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Guest Writer

He could feel the menacing power touch him
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 35:

el greeted his fellow inhabitants of Hell's Vestibule. "Howdy boys. Who's the bull-goose Failure around here?"

A short, powerfully built man in a simple robe stepped forward. "Welcome to Sheol. I am Jeshua bar Joseph." The man had a handsome olive complexion and dark curly hair.

"Oh, I get it. You're ..." Mel paused. "You know, you don't look anything like your pictures."

The man shrugged.

"As the Baptist prophesied that I would follow him, so I have prophesied that another would come after me. But the editors cut my copy all to shit!" Jeshua smirked then, and Mel could picture him bullwhipping some moneylenders with that expression on his face. "Are you he? Then choose one of us to be your second, and go to meet Shaitan."

"I have to choose, huh? How do I know who to take?"

At that, the Failures lined up in front of him. Jeshua was first. "It is a sin," he said, bowing his head, "not to finish what you start."

Mel thought for a moment, then waved his hand. "Jeshua, you're just alright with me ... but no." He moved on.

The next Failure was that great Chinese philosopher who was famous for his masterful chop-sockey movies. Clay had mentioned that he had been wandering the Ordeal, but now he was stuck here. "Pride goeth before a fall," he intoned, then snapped into a martial arts pose.

"Sorry, Bruce. You couldn't take a bullet, and that just won't cut it." Again he moved down.

The next Failure's granny glasses reflected the Vestibule's light. In his Liverpudlian accent he simply stated, "I used to be cruel to my woman and beat her."

Mel gave him a dirty look. "Ditto on the bullet thing. And Ringo was always my favorite, anyway." There were two Failures left who had lined up for his inspection, and surprisingly the next was a woman.

She was hot, too. She was a shapely blonde in a revealing dominatrix outfit. Mel cleared his throat. "And you are ..."

She licked her lips. "Galatia Sheridan, the libertine Messiah of the 22nd century." She ripped the leather covering from her breast and, grabbing it, proffered the mammary to Mel. "I like to annihilate men."

For some reason, Mel was both turned on and offended.

"Whoa, Galatia, this wasn't a personals ad. I guess you just hit the Messiah glass ceiling." Mel had to get this show on the road. He could feel an urgency to leave Sheol, so he continued. The last candidate for his choice was a surprise as well. He was a caveman, and a damn big one at that. He towered head and shoulders above Mel, such that his robust beard would have tickled Mel's nose had he been closer.

Before Mel could say anything, the man spoke up. "I am Ur, greatest of all men, and first son of the Nephilim. I would have claimed my kingship of the world had I not faltered just once." The blonde giant parted his loincloth to show that one of his testicles was missing; the other was enormous.

"I slew Ar-sharbak the pelagic sloth of the Pellucid desert, and in his death-throes an antenna sharper than any spear ... made me less than a man." Ur's proud tone descended, but only for a moment. "Little man, you have greater stones than there ever were, and I will help you however you wish." He pounded his chest and grinned.

Mel was not quite sure what to say. Then he smiled, too. "Ur, I like your style. Be my second. And maybe we can do something about the nut when we're all done." He looked about, noticing that the other Failures all seemed to share a common look of anger. "We'd better split, though, so now I have to figure out how to leave."

Jeshua bar Joseph ran over and grabbed Mel's arm. "You have not chosen well! The Son of God must accompany you on the journey!"

A similar clamor was coming from the other four. Other Failures were appearing as well, all summoning their near god-like powers. The room was swimming with the threat to him. He turned to Ur, who was behind him.

"Mel, there is a door. But none of us were the man to open it!"

Sure enough, a door was right there. Why hadn't he noticed it before? Mel yanked it open. "Ur, kill anyone or anything you find on the other side. I know it's a trap."

With a roar, the giant ran through the portal. Mel started to follow, but was dragged backward by the throng of inferior Messiahs.

"Fuck off!" he yelled, and with a soundless explosion the Failures were thrown to the far corners of the Vestibule. Within a moment they were rising, even angrier, and he could feel the menacing power touch him. He had only a second, so he grabbed the gold ring from the pocket of his hoody, and threw it.

Frank Burley appeared in the center of the room, in his cosmonaut suit. The Failures were coming at them, and Frank turned to Mel. He made a click-click noise with his tongue and cheek, then turned to the advancing mob.

Frank leaped in with fists and feet flying. There was only a second of gore before Mel turned away. I can't watch this, he thought, and moved to the door.

He could hear more and more Failures rushing toward Frank, but he knew that it was a slaughter, and Burley would be the only one left standing. Sure, it was what the Ma Yuan was meant for, but he still felt bad about leaving Frank.

Maybe the world was better off with the god-killing gold ring stranded in Sheol. His work was done and he had to leave.

Unfortunately, it would be without Frank.

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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