I’m staring morosely at the stark white wall of my English 201 classroom.
For the past couple of hours, I’ve been bombarded by nonsensical structures made by long-dead authors, awash in a sea of literary rules that are as stifling as a straitjacket. I’m not one of those who believe that being “artistically pure” means I have to push conceptual boundaries at the expense of my audience’s entertainment and patience. No, I’m actually the exact opposite; I believe that “selling out” means crafting some obscure piece of crap that gets polite claps from stuffy academics who, under all that theory and fancy philosophy, secretly yearn for a beautiful face to lick their genitals. If I’m not doing my best to convey the visceral thrill I felt when I was ten years old and watching cartoons—that electric joy that coursed through me when I watched the SDF-1 punch through a Zentraedi war ship, or He-man and She-ra as they went through their transformations, or when Voltron formed up and instantiated his Blazing Sword—then I’m not doing my job.
(yeah—it WOULD be a good idea if I wrote about a futuristic world where I had to defend a hapless group of soccer moms from an evil band of pizza thieves)
(or a story about superpowered monkeys that built a giant robot chimp and used it to overthrow their disgusting scientist oppressors)
I snap back to reality, my eyes locking onto my frowning professor’s. He’s got his hands on his hips, and is giving me a look of Pure Disapproval.
“I’m sorry, professor—”
“Sorry won’t cut it, Mr. Wayne,” he snaps. “Not this time—this time you pay for your crimes.” He turns to the rest of the class and barks, “Begin chanting!”
The rest of his peon-students close their eyes and join their voices in dark harmony, invoking a low-toned flood of guttural noise. (Imagine if Tibetan monks decided to start worshipping the Dark Lord Astaroth who takes human form in the one we know as Bieber—that’s what they sound like.)
I turn my head from side to side, rising to my feet with that oh-shit-i’m-about-to-get-boffed-in-the-butt-with-a-+3-Claymore-named-Frostflame look that all movie heroes wear when they realize they’re about to be thrown into an impossible situation. Before I can sprint out the door, my English professor arches his head back. Snarls of snow white hair erupt from his nose and ear holes, weaving together into a giant, Wendigo-like creature. The professor’s human body slaps limply on to its back. It’s now nothing more than a neuroconnective relay that issues commands to the Old Man Hair beast that’s appeared before my eyes.
It lifts an arm made of wax-speckled fibers and points directly at me. “KENT WAYNE!” It thunders. “BOW BEFORE THE LIVING EMBODIMENT OF LITERARY TRADITION, WHICH IS BY NECESSITY COMPOSED OF GROSS OLD-MAN HAIR AND DEEP-BEYOND-IMAGINING, BRAIN-ADJACENT BOOGERS!”
No way in HELL am I sticking around for this! I hurdle over my desk and transition into a shoulder roll. My feet flow under me and I dart out the door. I hear a howl of outrage—then the crash of desks—as the hair-beast chases after me.
I run down the hall, sprinting as fast as I can. I catch a glimpse of a hairy arm swinging toward me and I dive under it, twisting and rolling. As I come up to my feet, I wince from a heart-wrenching CLANG; my pursuer has just dented and crushed a quartet of lockers. I keep running, and the hair-beast follows. It matches me step for step, and I quickly realize that I’m going to tire, that this infernal creation will keep coming and never slow—it’s powered by magicks beyond my ken.
There’s no way I’m going to escape.
I reach in my pocket and open my eReader to Echo. Magic flash.
Ernest Hemingway steps out from a bend in the hallway some ten yards ahead. He’s fully suited in Space Marine armor, holding a flamethrower between his manly, hairy-knuckled hands. The pilot light on the end of his propellant rod burns small but bright, causing dancing shadows to caper across his beta-amyloid helmet. Underneath the reinforced glass, I see a wide grin split his bearded mouth.
And then he fires.
Bright green flame funnels open with a roaring WHOOSH. I dive left as it ripples past, hazing the air with warping shimmer. Sweat and grime cake together on my skin, marking it with ashy black stripes. I skitter behind Hemingway, falling onto my butt and staggering backward on both my hands. After my skin stops feeling like it’s going to blister and pop, I shield my eyes with a forearm and squint at the blazing hair-beast, now flailing madly in a horrid death-dance. Hemingway continues to pour on the heat, steadily following the monstrosity as it bangs against lockers and lets loose with a grating howl. In a matter of seconds, the thing’s been reduced to a fraction of its original size, and falls limply onto its charred knees. What Hemingway says next is modulated by his external speakers, adding badassedness onto an already badass voice:
“Just how I like my Grammar Nazis: extra crispy.” He starts yarking out harsh laughter.
Jesus Christ—what a psycho.
But despite the gallows humor, I feel my lips curve into a slight grin.
Because I can’t help but appreciate a good one-liner. 😉
Is your manuscript in danger of being shredded by an army of red pens and obscure theorists who urge you to make your writing “brilliant” instead of moving? 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