Ace Gordon knocked on the door. It was an odd door, a little shorter than most, and in a bright lime green kind of color that just oozed eccentricity. The house that surrounded it was equally as odd, though not quite as lime green, as the paint had long since faded and not been reapplied. The paint on the door looked fresh however and immediately after knocking on it, the door opened, slowly and heavily as if it were on gears, which in fact it was. The room that Ace entered is hard to describe, Imagine the most gaudy room in the history of rooms. Now add some gaudiness, and then add a toy train, with a laser pointer where the smoke stack should be and that should give you an approximation of the oddity that unfolded before Ace’s eyes. From another door, further into the bowels of this odd little house, burst a man, and a coffee can. Ace, taken aback, uttered a quick hello. The man did not respond. The coffee can did.
” ‘Sup, bitch?” The coffee can said in an astonishingly deep voice, there was a buzz that accompanied each word that hinted that this might be some form of robot. The other hint was the fact that it was a talking coffee can, which usually wouldn’t suggest human.
“Be polite Cummerbund!” said the man “He is clearly not a ‘bitch,’ he is not canine, nor is he female. Perhaps I have your occular recognators wired incorrectly…Oh! I’m sorry! Where on earth are my manners?” The professor cleared his throat and addressed Ace for the first time, “Why hello good sir! I am Professor Wilton Wallaby and I am ever so pleased to make your acquaintance.” The Professor’s face had three notable features, the first being the giant tufts of tousled white hair that adorned the top of his head, accompanying that was the even more magnificent white beard which seemed to jut out in ways that would make a scientist question that there were in fact only three visible dimensions, and lastly his large thick glasses that made his beady little eyes appear to be the size of oranges (though somehow still beady). When you subtract these defining features, the professor would simply be a floating nose, which is to say, he would be slightly less off-putting in appearance than the actual man himself. He appeared to be the very picture of a man that would paint his house this particular blend of lime and green.
The coffee can was red, and looked like a coffee can.
The reason why a boy like Ace, who for the next five minutes or so could be considered a relatively normal boy, found himself in these unique surroundings was the same reason most teenaged boys find themselves getting out of bed on a Sunday morning. He needed money. Another popular reason for getting out of bed early on a Sunday morning is the more traditional “going to church,” whether forced, which is the regular method of churchgoing youths, or enthusiastically which suffice it to say is more odd than even this story, but I digress… Besides, nothing interesting ever happens at a church. Not ever. Ace was fifteen, which in his immediate location was one year too young to be employed at the mall, and several years too old to be satisfied with a 5 dollar allowance. He was tall, lanky, had light brown hair cropped close to his head, and a face that seemed to waver at most between absolutely terrified and mildly concerned, though to be fair, he never realistically strayed too far from those emotions. He’d always been awkward growing up, and the lankiness brought on by adolescence did nothing to help his grace, thus, even walking down the street to get some vegetables from the market posed the very real danger of falling head over heels, and considering the distance between his head and heels, that proved more often than not to be a painful experience.
The reason why a boy like Ace would expect to find monetary compensation in this baffling place was clutched in his hand. “CAT SITTING” said the poster in an ominous font. Ace was growing wary however because none of the usual signs of a cat, with the exception of the laser pointer which seemed otherwise occupied, were present, not to mention the fact that cat sitting was the sort of activity that requires a font like Helvetica, Times, or Marker Felt. Ace didn’t recognize this particular font, but it seemed more suited for…murder… It certainly did catch the eye though, which is often the point of advertisements of this nature, and of course it was possible that all the cat evidence was contained in other rooms of this house, but it was starting to feel like more and more of a set-up. But who would put him on in this way?
Ace had no shortage of acquaintances who would be more than happy to play this type of prank, and most everyone knew that he was looking for money. The reason they knew is that Ace had been looking for money since shortly after his birth. He was a frugal boy from a very young age, and always seemed to appreciate having money more than acquiring things with it. He drooled over his parents tax returns, he beamed at the chance to clean the couches, lest he find nickels there. This made him odd among his peers, and left him close to friendless, but also often caused him to be the target for tomfoolery from those who knew him. When he was six the popular thing to do was to glue dimes to the ground, which typically took Ace 20 to 30 minutes to figure out, usually after he had successfully gained a dime and lost several fingernails. When he was ten he was sent fake checks in the mail, which was more hurtful than clever, because by then he could have worked at the Bureau identifying fraudulent checks. And now at fifteen they were resorting to fake job advertisements? For shame! It was a ballsy trick to be sure, and required knowledge not only of this establishment, but also of the telephone poles on Ace’s pathway from home to the bus stop as that was where he had found the flier he now so nervously held in his hand. That narrowed his suspects, but not enough. Frankie? Eugene? Barnaby Baxter? Frankie was far too foolish for this level of trickery, Eugene was a possibility, but he had always been friendly to Ace.
