The man with no brain, 2: Time passed by: it must have: The last thing I remember is walking on the bridge that spanned the river about three blocks from our home. I was walking slowly, about halfway across thinking about all that happened and what was to happen still. Where were my three friends, were they happy in the closet of the man with no brain? Did they think of me from time to time? Why did my wife remember none of what happened? Suddenly, I became aware of noise, quick steps, muffled words, a curse, then “get him, get the bastard, get him.” I turned quickly, sliding into a defensive, three point stance, A shadow appeared to my left and without conscious thought I lashed out with a sidekick and destroyed someone’s kneecap. Another shape appeared to my right and a roundhouse kick caved in one side of his ribcage with satisfying results. But before I could focus on anything else I was suddenly overrun with assailants. I felt a blow to the side of my head and then rough hands grabbed me and I was lifted suddenly over the rail and unceremoniously tossed over like so much garbage. “That outa’ be the end of him, finally,” I heard on the way down. It was a long long way to the river, and instinct must have taken over because I hit the black, freezing water rigid and feet first, like a thrown spear. The shock of entry was incredible and I was still woozy from the blow to the head. But I remember taking a deep breath just before I hit the black wetness, and when I hit, I went under like a bullet. Immediately after going under I grabbed my knees and continued in an underwater cannonball. Somehow, I knew I had to stop the terrible speed of my descent if I was to have any chance of returning to the surface. The bleak coldness cleared my senses almost immediately. Slowly, I began to regain control of my speed downward, and looking up at the terrible distance from me to the surface, I struck out with all my strength. The surface light was so small in the distance. I could see the moonlight shimmering on the broken water, shattered and splintered. I was fast losing what little strength and air reserves I had when I hit. Try as I might, I was losing the battle. Fueled by a sudden anger, I began to let the remaining oxygen trickle from my nostrils. I could now make out the surface and I swam with all my strength, mindful of my laboring lungs and the blackness that was appearing before my eyes. With my last bit of strength, I burst suddenly from my black tomb and shot straight into the night air, right into:……. Right into,….. My Bedroom? Gasping and choking, I looked wildly about me. But there I was flopping on my bed like a stranded trout. Slowly regaining control of my faculties and breathing, I stood and looked about me in total bewilderment. My bedroom? What the hell was going on here? I was suddenly aware of a dripping sound and looked down to see stinking, dank river water plopping onto the bedroom floor. Further investigation revealed that not only was I totally alone there, but there seemed to be no wife or wifely trappings. “Oh hell, not again” I thought. The dresser drawers were barren, no jewelry box on the nightstand. I rushed to the closet and threw open the door and looked numbly at the new emptiness hanging there. With little expectation I leaned in and peered into the blackness living in the corner. “Guys, Guys, are you there?” More silence, made all the more oppressive by the craziness of it all. I walked silently through the house, seeking something of substance that would prove she had been here, ever. Nothing: It was like I had always been alone, like she had never existed. I wandered into the living room and stared out the window into the blackness that was the night. Nothing moved there, it was almost like I was the last man alive. Sometime later I must have dozed, because the next thing that entered into my consciousness was the jangling of the telephone on the end table. Scrambling to my feet, I fumbled in the darkness and knocked both telephone and end table to the floor. Cursing under my breath, I finally found the damn thing and grabbing it breathlessly asked, “Honey, is that you, please let it be you.” Silence hung in the air for a few seconds then I heard: “Leep, is this you Leep”? “It’s me, Tommy, Leep.” “Leep, we need to talk, something terrible has happened Leep”. “Me and Charlie and Frankie will be at the station in half an hour Leep”, “Please be there, Okay”? I couldn’t answer; I just sat there listening to Tommy pleading in my ear. Slowly, I hung the phone up on the floor and sat there numbly with a myriad of