“Oh dear!” Woomaz moaned and read the inscription. “This one says ‘Your mother crossbreeds with the cave spiders in the Galena 90 asteroids.’”
Emboldened by the liquor, I grabbed the neck of the bottle with my free hand and stalked toward the herd of Morbians. They could say whatever they wanted about my father; I knew first hand the stench of his body odor. They could say whatever they wanted about my sister; she mates in any season with any creature that is convenient to her. But nobody — and I mean absolutely nobody — talks that way about the cave spiders of Galena 90 and gets away with it.
“Is there a problem here…. gentleman?” I demanded.
The Morbians were prepared for the confrontation. The goon who had followed me into the bar stepped forward, flanked by his peers, and stared down at me.
“Yes,” he said and pointed to the near empty bottle in my hand. “We have a problem with the beverage you have been drinking.”
“You mean this?” I laughed. “It’s just tequila. All humans drink it once in a while.”
I upended the bottle and swigged the last of the tequila, worm and all.
A chorus of horrified gasps greeted me when I smiled back at the herd. Each Morbian grimaced; a few were too shocked to do much more than gape at me in revulsion.
“What have you done!” the Morbian gasped.
“What?” I stared blankly at them.
“You have swallowed a child!” I could see the anger rapidly rise within him. “You have devoured one of our larvae! This is an abomination!”
“Uh-oh,” Woomaz said behind me.
“No I didn’t…” I stammered. “This is just tequila… from Mexamerica. Isn’t it?”
I turned toward the bartender. He was laughing so hard his head rolled like a tumbleweed inside the jar.
“Forgive me, Human John,” he said as he wiped a goblet with a filthy rag. “But I have so little fun around here!”
The Morbian raised his fists over his head.
“Then I shall hunt down one of your hatchlings and consume it!” he bellowed.
I glared at the bartender. If he’d had a neck, I would have reached across the bar and strangled him with my bare hands. Instead, I mollified myself by smashing the empty bottle his over his head with all the strength I had.
Shards of glass exploded in all directions. I ducked to avoid getting splattered by the plasma that spewed from the shattered bell jar. Still laughing heartily, the head rolled across the floor, leaving behind a trail of slime. The goblet he had been wiping smashed into the bar as every limb and appendage went haywire. The mechanical arm frantically jabbed the air until orange sparks shot out from its joints. Hairy paws and bionic flippers waved and jerked in all directions. With a final shudder, the body slumped over the bar; the tentacles flopped in a puddle of plasma like a pair of dying fish.
“Look out!” Woomaz shrieked.
I ducked just as a blade whizzed over my head. The Morbian bellowed in fury and lunged at me with an evil looking serrated dagger held high over his head.
“Filthy human!” he raged.
I grasped my haversack with both hands and swung it like a club. The stones shattered as they struck his face with sickening squishy thud. He flew back on his hunches. The dagger was knocked out of his paw and clattered on the slippery floor. His companions roared and waved their fists up in the air. Before they could advance toward me, I hauled back and kicked the bartender’s head across the room.
“Watch the face!” the bartender screamed as his head sailed into the midsection of a Morbian.
The creature wailed in agony and doubled over, clasping his stomach with both hands. Thick viscous fluid gushed between the fingers.
“You’ve punctured my mucus sac!” he cried and dropped to his knees.
The bartender’s head rolled like a marble on the floor, sputtering and coughing Morbian goo from his mouth and nostrils.
“Let’s get out of here!” I called to Woomaz.
“Does this mean I get the job?” he asked as he slipped from his chair.
“Yes! Now let’s get out of here before I get killed!” I shouted and ran towards the exit. I reached down and grab the first Morbian’s lost dagger.
Another Morbian ran after me brandishing some sort of short curved weapon with an array of nasty blades at the tips. I turned and jabbed the dagger toward him, silently cursing myself for not having the foresight to bring my own weapon into a place like this. The blade missed its target; he backed away, growling in fury but at least I bought myself a few precious seconds to escape.
The knives at the tip of his weapon whirred to life, rotating faster and faster until they became a lethal blur. The blades popped off and flew in my direction. I ducked, but I knew I was probably too late. I was doomed.
A purple blob sprung up before me. The spinning blades struck Woomaz with a sickly plop and embedded into his makeshift torso.
“Go!” he shouted as another Morbian advanced toward us.
I didn’t have time to check if Woomaz was all right. I scampered toward the exit, trying not to slip on the slick effluence that covered the floor. The portal glowed bright red, ready to convey me to the docking bay where my ship awaited me.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Woomaz was unhurt and rushing up behind me, the stilled blades suspended in his body like a piece of fruit in gelatin. He reached down and scooped up the bartender’s head in his gooey arms.
“Leave it!” I called.
“No! Take me with you!” the bartender said.
We leapt through the portal and it sealed itself shut behind us. Jagged sparks crackled from its center as another rotating blade struck the portal. Howls of rage echoed from the barroom.
It wouldn’t be long before the damaged portal was pried opened by the Morbians. I headed straight for my ship and dove through the main door just as it opened like an iris; Woomaz was close behind me with the bartender laughing in his arms.
“Get in!” I shouted as I settled behind the dashboard.
The portal hissed opened and half a dozen enraged Morbians flooded out. The engines kicked to life and Woomaz was hurled across the cabin from the force. He struck the far wall with a splat, dropping the bartender and knocking over the shelves that contained the artifacts Golfish allowed me to keep. The ruined blade popped out of his belly and clattered to the floor. Another souvenir for my collection. The bartender’s head lolled among the debris as the ship rose toward the gaping black hole that was so vast it filled the sky and blotted the light from the galaxy’s centre.
“Hold on!” I called and pulled on the navigation lever.
The ship sailed upward, slowing as it went. Blades clattered against the hull until we were too far for them to reach. When the ship reached the summit, we plunged downward, spiraling sickeningly into the void. Red and blue dots of light whizzed past us, collapsing inwards until they became pinpoints of light. And then pure darkness. And silence. We were traveling beyond light speed, consumed in complete nothingness.
“That was close!” I heaved back in my chair and blew a lock of hair that had tumbled into my eyes. My heart thudded in my throat.
Woomaz slithered away from the wall and stared at me.
“What do we do now?” he asked.
“Go to Galena 90 and get back to work of course,” I replied.
“But I need another body,” The bartender said from the floor.
“Too bad,” I said and picked him up. His skin was surprisingly warm and papery, despite the plasma that still oozed from his nostrils and ears. I turned him over in my hands, checking for bruises or abrasions, but he appeared unhurt.
I yanked the leather cord from my haversack and looped it around the back of his head, knotting it tightly at the crown.
“Maybe now you’ll stay out of trouble,” I said and hung him from a rafter above the dashboard.
“Get me down from here!” the bartender demanded.
“I don’t think so,” I laughed and settled in my chair.
I leaned back and pulled the brim of my hat down over my face. I needed to get some sleep.
Caroline Misner’s work has appeared in numerous publications in the USA, Canada, India and the UK. She has been nominated for the prestigious McClelland & Stewart Journey Anthology Prize for the short story “Strange Fruit”; in 2011 another short story and a poem were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her novel “The Daughters of Eldox, Book 1: The Alicorn” is her first foray into YA Fantasy. Her next novel entitled “The Daughters of Eldox, Book 2: The Other” is the continuing story of her heroine Vala and the unicorn herds in the Land of Nomar. Currently she is hard at work on the third installment of the series. She lives and works in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands of northern Ontario Canada where she continues to follow her muse, wherever it may take her. You can find Caroline’s work at Amazon.
Featured image via W & J