Miguel Alvarez, a 50-year-old, grey-haired man, rose from his chair, walked up to Jose and patted him on the shoulder.
- Well, you are my ass now, - he said, - What do you say?
He didn"t like the word "assistant" and all other words that had too many letters in them.
- It is my pleasure to work for you, sir, - Jose replied.
- Fuck pleasure! I am your boss! Got it?
- Yes, sir.
- You read that shit I gave you?
- Yes, sir.
- Good. Now listen up. I want him dead. Today.
- But sir... I am afraid, that is not what I was hired for.
- I ask questions here!!! - Miguel raised his voice, glasses in the bar started to jingle. - And I give orders!!!!! You - answer my questions, take my orders! Understand?!!
- Yes, I understand you, sir. I am sorry, sir. I only wanted to make sure there is no misunderstanding.
- Fuck you! Are you idiot? - Miguel said.
- No sir.
- Are you stupid?
- What"s your fucking problem?
- I just wanted to make sure this is not a joke... like one of those Halloween things you know... - asked Jose, still hoping.
- Halloween, eh? Look in the fucking window! What month is it? Ha-ha-ha, what month is it I said?! Ah?? Ah??? Idiot!!!
Miguel laughed loudly for five minutes, then he stopped laughing and stared at Jose without blinking.
- You kill him or I kill you. Got it, kid?
- Yes sir, - answered Jose in a trembling voice. - But I don"t have any weapons... I wasn"t quite prepared...
Miguel slammed a gun on the desk in front of Jose.
- Here. Never killed a man in your life, eh?
- No, not until now.
Very quickly he grabbed the gun, turned around and unloaded all bullets into what he thought was Miguel"s head.
Miguel roared like a raging bull. It took him two leaps to get close enough to Jose and before the poor ass knew it, ten strong fingers were locked on his neck.
- Who do you think you are, shrimp?! You think you can kill me?
He was on the floor. The lights were on. The room was empty.
"uhmm... where am I?"
Not a sound.
Then it hit him. Of course! There was a corporate party... Halloween party, yes! He took some drugs or maybe not, he didn"t remember, but something was strange, really really weird about this whole thing... And about those drugs... if he took them.
OK, what else he knew?.. He got a promotion a day before that, then he hired a man to kill the former vice-president? And something was missing.
"Why am I on the floor?? ----------------------------------->
Run, run, run!!!
He got up and ran. The room was enormous and it had no doors.
"Where is the fucking exit?"
The lights went out.
- Hey dude you ok??
A voice. Who could that be?
"Gee where the hell am I?"
- Look look, he"s alive!
Jose opened one eye, then the other. He was outside. He could see trees and clouds in the sky. It was cold and windy. Lots of people around him, men, women, children, a bunch of schoolkids across the street, a guy in UPS uniform. All staring at him. What do they want?
- Where am I? - he barely recognized his own voice.
- Your on 55th street, - the UPS guy said. - You ok?
- Yeah I guess so... Why... why am I here?
- I dunno... You on drugs or sumtin? You sure you ok?
- Shit!!! Where is that guy who wanted me to kill the... Fuck, what am I doing here? Who am I?
The UPS guy looked at him with disgust.
- Your nuts, that"s what you are.
People started to turn and walk away. The sun came out of thick rainclouds and happy yellow light filled the air.
- I know who he is. I know, I know, I know! - Jose yelled at the sun. - He comes every night, in my dreams. I know him! Hey you, UPS dude, come here for a second!
The UPS dude who was already walking to his truck, stopped and turned.
- He"s one of them, or maybe he is just the One, - Jose told him.
- Get da fuck outta here punk! - the UPS dude turned away and kept walking.
Jose pulled the 38-mm out of his pants.
- HOLY SHIT!!! What is this?!
People instantly looked toward him, saw the gun and ran in all possible directions.
- Damn it! - Jose cried and threw the gun at the UPS dude who was now far away.
- Fucking shit!! - cried Jose again.
A new wave of horror swept over the sidewalk where some of the people still stood. Soon, the street was empty.
- I must find him, - said Jose out loud. - I must stop him.
- Hello there! - a cheerful old man on a large grey horse was approaching. He looked somewhat gay in his leather trousers and ornamented snowshoes. The chain mail coif along with the fine thin vambraces and gauntlets looked a little old-fashioned. Nevertheless, his appearance was quite impressive due to the beautiful shiny breastplate which looked absolutely stunning.
