I followed the directions as exactly as I could. My poor little scooter barely made it across the battlefield. I just let it fall over when I arrived, not even bothering to use the kickstand, because soon I might have a fabulous new car, or more. I approached Leon's House of Gifts. A hooded camera mounted on a sinuous flexible tube emerged from the alfalfa, gazing ominously at me. I showed it the barcode They had tattooed on my palm. It nodded, and the door opened.

The place looked empty despite the numerous empty cardboard boxes cluttering the floor. I approached the register, trembling. Leon smiled. I handed him the check, staring at the credit card reader to avoid having to look into his eyes. Was that blood? No, it's gone. Leon asked me if I was sure I wanted this, told me that it was a pretty drastic decision and that he gave out no refunds. Then he giggled disturbingly.

I told him to cash the reality check. I was going, and there were no two ways about it.

When I emerged, my scooter was still there, the battlefield was still there, but when I turned around Leon's place was gone. I heard laughter in the distance. I righted my scooter and examined it. Superficially, it looked pretty much the same, but I had been maintaining that thing for years, and I recognized some parts that hadn't been there before. And the tank was full. I felt cheated about the scooter, but on the whole, things were looking up. I headed towards the laughter I had heard.