We’re in trouble . . .
No one could accuse Denby of not having a knack to occasionally notice the painfully obvious. But, before that painfully obvious thought could steamroll his mind and string together highly unhelpful visualizations of unordinary Hitchcockian adaptations, James interrupted.
“We’re in a tad bit of trouble,” the immortal said with his eyes on the blue-black sky.
“Make a run for it? Right? Run for the car?!” Denby asked in a panic.
“Run? Make a run for the car? What's the problem now?” Bradbury asked with slight irritation.
“Monsters are back. The highway monsters,” Denby said, growing equally tired of the play-by-play.
Bradbury looked up and saw nothing but the starry night.
“We would not make it to the machine safely,” James said. “Now would be a most excellent moment to put on the ring.”
There was zero time to hem and haw. “I lost your ring,” Denby said bluntly.
“Unfortunate,” James replied. “There is no choice then. The two of us make our stand here. Grab your sporting club. It has been an honor traveling with you, Mister Denby.”
“That’s the plan?!” Denby asked. “That is a horrible, horrible plan! I can’t fight off a horde of monsters with some schmuck’s lost nine iron!”
James put his hand on Denby’s shoulder, “Yes, it is a horrible plan. And yes, you can bring battle to a horde of monsters with a sporting club.”
Bradbury put his hand on Denby’s other shoulder, “Ya gotta relax, kid. Let’s go to the car. Get outta here. Find some breakfast. Pancakes. My treat.”
Denby picked up the forgotten ordinary sporting club and raised it above his head, “It is a horrible, horrible plan.”
“Whoa, easy. Breakfast is never a bad idea. Drop the club. Pancakes. Let’s go,” Bradbury was out of patience.
James quickly looked over the turf for the angry weird lightsaber. He could not see it, and there was no time to search. He tossed off his tawny topcoat and took a bare-knuckled boxer’s stance, “It is a rather horrible plan. But . . . if that is all there is . . .”
Denby could not see them yet, but he could hear. He could hear the granthors’ razor-blade bellies as they snipped and snarled in the dark; they echoed underneath the call of the Hallomen. A tear rolled down his cheek. “Bradbury, I need you to stop asking questions and . . . please, if you could . . . run around us . . . like . . . in a figure eight . . . or something . . . wave your arms around.”
“Excellent idea. An ordinary ruckus,” James applauded.
“Just do it,” Denby insisted.
Bradbury’s limit had been reached, but it had not been broken. He did as the distressed Denby asked and began to randomly run in circles across the ninth green. He waved his arms and mumbled with heavy breath, “I’m helping the kid. I’m helping the kid.”
James and Denby were in the eye of an unordinary hurricane of monsters. Granthors flooded from all directions—a living moving wall, clawing and flapping and gnashing and chomping. True terror closing in.
I hate golf . . . Denby thought as his white knuckles wrapped around the club.
There was something amongst the wave of granthors. Denby could see it. He could see something bouncing about. It was faster than the unordinary razor-bellied flying hound dogs. It popped from granthor to granthor and avoided their jaws and claws. It pinged like a pinball amongst the terror, and it came straight for Denby.
Oh my gods . . .
It was Jerry.
“Come here, boy!” Denby yelled.
Jerry, with extra-unordinary speed, flew into Denby’s arms. Denby dropped his club to the turf, grabbed hold of the short-haired earless black not-rabbit, and rubbed his head.
Jerry winked and spat out the ring of Khangaalak.
“Good show, Jerry!” James shouted, “Now, Denby, for the love of the gods . . .”
Denby did not need the immortal’s insistent instruction. He did not know the ring’s function, but it did not matter; there was no other choice. With Jerry snug under his arm, he held up the ring with the king’s metal-whiskered face. The king seemed to smile as Denby held his breath and slid the ring onto his finger.
The ring was two sizes too big and hung loosely around his digit.
No . . . come on . . .
The ring spun.
It spun and spun and became smaller and smaller while the granthors got closer and closer. It rang around Denby’s finger until it finally settled to a stop and clamped tight against his skin.
Everything that surrounded Denby and Jerry came to a standstill. Everything. Everything frozen in time. James was in the middle of throwing his first punch as the granthors had reached him. Bradbury was in the middle of a “dance” and looked like a crazed mime in a sea of rabid creatures that were all stuck in a breaking wave. The Hallomen were mere meters above, at a complete mid-air standstill, with their needle-filled jaws wide open. To Denby, it all looked like a bizarre unordinary three-dimensional renaissance painting.
My gods . . .
The ring became hot on Denby’s finger. He held tight to Jerry as violet mist poured from the king’s metal mouth. The violet mist swirled around Denby and Jerry. It swirled and swirled around the ninth green. Around the granthors. Around James. Around Bradbury. Around the midair Hallomen. It circled close to Denby, who did not and could not move a muscle.
