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The Porcelain Dragon
I rolled over and opened one eye – just one mind you. It was 6:07 AM, the rain was still coming
down outside, and the bed was tempting me to sleep in. I slowly rolled out of bed and shuffled into the
bathroom, still reviewing last night in my mind: had I done enough? Was that one the cops should’ve
handled? Was the damage going to be permanent?
I stood under the hot water for a moment, planning the next strike. It was time to switch things
up; a morning raid would keep their nerves rattled. I had heard that some thought I wasn’t a morning
person – this would prove them dead wrong. I hadn’t given the east side of the Grunge much attention
lately, so it was best that I hang out there for a few hours today.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It just came to me out of the blue, I don’t even know why. Mom
had gone through enough emptiness in her life already, she didn’t need any more. This first thing I did
when I got out of the shower was pick up the phone.
“Mom – hey. How’s my number one lady?”
“I’m up and about. Are you alright Mitchell?”
“I was totally involved in a volunteer project yesterday mom. I’m really sorry.”
“I’ve had plenty of wonderful Mother’s Days over the years. I was just worried about you.”
“No, no…I’m fine. In fact I couldn’t be better. Mom – I love you.”
“Mitchell, I know that. Stop fussing over me. Now go out there and live your life. Love you!”
Was Maggie right? Even when I wasn’t the White Man, I was thinking about him. Was the last
mission a success? What about the next time? What could I be doing in between to make the White
Man a better hero?
I got dressed and reached for my keys. They were gone. I searched the night stand thoroughly,
but they were just not there. Now I tried replaying last night in even more detail. I always lock the front
door, so I must have had them when I got home. I went to the door, but the keys weren’t there. I don’t
remember being that sleepy or tired, so I wouldn’t have just dropped them. Still, there was no sign of
my keys anywhere on the floor.
Oh, wait a minute, the couch. I had watched the evening news for a few minutes before I went
to bed. I pulled up the cushions, but all I found was some loose change and some popcorn kernels. You
know, I did grab the mail on the way in; I always toss the mail on the kitchen table. Maybe, I had the
keys in my hand, opened something up, and then put them on the table. Nope. I did have to go to the
bathroom just before I went to bed; maybe the keys were in there? I made a thorough search of the
area, but they weren’t in there either.
I started challenging some of my assumptions. Did I really remember to lock the front door? If I
hadn’t, I could’ve just walked right in. When would I have used my keys before that? The car. I
propped the front door open (I didn’t want to lock myself out) and went to my beloved vehicle. The
keys weren’t in the ignition; nor were they on the seat or floor. I checked the trunk, even though I know
I didn’t open it last night, but the keys weren’t there. I looked around the car and under the car, but no
keys. I carefully scanned the walk from the driveway to the front door: nope. Nada.
I was really too young for this. I also didn’t want to make the headline news as the youngest
case of Alzheimer’s in the country. Or was it the artifact? Was it somehow causing blind spots in my
memory? Surbedus himself said that he wasn’t sure what it might do next.
I put that out of my mind and went back to the bedroom. Did I actually put the keys in the night
stand drawer? If I hadn’t, I might have put them on the nightstand where they might have fallen off. I
looked around the night stand and even under the bed, but I didn’t find them.
This was nuts. Or maybe I was nuts. Or maybe this was nuts and I was nuts too. I walked out of
the house to the street. I searched the lawn inch by inch till I got to the front door. I searched every
inch of the first floor. I searched every inch of the basement. Several hours later, I sat down on the
couch, wondering if the next call I should make is to Saint Albans. A super hero who couldn’t leave his
house because he lost his keys; wonderful.
At 9 PM, I got a simple, yet mysterious text: check the gutter. I got out the ladder, and
armed with a flashlight, checked it out. Right in the middle, I saw an elegant wooden box. I opened it
up and my keys were lying on blue velvet. Also inside the box was a business card:
Mr. Zentillo had gone out of business three years ago. His garage sat right at the southernmost
edge of the Grunge, where the urban decay gave way to neglected rail yards. I was there a few minutes
early, sitting in my car as the rain spattered my windshield. I felt like I was being watched, which is very
cliché, I know. No, I wasn’t being watched; I was being observed. My actions were being analyzed and
evaluated and unseen plans were evolving because of them.
I only saw a faint outline at first, defying the storm. As it approached, I noticed its gait: steady,
methodical, and confident. I slowly got out of the car. I was in the armor and my strength was
“Mr. Harrison. I’m glad you could make it.” The young man bowed before me. He had three
long white tubes protruding from his bald head. They were connected to a floating metallic sphere the
size of a grapefruit. The surface of the sphere was a deep purple; yellow triangles slowly swept across
the poles of the odd globe.
“Thank you for inviting me.” I was spell bound by his appearance.
“I am Brandt. I wanted to apologize for your keys, but we couldn’t have you in the Grunge
“We? What’s going on here?”
Brandt’s sphere became a bright red. “I am from an ancient order, established long before your
civilization dreamed its first dream. We have our own plans, big and small, for this quadrant of the
“Plans? I see. Let me guess: you’re not at liberty to talk specifics or details.”
“What details I could give you would only lead to more questions. My colleagues and I do the
bidding of the Order of The Porcelain Dragon. Our strategies are long term – as in centuries.”
“Is this the part where I just say ‘Wow’? This is my home. I simply won’t accept some vague
‘we’re on a mission’ baloney.”
“You don’t have a choice.” He bowed before me and took a step back.
Several of his colleagues literally dripped from the shadows. Soon I was surrounded by sword
wielding boys and girls with weird globes floating behind their heads. They calmly closed ranks around
me until they were just a few feet away.
“Back down or beat down – your choice.” I announced.
The first swing actually cut into the armor; I was shocked. Before I knew it, my Salandar 5
training kicked in and I was kicking butt. It wasn’t getting any easier as the battle wore on though; they
got more shots in and they knocked me off my feet more than once. I got up, once again, and gave it
worse than I took it. By this time, the armor was seriously scratched and dented – I just had to get one
of those swords.
Before I could get the upper hand, something grabbed me from behind. I was hanging upside
down, in the grip of a dragon’s tail. A young woman, dressed in black leather, slowly walked toward
me. Her long black hair glinted in the streetlight and her eyes were simply mesmerizing.
“I speak for Hoshi.” She addressed me. “You must stop.”
“I think I’d like to talk to Hoshi directly.” I argued.
I was dropped onto the pavement. Before me, a sinuous, graceful dragon twenty feet in length
growled. The young woman stood at the dragon’s head. A huge metallic sphere slowly rose up
underneath the serpent; it was black with bright red stars.
“You will comply. Hoshi’s plans are beyond your comprehension.” The young woman touched
me on my forehead. The suit powered down and the disc fell onto the pavement. She picked it up and
put it into the palm of my hand.
I woke up on a hospital bed in the middle of an array of cables pulsing with globs of light.
Beyond the strange apparatus, I could see white halls with alternating orange and purple rings set into
the walls. The tunnels spiraled away in every possible direction.
Surbedus leaned over me. “How are you feeling Mitchell?”
“A little groggy and dizzy.”
“You were re-programmed; don’t worry they’re only minor adjustments. Let’s just say that you
won’t be disagreeing with Hoshi from now on.” Surbedus explained apologetically.
“Mitchell, it’s about time you realize your place in the Universe. There are some things that are
more important than your good intentions.” Then he simply walked away.
© 2014 Benjamin F. Kaye
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