#23 The Great Cosmic Pinball Machine in the Sky

Pinball bumpers for #23 Great Cosmic Pinball Machine in the Sky

Walt must have carried me all the way to the Biolab because I am awakened by a series of concerned squawks from my new best friend Shadow. He appears to have almost doubled in size since yesterday. As I sit up to investigate this curious new development I’m reminded of the evening’s events thanks to a sharp pain in my skull followed by the triumphant return of my constant companion, vertigo. Every hangover is a unique and wonderful opportunity to bask in the knowledge that you aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are. Thankfully, there weren’t any giant praying mantis’ in my bed, so I just have to worry about the laser gun fight and puking everywhere. I’m not sure I want to know why my face feels like a glazed ham.

Everyone says that life is about the choices we make but we all forget that when someone hands us a mixed drink. The instant life choice randomizer has claimed another victim. I’ve got to wash my face and then figure out who just tried to murder us. Sounds easy right? Shadow must be hungry because he interrupts my reverie by attempting to bite me on the nose. The sound of pointy teeth clicking together right next to my face is more than a little unnerving. He is studying me with the intensity of a cat many times his size. I wonder what cats think about human inebriation. Is there a secret dive bar where the cats of the world meet to discuss the dumb things humans do when they are drunk? I’d love to hear their thoughts on another questionable human activity, corporate board meetings.

The hot water in the shower washes away the evils of the previous evening while Shadow continues to study me with his head cocked. He follows me out into the kitchen where we find breakfast waiting for us along with a piping hot cup of coffee. The inclusion of waffles makes wonder if this is some sort of cleverly disguised reference to needing my head checked. Shadow wastes no time in devouring his bowl of food along with some waffles and bacon which seems to bring him great joy. I have to agree with him on the delirious wonders of a properly prepared waffle. The questions surrounding the mysterious origins of said waffle aren’t nearly as enjoyable but we don’t let that spoil a delicious breakfast.

Time to throw on some clothes and chase down Cole to find out what the hell happened. I’m momentarily puzzled about the rather curious nature in which my dirty clothes reappear in the drawer clean and folded like they are brand new. I decide to put this in my curiosities file with the waffles for revisiting later. As I empty my pants pockets out onto the bed I find four very strange looking lottery tickets, which I don’t remember buying, and an equally mysterious large golden ticket labeled “Intergalactic Riches Unlimited Sweepstakes – One Entry”. The feeling of familiarity is there again for a moment, like deja-vu, and then it’s gone again. Further proof that I have no idea what the hell is happening and that I clearly drank too much last night. Shadow immediately lays down on the tickets like he’s guarding them and then squawks rather loudly at me. I also discover a scrap of paper that has a 17 digit number and Eeeara’s name on it.

“You keep an eye on things buddy and try not to grow too much while I’m out,” I say to him while pulling on a fresh shirt which earns me another one of those of bird-like squawks which seems much more nuanced than the last one. It’s like he’s got a secret that he hasn’t let me in on yet. The unwavering surety of his gaze causes a stirring deep in my psyche somewhere, a feeling that everything really is going to be alright, and all I have to do is let it happen. There aren’t too many times in my life that I remember feeling like that so it’s noteworthy. But what do I know? I can’t even remember who I am but that doesn’t shake my feeling that everything is working out exactly like it supposed to. Great cosmic pinball machine in the sky, take me to the promised land.

The combination of heavy drinking, waffles, and rocket bike riding maybe wasn’t the best choice on my part. My stomach is churning pretty heavily as I land in the grove of glowing blue trees. Walt, Steve, and Cole are all sitting at a table outside one of the buildings and I must be right on time because Zap-Zap is performing his curious coffee ritual again. There is nothing quite like facing the people who didn’t get as drunk as you the next morning. My dread is momentarily disarmed by the sight of a steaming cup of coffee floating at me in a mug labeled “Who’s feeling lucky?” with a gleeful leprechaun on it. The great cosmic pinball machine in the sky is clearly ahead of me again.

“You look surprisingly well for the evening you had,” quipped Cole who was grinning broadly as the others begin chuckling to themselves.

“I’ve never had anyone try to kill me before so I’m still processing that. You guys could have warned me about those Black Hole Martinis,” I replied.

“They weren’t trying to kill you. Those guns the big blue guys had were set to stun. I believe capture would be a more applicable term,” said Steve with a clinical dryness that was a little disturbing.

“Big blue guys?”

“We’ve never seen them before. But they seem to be working for an odd-looking pale skinned gentleman wearing a fedora hat and business suit. We are lucky to have gotten out of there when we did,” stated Cole who was now chewing on his lip.

“This is going to sound crazy. Is there a large garden gnome living on this ship? He dragged me up the walkway while you guys were dodging laser beams.”

“Excuse me……what? No, there aren’t any garden gnomes living on this ship. Maybe you just had too much to drink,” replied Cole who seemed more than a little confused as Walt grunted and shook his head from side to side.

“Walt put me down inside the door and the gnome person dragged me into the ship. I did have too much to drink but it seemed real enough. There is no way I could have walked up that ramp on my own,” I said as Walt grunted again, nodding his head affirmatively.

“I’m not aware of any species that resembles garden gnomes. We have to keep a low profile until we figure out why Hat Man is trying to capture you and what the…..gnomes are up to,” countered Cole who was visibly shaken now. “It just keeps getting weirder the longer you are on this ship. I was all ready to give you a hard time about making out with Eeeara and you ambush me with garden gnomes.”

“I guess that explains the number in my pocket and my face,” I replied while laughing and wondering if I should visit the Med-Bay as a precaution. “It’s starting to feel like this is all just the tip of the iceberg and the great cosmic pinball machine in the sky has bigger plans for me. Despite being nearly captured by a team of mercenaries, I have the strange feeling this is all going to work out.”

“Until it does I would suggest less drinking and some target practice down in the armory with Anton if you can keep him focused that long,” retorted Cole who was slowly sipping his coffee. An uneasy silence settled over the table as nobody was sure what to do next.

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