(Photo by Radina Valova @RadinaValova, #photostorychallenge host)
((For this challenge, I used characters from my After Life series that I’m working on alongside my other 87 side projects))
Issa passed several gas stations before finding one that was just the right amount of out-of-the-way and isolated. There hadn’t been a car besides hers on the road for miles and both the pumps and the parking lot were empty when she pulled in. She cruised up to pump number four and parked, her two passengers barely waiting for her to come to a complete stop before bum-rushing through the car doors.
Ron made a knock-kneed dash for the convenience store, his urgent piss-waddle all but apparent. At a far more leisurely speed and with much less crotch holding than the knight, V also disappeared into the offensively fluorescent bowels of the store. Issa busied herself with pumping gas, humming and tapping her hand on the Firebird’s rear spoiler along to “Never Gonna Give You Up” which was blaring from the overhead speakers and conveniently drowning out the muffled screams from the trunk.
Although the midnight-black sky was clear of any ominous storm clouds, a booming clap of thunder muted Rick Astley’s butter-smooth voice for just an instant. Issa could feel the sudden presence of the man behind her as keenly as the raised hairs on the back of her neck but her hand remained steady on the nozzle despite the tensed constricting of her grip. He allowed the moment to dangle uncomfortably between them until it became obvious that Issa was not going to address the man who seemed to have dropped out of the sky.
“You the idiot stupid enough to kidnap Atropos?”
The flow of gas abruptly stopped with a soft thunk and Issa carefully removed the nozzle from the car.
“Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell. Pretty sure you’ve got the wrong idiot.”
There was a mocking snort from the man and his tone was all sneer.
“Ballsy enough to abduct one of the Three Fates but not enough to own up to it? That’s disappointing.”
“And who exactly do I have the pleasure of disappointing?” Issa asked with a mouthful of sass, completing her transaction and waiting for her receipt to print out.
“My enemies call me Oh-Shit-It’s-Achilles.” He paused to allow his name to sink in, pleased with himself and stoking his own ego so profusely that Issa was one hundred percent certain that the front of his underwear was no longer clean. “But just Achilles is fine.”
Issa ripped the tiny piece of paper out of the machine and promptly crumbled it in her fist, at last turning towards Achilles to engage in a long overdue clash of menacing stares with the Greek warrior who almost singlehandedly defeated a popular brand of condoms. This was the exact moment that Ron strolled out of the convenience store, taking one good look at the man lit up like a golden-skinned glow stick, and blurted out, “Oh shit. It’s Achilles.”
An illuminated line of Egyptian hieroglyphics flashed down the length of Issa’s arms in white-hot radiance as she formed and cast a beach ball-sized sphere of shrieking shadow magic at Achilles while he was momentarily distracted by Ron’s slack-jawed gawking. The spell slammed into him right in the dead center of his muscle tank top with the dental floss straps, launching him clear to the other side of the gas station with torso-sundering concussive force.
Ron blinked at the sorceress, pointing in the direction of the legendary hero turned human cannonball.
“Did you see that? That was Achilles.”
“Save that fanboy shit for later, we gotta’ go,” Issa said, shaking the tingles out of her hands that she always got when blasting a douchebag’s nipples out through his back. “Go grab V and I’ll—”
In mid-sentence, Issa dropped to the ground as a perfectly aimed fire extinguisher went sailing over her head at Mach speed, about three strands of hair shy from decapitating her. Popping back up to her feet and strafing in the opposite direction of her precious car, Issa immediately raised her hands, fully intending to knock some mortality into the invulnerable Achilles with another spell, but for a man that looked like he could bench press a bus with only his middle fingers and not break a sweat, he was supernaturally fast. He had her by the neck and thrashing in the air before the conjured magic even heated her palms, Issa realizing half a second too late why his rabid, die-hard fans still called him ‘Achilles the Swift-Footed’.
“Cut the foreplay, sorceress,” Achilles said, his now fully exposed glowing pectorals threatening to blind the choking Issa with their godly radiance. “I couldn’t care less about the old lady but I came out of retirement for this. If you’re not going to at least have the courtesy to entertain me, immortal to immortal, then I’ll just have find pleasure in seeing how many different ways I can almost kill you before Hades himself begs me to stop.”
“Let her go,” Ron warned, edging into Achilles’ line of sight. He was brandishing a windshield squeegee like a sword, his stance confident and eyes flinty with lethal intent in spite of his impromptu weapon. “And do those lightbulbs you call nipples have dimmer switches or can you maybe turn down the brightness on ‘em a bit? I feel like I’m looking directly into the bloody sun.”
Achilles effortlessly flexed his pecs in the most insulting display of muscle control possible, grinning viciously at Ron while he ignored Issa’s attempts to pry his meaty hand from around her throat. The knight shrugged, snatching his gaze away from Achilles’ dancing chest.
“I know a better trick and it doesn’t involve flashing my tits at another fellow.”
