The Unknown: The Red Line.

Dirk! Is that you?” I admit I was frightened. William had been right: Dirk wasn’t dead! But I had seen him stabbed before my very eyes! I’d slipped in his blood! I watched his coffin go into the ground. I had thrown the first handful of dirt on its glossy black walnut surface. But the voice was unmistakable. “Is that you, Dirk?” I cried again.

“Yes, Scott, it’s me. Do not be afraid.”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I’m not used to talking with the dead.”

“And you won’t have to become used to it. I’m as alive as you are.”

“Well, then I’m not used to talking to people who used to be dead.”

“No problem there, either. I never died.”

“Bullshit! I was there. I saw it. I heard you screaming. I buried you, you son of a bitch.”

“Yes, I know. It was a very nice funeral. Thank you.”

“What the fuck? Are you pulling some Huck Finn prank or what? If you weren’t in that coffin, who was?”

I was getting mad now.

“And just a minute, Dirk, if in fact you are who you say you are, why the white light cover-up? Show me your face, motherfucker. Prove to me there’s a body behind that voice.”

“Scott, please, calm down. I don’t mean to upset you. I’m your friend. Always have been and always will be. I just needed to get away from the madness for awhile before things between you, William, and I got completely ruined. But, O.K., you’re right, the white light is a bit pretentious. Just a minute.”

After a couple of moments the white light gave way to a picture of Dirk in a room I didn’t recognize. He was dressed in a velvet smoking jacket and sitting in the plushest office chair I had ever seen. Behind him was a vast array of computers and monitors and other equipment I couldn’t identify. He looked healthy, rested, almost beatific. He smiled at me. I felt my anger begin to melt a bit. It was good to see him again.

“How’s that? he asked. “Better?”

“Yeah, thanks. Good to see you. Still, if you don’t mind me being skeptical, how do I know it’s really you and not some special effects thing superimposing your image and voice over some actor . . .”

Dirk laughed. “Ah, ye of little faith. You know, that’s what I like about you Scott. You were always the careful one. Well, obviously, I’m in no position to allow you to put your fingers in my wounds, and there aren’t any wounds anyway, so how about this as a test. What if I tell you something only Dirk would know about you? Would that suffice?”

“Well, I guess so.” Though I had no idea what Dirk might know that no one else knew.

“O.K., remember that day, Scott, long before the Unknown ever began, I think, when I came over to your apartment in Clifton and walked through the unlocked door bellowing your name and you emerged from your bedroom obviously a little flustered but I wasn’t sure why until out of that same bedroom walked. . .”

“Yeah, yeah, all right, all right. Hi, Dirk. Good to have you back.”

“Good to be back.”

“But dammit, where the hell have you been. And how do you explain everything I saw, the stabbing, the blood, and the vampire, what about the vampire, and where’s Frank—what the fuck’s going on?



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