with a big friendly arrow pointing right. It was labelled "TO ACCELERATOR."

So far, so good. Mel bolted right and went up to a series of static discharge doors. They were labelled likewise, and he went through.

The last door wouldn't open. A metallic voice rattled the claustrophobic space: "Please state your name."

Mel thought it over and, in a calm voice, replied, "Mel Smith."

The final door opened and he stepped into a large, dark space. Lights flashed on, revealing a lab packed with scary-looking equipment. Mel could hear a lot of it powering up, probably from some automatic standby.

In the middle of the room was a huge thingamajig.

"That must be it," Mel said aloud. He could have sworn that particle accelerators were big mile-wide rings but, for whatever reason, this one wasn't. He could hear it humming as he approached and he hoped he didn't have to wait an hour for it to warm up.

It was time to get started, because he figured that Anne would only wait so long. The machine was covered in green lights and he hoped that meant it was good to go. Around on the ass-end of the accelerator was a panel marked "ACCESS." It was plastered with intimidating stickers.

Mel popped the cover off, revealing a number of circuit boards and braided wires.

Here goes, he thought. Mel grabbed several likely bundles of cable and yanked them out with a shower of sparks. There were two reds, a yellow and a gray. Mel tied them all together in a couple of grannies and a sheepshank. He reattached the ends and all the green lights glowed brighter as he replaced the panel.

Whatever he had done, it was either very right or very wrong, because the whole dingus split in two as if hinged. Inside was a shimmering sparkle that seemed to extend forever.

"I'm getting good at leaping before I look," he said, as he stepped into the light.

It was an instantaneous transition, and Mel found himself floating in the limitless sparkle. Before him was a huge, silvery cylinder, which unrolled to reveal a metallic scroll covered in shining characters. Mel puzzled for a moment and the scroll case disappeared. In its place was an androgynous figure of the same silvery appearance. It smiled.

"Uh ... hi." Mel was not really perplexed anymore by this sort of thing.

The figure's voice was melodic. "I forget that humans no longer read either angelic script or Babel. We can converse this way, since you have entrusted yourself to destiny and the bosom of the machine."

"You're the Machine Mind! The aspect!"

"Correct, and I approve. I will transport you to the final stage of your journey."

"That was easy. How about we stop at Fort Bragg real quick, so I can pick something up?"

The Machine Mind smiled and suddenly they were back in the hangar of the abandoned military base.

"Frank?" His voice echoed in the vastness.

"Hello, Mel." Only one Frank was there, and as he stepped out of the shadows Mel saw it was the cosmonaut Frank, the one who had been absorbing the others. "It's finished," Frank said. "I understand so much now." He sounded inhuman, like those Buddhist rappers who were briefly en vogue.

"Frank, we need to finish this," Mel said. "Do you have the ring?"

Frank raised a fist and opened it, revealing the gold ring. "Well, let me have it so I can skedaddle."

The omega Burley closed his fist again and grinned.

"Come and get it!"

Thanks to everyone who entered last month's Post-Holiday Mel Extravaganza contest. Here are the answers: 1) Coffee; 2) Rip City; 3) Khe Sanh; 4) gay porn star; 5) second base; 6) casoron and dolomite lime; 7) five bucks; 8) neck (foot is an acceptable answer); 9) Johnny Cash and Edward G. Robinson; 10) a good secretary; 11) a pencil.

And congratulations to Raul Fish of Portland, who answered seven questions correctly. Second place went to T. Garrison of Boise, Idaho, with five correct responses.

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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