Who likes Anglo-Saxon mythology?
So, we’re going from the sublime to the ridiculous in Chapter 10. Read on and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
She was still smiling as she came back through the door. As it swung open, Gerard’s face left his hands and broke into an elated smile of relief as he ran over to her and embraced her tightly.
“You’re okay,” he murmured, brushing his fingers through her hair.
“Of course,” she replied jokingly. “Did you ever doubt my extremely thick skin and strong heart?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Gerard chuckled, closing his lips around hers, noticing as he did so Frank look away sharply.
When they broke apart, Alicia gave a whoop of glee and clapped her hands. “We’re all together again now!” she sang happily. “So we can go looking for the Gate thingy, right?”
“Not quite,” a voice echoed off the walls.
They looked around, expecting obviously to see Sara standing in the corner looking very put-out with a bloodstained card in her hand, however she was not there. They were alone in the room.
“I really hate to crush such cheerful optimism,” spoke Sara’s voice. “But Christa hasn’t faced her fear yet. And I’m having far too much fun to let you guys go so easily. So we’re going to play another game. Can you guess what it is?”
They glanced at each other and shrugged. “Piggy in the middle?” suggested Ray.
“No, fucktard,” Sara retorted waspishly. ”Hide and seek. I hide...and you seek. But I warn you, I’m very good at this. Right, Gerard?”
Gerard felt himself go the colour of beetroot. LynZ raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“But this place is huge,” Frank protested. “You could be anywhere. Give us a clue.”
“Fine,” Sara replied and Frank looked very pleased with himself until she went on to say, “I’ve already given it to you.”
“What?” Gerard frowned.
“I said I’ve already given it to you,” Sara giggled. The sound made them cringe as if she might as well have been laughing at babies dying. “Now hurry up and find me. I’m getting awful lonely.”
The voice faded out like a song ending on a CD leaving them watching each other expectantly for someone to suddenly exclaim that they knew what Sara was talking about. Gerard bit his lip, thinking back to every little thing she had said but remembering was as far as he got.
“I don’t get it,” said Ray finally.
“That’s because you’re stupid,” sniggered Mikey.
“Well, do you?” asked Ray, sounding hurt.
Mikey flicked his fringe out of his eyes and looked thoughtful. “”Christa hasn’t faced her fear yet”,” he quoted. “Christa, what are you scared of?”
“She’s scared of heights,” Ray answered for her and his eyes widened.
They all stared at each other and then answered simultaneously “The roof!”
“We’ll split into groups,” said Gerard. “One will go to the East wing, the other the West.”
“Shouldn’t we all stick together?” Christa’s eyebrows knotted with worry.
Gerard shook his head. “It’s like Alicia said,” he explained. “We’re back together now. And I want to end this sooner rather than later. This way we’ll save time and get it over with quickly.”
The others nodded in agreement and inched closer to their spouses. And so Gerard, LynZ, Ray and Christa took off back through the door LynZ had come through whilst Frank, Jamia, Mikey and Alicia went through a different one, Frank and Jamia both grumbling menacingly about the other.
The room which had previously been an ornately decorated bedchamber was now in ruins. The fine velvet curtains that had graced the windows and four-poster bed lay strewn across the floor in tatters. The glass panes of the windows had shattered and feathers floated lazily on the air from the huge rip in the mattress. Gerard looked questioningly at his wife who shrugged.
“I have very thick skin,” she said apologetically.
“I’ll say,” Christa examined a torn oil painting with interest. “What the hell happened in here?”
“I think that bitch bit off a little more than she could chew,” said Ray, looking at LynZ with admiration.
“She tried to hurt me,” LynZ explained dismissively. “Torment me, y’know? But I knew what she was doing and it didn’t work.”
“What did she say?” asked Gerard curiously.
“She tried to tell me that you didn’t want me,” LynZ answered, laughing airily. “That you didn’t love me anymore. You were in bed with some blonde whore but I didn’t believe her. I trust you.”
At that, Gerard felt the guilt, real and sudden shoot through him and take an abrupt hold of his tongue so that he couldn’t speak. Luckily, LynZ seemed to take his silence for overwhelming emotion and smiled at him lovingly which only made him feel worse.
