about the alien ass-kicking ...
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 29:
made her very angry."
Mel heard the words before he was able to focus, and when he finally
did, he found he was in a white room. With black curtains, oddly
"Tired starlings," he moaned, rekindling his head into
a burst of pain. Mel was stranded in an enormous white bed, and
he craned his neck left and right to see who had spoken. He couldn't
see anyone, so assumed the speaker was behind him.
Nothing to do but wait. Mel felt like he'd been run over by a truck.
For a while he let himself fall into a stupor. His brain didn't
feel like making the connection between his condition now and how
it had happened. Mel swam in a fuzz of pain and exhaustion and probably
dope for what seemed like hours. Then the speaker revealed herself.
Wearing a simple white dress and apron, a homely girl of about
12 came around the head of Mel's bed. She smiled, then sat on a
stool and took Mel's hand. "You've made her very angry,"
the girl repeated.
"Who's that?" The girl seemed surprised that he didn't
know, but her smile never wavered. She began to stroke Mel's hand,
which seem less than comforting.
"Why, the Beata, of course. Technically, you have to be dead
before you get the great honor, but they have taken to calling her
'Saint Anne.' "
That was what it took just a mention of a name. Mel would
have exploded out of the bed if it weren't for the girl's anchoring
grip on his hand. It was all coming back.
He had brought himself to this place, though how and where exactly,
he still didn't know. He had found Anne again, though a much older
Anne, as in the picture Clay had shown him. The first thing she
had done was to knock him on his ass. Then and this is where
it got weird shot him in the head.
It was all of a sudden like a special-effect-laden summer blockbuster.
Time slowed and Mel could feel the slug traveling down the barrel
of the Desert Eagle.
Don't Messiah wannabes dodge bullets? he thought, then gave
a mental shrug. He'd let the bullet hit him. Mel had thought that
it might have just stopped, or bounced, but instead it blew his
head clean off. That was a new experience. The impact slammed his
ruined head into the pavement even as hydrostatic shock blew his
spinal cord down to his toes. It smarted to say the least, and then
it was nappy-time for Mel.
His reverie was broken by his hand being crushed. The hospital
girl was grimacing, and let up on the grip when she noticed that
he was staring at her.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But I could feel the pain."
"Me, too." He took back his throbbing hand. "Who
"I'm an angel." As she said this, a radiance sprung up
over her, as if someone had turned on a bare 40-watt bulb behind
her head. Maybe that meant she really was an angel, but Mel was
Mel, you have no idea. God is a numinous being, of course, but the
manifestation I serve is alive and real. Faith in him has dropped
off almost totally, so the Kingdom of Heaven is like a gold rush
town with the lode running out. Most of the angels have starved
or faded away, but the strongest have ... fallen." She was
crying now. "That's why people like you and Saint Anne are
being served so poorly. You got Didymus, not even an angel, and
Saint Anne got me. I've needed help every step of the way ..."
"That's why she should be glad I'm here." The new voice
was hearty and familiar. Mel swivelled his head, and there was a
portly man in monk's robes next to his bed.
"Dimpe!" He was thinner somewhat, but otherwise the same
alien racketeer Mel had tangled with in Bridgeton.
"Brother Faben, now. Mel it's swell! If I had any clue
who you were back then, I would have offered you triple to work
for me! Ha!"
"Now, about that ..."
"No hard feelings. None at all. Things have only been up,
up, up!" Dimpe stroked his walrus moustache with vigor. "Working
for Saint Anne and Azrael here has been quite the shindig. Now that
I know all our work has been to help you out, it's even better."
"Hmm. Where are we?" Mel sat up, or tried to, but was
forced back down by the burly monk.
"Whoa. You won't get out of bed just yet. Didn't you know,
you had your head shot off? I saw the whole thing. One minute your
brains were all over the pavement, the next you were half-conscious
moaning for an aspirin. Damnedest thing. But to answer your question,
we're on the island of Hy-brasil, which is part of an archipelago.
It's like the spiritual opposite of that Ordeal. Saint Anne came
here to do the good work and forget about you, as I recall."
He paused, then frowned. "I'm sorry. You probably don't want
to hear about that right now." He looked uncomfortable and
Azrael stepped in.
"This is a delicate time. All signs point to the end being
near, and Saint Anne's efforts to find the Messiah have been fanatical.
It almost broke her when you showed up. We'd heard terrible things
out of the Ordeal, and then your miracle at the cafe. I don't think
she's ready to accept that you're the Messiah."
"Neither am I." Mel got up, a little dizzy, but still
strong enough to push off Dimpe's hand. He leaned into the fat man's
face. "Where is she?"
Dimpe backpedalled, the color draining from his fat face. Before
Mel could ask again, he fled through the curtained doorway.
Mel turned to Azrael, and stared into her eyes. "Where is
she?" he repeated in the same tone.
Azrael looked indignant. "Do not try to coerce an angel, 'man.'"
A shadow fell over the room, and the angel seemed to loom over Mel
as if she were a giant. The chill of death touched Mel's heart,
but he had already beaten that once. He pulled together all the
gumption that had gotten him this far, and channeled it through
that strange feeling of whatever it was he was supposed to be. He
was roaring it now, "WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE?"
Azrael shrank, the room was bright again, and her little head light
The angel gasped. Without realizing it, Mel had picked her up by
the apron. Mel set her down, and she exhaled loudly before responding
in a quiet voice.
"The next island in the archipelago is called Perng Lai. The
Immortals live there, and they are wiser in the ways of the cosmos
than most, though they rarely take action. When you arrived, she
was determined to reach Perng Lai and enlist their Master in service
to the Messiah. There will be bloodshed, because the Immortals dislike
her, and she is in a rage."
Mel reached out and touched Azrael on the cheek. "Take it
easy." He hadn't intended for it to be a blessing, but it shot
through her like lightning, and she dropped to the floor in blissful
to find Anne. He had to get to the island of the Immortals, and
to do that he needed to find someone who knew the turf. That meant
Mel pulled aside the black curtain in search of the man who had
made the whole journey possible. He was there in the corridor, ill
concealed in the shadow of a pillar. He ceased his terrified mumbling
when he saw Mel silhouetted in the doorway.
"Sorry about the alien ass-kicking, Dimpe. Now how
do we get to Perng Lai?"