thoughts flying in and out of my consciousness. Twenty minutes later I was slowly walking down the deserted street toward the equally deserted train station, wishing with all my heart that I didn’t have to. Alone again, I thought, except for my mocking shadow. It was moving in and out of my sight, one time looking like a boogey man with extended claws, another resembling the headless horseman, flitting here and there, in and out of my consciousness. Mocking, laughing soundlessly. Finally I had enough of this crap, with everything else going to hell, I needed this too? I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my trusty flashlight, 100,000 candlelight power, and quickly burned two or three bright yellow holes in his miserable carcass before he realized what was happening. Looking down at his self in mute horror, he quickly vanished and reappeared at my back where he belonged, half the size he was earlier and walking two steps behind. I imagined I heard silent snuffling and weeping. “Oh, shut up, I said, you’ll be as good as new in a minute.” And indeed he was, the darkness filling in the holes I had made quite nicely. “Now behave your damn self, I ordered, or next time I’ll burn off your stupid head, and then where’ll you be? Only silence was my answer, which suited me just fine. The station looked much the same as it did the last time I visited it, weeds growing out of every crack, leaves skittering aimlessly in the fretful wind. Everywhere I turned, there was a picture of emptiness and desolation. Even the rats seemed to have spurned this place. I walked slowly to the ticket booth and peered inside. Dust and spider webs were the only occupants now. I sat down on the old worn bench and waited for the train that never arrived. I sat with my shoulders hunched against the uncaring wind for what seemed like hours, but in reality were only a few minutes. Suddenly, from the stairway that led to the underground terminal I heard, “Leep, over here Leep.” I got up quickly and walked to the head of the stairs and saw, to my everlasting astonishment and delight, Tommy, Charles and Frankie. “Guys, am I ever glad to see you, I have a million questions for you.” “I bet you do,” Charles said, ”but I’m not so sure we have all the answers Leep.” “Well , come on up here and talk to me.” “You better come down here where it’s safer, Leep,” Tommy said quietly. “Safer huh,” “Well, after what’s happened tonight, maybe that’s not a bad idea.” I walked deeper into the cavernous room, my footsteps echoing hollowly from ceiling to floor. I looked at my three companions with a mixture of affection and bewilderment. “Guys, you will never believe what happened to me tonight.” “Someone or a bunch of someone’s’ clobbered me up side the head and threw me into the river and I damn near drowned before I got back to the surface and blew out of the water right into my….” “Your bedroom Leep?” Frankie said. I stood looking at them in complete astonishment. “How the hell did you know that,” I demanded. They looked at one another for a second, and then Charlie said, “We did it Leep, we fixed it so you would come up in your bedroom.” “If you would have surfaced in the river, they were waiting for you and it might have ended there, and we need you alive and well to help us.” “Ok gentlemen, you have the floor, let’s have it.” “Well, Tommy said, it goes like this Leep.” “We went to the closet of the man with no brain, but after talking to his skeletons, we realized he wasn’t the problem, heck, he’s even a pretty good guy.” “He might need to take a few anger management classes, or learn not to fly off the handle so easy, but Leep, we could say the same thing about you too.” “After all, you didn’t win us in the lottery.” “Ok, ok, I get the picture.” “But, if it wasn’t him, then who is causing all the trouble?” “The real Man With No Brain, Leep. Well that’s what we’ve decided to call him.” “But he’s smarter and worse than anything you could ever imagine.” Suddenly Charles cocked his head and held up a bony hand. “Listen,” he whispered. “I don’t hear anything guys,” I answered quietly. “I know;…. that’s the problem.” We stood all in a loose circle listening with all that was in us. Total silence, no rustling leaves, no wind, nothing. “Tommy said, Leep, take my hand , quick.” Charles said, “Leep, take my other hand.” We stood together, me with a cold, bony appendage in each of my own cold hands. Suddenly, there was a rushing, cold blast of air, fetid and foul. Then, a roaring from the upstairs area. Voices, many voices, growing in number and volume until I could scarcely