“There,” Christa pointed at another door beside a handsome mahogany bookcase and they raced over to it.
Open, it revealed a flight of spiral steps winding upwards. Immediately, Gerard, LynZ and Ray surged forwards. Christa however hung back.
“Erm,” she wrung her hands together nervously. “Why don’t you guys go ahead and I’ll wait down here for you?”
“Oh Jesus Christ,” groaned Gerard, slamming his palm against his forehead in anguish. “This again?”
“Come on Christa,” said Ray coaxingly. “It’ll be over before you know it.”
“No,” Christa shook her head. “I’m really...I really hate heights.”
“Look at my face,” Gerard pointed at himself irritably. “Do I look like I care?”
“Gerard!” LynZ slapped his arm in rebuke.
“I’m sorry,” Gerard continued although he didn’t sound it. “But I have seriously had enough of all this. I wanna go home. This whole thing is driving me fucking crazy and I want it finished. So you are getting to the top of this fucking staircase if I have to drag you up here myself.”
“Don’t you talk to her like that-” Ray started but Gerard cut across him.
“-The only way to get back is if we all face our fears,” he said. “Frank killed a spider with its own poison. Alicia defeated a nest of snakes with a stereotype. Mikey dropped a roof on a giant squid after swimming through a freaking big lake to get to it. Ray stabbed a clown with a shard of glass. Jamia saved us all from being crushed in a garbage disposal and LynZ just tore apart a whole bedroom. Trust me, actually defeating whatever’s up there is the easy bit. Getting the courage to face it is the hard part.”
Taken aback by his abrupt manner, Christa nodded shakily and took Ray’s hand. He led her onto the first step gently and didn’t let go whilst they continued the steady climb up.
The steps seemed to be never ending. They winded round and round, higher and higher until, peering out the arched windows Gerard could see a thick layer of cloud below them. They were making slow progress, Christa hung at the back and they often had to stop for her whilst she regained her bearings which she always did thanks to Ray’s coaxing and Gerard’s exaggerated sighing. LynZ would always shoot him a warning glance that read Remember that sex we were planning to have ever again? whenever he let one slip but he didn’t care, he just wanted to get to the top.
Finally, light pierced the unnatural dark of the spiral staircase and Christa stopped.
“Okay,” she gasped. “That’s as far as I’m going.”
“Christa, I will drag you,” Gerard growled menacingly.
“Gerard, if you want to keep your balls where they are then I suggest you shut the fuck up right now,” Ray countered.
“Seriously Gee, what is wrong with you?” LynZ crossed her arms across her chest. “You’ve been acting like such a dick since we left the bedroom.”
How can I ever tell you? thought Gerard despairingly. The guilt was still there and had only intensified during the long climb until it had turned him angry and resentful against Frank, LynZ, Sara, Bob, himself and whoever wanted to challenge him. But how could she possibly understand what was going through his mind? So he merely shrugged and turned away so that she couldn’t see the confused emotions in his eyes.
“Come on honey, you can do it,” said Ray. “It’s only a few more steps.”
Christa shook her head stubbornly. Gerard bit his lip to prevent more harsh words from escaping.
“Just a little more,” Ray coaxed. “Just a little further.”
Finally, Christa moved, waveringly, up the steps and into the light. As they emerged, they all gasped at once. They were standing on the battlements of the castle, staring down at wispy white clouds below them and looking up at even more above them. None of them could guess how high up they were but they were all pretty sure it was higher than could be achieved in the real world.
Sara was leaning against the wall, waving in greeting. She was dressed in a powder pink princess dress and pointed hat with a vale falling into her eyes. Her long, dark hair whipped around her face in the wind and her hands were graced by dainty little silk gloves in which she held a sparkling plastic wand. Gerard couldn’t help but burst out in laughter at the sight of her.
“What the fuck are you wearing?” he gasped.
“I didn’t pick it out,” Sara scowled. “I told you I have to follow Rules.”
“Rules which dictate that you have to dress up as some kind of Walt Disney prostitute?” LynZ jeered.
Sara’s eyes were like little chips of white glass as she surveyed her. “Oh look,” she said softly. “Mr Way’s groupie speaks.”
