next part of the journey
Just for the record, our yellow-haired, red-sweatshirted, space-traveling
and somewhat scruffy hero has been bouncing between dimensions since
early last year. Heres
episode 18 ...
room before Mel was shadowy, with light supplied by a flickering
fireplace on the far wall. Broken furniture was burning. The only
furnishings that could still be called such were two chairs, one
of which was occupied.
The man in it was facing Mel, but it was hard to look at him, because
his face wouldn't sit still. First, it was that of a pasty bald
man, then an old black woman, then a child, then ... Mel got dizzy.
He was hesitating in the doorway, but he felt the man's gaze fall
on him. A force impelled him forward not walking, just a
headlong slide across the floor and into the chair opposite the
strange man. Mel suppressed the urge to get bent out of shape, and
shoved his hands into the pocket of his red sweatshirt. That way
they wouldn't do anything untoward.
"Hello, Mel, you may have heard of me." The voice was
changing just as its owner's face was, from squeak to growl to James
Earl Jones. "I am the Superior General of the Jesuit Order,
also known as the Black Pope. I'm sure that one of my confederates
must have mentioned me."
"So how are you in the basement of a bar?" Mel knew the
drill, and he was tired of it, but asking obvious questions seemed
to be the only way to get these people to explain anything. "Shouldn't
you be in Rome?"
The Black Pope leaned back in his chair, face in constant flux.
"Out that door is Via Appia in Rome. Also out that door is
the hallway you came from. It's unimportant. Bert!" His bellow
was answered by the remaining conscious pirate, who looked sheepishly
at Mel. "Please fetch us some water, Bert." Bert closed
the door behind him.
"Are you and Didymus and Vlad related or something? You sure
act like siblings ... fight all the time but thick as thieves."
"You've cut very well to the heart of the matter, Mel. Each
of us represents a certain Aspect of humanity ... I doubt that this
was explained to you, but I prefer to be direct in my dealings.
Many years ago a philosopher determined a universal taxonomy of
the human spirit, after discovering us. We use his terms now, because
they make as much sense as any. Do you follow?"
"So far." Mel lied. He was rewarded with a cryptic smile
that lasted over three different faces.
"Good. I will make this concise, as we do not have all the
time in the world. We are still in Portland, you know. It's Portland
1880 A.D., though. If you wonder why, it's because it was the easiest
way I could get to you ... I met you halfway, in a sense. The man
who brought you here ... he was a ghost."
Mel raised an eyebrow as the Black Pope continued. "He was
a ghost here at the White Eagle, until your counterpart summoned
him into slavery with black magic. Really. He is awfully confused,
and bears you some animosity. His ... boss, however, is one of us."
"What, the King of Ghosts?"
"King ... yes, that is it precisely. As I was saying, many
strings have been pulled to get you where you are. We number five,
and our sixth is, for now, our enemy. His power is ascendant in
this age, and we strive to restore the balance."
"How does that happen?" Mel felt the conversation had
wandered into crackpot territory, and wondered if perhaps Enya shouldn't
"A complex question with a seemingly simple answer. We require
a Messiah." The Black Pope leaned forward as he spoke, right
in Mel's face. "Each Aspect has an affinity for a certain human
quality, and the one we seek has them all in spades. Mine, for example,
is dynamic inspiration. Think back ..."
Mel did, and he could remember a million times where hunches and
what seemed to be dumb luck had pulled him out of jams. What the
Black Pope was hinting at was a much stranger feeling even than
his brief time with Anne.
"I'm not your Messiah." He planted his feet in the ground
firmly and pushed. He went nowhere, and the shifting face remained
close to Mel's.
"No, not yet. You have met with Didymus' approval, and with
it you have the Essence. Vlad Tepes approves as well, and you have
the Progression. The King of Ghosts has known of you since the dawn
of time, but will not approve you until all else have. The Machine
Mind, the Systemic Aspect, has not encountered you yet. I will approve
as soon as we are finished talking and you make the correct decision."
"That's only five." Mel was stringing it along until
he could escape. "You said there were six Aspects."
"The sixth is Jeuss Rucker. His Aspect has been a detriment
to humanity for so long that you could call him devil, Shaitan,
evil itself, and you would not be far off. Yet, the Messiah will
have his approval as well, and then possess all the mystery and
power that humanity has access to and, with them, right the balance."
"Or destroy the world, or remake it in his own image, or take
a vacation in Bermuda that lasts a thousand years, or tear open
a hole in existence and hem the edges so it would never close."
Mel wasn't sure why all that garbage came out of his mouth, but
he meant it. He understood the possibility of power within.
"You are closer than we could ever have thought. But you're
still a Messiah candidate. The path open to you is one that has
been retold in all the legends of the world, but they remain legends
because we have not had a candidate complete what was required.
All the Nazarene lacked was the approval of Jeuss Rucker's Aspect,
and he would have been it. But ..." The Black Pope made an
"Fine. Fine, I'll do it. But I don't understand half as much
as you think."
"We have turned time and space upside down to funnel you where
you are, and you have passed all with amazing fortitude. We shall
continue immediately. You have my approval."
Behind Mel a glow rose. He turned and it was a door, shining so
brightly that it hurt his head. He turned back, and next to the
Black Pope was the old man from the bar, Sam.
The Pope spoke. "Return to Graceland and inform your master
that the candidate has but two approvals to seek before his own."
Sam nodded, and faded from existence with a glare at Mel.
"Go ahead, Mel," the Pope continued. "Enter the
door. That's the next part of the journey."
As Mel turned and stepped, the light froze him in place. He saw
images flash through his mind ... Didymus walking, walking, forever
... Vlad Tepes alone in a dark room, not moving ... The Black Pope
in caveman garb, etching a drawing of deer on a cave wall ... a
library of scrolls unrolling and reading each other ... Elvis in
black leather a la Vegas '69, with a necklace of skulls ...
last he saw Anne, beautiful Anne. Her black T-shirted back was to
him, and when she turned she had no eyes only black sockets
that spoke to Mel of oblivion and despair ...
Then he was no longer frozen in the light. He was on top of a mountain,
looking out into an expanse of blue sky and ocean. Behind him was
the light of the door. As he turned it was fading, but he heard
the Black Pope shout through as it disappeared.