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Guest Writer

The wrong prank to play
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 28 ...

el let out a low whistle as he looked up the side of the crater, and up to the sky. He had almost hoped the explosion had destroyed the Baraka, but it was still there.

Its door-shape was no more. Now it resembled a small pale star burning in the air over the crater. Mel was ready to start pondering his unlikely survival, but decided instead to leave the pit.

As he made to leave, he discovered the only human artifacts at the site of the devastation – a simple saffron robe and a pair of sandals, like the shed skin of some big weird snake. "But if I survived, then maybe ..."

Mel had a sudden mental picture of the Master giving a rebel yell as he was catapulted bare-assed into the stratosphere. Mel was certain they would meet again someday.

It was a long walk out of the crater, and before he was halfway up the shallow grade, Mel realized he was not alone. A shadowy figure waited for him in the gray haze beyond the lip.

Once at the top, Mel peered into the haze to discern the figure's identity. He moved forward slightly, and suddenly his way was blocked. He was staring into the eyes of Anderson Demetrius Dean.

"Well, you screwed that up royally," Dean said. "Now the Baraka is dumping its power all over the place and ... I got mine! But there's no door for you to try and shut. On the other hand, though ..."

Dean gestured dramatically. "Nobody else can go through that door and come out the way you did. That was a good move – I must have underestimated you. Maybe I won't have to take another nap for a while."

His confident smile dropped as Mel saw a flash of light from the wall of haze. Dean's form began to shimmer and break apart, and he sneered. "Ghost bullets? If I have to reform this body a third time today, I am going to take it out of someone's hide!"

Mel saw another flash and heard a whizzing sound. That was it for this Dean, and he dissolved into gleaming motes of whatever he was.

View now unobscured, Mel watched the shadowy figure step from the haze. It was the spectral George Washington, holding a musket. He was attired in the same uniform that Mel had seen him in before, and when he spoke it was just as creepy.

"Ah, the candidate," Washington said. "Did you know that the balance of power has shifted in your confederacy, that now there is a price on your head?"

Mel felt an energy building inside him, but was unsure what to do with it. He shook his head weakly.

"I expected a bit more vigor from you. But enough parley. I have a desire to be elsewhere, and with all speed." He raised the musket.

Desire to be elsewhere ...

As Washington fired, Mel screamed "Take me to Anne!" Time seemed to slow, and he saw the puff of smoke as the flint struck.

Mel found himself in another world.

It was night here as well, but something about the air told him he wasn't in the Ordeal anymore. He suddenly felt as if he had stopped taking crazy pills.

Where was this elsewhere? Mel was standing on a cobblestone street underneath dark clustered buildings that went up and up as far as he could see. Across the street from him was a sort of open-air cafe, which was the only light on the block. It was thronged with people, but he couldn't place their style of dress. He stared, and one glimpse of red hair was all it took.


She turned, along with quite a few other heads. It was Anne, alright, but it was Anne from the picture Clay had showed Mel. She was beautiful even older, but she looked hard and cold. Her sleek business suit was covered by a dark military-looking greatcoat, and she loomed over her companions in the cafe. Mel felt a terrible rush of conflicting feelings, but love won out and he rushed over to snatch her up in his arms.

Anne clenched her jaw and exploded with violence. Mel could hear her growl as she landed two quick left jabs on his face, then grabbed his collar and slammed him to the ground. He winced in agony as his tailbone thumped on cobblestone, and when he opened teary eyes there was a gun barrel pushing against his nose. Even cross-eyed, Mel could still read DESERT EAGLE .50 on the side of the pistol.

She was kneeling in close, still holding his collar with her left hand. Her greatcoat had draped itself over him like huge black wings. Maddeningly, he could smell her, the most wonderful scent ever.

She had stopped growling, but it broke Mel's heart to hear the pain in her voice when she spoke: "Whoever you are, you picked the wrong prank to play."

She pulled the trigger.

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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