A low moon sat fat over an endless pale horizon. At the edge of its glow, stars twinkled over long grass undulating like a living thing. Unmarked roads cut through, shining in the moonlight. This was noplace, just a junction.
Hands in pockets, a man in boots stood with his back to one of the roads, looking at the array of ways. A raccoon snuffled along the shallow ditch. They made eye contact briefly, each sniffing the air, before the raccoon trundled off. The man sighed. No cars for hours. Not even before sunset.
Nondescript duffel over his shoulder, the man braved the intersection, swiveling slowly to eye each direction. And then lost track of where he’d come from and where he should go. Horizon so deep it was like another planet, like being at sea. Navigation by stars. He looked up. Moon over his shoulder. Big dipper pointing at the north star. Southern cross shining over another world somewhere below the horizon.
Try this way. A whisper.
What? What the hell…?
Too much time on his own. Tramp talking sickness. All in the head.
No no, the whisper chuckled. Right here.
The man turned surveying the horizon.
In the grass? he asked.
A man in a suit stood before him, one hand adjusting a pair of thick glasses and the other holding a wide leather briefcase.
A typewriter, the suit nodded. But not just any typewriter.
No. This is Rosetta. And it’s yours.
Mine, the traveler said warily.
Try before you buy, the suit offered.
The keys flowed like jazz, the receiver rang true, the crank of the return marched across pages of time and pictures of space and moments of communication. Each crisp letter barked sharply, machinegun bullet holes in the blank page, mowing swaths through emptiness. Rhythm so loose even lightning-quick Hermes had to whistle in awe.
Like a pianist, the traveler’s shoulders danced with the music. With a flourish he flung a typed notecard at the man whose jaw-slack description was captured in print in 3×5 dimensions, a sideways 8 of prose. Out of the clack-clack-clack on his next page, a solid red laughing buddha figurine formed, chipped from stories of travels, and hopped off the paper onto the ribbon cover. He stared laughing baldly at the writer, who couldn’t help but laugh back at the absurdity of it all.
Hey, the suit said. Hey don’t forget, this model ain’t free.
How much, asked the writer, not bothering to look up. His fingers danced complicated arpeggios up and down the scale, and the suit raised a hand smiling.
Stop, he said. Please stop. You’re affecting me.
The writer shrugged. I’m observing you, he said. That means I’m writing you. You’re a character to me. We can’t help but affect each other.
But you still owe, the suit said.
The suit considered. How much you got?
Not much… Bag of ganja. Couple dollars. Deep sensitive eyes. My eternal soul I guess.
The suit grinned. He said, I’ll take it.
The writer said, Take what?
The latter, the suit said cutely.
My soul? The writer’s look was skeptical. Okay it’s yours.
The two men shook hands firmly. The writer briefly grimaced at the iciness of the suit’s hand but smiled. The suit disappeared.
Eternal soul, the writer said, looking at the typewriter. Doesn’t that fool know this thing is a loophole portal to immortality?