Because why be productive when I can be more productive? Totally unedited. I’m not particularly happy with the way it ended but, that’s something that I’ll refine when I add it to the anthology of flash fiction to be released probably later this year, or early next.
Anyway, I hope y’all like it for what it is. I have been experimenting with multi-party conversations in the novel and here I took a different approach where it is not so much a conversation as a narration with commentary from the audience. This story could be rewritten in first-person with no audience and talk more about his past. But I decided to go this route to see how it flowed. There is a potential serialization of this character as a graphic novel’s anti-hero. This exercise was both productive and not. Regardless, enjoy! As always, LIKE and COMMENT! Tell me what you think!
“Well, that’s a neat little pendant,” the young blonde sitting next to me point out to her boyfriend.
“Yeah, that’s really cool. Hey man, what is that?”
The two of them stared me down, intensely curious, as the bartender delivered my drink. I swigged the scotch and pondered his question. What is it? Good question. You’d think the charm around your neck would be easy to explain. But really, it’s not.
“Hey buddy… you there?” the man tapped my shoulder, shocking me back into the world.
“Yeah… sorry, what?”
“The dude around your neck. Where’d ya get that?”
“From a hermetic shaman in the Republic of the Congo.”
The girl’s eyes twinkled as she gasped excitedly. The man chuckled and shook his head. She obviously believed the tale; he didn’t. Either way, their attention had fixated on me now. I continued without pause.
“I worked a job I can’t discuss for an organization I can’t name.”
“Totally believable,” the man said, his strong jaw emphasized by his taught smile.
I paid him no mind, “I got separated from my team when an armed convoy drove through the jungle. They would have shot us on sight. My training is in stealth. I learned to never give up ground, so I hid. The rest of my team were some mercs, they ran off the path.”
“No way… where did you mean the shaman?”
“Oh come on, Libby. Are you really buying this guy’s bullshit?”
“Where’s your sense of wonder, Tom?”
“Well for me,” I interjected, “It wasn’t so much wonder as wander. By the time the convoy passed, my team disappeared and the jungle looked suddenly more intimidating.”
“Dude, get to the voodoo so I can stop listening to this,” Tom demanded.
“Well, after a few days living on insects and plant juices, I took up shelter in a cave.”
“The Great Cave of Mystic Lies?”
I started to get frustrated, “What’s your problem, man?”
“Your story, dude. It’s obviously total crap.”
“Thomas!” the girl smacked him in the chest. He held his tongue and gave her the look of a man who knew he was whipped. “Sorry,” she smiled, “please, keep going.”
“The cave had a resident crocodile, if you can believe that.”
“Thomas!” “I pulled out my knife and got ready to fight it. But, in that darkness, I didn’t even know what I would be engaging yet. Without warning, the entire cave flashed an effervescent shade of white. I caught a brief glimpse of the croc as it fled. The way it hissed… Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t have to fight it.”
“Crocodile in a cave? Man, I heard about that on TV. Those guys live in Madagascar!”
I shot up onto my feet, making the man jump back in his chair. Satisfaction oozed across my face and I crouched down low, like I was stealthing my way around, creeping through a cave network, generally enhancing the story with a visual.”
“The mystic walked right past me as though I didn’t exist. He lit the cave without a torch as if he were himself a source of radiant light. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was. I kept my distance and skulked behind him. Where the corridor opened up into a full-sized chamber, he stopped and turned to me. He said ‘no need fear. Beast of spirit gives you spirit of beast.’”
“What? What on Earth does that mean?” the girl, Libby, questioned, clutching my arms with dire urgency.
“I asked him the same thing. He led me into the chamber which had been lined with full skeletons of various animals, most notably the crocodiles. On the far wall, a series of carved deities like this one hung on nails embedded in the stone. ‘Take one,’ he told me. My fingers ran across the braided tobacco chains holding the pendants. I asked why. He merely smiled. I took this one. He called it a fertility god.”
“Gross,” Tom commented.
“Yeah, TMI there…” Libby agreed.
“Well, there’s more to it than that. This isn’t the God of Sperm. Fertility is about soil, growth… prosperity. This little guy is supposed to bring me a fruitful life, if you believe in superstitious nonsense.”
“Oh, so there is some symbolism to it… it’s not just…”
“We are just a couple of dumb Americans huh… should’ve known that a whole continent didn’t run on dick envy.”
“Uh…” I didn’t really know what to say.
“Can I see it?” Libby reached for the pendant and my hand slammed hers onto the table.
“Ouch! Fuck! Hey, let go of me!”
I tried, but I couldn’t.
“Hey, man. What the fuck are you doing? Let her go!”
My hand eventually relaxed and I released her as soon as I was able.
“Don’t fucking touch her again you piece of shit! Let’s go, Libby.” He wrapped his arm around her and pushed her towards the exit. “You can pay for our drinks, ass hat.”
I nodded. Just as they reached the doorway, Libby turned around. “Wait.” She stormed back into the bar and slapped me right across the face. “Why would you do that to me? That hurt a lot and it was totally not necessary. You could have just told me no!”
“You don’t… you don’t understand. I can’t… take it off.”
Tom had come marching up behind her. He grabbed her wrist and tried to pull her away from me. The righteous anger in her eyes… this was a woman who may never have been hit before. She’d probably never deserved it.
“Hey,” Tom pleaded, “let it go, babe. He’s probably just drunk.”
“What do you mean?” She asked me, totally ignorant of her boyfriend.
“It’s cursed… it gives me the spirit of the beast and I can’t remove it from my neck.”
“Oh, come on,” Tom laughed. He reached for the pendant and I pulled his arm down, leading his head to the floor.
“I can’t. Don’t try.”
As soon as physically possible, I released him, helped him up and apologized. But the man would have none of that. He took a swing at me. I ducked and retreated, hands up to convey peace. Tom walked towards me but didn’t touch me this time. He stared at the pendant, walked around me, then stopped. Our eyes locked. The place fell silent. Anyone in the bar stared at us, including the bartender. The stand-off lasted what felt like forever.
Finally, His hand sprung up, clutched the pendant and tried to pull away. As he did, I leaned into his pull, bringing my skull down into his face. The man yipped and took a step back. I couldn’t stop my feet pushing me towards him. I pulled away with every ounce of energy I had but, I held no more power over my actions. I could only watch as my hands grasped his skull. My thumbs pressed down into his eye sockets and the blood-curdling scream that followed fell on my own deaf ears. I think someone else tried to stop me, I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my back. Unfortunately, the spirit of the beast is stronger than a knife. I couldn’t feel my body anymore; my soul had become trapped inside a physical shell. I wanted to turn away but I couldn’t. I watched in horror as his eyes exploded, little balls of jelly splattering out around my hands on his face. His body went limp and the screams I couldn’t hear faded from his face. I looked around to see the shock, the fear, and the devastation wash over what had become a full audience. Behind me, two men lie on the ground. One clutched his abs in a fetal position, the other lie unconscious on his back. Not sure what to do, I dropped all the money in my wallet on the pool table next to me and ran out the door to another place I’d never been to start a new life. Hopefully one in which I wouldn’t have to kill again.