The strangest adventure I've ever had?
Now, hold on a second there, brother. First of all, just between you and me and the waiter in this here cantina, I'd like to correct you about some misconceptions you seem to be laboring under concerning myself. Right from the beginning of my lifelong wanderings, I never intended to have adventures. No, indeed. My main purpose at the start of it all was to preach to the heathens in far-off lands who were peacefully going about their daily lives without knowledge of the word of Heaven. I decided I'd eventually have to build a little church somewhere in foreign parts and then spend the rest of my time on earth delivering sermons to all and sundry unbelievers there.
From the way you're presently looking around at this den of iniquity, with its numerous customers happily downing the cheapest possible tequila, negotiating with the fallen women over there in the back, and losing every peso they've got at the craps table, you might be wondering a trifle just how the Right Reverend Doctor Jones, otherwise known as yours truly, wound up here, owning the whole place. Before I speak any further, a modest contribution to the building fund for my soon-to-be church would be deeply appreciated.
When I said 'modest', I didn't mean a mere dollar. Yes, that's better, thank you very much. You'll be glad to know your ten-spot will be evenly divided between myself and God as usual, with such trivial expenses as food, drink, and lodgings in due course being reimbursed towards the building fund. In the meantime, I'll hold the remainder in trust for the good Lord until sufficient capital has been amassed for the long-awaited creation of a first-rate house of worship.
Let me have a little something to cut the dust before I begin. Brother, I'd ordinarily be quite happy with coffee, tea, or even boiled water, but I've learned it's always best to blend in with the natives by following their quaint customs of eating and drinking. In the meantime, kindly remove that rather surprised look from your face while I order us another round. Hola! Dos cervezas, por favor! Muchas gracias, señor.
Ahhh… Where was I? Oh, yes, adventures. Once again, I didn't ever plan to undergo what might be best described as various unusual and exciting experiences, but I do have to admit throughout the years, a good many of these occurrences ended up with my involvement in them. True, not all of these with my consent, reluctant or otherwise during these specific events, but then such is life.
Let's see now… In Africa, I found a white goddess being worshipped by a native village. There was the time in Cairo with an Egyptian mummy. Just like everyone else on the dark continent, I spent a while looking for the elephants' graveyard, but I'd really prefer not to discuss this. By the way, have you ever encountered someone named Von Horst? No? Good.
I said, I don't want to talk about it. Just for that, I'll skip over my meetings with a real-life vampire, the jungle lord who lived with a bunch of gorillas, and a charming but extremely headstrong young lady whose tribe was descended from a lost Roman legion.
Anyway, my stay in Africa came to an end soon after, all due to a series of misunderstandings with authorities from several countries. Which ended with it being strongly suggested that I depart forthwith from the entire continent. Bowing to this, I set my sights further east, and I shortly journeyed to Hong Kong and other exotic locales.
My attempts to build a fine church somewhere in the Far East often tended to become interrupted, I must admit. Besides the necessity of acquiring enough resources to commence construction, constant diversions arose which kept me busy through no fault of my own. For example, there was the instance I stumbled upon the Abominable Snowman, who merely turned out to be an oversized basketball player on the lam from his bookie. Not to mention the time I had to take care of the pet dragon belonging to an insidious Oriental dentist. Looking back, the only occasion when I had some peace and quiet in Asia was during my stay at a very remote and hidden Himalayan monastery, where I was made the Head Lama of a timeless sanctuary. Nice place, but I quickly grew bored and soon resigned from the position. I must say, for all their talk about disdain for worldly goods, the other clergy there were remarkably thorough in searching myself and my luggage, and they didn't allow me to retain even a single souvenir of my visit. Like they'd have even missed a couple dozen pieces of gold and jewelry…
Ahem. At any rate, I was becoming a little discouraged at my fruitless endeavors of erecting a proper tabernacle of Christian worship. So, I shook the dust of the Asian steppes from my heels and hied off to likelier prospects. Mind you, I'd never been to Europe before, but I was sure I'd have much better luck there in acquiring the needed cash to build my church. Unfortunately, as had happened so many times before, I was led astray from my steadfast purpose by events, which I assure you I hadn't intended to take part in at all.
Not that this mattered, during such episodes as having to be the double of an injured prince of a tiny Balkans kingdom, coming across an insane doctor whose obsessed attitude towards dead bodies resembled a jigsaw puzzle aficionado, and meeting the Clubfoot of Notre Dame.
But, like I said before, none of those experiences were adventures, at least in my own opinion. After all, during everything, I was reasonably sure about what was going on around me at the time, or even later on. Speaking of this, I'd like to be absolutely certain: You've never bumped into somebody who turned out to be a man called Von Horst?