The mist became foglike and still, then shifted and transformed into three figures. Three towering transparent violet figures. All three dressed boot to cap in ancient Mongolian armor. All three carrying identical small round shields and curved sabers.
“We are the sons of the good king Khangaalak,” the first figure bellowed.
“Shield brothers,” the second figure added.
“We are at your defense,” the third figure ended.
“Umm . . . okay . . . ,” Denby said with hesitant amazement. “You’re ghosts?”
“Not ghosts,” the first figure answered.
“Echoes,” the second figure vaguely clarified.
“We are here to slay the aggressors,” the third figure added.
“Umm . . . thanks, I’m Denby and this is Jerry," Denby lifted the not-rabbit's paw. "We . . . umm . . . are in a jam.”
“I am Timur,” the first figure banged his saber against his shield.
“Bataar,” the second figure bowed.
“Sukh,” the third figure kneeled.
“Now, let us see what we have here,” Timur said as he and his shield brothers turned to survey the Wexford Public Golf Course.
“Granthors. Ugly buggers,” Sukh said. “Many, many, ugly buggers.”
“Hallomen . . . one, two, three, four, five . . . ,” Bataar stopped speaking but kept up his count. He pointed out each of the near innumerable frozen winged beasts.
Sukh turned to Denby, “What in the world did you do?”
“Sukh!” Timur scolded, “For the gods . . . keep it professional.”
Bataar spotted James. "Is that . . . that is the endless one, is it not? You are cohorts with the fabled—"
“Bataar!” Timur interrupted.
Sukh took note of Bradbury and looked beyond to the parked Nova. “The year of our gods. When is it?!”
“Sukh!” Timur scolded once again and turned toward Denby. “Apologies, ringbearer.”
“We have been cooped up for quite some time,” Bataar explained.
“Quite some time,” Sukh added.
“Ringbearer, is it best to assume that you are unaware of the rules?” Timur asked.
“There are rules for the ringbearer and their are rules for the shield brothers,” Timur explained. “We are here to defend. When the timeline restarts, we will protect you and you can trust that no harm shall come."
"It is our sworn duty," Bataar said.
"Our legacy," Sukh added.
Timur explained, “Throughout its existence, our fathers’ kingdom triumphantly repelled each and every conqueror that dared to enter our lands."
“But, our father never retaliated, never expanded his kingdom through war or violence,” Sukh said.
“We are the spirit . . . ,”
“ . . . the echo . . . ,”
“. . . of our father’s kingdom.”
“Okay,” Denby understood.
“The ringbearer must not move. Not an inch,” Timur continued to explain. “You must stand fast and we will defend.”
The shield-brothers held each other’s hands. “Brothers,” Timur said. “Are we ready to vanquish the vile aggressors?”
“Ringbearer? Are you ready to restart the timeline?”
Denby gritted his teeth, held tight to Jerry, and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The bizarre unordinary three-dimensional renaissance painting came back to life. Bradbury continued his figure-eighted, arm-waving, granthor-disrupting dance. James punch connected and knocked out the first of countless flying hound dogs. The shield brothers easily repelled the oncoming wave of rabid razor-bellied monsters that tried to crash down on Denby the ringbearer, who closed his eyes and held tight to Jerry.
Wave after wave rushed the ninth green of the Wexford Public Golf Course while the Hallomen screeched and squawked from above.
Timur, Bataar and Sukh were unlike any team that Denby had ever seen. They moved as if they were one single being, slicing and shielding against the relentless aggression. Denby felt safe. He felt so safe that he was able to keep his eyes open and watch as James fought off the horde while using Bradbury as an unwitting human shield. He watched as the immortal fought off hundreds and hundreds of granthors with his bare hands, using unorthodoxy and unhuman reflexes.
We are gonna make it . . . Denby thought.
That thought would not have been completely unreasonable. Not unreasonable at all, if it were not for the fact that Bradbury was an ordinary man. And ordinary men, due to no fault of their own, eventually run out of steam.
Out of breath, Bradbury hunched over and put his hands on his knees. He panted and looked up to see Denby standing as still as a statue.
James became overrun. Washed over in a flood of granthors.
“No!” Denby yelled.
“Come on, kid,” Bradbury panted as he stood up straight and tried to catch his breath. “Enough is enough.”
“Run to your left!”
“Kid, I got nothing left.”
Jerry squirmed and tried to break free from Denby’s grasp, desperate to rush to James’ aid.
“Save him!” Denby screamed at the shield brothers.
“We cannot,” Sukh said with sorrow as granthors bounced off his shield. “We are bound to protect the ringbearer.”
“We are sorry, Denby,” Bataar said as his saber sliced through a stream of granthors. “Truly sorry.”
