Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 31
Challenge #14: Write a story with a word count divisible by 31, featuring a multi-headed entity. It must include all 31 one-word prompts from this year’s event: Celery, Moon, Forgiveness, Excelsior!, Judgment, Dauntless, Terminus, Amorphous, Barbarian, Flabbergasted, Pulchritudinous, Twinkle, Ennui, Anagnorisis, Ethanol, Skank, Defenestrate, Moist, Summoned, Chiaroscuro, Legend, Elemental, Eldritch, Unfurling, Ending, Cicatrize, Catalyst, Codpiece, Facetious, Carrot, Google.
Girth Loinhammer was not a fan of this new-fangled internet thing. Everywhere he looked, people were gawping at tablets and squinting at phones. Very slyly, he leaned over to check what the barfly next to his left was looking at. “Super Cute Duckling Thinks Carrot is Best Friend,” read the massive headline on the tiny screen. Girth peered over the shoulder of the drunk to his right. It was a YouTube video about cats with boobs.
Girth settled back into his seat at the bar, adjusting the spiked leather straps of his torturer’s uniform. He’d sure like to find out where the internet lived and give it a piece of his mind, whip, and poker. Then again, knowing the internet, it would probably enjoy it. Just like all the other perverts he’d encountered during his not particularly long or distinguished career. There was no place for non-kinky torturers anymore.
He propped his elbows on the bar and lowered his head into his hands. “Another mead, barkeep.”
“The answer to your problems isn’t at the bottom of a mead horn,” said the barbarian barfly to his left.
“Of course not.” Girth angled the vessel over the faceplate of his helmet and tried to tip the drink through into his mouth. A lot of it missed and splashed onto his codpiece, making it look as though he’d wet himself. “The answer’s in all the lovely ethanol floating about in the middle.”
“Cats with boobs!” shouted the drunk, pointing at something just outside Girth’s field of vision. “Cats with boobs!”
A pulchritudinous woman with the head of a lioness marched swiftly over to the bar and roundhouse kicked the drunk in the face, managing to defenestrate him in the process.
“Legend!” said Girth, holding up his hand for a high-five.
“Excelsior!” cried an old man nearby who looked a lot like Stan Lee.
The lion woman ignored both of them, choosing instead to take the drunk’s now-vacant seat by the broken window. She summoned the bartender with a snap of her fingers. “Bloody Mary. Hold the celery, and don’t skimp on the blood.”
The bartender took a highball glass down off the shelf. “I don’t think a Bloody Mary actually…”
“Do as I command!”
“Okay, okay!” The bartender was out the window in a twinkle, presumably collecting cocktail ingredients from the drunk before his wounds had a chance to cicatrize.
“Call me crazy,” said Girth, dauntless, “but I feel as though I know you from somewhere.”
The lion woman looked him up and down. “I very much doubt that.”
“You’re not an eldritch elemental, are you?”
“A celestial visitor from beyond the moon?”
Girth stared at the lion woman, the light from the broken window making her features stand out like a figure in a chiaroscuro woodcut. Still didn’t help him place her, though.
With some difficulty, the bartender clambered back in. “Your drink, ma’am.”
The bartender shifted from foot to foot, awaiting her judgment.
She took a sip. “It’s quite disappointing.”
The bartender cringed. “Forgiveness, please!”
“I’ll take three more.”
The bartender sighed, tucked a bottle of vodka and a carton of tomato juice under his arm, and vaulted out through the window once more.
Girth rubbed his temples, which didn’t do much for him because of the helmet. “This is going to bug me. Are you…”
The bartender popped up again. “I’m not sure I can get three more Bloody Marys out of this guy.”
The barbarian leaned over. “Hey, are you that skank from Goddesses Gone Wild?”
With a roar, the lion woman picked up the barbarian, spun him around over her head, and chucked him out the window, thereby solving both problems at once.
Girth was flabbergasted. Not by the violence—that was just his kind of thing—but by this sudden realisation, this unfurling of the facts, this moment of anagnorisis. Also that his word-of-the-day calendar had turned out to be anything other than a terrible birthday gift.
“You’re Sekhmet!” he said. “Egyptian goddess of bloodshed!”
“Ha!” shouted the hydra in the booth at the back of the room. “I just checked on Google—she totally is!”
“Dude,” said a different hydra head. “That was right in my ear.”
“Thanks a lot,” said Sekhmet, plonking her head down on the bar, her moist nose pressed right into the wood.
“No problem!” said Girth. “I knew I’d get it eventually.”
“I was being facetious.”
Unlike “amorphous,” “terminus,” and “ennui,” that was not one of the words that had turned up in Girth’s calendar. “Is that the same as being polite?”
“You’re not good at reading people, are you?”
“No,” Girth admitted. “I’m really not. It’s actually a serious problem that’s got me into some hugely embarrassing situations.”
“If you’re wondering why your drinks are taking so long,” called the bartender from outside, “it’s because I’m trapped underneath this unconscious barbarian. So, you know, thanks for that.”
“Is he being facetious as well?” asked Girth.
Sekhmet didn’t answer. Her eyes had begun to water, responding to some unknown catalyst. “What would you know about embarrassing situations? You’re just some meathead in assless chaps! I was supposed to inspire fear in all mankind—to be a figure of unimaginable violence and terror—but no. You get drunk and turn into the goddess of love for just one night, and suddenly nobody can take you seriously anymore.” She sat up and sighed. “All you want is to gain infinite power by hurting random people, and all everyone else does is see you as some kind of sex object. It’s really depressing, and the worst part is that…”
“…everyone else just thinks it’s completely hilarious.”
They stared deep into one another’s eyes.
“All this time I never thought that…”
“…there was anybody else who could…”
“…really, truly understand.”
There was a pause.
“You know what would make this happy ending even happier?” asked Girth.
Sekhmet nodded. “Let’s punch a hydra in the faces!”