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Awarded best fantasy satire in a 2012 contest.
Awarded best fantasy satire in a 2012 contest.
© 2016 Hank Quense
He raced down the stairs and into the smoke-filled kitchen. Nestra stood at the sink feeding pages from a book into a fire in the sink while holding a slice of bread skewered on a knife.
Agamemnon sat at the table, whistling to himself while Ajax polished his shield.
“I can’t find the hearth,” Nestra said. “How do you cook your meals?” She had a split lower lip. The bunch of hair missing from the left side of her head gave it a lopsided look. Her right ear was discolored and swollen, but she still looked gorgeous.
Wally turned on the faucet and extinguished the fire.
“Mem! Indoor water!” Nestra flashed a ravishing smile at Wally.
The smile almost knocked him off balance. Giddy from her closeness, he said, “Watch.” He turned a burner knob on the stove.
When the burner ignited, she gasped, then said, “Oh, Mem. I’m going to love living here.”
“What!” Wally glanced at Agamemnon. The king returned the look through a half-closed left eye. His nose was redder and broader than before and a hunk of beard was missing. “What is she talking about.” Wally knew he wasn’t going to like the answer.
Agamemnon stood and limped over to Nestra. He wrapped his arms around her and said, “We worked it out last night. Since you can’t or won’t produce a son, we’ll do it. The House of Atreus will continue.” Agamemnon grinned at Wally. “Zeus approved our plan last night.”
“And while I’m pregnant, we’ll live in this palace of yours.” Nestra winked. “There’s lots of room.”
Wally had trouble breathing. All his previous problems palled alongside the idea of these Greeks living with him for nine months. He knew he couldn’t be around Nestra much longer without falling hopelessly in love with her, even if she was a murderess and his grandmother a few hundred times removed. How would Agamemnon react when he noticed? Sweat broke out on the back of his neck
The king grinned. “And while Nestra makes the baby, Ajax and I will scout around. When we find a rich palace, we’ll loot it. For my son’s inheritance.”
Wally’s forehead turned clammy. He felt light-headed. He pictured riot police, guns drawn, surrounding the house.
“You’ll have to raise the baby, of course,” Agamemnon said. “Since Zeus wanted this child to be born, he’ll take a personal interest in its welfare.”
Zeus! Wally’s stomach churned.
“So, you’ll have go to Mount Olympus once a year to give him a report.”
Wally leaned over the sink and vomited
“Huh?” Nestra said. “I’m the one that’s supposed to do that.”
© 2016 Hank Quense
The Greek warriors popped in periodically to harangue him to get a woman. At each appearance, Agamemnon seemed more agitated than before. He constantly glanced over his shoulder. Wally sympathized with the old king but didn’t feel any great compunction to help him solve the problem.
Wally sat in his living room watching the Six O’clock news when he heard their latest arrival in the kitchen. He went to them. Agamemnon looked disconsolate. He sat at the table, head in his hands. Spears, shields and helmets lay on the floor.
“What’s going on?” Wally gave Ajax a questioning look.
Ajax rolled his eyes.
“I sense Nestra closing in,” Agamemnon said. “She’ll try to make my mission fail and then Zeus will destroy me.” His voice cracked from tension.
Ajax patted the king on the shoulder.
“What a woman!” Agamemnon gazed out the kitchen window with a wistful smile on his face. “Beautiful, clever, vicious. But, a lioness in bed! I can’t count the number of times she broke this.” He tapped his crooked nose. “She cracked my ribs more than once.” He took a deep breath, still smiling. “She would always try to knee me in the balls so she could be in control, not me. By the gods, that hurts. Maybe things would have turned out differently if I didn’t spend ten years fighting the Trojans.”
Agamemnon’s reverie disturbed Wally, as if he was jealous of the old man. One more issue to fret over. His wrestling status worried him. Joey the Nose frightened him. Agamemnon and Ajax scared him. Zeus terrified him. But, Clytemnestra petrified him — when she didn’t fascinate him. She seemed the most dangerous of the bunch. After all, Agamemnon just followed orders, but something else drove his wife.
He went back to the news program.
