J u n e   2 0 0 4

Guest Writer

Charged up with devil power
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 37:

el ended his longing glance at the eternal Tahiti, then gestured forcefully at the beach. A glowing doorway opened and he knew that the other side ended at Anne – whom he had left in the lurch. He took a step forward, but before he reached the door another one opened right next to it.

Out of this new portal stepped ... himself, only a considerably nerdier version.

"Is that a tweed jacket? With leather elbow patches?" His duplicate grinned and spun around like a model. "Real cool," was Mel's sarcastic summation.

"You don't look so hot yourself." He reached into the pocket of his tweed jacket and shoved a military hand mirror at Mel. "Take a look if you don't believe it."

Mel did, and didn't.

The view in the mirror was limited, so he had to move it all around to get a good look. He was younger, like the physical peak he'd hit in his early 30s. Rolling up his sleeves and pulling up his shirt, he discovered that his collection of scars was gone without a trace. Have to take up stamps or coins now, he thought.

"I thought I wasn't going to catch you," said the duplicate Mel.

"How did this happen? And what's your deal?"

"Heh. The devil gave you a new body, and I'm you from the future. Look, things aren't so hot here. There are a lot of worlds other than the ones thrown out of whack by Jeuss Rucker. I've had to go around collecting our allies from all along the way. Now, I need to warn you: Don't try to figure things out as far as the time goes. Your mind is so powerful and unchecked right now that if you carried a line of thought into paradox, you might do more damage than Rucker ever dreamed. Okay?"

"Okay. But the body?"

"Lucifer did that because ... he can. He likes you, and wants to preserve your spirit for the rest of the work you – we – will do. He made your body out of light, your bones out of fire and your blood out of Jagermeister and raw devil power. It'll take a thousand years before your first wrinkle shows, and that'll mean Tahiti is over. You'll be me after about another thousand years." He shrugged. "So you need to go finish with Rucker. Wanna say hi?"

He pointed behind him into the doorway, and Mel saw all his friends and otherwise from his many journeys: the dogmen, Clay, Daniel, the Master, Dimpe and Azrael, and others. In front was Anne, in her older time and looking spectacularly unhappy. "I just found her, because she didn't want to be found."

"Wait – that means I can't rescue her now."

"Sorry, not for 2,000 years, your time. That's unchangeable."

Mel almost thought about paradox, then remembered his older self's warning. "Look, can I just say a quick goodbye?"

The other nodded, and Anne gave a half-smile as she stepped out of the doorway. Mel grabbed her by the hand and drew her a few feet away. He looked into her beautiful eyes and found that he loved this version just as much as her younger self. He put a finger to her lips and winked. Then he went for it.

Just on the physical side, Mel's young body gave him the edge, but he was charged up with devil power, and moved at blinding speed. He laid an elbow smash on his duplicate, spun and delivered a thunderous backhand, then sealed the deal with a kick to the groin. He bum-rushed himself back into the glowing doorway to the cheers and laughter of his friends, then grabbed the edges of the portal and slammed them shut.

"Lucifer!" he yelled, and somehow the Devil stepped out from behind him, still looking like Claude Rains. "Look what you made me do!"

The devil rolled his eyes. "If I had a nickel for every time someone said that ..."

"Look, this is my special lady," Mel said, touching Anne's shoulder. She looked absolutely surprised, and even more so when Lucifer kissed her hand. "I'll be right back and I need you to keep an eye on her for me."

"I would be honored to escort your beautiful Anne."

"Then I'm gone." Mel stepped half through the doorway and turned. "But I'll be back, I promise."

Anne found her voice at last. "Mel ..."

He looked at her for a moment more, then stepped through. Instantly he was in a room at JPL. It was the one that held the accelerator, and in front of said machinery was Anne again. This time it was her younger self, and she was staring at the bisected accelerator and holding back tears.


She started at his voice, then jumped up with a look that mingled elation and rage.

"Mel, you bast–" She stopped when she saw him.

"Things have changed. A lot. I don't have time to explain, but it's time to come with me."

She nodded, the tears flowing now. He grabbed her hand and took her back through the doorway. He thought they had both looked confused before, but Anne dropped his hand and stepped over to herself. Both Annes reached out and touched each others' faces in a simultaneous mirrored gesture. Mel could hear Lucifer chuckle.

"You have excellent taste, Mel. Are you sure you aren't biting off more than you can chew?"

"You're one to talk, chief."

"Guilty as charged. You should go ... I will keep the ladies company. There is a crate of merlot and crackers washed up down the beach, if I am not mistaken ..."

Mel looked at Anne and Anne. They seemed to have overcome their initial surprise. Both looked at him expectantly.

He was fiercely aroused all of a sudden, and he realized that his situation was somewhere in between "The Graduate" and the lucky guy who gets to take home those blonde beer-ad twins – no incest taboo, just something more sublime and disturbing. He didn't want to think about it too earnestly, for fear of blowing up the universe.

"I'll be back as soon as I can."

He opened a new door and hopped through with some difficulty, telling himself that he would indeed be back soon.

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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