“Tell me a story, Watcher!” Her eyes gleamed with hope as she leaned closer to the fire. “Tell me of a time from Before.”

The Watcher didn’t react to the request. He slowly stirred the embers, watching the sparks dance to their deaths in the dark. A few moments of hopeful silence died as it became an eternity of purposeful ignorance. The Watcher adjusted his coat and coughed uncomfortably.

“Don’t bother the Watcher, Eteri.” The mother of the girl who had asked for a story gave the Watcher an apologetic smile. “He doesn’t have to tell any stories tonight. He’s welcome just to share our fire.”

The Watcher gave a slow nod of thanks without looking to the mother. His eyes stayed focused on the embers. “I mourn for a world I will never see. I mourn for the Before.” His voice was smooth, an easy and light baritone. “So starts any story of those who watch. To watch is to see. To see is to learn. To learn is to not repeat.”

“I knew he’d tell a story,” Eteri whispered to her mother. “He’s a Watcher, that’s what they do.”

“Hush child,” her mother responded with a small smile. “Let him speak.”

“My father was a Watcher too. One of the first. He was born in the Before.” The Watcher’s eyes met Eteri’s. “He told me this story.”

“There was a creature called a monkey in the Before. It looked like man, but had a tail. It lived in the jungle, and swung from tree to tree. Monkey was endlessly curious and constantly wanting to learn more. Each day it woke with a question in its heart. Each day it would try to solve the question.

One day Monkey found the largest tree he had ever seen. It stretched high above the canopy of the jungle. The base was so big around it would take Monkey and two dozen of his brothers holding hands to circle the tree. Monkey knew he had to climb to the top to see how far he could see.

There was another creature at the base of the tree. He was Anteater. His mouth was long, and always trying to eat bugs from the dirt. Anteater saw Monkey looking up at the tree and knew no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Look down here at the ground, there are many bugs to eat. Your day would be better down here with me, eating to your content.’ Anteater hoped that his words would sway Monkey.
But Monkey would not be dissuaded.

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Anteater. ’I have to go.’

Monkey started climbing, his nimble fingers easily finding holds. He climbed for an hour, till he was above all other trees in the jungle. There he found a creature called Viper. Viper had no arms or legs, but curled his body around a branch to stay where he was. Viper saw Monkey looking at the top of the tree lost in the clouds and knew no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Stay with me and sun yourself on this branch. Your day would be better right here with me, warming your fur to your content.’ Viper hoped his words would sway Monkey.

But Monkey would not be dissuaded. 

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Viper. ‘I have to go.’

Above the trees Monkey could see for miles. The wind whipped at him, and he shivered in the breeze. The top of the tree called to him, so he kept climbing. Monkey climbed for two hours, till he could almost touch the bottoms of the clouds. There he found a creature called Bird. Bird could fly, and loved to soar above all other animals. But Bird knew that if Monkey kept going higher, no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Stay here with me and kiss the clouds. Your day would be better right here with me, playing with the wind and the sunshine.’ Bird hoped his words would sway Monkey.

But Monkey would not be dissuaded.

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Bird. “I have to go.’

Soon Monkey reached the top. He was above all the clouds, the world just a grey fog beneath him. The sun glared down at him, and the wind pulled hard at him. Monkey struggled to hold on to the top of the tree. He was proud he had done this, but he was scared. A strong gust of wind caught him off guard.

Monkey fell.

Past Bird, past Viper, until he crashed to the ground beside Anteater. Monkey died from the fall. He died to answer his question, to find out how far he could see from the top.

So what is the lesson in this story?” The question was pointed at Eteri. She paused, caught off guard by the abrupt ending.

“We shouldn’t follow our curiosity? It leads to bad things… like the day the bombs happened.” Her voice became more sure as she responded, a hint of pride creeping into her tone as she finished. She smiled at her mother expectantly. Her mother nodded encouragement and rubbed her hand across Eteri’s back.

“I wish life was that clear cut.” The Watcher’s voice was gentle but rebuking. “Curiosity is not the evil, it is heedless searching that leads us to danger. If Monkey had stopped with any of the creatures that asked, he would have learned something new, and become better for it. But he pushed too far, and paid the price.”

“But…” Eteri trailed off as she thought through his words. “How will I know when I’m going too far?”

“That’s the thing about life. No consequence is clear until you’ve made the choice.” The Watcher’s smile was bittersweet, his eyes trailing back to the fire. “Search for the answer to the question in your heart. But know the answer may not be what you want.”


Body Language

I entered the room, my head lowered and shoulders slumped. She sat on the couch, her jaw clenched, picking at the plastic on her bottled soft drink with her thumbs rapidly. She glanced quickly in my direction, but upon seeing me turned her attention back to something out of the window, taking a deep breath, with a prolonged exhalation. I put my hands behind my back, took a breath, and rocked between my heels and toes for a few moments. She continued to pick away at the bottle, never looking at it, drinking from it, but never setting it down. Nor did she acknowledge me again.

I walked over to the window, entering her line of sight. I sighed, and began to open my mouth to explain. Before I got a word out, she lowered her brow, and looked me directly in the eyes, her eyes narrowing in the process. A single shake of her head made her message clear. I looked down to the couch, my hands in my pockets. I used my toes to make lines in the carpet while I thought. She got off of the couch and walked rapidly into the kitchen, her footfalls heavier than normal.