- Good morning to thee, good sir, - Jose answered in bewilderment
The horse looked very strong and well-bred. Oh what a horse it was! Even Jose, who was not particularly fond of animals, couldn"t help staring at this charming beauty.
- It must have cost you a fortune to get a beast like that? - he ventured to ask after staring at the horse for a few moments.
- Well, no. In fact, it was very cheap. It didn"t cost me a copper, to be precise. It is a gift from the King of Mushtahog. Of course, you have heard of Guwxuzqd the Ironhand.
- Aye, I have heard of him, - nodded Jose.
- I believe I have seen you before , - the old man said.
- You also look strangely familiar to me, - Jose said.
- My name is Vruumh the Sorcerer, - the old man replied with great pride and courtesy. - I am a n00b in this game... errr... I mean, I am new to this land, but folks in the northern kingdoms know me very well.
As he said that, his shadow seemed to grow and swing from side to side. Or was it only an illusion?
- I am Ubgurz the Wanderer, - Jose said, shocked by his own words. "UBGURZ? What kind of a fucking name is that? Did I just make it up?"
- Ubgurz!! - Vruumh screamed. - The Great Knight of the West! This is what people call you. Am I not right?
- Aye, sir, some people do call me that indeed, - Ubgurz said shyly.
- So here is the legendary Ubgurz!.. I have heard of your glorious victories in Buthshzydshgkhohg. - Vruumh bowed deeply.
- And I have heard of your marvelous adventures in the Land of Wugduzghashgzhumbzg. - Ubgurz bowed in return. Obviously Vruumh wasn"t the kind of a man to mess with.
Old Vruumh smiled and bowed again.
- I assume that you intend to stay at the Bloody Axe Inn, - Ubgurz said.
- Your assumption is correct. There are no other inns in this village.
- Well, I hope we shall have a good conversation in the tea room this night. I can"t wait to hear the news from afar.
- Oh yes indeed! I would very much like to hear your tales as well. And tell mine, too. But now I must hurry. My horse is tired, though he may look fresh and strong.
- Very well, I shall see you in the tea room. I am greatly honoured to make your acquaintance. - Ubgurz said. Suddenly, he felt intimidated by Vruumh"s presence. The feeling was so familiar... In a sudden flashback, dreadful memories of a long-forgotten fear enslaved his mind.
- So am I, so am I, - the old man bowed, dismounted from the horse and started towards the stables. The feeling passed as the man"s shadow slowly disintegrated.
He didn"t remember a damn thing about how he got here.
INT SUM ( SQRT x OVER xi ) ANGSTROM SUPSET OINT [ OMEGA _ y+ lambda SANGLE TOP ] OVER lim arctan chi SQRT ў INF =0
- Hey you, fatass!! Fill it up will ya?
The barman grimaced apologetically to Ubgurz who looked back to see who was yelling.
The bar was filled with fat disgusting drunks. Towering above them was a huge red-faced man with a huge, black mace in one hand and a huge jug in the other.
- Can"t ya see I"m out of wine ya pig?
The bartender hurried to the man, took the empty jug from him and filled it up from a barrel. He had troubles lifting the full jug but the red face easily snatched it from him with his left hand and busied himself with the wine.
- You owe me 3 silver Charlie, you remember? - he said before leaving him.
- Greedy bastard, - the red face bubbled in the jug not even bothering to stop drinking. - You dreamed that up, fatass?
- You left yesterday without paying. So that makes it one silver for yesterday and two for today.
Charlie sank deep in thoughts.
- Well, you may be right. I don"t remember a fucking thing about yesterday, that"s for sure. Here, shove it up your balloon-ass.
He slammed three coins on the table.
- No offense, Charlie. I wouldn"t take a penny from you if it wasn"t for my wife and kids. I gotta make some living.
- Alright, fatass, now leave me alone.
- He"s a nice guy, - the bartender said when he came back to Ubgurz"s table. - Rude, but nice.
He was silent for a minute, contemplating the bar and making sure no one was making trouble.
- It"s nice"n quiet when Charlie"s here, - he said finally. - Nobody wants to have their ass kicked. So, whatcha thinking? Like this place?
- Yeah, nice place, - Ubgurz agreed.
