Chapter 18: Ghost, Ghost, Gander

  1. Chapter 17: MEMOREX
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 19: Screaming Dreams of wReam
The next thing the Ultimate Man knew, he was lying on a couch. To be certain, it was a nice couch, but it was by no means the perfect couch that had been the object of his search for so long. Paragon pushed himself up on one arm and looked around the comfortable office.

“Ah, you’re awake at last,” an unfamiliar voice said.

Paragon turned to see an older man in a black suit sitting behind a large wooden desk, peering at him over horn-rimmed glasses. “Who are you?” the Ultimate Man demanded. “Where am I? How did I get here? What happened to my Ultimate Marble? Do you think Agent Mulder is really dead? Will Lois tell Clark yes or no? And is there any mango juice?”

The old man gestured to a small glass on his desk. “We anticipated your need when you awakened.”

Paragon took the glass and eagerly raised it to his lips, then paused as a suspicious thought crossed his mind. “It is mango juice, right? Not grapefruit?”

The old man nodded. “That’s correct.” As Paragon drank, he continued speaking. “And, to answer your questions, I am Thanatos, division head over superhuman souls in the Grim Reaper Corps. This is my office. You are dead. Your marble has apparently achieved sentience. Agent Mulder is not dead. Lois will turn Clark down, but later change her mind. Any other questions?”

Somewhere in the midst of Thanatos’ words, Paragon had choked on his mango juice. “Ridiculing remora!” he exclaimed, wiping the juice off his face with a napkin. “Dead?”

Thanatos nodded again. “We’re working on getting you a time-share condo in the Third Heaven as your eternal reward.”

“Sweltering swamprats! I can’t be dead!”

Thanatos sighed. “You superheroes, all alike. You all think you’re invulnerable.”

“But I am invulnerable!”

“That’s what they all say. Either that or But I’ve got a healing factor! I do so detest whiners.”

“Listen, there must be some way I can get out of this. I mean, trembling tarantulas—”

“All right, all right,” Thanatos sighed. “As I was saying before you interrupted me, you are dead. However, it is customary to give superheroes a second chance at life, ever since Cheatem, Lye, and Swindell won that lawsuit on behalf of Superman.” He glanced down at his pocketwatch, then pressed a button on his speakerphone. “Lucy, hold my calls for a while. I’ll be in conference with Mr. Derringer.” He turned back to Paragon.

“All right, then, according to the rules, we have to have some sort of contest which is equally fair to both of us. Is chess all right with you?”

“I’m afraid I never learned to play. Such are the sacrifices one must make when one is the scourge of evil, for there is little time for personal recreation.” He paused in thought. “How about one-on-one Australian rules football?”

“I’m afraid not. Do you play craps?”

“What, dice with Death for my soul? I’m not that stupid. How about curling?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with that, too.” Thanatos paused, then snapped his fingers. “Wait, I know. Are you familiar with Trivia Challenge?”

“I’ve heard of it,” Paragon replied.

“Here’s what I propose, then. We’ll alternate asking questions of each other. The first one to miss a question loses if the other gets his next question right. If I win, you go on to your eternal reward.”

Paragon nodded. “And if I win, I return to life.”

“Agreed, then.” Thanatos pulled a box of game cards out of a drawer in his desk, then selected a card. “Let us begin, then.” He read the card. “What sports broadcaster graduated Phi Beta Kappa from law school?”

Paragon snorted. “Everyone knows that. Howard Cosell.” Thanatos confirmed his answer with a nod, and it was the Ultimate Man’s turn to ask. “What’s the claim to fame of Abraham Zapruder?”

“He filmed John F. Kennedy’s death,” Thanatos said with a smile. “Next question: What does a harness racing driver sit in?”

“Easy, again. A sulky.” Paragon drew a card. “What does a resurrectionist steal?”

“Bodies from graves. Dead bodies.”

Paragon looked at him suspiciously. “Are you sure you’re not cheating?”