I followed after a few minutes later. She leaned against the island facing me, her arms crossed and chest puffed out. Her head tilted towards the left, eyes still narrowed. Her feet were splayed outward, pointing to opposite side of the room. I had to fix this. I crossed the space quickly between us, putting my hand on her shoulder. As soon as I touched her, she moved, her shoulder dipping and turning away.

I grabbed desperately at her elbow, turning her back to me. Her eyes were wide when they met mine, and her arms came up and pushed against my shoulders. I kept my grip on her elbows and leaned my head across the space between us, leaning my forehead against her. I looked deep into her eyes and raised my eyebrows, imploring her with my eyes. She looked away from the gaze, her lips pressing together tightly; a small line across her face. Her jaw was still clenched.

I gently kissed her forehead and pulled back from her. She swayed a little, looking around the room, her eyes darting back and forth, looking anywhere but me. Then she closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. Her body unwound. Shoulders slumped; head bobbed and feet turned back to me. She looked at me with weary eyes, and the corner of my mouth twitched upward and my eye brows went up briefly. She nodded and stepped forward into my arms.

I embraced her as she snuggled her head into the crook between my neck and shoulder. Her hands grabbed handfuls of my shirt and held on tight. Then a single sob shook her body. I kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back. Everything was going to be ok.

Pharaoh Fetish: Part 4

For a split second, my body refused to listen to any command I was giving it. I was just someone who wanted to be a mechanic. Peacefully adventure from system to system. Find someone who shared my interests and fall in love. I didn’t want to rush to my death early. But these random strangers who barely knew me were willing to risk their own lives in pursuit of a morality I had never faced before. I had to help.

My feet moved on their own accord, leaping multiple steps at a time. With coordination I’d never experienced, I scooped up a larger rifle from a corpse near the nose. The first set of guards I passed didn’t even register I was there, mouths agape at the battle above them. Letting them stare, I rushed into the main entrance.

Bedlam lay before me. There was a makeshift infirmary set up here, protecting the injured from the fighting upstairs. Dozens of men screamed in agony, limbs entirely gone. Most of what remained of the men’s bodies was black, burnt to a complete crisp. Medical staff was boiling large vats of what smelled like alcohol, using it to sterilize instruments before emergent procedures.

I kicked the first vat I came to onto the ground, boiling alcohol spraying everywhere as it bounced off the ground. The staff helping turned to me, reaching for guns on their waists as they realized that I wasn’t one of them. Quickly realizing that I didn’t know how to use the rifle, I knew rushing in was a mistake. With no other options, I threw the gun to the ground and grabbed a torch used to cauterize the worst of the wounds. It had a little button on it, and I pushed it rapidly, trying to cause sparks. Once it caught, it lobbed it onto the hot, steaming alcohol.

The room burst into flames. Fire danced up onto the beds, consuming the bodies of anyone it touched. The people aiming guns at me seemed to explode, their flesh turning black within seconds as they fell to the floor writhing in pain. Flames lunged at me, and as I jumped forward, some tried to feast on my shoes. 

Kicking off the burning shoes I ran past the makeshift infirmary. Ahead lay the staircase up to the second floor. It curved away from me, making it impossible to see what was waiting for me at the top. Faint blue lights on the upper wall danced in time to loud explosions up above. As I reached the staircase, I turned back to see most of the infirmary on fire, blocking the entrance. Stopping for that brief second let my body reassess itself, and discovered my lungs were raw from exertion.

Realizing what I had just done, weakness and dizziness crept in, weighing my body down. Climbing that flight was stairs was near impossible, but I forced each foot ahead. I needed to fight for my own life, not to mention Kleinit and Mr. Banana. I reached the top of the stairs to see another twenty men in combat with my former captives. They worked as a team, half of them hiding behind pillars in the hallway to reload while the others fired covering rounds.

I caught a glimpse of Kleinit and Mr. Banana through a splintered door at the end of the hallway. Kleinit’s face was contorted in pain, and Mr. Banana wore a manic grin while he emptied his clips into the hallway. But the two were up against too many at this point. Every time they pulled back to reload, the guards would move forward a few feet. The closest ones were now inches from the door. I pulled out the grenade. It was time to shine.

As the grenade flew from my hand, the guard farthest behind the others noticed I was there. The world slowed as I saw him try to warn the others, leaping as far away as he could. Unfortunately, his jump brought him right into line with Mr. Banana’s sightline. His shoulder and head erupted with a spray of red and he was dead before he hit the floor. Then my world was thrown upside down.

A wall of sound hit me, knocking my feet from beneath me. As they flew above me, I noticed a pillar fall onto four or so men. My arm hit the bannister on the stairs, changing to a grotesque angle with a silent thud. I landed, and felt the world continue to invert. Even when I felt the stairs stop moving beneath me, my head continued to swim in every direction. Laying still felt like a lie, but I couldn’t make sense of how to move myself any more, so I laid on the cold polished stone floor, hoping I had helped.

“Gods he’s got muscle on him.”

“Well obviously not in the arms, did you see how terribly he threw that grenade?”

“C’mon Mr. Banana, it was his first time. Cut him some slack.”

“Maybe if he wasn’t a moron, I wouldn’t have to.”

“At least he’s still alive.”