© 2016 Hank Quense
He jogged north, passing clumps of early-flowering jonquils and tulips. By the time he reached the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he felt loosened up and his headache had diminished so he increased his speed. Once his brain nudged itself back from oblivion, he pondered the situation. Agamemnon’s demand was an embarrassment. Wally’s wife had died in a traffic accident eight months ago. They never had any children during their five year marriage, although they had tried. Medical tests hadn’t established a definite reason, but hinted that the problem was his. He stopped the testing after his wife’s death because he no longer wanted to know the answer. Now this guy from the dawn of history shows up and demands he have a son. What if he can’t? What would Agamemnon do? The guy might go crazy and throw the spear at him.
Then there was the problem of his wrestling title. The GWA would be pissed off, and may not let him defend the title.
Who could have foreseen that Walter Pappas, son of a Greek immigrant, could have such rotten luck? A football scholarship to Penn State, four years as a starting defensive tackle, an All-American selection and a guaranteed first round pick in the NFL draft, all had flowed down the shitter when he wrecked his knee in his last game as a senior. With football no longer an option, he had decided on a wrestling career under a stage name.
He ran south on West Drive until he reached the Sheep Meadow area where he began walking to cool down. His cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Wally, what the hell were you thinking?” The question came from Arnold Stutz, the president of the Global Wrestling Association.
“The sunovabitch kicked me in the balls. Twice. And the referee saw him do it both times and didn’t do anything. The second time, I got mad and beat the shit out of the creep.”
“That’s no excuse. Weren’t you wearing protection?”
“Of course I was.” Wally sucked in air to keep his temper under control. “A knee in the balls hurts even when you’re wearing a cup.”
“What are we going to do? This is an embarrassment, you know. We can’t have wrestlers winning whenever they feel like it.”
“That’s your problem. From now on, I fight to win.”
“Wally, be reasonable—“
Wally hung up. He felt better now that he had told someone off, but he may have destroyed his wrestling career. He could almost hear his agent’s cry of anguish when he hard about this conversation.
By the Children’s Zoo, two men in sweat shirts and jeans approached him. “Hey!” the older one said. “Joey the Nose wants to talk to you.”
A shudder danced up and down Wally’s wet spine. Joey the Nose was a local gangster chieftain. “Why?”
“He gotta a problem with you winnin’ last night. You was suppose to lose, you know.”
Oh shit! Why was a mobster upset over the match? Did people actually bet on rigged sporting events?
“C’mon.” The two men moved closer. “The boss ain’t got all day to wait.”
Wally almost jumped out of his running shoes when Little Ajax appeared at his right elbow, spear pointing at the men and his shield positioned to cover both of them.
Mouths open, the two men stared at Ajax. The Greek warrior jabbed the spear at the closest thug. Both turned and ran.
“Where’d you come from?”
“Agamemnon asked me to keep watch. Can’t produce a son if you get killed, can you?”
“I can take care of myself.” Wally pushed the shield away.
Ajax nodded and disappeared.
Wally strode towards 72nd Street.
Near the entrance, a woman leaned against a tree, watching him. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen: voluptuous with shoulder-length black hair, green eyes, milky complexion. She wore a knee-length white silk gown banded under the bosom and pinned over her left shoulder. A belt supported a sword worn low on her hip, like an old-time cowboy gunslinger.
The incongruity of her beauty and the implied violence of the sword struck Wally immobile.
She smiled and Wally’s knees turned mushy. He slumped down on a bench and stared at the woman.
She winked at him and disappeared the way the Greek warriors did; now you see them, now you don’t.
Wally needed a few seconds to compose himself.
© 2016 Hank Quense
Wally Widebody, a.k.a. Walter Pappas, staggered into the bathroom, flipped on the light and screamed.
The face in the mirror wasn’t his.
“Hail!” The strange face belonged to a middle-aged man with a black and silver beard. A smashed-in, crooked nose marred an otherwise good-looking face. The man carried a spear in his right hand.
A second man, armed with a spear and a shield, stood further into the mirror. Wally, ravaged by a hangover, managed to get enough saliva in his wooly mouth to say, “Who the hell are you?”