“I’m his wife you piece of shit,” LynZ snarled.
“Potato potahto, hon,” Sara shrugged. “Like anyone’s gonna care when you’re lying six feet under.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Gerard frowned.
“You’ve done well so far,” said Sara, brushing the skirts of her dress and straightening her pointy hat absentmindedly. “But in the end the Game always wins. In one way or another.”
“Just give LynZ the Chance card,” Ray snarled. “And tell us where our friends are.”
“Okay then,” Sara shrugged. She waved the plastic wand once and the card appeared which she flung into the air. LynZ jumped up to catch it but it had gone too far out of reach. Sara blew in its direction and it floated over the edge and out of LynZ’s clutches. “Whoops,” she sniggered. “Clumsy me.”
“How can you even be allowed to do this?” Gerard protested.
Sara shrugged. “Put it this way,” she said wickedly. “When you got nothing you got nothing to lose.”
She waved the wand again and pointed over the edge of the battlement. They all leaned over to watch a tightrope grow from the side that they stood on right across to the opposite battlement where it stopped abruptly. “It’s very simple,” Sara stated, turning to Christa. “Walk the tightrope.”
“No fucking way,” Christa replied. Her voice was shaky.
Sara sighed. “I really hoped we wouldn’t have to get complicated.”
A piercing shriek carried across the wind, so loud and so high that everyone but Sara clutched their ears in haste to blot it out. As accompaniment to the unearthly sound, a flash of scarlet red and a long, pointed tail appeared from nowhere, wrapping itself around Gerard, Ray and LynZ and dragging them off the edge.
“Walk the goddamn tightrope or your friends are dog food,” they heard Sara yell. “They didn’t have anything for dragons left in stock.”
“Dragons?” LynZ cried. “Dragons?”
But that was all they heard because all of a sudden they were flying through the air at breakneck speed, the wind howling in their ears, stomachs lurching as they cut through the sky. Gerard tried desperately to look back to where Christa and Sara stood but the creature’s hold was too tight...
And then it was over. They were dropped painfully onto a giant nest in the centre of the opposite battlement, next to which the dragon landed, folding its leathery wings and tucking its huge, chicken-like feet under its gigantic crimson body. Gerard watched it in shock, too dumbfounded to move.
“Hey, do you mind getting your fat ass off my chest?” came a muffled voice from underneath him.
He jumped up at once and Frank emerged, rubbing his arm indignantly.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Gerard managed to gasp.
“Well Grendel here got to us before you,” Frank gestured at the resting lizard. “Almost broke my goddamn arm.”
“Grendel?” Ray raised his eyebrows.
“Anglo-Saxon mythology Ray,” Frank rolled his eyes. “Get with it.”
“Wasn’t Grendel the monster Beowulf killed before the dragon?” observed Alicia.
“What the fuck does it matter?” LynZ burst out hysterically, causing the others to look round at her. “It’s a dragon. A goddamn dragon!”
“No, it’s a projection of a mythical creature in an imaginary world where anything can happen,” Frank amended sensibly. “This place isn’t real, Lyn. That means there can be dragons and giant spiders and krakens and scary girls in princess outfits and-”
“-But we can still die,” LynZ pointed out. “At the hands of a giant lizard.”
Frank was quiet whilst he thought the statement over then eventually nodded. “Fair point. We’re fucked.”
“Hey look,” Mikey pointed. “Christa’s climbing the tightrope!”
They all rushed over to the edge of the nest. Sure enough Christa had just begun her steady way towards them. She was hanging onto the rope for dear life and she was shaking so badly the whole of it was quivering.
“Come on Chris,” Ray muttered.
“Oh God, I can’t watch!” Alicia squeezed her eyes shut and fell back against the nest.
At the slight movement, the dragon rose up onto its hind legs and they all jumped back. Seeing Christa hanging from the rope, the dragon gave another piercing cry of fury and blew a jet of flame from its monstrous nostrils.
“Christa!” Ray yelled and his scream was matched by Christa’s. But when the smoke cleared she was still there. The dragon, it appeared, had missed.
“I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die,” Frank stated.
