For the last several years, Grammar Nazi Prime and I have been involved in a high stakes battle of wits. We’ve attempted to destroy each others’ well-being, lives, and in the instance I’m about to elaborate on, my sanity. He is Moriarty to my Sherlock. I’m sure that if you asked him, he would insist on saying that it’s the exact opposite.
I’ve just fallen into his latest trap. Let me explain. Today started like any other; I wrote, exercised, completed a host of errands, then sat down with Bitefighter—my loyal buddy and 10 lb. Terrier Extraordinaire—for a badass meal at my favorite steakhouse: Meaties Madness I make sure that Meaties Madness lives up to its name whenever I sit at its fine, outdoor dining area that looks out across the bay.
Torchlight flickers off the water as I stuff my face with steaks, chops, wings, ribs…all slathered with gallons of barbecue sauce or super delicious hotness. Bitefighter’s right there with me, maowing down on mouthfuls upon mouthfuls of Meaties. By the time we’re done, we both look about eight months pregnant. I reach down and rub Bitefighter’s bulging little belly. He looks like he’s half-dog, half pogo-ball.
I cut a cigar and fit it to my mouth, rotating it in short little twists as I hold a torch lighter up to its end. I take a puff, hold it…then let it out, letting my eyelids fall halfway shut as I sink back into my chair. Bitefighter lets his tiny head droop to the deck. He closes his eyes, lulled to sleep by the gentle lap of water against our dining pavilion’s support struts.
A few minutes pass, then I hear burbling from Bitefighter’s stomach. He looks at me and grumbles querulously. Nature has come a-calling. I prop my cigar on an ashtray, then rise from my seat.
“Time to give birth to some butt cobras, huh little buddy?”
He responds with a confident “Rowf!”
We both head for the grass. Bitefighter does his business, and I clean up after him. After the doggie bags have gone in the nearest trash can, we start heading back to Meaties Madness.
Then it hits me: my stomach begins rumbling and roiling. I wince, then pick up the pace. Light sweat springs from my skin and I start limp/running towards the bathroom. I make it just in time. I’ll spare you the gross details, but a few seconds later, the bathroom has transformed from a pleasantly light, lysol-accented environment into a miasma-heavy vortex of unspeakable evil. I have to flush thrice, and my eyes begin watering from the stinging assault of my Man Child stench. I need to get out of here and fast—Bitefighter’s starting to gag. But when I reach up into the boxy aluminum toilet-paper dispenser, my heart drops in my chest.
There’s only one square left.
I resist the urge to punch the wall. I try to steady my trembling hands and study the message writ in blue ink upon the single square of white:
“HIDDEN WITHIN THESE WALLS IS A FULL ROLL OF TOILET PAPER. ANSWER MY RIDDLES AND YOU WILL GAIN ACCESS TO IT. YOU WILL ALSO BE LET LOOSE FROM THIS HELLHOLE OF YOUR OWN MAKING.”
Just like a letter, there’s a large blank space, then: “Advantage mine.” (another blank space that’s larger than the first one), and then: “Sincerely, Grammar Nazi Prime.”
The door emits a sudden CLICK. I look up and see that Grammar Nazi Prime has locked the door through remote means, blocking me in here with my own stink. I throw my head back and let loose with a raging scream.
“YOU’VE CROSSED THE LINE, GRAMMAR NAZI! GODS CURSE YOUR EYES!!!”
A malicious laugh sounds from a set of hidden speakers.
“You don’t have much time, Mr. Wayne. Perhaps you’re immune to your own brand, but your half-wit terrier is most definitely not. Take a look at him. Then think long and hard about how you’d like to proceed.”
I look at Bitefighter. He’s lying on his back, barely conscious, furry little chest moving in labored gasps. His tiny tongue is lolling from the corner of his mouth, and his eyes are drooped halfway closed.
“Ask me your riddles.” I keep my voice tightly controlled.
I’m answered by a pleased chuckle. “What has roots as nobody sees; is taller than trees; up, up, up it goes; and yet, never grows?”
“A mountain. Next.”
“Voiceless it cries; wingless flutters; toothless bites; mouthless mutters.”
“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt; cannot be heard, cannot be smelt; it lies behind stars and under hills; and empty holes it fills; it comes first and follows after; ends life, kills laughter.”
The riddles go on and on, and with dawning horror, I realize they’re the same ones from The Hobbit. My mouth goes on autopilot as I shoot down question after question, all the while knowing he’s about to stump me with one query that’s impossible to answer. He fires it at me a minute later.
“What have I got in my—”
I dart my hand into my pants pocket and withdraw my eReader. “No, bitch!” I yell. “What have I got in MY pocket?”
I open it to Echo. Magic flash.
A full roll of toilet paper appears in the dispenser. After cleaning myself up, I yank my pants on, then snatch up Bitefighter’s now-limp body into my hands. I may be immune to my own brand, but rotting in a haze of Eau de Meaties Madness will degrade anyone’s cerebellum; it’s just a matter of time before my face melts off my skull (that’s Science, by the way).
The world hazes red as I cradle my little buddy to my torso and bang my shoulder into the door. Once, twice, thrice…nothing. Then I utter my secret Man Child Mantra under my breath—“May the power of Voltron aid me in this time of need”—and a surge of energy crackles through my body. I thrust-kick the door, and my foot breaks through in a violent scatter of splinters. I stumble out, coughing and gasping, and drop to a knee so I can lay Bitefighter down on the deck.
“Come on buddy…” I start pumping his chest with two fingers and giving him mouth-to-snout resuscitation. Horrendous dread begins creeping through my mind. He remains unresponsive after fifteen compressions, thirty compressions, forty-five…
He coughs himself awake and yells, “Arf roof rowf McBarskies!”
I don’t care that he’s just told me my anus smells like a dead possum; I hug him to my chest and cover his face with kisses. “You’re alive! You scared the hell out of me, little buddy!”
He squirms out of my arms and starts barking at nothing in particular. He’s right; Grammar Nazi Prime is still out there, still trying to destroy us.
A hidden speaker comes to life: “Impressive, Mr. Wayne—impressive! Saved yet again by your stage magic parlor tricks! Enjoy your respite, for I will not make it easy when next we meet!”
My eyes narrow.
“I’m looking forward to it, Grammar Nazi.”
Down by my feet, Bitefighter’s eyes narrow as well, and in the most menacing voice he can manage, he adds his own defiant postscript:
Has your archnemesis snared you in a trap of your own making? Never fear! 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 #kindle #kindleunlimited #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book