“Yeah but this arm looks like it’s hanging on by skin flaps. Can you take it easy Kleinit? It’s not easy to bind an injury this bad when you’re bouncing him around like a sack of potatoes.”

“Hard to do when I’m shooting and running.”

“Yeah yeah, doing your best and all that. Still not good enough. Like his throw.”

I realized my eyes were still open, and that I was staring at the floor. A few moments later, and more pieces of the puzzle came together. Slung over Kleinit’s back, I was bouncing as we climbed what seemed to be another set of stairs. Pain roared in my arm, and I forgot the puzzle pieces I had put together momentarily.

“He’s seriously all the way at the top? What an egomaniac this asshole is. I look forward to killing him. The money too. Mostly the money.”

“Shush, focusing.”

I felt myself move violently, causing pain to lance through my whole body, starting from my right arm. Blue light flitted across the floor, culminating in an explosion from somewhere I couldn’t quite see. A few screams that quickly stopped after another lance of blue light danced at the edge of my vision.

“You’ve gotta be running low. Do we need to stop and change batteries?”

“Soon, let’s finish this.”

“I really don’t want to say I told you so this time.”

“You won’t.”

I was placed gently to the ground in an upright position. Mr. Banana sat on my lap, his small hands stringing stitches through my arm. I saw muscle torn jagged in my forearm from my landing, and I managed to turn my head and vomit. I felt my shoulder be squeezed gently, and I looked up into Kleinit’s concerned eyes.

“Almost there Anern, don’t give up when we’ve made it this far.”

“You still have to pay us.”

“Seriously Mr. Banana?” I felt a small laugh tumble pathetically from my lips at Kleinit’s response.

“He thinks it’s funny. Plus he’s a real boy, without a Pharaoh fetish. Maybe we can be partners when this is all over, I’ll leave your monosyllabic ass in the desert dust.”

I pushed myself up into more of a sitting position, looking around in earnest. My arm was still a complete mess, but my head started to clear. We were tucked into an alcove, no guards in sight.

“We can decide later.” Kleinit pulled out the glowing container from his jacket, removing a similar, non-glowing container from his arm. He put the new battery into the old ones slot, then carefully resealed the compartment. “We still have to kill this bastard. The door looks like some thick metal. I’ll have to charge most of the power into one shot to get through. How many bullets you have left, monkey?”

“Two, but I’ll only need one. Unless there’s guards holed up with him. Then maybe we’re screwed.” Mr. Banana didn’t look up from his work on my arm. The wound was almost entirely stitched up, though my arm still looked pale and limp. “But there’s only one way to find out! Anern, ready to walk? We need you on your feet buddy.”

Nodding without words, I staggered upright. Kleinit helped support me, and we turned the corner as a trio. Before was set an excessively ornate metal door. The strange human animals from the stairs to the castle were engraved in the door, waving palm fronds over the likeness of Lord Tut. No one stood outside to stop us, and I couldn’t hear anyone coming from behind us. The final showdown had come.

“Doubt we’re lucky enough for it to be unlocked,” Kleinit said dryly. He still tried but the doors were sealed tightly. “Stand back.”

His HandyCannon began to glow blue, a ball of energy gathering at its tip. Even from feet away, I felt the heat from the tip. After about thirty seconds, the ball of energy was as large as my head. Beads of sweat poured down Kleinit’s face in rivulets as he focused keeping the power pouring into one spot without releasing it.

“Here goes!” He was forced back a few steps as it released, flying nearly as fast as a bullet into the door. The doors were forced inward, shards of metal and the stone of the frame went flying out towards us. I took a piece of the shrapnel in the shoulder, but no pain came with it. Blood seeped from the wound, but at this point I just wanted this entire thing to be over.

As the dust settled, I saw Lord Tut. He was dressed in finery, a strange looking weapon held in his shaking hands. Just ahead of where he was standing I saw two guards crushed beneath the door. He squeezed the trigger, and Kleinit spasmed and fell wordlessly, convulsing on the floor. Mr. Banana fired off a single shot, causing Lord Tut’s shoulder to be forced back and his arm sway. Blood seeped from the wound, but before Mr. Banana could get another shot off, he pulled the trigger again. Mr. Banana fell, writhing wordlessly like Kleinit.

“Just us now. And with one pull of the trigger you’ll be incapacitated. I wanted to keep my hands clean in all this, but maybe the celebration should begin with my hands covered in your blood. I think I’ll enjoy this immensely.” He looked down for a moment at his arm, swaying as he saw his bloody clothes. He pulled the trigger, and I rushed towards him, expecting darkness, but wanting to go down fighting.

Darkness didn’t come. My arm, stitched and in a sling of Mr. Banana’s devising, began to convulse of it’s own accord, but I felt nothing. My momentum carried me into Lord Tut before he could fire again. Together we collapsed into a pile, his gun sliding across the room. With my good fist I began to punch his arrogant face. Within seconds his smug smile was replaced with a look of horror soaked in blood.

His hands, weakly trying to push me off soon weakened and he went limp beneath me. Not satisfied, I grabbed a piece of rubble, making his face nearly unrecognizable as I continued beating him in one handed rage.

“You had to kill millions of people just to make yourself fucking special. I’ll happily return the favour just so I don’t have to share air with you again.” Gentle hands were pulling me off of him and I broke down sobbing, weakly trying to beat the air with the stone in my hand.