A Halloman dove into the flow of rabid granthors, grabbed hold of James, and carried him up into the blue-black sky.
My gods . . .
. . . I gotta save him . . .
. . . how can I save him?
As Denby contemplated how to rescue his air-bound immortal friend—without he himself being torn to ribbons—a beautiful chubby origami butterfly flittered by.
Pissy Pixies filled the air. They fluttered and flapped through the granthors and latched onto the jaw of the Halloman who carried James. A pair of pixies held a conversation across the Halloman’s beak. “Not very nice, ya know.”
“Picking people up.”
“Carryin’ ‘em wherever ya please.”
“Not very nice at all.”
“It kinda makes us mad.”
“But I wouldn’t be concerned about us.”
“Wouldn’t be worried about us at all.”
“I would be very worried about her.”
Calista stood on the edge of the creepiest of woods and shook her head. She whispered into a trinket that hung around her neck. “Arma. Parata. Gema.”
“Fools,” Calista lowered herself onto her haunches and leaned against a Pennsylvania maple in the creepiest of woods. “Fools to think I would follow,” she whispered to herself in the way one does when one has been without company for far too long. “Fools,” she looked back to the ninth green.
From a distance she watched Denby, Bradbury and James argue as the blue-bubbled haze lifted and the darkness of night returned.
“Foo—,” Calista’s ears perked up. She could hear the wings of Hallomen flap in the distance and the approaching chatter of endless granthors.
She watched young Denby panic, the older human run in circles, and James raise his hands as if he were about to fistfight thousands of rabid monsters.
“Such . . . fools,” she whispered.
The Hallomen circled above the storm of monstrous pets. Monstrous pets that had the fools surrounded.
“Why are they not attacking me? Can the beasts not smell me? What is going on here?” Calista pondered before she spotted Jerry who was dashing and bounding among the granthors. “Jerund!” she smiled. “You’ve gotten your hair cut.”
She watched young Denby grab hold of Jerry and put on an unordinary ring.
Calista did not know how long she had been frozen in time, but she knew it had happened. She knew by the sight of the towering violet echoes with ancient Mongolian armor that mysteriously appeared to defend Denby. “Khangaalakians. I see we are digging up all the desperate tricks, eh, James?”
Calista watched James masterfully hold off the siege of granthors. Hold them off, that is, until he no longer had the unwitting aid of the older human mobile barricade.
She watched the granthors overrun James.
“Save him!” she heard Denby yell.
Calista watched as one of the many Hallomen dove into the sea of granthors and plucked James into the night.
“Fools. Fools. Fools.” She stood up and whispered, “Pari. Vola."
Pixies erupted from a bauble that dangled among her unordinary jewelry. They poured over the granthors—their pearlescent trails of light corrupting the rabid storm.
The pixies latched onto the horde—here and there—and those that remained flew up to the Halloman that carried James.
Calista pulled a small glass flask out of a pocket, held it up and examined the fine grey powder inside. “Not much left . . . ,” she rattled the flask, “. . . best to save for later.” She slid it back into her pocket.
Calista walked to the edge of the creepiest of woods and shook her head. She whispered into a trinket that hung around her neck. “Arma. Parata. Gema.”
Luminous, thin, emerald stone armor emerged from the trinket and began to form around her—from boots to greaves to gauntlets to chest plate to helm. She cracked her neck back and forth and said to herself, “Let’s go save the fools.”
Calista struck. She struck viciously and violently as if she were a thunderless bolt of chained lightning. She struck from pixie to pixie to pixie to pixie to pixie and left a trail of havoc and deceased granthors in her wake until finally she struck true to the Halloman that carried the immortal James.
Calista and James fell from the blue-black sky.
Pieces of the Halloman rained all around them.
Although Calista’s first strike was devastating, granthors still remained, as well as numerous air-bound Hallomen, all of whom did not take kindly to Calista’s entrance. Not one bit.
Calista’s emerald stone armor had suffered a small crack below her left eye, but was otherwise ready for the oncoming onslaught. James pressed his back to hers and said, “Why, thank you, dear. I fear that turned rather ugly.”
Back to back, the two fought off the horde together.
A Halloman swooped down and again attempted to fly off with James. But, this time, the Halloman found that task much more difficult as Calista tore off its wings and used the torn appendages to strike down its advancing pets.
“Sloppy, mister amazing immortal,” Calista said. “You are sloppy.”
“Well, I have been on quite a long holiday.”
Calista was unamused.
Denby and Jerry watched Calista’s and James’ wrath from behind the absolute safety of the shield brothers. They’re incredible . . . Denby thought, and Jerry would have shared his agreement, that is, if he were able to read minds and speak.
Bradbury had caught his breath and approached the statue-like Denby, “Okay. It really is time to go.”
