J a n u a r y   2 0 0 5

Guest Writer

Still no change
To Mel and back
by Jess Gulbranson

Our rumpled yellow-haired hero has been through plenty since he lost his motel – along with everything else but his red hooded sweatshirt – in a poker game. Then, following a harrowing series of misadventures, Mel recently finished up a relatively tranquil thousand-year sabbatical in a tropical paradise. Now he finds himself living in a murky future with a whole new set of otherworldy adventures about to unfold. Here's part 43:

he swirling patterns of energy settled and resolved themselves to the stark outlines of the cell. Inside was the mystery man, slumped in the corner. Duncan could see nothing of the man's face, only the top of his blonde head.

"A fine morn to you, sir."

Nothing. In the Goggles' sight, the man appeared dim and faded, as would a person who slept without dreaming.

He tried again. "Are you hungry? There is a service of popkins on the desk in there."

There was still no change, and he thought he would try one last thing. "Why did you call for the Lady Anne?"

The man's head snapped up and he was looking right at Duncan. In the Goggles, he suddenly changed. He was glowing red, and when he stood and pressed himself against the bars, he appeared to be nothing less than a horned fiend, looming over Duncan and filling the room with a fiery glow.

"Where is Anne?" As the man spoke, his radiance increased until Duncan was forced to tear the Goggles from his eyes. The world returned to normal, and the man was staring at him expectantly. Duncan was not sure he should answer, until the King's men had arrived, but something about the man compelled him.

"She resides in the London Tower, 'sieur. In your delirium I understand you were awfully familiar in your speech about the Gloucester's chosen lady."

The man bared his teeth in fury. Duncan was glad he did not have the Goggles on.

Suddenly, though Duncan was not in arm's reach of the cell, he found himself smashed against the bars, held tightly at the throat by the mystery man. The gorget protected his neck, but just barely. He felt fear, rare for a sheriff, as the man's hard-boned face loomed in his.

The man was about to scream at Duncan, then his eyes wandered to the back of the sheriff's neck, and his expression changed. "Where does a fella get one of those hoodies? And I'll take some popkins, if those are food." He sounded almost pleasant, and released Duncan.

The sheriff drew rapier and main-gauche as he fell backwards. All in the same second the man had reached out and grabbed the broad dagger from Duncan's hand, cutting his own as the main-gauche's blade sliced his palm. Duncan expected the fingers to be running with blood, but instead something strange happened.

A black liquid ran from the lacerated fingers, and instead of the copper of blood, there was a strange smell. Licorice and currant, perhaps, with a hint of spice. The drops ran over the mystery man's wrist and dripped on the floor, where they burst briefly into flame. As the sheriff watched, the cuts disappeared and so did the man's "blood."

Still holding Duncan's dagger, the man turned it over and examined it. Then he proffered it through the bars, hilt first. "Here you go… Duncan, is it?"

His name was there, of course, spelled out in gold wire hammered to the blade. He took the dagger from the man and stepped back carefully.

"Somehow you have the advantage of me, 'sieur. Might I ask your name?"

The man thought for a moment, then slumped into the corner again, with a cough.

"Mel. Now can I get some popkins, or do I have to call Amnesty International?"

Look for Mel's 42 past adventures, check out an interview with our dimensionally challenged hero, and e-mail Jess at j_gulbranson@hotmail.com.

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