Barnaby Baxter was another story entirely. Barnaby Baxter, if you were to inquire with Ace on the subject, was evil incarnate. Truth be told Barnaby was more like Ace than either were willing to admit, though Barnaby had a fetish for material possessions that Ace did not. They were both outcasts thanks to their shyness and idiosyncrasies. Ace was perpetually nervous and obsessed with finance, and Barnaby Baxter picked his nose and ate his findings. Neither of them were well loved, and while in most instances this would lead to some sort of camaraderie, an incident when they were four years old had prevented any sort of friendship, so their oddness became something of a competition. Which of them could feel most at home in their own unpopular skin, at an age where feeling comfortable in your skin is unnatural? Regardless, Barnaby Baxter could easily have been the perpetrator of such a clever and insidious prank as to send poor Ace into this unfortunately strange circumstance. The Professor’s alliterative name also allowed for some correlation between his rival and the strange man before him, but then the Professor said something that immediately put Ace’s speculating mind to rest.
“I take it you are here for the cat sitting opportunity?” So clearly it was not a prank, though the distinct lack of any traces of feline was still a cause for concern. If it came down to a fight, Ace was fairly sure that he could best this professor, though he was less positive about the coffee can, having never fought a coffee can in the past.
“Uh Yes,” Said Ace, deciding to see where this already bizarre interaction would carry him. He held out the flyer with two hands, trying to spread it’s wrinkles out. With the force of his pull, the wrinkles withstood the force, the paper itself did not. The page ripped in half, with “CAT SI” written on one side and “TTING” written on the other. The street address and the Professor’s name ripped in half as well, as does tend to happen when a paper containing information is severed.
“Well, come in my boy, come in and sit!” They left the outlandish breezeway, and entered into a far more befuddling kitchen. The walls were the brightest shade of purple you could imagine, and the counter tops were the same lime green as the outside walls had been painted. The floor was a dark navy blue. The appliances were stainless steel, but seemed to sit haphazardly in the room as if to illustrate that the owner had only bought them because he could not find something more garish. The stark white of the professors lab coat seemed even brighter as he walked through this room toward another door. The coffee can still just looked like a coffee can, it’s bright red paint slightly diminished by the even brighter colors of the house.
Ace’s back started to hurt, and he realized that had been hunching over since he got there. The ceiling was far shorter than a regular ceiling, which posed no problem to the other inhabitants of the house, as the professor was diminutive and the coffee can was an average-sized container. Ace could only hope, given the relative uniqueness of his surroundings that the cat did not have to hunch either. As he passed the toaster, it muttered a lazy but polite “Hello.” Ace absentmindedly nodded in the toaster’s direction and proceeded through the doorway to be met by stairs. As he descended Ace found himself hoping that the toaster had eyes. For if it did not, Ace worried, his return greeting would have gone unnoticed. Ace then reflected for a moment on his sanity, as he was truly worried about hurting the feelings of a household appliance. Ace then thought on how long he’d been descending these stairs, still thinking he had made a mistake responding to this advertisement. The professor had asked him to come in and sit after all, and Ace still had seen no sign of a chair or a cat, just talking appliances and terrible design sense, neither of which put him at ease.
He reached the bottom of the stairs, and stood up straight, his back practically sighing with relief. The absence of ceiling height present in the main floor of this house was more than made up for by the cavernous nature of this basement, which, unbeknownst to Ace was not really a basement. Ace, however could not tell because he could not see. Ace could not see because it was dark. Looking back, the stairs were lit by lights that Ace, distracted by his thoughts, had assumed were attached directly to the ceiling. They were, in point of fact, hung at a height that seemed to increase exponentially before fading off into the darkness, of which there seemed to be no end. In fact the only things that Ace could see were the stairs, well lit by the hanging lamps, which Ace could obviously also see, and the tail end of the diminutive professor, fading away into the darkness. The coffee can followed right behind him, humming a bass line Ace could most readily describe as funky, andthe door at the top of the stairs which seemed to glow as if it were some sort of beacon, light pouring through it before it closed, seemingly of it’s own accord. Ace assumed that it closed because of the wind. The professor, knowing better, assumed that it closed because of technology, technology he had in fact installed for this very purpose. They were both wrong. The truth is that it closed because of magic, but there will be more on that later.
After the magic wore off, the technology did kick in, turning off the lights to the stairway, and masking the entire world in darkness. Ace saw nothing, and heard only the funky bass line and the shuffling of diminutive feet. Ace simultaneously felt both loneliness and a strong longing for actual solitude. The bass line grew softer and softer and softer until there was nothing. Ace was afraid to move, unfortunately he was also afraid not to move and, as they were mutually exclusive, Ace decided he’d rather not add scuffed knees to his growing list of concerns and as walking in complete darkness is likely to cause this ailment, he decided he should stand his ground.