Brother, you don't want to know. Listen, buy another round, and I'll tell you about what happened to me a few months back, though I'm kind of hazy on the details. An actual adventure, you might say, even though I've never figured out exactly what went on then.
Now, it all started when I was on a tramp steamer making its way across the Atlantic to an eventual landfall someplace in Central America and points south. Anywhere would've done fine, since my mode of cheap and slow transportation was forced upon me by once more being a little low on ready cash. About a few days before we made port, I was attempting to replenish my empty wallet by joining a friendly little game of cards in the crew's quarters. An hour later, the hand of the Almighty had repeatedly brushed across my brow, resulting in me winning every single pot. Or so I maintained when I got unkindly questioned by my fellow players over drawing four aces a half-dozen times in a row.
Apparently, the crew consisted entirely of agnostics who refused to accept this, so when they started discussing how to dispose of my corpse, I sneaked away and hastily cast off in the ship's lifeboat. After a nasty storm drove my little craft ashore in the middle of a tropical jungle, I wandered along the beach, desperately searching for some signs of civilization. Well, I found this, but from the state of things, about a few thousand years too late for it to do me any good. While I was poking around in the ruins of the small stone temple buried in the underbrush, some sort of glowing…hole appeared from out of thin air right under me in the middle of the floor. Naturally, I fell through it.
I'm not sure where I landed, but that wasn't the strangest part of it. Oh, no. Things got even more bizarre when I dropped right into a room where a fight to the death was taking place with a man-like creature possessing a mouthful of fangs, ridged features, and yellow eyes. His opponent, believe it or not, was a tiny slip of a blonde girl, maybe seventeen or eighteen, dressed rather immodestly in boots, pants, and an extremely tight shirt.
They were both going strong at each other, punching and kicking and dodging and leaping. Fortunately, this pair seemed to be ignoring my presence, so I was perfectly fine with leaving them at it and making myself scarce. Right up to the moment when I was edging along the side of the room to the nearest exit, and the fanged monster broke away from his enemy, dashing directly at me and then grabbing my throat with one clawed hand in a grip of steel.
Whatever the thing was, it was also strong enough to keep me subdued when I was bodily turned around to be used as a hostage shield against the girl glaring in our direction while standing in front of us both. During the next couple of minutes, when I tried to concentrate on breathing past choking fingers, the two of them talked back and forth about what I couldn't make head nor tail of - such things as 'Buffy', 'Angelus', 'Sunnydale', 'Acathla' and other mysterious phrases. Finally, the young woman lost her patience, and almost too fast for me to see, she jumped up high into the air and kicked the monster extremely hard in the face, with her boot whizzing past my own head.
That blow knocked us both back and apart, which promptly ended up with me painfully colliding with the only object in the otherwise bare room, a very ugly statue of a demon or gargoyle which had a sword sticking out of this stone figure's chest. Listen, I'm not making up any of this. Anyway, I fell to the floor of the room at the foot of the statue, pretty much out of it, until a girl's shouting voice got through my daze.
I looked over to see her managing to put the monster into some kind of wrestling hold which was keeping him immobile on the ground, as she yelled at me to get up and pull the sword out of Acathla. I had no idea what this teenager was talking about, until I glanced upwards to see another hole from nowhere start expanding behind the statue. This vertical hole seemed to actually be on fire, and it also started to suck in the room's air through the growing gap. That gave me enough of an incentive to scramble away on my hands and knees, except the girl furiously shrieked at me again to get back there and do what I was told. Trust me, even the toughest guys I'd met during my travels would've instantly obeyed her, so who was I to behave differently?
Getting to my feet, I staggered over to the statue, which was beginning to disappear into the widening hole, with the wind rushing into this becoming stronger every second. I thought it wouldn't work, me pulling out the embedded sword, but when I grabbed the hilt and yanked, it came sliding out easy as a pie. Not knowing what to do next, I just started backing away, until the girl once more yelled at me to come over to where she was still pinning down the monster, who was itself fighting to get loose. Moving past the overpowering wind was difficult, but I did it. When I wound up besides the combatants, the girl then very firmly told me to stab him anywhere, and if I sliced her instead, she was gonna make me eat the sword. At that point, I absolutely believed every word she said, so the first chance I got after her threat, I poked the monster forcefully in his closest limb, sinking the tip of the sword an inch or two into his upper right leg.
Things happened really fast them. Just after the creature howled in pain from what I did, the blonde girl bounced up onto her feet, all while lifting to chest level this monster's whole body, without any strain at all. Still hanging onto her enemy she spun around, and when the young woman was facing where the fiery hole was now as big as a subway entrance, she hurled the flailing form right into the middle of this gap. The monster vanished entirely into the opening, and in the very next second, everything stopped. The hole and the statue were completely gone, without a single trace of either remaining in the room. Also, the wind had finished blowing, and the room was quiet enough so that I heard from by myself a girl's sad voice whisper, "Goodbye, Angel."
