I grimace as my tie rubs up against my adam’s apple, tickling my throat with a mild choking sensation. I loosen it just as my boss walks in, who wags his finger like some 1950s, over-eager, Norman Rockwellized dork. “Ah ah ah, Kent! Keep that tie on tight! It’s not casual Friday yet!” I close my eyes and let out a long sigh, then re-tighten my tie. He claps a hand on my shoulder and says, “Come on Kent—I wanna show you something.” Great. More corporate inanity—probably aimed at sapping my will to live through some trendily worded phrase for “productive meeting,” (which, like the rest of you, I’ve learned is an oxymoron). We descend in an elevator down to the basement while he hums cheerily along with the muzak, causing me to fantasize about my head spontaneously exploding. Ding! Elevator stops, and we get off. I look curiously around as we walk through unfinished basement—we’re not in Office Land anymore. We continue up to a set of vaulted double-doors and he knocks three times, then says something that sounds old and arcane. The doors creak open and two robed followers grab my arms. He smiles at me. “We know about the writing Kent. Why couldn’t you have fallen in line like the rest of us, huh? Company picnics. TPS reports. Passive-aggressivity…is all that so bad?” I glare and say, “For me it is. I like spending time out-doors and being creative. There’s no way in hell I’m gonna suffer the same fate as you vitamin-d deprived ballbags, condemned to decades of lifeless sex that will most likely evolve into some repression-induced compulsion to adopt the Furry way of life, coupled with a passel of kids that’re always bemoaning their affluenza. No. Freaking. Way.” My boss’s face darkens, then he smiles, only this time it’s an EVIL smile. “That’s okay, Kent. We’ve prepared a Pit of Horrors for you. Hope you’re ready to die screaming.” I laugh and say, “I’ve been training to fight Rancors all my life bitch. Bring it.” The smile stays on his face as he nods at a follower. I see his subordinates begin cranking some ancient, mammoth set of levers, causing rusty gears to squeal and squeak as they grind ’round and ’round. The cement floor begins to rumble, and I see it open into a giant, circular pit. Snarls and shouts of ” ‘Merca!” arise from dimly lit blackness. My boss turns to me and says, “Oh these aren’t Rancors, my friend. These are something much, much worse. You’re about to be thrown in with the most rabid hillbillies known to man. They make the ones in Deliverance look like Social Justice Warriors. Prepare to die via nonconsensual sex delivered straight to your butt and your mouth.” My eyes widen in horror as they shove me forward. “NO!” I scream as my feet slip out from under me and I fall into the pit. I hit the floor and catch a glimpse of Duck Dynasty beards and BBQ-stained wifebeaters. Out of sheer desperation I scream, “PALAMEDES PUBLISHING!!!” Magic flash. Neil De Grasse Tyson appears just as they’re bending down to rip off my clothes. They all look curiously at him, like zombies just noticing some weird half-zombie hybrid that’s destined to be Zombie King. Neil returns their gaze with a level stare, then, in a calm voice, he begins waxing eloquent about things like gauge symmetry, string theory, and the possible fractalization of toruses all throughout existence versus the implications of virtual particles. The hillbillies are now in a daze, their eyes widened in wonder and awe. In the same calm voice, Neil says to me, “Now, Kent.” I give him an uncomprehending look. “Huh?” He says, “Quantum physics weakens hillbillies—it’s a well known fact of science. Makes ’em vulnerable to attack. So…NOW!” He launches a jab/cross/hook combo into the nearest hillbilly face, takes out another with a wheel kick to the jaw, then arm-drags a third in for a quick neck-twist, breaking vertebrae with a dry SNAP. I start throwing knees and knuckles, glorying in fighting by the side of the great scholar and warrior known as Neil De Grasse Tyson.
Have you seen a pic of him from his college wrestling days??? Dude’s a beast, just sayin’. Palamedes publishing: Check out their revolutionary Responsive Books software here: Responsive Books. Check out their short stories here: A Gathering Darkness They will soon offer Echo Volume 1 in paperback. For now, get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle