Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mortimer and Melvin

Mortimer was all too happy to leave the subways and enter into the sunny Higgansnorgian streets. The weak but hardy winter sunlight streamed between buildings, and the faint odor of filth and oddly enticing sausages filled his nostrils. He walked through the seedy part of town and into the moderately seedy part, then climbed a fire escape and went through a little door with no handle. Melvin's lab had only a back door, it kept most visitors away. Melvin also didn't answer when you knocked - anyone who knew him to knew to come right in, and no one caught him off guard. One or more of his inventions saw to that.
This was the man who had designed the system for demolishing the tunnels. He was the ultimate problem-solver - the crown called on him to do only the impossible. He was Melvin Lima Bean, Mortimer's dear brother.
"Morty! Hey!" came the voice from under a large watermelon-shaped steel contraption, "What brings you to my neck of the woods?"
"Can't a man drop by to see his brother without an excuse?"
Melvin popped his head out to reveal grease stains on his face.
"A man can, but you don't. And anyway, I heard you're taking vacation time, which is very not you. Something's wrong."
"It's not so much a vacation as a special assignment. But you're right, I do need your help. But it's something you already invented."
"Well all my official inventions are at the palace, at your disposal," said Melvin with a wry smile, "You don't need me for that."
"This was one of your pet projects once. Do you remember when we were 11 and we visited the Mindor Shrine?"
"Dad gave that speech about how we should never visit the place for any reason-" Melvin reminisced.
"-And you said you were going to find a way to get into Hell from the Mindor Shrine without sacrificing any blood or souls."
"Did I?" asked Melvin.
Mortimer knew he was playing games, but he also knew the only way to get what he wanted was to play right along.
"You did."
"Maybe I did. But you don't honestly believe I actually did it, do you? I was 11, it was silly."
He looked right in Mortimer's eyes and Mortimer looked back like a mirror. It was poker without cards, until finally Melvin broke.
"I've been dying to show this to someone! Come on back!"
He was giddy as a schoolboy now. Mortimer knew his twin brother's mind, and he knew that when Melvin found a problem, particularly one with no solution, it stayed in his head, eating away at him until he solved it. These were his "pet projects." He worked on them for years if need be, but he always got them done. It was of no surprise to Mortimer that one of these projects was breaking into hell.
"So the gateway is basically just a dimensional portal into hell - simple magic really - with a permanency spell of course and, here's the key, insanely advanced protective spells. Anyway, I assumed that if there were a magic-based way to dispel or bypass it it would have been done a long time ago. Anyway, magic isn't my thing. So I read everything that's been written on the subject to figure out what the specific requirements were- the magic source code - and I came across an idea. The soul-sacrificing method is accomplished by slitting open your hand and letting a decent amount of your blood sink through the sand. When the blood arrives in hell, it's used in a spell that kicks in to summon your soul as soon as you die. People have tried to use other people's blood or animal blood, of course, and it doesn't work. Obviously it's keyed so that only your own blood will work. So then I thought-"
"Melvin, can you do it?"
Melvin paused. They had reached a door.
"Oh yeah." He opened the door into a room that looked more or less the same as the rest of the workshop, then led him to a table with a microscope on it.
"The key is the blood- I've been working with my own so this should work with yours. Just because it has to be your blood doesn't mean it has to be unaltered. So what I eventually designed was a nonmagical chemical that would very slowly break down blood until it was unrecognizable. The upshot is, if you can get this into the blood you give-" he held up a vial -" by the time it gets to Hell they won't know whose soul is pledged. And by that time you'll be in."
"How do you know it's unrecognizable to magic?" Mortimer said worriedly.
"My money's where my mouth is. I sent a vial of my altered blood to Mama Mushma along with a goodly sum of money, and so far nothin'."
Mortimer had dealt with Mama Mushma, the voodoo queen of lower eastern Higgansnorg. He was one of the few who wore a charm that protected him from her magic. She could do a lot with just dolls, but with blood - he should have been screaming in pain.
"Are you sure she got it?"
"Yeah, I went to see her, told her I wanted results or my money back. She told me it was a faulty sample and she could do some real work with a better one."
"Even so, fooling a voodoo woman is one thing, fooling Satan is another. I don't have to tell you what happens if this doesn't work."
"It'll work. It has to work. Anyway, the delivery's a bitch. It doesn't work unless the blood comes out of your hand, and obviously if I injected this into your bloodstream you'd be dead."
"So what does that leave?"
"The knife. I've put the chemical into a jelly - you smear your blade in it, slice your hand in one swift swipe, and let just enough blood fall through."
"I don't feel great about this, Melv."
"Well then DON'T go to Hell. Or find a better miracle worker. Have I ever failed you before?"
"No, you haven't," Mortimer admitted, "Thanks, bro."
One awkward manhug later, Mortimer was on his way to do one more errand before heading to Hell, Melvin's jelly in his pocket.