hear. The darkness grew like it was a living thing and the foul odor was now everywhere. Voices, in what I remembered from school many years ago as Latin, then back again in English, with curses and filth I’ve never before heard raining down on us like an evil, black rain. Wind flowing around us like a living river, leaves swirling, dust and dirt filling the air around us so we could barely see. Tommy said, “Hold tight Leep, and don’t let go, for anything.” With that, all three began talking in a language I had no understanding or remembrance of. The air seemed to shimmer and there was now light, faint at first, then growing in strength and substance. On the outskirts of the newly created light, I could see shapes rushing towards us, and as I heard a sound like thunder and saw lightening flashing before us, I heard voices, many voices screaming in rage and frustration. Just as they seemed ready to envelop us, I heard a final crashing sound and we were thrown out of the underground room and, to my dumbfounded amazement, I found myself lying on a grassy knoll, dizzy and sick to my stomach. Looking around, I saw three men, obviously in the same state I was in. They were shaking their heads and one was being ill in the ditch next to the field. I struggled to my feet and just stood there, lost and shaken. I didn’t know what the hell had happened, but I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Minutes later, one of the men turned to me and asked, “Leep, uh, you ok Leep?” “I guess so, I answered shakily, but who are you and what happened to my three friends,…. they were these three skeletons,… uh, never mind.” They looked at each other and with a slight shrug, the youngest said, “It’s us Leep, Tommy, Charlie, and Frankie, this is what we look like over here.” “You didn’t think we always looked like that , did you?” “Over here, where the hell is over here?” “We flipped, Leep, from your world to ours.” “Yeah, someone’s flipped alright, and it isn’t me.” With a sigh, Tommy and Charles and Frankie struggled to a standing position in the sweet smelling grass and began. “ Let’s go on into town Leep, and we’ll talk as we go.” With a shrug, I followed wordlessly behind, wondering at all that happened. The street was filled with people, as normal as myself, except once in a while I could see I could see what looked like a skeletal form just underneath the outward exterior. Stores, cars, busses, all like what we had in our world. A pretty redhead, walking along the street across from us, looked me in the eye and said, “Hey Leep, you can hang in my closet anytime.” Another man walked by and said, “Leep, you finally decided to start writing huh,… about damn time.” I looked in jaw dropping surprise and said, “Frankie, isn’t that Stephen King?” Frankie grinned and said, “Sure thing Leep, where you think he gets all his ideas for his books?” Man, what a place. Soon we came to a sidewalk eatery and they ordered coffee. “Ok, guys, lets’ have it.” Tommy looked at me for a sec and said, “Leep, they can’t get to you here and they can’t really hurt you over there.” “They might be able to hire thugs to do you in, but they can’t hurt you themselves cause you’re a Christian.” “Kill the body, but not the soul, huh?” “ Now, there are tunnels where you can go back over in, but only a few places where you can come back here in. “Tougher getting’ back than leaving.” “You have to find the Man with No Brain and beat him before everything will go back to normal, Leep” “We can offer moral support, but you have to rely on your wits and faith and own strength to do this.” We talked the afternoon away, but I was already anxious to return and get this over with. Just before nightfall I walked with my three friends to a tunnel reminiscent of the one we had just so narrowly escaped from. Shaking hands that led to heartfelt hugs, I walked slowly down the ramp into the darkness that awaited me. Alone again, but curiously, I felt stronger and more confident than I had for sometime. I stopped once and looked back, but I could see little, just the paleness of three faces glowing in the fading light, and three hands lifted in farewell. “Hey guys, about my wife?” Frankie replied, “until this is over , you don’t have a wife, it’s the only way she will be safe, and don’t worry, she has no memory of you and will have none of this when it reaches it’s conclusion.” “And hopefully, neither will you,” he muttered. The transition was really unremarkable, one second I was walking in darkness and the next I was back in the train station, minus the evil that had been there earlier. I walked