Mel and Smith gasped for air as water poured through the large gap in the barrel. Of course it wasn’t airtight; why would it be if it was meant to be a guest room? The river had swirled in through the cracks in the hull and only a tiny amount of air remained by the time Mel had the good sense to crack the glass window floating above water level. The leaks continued, but breaking the glass any further meant being showered with the shards and perhaps even tipping their makeshift vessel fully underwater.
One of the most burdensome things about going anywhere, whether it’s down the street or into another universe, is trying to figure out what to wear. It can be frustrating to balance fashion with comfort, practicality with cost, weather with time, all while secretly wishing you could run out into the street in your underwear without being judged or, worse, arrested.
Smith continued scribbling in the notebook Mel had so generously provided even as the three Earthlings exited the forest. Mel walked behind Smith, still gripping his sword as it bobbed in the jury-rigged sheath at his side. Carla was the only one of the three who was actually looking where they were going, which worked out as her perch on top of her uncle’s head was the best vantage point to serve as lookout. Over the past few days, Carla had been working on her pronunciation to the point where it was clear even to Smith what she meant when she declared that they had arrived at a desert.
Out of the dirt-covered trees came flying a hamburger.
On top of the Cathedral of Sainte Decius, a man with a long nose lay prone, gripping his weapon so tightly that his right hand ached. In the last two days, Smith had been threatened, shot at, tossed into a mysterious bureaucracy, shuffled along into a pile of socks, given a gun from the sky, forced to run for his life and finally, most distressingly, he had run out of cigarettes. Filled with an abundance of nerves, his hands shook and he had to grip the gun with two hands to keep it still.
Despite all of the adrenaline and fatigue, Smith raised the handgun, unsuited for sniping as it was, and focused on his target. In a voice he hoped the abomination would never hear, Smith whispered “Death”.
A large black man shut off the TV. Through the orange jumpsuit a network of tattoos peeked out. Visible on the fingers of his large left hand were four letters from some semi-literate tattoo artist spelling out D-E-T-H. The man let out a frustrated sigh of relief and turned to the group to discuss politics. “He just keep going to all these schools tryna keep up appearances. When y’all think the big man gonna come down here?”
Smith left with a single file folder. On the bus home he looked at the assignment. It looked like one of those 3-D pictures you were supposed to stare at cross-eyed, a jumble of random dots with no clear writing.
As soon as he closed the door into his apartment, Smith checked his phone to see if he had any messages. Manolios had returned the little Nokia with a knowing smile, but it had obviously been upgraded while in his care. There was a tiny camera attached to the back and linked into the phone battery. Smith had heard that the Redshirts were at least a decade ahead of civilian technology, but he’d never expect something as mundane as all this.