Invitation






Invitation




Thunder echoed from the fjords in staccato repetition, as a tempest swept in from the sea.  Jens scrambled for cover beneath an overhang in the cliff face.  This was no place to be caught in the open.

His mind raced through his options as grasping fingers of wind sought him, laden with ice-cold rain.  Electric terror stroked across the face of the cliff opposite him, blinding him momentarily.  No matter whether he ascended or descended, the cliffside trail would be treacherous.  The sea below him heaved violent swells, casting themselves against the granite face in incessant roar.  There seemed to be only two choices: to die here, cowering into a granite niche, or to die standing against the elements like a true Viking.

With a scream of defiance, Jens scrambled from hiding and climbed into the teeth of the gale.  His feet seemed possessed, as he scrambled along the narrow ledge, finding solid purchase with every step.  Every fiber of his being seemed charged with the very power of Odin.  He was not afraid -- yet!

It came from behind, somewhere: a strange sort of sobbing sound.  Every hair on his body stood up from the skin.

Ka-Blamm!

Rock shattered behind him, showering his legs with fragments.  With a shriek of terror, Jens staggered, then dropped his sword.  It clattered twice off the cliff face and disappeared into the sea.  Jens didn't care -- it was of no use against the gods.

Once again, the sky sobbed, and hair stood on end.  Jens dropped to his belly and hugged the trail, shrieking involuntarily as the detonation peeled stone from the trail -- three meters, at least.  Jens wasted no time in rushing up the trail, this was a race for his life.

For an instant -- for an eternity -- he hung in space as he leaped the gaping hole in the cliffside, then the shock of landing, slipping, frantic grasping at the sharp, punishing stone of the ledge.  He held on and pulled himself to his feet.  His mind was numb, his ears humming from the explosive assault.  Only his animal instinct could save him now, and it was on autopilot.

Time after time, explosions bracketed the trail, each time, his senses reacted, but his mind knew only one long, blurred cacophony of terror.  Finally, he scrambled over the rim to relative safety.  Thirty meters ahead, a cave entrance beckoned; safety promised -- if he could survive the race.  Through the very fires of hell, he danced, with death stalking his every step, then darkness engulfed him.

                                                            ~*~

Cold -- so very cold.  He was shivering with it.  From somewhere, water trickled, a soft comforting sound.  He opened his eyes to blinding light.  The sun was shining through the cave entrance with overwhelming intensity.  He shielded his eyes and struggled to his feet with a groan.  It seemed that every muscle, every joint in his body ached.  His hands were sticky from the blood of their torn flesh.  He wiped them on his tunic and crept to the cave entrance.

The very air was charged with the glitter of gold.  It hung, sparkling in crystal splendor all around him.  Ahead of him stretched Bifrost, the rainbow bridge to Valhalla.  He stood, staring, his mouth hanging open -- then came the suspicion that he must be dead.  He flexed his hands.  No, from the pain that racked his body, that couldn't be true.  He was agonizingly alive, that much he knew.

As he stepped into the open, a shape materialized out of the air: a massive man with a red, tangled beard, who had just stepped down from a wagon.  Two goats stamped nervously in its braces.

"That was a mighty fine piece of runnin', lad.  There aren't many who can outrun ol' Thor's arm."  The huge giant grinned, holding out his hand.

Jens was speechless:  "You ... you ...."

"Aye, lad, me ... me!"  His huge laughter shook the air.  "Come along with me to Asgard.  I'll make it up to ye."

"Asgard?  But, I'm still alive."

"Aye, lad, and few there be that get to come this way, but I feel bad for ye.  It was all in fun, but I sense you didn't feel that way.  Come on.  Sif's awaitin' dinner, I'll have her fix ye something warm."

Jens' face darkened.  "No!"

It was Thor's turn to be stricken by a bolt.  His face registered his shock.  "No?"

"That's right.  No!"

"Are ye daft, boy?  I'm offering ye immortality."

Jens stood looking at this huge giant, his beard radiating energy in the wind.  Then he turned his glance across Bifrost, to the glow of the eternal city beyond.  "I'll pass!"

He'd had enough of capricious gods for one day.  He sure as hell didn't want to spend eternity with them.

 

 Dallas D'Angelo-Gary

 

Dallas D'Angelo-Gary is retired, and living in Western Washington with his wife,
Cheryl, and their menagerie: Neo, a standard Poodle; three cats, Pandemonium,
Cauliflower, and Calamity Rose. He was a contest judge for both Prose and Poetry on The Novel Site on AOL for ten years, and was Area Manager of the site for two years.

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