“It’s over Anern. You ended it.” Klein calmly stated to me as I continued to bawl like a child.

“Gods, how are we supposed to show people we killed him to make Anern Lord? His face is pulp.” Mr. Banana climbed over the corpse, pulling out his knife. “At least this bad boy will get some use today.” He began to saw at the neck.

“But you were shot. I saw you fall,” I managed to choke out between the sobs. “How?”

“A stupidly strong electric gun. If it wasn’t for my arm absorbing some of the charge I’d be dead. Mr. Banana’s had enough genetic alteration to withstand a fair bit more than that.” Calmly, as if he hadn’t just been nearly dead, Kleinit pulled the shrapnel from my shoulder, and put a piece of gauze to it, taping it down.

“Then how’d I not get hurt?”

“The bolt must’ve hit your injured arm. If the current didn’t go through, it means you’ll probably lose the arm it’s so badly damaged. Better than dying though.” Mr. Banana triumphantly held up the severed head of Lord Tut as he responded, handing it to me. “Shall we go meet your adoring new public?”

Weakly I followed the team down to the main entrance. The fire was mostly out, though those who were left trying to stop it didn’t look like they had any fight in them. I presented the head and they bent the knee without a second word. The coup was over, I was Lord.

“Well your Grace, shall we commence with the money you promised? I believe seventy-five million credits should be sufficient.” Mr. Banana did a slight bow, though his words were heavily sarcastic when called me by my new title.

“I guess that there’s no time like the present,” I responded with a slight smile. I motioned over a servant helping to clean up. “Where can I find money to give these people?”

“One moment sir,” he stated with more grace than I could manage in his situation. “I can go get a transfer stick. Seventy-five million credits you said?” With a single nod from me he quickly left.

I stood quietly as we waited, shifting from one foot to another as weight slowly pressed down on my shoulders with increasing weight. I didn’t want to be a Lord. I didn’t want to rule. They would never accept me, I had just murdered many of their friends, their family. The servant I had sent returned with a transfer stick, handing it to Kleinit with a small bow.

“Guess this is it kid. It’s been something else.” Kleinit squeezed my shoulder affectionally once more, eliciting a grimace of pain from me. “Sorry, forgot about that one.”

“Well I’m pretty much done my mechanic’s certificate. Do you need a mechanic?” I tried to not look as useless as I felt, with my arm hanging in a sling and blood slowly soaking through my shoulder gauze.

“Heh, actually yeah. Mr. Banana lacks the focus to finish any upgrade he starts to put into the Queen’s Crown.”

“Stick it up your ass, old man. At least I can throw a grenade right.” Mr. Banana’s indignation was clearly an attempt at affection. “But he is much better than you. C’mon your Grace, let’s head back to the ship.”

“I don’t want that nickname at all!” I protested as I followed them from the man lion castle into the moonlight.

“Too bad, I like it.” Kleinit’s laugh was happy. “Let’s get out of here, your Grace.”
The End

Pharaoh Fetish: Part 3

“Wait!” My voice caused them to pause for second. “Can I have one last request?”

“Depends,” Lord Tut’s voice was tight, and as I looked to his face, his upper lip was curled in a snarl.

“Can I be killed by the two who brought me in, under the light of the moon, outside the city? One last moment of peace, before I go?” I didn’t have to add any extra layers of pathetic tones to my voice to sound sincere. There was a chance though, an idea to survive. As far as I was concerned, it had to be taken.

“Ha! No wish to extend your sorry existence? I’m glad you’ve seen the stupidity of your continued breath. This request I will grant.” Lord Tut’s eyes were alight with fire and excitement. My rope was handed back to Mr. Banana. “Bring back his head once the job is completed. You will receive the credits I have promised you then.”

“Very well.” Kleinit nodded and turned without a second glance. I followed him, Mr. Banana at my side. Head down, I made no sound until we were well out of the palace. Even then, the only sound that escaped me was a massive sigh, as I let tension slide out of my body. I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but I was in a better position.

“So, what are we thinking? Two bullets in the back of the neck so it’s quicker, then cut it off for the return? I sharpened my knife yesterday, so it’ll slide through tendons like butter!” Mr. Banana clambered over me excitedly once we were outside the city limits, measuring my neck with his tiny wrists.

“Probably easiest.” Kleinit led us both to a hill, isolated from others. “Here?”

“Yeah, this is good,” I responded. “But before you kill me, can we talk?”

“Gladly. Not a fan of this business.” Kleinit’s eyes didn’t make contact with any part of my body. “From what we saw before we knocked you out, you’re a good kid. You deserve more time.”

“I mean, if we just kill him now, quick, then we don’t have to worry about it!” Mr. Banana piped up from my shoulder, measuring angles on my neck with his knife. Kleinit just shook his head in response, shoulders slumped.

“Or, hear me out, you don’t kill me.”

My words hung in the night air for a moment, seemingly glittering in the moonlight. Every last hope of mine weighed them down, but still they floated. Kleinit sent them crashing down after a few seconds passed.

“No. We need the money. Nothing personal Anern.”

“Hear me out. I’m the last ‘pure human’ right?” I made air quotations around the phrase to emphasise that I felt it was bullshit. “If we killed him, then I could become king. I’d pay twice what they were paying you.”

“No, I want the easy money!” Mr Banana pushed his blade against my neck. Blood pulsed against it, and I involuntarily flinched. The tension that had left my body before, assaulted me once more. “Lets finish this now!”