cautiously back the way I came, alone except for my constant companion,” me and my shadow.” I had to admit, I was glad to see he was behaving as he should, and even began to enjoy his company again. It was a little unnerving, however, to observe him looking fearfully at the other shadows lurking on both sides of the silent street. After an uneventful remainder of the night, I awoke in remarkably good spirits. A shower, strong coffee and clean clothes do wonders for the wounded spirit. I walked out of the house and strode down the sidewalk. There huddled against the morning cold, was a young, homeless man. I sat down beside him and said, “Cold morning huh?” He looked up at me with the most remarkable blue eyes and answered, “Bout time you showed up Leep.” “What the hell, does everyone know what’s going on ‘cept me?” “I just watch Leep, I don’t get involved.” “Hmm no words of infinite wisdom to send my way, huh?” He just smiled. “I asked his name, he replied James, just James. “Well, just James, why are you sitting here on the cold sidewalk, when there is a perfectly good grate with good heat being wasted just a few feet away?” “I like it here just fine and wouldn’t be comfortable sitting there, and neither would you.” “Yeah, like I’m ‘gonna take advice from a guy with his feet showing out the end of his shoes and smells like a sewer.” “Suit your self, “he answered, But the clear, clean look in his eyes troubled me just a little. “Ah,” I said in disgust. I scooted my butt over a few feet and slid onto the grate and immediately was the beneficiary of delightful heat. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” “Yeah, well you’re not me.” I sat in troubled thought for a minute or so when I suddenly heard footsteps emerging from the alley to my right. In seconds a disheveled individual came running into view. He ran up to Jimmy and demanded in a hoarse voice, “Have you seen him, well have you?” With a sad look Jimmy replied, “No Doc, I’m sorry, but I haven’t.” I know he’s here somewhere and I won’t rest till I get him.” He suddenly noticed me and ran over to me and peered intently at my arms. “Oh, you have both of them.” With that, he ran down the street and was soon out of sight. I looked askance at my companion and he said, “That’s just Doc, he’s looking for a one armed man, some nonsense about him killing his wife.” I looked with renewed interest in the direction he had disappeared in and mused, “Well my friend, it seems we have more in common than I originally thought, good luck to you, and if I see him, I will do my damn best to get him for you.” I had been sitting on the warm steel for some time when I began to be aware of something not quite right. Rustling, skittering noises, like rats make when moving about. Then, looking down into the darkness, I became also aware of other noises and a smell that insulted and assaulted my fine sensibilities. Peering even deeper and more intently, I began to see shapes;… way down in the darkness, deeper than one should be able to see through a sidewalk grate. Voices, dim at first, then becoming clearer, a shadowy figure and lights dancing merrily in the depths. Suddenly, there was a figure, indistinct at first, rushing at incredible speed towards me, taloned hands curving cruelly and voices chanting, some crying in pain, terrible to behold, some laughing maniacally. Almost too late I heard Jimmy’s voice crying, “Leep, get the hell away from there, Leep” With whatever evil it was almost upon me, I rolled suddenly to my side and scrabbled frantically on my knees, desperate to get away. I felt a slashing across my side as I finally got away from whatever it was. A voice, first crying in triumph, changed to unbelievable anger and frustration. A foulness I had never experienced before literally hit me across the face. Jimmy looked at me with fear and concern and said, “Come here Leep, I’ll help you.” I looked numbly at my side where claw marks stood out in stark definition. “Hurry up, “he urged. I walked slowly to his side and sat down. “Take off that shirt.” I did as he ordered and looked again at the tear in my side, slowly dripping blood, curiously black. He reached into his ragged coat and took out a bottle with clear liquid inside. Without explanation, he poured a stream of it on my wound. It burned like hell itself and I watched as the wound slowly closed and in a minute there was no evidence that I had ever suffered any hurt at all. “Now, are you ‘gonna listen?” I just shook my head in mute agreement. “Well, here goes then.” Part Three to come. The final Battle between good and evil.