Author : Tony Pacitti
“You ever hear of a fellow named, Jules Verne?” the man asked me.
“Sure I heard of him. Frenchman. Done borrowed an idea or two from him from time to time.”
“It’s funny you should say that,” he said.
The man smiled such that it didn’t do much in the way of makin’ me feel at ease. It was the kind of smile that said he knew a secret I wouldn’t guess in a million years.
Now the only thing to rival the number of notes these fingers of mine have plucked are the number of miles these feet have carried me. I done walked my fair share across this great nation, I’ll tell you what. From Kennebunk to Salinas and from there right on back to Macon. Hell, I didn’t even stop once the entire way and I done it to prove that there ain’t nothin’ a man can’t accomplish when he’s got the gumption.
I have however made plenty of stop in plenty of towns on plenty other voyages across these forty-eight states. As a result I’ve got myself something of a reputation as a raconteur. A wanderin’, song singin’ story teller like they used to have in the old world. I tell it all, tales of heroism and horror, rags and riches. The people of this country have a thirst for the sweet drink of Someplace Else, especially during these dark times, and I’m happy to be the bar man fillin’ their empty glasses. In some places my services aren’t as appreciated as they once were, thanks to my only mortal enemy, The Radio, but there’s still a personal connection to a crowd that no gizmo can ever make, especially not when old Fin’s around.
It’s because I’m a storyteller that this here man in black approached me. He said that as known as I am I can disappear without any suspicion.
“It won’t matter how long it’s been since anyone seen you last,” he told me, “They’ll all just assume you’re someplace else.”
He took me to a large steel mill where I was told a group of men were waiting to make my acquaintance. The first of the other recruited men I met was an ancient lookin’ Englishman named Barkley. His hands were like twisted, knotty branches and his face barely visible through a bramble of yellowing gray hair. All that showed through it was a fat, pockmarked nose and two sunken, stitched shut eyelids. His eyes themselves where kept in a jar he carried and I’ll be struck dead by God Almighty if they didn’t follow me as I moved passed him. The man in black told me that Barkley here had studied under a man named Crowley and had spent years in places powerful in black magics such as the Far East and the voodoo swamps of Louisiana.
After leaving Barley to his mumblin’ in tongues, the man in black was met by a clean-cut gentleman wearing glasses and a strange suit that looked more like a machine than a garment. They spoke at length about timetables, trajectories, heavy explosives and, unless I misheard, alchemy. Almost as if he’d forgotten I was there, the man in black introduced me to the iron and hose clad Captain Stewart.
The busy Captain stomped off, fast as his heavy suit would allow and it was at this point that I finally demanded to know what was going on.
“Why Mr. Sassafrass,” he said with that wicked smile again, “We’re releasing you gentlemen of your terrestrial tether.”
Jules Verne—these old boys were breakin’ for the stars!
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