• • •
The preacherman Neil Campbell – what’s left of him – wakes up in a small room. There is a bleak white light shining down upon him. He’s not strapped down nor restrained to the table in any way, but he cannot move.
Y’know, because he’s missing his limbs and all.
“Hello?” Campbell whines in a gravely, dead grovel. “Am I alone here?”
“You’re not,” says a voice.
The voice spoke from beyond the limits of Campbell’s sight. At one point in his life, Neil Campbell was the one who spoke from the shadows to the guy on the slab. Now he’s the one being spoken to. This entire situation is beginning to feel abysmally karmaic and it’s pissing Campbell right the fuck off. He begins to shake about, looks a cross between a seizure and attempted movement, but it doesn’t go well and it doesn’t last long, either. The wounds are all reopening. There are too many to count.
“Easy there, Campbell. No need to get all worked up.”
“Enough,” Campbell demands… as he’s really in the position to be doing so, right? “Please…”
“Do you know where you are, Reverend Campbell?” asks the voice. “No, of course you don’t. That was a silly question. I guess I should have asked if you want to know where you are.”
Campbell says nothing. At least nobody is forcing him to relive his past, right?
“You were an ambassador from the planet Neptune, sent to Cosmic Earth with the purpose of overseeing the construction of a Compound ‘neath Atacama. Then–”
“I met Jonathan Knox,” Campbell spits. It falls immediately back to his face. He actively regrets his own birth. “Jonathan Knox is hard to kill. Every day I told him that, over and over again. To taunt him, to gaslight him, to make him think it was his fault he would live forever and never die, never so much as age. That it was his fault he did not feel… I never thought he’d escape, that he could escape… but…”
“But he did.”
“But he did. The last thing I remember is that sniveling little insect standing on his idiotic furred legs… and he was holding something above his head, as well. A small device. I assume he activated it.” Campbell allows himself to stare directly into the light. “Let’s skip ahead to there, shall we?”
The guy in the room with Campbell, who, by the way, has his hands tucked into his back pockets like some kind’a so and so, shrugs. “A’ight. Well he didn’t escape, he was let out. And–”
“If you’re about to tell me,” Campbell stammers in miserable defeat, “that you let him out… just… just save yourself the breath and get straight to the point where you kill me. Please.”
“Kill you?” chuckles the voice. “That’s why you think you’re still alive? So you can be killed?”
‘They always said karma was a bitch,’ Campbell thinks to himself, keeping his mouth shut. ‘Why did I never listen?’
“Because nobody actually said it to ya, Neil,” expounds the unidentified man. “Never once! That’s a human saying. Maybe you overheard it eavesdropping on others’ conversations, but I know just as well as you do that Neptunians don’t even have a concept of karma.”
Campbell snickers. “You’re right, whoever you are. And you can read my mind. I bet you think you’re some kind of special.”
“What I think is that you and your Jonathan Knox aren’t so different from one another.”
Using all the strength left in what little remains of his body, Campbell begins to spaz and flop about on the table like a fish out of water.
“I’LL SLAUGHTER YOU!” shouts the more-or-less fish. “I’LL SLICE GILLS INTO YOUR THROAT, YOU DRY-SKIN CRETIN!”
A hand is placed upon Campbell’s one remaining shoulder, plummeting the Neptunian into a forced state of serenity.
“Are you ready to cooperate, preacherman? I have an offer to make you, and I know for a fact it’s one you cannot refuse.”
“Sure,” Campbell says. “Go ahead, Mister…”
“Howard Dean. But you can call me Howie–”
a brilliant and ashy image of an untalented stand-up comedian stranded on a dead world with hardly a third of an ounce of pot to his name flashes into Howard Dean’s mind, then it’s gone
“–if you’d like.” Chills like spider legs across his neck.
“I wouldn’t,” says Campbell. “Howard will be fine.”
‘Thank George.’ “Here’s the deal, Campbell: Jonathan Knox was not released from the prison room by me, but I know who’s responsible. It was somebody like me, somebody who appears human but is something else entirely.”
“Someone like me, then,” Campbell muses limblessly. “One of the other Neptunians? I thought I was the only one approved to wear the human skinsuit… although, the Dali warlords have been known to change their minds without notifying anyone…”
Howard pats Campbell on the stumpy excuse for a shoulder a couple times. “No, Neil, it wasn’t another Neptunian. It wasn’t someone like you, either. For one, you’re only a Being, maybe a High Being. Maybe. On a good day. The guy I’m talking about is a bona fide God. For two, well… how do I put this…”
“Bluntly,” Campbell demands. “Out with it.”
“Your human skinsuit was melded to your body during the explosion, said explosion being the thing that eviscerated your arms and legs, and one shoulder, and a good chunk of your one hip. You’re impossibly disfigured.”
“The guy I’m talking about looks like a human, just like me. Now, you… well, preacherman, you look more human than you do Neptunian, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying you look like a human.”
Audible noises of regret.
“Listen, pal, I know you’re unhappy–”
This has been the start of the fourth subchapter of the first chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~