“C’mon Mr. Banana.” Kleinit’s eyes were heavy with emotion. “He didn’t ask for this. This was forced on him, just like us. Are we above that all now?”

“You fucker. Bringing up the lab just to sway my hand? That’s behind us. This is now, and we will get our money, and get out. You’re going soft old man.” At this point, I wasn’t sure which was sharper, the knife against my jugular, or Mr. Banana’s words.

“It’s not being soft. It’s morality. The kind those who put the needles into your brain lacked. The kind those that brought me to life and declared I was only good for parts lacked. We’re better than them.”

Kleinit slowly walked up to Mr. Banana as he talked, his hands splayed palms up. He gently took the knife from the monkey on my neck with one hand. The other was placed on my far shoulder, giving a small squeeze. I smiled without turning my head, still not sure I was getting out of this alive. Mr. Banana climbed down from me, his back arched, body tense. Once on the ground he let out a grunt, heavy with frustration.

“Why isn’t it ever easy Kleinit? Just get the kid he asked, now we’re planning a coup under the moon. I hate being better morally than others.”

“I’m pretty happy with it right now.” I interjected quietly, receiving another squeeze to the shoulder from Kleinit in response. “But what is the plan? We have a knife and a gun on Mr. Banana. You didn’t even bring a gun Kleinit.”

“I brought all that I need.” Kleinit twisted his metal wrist, causing the hand to retract into his forearm. In it’s place, a small circular contraption extended, locking into place with a loud click. “It’s called the HandyCannon. Packs quite a punch.” 

“Damn.” I let out a whistle in admiration.

“He always likes showing that fancy toy off.” Mr Banana was cleaning the parts of his gun, now disassembled on a small sheet on the ground. “I hope you brought a back up battery, you know the cannon mode drains the battery like a thirsty whore.” He started counting ammunition clips under his breath. 

“Yup.” Kleinit pulled out the glowing container, showing it briefly to Mr. Banana before tucking it back into his jacket pocket.

“Here,” Mr. Banana shoved his grenade into my hand, “you can throw right?”

“Yeah?” I furrowed my brows, looking the grenade over like I was versed in things like this. “Just pull the pin and throw.”

“Well at least the second last human isn’t a waste of space. The other one certainly is.” Finished counting his clips, Mr. Banana did another look over his gun to make sure the entire piece was perfectly put back together, nodding his satisfaction at the job he had done. “Before we do this Anern, there’s one more question we need to ask.” He paused, waiting for me to respond, his face serious.


“Do you have a Pharoah Fetish?” His lips cracked into a smile, and he lost himself in a fit of laughter. I turned to Kleinit, raising one eyebrow. Kleinit shrugged his shoulders while shaking his head.

“I still don’t get his humour. He’s something else.”

With that, we started our way back to the city. Night had fully fallen, swallowing the city whole. No lights shone from any house through the city, and guards stuck to their lighted outposts. Those were easy to avoid, so we picked our way towards the castle with relative ease. Nearly three hours after we had left the strangely designed castle, we had made it back. Stopping short in the shadows of the massive staircase entrance, Kleinit turned to us.

“Now here’s how this is going down. Me and Mr. Banana are going to go in with this towel all bunched up like it’s a head. Anern, you’re going to stay here. Don’t move, we’ll come back when this is done. We’re trained professionals.” 

“That’s what you say, old man. I say we’re just enjoying chaos and death at other’s expense.” Mr. Banana turned to me, a wicked glint in his eye. “Time to go commit some near omnicide!” 

He climbed up onto Kleinit’s shoulders and they walked away from me, up the staircase. I watched them until they disappeared inside the mouth of the lion man. Near silence has never been so excruciating as it was then. In an effort to hear every possible sound, I forced myself to be as still as possible. Within minutes I was holding my breath without even realizing it. Releasing my breath as silently as possible, I felt nausea settle into my stomach. There was no way it was this easy. As if the night heard my wish, an explosion rattled my body.

The nose of the man lion erupted from it’s face, landing on the steps below. Stone flew in chunks from the impact, throwing most guards outside the main entrance off their feet. A few unlucky men, coming back from some excursion were caught under the nose, their bones crunching into dust with nearly no resistance. From where the nose used to be stood two familiar forms.

“Anern!” Mr. Banana called out as fired round after round into the room behind him. “We could use you up here!”

Pharaoh Fetish: Part 2

The chair was the first thing I felt rocking, clanging loudly as red flames painted the windshield. Soon the whole room joined the symphony of falling, each part of the room adding it’s voice to the song.

“Retros 60%!” Kleinit barked after a particularly rough shake.

“Yeah, yeah!” Mr. Banana called back, his voice quite higher than usual.

“Is it supposed to be this rough?” I called out, over the din.

“If I say yes, will you shut up and let us focus?” The insult thrown by Mr. Banana would have been more intimidating if it wasn’t followed by a shrill squeak as one of his feet lost their grip, causing him to swing freely by his tail for a moment. I sunk back as far as possible into my seat, closing my eyes. Letting go of the triumphant feeling from the start of it, I focused on keeping the contents of my stomach where they belonged. 

Gravity rapidly shifted and I felt myself being crushed into my seat as we rotated from directly falling to flying once more. Opening my eyes hesitantly, I found us below the clouds. A sprawling city lay beneath us. What it meant for me, why I was here was still a complete mystery.

