Joe MacIntosh is a psychic investigator assigned and impossible task. It’s Joe’s job to track down and deal with the byproduct of the human race’s imagination. Assisted by a unique group called ‘The Council of Elders’, Joe tackles the biggest job in his unnaturally long life.
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; February 2007
209 pages; ISBN 9780744312881Read online
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Title: Adventures of Joe MacIntosh
Author: Bryant Arnold
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CHAPTER 1 On a bus bound for nowhere
I fear the Gatekeeper has abandoned his post. It seems evil is pushing through its cracks now, one by one. More are running than ever before. All Hell is about to break loose . . .
Joe squinted up from the page and peered through the dirty window. The Arizona desert at dawn was red. The strange contrast of black shadows and crimson rock glowed like some surreal version of the surface of Mars. But in contrast to the lifeless surface of a planet devoid of oxygen, the desert teemed with life. Frivolous eddies of wind danced along the scrub brush as miniature tornadoes. Tumbleweeds were doing their jobs and jackrabbits bounded without care. Coyotes left their nocturnal hunting fields and headed home to their dens.
It’s been a lot of years since this mess started. And I can’t go home . . . not yet. I just want my life back.
Joe closed his little blue journal and slid it mechanically back into his coat signaling the end of a ritual which kept him sane. He hadn’t budged since he boarded the bus hours ago. The passenger next to him fidgeted, squirmed, and made trips to the lavatory in the back, every ten minutes. His name was Bill, a traveling salesman. He sold connective tubing of some kind, and seemed more than happy to fill Joe in on the last twenty rotten years of his life. Joe wasn’t in a talkative mood, so he just slumped, with his hat pressed against the glass, watching the endless miles speed by. As he stared into the blurry landscape, he found himself longing for the past, when he didn’t have any use for mechanical transportation. He could magickally travel over vast distances in the blink of an eye. Now, he was forced to move between problems with all the speed of a normal person. Joe felt older than ever. He let his face sag.
Bill was back again, this time looking very yellow and motion-sick.
“Never could get used to bus travel . . . you seem to be taking it pretty well.”
Joe shifted his eyes to the uncomfortable Bill and back to the road.
“You’re right,” Bill sighed. “I should stop complaining and get some sleep.”
Joe closed his eyes for a long time. Just the mention of the word ‘sleep’ sent the crawling heebie-jeebies up his spine. He supposed he could sleep if he tried, but he hadn’t tried in what seemed like years. Joe would often enter trance-like states for days on end, as his profession required, but it was anything but deep, intoxicating, refreshing slumber.
The smooth humming of the bus tires turned uneven and bumpy. The air brakes let out blurting and hissing sounds simultaneously. The slowing inertia pulled all but the weariest occupants from their individual slumbers and snores and tipped recently filled sodas into the laps of immediately wakeful people. Joe watched a single filling station, alone in the vast redness of the desert, slide into view as if it hovered just above an invisible cushion of heat. It possessed a single pump which read ‘diesel fuel only’. The attendant shambled out, covered in grease and dust. Several missing teeth dotted his broad, young smile. He wore only a pair of overalls with no shirt and tennis shoes from the 1960’s–original Chuck Taylor All-Stars. The backwards baseball cap might have been clean once, maybe ten years ago. He wiped his cheek with a greasy rag. The bus slowed to a billowing halt next to the pump, missing the building’s overhanging awning by practiced inches.
“Okay everyone, we are stopping for gas and we’ll only be a minute. We would appreciate it if you remain seated. Thank you,” the bus driver said as he opened the doors by straining on a complicated handle involving several interconnected chrome rods, each swiveling squeakily. Joe wondered who the ‘we’ the bus driver was referring to. Was it the Greyhound Corporation, or a tiny demon in the driver’s pocket? From Joe’s experience, it could easily have been a demon. Joe stood and tipped his hat to Bill, over whose face passed an expression of nauseous puzzlement. Joe edged his way between the cramped seats and into the aisle.
“All I know is it’s HOT,” said the driver to the attendant.
“You ain’t seen hot yet, Mister. It’s only 6:00 am. Wait’ll noon . . . it’ll be a hundered-an’-fifteen. Maybe a little more.”
“After ninety degrees, it’s all the same to me–just HOT.”
“Yeah, well, one of your passengers don’t think it’s hot, he’s wearing a big, long coat.”
“What–?” The driver turned in time to see Joe standing near the door of the bus, shading his eyes with the upraised palm of his hand. “Hey you, number twenty-er . . . seven. I thought I told you to stay in your seat,” the driver said, marching towards Joe with the air of apparent authority.
Joe pulled his hat on a little more snugly and strode off, away from the bus and across the road.
“I said get back here! Stop!”
Joe crossed the highway and hiked through sequoia cactus and aloe plants and other shrubs his forebrain refused to identify.
“Wait, damn you. This is an unscheduled st–“
“This is MY stop,” whispered Joe over his shoulder. It reached the driver’s ears easily–as though they stood next to each other.
The driver’s face paled as he turned slowly around in a complete circle, wondering if someone was standing behind him. He squinted through the heat haze of the highway asphalt at Joe–who had vanished. The driver paid the attendant and pulled away from the station with a feeling of loss. He felt as though something big had just slipped through his fingers. Even now, the memory of passenger twenty-seven was fading. Even now, Bill the salesman was feeling better and wondering why no one had purchased the empty seat next to him on the packed bus. He dug into his briefcase searching for crackers.