(This is an excerpt from my Science Fiction/Comedy novel in progress -- The Adventures of Danger Dave, a story of Galactic Exploration and High Adventure, produced and broadcast by 21st Century Weasel Entertainment.)
By Rick Carlson
In Space, no one can hear you whine.
According to popular myth, the scariest place in the galaxy is Happy Town, on Bambi's Planet, on the InContinent. According to the legend, the planet was discovered a couple of generations back, by a young woman named Bambi, and her boyfriend, Kan (short for Kandon). Bambi's father owned a space ship construction company, and he gave her an interstellar cargo vessel for her 18th birthday (although we all know she really wanted a Forsche Deluxe Speedster - such are the ways of the young). Well, Bambi, always the cheerful "find the silver lining" type, accepted the gift and the accompanying advice, and started her own delivery service, in partnership with her boyfriend. Thus, the Bambi-Kan Interstellar Delivery Service (B-KIDS) was born.
On their first long-distance delivery, they got lost, and Kan refused to stop for directions. After hours of wandering, Bambi dropped the ship out of the wormhole while Kan was in the can, and discovered a beautiful jewel of a planet. Since she was the first to see it, she got to name it. Hence, the name Bambi's Planet. Sweet as she was, Bambi did not have a large imagination when it came to names. Her dogs were named Spot (all three of them), and her one fish was named Bubbles The Fish.
When Kan finally emerged from the bathroom, what seemed like hours later, he was a bit miffed to find out he lost the chance to name the planet, so he did the next best thing - he named the largest continent. Kan's humor was a bit more subtle, and his imagination a bit more … twisted than Bambi's, so he chose the name "InContinent" so that people would ask about the name and learn the story of their mutual discovery of the world.
Thus, the naming ritual started. Bambi would name one thing, then Kan would name another. Back-and-forth they went, until most of the major land masses and landmarks were named, photographed, and logged into the computer for transmission to the proper authorities. And so, we come to Happy Town, a quiet, pleasant spot on the east coast of InContinent, with rolling surf, pink beaches, rugged cliffs, rolling hills, near-distant mountains, and a lake, all named by the curious couple.
Bunny Lake was obviously named by Bambi, not because she liked bunnies, but because the lake was formed in the shape of a well-known bunny icon used by a certain men's artistic periodical. The widening of two rivers that fed into the lake formed the two ears, one bent. An island formed the "eye" of the bunny profile.
Not long after their discovery, Happy Town became a popular vacation spot, with ocean cruises, amusement parks, and casinos, with one particularly amusing curiosity. Bambi had heard the term "money laundering" while the original casinos were under construction, and she thought it was a fabulous idea.
"People should be able to turn in their old, dirty, torn money and get fresh, clean, new money. Everything should sparkle!"
And so it did.
To this day, you can still find the "Money Laundry" shop along Main Street.
Back to our story…the Scariest Place In The Galaxy. Well, as anyone over the age of 5 knows, the Galactic Mafia owns or controls nearly all of the casinos in the galaxy, including most of Happy Town. People have been known to disappear in Happy Town, leaving behind nicely engraved cards from Galactic Greetings with messages to friends and family that they "have found a better life" and will not be returning, although much more poetically than I can relate here.
Well, time passes, as it is wont to do, and with every passing planetary rotation period, more people visit Happy Town and don't want to leave. In fact, the suburban sprawl outside Happy Town, and further along the coast and inland towards the mountains, consists mostly of retirees who want a nice, clean, cheap place to rest. And, as retirees are wont to do, many of them die peacefully in their sleep, and the homes are sold to new families.
The spirits of the dearly departed don't seem to be in such a hurry to depart, but they are pleasant enough to share the space in peace and harmony. The unfortunate casino "suicides" (the ones who throw themselves violently onto peace-loving bullets minding their own business on the tables - you know the type), well their spirits are a bit less calm. They roam the casinos and the streets night and day, trying to win back all that they have lost, or seek revenge on their enemies.
Also, many singers, dancers, magicians, and other performers choose to retire to Happy Town, and so do their fans…dead or alive. The upshot of all of this is that Happy Town has become a Ghost Mecca. Middle-income parents who could never afford the trip, who suddenly find themselves victims of accidents or old age, decide to put a hold on the "lighted tunnel" for a time, and spend some well-earned R and R strolling along the beach, hiking the mountains, or simply lounging in the restaurants, watching the "not-yet-departed" go on about their lives.
Professional ghost hunters have measured the ectoplasmic density of Happy Town to be the highest recorded anywhere in the known galaxy, topping the scales at a whopping 324.7 ghosts per square meter in Spook Central. Once started, the cycle feeds on itself. More people now come here to see a ghost, talk with missed loved ones, or go to the haunted houses to get the hell scared out of them. Halloween is year-round here. There is something for everyone.
Well, folks, this concludes the presentation. The shuttle will be docking in just a few moments. Please have your tickets and identification handy, so we can clear customs quickly and get you started on your vacation. If you wish to rest first, the elevators are to your right, just past the customs gate. If you want to start gambling immediately, hotel porters are on hand to transport your luggage directly to your room, courtesy of the casino.
Welcome to Happy Town, and have fun!
[END WELCOME VIDEO]
As the shuttle docks, the crew unfasten their safety harnesses and collect their underseat baggage. Once through the hatchway, they are greeted by two very burly "gentlemen" smiling the smiles of two cats waiting for the single mouse to come out of the hole in the wall.
"Captain Doright, and crew, I presume?" Asks one of the men, in a tone of voice that turns the question into a statement that would not be questioned…or else. "Right this way, please."
Behind them stood a young man in his early 20's, wearing a porter's uniform with logo "GM" embroidered in gold on the lapel.
"Hi! My name's Jimmy O'Hare, but my friends call me 'Miss Bunny.' Please allow me the honor of escorting you and your luggage to your rooms. Mister Xambini has personally chosen the best suites in the hotel for your stay. I will be at your service 26 hours a day for the next two days to provide you with anything you require or desire. I'm a big fan of your work…all of you," he added with a sly smile in Dan's direction, followed by a wink at Maria or Gus, or both.
"Walk this way, please," he continued, and did the Hunchback Shuffle. Naturally, Dave and Dan followed suit, to the delight of Jimmy and the groaning of Maria. The guards showed no reaction at all, as if this happened every day.
"So, Jimmy," asked Dave, after they and their luggage were loaded on the levitating shuttle cart, "how long have you worked here?"
"All my life," replied Jimmy. "I was born here. My mom used to work at the Library of Libra before changing her name to Xaviera and moving here to seek fame and fortune. "
"What was her given name, Marion?"
"Yes, how did you know?" asked Jimmy, with a smile that made you wonder if he was telling the truth, or simply entertaining the guests.
That's the way he was. Growing up in this environment had made him a natural born actor, literally. Entertainment was not only his job, but also his purpose in life, or one of them. He was very good at reading people and becoming what he suspected they would like him to be. He was also a bit of a philosopher, in his own way. Living in a hotel owned and operated by Xiggy Xambini meant a certain lifestyle, with a particular Code of Conduct, learned from the mistakes of others and a strong sense of self-preservation.
The line between common sense and paranoia was a fine one, and Jimmy walked it like the finest high-wire acrobat in the quadrant. Jimmy's Rules were simple:
(to be continued soon…)
Copyright © 2001, Carl Erick ("Rick") Carlson. All rights reserved.