Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Now, I ain't never been one to take on the hefty responsibility. When I was a lad, our class had to pick a hall monitor and, for some reason, all my school chums decided the job would go to me. I didn't want the job. I mean, it was bad enough havin to show up to school every day. But now I was expected to check every half hour to make sure the hall was still there?! It was too much, really. Of course, this was way back in the 60s, when there were giants roaming the earth, subsisting on the hallways of schools and, for some reason, Tang. In fact, that's why we sent all that Tang with them first astronauts, to lure them giants into space where they could be used to protect the planet from asteroids being thrown at us my Mars, but that story's not that interestin, and I'm pretty sure you know all about it anyway.

So, my school chums thought it'd be h-i-larious to give me the job of watchin the hall and makin sure it was still there. I felt it shoulda gone to Chuck, this kid that had a lazy eye. I mean, hey, he was keepin an eye on the hallway anyways, why not make it official? But no, it had to be good ol' Pat O'Neil to get up every half hour to check to make sure the hallway was there. I did that job for three thankless years. Did anyone say, "Good job, Pat?" No. Did anyone throw a parade for Pat O'Neil? Yes, they did. But it was entirely unrelated to my duties as hall monitor. Did they ever, once say, "Thank you. Thank you, Pat O'Neil for keeping our hallway safe from those giants who may be better suited to defending us against the terrible Martian hordes?" No. But the one time a giant DOES eat our hallway, guess who has to hear all about it? Me, that's who. "Why weren't you watching, Pat?", "What's wrong with you, Pat?", "I can't see you clearly with my lazy eye, but if I could, it would be filled with sadness and disappointment, Pat."

What was I going to do? I was eight. What eight year old is going to be able to stand up to the giants? Well, besides Genghis Timmy, the leader of the Martian hordes, who stood up to the giants, I mean.

That whole experience there soured me on doing anything that required responsibility. For the next fifty years or so, I tried to live my life with as little responsibility as I could manage. I didn't take on any extra jobs no one gave to me. I didn't volunteer for nothin. And when I played air guitar, I'd always play the rhythm guitar part. Who needs all the showiness of playing air guitar to the lead? That's just fancy for fancy's sake if you ask me.

Despite that, I found myself shouldering quite a responsibility there on Meth Earth. I was supposed to dig up this haunted stick thing, use that to drive off the cruel masters of the planet and restore the ghost dragon army back to some semblance of normalcy. I wasn't comfortable with it, but what can you do? When fate comes callin, you can't turn out the lights, hide behind the couch and pretend not to be home, like you can when it's your aunt or solicitors looking for donations to the Genghis Timmy Memorial Fund for the Prevention of Death in Children Due to a Severe Cultural Misunderstanding Resulting in a Serious Interplanetary War That Could Have Been Avoided by a Little Research on Behalf of the Martian Diplomat. No. You gotta get your butt up off that couch, quiet the dog, open the door, look fate right in the eye and then dig a couple hundred feet through antarctic ice.

"One problem," I said, "I don't have a shovel."

The ghost leader scratched his head. "Yeah, that's gonna be a problem. We're basically incorporeal, so we can't really dig."

"But you just brought me here on your back," I pointed out.

"Well, yeah," he said, "but that's different. We, like, don't have to work when we fly. Diggin's hard."

"Well, I ain't gonna just dig through the ice with my bare hands," I retorted. "So what were you expectin us to do?"

The ghost shrugged, "Dunno, guess I hadn't thought that far ahead."

"Wait," said Alistair, "I've got an idea. Can you guys wait here for a bit?"

It was my turn to shrug. "Don't see why not."

So we hung out there on the icy plain for awhile, played a little cribbage. It was beginnin to seem like I wasn't never gonna get out of this and get home. But at least I had time to rest my feet and take a little nap. I slept like a little baby; wakin up and cryin every couple of hours, then tryin to stick my feet in my mouth.

I'd just about got my right foot to my cheek when I saw the giant form on the horizon. The thuddin of the land grew as the enormous shape moved closer. It first looked like a man, but no man ever stood that tall. "What is that?" I asked the ghost dragon.

"How would I know?" one of them said, "it's too far away."

"Don't you have some magic powers or somethin? I mean, what good is it bein a ghost dragon if you're limited by a normal person's sight?" I asked.

"Tell me about it," one ghost lady replied. "I was near sighted when I died and, let me tell you, it's darned near impossible to get glasses once you're dead. Bein locked in a box doesn't help none, either."

A few of the other ghosts mumbled their agreement. By the time they were done sharin their optical complaints with me, I could finally see the shape. Alistair had gone back to where I landed and recovered the mech suit I wore during that first battle.

"Chuck's Chain-Chuck-o-matic!" the ghosts exclaimed. "Of course!"

I don't use the phrase stunning very often, but then again, I don't see a giant mechanical suit shooting chainsaw nun-chucks into antarctic ice over and over and over again that often. Then chainsaws punched through the ice like it was butter and they were still chainsaws. We cleared the path down to the staff in a matter of minutes.

It lay in the ice, shining in the sun, like some sort of snake made of mercury. It was beautiful and frightening at the same time. A low hum seemed to come from it, too quiet to be heard, but it made my entire chest tremble in fear.

"Well," said the ghost, slapping me on the back, "go on down there and get it."

I stood, staring. Then slipped and slid my way down the sides of the pit. It was all I could do not to run away. I was about to be judged by something more powerful than everything I'd ever seen or thought about. What would I find? What would it say about me?

I reached out to the staff, my hands trembling. As my fingertips touched it, a voice rang out in the silence.

"Yeah, you'll do."