12: The solution is numinous
In the grand scheme of the universe, Mel is
little more than a speck. But in our universe, well, he's the
only inter-dimensional hero we've got. So, although hes
a little rough around the edges, largely unpredictable, maybe
even a trifle rude after last years
11 out-of-this-world chapters, you just had to learn to
love him. Didnt you? Nevertheless, heres Part 12
coffee remained unground, its depleted sack hanging over the
edge of the grinder. The red-haired girl had called a coworker
and begged off her shift by pleading sickness, then grabbed
Mel's hand and dragged him out the door. They stopped only long
enough to flip the "open" sign to "closed,"
and to turn the key in the lock.
Even after she stopped dragging him and their mad
dash had become a stroll, the girl still held Mel's hand. They
had escaped downtown and were navigating the university campus.
After spending uncharted time in other dimensions, the familiar
Portland-like feel was relatively reassuring. But, as the day
grew lighter, they left the school grounds for parts unknown to
Mel. The girl kept giving him corny theatrical winks and shushing
him when he tried to speak.
Mel would have been royally pissed if it weren't
for the pressure of that soft little hand in his. They came to
an abrupt halt in front of a small restaurant, surprisingly open
at such an early hour. A sign in the smoky window read "KALLISTI,"
but the smell of fried squid was the same no matter what they
"Here we are," said the red-haired girl,
the first words out of her since she had hustled him from the
door of the coffee shop.
They entered the restaurant and Mel was momentarily
startled by the chaos within. He would have guessed there was
a brawl going on inside except that the bottles of ouzo were being
thrown to people and the plates of spinakopita and kleftiko
remained off the floor.
They took a seat in the back and largely ignored
the waiters. A two-hour conversation began, which the girl started
something like this:
"Okay, Mel. Tell me your story." She leaned
across the table and held him with her eyes. "Only, pretend
you're Johnny Cash."
Mel blinked, thought for a moment, then summoned
what he could of a basso-Arkie drawl. "This next one is a
song by the late, great Hank Williams. It's called "The Incredibly
True Story Of How Dracula Killed My Best Friend And Fucked My
Evil Twin In The Ass With A Flagpole, Thanks For Nothing God,
You Can Take The Many Worlds Theory And Shove It."
Mel dropped back into his normal voice. "I
suppose that would be more of a ballad." The girl covered
her mouth as she laughed.
"The subject matter seems okay, but I think
the title is more David Alan Coe than Man in Black."
"Listen," he said, "I realize I pulled
you off of work with some pretty weird favors to ask. Here's a
small one. Could you tell me your name?"
Her smile in the next moment was an enigma. After
a moment she replied, "I'm Anne."
"Anne, you just can't know how much this means
for someone to even give me the time of day without freaking out.
If you let me bend your ear some more, I'll see if I can't make
it up to you somehow."
"Mel, it's nothing. I can already tell you're
a nice person. Besides, it's not every day you get to meet a spaceman
from Dimension X."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you look really familiar. More than
déjà vu familiar. You knew right off that I was
a physicist with a sideline interest in the paranormal. And you
have that stuff." She gestured at Mel's red sweatshirt, which
bulged with Vlad the Impaler's box.
"Okay," he said. "So you believe
me. What do you know about the book?"
"That's the main thing that convinces me. Look
Mel did. On the inside was a name written in pen:
"Anne S. Matik."
"Uh huh. Thing is, that book burned in a lab
fire. It was very valuable. I still have the ashes." She
settled into the chair and accepted a proffered coffee from a
waiter. "Out of middle school I went into the physics program
at U-Cal Berkeley. My job-shadow program was at JPL, where I was
assistant to a man named Vic Hausmann. His project was cosmology,
and how science might break through the wall of superstition.
Studied a lot of folklore, alchemy, etcetera. One day he stumbled
onto a breakthrough after studying the Gnostic gospels alongside
this EPHEMERIS. He just kept saying 'Numinous, the solution is
numinous.' Then he jury-rigged a cyclotron by tying its power
coils in a Buddhist prayer knot. Let me see the zapper."
Mel handed it over.
"So you're saying
She pointed to the cracked case where the wires
were sticking out. Knotted wires. "That is what he kept saying
was numinous. It's what they call the Hausmann Knot. It let him
break through worlds. Of course, he never came back, and they
closed the program. I decided that the physics game was too much
and bummed around the country for a while. Now, here I am."
Mel tried to digest it all. Smith had re-rigged
the zapper with this "numinous knot" thingy, and was
able to work it with the EPHEMERIS, which Vlad had presumably
taken concurrent with the zapper.
"Shit." She laughed again when he said
this, covering her mouth. Mel decided that it was the cutest thing
he had ever seen.
"You haven't touched your coffee yet, Mel."
"I don't need to be wired right now. Do you
think you can operate this gizmo to send me home?"
it might take awhile. You can stay in
my apartment, meanwhile. You'll earn your keep, though."
had flashes of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "American
Gigolo." He grinned.
"And how is that?"
"First, you tell me everything."
"Second, you take me with you."