I moved toward the large man, intending to take him hostage and negotiate an exit from this place. I reached for the gun in my pocket, realized I didn’t have it and pulled out the spare magazine instead. I threw it at the large man and he flinched as it bounced off his chest. I lunged.
They moved so fast. In a blur I had a bundle of talons clamped around my neck and arms and legs. Two of the monsters were on me, holding me still as a Ken doll. The large man looked downcast, I suppose. The mask sagged a little. He said, “What we have for you to do is so important. Korrok has seen the outcome. It will happen if you resist or if you do not resist. All that will change is your personal well-being. It is for the greater good. Do you not see that?”
He almost sounded on the verge of tears, crushed by my tragic inability to grasp the obvious. Two of the monsters carried me from the room, dragging me backward down the hall. The other four descended upon John and I heard him cursing loudly. The large man followed me and the door sealed over the sound of John screaming that he was having a seizure and that they should let him go. I screamed, “Light the dog! John! Light the dog!” but I assumed the doors were just as soundproof from the inside as out. I was hauled into yet another small, round room, accompanied by the large man. The door swept shut behind us and the two creatures turned me loose. I saw we were not alone, that there was a small figure huddled against the far wall. Red hair.
I ran toward her, and was smacked in the face by nothing. I fell to the ground and realized I had run into a glass or otherwise transparent barrier that separated the room.
Amy looked up at me in dull surprise. She looked to be beyond shock. Largeman said, “Our representatives are all over your world. We have been planning this for years and all of the pieces are in place. It is just a matter of clearing the way, of wiping your world clean. Two glasses. Yours with water, ours with wine. To fill the other with wine, the water must first be spilled. Do you not see that the wine is better?”
A door opened on Amy’s side of the room, and two men came in. They were not naked, far from it. They were dressed in what looked like layers of leather half a foot thick, shoulders bulging with some kind of hard padding. They looked like members of a bomb squad. Between them they carried a container the size of a fifty-five-gallon drum. It was red and stamped with an enormous yellow warning label captioned in a foreign language that used lettering like Elvish. They sat the container on the floor and activated a latch. They then turned and ran from the room.
Amy stood and pressed herself against the far wall. The top of the container opened and slid aside. I held my breath, eyes bouncing from Amy to the container, waiting to see what would emerge from the dark opening. I ran up and pressed my palms against the glass, screamed her name. I noticed she didn’t have a left hand.
A single, tiny white insect zipped out of the container. Thin and wingless but flying nonetheless, it streaked through the air and moved toward Amy. She backed away from it, following it with her eyes as it swirled overhead.
“It is a miraculous being,” said Largeman. “It has the mind and instincts and urges of a man, only without limbs or nerves or sense organs. It knows only to fly and to breed, and once it finds its host it will produce twenty thousand offspring in a matter of minutes. They grow quickly in the soft tissue of the host and then they burst forth, each to find new hosts. And so on.”
I knew that already. The insect buzzed around and around and around. Then it landed on her shoulder and Amy swatted it like a mosquito. I screamed at her again, she couldn’t hear me. Then it was Amy’s turn to scream. She was pulling her hand back and looking at it like it had just been impaled on a tack. She shook the hand and rubbed it on the wall and did everything she could to try to dislodge the insect, but it was useless. It had burrowed into her.
I banged on the glass with my hands, looking in, helpless. Amy looked at her hand and at me, baffled, not even sure what any of this meant. I spun on Largeman, said, “Undo it. Give her an antidote, insecticide, what ever kills those things.”
“Any such solution would kill her as well. No, this can end only one way. Korrok has seen it.”
I turned back and saw Amy had slid down and was sitting on the floor again, looking hopeless. Looking like she expected to wake up at any moment, find herself back in bed.
“The future is what it is,” said Largeman. “Your people have been poisoned with the myths of lone men turning the tide, improbable tales of heroes outrunning explosions with their feet. Such tales are forbidden here. Events are laid forth and they cannot be turned. There are no heroes, Mr. Wong. Korrok has computed it down to the atom and we have left nothing to chance.”
At that moment, the door swung open. A slimy spray of brown flew across the room in a wide arc.
JOHN HAD A plan.
If he is to be believed, while I was being hauled into the room with Amy, the four Beastments holding John tried to keep him still as he proclaimed seizure and thrashed his limbs about.
“SEIZURE! I’M SEIZURING HERE!”
