The car came screeching into Manuel’s garage pockmarked with bullet holes and leaking fluid.

“Hey!” he cried. “Hey, you can’t drive in here like that! I’m not that kind of mechanic!”

The driver’s side door flew open to reveal a woman cradling a man’s head on her lap. He had clearly been shot several times and was not breathing.

“H-holy shit!” Manual gasped.

“You’ve got to help us…please…” the woman wheezed.

“I’ll…I’ll call 911,” Manuel said, fumbling for his cell.

“No time, no time!” the woman said. “I need you to do it yourself. Fix him yourself.”

“What? I don’t know any first aid…I don’t even know CPR!”

The woman grasped at her companion’s chest…and opened it, revealing a whirring array of planetary gears and pistons not unlike a sophisticated Northstar V8. “Fix him…please…”

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Not even the peyadh spirits themselves could say for sure from whence they came, in the very rare instances that they deigned to communicate with the “slow folk,” who they considered inestimable bores. This mystery didn’t much perplex the peyadh, for they lived very much in the moment and were concerned primarily with entertaining themselves. An eternity of near incorporeality and nigh invisibility to the slow folk made entertainment a must for these restless beings, usually in the form of impish pranks.

One peyadh, who would have called itself a him and called himself Squout if pressed, enjoyed tweaking the patrons of a Great Plains Greyhound bus station. When Squout had first arrived in the area in the 1920’s, he had tweaked the buses’ engines so they failed in interesting and unpredictable ways–the highlight of which had been a Tulsa-bound International Harvester bus whose engine had simply dropped out a hundred miles into its trip.

Squout had eventually come to sympathize with the mechanics who were forced to remedy his tinkering, especially once they, being a superstitious lot, began leaving him small gifts, and turned his mischief on passengers. Swapping luggage tags on similar suitcases was a favorite, as was swapping suitcase contents between cases and between buses. The mill worker, headed to Topeka, was as confused at finding a set of garters in his suitcase as one Miss Anders, bound for the shady side of St. Louis, was when discovering Oshkosh overalls among her unmentionables.

The line to the Bureau didn’t seem to be moving anywhere in a hurry; Adam tried to strike up a conversation with the man in front of him in line, a thirtysomething dressed in bright yellow coveralls and goggles. “What are you in for?”

“The name’s Sol Nechny,” the man said. “I’m a solar mechanic.”

Adam nodded, pretending to be fascinated. “I see! What’s a solar mechanic do?”

“We keep the sun in good order and running,” Nechny sighed. “I’d think that would be obvious from the adjective ‘solar’ and the noun ‘mechanic,’ but I know the state of grammar instruction in schools these days.”

That made Adam feel a little defensive. “Last I heard, the sun was part of the natural world and didn’t need mechanics.”

“Oh yes, I certainly must have things all wrong,” Nechny barked with exaggerated politeness. “After all, I only work in the bloody sun; surely someone such as yourself who’s never been knows more about it than I!”

“It’s a big ball of nuclear fusion, not some kind of steam engine!” Adam cried. He was pretty sure he’d heard that in some long-ago science class.

“Nuclear fusion? Are we going to talk about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny while we’re discussing old wives’ tales and myths? Do you honestly think an explosion of that size would just stay nicely put and provide free energy out of the goodness of its heart?” Nechny cried.

Adam bristled. “It’s not like I just made that up, you know! I heard it from a science teacher!”

“Nonsense cooked up by people with nothing better to do; not that we’ve any intention of enlightening them, of course,” scoffed Nechny. “Next you’ll be lecturing me about how the center of the earth is full of molten rock!”