Ron dashed forward, squeegee held high and dripping window cleaner in his wake. Not surprisingly, the former hero did not budge, and Ron savored the momentary shock on Achilles’ face when he was savagely slashed by the squeegee and the forearm holding up Issa split open to the bones. Issa landed hard on her knees, wheezing and gasping. In the time it took for Achilles’ wound to heal itself back together, the sorceress was on her feet at Ron’s side, pissed and ready to unleash thirty-one flavors of hell.
“That’s cute,” Achilles said, rubbing his arm where the horrific gash no longer was. “I almost took you for a threat. Now ask Isetemankh to borrow her lady-balls, draw your sword, and try that again.”
Keeping his weapon aimed at Achilles, Ron stuck his chin out defiantly, replying, “It’s not the weapon that makes the man. It’s the man that makes the weapon.”
Then Ron blinked and the monster in glowing human skin was just suddenly in front of him even though he hadn’t seen Achilles move. The squeegee was crushed into a mangled wad of plastic by Achilles’ fist, Ron fairing slightly better than his makeshift blade as he was grasped by the shoulder and discus thrown across the parking lot.
“Did you get that bullshit out of a fortune cookie?” Achilles called out after the knight as he held a hand above his brow to block the lights overhead and squinted at Ron’s twitching body. “Allow me to share some wisdom with you, Sir Galeron. Truth is a cold mistress but steel is colder.”
“And the rest of that goes, shut the fuck up because magic beats steel,” Issa cut in, arms lit up like a Christmas tree from shoulder to wrist.
Two of the nearest gas pump hoses came to life with a violent shake, jerking free from the pumping station and shifting into one-eyed serpents with silver fangs that dripped gasoline. They were on Achilles in a flash, biting and wrapping around him as he stumbled backwards, making wild grabs for the magic snakes.
Issa crossed the parking lot, eyes never leaving Achilles, until she stood over Ron.
“Time for round two, champ!” she said with unsympathetic sharpness, ignoring Ron’s pained groaning. “I can’t bring out the big guns because gram-gram won’t be much use to us if we let her melt into human-cheese in a gas station explosion. Cut him into deli slices, I like mine medium thin, and let’s get the hell out of here.”
“Can’t. Don’t have sword,” Ron moaned, curled up in a fetal ball.
“What? Where is it?”
The knight began groaning again, his dramatics almost Oscar worthy, until Issa stepped on the side of his face and held her shoe there.
“Ow, ow, ow, alright, alright,” he said. “I think I left it in the loo.”
Issa had to stop herself from stomping his skull through the concrete and to the center of the Earth.
“You left Excalibur in a fucking gas station bathroom?!”
“It’s not like I had it surgically attached to my cock, Issa. I’m allowed to set it down to take a shit!”
The hieroglyphics on Issa’s arms extinguished and blinked out, causing her venomous retort to fizzle out on the tip of her tongue and Ron’s whining to cut off abruptly. They both glanced in Achilles’ direction in perfect synchrony, both realizing at the exact same moment that the spell-serpents were ripped apart and scattered in unmoving pieces. They both dropped mental F-bombs when Achilles was several yards away one second and then directly in front of them the next.
He drew a golden sword from the scabbard at his hip, the look in his eyes just as sharp and deadly as his weapon. The blade ignited into golden flames and Achilles raised his arm high as if demanding that the divine powers above abandon their godly duties and bear witness to his glory. And then V walked up with two arm-loads of snacks and kicked Achilles in the back of his right heel. The Greek warrior collapsed to the ground, hitting the concrete like a felled tree.
“You left this in the restroom,” V said around a mouthful of barbecue Corn Nuts, holding out Excalibur from somewhere beyond the never ending rows of bags draped on her arms.
Issa took the sword and dropped it on Ron, who hadn’t moved from his fetal position.
“If you cared more about holding onto that sword than you did your own dick, you might have saved us some trouble with the big Greek nightlight. Maybe surgically attaching Excalibur to you isn’t a bad idea.”
“By the way you’re welcome for saving your neck,” said Ron, dryly. He hauled himself up and limped after Issa and V, who had all but abandoned him and were heading for the car. “Quite literally, I might add.”
“And you tried to fend off an immortal champion of the Gods with a wet squeegee and got turned into an Olympic event,” Issa reminded him as they all piled into the Firebird.
“I thought you said kidnapping an old lady was going to be easy,” Ron sighed, face down in the backseat.
“It was supposed to be. I didn’t anticipate Mr. Sexy Flex-y Pecs to show up. We gotta’ find out which god or goddess sent him.”
“Was that Hercules?” Vishma suddenly asked, surrounded in her seat by a sea of plastic bags.
Issa floored it out of the gas station, fairly certain that V had committed armed robbery in that convenient store.
“No. It was Achilles. Good thing your third eye figured out who it was before you kicked him.”
The Indian goddess gnawed on a stick of turkey jerky, the eye in the center of her forehead wide open and staring into some random point in time.
“Spoiler alert. They team up.” She picked at something in her teeth. “And we don’t stand a chance.”
Face buried in the seat and voice muffled, Ron simply said, “Alright, well, wake me when we’re all dead.”
And then everyone in the car fell silent except for V rustling through bags for stolen snacks and the soft, maniacal cackling echoing from inside the trunk.