• • •
“Listen, pal, I know you’re unhappy–”
“Unhappy?” Campbell whines. “Unhappy? I was the Earthly ambassador for the Neptunian High Race of the Dali Straits, I…” Tears do not spill but pour down his craterous maw, as his tear ducts are ravaged and stretched into wide slits. “And now my… my legs and arms… and the skinsuit…”
“There there, Neil,” as Dean pats Campbell’s stump. “Come on, no need to cry like a slobbering little bitch now. I can help you, I’m going to help you, Neil. But first, you’ve got to help me.”
“How are you going to help me, Howard? How can anybody help me? What I need is the same thing all human beings need, especially that living human centipede of a miserable excuse for humanity who calls himself Jonathan Knox: a well-placed bullet to the head.”
“So perhaps you should place that bullet, Neil.”
If Campbell’s warped human face had any eyebrows left, he would surely raise them. “Did you just tell me to kill myself? I gladly would, Howard, but I don’t have any hands. How could I kill myself without any hands, Howard?”
“How about this: shut the fuck up until I’m done speaking. That sound good t’you, preacherman?”
With a stiff top lip, the preacherman nods his betear’ed face.
“Your boy Jonathan Knox was freed from imprisonment in the Compound ‘neath Atacama on Cosmic Earth, one of seven iterations of planet Earth afloat in this Universe. He was let free because someone like me – a cohort of mine, in fact – believed he was entitled to that Compound, to that entire planet. Which, to be fair, he was; see, all he had to do was march in and lay it all down for your superiors, but he never did that. I don’t know why he didn’t nut up and take charge, maybe he’s just insecure. Not my story to tell, and I won’t ask him when I see him. But the facts are as such: he planted explosives all throughout the Compound, freed Jonathan Knox, and gave him the trigger.”
“So… the Neptunian Compound… is gone?”
“So… everything I knew… everything I worked for over the years… my friends, my superiors… they’re all…”
“Dead, just like everyone else on Cosmic Earth. And a good amount of the life in whatever arbitrary solar system Cosmic Earth was floating in, I have to imagine; when the Compound went up it destroyed the planet, I mean really shattered the shit. If there was no collateral damage outside of Cosmic Earth then I’m the lead role in a pony show.”
Despite the daunting white light beaming down upon him, despair clouds Campbell’s warped face with darkness.
“There is a bright side, though – you’re here, Campbell. You survived.”
“Oh yeah,” Campbell grumbles. “Great.”
“And so did Jonathan Knox.”
“Even better.” Reverend Campbell broods without limbs for a moment. “I bet he’s totally unharmed, too. He is, isn’t he?”
“Most likely, yes.”
“In detonating the explosives planted throughout Cosmic Earth’s Compound ‘neath Atacama, Jonathan Knox opened an impossibly small portal which dragged him through space and time and plopped him here in my territory, Bionic Earth. Before pressing the button, he requested that the one who set him free have you come into the prison room so he could see you die. So, he willed you there, but you did not die – the explosion ate your arms, your legs, one shoulder, and a good chunk of one hip, yes, without a doubt, but it also propelled you forward so you would be sucked into the unimaginably tiny portal. You lived because Jonathan Knox had to be petty, and you know what they say, Neil.”
A moment of silence. Another. Evidently, Campbell doesn’t know what they say… even though he just fucking thought it to himself a couple minutes ago.
“They say karma’s a bitch, Campbell,” Howard Dean grieves from the wall of the operating room, where Campbell can’t see him. “Jonathan Knox could’ve left and got home scot-free, but he didn’t. He had to be petty and drag you into it. Do you know what that means?”
“That… it’s my turn to be petty…?”
“Yes,” Howard says with eleven slow claps. “Yes, Reverend Campbell. It is now your turn to be petty.”
“But… how?” Tears wet his face again. “I’m… I’m ruined…”
“Yes, you really are… but you can be un ruined. We have the technology, Neil, and we don’t even require the funding.”
“Do it,” Campbell decides without thinking on it. “Whatever you want to do to me, you do it.”
“It may take a few days.”
“I don’t care.”
“And it will not feel pleasant.”
“All I know is pain as it is.”
“I know, but… well… never mind. I should also mention that there’s a catch; I’m doing you a favor, so you must do me one as well.”
“Whatever you need, Howard Dean,” the preacherman says, his voice warbling uncontrollably with emotion, “I’ll do without question. Your cohort may have planted the bombs that ended the world as I knew it, but Jonathan Knox pressed the button. He dragged me into this… and for that, I will drag him out. I will kill Jonathan Knox. Whatever it takes to accomplish that, I will do.”
A toothy sneer emerges on Howard Dean’s unseen face. “I was hoping you’d say that. Let’s begin, then.”
Howard Dean claps his hands thrice. Campbell doesn’t see him do it, but he does see the ceiling open up to reveal a myriad of malleable metal arms, the majority of which tote swathes of needles and tubes. They lower down to Campbell’s ruined form like a pendulum swinging towards the base of a pit. By the time Campbell starts screaming, no one is around to hear it.
This has been the end 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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