This caused a commotion up in the observation deck, with the observers not sure what to do with Largeman gone and the Transdimensional Visitor Festival spinning quickly out of control. Molly began whining in earnest at that moment, quivering all over. John knew that both of General Valdez’s Mexillent Micro wave Burritos were about to make a reappearance.
A door opened and an emergency crew rushed in, four hooded women each carry ing a kitten in each hand. More people filed into the room behind them, and John figured they were from the observation deck and were using this as an excuse to get a closer look. These people seemed to have some authority, and with a gesture of their hands the four inhuman guards let go of John’s arms. He fell to the floor and immediately the girls piled their kittens on his body and fussed over him.
“I must have my medicine!!” John shouted to a small, pale man who he guessed was Asian. Neither the man nor anyone else seemed to know what John was saying. “My seizure medicine!”
John reached into his pocket and several of the onlookers jumped back. John pulled out his tobacco and cigarette papers and held them up to show they were not weapons. The group stood and watched in fascination as John sat and brushed the kittens aside. He gathered all of his concentration and went about rolling the one, perfect cigarette that could save our universe.
He spread the tobacco, rolled, wound up with a cone-shaped tobacco horn that had John cursing in frustration. He tried a second time, almost got it, and then finally a third. Perfect.
He glanced at Molly and nodded. Then, with a squeal and a sound like a hard rainfall, Molly let go. A spray of shit ejected from her hindquarters, and in it was a lump that John instantly recognized as half a dog bone that went undigested since it was an unstable, ultra–high explosive compound instead of the antlers and fermented cow fur that actual dog biscuits are made of. John lit his perfect cigarette, took a puff and nodded his thanks to the group.
John leapt to his feet. He held out his hands to the group of humans and the four monstrosities in the room. He said, “Everybody stand back!” He went to the puddle of feces, grimaced as he fished out the soggy chunk of explosive dog biscuit. He used his pinky finger to dig out a small dent in the half bone, then lodged the unlit end of the cigarette into it. He set the smoking apparatus onto a dry piece of floor, stood, checked his watch, then looked over at the thin yellow-brown stream that was leaking from the dog.
“Molly, it’s time to go bye-bye.”
John picked up the shitting dog, holding her across his chest with both arms, her paws dangling. He sprinted out of the room, screaming “Get out! Everyone get out! It’s gonna blow!”
John hefted the dog down the hall, came to the first closed door he could find. He saw no handle on the door and no buttons or controls. He screamed, “Open, you fuck!” and the door slid obediently open.
John saw Largeman and saw a room imprisoning Amy and saw me looking outraged and decided it was best to turn Molly’s ass toward Largeman and hope she shat on him. She did.
I threw my hand in front of my face as warm shit splattered in a wide stream across the room, the dog letting out an agonized yelp. Largeman was surprised by this turn of events and threw himself to the ground. John let Molly go, pulled his Zippo from his pocket, lit it and flung it at one of the Beastments. The lighter smacked it in the head with a flare of yellow and blue, the thing letting out a howl. John then ran over and administered a hard kick to Largeman’s ribs. In a blur the two Beastments were on him, Largeman telling them not to kill him, everything was under control.
As if to specifically contradict this assertion, I noticed a lump of fairly solid feces on the floor from which emerged another, cracked piece of our dog biscuit bomb. I grabbed it in my hand, ran and dove and snatched John’s lighter from the floor. I saw the group from the hall pushing in through the door now, including four of the Beastments that were tossing naked people aside and imposing themselves into the room. I held up the dog turd and flicked the lighter, the flame dancing an inch away from the explosive excrement.
“There’s enough explosive in this poo to collapse this whole cave. Now back the fuck off.”
Whatever basic English these people knew apparently didn’t include those two phrases. Nobody moved for a long time, the only sound the wet, farty mechanism of Molly’s digestive system.
Largeman understood perfectly. He stumbled to his feet and nodded to the Beastments in the door. It occurred to me for the first time that the people here communicated with a sort of telepathy. I would have to make some time later to be fascinated by that. At his inaudible instructions the room was cleared and the door was shut. Only John and I and Molly were left, along with Largey Largeman. I turned to Amy, who was looking at us with eyes squinted in a sort of disgusted, accident- scene curiosity.
I said, “Get back! Back against the wall!”
John and I didn’t need to discuss the plan. We got on the floor, dug out the hunk of dog bone from the poo—we had maybe a quarter of the bone—and we used John’s car keys to chip off a tiny hunk the size of a grain of rice. We used some of the dog poo to stick the shard to the glass, about two inches off the floor. John lit the Zippo, leaned it against the glass so that the flame licked the smear of feces.