My Meeting With

Part Two
By Stik Mann

Read Part One

98.6

In addition to the stress I had put on myself by saying that I was going to publish this mag monthly (when, for the sake of my sanity, I should have made it a semi-monthly or even quarterly), I came down with a very, very bad case of the flu. (See column "Fresh Bread")

I can remember the exact moment when the virus kicked in. I was sitting in front of my computer, working on this issue, when I stopped what I was doing, straightened up, looked around me and said, "Hey, something just happened." I had no idea what happened, just that something did. There were no physical sensations that caused me to realize this; it was a phenomenon that occured entirely in my mind.

Then, within a few hours, I was transformed from a relatively normal, moderately healthy human being into a sniffling, coughing, aching, wheezing, head-throbbing, pathetic little puddle of person-goo.

"Whoa," I said. "I just now got sick."

Just then, a gunshot rang out, signifying that I received e-mail.

99.4

I've joked before that I would check my e-mail even on my deathbed. Of course, I didn't feel "final call" kinda bad, but even still, it was a struggle to lean forward, manipulate the mouse, and concentrate on opening the message.

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** This is a warning only **
** No action is required by you **
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Re: Message to staceyc@spokesman.com

Your message (The OTHER Spokane Newsletter #2) has not been delivered after 36 hours. Attempts to
deliver your message will continue for a further 84 hours. If it has still not been delivered, it will be returned to you.

Oh, well, no big deal. It'll go through, Stacyc will get the newsletter, take the link to the magazine, and quickly write back, saying that on second thought he likes my original proposal and we should start working on our goal by sending reporters out to bake cakes in the image of dead philosophers and...

100.8

Someone knocked at the door and I struggled to investigate. It was my friend, Carrie. She looked at me and her smile quickly faded. "You look like shit," she said. She felt my forehead. "And you have a bit of a fever." She led me to the couch, covered me with a blanket, and set a large glass of grape juice next to me.

"You want to get better?" she asked.

"Uh huh."

"Don't move until tomorrow."

"'Kay."

"Promise?"

"Uh huh."

She left, and slammed the door loudly, as you have to do to get it to stay closed. Then, to my surprise, she slammed it again, and again, and again and again and again. "Hey," I said, and sat up, then realized that it was not the door slamming but the sound of digital gunfire - Bam! Bam! B-Bam! Bam! Bam! B-Bam! Bam!

I opened the inbox and found 14 more "Nondeliver" messages. I opened a few. They were identical to the staceyc message, but the addresses it did not deliver to were from journalists from The Spokesman-Review, whose addresses I found in the paper and put on my newsletter mail list.

This is very odd, I thought. Why didn't the staceyc message come with the others? It was as if...

Bam!

101.5

Another clue. I reloaded the inbox. Another identical message. I opened it.

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** This is a warning only **
** No action is required by you **
***************************************

Re: Message to kostad@brownraysman.com

Your message (The OTHER Spokane Newsletter #2) has not been delivered after 36 hours. Attempts to
deliver your message will continue for a further 84 hours. If it has still not been delivered, it will be returned to you.

I open my mailing list to see if I had any notes on the address kostad@brownraysman.com. There were no notes because there was no kostad on my mailing list. Nor was there any address from brownraysman.com. I directed my browser to www.brownraysman.com. It took forever to load, but when it finally did, I stared at my computer screen in confused awe.

It is the official site of the lawfirm Brown, Raysman, Millstein, Felder, & Steiner, from New York City, a firm specializing in INTERNET LAW!

101.9

Just then, what I can only describe as a wave of lava-like heat and oppressiveness flowed over me, leaving only my flaming head poked above the hellish mire. I stumbled into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. When I looked up into the mirror I saw some horrible creature, its face all red and swollen and pulsating like a heartbeat.

"What's going on?" I said.

"Not to worry," said the creature. "You have the flu. A bit of a fever. It'll pass."

"No," I said. "About the e-mail."

"Oh, that," said the creature. "Well, think about it. You receive a single notice saying your message from Stacey couldn't be delivered. An hour later you simultaneously receive identical notices saying the same thing about every other address from The Spokesman-Review. A few minutes after that, you receive another single notice concerning an address -- that is not even on your mailing list -- of a hot shot lawyer from a big time law firm in New York City. My friend, someone is trying to scare you."

"Scare me?" I said. "But that's just nutty."

"Dude, you're the one talkin' to a mirror."

102.2

I stumble back to the couch. The creature is rattling on about how I should storm into Stacey's office and demand that he ceases this unconscionable electronic harassment. I chose instead to call my friend, Arp Xigar, someone who I would feel comfortable telling the whole story to -- flu, flaming head, mirror-creature, and all. Arp listened courteously to my tale.

"Stik," said Arp. "My advice: don't listen to the mirror-creature, even though he does make a good point. Worry about that later. Choke down a mug of cough syrup. Put a cold rag over your face. Keep any movement or brain function to a minimum."

I followed Arp's advice, except for the part about not listening to the mirror-creature. The creature had stopped talking and instead was singing a baudy drinking song:

Oh! The pioneers had hairy ears
They peed through leather britches
They wiped their ass with broken glass
Them hardy son's-a-bitches

102.8

Briefly, I experienced comfort, as I placed the cool rag over my face. But it didn't last. My flaming skin quickly dried the rag and set it aflame, sending its ashes up into the general convection set in motion from my flaming being.

I sat up and the flesh of my face slid off and plopped to the floor in a sizzling blob.

"Of course," I said. "I am the Mirror-Creature."

I cracked open a fresh e-mail and fired off a letter to Doug Clark, expaining everything, except for the part about being transformed into the glissening, red-skined, demented Mirror-Creature. Clark, after all, being the unoffical, gut-level historian of Spokane, should know about something of such magnitude.

I also sent a copy to Bill Morlin. After I sent it, though, I realized that Morlin -- the closest Spokane's seen of a Jack Anderson figure -- no doubt already knows all about it, and probably could provide me with leads to future stories about Cowles' secret intelligence agency, the interrogation center, etc.

Having revealed my knowledge of the covert, techno-Illuminati-like evil organization headed up by none other than Mr. C himself, I felt comfortable in concentrating on the task of feeling miserable. I crawled to the floor and stared into the forest of lint and pens and pennies beneath my couch.

103.1

I crawled through the sands on the carpeted floor of my desert apartment yearning for the oasis somewhere in the distant bathroom as the sun and death rays from the orbiting Cowles Publishing Co. satellite burned off my remaining flesh as I reached the tub and collapsed and the parched bone of my forearm hit the cold water faucet and set in motion a cool, healing rain.

98.5

I woke, wet, and shivering violently. I crawled out of the tub and managed to stand. I looked in the mirror. It was me, sporting a two-day beard, and two tiny slits where my eyes used to be. I reflected on the past hours or days or however long it was, trying to piece together what was real and what was delusional. I concluded that it was all a horrible, feverish dream. I dragged myself back to the couch, wrapped a blanket around me, and checked my e-mail. I had two messages: one was from Arp Xigar, and the other from Bill Morlin.

98.6

Bill Morlin politely informed me that he "sincerely doubt(ed)" that anyone from The Spokesman-Review could be responsible for such a thing, and that it probably had something to do with some trouble they were having with the server.

Arp's message said, "Feeling better, MirrorBoy?" and was followed with the word "HA" printed seven or eight hundred times.

In spite of Arp's heckling, and even in light of Morlin's rational assurances, something still smelled fishy. I resolved that I would investigate further.

Next month: Further investigation.