We were in another tunnel, colored lights flashing from front to back, giving the illusion of speed. Jimmy was staring at them as if in a trance.
“Wow,” he said. “Check out the lights, dude. That’s trippin’.”
The only trip I was taking was the one headed straight to Mooseville.
I got up on my knees, leveled my gun, and squeezed off a few shots, not really looking to hit anything, but just to make my presence known. In the process, the wind blew my fedora off my head, momentarily confusing me and, of course, leaving me hatless.
Zodar picked up quickly on the clue and popped a couple of caps back at me to let me know he cared.
Blam! Blam! Blam!
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
And so it went for a few moments as Zodar and I locked horns in mortal combat, the sounds of gunfire punctuated only by the occasional “Whoa”, “Dude”, and “Trippin’ man” uttered by Jimmy as he continued his fascinated observance of the colored lights and twinkling stars as we barreled through the universe. Up and down, a light swerve left, a hard jig right, the coaster paid us no mind as it went about its merry way, never knowing the havoc it was playing on our marksmanship.
“Zodar!” I yelled. “Enough!”
Blam! Blam! Blam! he answered.
“Oh yeah?” I screamed.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! click, click, click, click.
“Uh-oh,” I said, dropping back down in the seat. “Jimmy, I’m out of bullets.”
“Dude, look!” Jimmy said, pointing. “There’s the Big Dipper! That is soooo cool!”
“Jimmy, will you knock it off? We’re in some amount of shit here, okay? I’m out of ammo. Do you understand? I. Have. No. Bullets.”
Ever cool under even the most dire circumstances, Jimmy continued not to pay any attention to a thing I was saying. He was enthralled with the ride.
“Look! Look!” he said, “There’s Saturn! That’s my planet dude!”
Suddenly, with years of fluid surfing agility and a speed that belied his normal laid back persona, Jimmy pushed himself up and hopped up on the back of the car. It happened so fast, he was up before I could lay a hand on him.
“WHOOO! Yeah, dog!” he yelled into the darkness. “Check me out, I’m space surfing, dude!”
“Jimmy!” I yelled, “Get down from there before you – ”
“ – hit your head on something.”
Jimmy disappeared off of the back of the car and into the darkness as if by magic. And to my serious dismay, the coaster was now slowing down as it neared completion of its interstellar journey. We were pulling back into the station, and the combination of much better lighting & less motion coupled with my untimely lack of ammunition was sure to cause a problem or two in the survivability department.
The coaster was pulling to a stop, and Zodar was peering at me from the front car. No stranger to the obvious, he quickly noticed the absence of great quantities of lead flying in his direction and he rose higher, a wicked grin spreading across his face.
“I have you now,” he said, raising his gun towards me.
With no other viable options (I mean, really, like what, trying to run away with a sore crotch through all of those damn metal railings?) I reared back and threw my now useless gun at the big red button on the control panel of the operating station. The revolver hit it square on, and, with a jolt, the coaster started off again. I ducked down into my seat and felt the temporary safety of the darkness wash over me as we entered the tunnel again.
I lay there, staring up at the lights, and for a moment understood the fascination that they’d held for Jimmy as I awaited the inevitable. I had bought a momentary reprieve, but in just a few minutes we would again complete our journey and pull back into the station. That would be it. I had nothing else to throw at the big red button.
As the seconds ticked by, I contemplated my fate with a calm resolve. I remembered the white cyanide capsule in my pocket, and considered whether I should steal Zodar’s thunder by taking myself out, rather than giving him the satisfaction of doing it himself. Somehow, the fact that I’d be dead either way took most of the fun out of it, so in the end, it didn’t really matter to me.
Meanwhile, the coaster continued to make it’s mindless way through the universe again, oblivious to everything else except forging ahead on it’s well known course through the planets. Up and down we went. A light swerve left. A hard jig right.
I had an idea.
“Zodar!” I yelled out. “Can I ask you a question?”
“What for? A last request of a doomed man, perhaps?” he laughed.
“Might say that. Not a request though. Just a question.”
“What is it?” came the reply.
“Are you, like, you know . . . a girl moose?”
“You know, a girl moose. A smoothie. A Moosella.”
“Yeah, well, I normally wouldn’t ask, you know? Good etiquette and all that. It’s just that, you know, you’re really kind of a puss when you get right down to it.”
“What . . . who do you . . . how dare you!”
“Struck a nerve, huh? Yeah, well, truth hurts I guess.”
There was a moment of silence and then I heard him utter a menacing growl. I didn’t think mooses could do that – growl, I mean – but apparently they can when they’re really mad.
“I’m going to enjoy killing you, Lassiter,” he said finally, without a drip of humor in his voice.
Boy, was he steamed. Good thing that’s what I was hoping for. Now to really turn the screws.
“Hey, that’s great and all, but try to hold it down up there for now, okay? I’m going to rest a while before you kill me and I really don’t feel like listening to you flap your jowls like some bitch, alright? I’d appreciate it.”
“I’ve got a good mind to come back there and kill you right now,” he said.
“Yeah, right. Like that’ll happen.”
“I will. I mean it.”
“Whatever you say Big Z. But I gotta tell you, I’m not exactly shaking in my shoes here, know what I mean?”
“Alright. That’s it. You die now!”
I sat up in my seat and calmly watched as Zodar, furious, climbed out of the front car and started working his way back to me, steam shooting from his flared nostrils as he moved from car to car.
“Hey, you be careful there, okay?” I called out in a friendly voice.
“You should be worrying more about yourself, Lassiter. In a few moments you’re going to be extremely dead.”
“Nah. I’m not going to waste time worrying. Know why? Care to hazard a guess?”
“Do tell,” he said, now halfway back to me and focusing so much attention to his footing that he didn’t even notice the Big Dipper whizzing by.
“Because you can’t kill me.”
“Oh, really? And why is that?”
“Because I’m nothing. Understand? Nothing. Tough to kill that. I don’t even exist. And not to upset you, but neither do you for that matter.”
“What kind of nonsense – ”
“Exist, I mean. You’re nothing too.”
“I’ll show you who –”
“Nothing, you hear?”
“I’m – ”
“Nothing,” I finished for him. “You are a figment of the imagination.”
“I am not!” he screamed as he mounted the car directly in front of me. He rose to his full height and aimed the barrel of his gun directly into my face. “I am not nothing!”
Saturn flashed by behind his head.
“I am Zodar the Spy Moose!” he roared, “And you will FEEL MY WRATH!”
“Yeah? Well, I’m Dick Lassiter. And you want to talk about feeling something? Check this shit out.”
In a blur of hooves, antlers, and fur, the spy moose that was Zodar raced over my head, and was gone. I breathed out a huge sigh of relief, and sat back as the coaster slowed down and pulled back into the station. With a slight jolt, it came to a stop.
I took out a cigarette, lit it, and pulled deep, grateful that there wasn’t anyone around for a change to tell me to put it out. I just sat there a while, taking a few minutes to decompress. Felt the tension start to slowly ease from my muscles as I considered all that had happened. It was done.
I glanced up, and for the first time I noticed the sign over the coaster tunnel, a familiar warning that, as ludicrous as it sounds, can be found on roller coasters across America:
DO NOT STAND UP
Next Week: Chapter 35