Madman Max

Writing Prompt: In a dream, someone tells you that the world is going to end in three weeks. You don’t believe him, so he predicts the news headlines for the next three days. He’s correct.

Maximilian was a madman in a pin-stripe suit. He claimed he could predict the future. He claimed the apocalypse was coming, and that only Jax could help him stop it.

So what did Jax do?

Well, he did what just about any self respecting mortal being would have done. He ignored this otherworldly visitor until ignorance itself was no longer an option.

**

“You must listen to me, my boy.” Maximilian swept across the bedroom ceiling, a pale pink apparition flaunting a bright blue lapel, “The end of times is upon us! Three weeks, that’s all we have. Come now, I need your help.”

“Scratch, can you hear that?” Jax called his fat-sack tabby-cat up onto the bed, running a hand down the feline creature’s back, “No, I didn’t think so. Me neither girl.”

“Boy, please don’t play games with me! Do you not understand how important this is?” Maximilian threw his arms at a precariously placed lamp, but nothing happened. He had no hold on this world. “Were the dreams not enough? Surely I have proven my knowledge, my foresight, have I not?” the spectral figure settled itself on the end of the bed, phasing through Scratch.

Scratch hissed at the figure, pawing at the man’s light, pink aura.

“February eighteenth, headline news was that of a young man who claimed to have found the Lost Library of Alexandria, alas it was proven to be no more than a collection of newspaper clippings, left to the young man in his grandfather’s will. Granted, there were some interesting reads, I am a fan of the sixties myself.” Maximilian swatted at Scratch, trying to clear the cat from his presence.

Scratch arched her back, as if ready to pounce.

“Would you please call off your devil’a hound, dear boy?”

“Scratch, come here girl.” Jax produced a fish biscuit from a packet in the drawer of his bedisde table, then went immediately back to ignoring the dream-gone-wrong that wore a pin stripe suit.

You see, Maximilian had been a figment of Jax’s imagination to begin with, or so he thought. This dapper looking suit, with cane and pencil mustache, had taken to visiting Jax’s dreams almost nightly, and was always warning of impending doom. This in itself was not uncommon, with the advancements in After-Life Technology almost any wandering spirit could take a ride into the unconscious mind of the living. Of course, it was far more common for a dearly departed mother to visit her daughter’s dreams than it was for some old world tobacco tycoon to slither into the mind of a thirty something year old comic book artist.

“February nineteenth, a rather slow news day if you ask me,” Maximilian produced a pipe and started stuffing it with ground tobacco, though only the gods knew where it came from, “for why else would the headline be of a hero dog dragging a small child from a fire… when the hero dog was the one that started the blaze! And not to mention the damn child was a pot plant in disguise.” Maximilian snorted a laugh, lit his pipe, and puffed out a cloud of grey smoke. “Need I go on?”

Jax broke his golden rule here, he replied. “If you must.”

Maximilian looked at Jax from over his pipe, “So you admit it then, you can see me?”

Jax closed his copy of Planet Hulk with a sigh, “Look, Max, I never said I couldn’t see you. It’s your point that I’m not seeing. If, and I do mean if, the world is truly about to end in three weeks time, then why on Earth would the only man… specter… ghoul… whatever the hell you are…”

“I am a dead man who has been projected back into reality because a young boy can’t seem to keep a lid on his dreams.” Maximilian spoke as if the very fact of what he said should have been obvious.

Jax ignored him and carried on. “Why on Earth would the only man who knows the world is coming to an end chose me – me? – to help him?” Jax presented Max with his full attention, no more games. Call a goose a goose and hope it might give you some answers as to how in Gods name it’s managing to speak in the first place.

“To start, might I say I am not the only man who knows the world is headed for disaster. But I am perhaps the only man who knows it’s due in three weeks time.”

Jax sighed again, shaking his head as he let it fall back into his pillow.

“That said, there are, as I understand, at least six others attempting the very same task that I am. None of them men, I should say. One of them happens to be the re-incarnation of Amelia Earhart, bloody fine woman and a devil of a pilot.”

“And the other five?” Jax asked reluctantly from beneath the confines of his pillow.

“Ah, well, there’s a rather precarious looking girl who refuses to take off her mask, a chimpanzee who claims to have written half a dozen of Shakespeare’s works, a somewhat savage grizzly bear, half a sentient ham sandwich, and what I understand to be, as you might say, an Android of some description.”

“So you’re telling me that you, His Lordship Maximilian Baltimore the Third, have teamed up with a sandwich to save the world?”

“Half a sentient ham sandwich.” Maximilian corrected, “But my boy, you misunderstand, there are no teams, this is a solo race. The six I’ve named are my competitors, and you, my dear boy, are my champion.”

Jax groaned, he felt as if every answer given only served to raise more questions, “Tell me then, how exactly is it that the end of a world becomes a race between the undead to save it?”

“The after-life can be a quite dull affair,” Maximilian admitted, “we simply seek to entertain ourselves. And those damned mavericks over at the Post Mortem Co-Operation have done a mighty fine job of connecting our rather drab existence with your own, that is to say with the living. We might help each other, have some fun and save the world. You’ll be hailed a hero of your time, if you succeed.”

“But why me?” for Jax it was like hitting his head against a brick wall, talking with this specter in his room, “I still don’t understand that part. Why me when you could have chosen an Olympian, or a Movie Star, hell even a Police Officer would be of more help than a thirty six year old with an art degree and a cat bordering obese.”

“My boy, that is no way to prepare for acts of heroism. But, if you really must know?” Maximilian watched Jax carefully for a moment. Jax nodded and Maximilian cursed. “Well, we don’t exactly get to chose our champions.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you ever watched the wheel of fortune? Bloody good show at that!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me…”

Swatting at the now softly sleeping ginger tabby cat, Maximilian expelled another cloud of smoke from his pipe, this time wafting it in and over Jax’s face.

Jax threw himself upright, caught in a fit of coughing.

“Come on now, cough it up and pack a bag. We’ve a world to save, and there’s not a chance in all of hell I’m letting that God damn chimpanzee beat me to it.”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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