Monday, December 14, 2009

The Cliffs

I reckon I became aware of the cliffs quite a bit before I saw them. It was like when I awkwardly met someone I went to high school with in the middle of the Wal-Mart and we got to talkin about that girl that was always mean to everyone and I knew exactly what he's talkin about, but I couldn't remember her name. I could even remember when she laughed while her boyfriend shoved me into a locker which, and I don't think they knew this, had a broken lock, makin me think I was gonna be trapped in there till judgement day. But then I found that the back of the locker wasn't actually made of metal, but of plastic wrap loosely taped over a firey portal that led directly to the land of the dead which, all things considered, is better than a locker if you're trapped. So there I was, wanderin around the land of the dead, meetin the great heroes of old and they all kept tellin me how their accomplishments was greatly exaggerated and how all they really wanted was to set the record straight. The biggest whiner of all was this guy named Paris, but not named after the city because he was older than that. What he told me, and asked me to tell others if'n it ever came up, that he didn't actually want nothin to do with that Helen girl, but she kept goin on about how her husband was always with his concubines and she was so lonely and she was also a good knitter, so maybe she could go with him back to Ilium and maybe hang out for a bit and maybe make her husband appreciate how much she really meant to him. He also said to tell people that the whole thing with the golden apple and whatnot was a bunch of drivel. Honestly, I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was sayin, but I said I'd say somethin if I got the chance, and it looks like this here's my chance.

Course, that happened to me a whole bunch down in the land of the dead. All them poor people down there told me all about how their stories got all twisted up and how they really happened. If I get a little downtime some day here, maybe I'll tell ya one or two of them tales. What I really learned down there, though, is that dead people seriously need someone new to talk to. A lot of them old guys have been down there three or four thousand years. I guess they've got the option to leave any time they want and come on back to a body on Earth, but they've got to forget everything in order to do that and, this is just my opinion here, I don't think a lot of them guys spend so much time thinkin about themselves that they just wouldn't know how to forget. So, they just sit down there and wait for someone to talk to, to try and clear things up, as it were. When I finally got back to the locker, the door was open, but I'd seen horrible, horrible things. I was forever changed by my trip down there. Also, I'd missed math, and we had a quiz that day, which I failed due to an unexcused absence. If only I could remember to hold responsible for that...

Oh well, I guess I'll remember it sometime. It don't matter much right now, anyway, since I was tellin ya how I came up on them cliffs. They took up a place in my brain like that girl took up. I could sorta feel them there, but not know how big and terrible of a presence they would soon be in my life. I guess you never really stop to think about cliffs. What I meant to say there is, "I guess I never really stop to think about cliffs." For all I know, you could be one of them cliffologists, spendin your whole life researchin cliffs. If that's the case, and you've ever come up with a good way to confront a dragon with cliffs at your back, it'd be great if you could go back in time a little and let me know what that is, because apparently screaming is not the ideal solution. Mostly because it doesn't make the dragon stop, but also because it makes your throat hurt, and who wants to be eaten when they have a sore throat?

And then bad turned to worse. It started with a poppin. The poppin turned into a buzzin. Then, the whole thing up and turned into a cracklin. Finally, everything went silent, there was the slightest whiff of ozone, and my whole suit went to pieces. I ain't certain if the battery gave out, if there was a wirin problem, or if I'd just overloaded everything with all the activity I'd been doin. All I knew at that point that I was standin at the base of a line of black cliffs that would have been at home in Mordor in a pile of moon spider silk waitin for a ghost dragon to come and eat me.

In my most desperate moment, when all odds seemed against me and it looked like there was no way out, down came the Deus Ex Machina. The dragon seemed afraid of the space ship, because he pulled up short and started circlin like a shark tryin to look nonchalant. And I can't say I blame him. That there ship descended with such a clatter that I thought I may have to head up to the roof to see what was the matter. I can't say exactly what sound it was makin, but it was a lot like the time I washed and dried my overalls before checkin em and I realized during the spin cycle that I'd left a whole set of socket wrenches and scrap metal in the pocket.

The Deus was shootin flame here and there like an angry god, and looked like it was havin trouble stayin steady, like a drunk angry god. And then, it fell. That thing plummeted to the ground like a metal stone covered in lights and smoke. In the second before it became forever a part of the landscape, one last gout of flame shot out the bottom, slowing its decent enough that nothin shattered on impact.

Once it was settled and I'd got the dust wiped out of my eyes, I looked up to see Alistair comin out of the ship, coughin and flappin his wings.

He spotted me, too. "Pat!" he yelled. "We came to help."

"Oh yeah?" I shouted, "and how's that goin for ya?"

He came closer, so we didn't have to yell at each other. "As you can see, not well. Something's gone wrong with the Deus Ex Machina."

This was surprisin to me. "Didn't you guys build it so it would always work."

"We thought so," he admitted, "but I guess the Deus Ex Machina doesn't always work."

"What went wrong?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe it's been over used."

I raised an eyebrow. "You fellas ain't used it that much, as far as I know. How could it break down so fast. Did you get the parts from Pontiac or somethin?"

"Nothing like that," he said. "We've been loaning it out. I guess we shouldn't have done that."

"Loanin? Really? To who?"

"Well," he eyed the dragon, which was still circlin out over the plains, "tv and film producers, mostly."


"Oh yeah, they love the Deus Ex Machina. But I guess they've used it so much that it's become ineffective."

"That's a shame," I told him.

"It sure is," he agreed. "It's really a convenient way of solving things, maybe too convenient. It's just too bad that we've become so reliant on it that we expect it to always work."

"I guess you're right," I told him, not really knowin how much they really used the Deus Ex Machina. I figured, for it to have the problems it had, they prolly had to let every producer and writer in the world use it at some point or another. "But, if the Deus Ex Machina isn't workin, it's lookin like we're gonna have to find another way out of this whole dragon situation."

And I had to think of it fast, because that dragon had stopped his circlin and started roarin again.

Betty Millner! That was her name!

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