The city was built in the middle of a desert. An amalgamation of technology and ancient airs, it seemed to be built haphazardly over time. Newer buildings looked to be perched on top of the ruins of older ones, waiting for their turn to be built over. In the center of the city sat the obvious palace, looking pristine. It appeared to be some bizarre combination of a man, and a lion. The landing strip we headed towards appeared ancient, gas lights directing us where to land.

As we landed, the last rays of sunlight faded over the far, flat horizon. A small group of what I assumed were guards stood at the ready to meet us. They carried tall staffs equipped with wicked looking blades at the highest point. Mr. Banana lead me by my neck rope, Kleinit following behind me. He carried no weapons on him as he exited the ship, which surprised me. I had seen Mr. Banana arm himself with multiple small guns, knives and a grenade. They didn’t seem to trust these people, but Kleinit only grabbed a small, glowing container that he slipped into his pocket on his jacket.

A cold night breeze kissed my face as I exited the ship, and I shivered. It wasn’t caused by the breeze though. The men waiting to meet us were disciplined and dead eyed. Their bright red uniforms with a white sash contrasted against the sand around us. Patiently they stood, waiting until everyone I was with had exited the ship. They turned from us, and marched in pace with us, leading us to a transport ship.

Not a word was spoken as we travelled through the city. Even Mr. Banana, who always was muttering something was entirely quiet. Kleinit seemed most at ease in the situation, his eyes closed, shoulders slouched, leaning his head back against the headrest of his seat. His metallic hand gently massaging his real one. Feeling like some beast captured for a prize, I examined my shoes in as much detail as possible.

As engrossed in my shoes as I was, I did catch a few glimpses of the city in my brave moments. Most people seemed to avoid the sight of our ship as much as possible. Blinds were drawn, shutters slammed, children pulled inside as we approached. My stomach sank lower and lower as we went further, wanting to run if it was possible. Soon the strange man lion building loomed above us, a large path leading up to it’s open mouth.

“Not a word about fetishes.” Kleinit muttered to Mr. Banana as we were escorted off the ship, sending him into a fit of snickers he tried desperately to not laugh loudly.

Large, eloquently carved statues lined the path as we ascended. Depicting human-like beasts, they radiated strength and power. Their dead eyes carved into sand coloured stone were eerily similar to the guards that flanked us on either side. The entrance to the palace was at least twenty feet high, intricate pictures carved into the frame of the doors.

At the back of the main hall he lounged, on a tall throne covered in luxurious pillows. Upon his head perched a tall, ornate crown. One eyebrow cocked in disdain, he exuded arrogance and boredom as we approached. He broke his lazy inspection of us to examine his nails in detail. Moments stretched to minutes as we waited to be addressed by Lord Tut.

“You took longer than you said it would Kleinit.” His words were daggers, being thrown to injure. Kleinit took the complaint without response. “But you did succeed in the least. Or so it appears. Take a sample!” The last statement was not directed to Kleinit, but to a nearby servant. He rushed to my side and poked my arm with a sharp needle. Blood was drawn, and taken in a vial somewhere beyond the room.

“It’s him. Like you wanted. Orphanage wouldn’t give up his location so it took a few more days.” Kleinit bowed in a sweeping motion, graceful for a man of his stature.

“That impertinent beast is still with you I see.” Lord Tut hissed the s in ‘beast’ directly at Mr. Banana, causing the hairs on his back to raise. But to his credit, Mr. Banana made no verbal response to the jab.

“Aye, he is my partner. For all his faults, he’s gotten me through many scrapes.” Kleinit’s simple, short way of speaking seemed to fit perfectly to dealing with people of higher stature than him.

“I guess that’s as good as a simple clone like you can get isn’t it?” Lord Tut’s words caused me to turn to Kleinit in shock. A clone? I had nothing against them, in fact seeing him a free man was rather impressive. Most were kept as slaves or organ donors for their original species.

“Aye sir.” His metal hand let out a small shriek as it curled into a fist, the only indication he was upset in any way at all. “It is indeed as good as it gets.”

The shriek was all Lord Tut needed to feel as if he had won the exchange. He returned to his nails, a sliver of a smile on his face. Mr. Banana pulled my rope tight again, and I looked down to see his knuckles white, squeezing tightly in the silence. Kleinit and him shared a look, their eyes determined to finish with this asshole and get out of here. A few more awkward moments passed until the servant returned with a note for Lord Tut. He read the note, and his smile grew larger and more sinister.

“Well, my dear friend,” he proclaimed as he stood up and started walking towards me. “It appears as if you are out of luck. Through no fault of your own, we share what is seemingly a rare trait nowadays. You are entirely human, as am I.” He paused for effect, though my face just scrunched up trying to figure out his end game in response.

“I see I am the last one gifted with some semblance of intelligence though.” He stood within a foot of me, and gently flicked me on the nose. “Don’t worry, I will keep the pure species safe within my own genes. You’ll soon be released from any need to worry about such higher matters.” 

“But why kill me? I was living out of your way on some backwater planet, far from any of this. I don’t wish you any harm, or want anything from you!” I fought my restraints, but Mr. Banana kept his grip firm on my rope, and the knots elsewhere were too tight. Both him and Kleinit avoided my gaze, keeping theirs fixed forward.