I didn't have any time to wonder about the last, given that the sword was then decisively removed from my grip. I gawked down at the young woman resolutely eyeing me after blinking away tears, with the sword expertly held in one small hand. Giving a baffled shrug, this female spoke to me without any hesitation, but this wasn't what I was expecting, some sort of explanation for everything.
Instead, as she stepped closer to stand in front of me, the blonde calmly said while she reached up to clutch the front of my shirt with her free hand, "I don't know or care who you are, mister, but thanks anyway. Now that's been said, I'm not really in the mood for talking after sending my former boyfriend to hell. Besides, it looks like your ticket out of here just showed up, so you'll be leaving right away."
This young woman then looked past me, tilting her head back to stare at the ceiling. I couldn't help but follow her gaze, only to see up there the same glowing hole which had formed under me just a few minutes earlier. Before I could react, the girl's fist thrust upwards with incredible strength, sending me sailing helplessly aloft, again with perfect accuracy through the radiant opening. This short flight ended with me flopping face down onto a stone floor, gasping in shock.
After a few more moments of just holding onto the ground, I heard someone politely clear their throat. Looking up from my supine position, I saw in front of me clustered across the temple corridor a dozen natives wearing only face paint and loincloths while aiming poisoned arrows from their bows right at my face. None of these people looked overjoyed at seeing a trespasser desecrating the tomb of their ancestors.
Well, I'm here, in fine health, and without even my head being shrunk, so obviously things must've turned out as well as they normally do for myself. Hey, keep in mind that I never said an explanation would ever be provided for the adventure I just narrated to you.
Tsk, tsk, you really shouldn't use such foul language in the presence of a clergyman. However, sometime in the middle of running through the jungle, swimming across piranha-infested rivers, and peeling off the leeches I picked up splashing through a horrible swamp, I had the opportunity to cogitate a little during my escape from those headhunters. I'd be quite willing to tell you what eventually occurred to me, but in return, it'd only be fair for you to first make another modest contribution to my church's building fund. About, say, in three figures this time.
Thank you kindly, brother. With this c-note, you've gained a mention in the contributor's plaque I plan to hang by the front door of the church, which I'll name the Tabernacle of St. Luke. Don't be so all-fired impatient, now. There's an actual reason I mentioned that.
You see, the phrase of 'the Lord works in mysterious ways' can't help but apply to what I just told you. I think it was absolutely necessary for me to be in that weird place then and meet those even stranger people with their funny names. Particularly the monster, whom the girl called 'Angelus' or maybe 'Angel'. Whatever she meant by this, a title or a term of endearment or even an actual first name, both of them really should've known one of those lower-ranking heavenly beings wouldn't stand a chance against a human representative of not just any archangel, but the very first of them all, before he had his little contretemps with God.
It all goes back to my birth, when I was supposed to be called something like Lucius or even Saint Luke himself. However, on the way to town, my pa stopped off at a saloon and he had a few celebratory drinks in advance. This ended up with him putting down in writing at City Hall the closest Biblical name he could blurrily recall, to what I should've otherwise been baptized. Since then, a great number of people have had the opinion that this pretty much explains my whole life, but I've never really thought so myself.
You don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about? Oh, well, I suppose then the knife fight in the corner drowned out part of what I said when we sat down here at our table. Permit me to fully introduce myself again, brother:
Hello, I'm the Right Reverend Honorable Doctor Lucifer Jones.
Ever since 1984, the science fiction/fantasy writer Mike Resnick has been gleefully parodying every single popular entertainment cliché from the pulps, comics, movies, books, and everything else he can think of which occurred during fiction's golden age between the two world wars. Starting with the paperback entitled Adventurers and several others, the All-American scalawag passing himself off as a humble man of the cloth keeps getting hilariously plunged neck-deep in deadly peril, and he must perforce use all his wits and quick reflexes to either talk himself out of this or run like hell. Usually into even more trouble, as the case may be for the latter.
Anyway, how can you not enjoy stories with dialogue like the following:
"This jungle belongs to me, and I will not allow you to molest my gorillas."
"What kind of pervert do you take me for? I don't want to molest them! I want to capture them!"
"I'm a doctor, specializing in diseases of the gullible."
"So what's wrong with giving her three of them?"
"Not a damned thing, now that I come to think of it."
"What weapons is he good with?"
"All of them."
"Let me re-word that just a bit. Is there anything he ain't good at?"
And, of course, my very favorite: