My friend had a jaunty walk as he came into the living room. His face bore the expression of a child, fresh back to school from winter break and hardly being able to contain himself from spilling the beans about all the things he had gotten from old St. Nick the past year.
“What’s up,” I asked.
Trying to contain his excitement and talk through a smile at the same time was only contorting his face into a manic nightmare for a moment. He composed himself and said, “Last month I finally saved enough money. I got it!”
He was speaking from a place of pride now rather than one of childlike joy. “You mean— you got it? The thing you’ve been waiting for in the mail is–is it,” I asked.
“Yupp,” he said with a grin. “It’s in the back yard.”
As we walked outside, I had a familiar sense of childlike angst starting to well inside me. He had wanted something like this for a very long time, hell, probably since he could crawl.
After a brief tug on a silk sheet, what my friend had saved for was pulsing a brilliant orange in the afternoon sun. Alternating neon green and red tubes wound tightly against the sides of it, dipping in and jutting back out. There was a hulking mount it sat atop of. A kid without their contacts in would have mistaken it for a heavy gun from a video game, and any kid with good eyes would have been much more awed by the clearer sight of it.
“The Venerable Death Ray,” I whispered.
“Isn’t she a beauty,” he asked.
“It’s amazing man. But I have to ask, how much did you pay for this?”
“Who cares,” he said. “This thing will pay for itself once we take over the world.”
After a few weeks, we were still indecisive about how we were actually going to take over the world. It seemed like every scenario we went over in our heads ended up leading to chaos. We just weren’t the kind of guys to cause chaos, not willingly anyways.
“I honestly thought this would be a fool-proof plan,” he said.
We were both sitting in his grandfather’s study, each in a chair opposite side from the other while the death ray sat silently, gleaming as if asking when we were going to use it.
“Wait,” I said. “You only really wanted fame and fortune from this thing, right?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Why?”
“I have an idea,” I mused.
Two weeks later, a man rang the doorbell. He had a cane bearing a skull that his palm was resting upon, fingers curling over the its face like long arachnid legs. His mustache was curled neatly. Removing his black top hat lined with crush purple velvet, matching his cape, a bald spot was offset by his matted jet black hair. He had a crooked nose, Chiclet teeth, and a monocle; he slipped inside.
“Evening,” he said.
‘If he had sounded any more like a snake he would have slithered in.’ I thought.
“Are you sure this is a good idea,” my friend asked. “This guy’s suspicious, but I don’t know if it’ll work.”
“It’ll work,” I said in a hushed tone.
We made our way up to the attic, and, just like a duet of car salesmen, we began trying to sell this man the death ray.
“The Venerable model is the best on the market. Comes with all the bells and whistles, and at half the cost of our competitor’s, this bad boy can strike fear into the heart of the sun for a bargain,” I said, sounding painfully like the spokesman of a late night shopping network.
“I see. I’ll take it,” he said eerily, grabbing at the ray’s grip and pointing it at us. The machine whirred and hummed, powering on like a Tesla reactor until . . .
The crooked man was shot back against the wall, faceplanting on the floor. He stayed there, twitching and moaning with pain.
After about six months, my friend and I were able to break even on the death ray by collecting money off the bounties of bad guys we’d captured with this little trick.
“I can’t believe that plan worked. Short a few components here, some rewiring there, and zap!” he said twitching.
“We turned a two million dollar death ray into a peacekeeper.we’re in the black now, too, from all those bounties,” he said, toasting a glass of soda.
‘Taking out the bad guys and getting paid to sit in the shade. Seems like a good life,” I said, toasting back.