“Ah, that is where you’re misguided. Even though you didn’t bear me any ill will, your presence was an affront to my claim. Ancient Egypt, on our sweet mother Earth, had strict governance rules. Claim to the throne had to be seized and confirmed. Many times usurpers came forward and took the people away from their rightful ruler. So I must follow their rules… to a grander scale. I rule a planet, so the entire galaxy much be searched.” He retreated to his throne, his hands splayed outward in a display of benevolence. 

“You want to kill every human? That’s an impossible task! You’ll have to kill billions of people!” A lump was rising in my throat, getting caught causing me to choke up. I continued to fight against my bonds, causing Mr. Banana to give a sharp tug on my tether, bringing me to my knees. Tears started to fall from my eyes, and I shuddered uncontrollably.

“Not every human. Those who intermingled with other species gave up their right to rule. You and I, are the last two left who are entirely human. These two,” he pointed at Kleinit and the monkey, “are the last in a long string of Cleaners I employed to get the necessary job done.”

“You’re mad,” I whispered to the floor.

“Well, enough ceremony. Guards? If you please.” I was hauled to my feet by two sets of rough, strong hands at the command.

Pharaoh Fetish: Part 1

“Kleinit, he’s waking up.” A strange mechanical voice grated against my ears as I began to stir. Head pounding, I let out a soft groan.

“And?” The second voice was gruff and throaty, presumably Kleinit.

“Can I kill him?” The first voice was closer now, and as I tried to open my eyes I was met with a wall of black fabric draped millimetres from my eyes.

“No” Whoever Kleinit was, I liked him immediately. Trying to lift the blindfold from my eyes, I realized my hands were bound in place behind me.

“Just a little bit?” Standing up and running seemed like the best option from whatever murderous thing was coming, but my legs were bound as well.

“Seriously Mr. Banana?”

The absurdity of the name didn’t match the menacing robotic voice I was hearing, causing a small snicker to escape from my mouth. Small fingers scraped my face as the blindfold was roughly pulled from my face. A monkey, snarling, stood above me, one hand clasping the blindfold. Around his neck was a collar with small blinking lights. His hair was matted and unkempt, but it added to his aura of intensity. Beady eyes shot figurative lasers at me.

“Wanna laugh at me to my face, you little shit?” His mouth didn’t form the words, they came from his collar, lights blinking in harmony with the words. A gun was pointed at me in his other hand. I was surprised his eyes didn’t shoot literal lasers at this point.

“Sorry, Mr. Banana!” I responded, unable to take my eyes off the gun. I was so focused on the gun, I couldn’t see in his face if he forgave me.

“The only reason you’re still alive is Kleinit,” he muttered as he climbed off of me. The weapon returned to it’s sheath across his back. “Kleinit! Do I leave him here until we land on the planet?”

“Nah, bring him up. Where’s he gonna run to? We sold the spacesuits for gas two weeks ago.” Mr. Banana’s frustration was clearly draped across his shoulders as he untied my feet.

“Soft old man, letting the mark walk around. Who cares if he decides to run? Mr. Banana does, but his voice doesn’t fucking matter does it.” Not looking back, he pulled on a rope tied to my neck, yanking me to my feet. Barely managing to keep my feet under me, I stumbled out of the small room after my captor. A hallway encased in metal and piping opened in front of me as I struggled to keep pace with the nimble monkey leading me.

“Welcome to the Queen’s Crown.” Mr. Banana announced as he pulled me through another doorway into what was the cockpit of the spacecraft. “A pretty unimpressive hunk of metal, but it’s home.”

The cockpit was grungy, an array of lights set above the windshield the only light source in the room. Cluttered, with various mechanical implements scattered around, I noted many roughshod patch jobs only half done. The dashboard was a complete mess, various dials pulled from their rightful places to make room for aftermarket modifications. Most of it seemed highly likely to stop working if you took too deep of a breath.

“Modest, monkey. She’s got rocks still.” Kleinit’s voice rumbled from the captain’s chair, however he didn’t turn around to greet me. “This is the cockpit kid. You ever been off planet before?”

“No, but I’m just about done my C-class engine course. I want to be a mechanic on smaller ships like these. Always dreamed of flying the beyond back at the orphanage.” My voice wavered as I responded, and I took a deep breath to steady my shaking knees. Despite my first impressions, the cabin didn’t fall to pieces from the deep breath. “Why am I here, bound up?”

“See there’s this owner of a planet,” Kleinit began. Mr. Banana cut him off, his mechanical voice loud, echoing in the room.

“He has a pharaoh fetish! Pharaoh fetish!” Cackling, the monkey threw himself back into a chair, writhing with laughter.

“Yes, he’s human, like you. Loves the idea of ancient Egypt.” Kleinit continued the story over the hysteric’s of Mr. Banana. “He’s placed himself as Pharaoh of his planet. Calls himself Lord Tut.”

“How does that relate to me being here?” My breathing started to pick up as the situation began to set in. Off world, with two people I didn’t know the second thing about, being taken captive for some crazy owner of a planet. I swallowed what little saliva I had in my mouth, trying to settle the knot forming in my stomach.

“We’re what you’d call Cleaners. We deal with problems. You’re a problem for him.” Kleinit’s measured, business like tone was meant to be reassuring, but at this point it was grating at my nerves.