“Can’t,” Denby replied and remained motionless.
Bradbury was exasperated, “Can’t?” He put his hands on his head. “I’m not leaving you out here alone. But we are not staying out here either. I am tired of running around in circles. Literally.”
“Just . . . ,” Denby watched Calista and James. “Five more minutes. I . . . I think that is all we need.”
“Five more minutes?” Bradbury exhaled. “Five minutes. Okay.”
Unfortunately, Denby did not possess a crystal ball. He could not see into the future, and in those next five minutes Calista and James became overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers. There were just too many. Too many granthors. Too many Hallomen. Too many.
The crack in Calista’s armor worsened, and sections became shattered under the stress.
James’ sloppiness was real and became much more apparent.
A pair of Hallomen took this opportunity, swooped down and together grabbed hold of James. They lifted him back into the air, leaving Calista alone to grapple with the granthors.
Jerry squirmed and Denby was about to take a step forward, but stopped.
“Ringbearer,” Timur said. “If you move, we must return to the ring and you will be defenseless.”
A half dozen Hallomen landed and paced in a circle around Calista.
James remained exposed in midair as the two Hallomen holding him pulled in opposite directions.
Jerry, unable to sit idly by, tried to wrestle free from Denby.
“I know,” Denby said, and he began to take a step forward.
“Goodluck, master Denby,” Timur said.
“Gods’ speed . . . ,” Bataar added.
“For honor . . . ,” Sukh bowed.
Denby took a step forward, and the echoes of the shield brothers disappeared into the ring of Khangaalak.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Denby let Jerry run free.
Bradbury was relieved. “Good. Now, those panca—” But before he could finish his sentiment about a much-needed breakfast, Denby pumped his arms, high-stepped his knees, and zig-zagged down the darkened fairway.
“Fight me! Fight me . . . you . . . ugly . . . mothers!” Denby screamed and panted as he ran.
“Jesus . . . ,” Bradbury followed.
A dozen Hallomen gave chase along with all of their pet granthors. Only two of the flying beasts chose not to run after the daring Denby, for they remained preoccupied playing tug of war with the amazing immortal.
This is a horrible, horrible, horrible plan . . .
Denby was not wrong.
The last of Calista’s emerald stone armor shattered and fell. She was left alone on the ninth green as the horde chased after Denby. “Brave fool,” she whispered.
Jerry hopped up to Calista’s feet, raised his head and grinned.
“Jerund!” she picked up the short-haired, earless, black not-rabbit and rubbed his head. He nuzzled against her, winked and spat out the angry weird lightsaber.
“Leave me,” James yelled to Calista from his airborne torturers. “You must save Denby.”
“You, dearest James, are not the boss of me,” Calista whispered to herself, as she palmed the angry weird lightsaber, broke its metallic blade over her knee, and violently twisted the scratched black orb until it fell clear from the copper hilt.
The angry weird lightsaber’s wild, red-orange flame burst free. It whipped and twirled around Calista, lapping at the night.
Calista lept down the ordinary darkened fairway and took the fight to Denby’s pursuers.
Put simply . . .
. . . she slaughtered them all.
Denby stopped his zig-zag run and turned to watch Calista’s carnage in utter amazement. It looked almost serene. It reminded Denby of a kid who had stolen a leftover sparkler and joyfully danced out onto a lawn on the fifth of July.
There were but two remaining Hallomen. The two who had been high above and engaged in an immortal tug of war. A torturous game that had lost its importance upon the sight of Calista’s handiwork. The Halloman restraining James’ arms became unnerved and let go. He ventured onto the ordinary fairway to avenge his brethren and met Calista’s rage head on.
He suffered instantly at her hands.
And then there was one. One last Halloman that flailingly held James by his feet. It desperately attempted to flee the battle of Wexford, Pennsylvania, and spirit away with the immortal in tow. But, James had strong objections to this plan and fought against his winged kidnapper.
James gathered his strength, swayed his body back and forth and wrestled free from the last flying monstrosity—dropping hard to the ground below.
Denby, exhausted, looked skyward as the last Halloman spiraled upwards and disappeared into the starry night. He was unaware and unprepared as Bradbury barreled into him—tackling him hard to the turf.
Bradbury, rolled off of Denby, rose to his feet and politely pleaded, “Enough of this, kid. We're gettin' out of here."
Too winded to argue. Too tired to move. Denby just laid there, still, silent, flat on his back.
Calista approached and made an observation, “Fools.”
She picked up Denby, cradled him in her arms and began carrying him back to James.
Bradbury watched. He watched Denby float away—four feet above the ninth fairway of the Wexford Public Golf Course.
“Calista thinks we are fools,” Denby yelled.
Bradbury promptly fainted.