in a way unimaginable with language
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.
Here's episode 36:
first Mel thought he was under water, like in his nightmare from
a while back. Then he realized it was the air. An oppression of
spirit had made the atmosphere thick and murky. It was dark, and
apart from the stale air, he could smell two other things: ozone
Taking a step forward into the dark space, Mel discovered the reason
for the latter smell. There was a body, in several pieces. Mel couldn't
quite figure out who the fragments belonged to, but was sure that
they had gotten in the way of his hirsute forerunner, Ur. Well,
he had told the giant to kill anyone he found. Mel just hoped
the Welcome Wagon had been as unfriendly as he guessed.
Leaving it behind, Mel stepped out of the doorway and into a hallway.
He had the impression of being under water again. There was a current,
cold and dense, pushing at his back. It wasn't water or wind
just pressure. He turned to see if he could find its source and
received a shock.
The hallway had closed off behind him. There was no door and the
corpse had disappeared. Not just that, but it was closing off like
a sinus, even as he watched. Mel's hair stood on end. That was just
Not wanting to get squished, he made tracks. It kept coming behind
him, slowly and inexorably. Mel shuffled forward, letting the current
take him. It was almost light now, a greenish radiance that flickered.
Maybe that was the source of the electrical smell.
The force behind him pushed even harder and suddenly Mel was in
a round room. The force swirled, and though the strange currents
weren't visible, tiny green electrical discharges flickered where
they might have been. All the swirling centered around a tiny point
in the center of the room. Stroking the point, as if encouraging
its efforts to disturb the room, was Jeuss Rucker.
At Mel's entrance, Rucker straightened up and dusted off his hands.
Still dressed in his archaic suit, Rucker grinned, teeth bright
beneath his empty eye sockets.
"You made it. I had my doubts, but this will make the end
"The end," Mel replied. "I'll get back to you on
Rucker's grin drooped slightly. "Do you know what this has
all been about? All the fussing and fighting? It's this," he
said, pointing to the invisible spot where the swirling converged.
Mel scratched his chin. "I had a feeling that all of this
was just a little complicated. Are you behind Didymus and Vlad and
all of those?"
"Oh no, no, no ... they liked to think they were equal parts,
but they haven't been equal since the birth of the world. This ...
hole is eating everything. It's me, it's entropy ... it's the end
of everything. I've been feeding it forever, and it never gets any
bigger. Isn't that the damnedest thing?"
Mel blinked. "So what? Why are we here now?"
"I can only do it a piece at a time. Sure, there have been
some big pieces, but ... "
Mel had a sudden vision. He could see Vlad the Impaler, Didymus
and the others being fed into the hole. It was horrible and he realized
why the room was as cold as the bottom of the ocean.
"Is it a black hole?" A curt shake of the head. "The
"Funny you should mention that. He's never been part of the
equation, at least as far as I can tell. C'est la vie."
"So what now? Do I get fed into the hole, too?"
Rucker seemed to consider it for a moment.
"Yes." And that was all. Mel was dragged into oblivion.
Strangely, though, it was not the end. He was free, floating in
nothingness. He had no body, for sure. That thing had gobbled it
up. Here on the ass-end, he felt that he understood the nature of
it the end of all things, but not so definite that it was
his end. Not yet.
Nothing was clear, at least to the senses, but he could feel the
insight. He floated alone for an indefinite time, and then there
was someone with him.
Mel was in communion with the emptiness, and the essence of the
being closest to him was as vivid as a red lantern. It was Vlad
"If he doesn't stop, Mel, then there will be nothing. At all.
If this is oblivion, then we should not be conscious. That is how
I know that there is still hope."
Mel felt love and strength flowing from the soul of the ancient
vampire into his own. That must have been a first.
"The powers of eternity have brought the worlds to this cliff,
but I think it is a mortal man you who will pull them
back. So hurry!"
Mel could feel other souls pressing on him for attention, but he
was fighting that blissful communion. There was only death and silence
and stillness that way, and Mel wasn't ready yet.
It wasn't working, though. He could feel himself slipping away,
and loving it. He didn't even care about his friends, or the innocents
of the universe, or Anne. Though that last thought gave him a stab
of moral pain, it didn't last. He was slipping away. Slipping ...
until he felt a firm grasp pluck him from the void.
There was the sensation of having been spit onto the beach like
a sandy bite of sandwich. And that was exactly where he was. It
was the beach and Mel was sprawled naked on the sand body
aching but otherwise whole and healed. Looking at himself in shock,
he could see that all the bumps and bruises of the past few weeks
were gone; even some old scars were missing.
Mel stood up, then jumped when he saw that he wasn't alone. "And
me with my dork hanging out."
His company shrugged. "Nothing I haven't seen before, but
The man produced jeans, which Mel slipped on, gratefully.
"If that makes you feel better," said the man, "then
we can talk about a few things. I know you've gotten tired of questions
and talking and bullshit explanations, but we can get a few things
straight before you get to where you're going."
"Here actually. Tahiti, to put a name on it. For a thousand
years. Isn't that what you stated the Messiah's ultimate power was?
Mel was bothered by the fact that the man seemed to know things
he thought and said in private. That, and he looked real familiar.
In fact, he looked just like ...
"Claude Rains! In that one movie where he played the Devil,
with Paul Muni, and ..."
The man raised an eyebrow in response.
"Oh crap," said Mel.
"Whatever you heard, it's not true. The last time someone
figured out who I really was, they had a crusade called on them.
Not nice. I was ever the spoiler, and my task is to see that balance
is achieved. It's not easy, either, and it gives me and a lot of
my servants what you might call a bad reputation."
"You know, sir, up until a few hours ago, I thought it was
Jeuss Rucker. Sorry."
"Nix the 'sir.' Rucker's as bad as they come, but an extreme
power such as his is strictly second-rate, compared to yours, or
mine, or some others. If he were allowed to win it might not be
the end of us, but it would be unpleasant in a way unimaginable
with language. The balance, remember? It's important to do what
is good for you, and maintain that, without hurting others. Right?"
Claude rubbed his hands together, and smiled at Mel.
"I think one thing is missing before I send you on your way."
He handed Mel a red sweatshirt, battered but clean. As Mel accepted
it, Claude raised his fist, with pinky and index fingers extended.
Mel recognized it from a Judas Priest concert or two, and after
slipping on the hoody, he returned the gesture. "Rock on."
"Rock on. One last thing. Don't worry if all this doesn't
come off the way you expect. Don't worry about people being disappointed.
Just remember what's important to you. Oh, and don't forget this.
You dropped it."
He handed Mel the golden ring called Ma Yuan. Then he was gone.
Mel felt wonderful, like steak-and-eggs wonderful, or first hand-job
wonderful, or Norman Rockwell wonderful. Or Anne wonderful ...
"Anne! Shit." That was all it took. He raised himself
up tall and looked around at the beach, and the ocean, and the big
beautiful moon. "I'll be back."