“How? I’ve never heard of him, let alone interacted with him! I’ve been stuck on a backwater planet for years, never leaving it!” I tried to throw my hands up aggressively, but the restraints on my wrists stopped me from going past my shoulders. Pain caused my face to contort and I dropped to my knees, feeling that sickly feeling of despair and uncertainty slither into my chest. Kleinit’s chair rotated towards me as my knees hit the deck.

He looked human. Short, but still carrying a lot of strength in his build. His nose looked like it had been built on the battlefield, bent out of shape multiple times. Dark and piercing, his eyes examined me beneath a brooding forehead. What caught my attention the most was his robotic right arm. Gently reflecting the cabins many small lights, it was more advanced than anything I had ever seen. No fake flesh adorned it, unabashedly metal, it was easily worth more than three quarters of this ragtag spaceship.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Anern.” I couldn’t meet his gaze, my palms were sweating heavily. I wanted to wipe the sweat from my eye, but couldn’t with how my hands were bound.

“Anern, I don’t ask questions. I nod my head, say ‘yes sir.’ Then I do what they asked.” With that bit of dry lack of information, he turned back to the infinite night outside the windshield. “Buckle up now. Almost there.”

Struggling to gain my footing once more, I managed to sit myself in a chair beside the still wheezing monkey. ‘Pharaoh fetish’ being giggled under his breath, he clamoured over me, locking me into place with a standard four point harness. A dull cloudy planet came into view as Kleinit turned the Queen’s Crown.

“Mr. Banana, prepare for entry. Retro thrusters thirty percent to start.” As Kleinit worked the lower controls beneath the windshield, Mr. Banana swung above him. Lights and switches were flicked by all his appendages with rhythmic practice. I had never reentered a planet’s atmosphere before, but I sat back, a small smile tugging at my lips. This is what I had been working towards. No matter the situation, I would get full enjoyment out of the free fall towards a new planet.

Lonely Goodbye

    I guess that I know what will happen next. I mean, in the movies they have moments like this. People gathered around in shocked silence while the main character has a moment of epiphany at his greatest defeat. However in movies, the character rises above and gets the girl; saves the world and redeems himself.

    Not so much for me.

    The stars have been out for a while now, but as the cold seeps into my bones, I truly see them for the first time. Those pinpricks are balls of fire and gas twice the size of our puny planet or more. And I am a mere grain of sand in this infinite universe. And now I feel it. The oppressive smallness of my life and my actions. I am truly nothing.

    So why do I feel a sense of accomplishment at my life? When I come before God, he won’t be in awe of me, he won’t say that I did something remarkable. I’ll be at his mercy, the mercy of the God who created the million pinpricks of light I’m staring at now. The million balls of fire and gas that could engulf the earth and not slow down.

    A shudder shakes me to my core, and bile rises in the back of my throat. My hands are warm and wet, holding my intestines close to my body. I know that there is no one near, no person coming to save me. I will be dead in a minute or two more. Nothing less than the power of God can save me now.

And considering the fact that I’m nothing and have done nothing, I doubt that’ll happen.

    I recollect on the girl that I will never be able to tell about the love I hold for her. Her deep blue eyes I would get lost in, the strands of straw colored hair I would run my fingers through. The feeling of her heart beating in unison with mine while we lay collapsed together after our passions had run their course. We were nothing in the river of life, but we clung to what we had and held it dear.

    If I am nothing, and when I die no one will remember me, what is my purpose? Why are we placed on this earth? Does God and his angels sit above us and mock our futile efforts to be something? Or does he curse his foolish efforts at companionship? We can’t be something he’s proud of. We’re vain, proud and foolish. Shortsighted and ignorant of the greater plan.

    Or does he regard us as a parent to a wayward child? With sorrow and a hope to be reunited with us? In that case, are we merely placed here to die and be brought together with our creator? I had heard stories of a savior, a man that was fully God at the same time. It makes no sense to me, yet it brings peace to millions of people around the world. A man who saved the human race with his selflessness, even in the face of free will.

    Now his followers shame his name, judging and hating those who are different than them. Didn’t he sit with prostitutes and dine with the outcast taxmen? Didn’t he love lepers and give sight to the blind? Didn’t he do everything against the culture of the time? A extremist of love?

    Funny how in these last few moments I wonder if everything I’ve done will please a God I’ve never thought of except in times of passing guilt. It’s getting hard to breath now, and there’s a gurgling in the back of my throat. I’m getting close to piercing the veil that separates this world and the next. It is surprisingly calming.

    We fight our whole lives to delay the inevitable. We treat our bodies like temples, ignoring relationships and loved ones in an effort to live another day. But now, I realize how foolish it is. I realize my purpose in life. It comes as a clear bolt of simplicity, and I laugh at how much we complicate things.

All we are put here for is to live with others. To love, to laugh and to hold those we hold dear. Why would we hate when those we hate are barely aware of us? Why would we fight others when tomorrow we could be called to heaven? I know it seems foolish, others will not agree and we would merely end up at the end of being hurt and hated and left alone while others try to evade death. But it is the truth I cling to as I die.

    I look around, for someone to share my revelation with, but no one is near. I am alone, and this wisdom will pass from life with me. I send my love out to those I love and wish I had told them just one more time. The stars are so beautiful. They dance in the sky as tears fill my eyes.

    This is a lonely goodbye.