- My name"s Bob, - the bartender said moving his chair closer to Ubgurz. - What"s yers?
- Johnny Williams, - Ubgurz said to his own immense surprise.
- Can I get you something? - asked Bob.
- A beer would be nice, - Johnny said.
- A big one eh?
- You bet.
"So I"m Johnny now. Well, at least I don"t have to twist my tongue every time I introduce myself. Johnny sounds better than Huzdur or whatever my fucking name was before. Wait a minute... Huzdur? Jhuzub? Dubzguz... Kurdbugz... Gunzwubz... Shit!!!"
- Here you go, - Bob reappeared before him and set a small wooden barrel on the table. - Enjoy.
- DAMN! - Johnny cried. - You think I can gulp this whole thing down?
- Sure, why not? - Bob shrugged. - Your a big man.
He had never seen such a sissy boy in his life, but he was too polite to say that in Johnny"s face.
- Where you from? - asked Bob.
- Damn, that"s eight hundred miles to the south! How in hell d"ya get here? I ain"t seen no horses coming from south for at least a month. - Bob glared at him with great suspicion and curiosity.
- I don"t know. I think I walked. How did I end up in this bar anyways?
- Well, I came down here about twenty minutes ago to replace my brother Jack you see. I live upstairs. Jack"n I own this place. N"saw you right here sleeping like a dead cow. Dunno why he didn"t see you. Jack"s very attentive to things like that. Well, I don"t mean to poke my nose in yer affairs. You got yer life, I got mine, as the old saying goes... Tell you something, see that guy just walked in? He"s a poet. Comes here ever week. Reads his poems and all. Folks like him. Never hurt a bug in his life. Charlie likes him too. Things get pretty weird when he"s in here. Just wait"n see.
The guy sat on a chair in the corner
of the room and started talking.
- There is something in this world that you can"t really see or hear or feel. Yet it is as real as any one of you here. It doesn"t take much room, nor does it have a color. You can"t touch it.
- Can you drink it? - yelled a drunken man from the opposite corner. The bar burst in laughter.
The Room Seemed To Darken.
"Shit, not again!!!!"
- No, but it can drink you, - the poet said. - And it can"t be explained or experienced. Its existence cannot be proved or denied. It is growing constantly and everything else grows with it.
- Then don"t you think we should stop it from growing any further? - one of Charlie"s friends asked. - What if it eats all our food n"drinks all our beer. You sure don"t want that to happen?
- No, you should not worry about that, - the poet said. - Its perfectly normal for it to grow. While it grows, we live. In fact, if it stops growing, we will all die.
The crowd gasped in wonder and disbelief.
- Why don"t you get to the point? - Charlie requested. - Has it got a name?
- Oh certainly, - the poet agreed. - It is called... - He made a series of guttural sounds.
The bar went silent. Johnny could almost hear the wheels rolling in people"s heads in a desperate effort to comprehend what the poet had said.
- Got any new poems you wanna read us? - Charlie finally recovered from his mental trance.
- Of course. Listen and try to think. I want you all to think. Any questions?
There was none.
So he stood up and began to recite:
Cudd yr yhzyr esgidebr
hud yt byvro insjerguwx
The spirit in the audience rose. People were hugging and kissing each other. Some singing, some dancing, some flying in the air, some vomiting profusely.
- See what he"s done now, - the bartender said to Johnny. - now I gotta pay him to turn things back to normal.
He must have noticed the way Johnny was staring at him, so he explained:
- This is how the guy makes money! Don"t you see?
Johnny felt the force of the poet"s insanity taking his mind away to the endless depths of his subconsciousness.
- Why don"t you just tell him to GO FUCK HIMSELF?!! - Johnny screamed, annoyed, angry and exhausted.
- Shhhhhhh, - hissed Bob. Too late. :(
The poet saw Johnny.
- Do you know that you are not supposed to be here at all? - the poet whispered.
- If you tell me where I should be, I will go there at once, - Johnny replied.
- Hmm, I see some improvement, Johnny, - the poet smiled. - You are learning fast. Are you scared?
Suddenly, Jonny was scared.
- Yes, - said Johnny.
- You shouldn"t be scared of your death, - the poet replied. - Want another poem?
The poet relaxed and turned toward the audience. Johnny realized that the force that had been holding him weakened and he could breathe again without struggle.
- Do you people want to hear another poem? - the poed asked.