All of a sudden, Ace saw a light, cast around a previously invisible corner. It was not a typical sort of light though, cast by sunlight, or by a standard light bulb. Nor did it resemble the more annoying light cast by energy efficient fluorescents. It didn’t even resemble the most annoying light in the history of lights, the piercing and wavering blue lights that adorned the cars of men and women who are compensating for terrible personalities and small genitalia. No, this light was more annoying still. Which was odd. Given the darkness one would assume that any light would be welcome, but this light was not. It sent a cold shiver up Ace’s spine and made the back of his kneecaps tingle like a fifteen-year-old with growing pains. Ace, being fifteen and tall was familiar with the feeling, but not the intensity. He wished he was back upstairs, thinking perhaps the toaster would have liked to have a conversation. He was almost positive, at this moment, that his finely honed cat sitting skills would never come to use in this house.
He decided to approach the light, carefully placing his feet so as not to trip, and as he rounded the illuminated corner and saw the source. A small object sat upon an elegant pedestal. The pedestal was carved from stone, the object was of an unfamiliar material. It appeared to be some kind of artifact. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was old, ancient even, but being that it glowed of its own accord it must have come from a civilization that possessed a level of technological prowess that Ace didn’t recall any ancient civilization having, and having just finished World History at his local high school, Ace felt rather sure that had one existed, the professor with the consistently wet underarms would have at least mentioned it, instead of going on and on for hours about Greece and Rome. Technology had nothing to do with it. In fact, the same magic that had caused the door to the odd house to close was at power here, causing an unnatural glow and indeed working behind the scenes to influence and manipulate energies that modern man had yet to discover. Indeed the very concept of destiny was being rewritten by this alien object’s supernatural power. The artifact’s composition was equally as foreign, though Ace felt like it resembled something familiar. The light seemed to pulse and writhe, as if living. Ace approached cautiously, careful not to get too close, for surely something so disconcerting at a distance, should not be touched. But still, he felt that if he were to get closer, he could recognize this vaguely familiar thing. He took a single, cautious step, he now knew for sure that there was no cat here. And then, as his foot touched down on the ground he felt something soft beneath it. He twisted abruptly, reacting to this unexpected texture beneath his shoes, and the Rube Goldberg like wheels of fate, influenced in no small part by this magical remnant of a forgotten culture, began to spin, rapidly.
The cat, whom Ace had come to babysit, let out a yowl as her tail was stepped on. The Professor, who had been searching the darkness for the cat, yelled out “FELICITY!!!” for that was the cat’s name. Ace, trying desperately to avoid further injuring Felicity, lost his balance and began to stumble toward the artifact. The professor came around the corner, scooping the cat protectively in his arms, eyes wide and illuminated green by the night vision helmet that he now wore. The night vision helmet that he was carrying for Ace, disappeared into the darkness overhead as the professor tossed it away to make room for the injured cat. Cummerbund, who had also been searching for the cat, quickly rounded some other corner invisible in the darkness, a third night vision helmet draped awkwardly over his can, evidently helping him to see through the eyes he didn’t seem to posses. Ace spun and awkwardly danced around, desperately trying to regain his balance, his awkward waltz with balance leading him gradually closer and closer to the alien object, now pulsating even more vehemently, Just about when he had regained control over his body, he looked down to see a coffee can darting quickly toward him, its vision no doubt encumbered by the night vision helmet designed solely for the purpose of preventing inconvenient disasters such as the one that was about to unfold. Ace nimbly leaped over Cummerbund, showing a dexterity he had no idea that he had. The leap took him much closer to the glowing artifact than he would have liked. As he was about to land, more sure of his balance then he had been since the day puberty had begun, the night vision helmet that was originally meant for Ace’s head, found it’s intended target in a completely unintended fashion. The helmet crashed into Ace’s temporal lobe, knocking Ace head over heels right into the artifact he was trying so desperately to avoid.
Ace grabbed the artifact, a desperate attempt to keep something that was obviously so priceless safe. His left hand wrapped around the shaft protectively, as his right gently cupped the round areas at the base. Ace felt as if electricity was arcing through his body. His entire universe seemed to be filled with the odd, annoying light, and a loud mechanical sounding whine filled the air, increasing in intensity and volume with every passing second. The professor, waving his arms around desperately, seemed to be melting, indeed the entire world, or at least the visible portions of it, appeared at this moment to be deconstructing themselves before Ace’s very eyes. The whining noise suddenly stopped, replaced by a blissful silence, the light faded into a pure and serene shade of blue and at that moment, as the entire world was disintegrating around him. This was in fact the most peaceful and beautiful moment that Ace has or would ever experience in his entire life. Ace settled into a calm state of euphoria, gently gripping the pulsing artifact in his hands. The moment could have gone on forever, but then Ace realized why the object he was so tenderly holding, seemed so familiar. Disgusted, he released it, and it fell to where the ground had once been, now replaced, like everything else in the world by blue light. Ace watched it fall, as if in slow motion, and then, coming into contact with the floor that Ace could no longer see, it shattered. All worries gone from his mind, a byproduct of the calming light, Ace shrugged. “So there was a cat after all” he said, aloud. Then suddenly the world went black and his consciousness evaporated. Ace fell lifeless to the ground. His heart had imploded.
…But Ace will return in Episode 2: Dead as a Doornail
Copyright 2009 Nicholas Collins, All Rights Reserved.