COME ON DOWN
I’d probably feel more like Buck Rogers if I wasn’t wearing Homer Simpson underpants. And I should be toting a raygun instead of this Army surplus .45. Still, I am standing on another freakin’ planet, so I guess I ought to be thankful. But it sure would be nice to see a few green-skinned alien babes instead of this armada of walking toasters.
Later tonight I’m going to make a run for the greenhouse. If I can grab another handful of blue carrots without getting burned I should make it through the night. Now if I could only find another stash of bullets somewhere I could pop a few more holes into those bastards. They make a very satisfying sizzle when you pierce their shell and their insides start leaking out, all brown and oily.
But that burnt toast they spit at you stings like hell.
Stupid damned robots. Where the hell is Captain Kirk when you need him?
I haven’t seen Sandy in days. I don’t know if there’s some sort of robot leader, a giant Queen Toaster who rules this place, but maybe Sandy’s safe in their robot lair. If there is such a thing. A giant toaster oven where they all hang out and get refueled with slices of bread. They whisked her away on the second day. Whacked her with toast, herding her toward the horizon while I shouted and kicked every little bastard that crossed my path. But what could I do? They’re fast little suckers, though you wouldn’t think so to look at them. Soon enough I’d lost sight of Sandy, blinded temporarily by a piece of toast that hit me in the eye, sending me staggering back to this outcropping of rocks like some cowboy in an old western.
I only wish to God the cavalry would show up.
It’s all Bob Barker’s fault. I should have stayed on 55 cents but he made me feel like an idiot so I spun again, hit 45 cents and boom, I’d won a thousand bucks plus a bonus spin and, of course, a spot in the showcase which is where I really got screwed. I was the runner up and the first showcase had a new boat which the hotshot college kid bid on, forcing me to bid on the second showcase.
“Your showcase features prizes used by the lovely Heather as she reads the adventures of Buck Rogers,” Rod Roddy began as one of the blonde bombshell models strutted across the stage, a skimpy retro-fifties spacesuit getup enveloping her body, a prop comic book in her impeccably manicured hands. “First, they’ll find a comfortable place to sit in this new living room!”
A recliner, sofa and loveseat were all included. A bit on the ugly side, though, so I ended up selling the whole set soon after they arrived.
“Next, you can put down that comic and watch Buck Rogers on your new big screen TV!”
Okay, the TV was worth it. It’s sharp. But the rest of that damned showcase...
“And when you’re through daydreaming, why not have your own adventure by taking a trip--” the painted flats behind Heather slid open “--through the Dimensional Door! You and a guest will fly to fabulous Acapulco for a two night stay at the Acapulco Hilton where you’ll enjoy a luxurious beachside room at one of Mexico’s top resorts. Then you’ll be driven to the top secret mountain location of the newly discovered Dimensional Doorway! You’ll walk through the Door for a five-day excursion into an exotic unknown dimension. Newly approved for civilian travel, this safe portal to adventure will make this a vacation to remember forever!”
The lovely Heather’s teeth gleamed like some damned supernova.
“This showcase can be yours, if the price is right!”
And it was.
To start off, Acapulco’s a hole. Dirty and crowded with beaches patrolled by military guys, Acapulco was obviously in a big decline, in spite of the Door. Sandy and I never felt safe while we were there. In fact, we ended up hanging out in the hotel room most of the time, fantasizing about where we’d end up when we stepped through.
We’d heard the stories. And the rumors. The lovely Heather herself told me she’d gone to some sort of hot tub world on her trip through the Door. I chatted her up a bit while the end credits were rolling. Sandy later gave me a hard time about that, but she wasn’t in the studio for the big show. She’d gone to some golf course with her sister, leaving me to brave the game show alone.
Back in Phoenix, when the show aired, Sandy was quick to spot my post-showcase activity. Instead of reclining in my new living room, I made a beeline for the lovely Heather. You never know, I figured. I mean, Sandy and I weren’t married...yet.
The lovely Heather feigned interest, but only until the cameras stopped rolling.
I think I can pick off that four-slice monstrosity looming over the ridge above me. I’ve got one bullet left and if I can just be patient before squeezing it off, I should take him out. Then I’ll just have the greenhouse guard to worry about. It’s a pretty standard two-slicer that I winged a couple of days ago, so it should be easy pickings. I’ve got a really big rock I’m going to drop on top of it. Primitive, I know, but it should do the job. Then I’ll be in blue carrot heaven.
Last night I decided that this was all some sort of an Old Testament ironic punishment kind of thing. Payment for my sins. I starred in a play in college that’s got a scene with all these toasters stacked up and I used a golf club to beat the hell out of one of them. That had to be it.
But then I remembered that it was actually a typewriter that I demolished during the play. The toasters just got piled up on a counter and I ate a piece of toast. Granted, I had to eat the toast in a menacing sort of way, but I never laid a hand on those toasters.
An army of typewriters I’d understand.
Inside the greenhouse I choked down a few of the yellow beets then loaded my pockets with blue carrots. I didn’t even bother to try the phone this time. I’m sure I still have a red splotch on my ear from the jolt. There’s nothing like smelling your own flesh burning.
Who the hell rigs a phone to an electric current? What kind of Pavlovian nightmare have I stumbled into?
I’m starting to get a little nervous. I’ve been scanning the hills around the greenhouse for what feels like hours and I can’t see a single toaster. It’s all too quiet. I’m afraid they’re planning something big.
The problem is, this whole place is too quiet. Unnaturally so. No birds. No insects that I’ve seen. Just rocks and this greenhouse and an armada of robot toasters.
Sandy and I both got spooked the second we stepped out of the Door and onto the wooden receiving platform. We were excited, not knowing what to expect, as we stood on the Mexican side of the Door. It’s literally a door, an old wooden door like you might find in any old rundown Mexican home. The officials are all grins and “amigo” as they shuffle you forward. A soldier opens the door and in you go. I can’t help thinking that if we’d first discovered the door somewhere in America, we’d have at least painted the damned thing.
First there’s queasiness as lights flash and you get a real disoriented kind of feeling and then you’ve stepped onto a platform on the other side. Boom, just like that.
Once my eyes readjusted to the natural light, I expected to see, I don’t know, another reception committee of some sort. Maybe Julie your cruise director. Not a two-slice Procter-Silex with an attitude.
I’ve got one! I saw the bastard skulking around near the back of the greenhouse, so I just stood my ground and waited, finally jumping on it when it got close enough. I’ve tied it to the table leg using its own electrical cord as a rope. It finally stopped struggling about twenty minutes ago and now it’s just sitting there, staring at me. I shoved a couple of handfuls of dirt into its slots to disarm it, but I don’t think it had any bread in there anyway.
I’m going to try to adjust the setting on it, see what that does. Maybe if I turn it toward “lighter” it’ll get more mellow.
Oh, hell, I think I’ve killed it. It started squirming when I turned the knob, but then it sort of spasmed and then I got mad and started whacking it with the butt of the .45. It’s got some big ass dents in it. And I could almost swear it was shrieking.
Hell, maybe they’re not robots after all. Planet of the living toasters.
What the hell have they done with Sandy?