“You’re not the one hanging from a tightrope while a hungry dragon tries to burn you alive,” Gerard pointed out.
“I’m still going to have a heart attack and die,” said Frank.
“Well be quick about it then,” LynZ snapped, and then raising her hands to her mouth she yelled “Come on, Christa! You can do it!”
“Yeah, it’s not that far!” Alicia joined in.
“And the dragon isn’t that big!” added Jamia.
“So how are you and LynZ doing?” Frank spoke conversationally.
“Fine,” Gerard replied shortly. “How about you and Jamia?”
“Less than fine,” Frank shrugged. “But then, we’re divorced.”
The conversation was punctured by another jet of flame and a terrified shriek from LynZ, Alicia, Jamia and Ray. It appeared that Christa had been forced to move one arm and was now hanging by a single hand. Placing the other arm back on the tightrope she continued to inch her way forward. She was more than halfway across now.
“So did you find out what LynZ’s worst fear is?” Frank continued.
Gerard tore his gaze away from the flailing Christa to stare Frank hard in the eyes. “Yes I did,” he stated matter-of-factly. “She’s terrified of me falling out of love with her and having an affair.”
Frank’s mouth opened and then closed comically but no sound came out. He ran a hand through his hair self-consciously and let out a long, low breath. “Oh,” he said finally. “Shit.”
“Yes,” Gerard agreed. “Shit.”
“I don’t understand,” came Alicia’s confused voice. “Why doesn’t the dragon just fly over to her?”
“It won’t leave the nest,” Jamia explained.
“Well thank Christ for that!” Ray exclaimed hysterically. “But what happens once she’s in murdering distance? Like...now?”
Indeed, Christa was less than ten meters distance from the dragon’s nest at this point but she was too petrified to come any closer. The dragon was surveying her evilly, daring her to approach.
“Hey!” Ray yelled suddenly, waving his arms above his head “Hey! Look down here! Over here!”
The dragon lowered its huge head to glare at the excitable little man beneath it. Ray however did not give up.
“Yeah, look at me! You motherfucking sonofabitch! You goddamn oversized gecko, look at me!”
At that point, with the dragon fixated temporarily on its dinner hopping up and down around the nest Christa swung into the nest to the cheers of her friends.
“You made it!” LynZ hugged her tightly.
“We knew you could,” nodded Jamia.
“Yeah, great,” said Frank. “Just one problem.”
He pointed back at the dragon which had risen onto its hind legs and was now snorting ominous looking clouds of yellow smoke into the sky. The eight pressed themselves back against the wall in an attempt to shield themselves in whatever way they could.
“Well this looks like it,” Mikey sighed heavily. ”The end.”
“Goodbye cruel world,” said Frank and then burst out laughing.
“Shut the fuck up!” Jamia shrieked. “How could you possibly find anything to laugh about in a time like this?”
“The fact that a Chance card just appeared from nowhere in the sky,” Frank pointed over his head and sure enough a bloodstained card was floating towards them.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” said Gerard in awe.
It was LynZ who caught it but she passed it to Frank, grinning. “It’s a general knowledge question,” she said. “About Anglo-Saxon mythology.”
“Alright!” Frank exclaimed gleefully. His eyes darted from one end of the card to the other, “What was the name of the Danish king who’s hall was cursed with the monster Grendel?” he read. “Easy! That dude with the beard! Hrothgar. Yeah, Hrothgar.”
At the name the Chance card disappeared and Frank held a handful of light, glittery dust in his hand. “What the fuck do I want with dust?”
“Here!” Christa snatched up a handful and cast it in the face of the approaching dragon.
The effect was immediate. It halted in its advance and blinked, once, twice. Then, its eyes began to roll backwards in its skull, its whole body swayed and it began to fall. They jumped out of the way just as the huge body of the monster came crashing down, casting mushroom clouds of dust and rubble into the sky as it fell.
Dragons and Danish myth. What could possibly happen next? And the random Chance card floating in the sky? That will be explained. Yes, this chapter was stupid. So stupid I should stop writing but I’m having way too much fun with this so suck it up and count the days until next Monday!
Ah, God my neck hurts.
Reviews lessen the pain :)