“Agamemnon, King of Mycea. I am your ancestor and I bring an urgent message from Zeus.”
Wally tried to recall where he had heard the names before.
“You are the last surviving male in the House of Atreus.” Agamemnon assumed a stern expression and wagged a finger at Wally. “The noblest line of Greek kings.”
“Who gives a shit?” Wally jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Get out of my mirror.”
“You dare to use that tone with me, the conqueror of Troy?”
Wally punched the mirror. Glass shards flew all over the bathroom while bottles and tubes spilled into the sink. He pawed through the mess, but couldn’t find a bottle of aspirin. He couldn’t find any band-aids either. Great! It was shaping up to be a hell of a day. And he couldn’t remember why he got drunk last night, except it had something to do with his wrestling match in Madison Square Garden. He wrapped a towel around his bleeding knuckles and left the bathroom.
In the kitchen, he took a beer from the refrigerator, opened it and swallowed a big gulp. A beer wasn’t as good as an aspirin but he had to do something to relieve his agony and to jump-start his clogged synapses. He sat down at an oval table and noted that he had slept in his clothes in the guest room adjacent to the kitchen instead of using his bedroom on the second floor. There had to be a good reason for his hangover. What was it?
Wally wiped the cold can across his forehead.
The beer sloshed down his face when the two men from the mirror appeared on the other side of the table. One moment he was by himself in the room, the next, there were enough people to play a hand of poker. Although to play cards, the other two would have to put down their weapons.
Agamemnon wore a sword belted on his hip, a leather breastplate trimmed in gold, a kilt-like skirt, bronze greaves and sandals. Underneath the armor, he wore a white tunic edged in purple, the same color as the crest on his bronze helmet. His bronze spear point almost reached the ceiling.
“This is my companion, Ajax from Lorca.” Agamemnon nodded his head towards the other man. “He’s called Little Ajax to distinguish him from Big Ajax, the one from Salamis.” Ajax had a black, bushy beard, his tunic was sand-colored and his helmet had a black crest. Otherwise the two men dressed in identical fashion.
“Leave me alone, asshole!”
“In Mycea, guests received a cup of wine as a welcome.”
“You’re not guests, you’re intruders.”
“He’s as big as the other Ajax,” Little Ajax said.
“You must produce a son.” Agamemnon pounded the spear butt on the floor. “Zeus founded the House of Atreus and he will not let it expire.”
“I don’t have a wife anymore.”
“This is a rich palace,” Ajax said. “Where are your concubines?”
“There aren’t any.”
Agamemnon and Ajax exchanged looks. Ajax shrugged.
Wally took another swig of beer. “If you guys conquered Troy, why aren’t you dead. Troy happened a long time ago.”
“Zeus commanded me to come here and tell you that the existence of the House of Atreus is in jeopardy.” After a pause, he added, “It’s not easy to cross the River Styx going the other way. I had to hit that idiot, Charon, in the head a few times before he’d ferry us across.”
“Okay. You told me.” Wally massaged his aching right knee, an indication that it must be raining out. “Now, take a hike back to Hades or where ever you came from.”
“I remind you I am a king. Speak to me with respect.”
“You’re dead. That means you aren’t a king anymore.”
Agamemnon glared at him.
“Well? Are you leaving?”
“Not until a son is born.” Agamemnon bent down and picked up a gold-encrusted belt from a chair. “This is similar to the war-belt I wore at Troy.”
Wally groaned. It was the heavyweight title belt for the Global Wrestling Association. Memories of last night overwhelmed him. He had fought the champ and was suppose to lose the match. No wonder he got drunk. The honchos in the GWA would not be happy campers this morning.
“I’m going to run in the park.” Wally stood up. The exercise would sweat out the booze from last night, and keep his knee limber. “See yourselves out, why don’t you.”
Each month, the web site will have a different story posted a scene at a time. Each subsequent scene will be posted two days after the previous scene.
All these stories are humorous or satiric fantasy or sci-fi stories. They’re mostly fantasy but with some sci-fi.
The first story is called House of Atreus. Zeus is concerned the ancient line of Atreus will soon die out.