Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Monster Underworld"

Start: Monster (Page 13, Copyright 2005), by Frank Peretti
End: Underworld (Page 13, Copyright 1997), by Don DeLillo
The story between them: by Michael Rigg

"Rustic," Sing observed politely, kind to choose even that word.

They drove by a forlorn clapboard tavern with one corner sinking into the ground, an auto garage with dismembered cars and trucks scattered about and a snow cat up on blocks, a combination hardware store and mining museum--noteworthy because this building actually had a new front porch--and a post office not much bigger than a phone booth. they had yet to see a human being.

"Can't wait to see the resort," Sing quipped.

Ike smirked and pulled the rental car, now glazed with beige dust, into a space in front of a bitter looking cardboard motel. The sign said NOvacancy, which made Sing laugh.


Sing read the sign and offered to go in to call for a bellhop while Ike find a place to park.

Ike killed the engine and pried himself out of the driver's seat. Squinting against the harsh sun despite the dark Georgio Danalli sunglasses he wore, Ike circled to the trunk as Sing got out and strolled up the the sandblown walkway that stretched the motel's length. He said ching-ching in a whisper to represent the jingle of the spurs he wasn't wearing.

"Room number seven?" Sing asked without looking at his cohort. He stood on the wooden walkway staring at the gently curving stem of a brass "7" on a door.

Ike pulled the duffel out of the trunk and slammed it shut. "Nah."

"Right," Sing said, "Too obvious." He scratched at his chin before pretending to play hopscotch on the planks, hopping over rotted ones and slamming both feet down on others.

Ike shoved past him, his weight leaning away from the heavy counter-balance of the duffel. He kicks open door 13 and almost falls over backward at what he sees inside. "Holy crap," is all he can manage, lowering his sunglasses and dropping the duffel at his feet.

Sing stops playing around and turns. From where he stands he can only see his friend and fellow bank robber in profile. But he can see the usually tight-wound Ike standing with slack jaw and loose limbs staring fixedly at something in Room 13. "What is it?"

Ike hefts the duffel and steps across the portal. A loud snap echoes in the desert as the door slams shut behind him.

"No you don't!" Sing hollers as he sprints to door 13. He slams into it and hammers at the panels. It never occurred to him that Ike was stepping into a simple motel room, that he couldn't go anywhere with the money in there.

After one moment more pounding on the door, Sing tries the knob. The door opens revealing what had Ike so spellbound moments before.

There he was, Ike Laters, standing halfway down a gleaming chrome escalator. The gunmetal steps rotated down to something that looked like Grand Central Station. People milled about, some dragging children and others walking arm in arm aslovers. There was a preacher talking to a small group in the corner, a troop of Boyscouts following their master to an information booth. It was a vast expanse far deeper and more realistic than the desert motel they were just visiting.

Sing crossed the threshold in a flash of green light. Glancing over his shoulder he sees the way he had come transforms into a news stand complete with faded grumpy attendant with a pencil tucked above his ear. His flesh crawls with different, new clothes. Sing's jeans and cowboy boots are replaced by black lacquered dress shoes and pressed gray slacks. He, like Ike, is wearing a starched white shirt and gray sportcoat. Their hair is combed and gleams from the overhead lights in the ceiling much higher than the roof of Room 13 would have been.

And when Sing joins his friend at the bottom of the escalator, he notices the duffel bag gone and Ike holding a metal briefcase.

"The money? Where's the money!?" Sing hisses, suddenly mindless of the bizarre and impossible transformation they were plunged into.

Ike raises the case. "Here, I guess. I never let go of the bag."

Ike turns and notices two policemen coming toward them. Impossibly, they resemble the two guards Sing gunned down at First National the night before. How could this be!?

Everything blurs into slow motion.

The two policemen raise their weapons and begin firing. Loud snapping explosions erupt and echo in the underground station sending people scattering, screaming in all directions. Sing cries out as a bullet tears through his lower back and bursts through his front. Eyes gritted shut as tight as his teeth, he hurls himself forward, inadvertently pushing Ike and the case out of the way.

Ike watches as his friend crumples to the concrete ground, blood blooming out from his starched white shirt and angered coat tails. He moves. He leans into the air, heading toward the turnstile leading to TRAIN 17, TRACK 6, NEW YORK CITY.

Then he leaves his feet and is in the air, feeling sleek and unmussed and sort of businesslike, flying in from Kansas City with a briefcase full of bank drafts. His head is tucked, his left leg is clearing the bars. And in one prolonged and aloof and discontinuous instant he sees precisely where he'll land and which way he'll run and even though he knows they will be after him the second he touches ground, even though he'll be in danger for the next several hours--watching left and right-- there is less fear in him now.

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