Thanatos drew himself up officiously. “Death cheats no man; it is men who cheat death.” He shrugged. “Besides, I could ask you the same thing. I mean, a sulky?!?

“Well, my secret identity is as a sports reporter…” Paragon said almost apologetically. Thanatos drew the next card and read it.

“What is a turkey in bowling?”

“Whistling weasels! I… think it’s… three consecutive strikes?”

Thanatos cursed under his breath and placed the card with the other two as a relieved Paragon drew the next question. “Who was the pilot in the first fatal plane crash?”

“There have been so many over the years,” Thanatos said, stalling for time. “It’s really hard to remember them all…”

“Come on, either you know it or you don’t.”

“I believe it was… Wilbur Wright?”

“Ha!” Paragon shouted. “It was Orville Wright!”

Thanatos sighed. “That’s Wright… er, right. I never could keep those two straight. Them and their crazy flying machines…” He made a dismissive gesture with his hand, then reached for another card. “All right then, Mr. Derringer, if you get this one right, you win.” He drew in a breath, then read off the question. “What sport features kabooms and swivel hip seat drops?”

Paragon had to think for a second, but then the answer came to him. He smiled widely. “Trampolining.”

Thanatos sank back into his chair in defeat. “That’s correct.” A wan smile made his way to his lips. “Congratulations, you’ve won.”

“And now I return to life, as we agreed?”

“As we agreed.” He sighed. “The paperwork on this is going to be a mess, though. But first, let’s get you back to the mortal realm.

“You’re not bitter at losing?”

That odd smile was on the Grim Reaper division head’s lips again. “Oh, no. We’ll meet again, and then you’ll be dead for good. There’s no third chance, you know. And, besides that, I don’t envy you your future. Make no mistake, Paragon; hard times are upon you. A fate worse than death awaits you soon, for you are to be written by… wReam!” Thanatos waved his hand, and Paragon began to fade.

The Ultimate Man’s eyes widened in horror as the room vanished around him. “Nooooo!!!” But it was too late.

Far too late.

Thanatos turned back to his desk and pressed his speakerphone again. “All right, Lucy. Get me the Derringer file, please. And, while you’re at it, what appointments do I have this afternoon?”

“Well, there’s Mr. Richards of the Fantastic Somethingortheother,” a female voice said over the speaker. “He’s been quite insistent that you meet with him for his ‘second chance’.”

“Ah, yes. It always seems like we’re having to reschedule. Anything else?”

“Two others. You remember Mr. Krakatoa?”

“The Living Mutant Island? Yes, he was one of the first to get out of death on a technicality; what is he doing these days?”

“Well, he had moved to the Caspian Sea and set up shop there. Retired from the supervillain circuit, y’know? Seems like he came down with a bad case of Carpathian Tunnel Syndrome, though, so… well, that was it for him. You’re scheduled to meet with him at 2:30.”

“All right. And the other?”

“There’s some talking goose out here from the Funny Animal Universe. He says he’s got to meet with you..”

“Very good. We’ll take Mr. Richards, Mr. Krakatoa, then the goose.”

“Ghost, ghost, gander?”

“That’s right.” And with that, Thanatos returned to his paperwork.

To Be Continued!

Next issue: Can Paragon avoid his dark future? Is there a way for him to avoid being written by wReam? Oh, yeah, what about that stuff about the world being taken over and all that from last issue, too? The answers to all these questions and more skillfully avoided in an issue we just had to call

Screaming Dreams of wReam (or, I Have No Nose, And I Must Sneeze!)

End Notes

The perfect couch first debuted in Continuity Champ And The Drizzt’s Defenders #13, and will also be mentioned in passing in issue #21 of that title. It can be found on IRC’s #comics.

Thanatos and the Grim Reaper Corps appeared first in CC&DDs #5.

Paragon’s problems with grapefruit juice chronicled earlier in the series, and then subsequently retconned away. Gone, but not forgotten…

wReam, Evil and Entropy Incarnate, (c) 1995 Microsoft.

  1. Chapter 17: MEMOREX
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 19: Screaming Dreams of wReam