(Author’s note)… I love this chapter. Only Arthur… I mean, the other one, in the other dimension, who is now in yet another dimension, is literally facing death, with a naked man dangling above his head, packed into a pit filled with unconscious aliens raining down on him, and yet he has to tell a funny story about a time he almost died when he was young. Just so you know, that story is absolutely true, and happened to me as a teenager. I did posts about it. I think it is the funniest near-death experience story I ever heard.
Also, this might be the last chapter I post. We are coming to the big finish, and I can’t give the milk away for free, can I? I hope you have enjoyed whatever part of this you might have read, considering you came in on book four of my action/humor science fiction series: The Otherwhere Chronicles… available over there-> in my sidebar–> under the links attached to the pictures of the covers of the books—>
Oh, crap, Arthur thought to himself, as stunned Keelar slid down to pummel him like pillowcases filled with meat, I dropped the remote. He couldn’t even remember if he dropped it on purpose to turn off the projector, or if he lost it when the floor went all not-flat. More Keelar thudded into the Keelar that had gotten there first.
He heard what sounded like a chain dragging on stone and turned his head to see an unusual sight. It was a skinny, beat-up David Glassaway, naked as a Jay bird, sliding down the side of the big, red bowl. The first thing that crossed Arthur’s mind was that this was an unfortunate angle to view a naked man from, at least from his perspective, if you see what I mean. Arthur snickered and couldn’t resist a joke.
“What’s the matter, Dave?” he asked. “I’ve never seen you like this before.”
David actually took the time to stop lowering himself down the chain so he could twist his head down and give Arthur a dirty look. That is when Arthur noticed that the chain looped back up and was attached to a collar around David’s neck. He realized the man was risking his life to help.
And yet, in this weird moment of danger, Arthur Blacke suddenly burst out laughing. This was due to the fact that the situation that he now found himself in reminded him of something that had happed to him once before. Not very many people would be able to say that, I am willing to bet. So, even though it hurt him to talk or to laugh, and he found it difficult to get a good breath of air into his lungs, he launched into the following story even as David Glassaway slid to a stop just out of reach because he had run out of chain.
“When I was fifteen or sixteen, I was in the Sea Scouts,” Arthur began.
David, who could come no closer without hanging himself, just hung there, the perfect captive audience. Frodo was likewise helpless to escape.
“Our ship was a sixty-three-foot ex Coast Guard cutter,” continued Arthur, who considered background material very important to any story.
Frodo shifted slightly and pushed an unconscious Keelar off his head.
“We were on a cruise from San Francisco to Santa Cruz for the Fourth of July weekend. On the way back it was night, very dark, a full moon but lots of clouds blowing around.”
David stretched out one foot as he held the chain in both hands to keep from strangling.
“The waves were huge, and we were going sideways into them. I don’t know if you know it, but the coast near Frisco is notoriously dangerous. Lots of wrecks, rocks and shoals. There is fog and strong currents. The water is cold enough to kill you before too long. There are even great white sharks.” Arthur reached out. He could just touch David’s foot. He gave him a grin.
From behind him, Frodo said, “I am releasing the bug drone I brought. The General has activated it. Help should arrive shortly.”
“So, everybody on the Farallon, that’s the name of our boat, right, is sick as dogs. That’s how rough it was. I was going out on the deck to puke, because I was tired of smelling everyone else’s. I left the pilot house. Nobody even saw me go. And like an idiot, I had my hands stuffed in my pants pockets because it was so cold.” Arthur had no intention of giving up on a good story. He began to tug on Glassaway’s ankle to see if he shifted at all. David made a choking sound.
“I took one step, just as I was pulling my hands out of my pockets, and the deck was wet, and the ship suddenly rolled on its side in a trough. My feet went out from under me, and I fell like three feet straight on my ass.” Arthur was feeling the rhythm of the story, reliving this event in his mind.
“The drone is circling,” Frodo interrupted reluctantly.
“The shock of hitting the deck made me puke. Any sailor knows not to puke into the wind, but I couldn’t stop it. I watched the puke float up in a ball like we were weightless in a spaceship. Then, wham, it blew right back in my face.” Arthur was trying not to laugh and lose his headway in pulling himself out of the hole. He interrupted his own story to say over his shoulder, “Frodo, push with your legs.”
Arthur pulled and twisted and talked all at the same time. “But that ain’t the half of it! Next thing I know, I was sliding down the tilted deck like a friggin’ waterslide. And I still had my hands stuck part way in my pockets.” He felt himself move a little.
Frodo broke in again. “I see the General and Ooox. They are transporting to that balcony.”
Arthur saw this as incentive to finish his story. “I went right under the rail. Well almost under it. And when I say rail, it was just metal posts stuck every five feet with two wires run through holes in the posts. And there is this little edge on ship’s decks called a gunnel, or gunwale. Anyway, my chin caught the bottom wire, and my shoulder blades caught on the gunnel. That is all of me that was still on the boat. So now the boat is leaning into the side of the next wave, and I find myself completely underwater. I can hear the engines throbbing behind me. My hands were still stuck in my pockets. I couldn’t even grab the wire, and it was chocking the crap out of me.”
“I see the top of a door up there, just beyond the edge of this pit,” Frodo said urgently. “I think it is opening.”
“So, then we get to the top of that wave,” Arthur hurried on, “and the boat rolls back over the other way. Now I am lying almost flat on my back, looking up at the clouds drifting in front of the moon. I could hear seagulls and the wind. And I am stuck hanging there while the ship rolls through like nine or ten waves and troughs, and I can feel the wet wire slipping out from under my chin. It was like the scene at the end of Moby Dick where Captain Ahab, played by Gregory Peck, is stuck to the back of the whale all wrapped up in the ropes of old harpoons.”
“I love that movie,” said Frodo unexpectedly.
“Nobody saw me go out. I was going to die, wash up on a beach with my hands in my pockets. How crazy is that?” Arthur could remember the actual fear, but he still began to giggle.
David peered down at him with an ‘I can’t believe I am doing this’ look, and asked, “So what happened?”
“The first mate was this big guy named Dewey. I was still sort of small and thin, and I had long hair back then. Dewey came out on deck, saw me, grabbed me by the back of my hair, and hauled me back on deck with one hand, I shit you not.” Arthur was still giggling. “I think that’s why I kept the long hair for so many years. Dewey just looks at me and asks if I am okay. I just nodded like a dumb-ass, standing there like a half-drowned rat with my hands still stuck in my pockets.”
“The ending of the story is sort of a let down,” said David.
Arthur was genuinely hurt. “But you can see how all of this reminded me of that night, right?”
Before David had a chance to answer, there was a shout from high above them. It was the General telling them to hold on. Arthur was too demoralized to even make a joke about that comment.
Frodo interrupted again, this time by firing the top two of his vortex guns, aiming up the side of the bowl. There was a slithering, rolling sound and Arthur felt the bumps of more Keelar sliding down on them. The mass of unconscious Keelar actually served a useful purpose. Arthur let go of David’s foot and began to crawl or swim his way out of the pile like a kid in one of those plastic ball pits. After much effort he kicked himself free. The Keelar, being unconscious, didn’t know how lucky they were. There were enough of them to plug the hole and keep any of them from falling to their deaths on the spikes below.
Arthur stood triumphantly atop the pile of his defeated foes like some mythical warrior hero, if you can think of any mythical heroes that run around with smaller mythical heroes strapped on their backs. He began, for a brief moment, to feel like a mythical warrior hero, but then he realized that there was a naked man chained at his feet, and he put that line of thought aside.